It has been 6 months since I left Prague as I’m writing this, but I recall it very well and flashes of my experience there often come back to mind. Part of it, and unfortunately for a short time, was assisting Daniela at her place something like once a week during May and June 2018.

How I met Daniela.

I found out about Daniela because a friend who was one of her assistants told me about her. She described with enthusiasm what it felt like to help her and how well and quickly she picked up what she had to do. From our talk, I understood even before meeting her that Daniela was communicating well and that she made it a priority to settle a good atmosphere with her assistants. That is when I decided to have the training with her, because I thought this new experience could be a win-win situation: in exchange for help I was going to learn a lot about listening to a person’s needs.

How is it to work with Daniela?

When I came to her place for the first time, I really didn’t know how much time I would be able to spend for this work and I was anxious that I wouldn’t give enough of my time in exchange for the training. In fact, I only had two months left in Prague and a lot of work for my study program. It is funny because one of the first things that Daniela said was that I was completely free to choose when, and how much time I wanted to spend at her place. I thought: “Ah, she must read in the assistant’s minds after doing this thousands of times! …” And in fact, it’s like she knew what might be difficult for me to understand ahead of me, and she described what she needed with such precision that I felt quickly comfortable with the missions she gave me.

The point was to avoid wasting time. If regularly you ask: “Hey, could you pass me that pen?”, Daniela would give me the information about the shape and color of the pen, its exact position in the pocket of the bag, the exact position of the bag in the room and even the easiest way for me to reach it. I was impressed by that. That she remembered where everything was, and struck by the kind of organization it took for her to do it all. I understood that she had everything covered but the thing was that she had to fight time.

I quickly understood that my role was going to slow down the clock for her. To take care of the very little things that would take away her day if my extra hands weren’t there. I loved this almost instantly. It felt like it was the most rewarding job to be able to give back to someone her free time. For me, when I was there, the time was shrinking and hours were minutes. Because the things that took ten seconds alone took a complete different turn there with Daniela. Whenever I got to her place, I knew that I was going to work at a different speed than usual. I would have to spare space for listening, looking, being very focused on simple things that I usually go over without even realizing it on my own. Because of this stretching of time, and because the job consisted in paying more attention to little things and listening, I felt extremely relaxed after assisting Daniela.

Daniela’s character.

So I decided to make quite regular visits, once a week. I usually came in the evening, and my missions would be to help with cooking, with the bath, and to set the bed. I particularly enjoyed massaging Daniela and doing some exercises in the morning to wake up her muscles. It was interesting to learn about her. Every mission took a long time and it was a chance to talk and get to know each other. I loved hearing about her stories so I was always asking a lot of questions. I was very impressed by her personality and curious about the way she could handle it all, with the schedule for assistants, as well as studying gender studies and painting. I was also amazed by her patience. In general, people get mad if they have to say things several times. She had no problem with repeating things if needed and she was very kind, saying thank you a lot.

My biggest surprise working at Daniela’s.

I think I was surprised about how comfortable it felt to deal with intimate tasks, even without knowing her. She was inviting me in her most complete privacy and I was assisting someone for the first time. I think I was afraid I would make clumsy gestures when holding her for example. Of course, it could happen, but she was completely comfortable with saying it when I was wrong. I never hesitated to ask questions because she made it clear that I could ask anything. What changed from the first session to the last was that I could anticipate better her needs and go faster with the tasks. But I felt comfortable with her from the beginning to the end.

I would have definitely helped more if I could but time to go home quickly came. I really recommend you this human experience that is to help Daniela.

28th of December 2018

Héloïse Bourgoin

At the time of doing assistance, Héloïse was a bachelor’s student of history of arts at Charles university who came from southern France to Prague for an exchange program.