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!