Homeward Bound

Well, friends. We have had an amazing overseas adventure over the past five-plus years. But it’s time to wrap it up.

For every incredible place we’ve seen and every wonderful friend we have made along the way, we’ve also been faced with health struggles, financial burdens, and feelings of being perpetual “outsiders”. These carry a balance over time, and slowly the scale has tipped; our hearts now weighing heavier and our wanderlust quenched. We are ready to live “easy” for a while, in a familiar place, where our spirits feel at home and we have the support and comfort of many friends and family around us.

The benefits of living abroad have been huge, and we have zero regrets. We would do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe we’ll take it up again when the kids are off on their own, or maybe sooner, who knows. But for now, our compass is set for home.

So what’s next? Our timing is still tentative, depending on how quickly we can navigate the complicated Swiss bureaucracy required to leave here (which is another story, for next time!), but we plan to be settled back in Ottawa either at Christmas or by mid-January at the latest. We’ve already started putting down some roots – we have a house and car ready and waiting, thanks to our family’s generosity and support. Our new car might look familiar to anyone who remembers the one we had before moving!

Does this look familiar to anyone?

Also, B has decided to renew his university degree, and has already registered to start classes in January. We’re still missing a lot of pieces to this puzzle… like, say, jobs. Whoops. And it will be complicated to move back and re-establish banking, healthcare, school registration, and everything else in between. But if our past five years have taught us anything, it’s that we can probably handle it, and hopefully even better than ever before.

So, this isn’t goodbye! We still have lots of backlogged adventure stories to tell, and new ones to come. This is just another step in our journey, and one we’re facing with joy in our hearts. Stay tuned!

Kicking off Summer!

We kicked off summer with the last day of school and our little town’s “Fête des enfants”. If you recall last year, it was a nice evening with a parade after school, and then the kids get a few free hours to go crazy in a fairground set up for kids only. It’s a nice way to end the year and the kids were really looking forward to it.

This year was… less fun. The day was pretty rainy and we kept expecting the event to be cancelled, but the sun came out by the end of the day and we never got “the call”. So we headed downtown and joined up with the mayhem that is a street full of a few hundred kids, some out-of-tune fife players, and all the teachers and parents in the area. Then it started to rain. I mean, really, really, rain.

The parade came along, and sure enough, all the cardboard outfits were disintegrating and the kids (and fifers) were soaked to the core. But we snapped our obligatory photos and let them head over to the fairground while we went to a friend’s house for some celebratory wine.

After about 30 minutes, I got a phone call from a teacher to come meet up with my child who wanted to go home – but it was a wrong number, in fact, I don’t know what happened to that kid – but it made me think our kids were also not going to last a few hours as planned. We went to pick them up and discovered a fairground full of wet children, shivering like frightened kittens, all ready to come home. There was even some crying (mostly theirs). So, instead we made them come back with us to our friend’s house for a BBQ and an evening of parental celebration before walking home late at night… in the rain, again. At least they were already wet, so it’s ok, right? Hooray for summer vacation!

By the weekend, it was time to celebrate our great nation’s 150th birthday! The local Canadian expat group was hosting a Canada Day dinner in Geneva, so we spent the evening eating and drinking some hometown favourites: Moosehead beer, Okanagan wine, President’s Choice cookies, Pop-Tarts (are those Canadian??), Timbits (flown in from Montreal that morning, nothing like kind of stale Timbits for a taste of home!), and a good old fashioned barbecue dinner.

We sang bilingual O Canada with a singer who couldn’t get the sound system to work, but the 75 of us or so made up for that lack. We met people from NB, ON, AB, SK, QC, BC and several “honourary” Canucks who were just visiting – but that’s ok, Canada Day is all-inclusive. We missed the Ottawa fireworks, but went home happy nonetheless. Here’s to the start of a great summer!

 

School’s out: Fête des enfants

There’s a tradition here on the last day of school called la Fête des enfants.

The kids spend a few weeks making costumes with their class and then go on a parade around town after school, kind of like a little Halloween party graduation. But the best part is after the parade – a circus fair is set up downtown and the kids get to go on all the rides they want for a few hours, no adults allowed!

J’s class dressed up as jellyfish and LittleB’s as puppies. He was less excited about that. But the parade was adorable, and we were especially lucky because our kids were near the front of the queue – so we got to watch them and go drink at the bar while the rest of the parade was going on. It was a win-win!

Watch the video to the end for the whole show!

School times

School is over for another term now. The kids are following the international baccalaureate program, and one of the things they need to do is hold ‘student-led’ conferences. So basically, we parents come in for a sort of open house, and our kids are responsible for walking us through the work they’ve done and their accomplishments.

I think this must work better when your kids are a bit older. It was great to see their classes and some of their work, but getting your 6 year old to talk about his school accomplishments is not the easiest thing in the world. But he really enjoyed showing us the music room (we went three times). Here’s a video of him playing gamelan:

Playing gamelan drums
Playing gamelan drums

At least it’s nice to get some interactivity with the school program and see how things work there. We’re not so happy with the way LittleB is getting along, both socially and academically. He’s been bullied a bit, and the boys in his class are just so aggressive. Especially the entitled little twats around here. I never thought I would be giving life lessons like “If he kicks you first, it’s totally fine to kick him back. But you’re just not allowed to kick him first.” A-one parenting right there.

LittleB showing off his class
LittleB showing off his class

J’s class was more like an open house, where the kids followed their usual routine and we joined in. It was as expected: games, stories, playing at the sand table.

J with her friends
J with her friends
J's class singing "twinkle twinkle chocolate bar" - it's a favourite
J’s class singing “twinkle twinkle chocolate bar” – it’s a favourite

We had circle time, but I’m pretty sure I spent most of the time beside a kid who had pooped his pants. And then the kids made “sandwiches” to bring home. J gave me some kind of monstrosity of a piece of bread covered with sliced sausages held on by dabs of ketchup and each topped with dabs of mayonnaise. I very generously donated it to the local wild cats near our house. They are adorable, though (the kids, not the cats).

So, overall, I guess school is okay!