Archive | March, 2012

Unhomeless!

29 Mar

We did it! We found a home!! YES!!!!! I can not even begin to express the weight that has been lifted off of our shoulders. I am positive that Phil and I each have an extra bounce in our steps, the sparkle of excitement in our eyes, and peaceful smiles. We feel better. I was stressed for so many reasons, one of which was that I was worried we would have to settle for something (anything) and be uncomfortable and have to re-search for apartments soon anyway. That simply is not the case – we both love the apartment we found and are so excited to move in! I say we “found” it, but we actually didn’t. We worked hard making a strong application for an apartment we really liked in Effretikon. We knew that to be noticed in the competitive market we would have to hand deliver the application. So we got up before the buttcrack of dawn to catch an early train and be in Zurich by 7:30 to drop off our application as soon as the office opened. We introduced ourselves to Frau Kalt (the lady in charge of that propery), let Asher shmooze her a bit, gave her our application, told her she was beautiful, offered her animal sacrifices, groveled at her feet, and then bowed backwards at her as we left (or something like that). Whatever we did – she must have liked us! She called us to tell us that she could not offer us the Effretikon apartment (discouraging!), but that she may have something else for us (hopeful!). After a bunch of confusing conversations, she called Phillip Tuesday and said she might have a place. We were instructed to go to Uetikon that afternoon and to let her know if we wanted this apartment she had just listed. We went: We want it! We want it! She is mailing us the contract today! YES!!!! I was living in a constant state of frustration. I would comb through the hundreds of available flats, compile a list of possibilities, and then call and call and call and call trying to set up an appointment. Sometimes I would schedule an appointment only to find out that a contract had been offered earlier that day. The listings disappear so quickly. But finally — a super great apartment listing that disappeared for US. Ahhh… So anyway, about our new place:

It is a 3.5 room apartment, which means it has 2 bedrooms (they count the living room as a room) and extra space somewhere (hence the .5 room). In this case, our apartment has an extra half bathroom AND an esszimmer (eating room), either of which could have alone represented the .5 room. It has two big (by European standards) bedrooms. The kitchen is not huge, but it has everything we need (including a dishwasher, whew!) and is fairly modern. Other than the bathrooms and kitchen, the entire apartment has parquet flooring. The full bathroom is pretty big, which will be nice when Phil and I gather ’round the tub to play with Asher. It’s just… ahhh… it’s just great. Our room has floor to ceiling windows that open up to a little gate thing so it’s like having a small balcony in our room. Asher’s room has a nice big window. The living room and dining area are on the ground level and each have bright window/doors that let in a ton of light and make the big rooms feel open and clean.

And now comes the fun part… decorating! Woo-hoo! We have been scrimping and saving and we cannot wait to shop! What a dream to be able to start from scratch. We loved our things and aesthetic in the States, but since we could not afford to ship everything over here, we are certain we will enjoy shopping for an entirely new home. Wowee. We are hoping to go to Ikea this weekend to kick off our moving adventure. I cannot tell you how excited I am to FINALLY be able to make a room for our sweet baby. Asher is 7 months old and has never even slept in a proper bed. He has never had a real changing area and has never had a place that was appropriate for him to play and to keep his toys. I cannot wait to set up a home that will be safe and helpful for him as he develops physically and mentally. I’m excited to decorate our room and the living room too. Phil and I have been talking about what sort of aesthetic we will be going for and how we plan to pull it off. Oh yeah. This is going to be fun. We’ll get the essentials first (beds, a couch, cooking stuff), and then go from there with what we need and like.

Oh yes, the town — we will be living in Uetikon am See (Oo-eh-tih-kohn ahm zee [that’s my attempt at a pronunciation guide]). It’s a nice little town not too far out of Zurich, right on the Zurichsee. Click here for a link to the town’s Web site, and here to see a (cheesy outdated) video about the town. The town is very hilly, which may make grocery shopping difficult without a car, but we’ll manage. It’s not quite as busy as some of the other towns we looked at, since it seems to mostly be residential areas. Though I was wanting to be a in town that offered more shopping, we will be so close to Zurich and the surrounding area that this is perfectly fine. Uetikon is clean and pretty and seems to exude a quiet ease and contentedness. We have been told that it is a fairly wealthy area (which would explain the lamborghini) and that it is very safe. We were only there a short time, but we saw a couple nice little playgrounds and lots of people walking around.

Oh we may look into getting bikes, which would be fun.

So there you have it. That’s all that I know so far about our new place. Oh, no! One more thing — we will move in May 1. We were given the option to move in April 1, but, since that would give us only a couple of days to figure everything out, we decided to go with May 1. This way we have time to plan our move. A girl from Phil’s German class offered her and her boyfriend’s help with our move, which will be great. I assume we will rent a car or a van to get the things we have here over there. Moving may be a pain, but at least we will then be able to “settle.” Another positive to having the extra few weeks before our move is that we will be able to enjoy our time here in Immensee again. We have been so stressed and working so hard to find an apartment that we have both become a bit frustrated with our current living situation. But this place is beautiful and comfortable and we certainly do not want to leave here feeling jaded by this experience. We have very kind and friendly neighbors, a nice apartment, and breath-taking scenery all around. Though the town to which we are moving is beautiful, we certainly will not have the same view from “home” as we have here. Plus, since Uetikon is way more populated, we also won’t have the openness that we have here. These things are fine, of course, but I certainly want to make the most of this space while we have it. I’m going to breathe this quiet Immensee air a little deeper for the next few weeks. I want to absorb a happy memory of this place; our first “home” in Switzerland. Phil and I decided that we will bring Asher back here to play on the playground and feed the birds when he gets a little bit bigger. We want to revisit the landscape and to show him where his European journey began.

Thank you to our family and friends for the encouraging words and prayers the past several weeks. I know I can be a pain when I’m stressed, so thanks for listening to me whine. I’m so excited to share pictures and stories of our new place — we will keep you posted!

Ehh… more and more and more!

28 Mar

I know I won’t get complaints about this from g-parents and aunts, and so I will keep on keeping on with the vids! I hope to write more again too, now that things seem to be leveling out (knock on wood!).

Know that for every video I share, I have at least 5 that I do not share. Phil and I are extremely camera happy around Asher. 🙂

Still spitting all the live-long day

Learning new things

Precious (intense) laugh

Asher vids

26 Mar

Ticklegiggle

Swinging like a big guy

Tasting an apple

Apartment searching is the root of all stress

21 Mar

Ahhh… silence. Stillness. I’m breathing in this moment and it is oh, so satisfying. I have wanted to write, but have had difficulty finding the time.

I feel like I have been going a million miles an hour lately. As many of you know, we have kicked our apartment search into full gear and are now viewing and applying for as many apartments as we can (which isn’t that many, actually, because the process for each is so long). The vast majority of people here live in apartments. Single-dwelling houses certainly exist, but they are very much the minority. Plus, even many of the single-dwelling houses around have been split up into separate “apartments” and then shared by families. As far as I know, realtors do not exist here… and neither do “for sale” or “for rent” signs. How do we find available apartments, you ask? Well, you just have to know how and where to look. Though we have been at it for months now, we are still just learning how to do these things. The most popular place for home-searching undoubtedly seems to be homegate.ch, so this is where I spend a lot of my time. This site works like most other “search” type Web sites where you enter your preferences and then simply click  “search,” or in this case, “suchen.” Sounds easy enough, right? Well it’s not. It’s overwhelming and frustrating and difficult and ridiculous and I am mad at homegate.ch! We search “all areas” around Zurich and we get several thousand possibilities. This would be great except that it means that the search has included cities that have literally 2 hour commutes, which we do not want/simply cannot do. Plus, the list of cities is longer than the books in the Bible (including the apocrypha!). And so I narrow… smaller price gap… smaller min/max rooms gap… still, the results are pages and pages of what feels like finding a needle in a haystack with a location/price/available date that would actually work for us. So then I start searching individual towns. My search yields one possible place here, a list of possible places there, absolutely nothing there and there and there and there… It’s frustrating.

Being completely overwhelmed and getting nowhere, we decided to start focusing only on certain towns at once. So we focused on Birmensdorf ZH for a week, then Dietikon for a week,  and Effretikon for a week (we like that place and are still kind of focusing on it), now Uster. But still — you have to GO to the apartment to pick up an application. How do you go? Well, you call and call and call until someone answers the contact number (and I pray that they speak English) and then you work around THEIR schedule to set an appointment (which is usually on an evening that Phil has to work and is always right around Asher’s bed time). Fine. Whatever. So I go… I work all morning to get my grading done and laundry and feed myself and the baby and perhaps go grocery shopping and every few days I’m able to squeeze in a shower, then around 2 when Asher goes down for a nap I start preparing for our trip: I find directions to the apartment (this takes longer than you might assume), I figure out and record a travel schedule, I pack up the billions of things that I might need (probably won’t but would be screwed if I did need it and didn’t have it) while traveling with a baby, then I dress myself and Asher in layers upon layers of clothing, prep the stroller for the current weather, walk to the station to buy a ticket, then I either have to plan how I will get the stroller, diaper bag, baby, and myself down and up a few flights of stairs to get to our platform or I proceed to the nearest bus stop, then I ride a mixture of buses, trams, and trains for an hour and a half to two hours, walk for 5-20 minutes trying to find the apartment, visit for about 5 minutes, get the application, and then start the journey home. AND THEN we have to work on the application package. Phil and I have kind of been doing this together, since we are trying to find a good balance of professionalism and our sob story to include in our applications, we are really trying to collaborate our skills. We have to include all kinds of random things – the actual application, a letter from us, a letter from Phil’s supervisor, a copy of Phil’s resident’s permit, a copy of Phil’s work contract since we do not have the correct Swiss form (I wonder if this is what our problem is)… it’s just ridiculous. And on top of all of that, supposedly you don’t have much of a chance if you mail the stupid application in — they only take you seriously if you hand deliver it. I have only done this once. Since Phil goes to Zurich most days he typically does this, which works out for me, but then adds difficulty to his day. Asher and I did get up at 4:30 the other day to catch an early train and go with Phil to drop off an application first thing (supposedly this is important) as a family, hopefully to increase our chance of being selected (still waiting, but hopeful).

So we have several hours of straight travel every day that we go to look at an apartment. Asher is a trooper, but everyone has a breaking point and I think he is getting sick of the long rides back and forth that probably seem pointless to him.

There. That is why we are struggling to find a home. That is why we are exhausted. I have gone by myself a lot, but Phillip also comes with us a lot. If he is home, he can travel with us. Otherwise Asher and I travel alone to Zurich, meet up with Phillip, find/visit the apartment with him and then travel home together. On top of this, Phillip has on his plate the equivalent of a couple full-time jobs right now: He is working full-time for the research agency (this includes his work on his dissertation and other random things that URPP needs him to do), working as the redactor for a journal, AND taking very involved German courses (required by URPP).

We are tired! We know things will slow down once we have found a place and once Phillip is done with the German courses, but in the mean time we are struggling to find a spare moment to breathe. One good thing — the train rides can be fun for us and a great chance for some good ol’ fashioned family time. We like that. Phil just finished the most intensive German course and is now in a semi-intensive course and is almost done with the online German course that he is taking. One of the two classes I have been teaching (the one that requires more grading time) just finished this week, which will hopefully free up a little bit of my time. I have been offered another course with them, but I am seriously contemplating declining the offer. I hate to do this, but I also hate to continue living as stressed as I have been the past several weeks. I don’t want to be stressed: I have a wonderful husband who is my best friend in the world, I have the most precious baby who daily introduces me to an entirely new level of love, we are in a beautiful and exciting place together, we are healthy, we do not go hungry — life IS good.

…we just need a home!

*sigh*

Down with peas!

6 Mar

Here are a few videos to document the fun that Asher and I had yesterday when he tried peas for the first time:

Spitting to pass the time

Don’t pass the peas, please. 

Over it. (The peas, not spitting)

 

Doing the loco-motion

3 Mar

We have decided to kick our apartment search into full gear – meaning “viewing” as many apartments as we can to figure out where we want to live and to increase our chances of being selected by picking up applications. Since we are so far away, viewing apartments ends up majorly throwing off our on-the-train to off-the-train ratio… which can be difficult with a 6 month old (though I’m glad to be doing this before he becomes mobile!). We like taking the trains and, depending on the type of train and the duration of the ride, we do lots of fun things together while riding. One thing “we” have been doing a lot lately is spitting. Asher likes to stick his tongue out and blow hard, thus jettisoning spit everywhere. (I  caught it a little bit of the spitting action on these videos, but know that sometimes he will do it non-stop for a solid half-hour.) It’s hilarious and really cute, but can get a little awkward when we are close enough for him to splatter other people. At this point in his little tiny life Asher seems to think that the words “no” and “stop” mean “yes” and “by all means, keep going.” He literally laughs when I tell him “no-no” and then proceeds to get even more excited and focus on doing whatever he is doing more intently. hahahaha He doesn’t understand, so it is what it is, right? (Lord help me if he still looks at me with those precious eyes and laughs when he DOES understand – I am going to have to start practicing keeping a straight face now.)

For the record – one of the appointments we had yesterday went swimmingly. The apartment was in a great location, it was big enough, and was just overall a good find. The other apartment remains at large. Asher and I wandered around what felt like a ghetto for a while before finally bailing on our appointment and returning home (we were almost an hour late, it was dark and cold, Asher was hungry and exhausted and completely OVER it, and I was nervous anyway because the guy we were going to meet didn’t speak English – bust!). I have found two (both in the same town, Birmensdorf ZH) that I really like this week — here’s hoping that one of them works out! 🙂

Here are a few videos of train-riding, Asher Michael style:

Eating his saw:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHJySuYWwZY&feature=youtu.be

Playing with trash:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok3-v0kMZvE&feature=youtu.be

Playing with his shoes:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tSOoY0Cdnc&feature=youtu.be

Late night train ride; Friday night party animal! (This is right before he completely sacked out for the night):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1uxdtVf4sA&feature=youtu.be