Sunday, May 18, 2008

"The hills are alive.... "

Yes, we're alive! I know some of you were wondering... but we finally made it to sunny Switzerland. All that packing and cleaning-up in the states was grueling work, further compounded by total and complete insanity illness and allergy. But we did it. We made it!

Our flight overseas wasn't so bad. With three kids and three flights I wasn't sure how it would end up, but they all did great, at least until our last plane was gearing up for the landing and the flight attendants insisted Kitty Bill get off my lap, stop nursing, and buckle into his own seat. I'm hoping his piercing screams still haunt them in their dreams.

At the end, we found ourselves deposited on the sidewalk in a new/old world, staring up bleary-eyed and completely jet-lagged at the amazing ancient architecture with way more luggage than seems humanly possible we intended. From there on it was an exercise in having to figure it all out bit by bit-- pushing luggage carts through town, getting turned away by the hotel for having too much luggage, and barely managing with the language differences.

We finally did manage to deposit our luggage elsewhere and sleep like the dead for several hours before waking refreshed and ready to explore the city at 8 pm. That first night we rode the electric tram through town and met Bosnians, Turks, and Serbians-- all of whom spoke perfect German AND perfect English. The next morning as we walked the cobblestone streets and fingered sock yarn (maybe that was only me) we were courted by an organ-grinder who was quite the hooligan, kuck-kucking at unsuspecting passer-by's for our entertainment.

We eventually made it to the apartment and explored all its empty corners, then headed off on the tram to the nearest IKEA to purchase the bare minimum of necessities, like mattresses and pillows. As we all gawked out the windows of the crowded tram, Sunburst inadvertently brushed her foot against an older man, and to our confounded horror-- he kicked her! Hard, in the shin! Now what kind of an evil, crazy, horrible old goat kicks a child? I missed the exchange and only looked over in time to see Sunburst well up in tears, to which the old man responded by angrily telling her off in Swiss German.

That experience severely and negatively colored our first impression of our new life in Switzerland. I'm still not sure if it was that the old guy was off his rocker, or if it was that we were obviously "Americans". Rumor has it that the old Swiss detest all of the foreigners here, and I suppose it's understandable since there are more foreigners than Swiss living here in our city. But still, that's no excuse for mistreating a child.

We've had a few ugly moments, but luckily, the beautiful moments have begun to outweigh the bad. We have made many friends of the English-speaking variety, both American and Australian, and there is a huge sense of camaraderie among many of the foreigners. We all seem to be swimming upstream in a land of stringent rules and language-barriers. We also picked up enough furniture to sit on and took a day trip to France-- which was amazingly beautiful and relaxing. It's no secret how far a chilled bottle of wine shared with new friends on a cute French street can lift one's spirits.

As predicted, this adventure has already been a huge learning opportunity for all of us. There are new things to explore at every turn. Here's what we've learned so far:

1. Even though the plastic, self-changing toilet seat covers in the Frankfurt airport are way cool, there is a limit to the number of times you should press the button.

2. The rolladen, or roll-up shutters on the outside of windows, are not constructed to withstand a two-year-old's curiosity.

3. Never, no matter how fun they are to watch spiraling downward, play with the maple seeds in the rain gutter outside your windows if you live above a restaurant with patio seating. Folks don't take too kindly to maple sprouts in their pizzas, no matter how cute you are.

4. In an upstairs apartment you can never, ever walk quietly enough. Ever.

5. If your rental contract flatly forbids the flushing of toilets between 10 pm and 7 am, inevitably everyone's bowels will go off at 10:01 p.m.

6. It is one thing to hear the beautiful sound of church bells ringing from the apartment windows and quite another to mistakenly be standing next to them when they go off. And if you happen to be two-years-old, it may scar you for life. "Aaaaack! Run, run away!"

7. Hauling a passel of children and all your worldly goods (however newly acquired from IKEA) uphill, through strange Swiss towns (because you missed the bus) feels less romantically Sound of Music than it really is. Especially when those worldly goods include three room-sized carpets.


  1. What a feat. Glad you're okay!

  2. Ah, I looooove it all! Other than the old goat kicking S. and the non-toilet-flushing hours and the dragging-worldly-goods uphill part. Otherwise, I'm so very thrilled for you all and I'm glad you're finding things to be happy about. AND HURRAH FOR OTHER ENGLISH SPEAKING FRIENDLY FOLKS!!! That makes a huge difference.

    Thanks for blogging, Sara. It's really good to have you back in the blogosphere again!

  3. I'm so glad you arrived safely ... and that we can still get updates from you on your weblog!

  4. Anonymous10:09 PM

    You had QUITE the adventure! I'm really glad you made it safely. I'd meant to email you _before_ you left to see how things were going, but 1) bad memory, and 2) I did figure you were probably too busy to email.

    What a rotten old man. Kicking children is not the way to impart any lessons. :(

    The Swiss are so regimented. Don't let them squash your free spirits!

  5. You're the 3rd Swiss home-edder I've come across (one of whom I know already, but you and the 2nd I only just stumbled across today - funny how these things seem to happen in a run!)


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