Monday, September 27, 2010

Wow, almost 3 weeks since my last real post. I can't believe it. The time just flies here.

Mike's been away for the last couple of weeks. The first week was spent in the Alps, the second in Houston. Quite the contrast, I am sure. Hot to cold, Swiss to Texan. Nuff said.

It didn't take long for him to become a weary business traveller, though, as he arrived home complaining about old planes with seats that didn't fold down flat for him to sleep. Even though I do understand the need for sleep, seeing how bothered he is by jetlag, I am slightly worried about how he'll survived our next family trip in 'monkey class'.

The boyz and I have held down the fort at home. And when I say "the boyz and I", you will know that I really mean I have held down the fort. Meaning everything from getting grumpy and tired teenage boys up at 6:30 every morning, to wrestling Xbox 360 controllers out of the hands of 10 year old boys who never, ever seem too tired to play, to shopping for groceries at least every other day, because the Swiss do not believe in fridges that can hold more than a maximum of six meals, to washing and cleaning a house which, albeit tiny to look at, contains an incredible number of nooks and crannies for dirt to collect in.

This, of course, is on top of my job, which has been sadly neglected over the past month. I am sure my poor clients are wondering what the heck is going on with Heidi, who always used to beat her deadlines, not just squeeze in at the very last second.

And let's not forget the house that we are building, which requires the ability to drop everything at a moment's notice and take off to a town you have never heard of, have no idea where is, and don't know how to get to, in order to look at either a) interior doors, b) tiles for the terrace, c) blinds for the windows, or d) or any number of other small details which I had never considered before, and never want to consider again.

Or our very welcoming and warm neighbours, who are always inviting me over for apero, meaning no less, and often more, than 3 glasses of wine. I've realized that drinking wine is not for the weak. Particularly at 6:30 am the next day, when the entire process starts over again.

So yeah. It's been a busy few weeks.

Mike is here in Switzerland for two weeks, before he flies back to North America. It is nice to have him back, even though we don't actually see him that much. He's putting in 'face time', peeps, which is a new and unfamiliar concept, both him and to us.

The boys are continuing to do well. The C dude has his little posse, whom he regularly meets up with in town, where they hang out at "Taxi Pizza", the 'in' place among the teens in Vevey. When they are not planning to eat (pizza), they take over the local Starbucks (where a muffin is 4 dollars, which I sadly find reasonable) or McDonald's (where a meal deal is 13 dollars, but, hey, you get a Coca-Cola glass for free!).

The B Meister is also doing well at school, and thinks his teacher is 'the best teacher in the whole world'. It bears saying that he's thought that about every single teacher he's ever had, so we take it with a grain of salt. My own experience is that his teacher seems to be exceptionally sweet and caring, and how could she not - having 16 kids in her class and the best classroom in the entire primary school. One of these days, I'll remember to take a picture of the million dollar view these kids enjoy from the comfort of their desks.

My parents came for a very quick visit while Mike was away. I managed to squeeze everybody into the house, so they didn't have to stay at a hotel. It was tight, and I am in no hurry to do it again. I slept on a mattress in the boys' room (much to their chagrin), and we managed for a couple of days. The weather was absolutely gorgeous while they were here. We took a trip to Gruyeres, a quaint town nestled in the rollling hills just 30 minutes inland from here. Of course, we had to stop by the world famous cheese factory to sample their goods and see how the cheese is made, and we also visited the Castle where the Counts of Gruyeres ruled for centuries. I'd post pictures, if I'd remembered to bring my camera. As it is, you'll have to trust me. It was beautiful.

Next on my list of places to see is Gstaad, a swanky mountain resort some 45 minutes away. The rich and famous go there to be seen during the winter months. Meaning I need to go now, before the snow falls and the prices skyrocket!

Because we all know where my money is going right now. Into the drain that is called "La Maison"...

I went through the new house last week with the electrician, as we had to agree on where to place plugs and outlets in rooms and hallways. Having absolutely no concept of what was required, or, indeed, any opinion of where plugs should be, I occasionally asked him for his opinion when a particular area stumped me. Or rather, I would ask in English, the house architect would translate into French. The electrician would gesture, talk and point, and I would nod. I was feeling quite smug and pleased with myself to cover the entire house in less than 3 hours, when people told me this could take a full day.

I'm not quite as pleased this morning, as I woke up to an emailed offer from the electrician, outlining the CAD 13000 supplemental costs that our house will require for wiring!

*cough* I nearly spit up my drink when I saw it.

I knew my French was bad, but I didn't realize that my Gesturing was, too.

Clearly, we are going to have to revisit the wiring. Damn it. Time really is money.

And with this, I will sign off, as my presence is required at the kitchen company's offices, to discuss the size of fan required, as well as the colour of the cabinets. Party ON....


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life at 10

In The Car

"I'm scared of turning 18."
"There's so many things I don't know. How can I leave home at 18?"
"First of all, you're only 10. You have plenty of time to learn all the things you need to know to be an adult. And second, you don't have to leave home at 18. You could stay longer, if you want to."
"Sure. There's people who live at home until they're much older. Even 30 years old."
"Wow. They're so lucky."
"Well, you might want to leave earlier."
"No way. I want to live with you forever."


Completing a Homework Assignment

"Did you have Google when you were a kid?"
"How did you do your homework, then?"
"I had to use books to do my research. Go to the library, that sort of thing."
"Wow. That must have been hard work."

Friday, September 10, 2010


Benjamin could barely go to sleep on Monday. I was restless. Even Mike showed signs of being excited, and somewhere in the mountains above us, I know Christopher was thinking about it.


The day we'd been waiting for for sooooo long.

The day we would finally get our "stuff". Our container from Canada. Our things. To make our home complete.

And boy did we ever. Stuff and stuff and stuff. The movers just kept bringing it in. Boxes and boxes of it. Stuff here, stuff here. Way too much stuff. Approximately 1/3 of our belongings were delivered to our wee abode, and, peeps, it overfloweth.

Holy moly, we have A LOT of stuff. I didn't think we did. I thought we were of the minimalist kind. But alas. Clothes, shoes, plates, utensils. You name it, we've got two. And not enough space to house it all. Our house is full. Our storage is full. And we are stepping over stuff left, right and centre. As much as I love my couch and my desk and my bed, the mess that is our crowded house at the moment is already starting to drive me crazy. Me thinks a trip to Ikea is in order. We need to find ways to hide all this STUFF we've been waiting for for so long.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hogwarts By Any Other Name

Following the boys' 3 day week last week, Christopher started his first full school week with a 'team building' retreat. He left with his grade from the Montreux train station at 8:47 on Monday morning, and returned home yesterday afternoon. Judging from his filthy and wet clothes, not the mention the sparkle in his eyes, they had a great time.

The upper school is divided into 'houses' - Fribourg, Bern, Valais and Jura, Christopher being in the latter house. Disappointingly, there is no sorting hat, and the kids are placed in a seemingly random fashion. However, once a child belongs to a house, his/her younger siblings will automatically go there as well. Benjamin, therefore, will also be a member of the Jura house once he enters the upper school.

The houses each have their own mascot and coloured shirt, the Jura Jaguars sadly being forest green. Ick.

Each 'house' competes for points throughout the school year, and close taps are kept on who's in the lead, as results are posted and updated online at all times. Points may be earned for various activities, including charity events organized by a house, academic efforts and sports results. Points can also be deducted for poor behaviour, sportsmanship, etc.

The retreat was a way to kick off this year's competitive spirits among the houses, with all kids from each house bunking in separate quarters in a large Chateau in the mountains above us.

The kids spent Monday afternoon and most of Tuesday in various activities that required both physical and mental efforts. Among the activities were cross country runs to find clues over an area of several kilometers, building a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows, and some intricate group work involving a bucket of water and rubber bands. Did I mention the bag full of wet clothes?

By yesterday morning, as the results were tallied over breakfast, Jura was announced the big winner. The prize - to be enjoyed at school today - was a huge Toblerone chocolate bar.

Of course, the real prize is the bragging rights that come with beating your schoolmates. Let's hope this team spirit continues and spills over into academic efforts. Now that would be a victory truly worth savouring!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Whirly twirly wind....

The weekend before last, we spent at Interlaken, a beautiful area just 1.5 hours from here. I suspect it’s where all postcard photographers go when they run out of inspiration. The place is so stunning, any amateur could click a winner. And I should know, since I spent 2.5 hours on three different trains looking at the views, while being slowly transported straight into the mountains with boys in tow. That’s right. The Swiss have built a railway that goes 3 km up the side of a mountain. Clearly, they are not only rich, but also crazy. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to transport the required equipment up to lay the tracks, especially since most of the mountain is permanently covered in glaciers. Better them than me. I was just happy I got to ride on a train, and didn’t have to hike up.

Once we reached the top, we were absolutely blown away by the views. Gorgeousness on all sides. Even though there’s snow at the top all year round, we were unbelievably lucky with the weather, which reached a balmy 25 degrees Celsius that day. In fact, we all ended up with burnt faces. True to their winter sports loving nature, the Swiss have created quite a playground on top of Jungfraujoch, which is the name of the mountain peak. The boys skied, tubed, snowboarded and zip lined the afternoon away, while Mike went on a hike.

We spent the night down in the town of Interlaken, before we headed home on Sunday. A quick stop in the capital of Bern proved that the Swiss take their Sunday off seriously. Everything was closed, and only a few lost tourists could be seen milling around the city. Which is beautiful, with cobble stoned streets and fountains galore. I’m planning another trip back – on a weekday!

Last week saw our boys jetting off to Norway for a spur-of-the-moment trip. While we were running around organizing bank accounts and bank cards, telephones and registrations, not to mention trying to buy cars, they were being spoiled rotten by their grandparents and hanging out with their cousins. I don’t think there was a lot of exercising going on that week. Other than their fingers on keyboards. But they had fun and they got to escape the camp site that is our life at the moment.

Still no container. It is getting a bit old sitting on plastic foldable chairs, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, watching television on what can only be described as a computer monitor (and will revert to being one once our TVs arrive), making sure to always wash and dry our plastic plates and glasses after each use, because we only have six of each. HOWEVER! The latest news are that the movers should arrive on Tuesday with our stuff. Barring anything funny happening at Swiss Customs. And by funny I mean not funny at all....

This Wednesday was Mike’s official start at his new job, though he had already started work in the weeks prior. I am beginning to see what the spouses meant when they said ‘You and the kids are moving to Switzerland....Mike is moving to the company”. I am not expecting to see very much of Mike at all for the next little while, as he tries to find his footing at his new workplace. So far, he seems overwhelmed and intimidated, but also excited and enthusiastic.

The boys also started school this week. In uniforms. It was oddly cute and sad at the same time. Cute because they reminded me of little kids again, wearing fancy clothes that they would never have chosen themselves. Sad because it also brought home the message that our kids are no longer attending Bayview Hill, from which we have so many good memories. Bittersweet is probably a better word.

Nevertheless, the first day seemed to have been a success for Christopher, who ranked the school an 8 out of 10, which is pretty good for any school as far as he is concerned. My baby B takes longer to settle into a new place, and he’s still not sure. But his teacher seems lovely, there are 16 kids in his class (of which four are new this year), so I am crossing fingers that he’ll also have a good experience.

Christopher is now taking the train to and from school by himself. He walks with a girl who is two grades above him, who happens to live in our little compound, which is fantastic. I have to drive Benjamin down to his school, but we are working on timing, and it shouldn’t take much more than 10 minutes each way, including the walk from the parking lot to drop off at class. Eventually, I hope he’ll walk by himself to class, but right now, he is still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the newness of it all, and prefers for me to walk with him. I am absolutely fine with that. Benjamin’s school is right on the waterfront, and each morning, as we walk to school, we look over the water at the Alps in the distance. Well, I do. B boy looks for the Loch Ness monster, or some other creature he swears he sees popping up from the water every time I look away. Funny how that works.

Currently, I am driving a RAV 4x4 that we were able to buy off the lot. This is rare in Switzerland. Most new cars have to be ordered, meaning a wait of 1 to 4 months, depending on what you want. Can you imagine being without a vehicle for four months? It just wouldn’t have been possible for us, with two kids are different schools, and Mike working about 25 minutes by car from our rental house. We were so happy that we were able to secure the RAV right away. However, although one car is good, it is not enough. Mike needs transportation to go to work every day, and with his long hours, public transit just doesn’t seem like a good option. At the same time, I need a car to drop off and pick up Benjamin from school. Mike is therefore also in the process of ordering a motorcycle, which he will hopefully have on Friday. For the time being, he is borrowing a motorcycle from the same place, so he can get to work. Of course, if the weather turns nasty at any time, we are going to have a problem again, since Mike prefers not to ride the motorcycle in the rain (which I am OK with). At that point, we will be forced to use public transit, either for him or for me. We have ordered a second, smaller car, and I am hopeful it will be ready in the middle of October. Cross fingers.

And while on the subject of driving, the roads in Switzerland are super narrow with many tight twists. Think hairpin turns. Pretty much the opposite of Canadian roads. Visibility is not a priority here, it seems. The Swiss are also fond of roundabouts and like to intersperse them as often as they can. This all makes for very windy driving. The roundabouts I can handle, but those cars appearing out of nowhere coming right at me in my lane, only to narrowly avoid me as I screech to a halt – well, I am still trying to get a handle on that. Thank goodness new cars have good brakes.

I have been familiarizing myself with Vevey, which is the ‘town’ attached to our village of St. Legier. It is quite the cute little place, with a big outdoor farmer’s market twice a week, a couple of shopping malls and lots of old streets with quaint buildings. Exactly how you might picture a cute northern European village. It also seems to have most of what we would need on a daily basis, with a couple of decent supermarkets and some clothing stores.

When I am not on call for the children or my job, I am focusing on getting the new house built. Today, I met with the first kitchen supplier and described my every wish and desire for our new kitchen. Then I showed him the budget and he frowned! We will see what he comes up with. I am meeting with another supplier on Wednesday of next week, then with the house architect and the electrician on Thursday. It is heady stuff, designing a house. So far, I am feeling pretty good about it, but that will undoubtedly change once decisions have to be made...

Our current home is a very small, but cute cottage on the grounds of a small ‘chateau’. We share a common parking area and drive way with four other families. Two are French, one is from Uzbekistan, and the final family is made up of a Canadian girl and her Danish husband. The French families share a duplex, and consist of two brothers and their spouses, one of whom is also Canadian. There are two boys the same age as Benjamin, and he’s been spending some time with them, playing soccer. Then there’s the girl who Christopher walks to school with. She is a lovely girl, very chatty and friendly. Her name is Jade, although Benjamin refuses to call her anything but “The girl with the black eyeliner”. This annoys Christopher to no end, but I am secretly pleased that Benjamin even noticed!

We were invited over for an ‘apero’ one evening, and everybody was very friendly and helpful with their advice. Of course, the joke was that nobody on our little street is Swiss, and that the ex pat community has to stick together, because the Swiss will never make you feel welcome. This seems to be a recurring theme here. I don’t know how much truth there is to it, not having had any Swiss neighbours to test it out on. So far, everyone I’ve met has been very kind and friendly, Swiss and non-Swiss. But I think a lot of my success in breaking down the Swiss ‘walls’ will depend on how well I am able to pick up their language, and their customs. But that will have to wait....for now, I have a house to build!

And that, as they say, is the update from Switzerland. Hope everyone is well, wherever you are!