So. One year ago on January 16th, we left Peoria, IL. One year ago on January 17th, we landed in Basel, Switzerland.
When we first got here, everything was new. It was kind of like being on vacation, but not exactly. In having to grocery shop and interact with “regular” Swiss citizens (as opposed to people in the hospitality and/or tourist industries), we realized that knowing some German probably would be actually helpful.
We (tried to) adjust to living in an apartment. It turns out that it’s much harder when you haven’t done it in years, your daughter’s never done it, and all of your neighbors are very Swiss and have very Swiss expectations of your behavior. This is still ongoing. We’re trying. Most days we are better neighbors than we used to be, but we will always be the loud Americans with the dog and the kid. I guess we’ll just have to come to grips with that.
It used to be easy to write on this blog. Every trip to the zoo was an adventure. Every place we went was new. I did the Project A-Z that got me to think and write about Basel when I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Now I have a new found respect for bloggers. When I have something to say, writing can be easy. It’s not always fun, but when I need to get something off my chest or have a funny story to tell, the words can roll right off my tongue (so to speak).
But when things aren’t easy, when my feelings are conflicted, when I don’t want to admit that this is hard or that I’m struggling… that’s when it gets hard to write.
This first year in Switzerland has been the hardest of my life. Being away from everyone we know, not being able to interact with most of the people I meet on the street – or feeling like they wouldn’t want to interact with me – is hard. The KESB ordeal rocked me to my core. I am supremely uncomfortable around our neighbors, but the logistics of moving when we don’t know how long we’re going to be in Switzerland are too much to handle.
I never saw myself as a stay-at-home-mom (or hausfrau…). Not being able to find even part-time work, or volunteer work!, has been disheartening. I’ve gotten some tips on how to put together my CV packet. It’s in a constant state of improvement. I’m preparing to really start the application process again, but it’s hard to psych myself up for it. I’m not used to interviewing for a job and not getting it. I’ve never tried this hard without any positive results.
That’s not to say that this year has been all bad. Parts of it have been great! G is getting so much smarter and funnier. She’s a bit of a wise ass sometimes. She’s in bilingual preschool twice a week and she’s picking up quite a bit of German vocabulary there. She will sometimes ask me how to say something and when I say, “I don’t know; let me Google it,” she will say, “Oh, it’s [something in German].” Then why are you asking me, kid?!
Watching her make friends that she hasn’t been around every day since she was a baby is awesome. She is so great at names; she knows all the kids at school, even the ones in the younger class. She’s getting more confident at ballet and in music class. She is unapologetically herself and I love it except when I hate it because she’s fighting me on something (usually taking a nap or trying to use the bathroom).
Living in Switzerland has allowed us to visit places we probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and certainly not so many in one year. We visited Crans-Montana in CH for Easter; went to London, Paris (and Disneyland), and Amsterdam for long weekends; and took day trips to Lucerne and a castle in Alsace, France.
We’ve celebrated Fasnacht and Swiss National Day. We went to Herbstmesse and the Christmas Markets. I’ve been to the top of the Münster, all of the city gates, and ridden the ferries across the Rhein almost too many times to count. We’re pros at public transport now; driving a car when we were back in Peoria felt weird.
I try to look at this as an adventure. I know we’re certainly opening up worlds for Genevieve that she never would have had available to her otherwise, even if we don’t live abroad long term.
But at the same time, people have certain expectations and beliefs about living in a foreign country, and we find more often than not that those things aren’t true. Living here is not like vacationing here. Swiss culture is not like American culture. The struggle is real.
I am going to attempt to write here more in 2016. There are still things we did last year that I want to write about and I hope to have even more adventures to write about as well. I am trying to see the positive in things, but I am also trying to be honest about how I am feeling. I don’t want to whitewash this experience. A lot of my silence here last year was because I was struggling so much and didn’t want to admit it. And my silence so far this month has been jet lag, sickness, and feeling so far behind that I hardly know where to begin.
Writing here makes me feel like I am talking to my friends and family, though, and that is crucial. So I can’t guarantee when more words will appear on this page, but hopefully it’ll be sooner than later.