Archive | September, 2012

It’s so hard! – Sehr schwierig!

28 Sep

I am approaching the one-year mark of my arrival in Switzerland. Wow! As I think back to the times when we were FOTB (fresh off the boat), I am amazed at the changes I see in myself and in Phillip. Though I have adapted well in some areas, I am constantly reminded of how far I have to go before I even come close to ‘assimilating’ into this culture. I tried to come here with an open mind (I had no idea what to expect), but every day I am amazed at how different and difficult daily life can be in a new culture. I still have to translate every task I face into how I can accomplish it here in Switzerland. It’s really hard!

Some days my biggest challenge is to make it home before I start crying. I just… I don’t know. Being in a place where everything feels completely different is, in a word: overwhelming. Simple things take all of my brain-power and energy and make daily life feel heavy. Things are so confusing that I might as well be doing them with two broken legs and in the dark. I have had to re-learn how to cook, since: 1. I make every single meal we eat (often times completely from scratch) 2. I often cannot find “my” ingredients at grocery stores, since they carry different items (and the ingredients listed on packages are in German, French, and Italian… not so helpful). Grocery shopping and cooking were my first mountains to conquer. I am still working on these things, but certainly figuring them out. I had no choice, really. *shrug* Right now the things that are troubling me the most are learning the freaking language and communicating with the freaking people (For the record – I know it’s toolish to type out the word “freaking”). I have been receiving positive feedback from my German teacher and from the other people in both my German class and in my German conversational group. So some days I feel  confident and capable… and then someone on the side of the street very casually says something to me… And it makes me want to cry again. It’s so frustrating to work and work and think and think and speak and speak and read and read until my brain feels like a dried up raisin… and then not be able to communicate casually. This is not an exaggeration: Every interaction that I experience on every day of my life is awkward. Every single one and it’s DRAINING. Besides the language, the people are just different. Though the Swiss are notoriously skeptical of outsiders and are even known to be a bit cold towards others, I have not felt this from anyone. Thank goodness for that, right? Overall I find the Swiss to be very friendly and genuinely interested in where we are from and why we are here. That being said, I often feel like a novelty. Though people are warm and welcoming to me, I am still an “other” around here. I’m still and outsider and I still speak and act differently than my neighbors. Because of this, moving past introductions is kind of difficult. This is true of being new in any place, but these cultural differences are really killing my game. And, if I’m being completely honest, I must admit that I’m not the most outgoing person anyway. Ho-hum. I miss having friends. I miss random friendly conversation with people in stores. Shoot, I even miss being surrounded by people saying things that I understand, even when I’m not listening.

Okay, now turn that frown upside-down you jerks! I also have great things to share about my experience of assimilating into a new culture. I like that I have had to re-learn how to cook. I don’t think I was ever a bad cook, but I have most definitely gotten better since coming here. Phillip and I are foodies who have to have good food to stay thin (we eat until we are satisfied, so we’d never stop eating if we were eating boring foods). Another thing that I like about living here is the importance the culture places on leisure time, rather than on workworkwork. It seems that so many Americans identify themselves with their profession (I am doctor. I am teacher. I am businesswoman), rather than by the people with whom they associate and the activities in which they participate freely. Certainly a person’s profession shapes his or her identity, but there’s got to be more to a person than what they do to earn money. For a country that is known for its timeliness, Switzerland knows how to relax. People don’t seem to work late here. School children go home for lunch (for 2 hours) every day. People don’t work on weekends. Basically everything except the train stations are closed on Sundays. And people get tons of vacation time from their work (seriously. Phillip currently has 9 weeks of vacation time to use). I also like living in a place with such an efficient public transit system. Certainly there are times when having a car would be convenient, but overall the bus/train system here is all a person would ever need. We are bound by the train schedule, and thus plan our lives around it, but there is still something so freeing about riding a train everywhere. It’s easy, you know? I like that I can focus on Asher and/or Phillip on the trains, since none of us have to pay attention to where we are going or how much time we have to get there. The trains are rarely late, so they are incredibly dependable. If I ever were to ride a train by myself, I think I would enjoy having time just to watch out the window and think, or perhaps to read or write. I guess what I’m getting at is that riding the trains makes travel time productive — be it ‘relaxing productive’ or ‘working productive.’ It’s nice.

Whew. I’m kind of tired after writing all of that. I have so much more to say about the ups and downs that I experience on a daily basis, but I will have to save them for another post. For now just know that life is different and difficult, but also very happy and exciting.

Just catching up

17 Sep

Hello! Weeks have passed and so much has been happening. I keep thinking to myself that whatever is happening would be great to share on my Blog, but then I forget…

Here are some quick updates:

-Asher is walking! He has been taking steps for several weeks, but didn’t really seem to understand that he could actually walk. I think the moment he realized he could walk was when he was playing by himself in the child center while  I sat at a table studying German with a few people. I was half-listening to the teacher and half-watching Asher as he picked up Bear and took a few steps, then stopped to look down at his feet. He looked back up and took several more steps… then stopped and looked at his feet again. He did this for a couple minutes and walked probably 15-20 feet before finally stumbling a little bit and then just sitting on his hands and knees for a minute, seemingly bewildered at what he had just done. That was it — since then he has been very purposefully walking all over the place. We have a walker!

-My German class is still going well. I’m determined to learn, though I will admit I’m having a hard time incorporating study time into every day. I KNOW that I need to do it, but it is difficult to focus on anything with the billions of corners at Asher’s-head-height that are scattered around the apartment. Blarg. I know — excuses! excuses! I will do better.

-Phillip is a German whiz. He is so advanced that he is learning idioms in his class right now. He has been told by several people that he does not speak German with an American accent, which I think is funny and cool. He has worked so hard on learning the language well and quickly and he is awesome in every way possible. 🙂

-We are all really excited for our up-coming trip to the US! Phil and I talk about it a lot. I am anxious to see how Asher does on the long plane ride and with the huge time change. We will be going 9 hours back first, then three hours ahead of that, and then 6 hours ahead of that when we come back to Zurich. That’s a lot for anyone! We seriously cannot wait to see our friends and family around LA and Knoxville. We are both sad that we won’t be able to make it up to Richmond, but it’s just not possible. 😦

-Asher eats basically everything we give him. He loves all fruits and vegetables and is now eating the same meats that we are. He loves eggs, crackers, cheeses (even the super strong Swiss ones!), and is still obsessed with soft pretzels and croissants. He is such a little stud.

-Asher had a fever tonight. Hopefully he’s just teething or something. I guess that’s kind of random, but I keep thinking about it. 😦 Poor little guy.

-Phil will be going to Chicago in a few months. I’m already kind of dreading him being away for multiple reasons: 1. I hate flying. I hate it even more when my husband is flying across the ocean without me. 2. The thought of Phil leaving reminds me that I don’t really have any girl friends here. How I wish that one of my friends back home could come over and hang out with me when he goes out of town. 3. I just plain ol’ miss him when he’s gone. I have always missed him when I’m away from him, and now I miss him all the ways I always did PLUS I miss him being around to play with Asher and to talk about how cute our baby is with me. It just doesn’t feel like “home” when Phil is gone. I guess I’m getting a bit ahead of myself with this. This trip is still several weeks away. I’ll be cool, I’ll be cool.

-There was a dead mouse down the street from where we live. I passed it several days in a row. Now it is just a dark gummy spot on the sidewalk. It really grossed me out and I assume I will think of it every single time I walk past that spot, no matter how long we live here.

-My Thursday cleaning days are still in full swing every week. The decision to have a hard core ‘cleaning day’ was one of the best ones I’ve made in a while. I love knowing that all of the cleaning will be done every Thursday. No matter what, I am cleaning on Thursdays. I have done the minimum a few times, but I make myself do it. I’m getting more efficient, so now I’m able to work in random jobs each week that don’t have to be done all the time (cleaning the fridge, washing windows, focusing on the floors, etc.). Phil and I always do a quick pick up in the evening just after Asher goes to bed, and of course we clean the kitchen basically every day, but other than those things, I don’t even have to think about cleaning and it’s just great. I just wrote an entire paragraph about cleaning… and I could keep going. Does this make me a woman?

-Now I’m just making things up, so I’ll end.

-I’m trying to figure out some bugs with my new computer posting vids to youtube. Hopefully I’ll have it worked out soon so that I can post some more of my precious baby!