Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not an ending...

Wow. I think this will be my last post as a resident of Switzerland. Which means I've been writing here for just over 5 years. It doesn't seem that long ago. Really. It's gone by so fast and yet I feel we've really savored our time.

However - I won't stop writing here. I'll keep the name for the time being. The book "The Art of Coming Home" by Craig Storti explains the reason for this well:

"One of the most common complaints of returnees (to their home country) is how little interest the people back home show in their experiences, including close relatives and friends......This might not matter so much if you had just come back from a week in the countryside or at the beach, but you have been halfway around the world, seen places and done things these people will never see and do, and you've been gone three or four (5!) years besides. There's a lot to catch people up on.
Catching up is probably too simple a phrase to describe what's going on here. The point of telling your stories, after all, is not because you want to show off or because you crave attention but becaust you realize that you are now something of a stranger to friends and loved ones back home. You have been changed significantly by your experiences, and unless you can tell people about them, how can they know this new person who has come back to them?.........When you can't tell your stories, you are in effect obliged to remain a stranger to the people you love. The keen sense of loneliness many returnees experience upon reentry comes from this feeling that close friends and relations no longer know who they are."

That describes the feelings we have about coming back/visiting well and why the Blog has been so important. You see, I've had a chance to tell my/our stories. Yes, much of it has been from my perspective but I tend to be the one that doesn't say alot in person unless someone really wants to hear it. I know those who are really interested and who have time/computer, have looked at the Blog. We talk regularly to the parents/others who don't.

So the strangeness of our life here is not an issue so much as there are days we just won't feel like we quite fit in. We experience it every trip home. We've changed, home has changed. Our family and friends have also changed. In different ways and for different reasons.

We look forward to being closer in proximity to the changes of life.

That excerpt also explains why we will continue to use SwissFamilyOlson - it's part of us now. I would never take that piece of us away. Maybe I'll change the title someday. Maybe not.

We fly out the day after tomorrow and still have a full schedule. I might get time to post something about the weekend (goodbye's at church, R got baptized, etc....) but right now am smack dab in the move - sourrounded by boxes and men packing my kitchen......eeeeck!

I leave with another excerpt. This time from a book called Bloomability by Sharon Creech. This is a required reading for the 5th graders going into 6th grade at the International School here. Setting is an International school in Lugano, Switz. and the protagonist is a middle schooler who's flying home to the USA at the end of the year:

"And then I was waving them good-bye, and walking down the ramp, and I was sitting in my seat, and the plane was taking off, and I was sitting there looking out the window like a civilized person, not screaming my head off that we were going to die. I looked down on Switzerland, on the mountain peaks, and I wondered how Grandma Fiorelli felt when she left Italy all those many years ago. Maybe Grandma Fiorelli would come back to Switzerland with me some day, and we’d both go to Italy, to Campobasso, and we’d both feel right at home.

Soon I could no longer see Switzerland or any land at all. I was over the ocean, miles high, and I started thinking about Bybanks, wondering what it would look like and how it would smell and how it would feel to see my mother and father and Stella and the baby again, and how soon Crick might come home. Bybanks. What would I find in Bybanks? It would be an opportunity, I told myself. A new life."

The names, circumstances and places might change for each Expat returning home but I think the feeling is the same. It hits home for me.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Fringe Commenters

You are all welcome to come over and have coffee with me! We'll sit and watch the deer and turkeys and then head to the City for some shopping. :)

Don't worry my IA friends - we left things in a Safe Deposit box there in Clive! We HAVE to go back. Now if we just knew which key went to the box............

I'm leaving to pick up Bart but his plane is a bit late so I had a few minutes. There have been so many things I've wanted to share here but Time - I need more of it.

You have a fantastic day and I appreciate all the prayers re: this move. It's working. :)

On the Fringe...

I've always felt myself to be a bit on the fringe.

Not quite fitting into one group or the other.

Happy with various types of people - some of them quite opposite from another.

I like living where I have all the convenience of the city yet feel I'm a bit away from it all. Bart has seen deer multiple times next to the house in CA now. They just won't be trudging through the snow like they did in Iowa. :)

I'm on another Fringe now. Not quite in Zurich, not quite in CA. A lot still to do but a lot has been done. This has been the most challenging move yet. Bart's been in CA since early April and we're managing separate places and challenging responsibilities. I know the Lord is keeping me going because my lack of sleep would normally have me wiped. I am wiped but I'm still going................

I don't know about him - we've hardly been able to talk this week! - but I really, really appreciate all my dear husband brings to our household. I can't wait to see him tomorrow.

I'm NOT on the Fringe about that! He is a doer. An organizer. I think if he had been here, we'd be a lot further along. That said, I think we're in decent shape for the movers to come along on Monday.

One week from today I have to catch a plane. A one-way ticket - CA via NY. I hope it's cloudy so I don't have to see the mountains. I will leave a small piece of my heart in the mountains and thus, will have to return.

Besides all the sorting, lists - shipping doc's were faxed via snail fax service in town (Waedenswil needs a Kinko's!), we also had the last week of school for the girls and their leaving parties.

For anyone who's done the overseas move, you know you have to get rid of the food and various flammables, etc.... that Customs (pick your country) does not like to have shipped. So I had my table for open house and while some things were taken, people seemed reluctant to take my stuff in spite of my insisting "if you don't take it, I have to throw it away."

Until Rachel's friends came over. Basically, if you need to get rid of "stuff", invite a group of Jr. High students over - no inhibitions. " oh, we use this" "my dad likes stuff like this" "Is this good? I think we should try it." Beautiful! The girls each had "leaving" parties at the Badi this week. A "Badi" is basically a public swimming beach with well-maintained facilities along the Lake (Zurich in this case). Some have rental floaties, chairs, even in-ground pools for those who don't care for the Lake.

I was worried about Kendra's party as the thunderstorms and rain typical of June finally arrived and her's was after school on Tuesday. I prayed, not for a perfect day, but that the Badi wouldn't close. She wanted a party and had forgone a Birthday party for the big leaving party. We had only 23 or so of her nearest and dearest on hand.

I hired our sitter and her sister to help watch kids. Also got chewed out by the "Bad Meister" aka Lifeguard for having so many kids and the adults not being right at the waters edge. He calmed down after I pointed out my capable and grown up helpers. grrrrrrr.... She had a great time and it never rained on us.

Rachel's group met during the day on Thurs. as Middle school was done Wednesday and Elementary campus still had school. The beauty for the Int'l school students is that the local schools are in session until July 15 or so giving them free reign at the Badi to enjoy themselves. Not to say they can't otherwise but I'll leave it at - there can be tension between the two language communities depending on backgrounds.

Rachel and Kendra in the Lake at Kendra's party:

Me? I've been saying "aufwiedersehen's" which are much better than goodbye as it essentially means until we see each other again. I don't like this part but I treasure all the moments. A special time.

And to help me remember. Just in case I might forget:

Why does Frau Olson have two - 2 - coffee machines on her counter? One is 5 years old and the present to myself for moving TO Switzerland. One is brand new, out-of-the box and my present for moving FROM Switzerland. I'll let you guess which is which. :)

I didn't intend on replacing mine until arriving in the States but there was this special one at the store and, oh, what a lovely reminder of my time here, Yes? I had to unpack it to make sure it worked and then packed it up again. I also have to buy a transformer for it in the US. My husband is so kind and patient with me.

I'm not on the Fringe re: my coffee needs.

I've taken 2 loads to the dump, about 6 bags to the garbage dumpster this week ( a normal week is 1.5 bags), drove around horse drawn buggies without blinking an eye, returned my girlies beautiful instruments to the violin maker, driven a last time on the one lane road through the Barn in Tanne - I will miss this. I was still in Robot mode until I started saying goodbye to all the "mums" (they are ALL UK except for the Japanese mom) from Kendra's class. There's a whole group of them that have been together since Kindergarten and they're such a good group of kids. Rachel didn't quite have the same. Whew! I'll miss seeing them and just knowing they're there even if we didn't see each other much lately.

Moving. On the Fringe again. New people to meet. New places to explore. Never forgetting the people and places and faith that molds us.

Friday, June 10, 2011

We're No. 6! and a bit of babbling......

From the recent Bloomberg Business Week article on 10 Costliest Cities in the World by Venessa Wong:

"No. 6: Zurich

Quick lunch: $32.90
Beer at a bar: $10.54
Kilogram of rice: $3.70
Dozen eggs: $7.90
Movie theater ticket: $19.60

The financial sector is an important part of Zurich's economy and the city is home to the Swiss Stock Exchange and companies such as Credit Suisse and Swiss Re. Zurich is also a major transportation hub. Mercer ranked the city second in the world for quality of life in 2010, but such a high standard of living does not come cheap: Zurich jumped to No. 6, from being the 10th most expensive city last year."

The Costliest city this year was Tokyo. It's sometimes hard to explain why we obsess a little over the cost of things. Or why I cringe when I make bank transfers between the US and Switzerland right now - although there will be no more. We feel like our friends and family look at us like we're crazy people with the amount of shopping we do when we're in the States. But when a tall cappucino, no frills, costs 5.90 chf (about $6.50) at Starbucks in Zurich, you feel like you ought to buy the house a round when we're in the States.

Even my dad commented last November on how much food at the grocery store costs. And, we need so many things when we go back. There are many things we did not replace or have used beyond their normal life expectancy because it was just, in our mind, too costly here. So, the US of A should experience a little uptick in the economy when we get to the house. Bart's already made a list and budget - we've been planning this for years. He's already been doing his part.

Did I mention he bought the washer and dryer? I have not seen them. I actually don't know what color they are? I'm assuming he bought white? Or the red? :) I gave him a list of brands I would and would not like and a few guidelines and he did the rest. Washed his first loads yesterday and is very pleased with how quiet they are. Good thing considering their location - next to family room/kitchen.

Where was I? Oh - expensive. I have come to one conclusion however: cheaper is sometimes just cheaper. There are two specific brands of items I can compare between Switzerland & USA - one is clothing and the other, shoes. I have for a few years bit the bullet and bought some Tommy H---iger clothing here. And they seemed different. I started comparing quality of fabric, design and manufacture location. The items I buy in Switzerland are often made in Sweden, not certain Asian countries - fabric and cut were definitely different. Another was shoes - a Spanish brand, Un-sa, are made in Spain or Portugal for sale here (and very nice)whereas when I checked in the US on our recent trip, they were made in China - not so nicely made. And the leather was completely different. When it comes to our consumer goods, sometimes cheaper comes with its cost - products are "cheaper." But it comes down to priorities and what one needs/wants as well. Here - we tend to buy less but it lasts longer. And we buy less 'cause it's the 6th costliest place to live.

Oh, I'm rambling when I really should be finishing the inventory list. I have a week left and I've just written a silly economic/fashion observation post.

We are doing fine and are crazy busy. I'm sorting (luggage, Air Freight and Sea Container), trying to dispose of unnecessary items, getting the garden in order and trying to motivate the girls to get their rooms sorted as well. Bart has a client in the middle of an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and is trying to support us from afar until he arrives again. It doesn't help that the phone hook-up got messed up and he still doesn't have phone/internet from the house. He hops over to Starbucks when needed (often right now due to the IPO) to use the wireless. He's also looking at cars. If he doesn't buy one today, we'll have two to buy when we fly back. OY!

I have to have everything done to accomodate appointments, leaving parties for the girls, coffee's, final dispersal of electrical items, return of instruments :( and make sure there are no Verboten items getting packed. And a Baptism on Sunday - next week, Rachel, and our last Sunday at IBCZ. Good thing I'm still in Robot mode. Wondering when the fascade will crack?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

We took a little break - Italia!

OK - I wanted to start my post above the picture but the computer won't let me. It won't let me italicize 'above' either. Pretty much everything has taken a turn south since I upgraded to Explorer 9 and the new Yahoo Mail. The keyboard constantly freezes on me - but only in Blogger and Yahoo. Grrrrrrr......
That's not what this post is about. It's about ITALY! Long ago when we figured the Ascension weekend (4 day weekend for school) would be our last opportunity to travel, Bart asked me where I'd like to go. I wanted to go back to Italy. The people are ALIVE, the food is great, it might, just might, be warm and we just really enjoy it.
So he booked us a weekend in a little seaside village called Santa Margarita Ligure and spoiled us. It was so nice to get away from the house and all the work that needs to and will get done for the move. Additionally, we hadn't seen him in a month so it was great to spend time together without the everyday distractions. Like I said, we were spoiled last weekend.
Getting there, getting home - not so fun. Wednesday night traffic in Milan was 1) sheer torture 2) not moving 3) reminded me of LA rush hour but somehow worse and we'll stop there. Sunday night the Gotthard Tunnel had a 5 km wait so we opted for the alternate San Bernardino pass route. Hmmm - foggy and slow up top and then - tunnel closure due to an accident. All the traffic from both sides of the tunnel had to be re-routed on the old road through the little mountain village. I'd still have made the trip even if I had known about the "road challenges" because we had a great time. The girls had their portable DVD player as well so were comatose in the back seat.
I have a lot of pictures for you. More specifically for my sister D who complained that I didn't have enough pic's on the Blog lately and she wants to see the girls. So here we go, in no particular order:
I love taking pic's of the fruits and veggies. If you've never purchased produce in Italy - please do not touch! The clerk will be more than happy for you to point out which particular piece you want and bag it. I still have a slo-mo in my head of my friend S reaching toward an apple/orange and the shopkeeper rushing toward her and me trying to get to her from down the street to warn her - too late, she touched. Shopkeeper took it out of her hand, bagged it, etc.... Hard to know the "rules" sometimes.
Typical Italian scene: men on the bench.
Pretty doors in Portofino.
Pretty girls in the pretty blue water.
We enjoyed watching all the boats. Which you can't see now because Blogger and the keyboard don't like me.
I took a few pictures. So did Bart.
Biker chic:
Off for a little shopping in Santa Margarita:
Reading by the pool:
Boats in the harbor of Portofino:
I take pictures of goofy things. The villa of Dolce & Gabbana with all the boats docked below.
While the family eats gelato, I have an espresso. I did eat one gelato - delicious!
Water was beautiful:
And here we are: Bart and I with our "mini-me's."
So great to have him around and we miss him already. Oh, we're homeowners (aka poor) again! As I write, Bart has already received delivery of our Des Moines storage items, hopefully the bed and they should be arriving to install the washer/dryer. WhooHoo!
Told him we'd get a bed before the TV!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Working on saying "see you later"

I didn't realize my last post was on May 25th. That was before Bart came. And the girls had programs. And my computer time got hi-jacked. And my husband forced took me/us to Italy for a long weekend vacation. Now he's gone again and there are 17 days left before we make our final departure. I just don't feel ready.

I'm ready to have my husband around all the time again. A month long break will do that for a girl (at least this one!). I'm ready to have my very own house again. I'm really looking forward to that! I'm ready to stop making so many lists and having so many things rolling around in my head. I'm ready to speak English on a daily basis but will miss my feelings of accomplishment at managing conversations in German.

I'll miss my view - I'm not ready. I'll miss the late evenings where you look out the window and still see light in the West at 10:30pm - not ready.

Most of all, I will miss some very dear people. People I would not have met had I not moved to Switzerland. But I'm ready to live near people I've missed because I have lived in Switzerland.

So I'm filling my time with getting ready to go and spending time with the people I'll miss. The Blog is suffering I know but for the few of you who check it out, I think you understand.

That said - I will be posting pic's from the weekend in Italy. The Italian Riviera. Oh, my goodness. My husband spoils me. And our girls. It was a great trip to end our adventure here. Minus the drive to and from but that's for the next post.