Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY
In most ways, Darwin and Trella Bromley and their four children, Beth, 10, Paul, 8, Janet, 6, and Daniel, 5, are a typical American family.
They live in a suburban home, the three oldest children attend Jacksonville Beach Elementary School, they vacation at Disney World, decorate their house with lights at Christmas and visit relatives at Thanksgiving.
But there is one aspect about the Bromleys that is different from their neighbors.
A 20-year-old au pair from Germany named Elisabeth "Lilo" Ahrends lives with them to help care for the children.
And through her eyes, living with the Bromleys is an adventure - so much so that she writes about her life in Northeast Florida for a popular weekly newspaper in Germany called Mein Sonntagsblatt.
And from what she hears, her monthly column, called "Abenteurer USA" - in English, Adventure USA - is a hit.
"My parents say, 'Write your next article because everybody's waiting,' " said Ahrends, who speaks English well with a slight accent.
"I'm getting real popular. It's so exciting."
Ahrends came to work for the Bromleys in August through Cultural Care Au Pair, a national company headquartered in Boston that places child-care workers from all over the world with American families.
Au pairs contract to work for one or two years, to experience life in America and to improve their English skills, then go back to their home countries.
Andrea Stutler, Cultural Care Au Pair local child-care coordinator, said about 40 au pairs, ages 18 to 26, from her company are working throughout Jacksonville.
Like the others, who come from 13 countries, Ahrends works 45 hours a week doing child care in exchange for a weekly stipend and room and board.
Each family has different child-care needs, depending on the age of their children and parental work schedules.
The Bromleys, who live in the West Beaches, have had au pairs from Poland, Brazil, Sweden and Germany.
Ahrends is their sixth.
"She's a gem," Darwin Bromley said. "She's part of our family."
Ahrends' column, which includes photographs, chronicles her life as a young woman living away from home for a year in a country that differs in many ways from her own.
She has written about going on a safari ride in Animal Kingdom at Disney World, traveling with the Bromleys to Chicago to visit their relatives at Thanksgiving and being surprised at how many lights Americans put up on their homes at Christmas.
In one column, she wrote about meeting a man from her hometown in a German restaurant in Jacksonville called Schnitzel Haus. In another, she told about how much fun it is to take karate at Florida Community College at Jacksonville.
Mein Sonntagsblatt, which means My Sunday Page in English, is delivered free to about 90,000 homes in and around the city of Aurich, near the North Sea about two hours west of Hamburg. …