Happy birthday Switzerland! We celebrated by hiding indoors all day to avoid today’s oppressive heat and humidity.
But after dinner we headed downtown to watch the fireworks. And they were great! There’s nothing better than a small town for fireworks, because we were able to get really close and still had plenty of room to sprawl out on a blanket and drink wine until the sun set. Friends brought some firecrackers that kept the kids busy in the meantime.
The show started with a bang – haha, literally – but more actually with a Céline Dion song, thanks for the hometown nod, Switzerland. The fireworks made their way around the lake from Geneva, timed to start and end in each city along the way for a traveling “wave” of celebratory ‘works. We stood right under ours and felt each bang like a gunshot and a rumble in the ground. And the show capped off by lighting a huge bonfire on a barge in the lake. To represent… I’m not sure what. But it was impressive.
Afterwords the fire brigade let all the spectators with their own fireworks set them off safely from the same official location. A few hilariously blew up or plummeted into the water, which is always the best part of discount explosives.
Here’s to another year, les suisses!
Another year of piano lessons – another end of year recital. Remembering the trouble we had last year, we were determined not to get lost, arrive late, or get completely soaked by rain.
So we drove there, carefully following the google map instructions. Which took us… to a weird rich people’s health clinic in a forest. Great. The place must be nearby, so we parked and started circling the area on foot, looking for the “farmhouse” that had been booked out for the event. We managed to find a farm with no one at it. That wasn’t it.
So we started trudging down a dirt road in hopes it would end at some kind of piano recital place. Luckily the teacher drove past us and explained it was further down the road, and we should just “go until we see the balloons and some goats”.
I ran back to get the car, and we drove on. Sure enough, we saw the balloons, followed them into a farm, where there were indeed some goats. It was a concert miracle, we had arrived with plenty of time and without getting wet! The piano was housed on the second floor above an old barn, looking out over the fields and gardens. It was perfectly charming. Other than the flies filling the sweltering room, and the goat bells ringing outside throughout the concert.
But our little pianist did a lovely version of “Tender Flower”, and the whole event lasted only about an hour, which is a godsend as any of you attending kids’ concerts should know. Looking forward to next year…
While my parents were here, we decided to do a little tour. Last year we went to Italy, so I figured we should do something in the other direction – and since we had such a lovely time in Strasbourg last time, I thought it would be nice to go there with them. Unfortunately, it was a bit chilly and snowy! Somehow we managed to arrive over the few days that it wasn’t sunny. But that didn’t stop us, we still enjoyed a fantastic few days.
The main sight is of course the cathedral, which was just as beautiful as the first time we saw it. We also took the same little train trip, as well as a boat tour around the canals. It snowed while we were on the boat, and then something happened to the motor so they had to take us back early. We went to re-book the trip, but it was taking such a long time that we got reimbursed instead. Free boat trip! I also dragged my dad to my favorite game store, where I bought a discounted game that was some kind of unholy union between steampunk and Risk – it was too complicated for us to figure out (in French)!
That day was also my mom’s birthday, so we booked a nice dinner at the Kammerzell House restaurant. You think sometimes these kinds of famous places are charging for more of a touristy experience, but actually the food was very good, with a great wine list, and the servers were really attentive. It was lovely.
On our second day, we toured the zoological museum, which was small but really interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many weird taxidermied animals in one place. There were probably a thousand birds, many of them misshapen and hilarious. Easily a highlight of the trip!
On the drive home, we followed the Alsatian wine route part of the way, stopping in the medieval village Riquewihr for lunch. This was probably the most adorable little place I’ve ever seen, with ancient cobblestone streets winding around rows of colorful sloping houses. We had lunch, ironically, at a Swiss-style restaurant. But it was nice.
Back at home, I took my mom and the kids to the Cailler chocolate factory. They had been asking for weeks to visit, and the week after Easter seemed like a good time (and there were plenty of chocolate sales to be had). We also stuffed ourselves with cheese in nearby Gruyères, where my mom had raclette for the first time – even though I had made her a homemade cheese fondue the night before and we had sworn off cheese for eternity.
Too soon it was time for my parents to head home. I’m sure they’ll be back again soon!
Easter was a quiet time this year, but still full of fun. First of all, I traded in BigB for my parents, who have come to visit while he is back in Canada. They’re here for two weeks while the kids are off school for the holidays.
The weather has been perfect – sunny and beautiful, and all the flowers are in bloom. We’ve enjoyed some lovely walks through Nyon and Geneva, checking out the old town, playing chess in the park, and looking at all the holiday displays.
For Easter, the Bunny brought us a nice selection of gummies hidden around the house, plus a bunch of Star Wars toys – including a hilarious Millennium Falcon ship-car hybrid and an Ewok that makes Ewok sounds when you squeeze it. He was kind of enough to bring me some Cognac-filled chocolate eggs, obviously knowing what I needed to get through the holiday.
Later, we went to Morges for a local tulip festival. Being from Ottawa, which is renown for its own tulip festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect – but, sorry Ottawa, the Morges festival was quite good! It might be a bit smaller, but there were so many many varieties of flowers, including some heritage ones. I spent most of my time taking photos of the odd flowers out – the one weird red one growing in a field of yellow, for example. And then we had to find flowers from each of our birthday years.
Enjoy the gratuitous flower gallery and happy (belated) Easter!
Switzerland takes its seasons seriously. Quite literally, on the day of the summer solstice – the first day of summer – suddenly the weather changed. Nearly overnight it went from damp and foggy to sunny and clear. And the season was glorious: every day was blue skies and golden sun, flowers blooming and green trees, warm evenings and incredible sunsets.
And making the most of this weather is no joke. Everyone goes to the beach for a dip and after-work drinks every evening, and the cities come alive with festivals and outdoor activities every weekend. We did our best to copy them.
We also made it out to several weekend festivals. Early in the summer, to celebrate the anniversary of the steamboat fleet on Lake Geneva, we went to a little town called Morges and watched the boats parade by with thousands of colored balloons to release at once. Don’t worry, the balloons were biodegradable. Too bad we didn’t get to actually see that part of the parade, because the kids were too hot in the sun and spent most of the time being fussy. It was a nice idea, though.
In August, it’s Swiss national day, so we went to celebrations in both Geneva and Nyon. We thought the event would be huge and exciting in Geneva, so we headed down to the city in the morning to see what was happening. Not much, as it turns out. There was just a little event in the park with some fife & drum bands, a kids’ climbing wall, and displays of Swiss wrestling. Schwingen, which involves wearing giant shorts and trying to literally lift the other person by their shorts and throw them to the ground. Worth it.
Later that night we headed to Nyon to watch the fireworks over the lake. They were timed so that all the lake cities set off their fireworks in order, so we could see them in the distance along the lake over about half an hour. It was neat! But it was no Canada Day celebrations… Anyway, thanks for the nice summer, Switzerland!
Spring finally arrived in April, and my parents came to stay over the Easter holidays. The plan was to take a road trip through Italy, but before that, we had time for some sightseeing around home.
And who doesn’t love a trip to a castle?
At the top of Lac Leman, in Montreux, there’s a real honest-to-goodness chateau – Chillon castle. I had heard it was a fun family trip, with a bit of something for everyone: secret passageways, history and art, princess towers, dungeons… So we were excited! Ok, I was excited. We packed the kids into the car and drove up the coast.
All the other times we had been in the area, it was covered in fog. Honestly, I questioned whether there was actually anything to see. But this time, it was clear day and the views were incredible! You really can see all across the water to huge alpine slopes and glacier-capped peaks, and the lake was a vivid blue in the sun. Finally, Switzerland!
The castle is adorable, too, rising up from the edge of the water with spires and arches just like a fairy tale. We walked along the water, enjoying the view.
Inside, the castle is exactly how you imagine: lofty ceilings, stately rooms, twisty passageways, hidden courtyards, tower peaks. And cold. So very cold. No wonder the fireplaces were as big as my living room.
The main rooms had window bays looking out over the water, the perfect place to sit and pretend to be a princess or a page, daydreaming away the afternoon of stuffy lessons. And a rickety ladder took us up to the highest tower, which of course J freaked out on halfway up and I had to coax her back down, backwards, through the streams of people coming up. LittleB and Grandpa said it was cool at the top, but I’ve convinced myself it wasn’t worth it, right, right?
As for the kids, I think their highlights were, obviously, the dungeon and the latrines. There was a fancy outhouse for the royals, way at the top of the castle, so their leavings could fall farther than the commoners, I guess. And I can check off my bucket list another amazing phrase spoken in earnest: LittleB, don’t drop your camera down the king’s poop hole. Also, the room was filled with poop jokes. Ok, maybe that was my highlight too.
The dungeon was dark and damp and creepy and (nowadays) filled with wine. So basically it was the best place ever! Actually, it turned out there was a famous story I didn’t know about before: “Chillon’s most famous prisoner was François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk, who was imprisoned there in 1530 for defending his homeland from the dukes of Savoy. Over his six-year term, de Bonivard paced as far as his chain would allow, and the chain and rut are still visible. Lord Byron wrote the poem The Prisoner Of Chillon (1816) about him.” We totally saw that spot.
Too soon, we had cranky hungry kids and it was time to go. But of course, not before we stopped in the gift shop to tell the kids they couldn’t buy all the kitschy magnets, books about medieval recipes (in French), or 15th century antique armor. Note to self: Gotta stop going into gift shops.
We stopped to take some lovely family photos along the water, which ended as you can imagine, with some more whining and blurry final images. And then we got back to the car before LittleB realized he lost his camera somewhere (probably in the king’s poop hole, seriously), so he and I had to go all the way back to look around. No luck. So I carted a devastated, crying kid back to the car, only to get there and see that he had put it in the trunk already and just somehow forgotten within 2 seconds of doing it. Sigh.
Anyway, the castle was fun, you should go!
At the beginning of this year, B was doing a lot of travelling. The best thing about it was I had plenty of visitors coming to stay while he was away. It might not have been the most amazing vacations for my visitors, but it was great for me! I got to work as usual while someone else was doing chores and kid care and I had the added bonus of enjoying their company. Well, I guess that’s how it is with B at home anyway, but, you know, that gets boring after a while.
First, Grandma came to stay in February. The city was just barely starting to wake up – the winter fog was still hanging around, and it was hard to convince her that there were actually mountains across the lake. Luckily the sun came out for a short moment and we managed to catch a few photos on the water’s edge. We took a day trip into Geneva as well, but we mostly just saw swans and ate some chocolate… Actually, that sounds pretty good!
We also took the kids up to a skate park, where LittleB mostly looked at the jumps and J slid on them like slides – no extreme scooter athletes in the making, clearly. And J, turning into a bit of a pianist, got an early birthday piano. I had to drive into Geneva to pick it up, to an apartment right near the UN, and I managed to get a quick picture of the building from the car. There are so many tourists that there are permanent police stationed at the intersection out front, directing traffic so the bus loads of clueless visitors don’t get hit – luckily they didn’t see me taking this photo while driving!
A few weeks later my sister came to stay. It was meant to be a repeat of sister trip 2015, but when B had to travel again suddenly, she was gracious about being my housewife for a few days instead of seeing the country. She also got the wonderful fog and rainy days, but we tried to make the most of it: with a trip up to Saint Cergue and a tour around the Prangins museum, she managed to see more than Grandma L. And we capped off the week with a fun night of make your own sushi.
So the short version is, come and stay with us to watch our kids and see lots of fog! It’ll be great, we promise!
So far there are lots of great things about living in Switzerland:
- Easy commuting – it takes me 10 minutes by car or a short walk to the train for a door-to-door trip of about 40 minutes.
- Great access to high-quality food and drink – local markets abound for getting fresh produce and meats, and we live in the middle of hundreds of vineyards spread throughout the valley, so the wine is abundant and delicious and local (at a work function, a colleague selected a certain wine off the menu because the winemaker was also his mailman).
- Beautiful outdoors – although we haven’t jumped into the dedicated outdoor life of most Swiss people, we’re slowly getting used to the idea that we can go outside and enjoy the experience instead of dreading the heat, crowds and stares.
But all this means that my days are disappearing faster than ever, with lots of things to do and wine that isn’t drinking itself. I’m not spending hours in the car or hiding indoors anymore: and that was the time I used to spend writing blogs! Sorry.
To show my apology, I present to you a goodie story that I’ve been saving for a while – the day we went to the Swiss cow parade.
There are a lot of cows in Switzerland. And the Swiss love them. They feed them well, give them lots of room to pasture, and care about their happiness. Even the meat in the supermarket boasts that it comes from “happy animals”. Part of this high level of care (and a very long history of farming) is the use of pastureland in the mountains. But that’s only in the summer, of course – so each autumn, there is a pilgrimage of farmers and their cattle coming down to the warmer, safer fields along the lake.
This cow parade has turned into a big festival, where families dress up their favorite cows in flower headdresses and elaborate bells and tour them around the mountain villages in the hopes of being voted the ‘prettiest cow’.
The rest of us watch the cows go by, try not to step in cow poop (unsuccessfully), and drink wine (very successfully). We also enjoyed stocking up on local goods like sausages, honey, malakoffs and baguettes, and we were serenaded by a chorus of alpine horns.
My favorite part was the guy playing an instrument I’ve never seen before, which I can only assume is called “coin in a bowl” because it is – literally – a coin in a bowl. He would hold this giant ceramic bowl in one hand, spin a coin into its mouth and gyrate the bowl in circles, echoing the sound of a spinning coin along to the rest of the musicians. I’m not sure it enhanced the music in any way, but it was entertaining. And he took his job very seriously.
After the cows continued down the mountain, the magic was over, so we left too. But soon it will be time for the cows to parade back up the hill – and I can only assume the spring parade party will be just as exciting.
To cap off the day, we went into the center of town where there was a wine harvesting party taking place at the castle. There are a small number of communal grapevines, and everyone was allowed to clip off some grapes and add them to the truckful.
Up at the castle courtyard, they were crushing them into fresh grape juice, which was delicious! We didn’t have time to get into the whole experience, but if we had planned it better, we could have bought a tasting glass and sampled all the local wines. Next year!
I can’t believe it’s already the last day of 2015. It’s been a whirlwind year, and an even busier past few months filled with travel, work, settling in, new school and lots more stuff I can’t even remember.
But we were lucky to end the year with a visit from Grandma L, and we managed to fit in a few day trips around the area. Here are the highlights:
We spent a day in Gruyères, a small medieval village best known for the cheese of the same name. As it turns out, it is also home to the H.R. Giger museum – that was a weird discovery. I don’t usually expect to see hypersexualized alien torsos and spinal columns on display in front of a stone house from the 1400s. But the cheese was great, and the adorable local castle even better – straight out of a movie set. We capped off our trip with a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory, whose highlight was a 20-minute animatronic history of chocolate followed by all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting.
In the lead up to the holidays, we headed to the Christmas market in Montreux and took the funicular train up the mountain to meet Santa. Montreux is a beautiful area, with a view of the whole valley and across the lake. Well, apparently it is. It was completely foggy while we were there, so we only saw blank whiteness all around. BigB spent the whole train ride texting me “The Langoliers are coming… Langoliers…” The market itself was cute – personally, I was on a mulled wine tour of the various kiosks, which I’m pleased to say was quite successful. Then we had a weird potato and cheese stew called tartiflette for lunch that had very little flavour other than salt – so basically like all Swiss dishes.
Up the mountain, we arrived at Santa’s Grotto. First we had to walk down a poorly lit underground hallway for nearly 500m until we emerged into some kind of tiny WWII bunker that was decorated for Christmas. The kids didn’t really want to visit Santa, so that was a bust. But at least BigB got to sit on the big guy’s lap. Not sure what he wished for…Then we stopped partway down the mountain at another little Christmas village on the grounds of a castle, where the kids watched a play (in French). LittleB’s assessment: “It had its ups and downs. But I don’t really know what it was about.” J said it was about “magic” and “an accordion”. Sounds like exactly how I would imagine a French christmas play. The adults hung around outside and enjoyed the wood fire and watched the clouds start to clear away for a little sunset magic of our own.
And suddenly it was Christmas!
Best wishes to you all for a wonderful 2016!
Our shipment finally arrived today… And there was much rejoicing!
Four months is a long time to be away from your stuff. I was seriously questioning why we even bothered shipping it all – a whole quarter of a year without it is surely a sign that we didn’t really need it in the first place?
Well, we really did need it. Here are the “before” pictures of our sad, empty, echoey apartment:
The shipping truck arrived right at 8 am as we were told, which in itself was amazing. Swiss clockwork is still a novelty to us. We watched them open up the container, and it was thankfully only half full. I was already having a bit of a panic attack about everything not fitting, and it was only made worse when a 40-foot container drove up this morning.
These guys were super efficient. They only took about 2 hours to bring everything in. Of course, as the rooms started getting fuller and fuller with boxes, I was again seriously questioning our life decisions. But then as we started unpacking and getting rid of the mountains of cardboard, our apartment started to come to life.
A few stowaways came along: half a cockroach, some termite pellets, possibly some pinworms in our favorite teak shelf, and plenty of cobwebs. Everything smells vaguely of Jakarta – stale smoke, citrus soap, and a hint of halitosis. And it’s amazing! It finally feels just like home.
La paperasserie… Red tape… Switzerland is full of it. I heard that was the case before we moved here, but I rather stubbornly believed it was an exaggeration. How bad could it really be? Well, friends, let me describe that joy in agonizing detail:
So, to live and work here, my employer applied for a work permit for me back in June. This was a process that they said would take 8-12 weeks, which explains our long sojourn in Ottawa over the summer. Ok, fine. I contacted the embassy in Ottawa and was told that we could simply go there during the summer and get our initial visas, which would get us into the country and then be converted to the more permanent stay permits.
Summer arrives, and we visit the embassy. Oh no, sorry, we’re told, you have to wait until the authorities in Switzerland notify you that your visas are ready and then go to Montreal to pick them up… Ok, fine.
We wait and wait, missing school registration, missing the first day of school… Finally everything is ready! We buy our plane tickets with a stop in Montreal, go to the embassy and find out that actually only MY visa is ready. Apparently no one thought to submit any forms for the rest of the family nor tell us that we should. The visa lady pulls some strings and sends us onto the plane anyway with relatively inadequate stamps in the other three passports and a rainbow unicorn wish of “you’re Canadian, you should probably be ok…” Ok, fine.
So we jump on the plane and make it to Switzerland (3 of us as tourists). But it turns out we have nowhere to stay. Apparently we are forbidden to stay anywhere but in this very specific Canton of Vaud because our non-existent visas and work permits are only for Vaud. Too bad everything in Vaud is booked up. Sorry. We scramble to rent a car, find a shitty motel, and hope to get the kids registered in school. Because they’re losing it. We’re losing it. But we can’t register them until we have a permanent address… Ok, fine.
We look at apartments on our first day in town. We’re desperate, jet lagged, fighting. We just pick one because good god it’s not worth waiting. But first we have to apply for the apartment and earn the right to rent it. And to apply for the apartment, we have to get a bank account, because the bank runs a deal where they hold 3 months of rent in trust for the landlord as part of the rental laws here… Ok, fine.
So we go to the bank. We manage to open an account, but the bank really would like to have a copy of our work permits, please. So we go to the population bureau and fill out some residency forms, take some awkward photo booth photos, pay some money and are told we can go get our work permits in the next city over in about a week. So we go there, to get our visas converted into work permits, and it turns out that only MY work permit is allowed, since no one sent in any forms for the rest of the family. They will have to come back another time. They take my fingerprints and tell me my permit will be ready in a couple of weeks… Ok, fine.
But to finalize our rental, we have to get household insurance. And to register the kids for school, we have to get medical insurance. So we meet with an insurance broker, go through a very complicated set of decision making about our deductibles (while meeting at McDonalds, because we are homeless immigrants), and sign a bunch of papers. But it turns out that to get insurance, we first have to prove our residency… Ok, fine.
So we go back to the population bureau and get them to sign a form saying that we live here, and manage to get insurance. We finalize the apartment. So we take the kids to the school, fill out some forms, and wait… and finally we move into our apartment! Meanwhile, B can go register for his work permit, but not the kids. Apparently Ontario birth certificates are not specific enough for the Swiss, so I have to order special long form certificates from Canada… Ok, fine.
The kids get into school. But our stuff hasn’t arrived. The shipping company needs our work permits to fill out the customs forms. And the shipment is delayed. So I send them ALL the forms we have and work out a deal to give the work permit later. Stuff still hasn’t arrived… Next week, apparently… Ok, fine.
But our rental car time runs out. So we buy a car from a dude on Facebook, but we don’t have work permits for registering it. And we need more insurance. But to get insurance, we need to prove our driving history, so I call our old insurers in Canada and have them send over some details. We get insurance and borrow a neighbor’s car to visit the car registration bureau. But because we don’t have work permits, she can only give us temporary plates, which means we need a different kind of insurance. So I call the insurance company from the parking lot and get them to send a new insurance form to the office. We get plates! Christmas miracle!
But we have to change over our licenses, which we can only do once we have our work permits, accreditation from the population bureau, and an optometrist test. Plus special forms from Canada explaining our entire licensing history because Ontario licenses are not detailed enough to pass Swiss muster. And, you guessed it, we also need our work permits. Sigh.
Some other things we need work permits for? A cell phone plan instead of pay as you go. The discount fare passes on the train. Other little things like, oh, leaving the country.
Aaannnddd… We still don’t have our work permits.
So we live in Switzerland now.
It still feels like a bit of an extended vacation, but the reality is slowing sinking in as we get more and more settled. Let’s list the happenings so far:
This is a beautiful place, no question. It has everything: rolling fields of corn and sunflowers, orchards and vineyards in every backyard, mountains all around, a shining silver lake on the horizon, quaint stone villages hidden throughout the valley… and we’ve had days and days of beautiful, sunny afternoons, and fresh, crisp evenings. Flowers are still blooming and fruits are hanging heavy in all the trees.
I know the weather will change soon, and these adorable country roads winding through the Jura will be covered with treacherous snowfall. But we’re keen for some winter! I’m looking forward to watching Saint Bernards frolic through across the snowfields, depositing a barrel of brandy at my feet…. That’s a real thing, right? I’m also looking forward to at least one broken limb this year as the entire family learns how to ski, poorly. It’s a good thing we’re paying 1000 FRANCS PER MONTH on health insurance, just for that kind of situation.
Which brings me to…
Things are crazy expensive here. Of course, being used to our dollars stretching quite far compared to the Rupiah, prices seem even more extreme. But it’s the fact that you have to pay a lot for EVERYTHING that is a hard pill to swallow. Groceries are expensive. Rent is expensive. Parking is expensive. Restaurants are expensive. Trains are expensive. You pay fees for TV and radio (whether you use them or not).
Anyway, we’re basically out of money over here. Would you contribute to a GoFundMe account if we opened one? Kidding, but really, you are going to see a lot more posts on here about “we stayed in this weekend and ate ramen, darned socks and played board games” instead of “we visited an amazing city, bought expensive art and ate delicious food etc. etc…” But I’m sure that we’ll figure out the tricks to saving money soon enough… for now, here are the ways we are foolishly squandering our paycheques:
Our realtor told us that a healthy real estate market has about 4% available housing. Here, it is 0.4%. And all properties are incredibly overpriced. This fun graphic gives you a peek into the obscene costs of renting here. That being said, we spent one day visiting about 7 properties, and we jumped on one just for the sake of having somewhere to live. So we move in next week. It’s great to have a more permanent place to live, if only so we can stop dumping our stuff in various hotels/vacation rentals around the area. We just moved out of a dumpy motel and into a lovely homestay apartment, but I do feel bad for our very generous landlords who have to put up with our shrieking children, B’s socks all over the place, and my incessant mandolin playing… Soon we will have our very own neighbours to annoy with the same things!
It’s a 3 bedroom apartment with an open-concept kitchen/living room. And it’s… 80 m2, maybe? So we’ll be taking a lot of advice from the IKEA small spaces designs. And it’s anyone’s guess whether our incredibly oversized furniture from Indonesia will even fit. Probably not. We’ll find out when it all arrives in October.
The kids are still out of school. Oh my god, please kill us now, or at least come and babysit. Getting them into school has been a dominos game of first housing, then insurance, then local immigration approval, then registration, then planting a golden egg under the light of the full moon… but thankfully we managed to get them registered today with the goal of having them start early next week.
And it’s a local school. In French. Now, B and I both speak French, but we were basically too lazy to speak it to the kids for all these years, so they don’t speak French. Regrets there. Anyway, Switzerland seems to have a generous language integration program, so we’re hoping they pick it up quite quickly. Or they fail out and we pay 50k/year to put them in international schooling…
LIFE and CULTURE
So far, the people and the life has been great. Before moving here, I heard some opinions that Swiss folks can be unwelcoming or at least a bit reserved, but everyone we have met has been more than welcoming and incredibly keen and supportive towards us. It’s possible that they are just amused by our “quaint” Canadian French and the fact that we are GIGANTIC compared to everyone else. But it doesn’t feel like we stick out too much. In fact, I’d say that this area of Switzerland actually seems a lot like Canada. Take a bit of Vancouver landscape, a bit of Quebec City downtown, and a bit of the Montreal or Toronto attitude and you have Geneva.
We learned how to play Petanque with some new friends at the downtown court, shadowed by a group of enthusiastic local players who taught the kids some colorful new French words. We picked some apples straight from a tree in the backyard. I found out there is a Circus School here, and am counting the days until I can register. We’ve been drinking all the regional (on sale) wine we can find. We played life-sized chess under the watchful eye of a Geneva elder. J had a crazy temper tantrum in a Geneva diner and we had to bodily carry her out in shame. So I guess it’s just like home!
I’m finally back online after a long summer of avoiding my laptop like the plague. I just couldn’t bring myself to open it up, even for personal activities like blogging. I think I might have had a bit of computer PTSD or something… anyway, here we are again, starting the transition to somewhere new, and all the hauling around of our stuff that it entails.
About six weeks ago, I packed up the last of our life in Indonesia and hopped on a plane to spend the summer at home in Canada. B and the kids were already there, having left as soon as school ended in late June. I stuck around to wrap things up, including two intensive weeks of sorting and cataloguing our things in anticipation of moving them. In the end, it took three days and 108 boxes for our household to be loaded onto a shipping container – I can’t believe that only a few years ago, we dumped a handful things into only 7 boxes for our move to Indonesia! Where did the 101 other boxes of things come from?
It was an interesting packing process. A troupe of guys showed up with some flat cardboard and Tetrised our stuff into approximate rectangles – putting pillows and kitchen containers into the negative space of a chair, for example – then placed the rectangle on a piece of cardboard and custom-built a box up around it. It was cool, but I’m pretty sure some of these boxes are not going to fit into any other place that we live in the future…
So where are our 108 boxes headed? Well, hopefully they haven’t been lost at sea (I recently read “The Wave”, which has left me with a deeply unhealthy obsession with cargo ships sinking randomly… you should read it) – but assuming they have made it across the ocean, the plan is to meet them in Switzerland, where we’ll be based for at least the next two years. I got a new position with an international organization there, so we’re looking to settle just north of the Geneva area.
Back in May, I visited Switzerland during my job interview process. Although I was hoping to do a bit more sightseeing and didn’t have a chance, I did spend a few hours wandering around the small villages north of Geneva and in Geneva itself:
So, that brings us to today. Here we are, traveling on the train to begin a complicated dance of getting ourselves out of the country: me and the kids are taking this train into Montreal, where we will stop at the Swiss embassy to drop off our passports. B is currently driving to Montreal with a friend – and our 8 pieces of luggage – stopping at our airport hotel to drop everything off and meet up with us later in the day. Then we pick up our passports and visas tomorrow and fly to Geneva from there. Aaaannnd that’s about all we have planned.
We don’t have a place to stay temporarily, or anywhere to live permanently. The kids are already missing school (which started yesterday, and which they’re not registered for anyway), and we have too much luggage for us to manage on any kind of public transport.
But I guess not knowing what the heck we’re doing is part of the fun.
See you in Switzerland!