So, It’s That Time

It’s over. The family just left for the opening weekend for ski season in Laax. I said goodbye to the Dad this morning, and my farewells to the kiddos and the Mom this afternoon. Surreal is the only way to describe it.

At this time last year I was a freshly minted college graduate and felt full of accomplishment and the desire to discover what was next. I was in high anticipation of what was to come in the following year.

One year. It felt like such a big chunk of time. I’d never been away from home for that long and wasn’t sure what to expect. But, like most everyone said it would, it went by in a second. No way does it feel like I’ve been gone for 11 months.

This past year was one of the most incredible in my life. I learned a tremendous amount about other people, little children, fluctuating patience levels, navigating public transportation, how to battle walking uphill in blowing snow, and most of all, myself.

In order to avoid falling into the sneaky trap of overwhelming you with clichés, I will wrap it up. What I know is that this year, this experience, was one chapter in the monster, can’t-put-it-down, page-turner book of my life. There is so much more waiting for me when I get home. I don’t know what the next year will look like, and I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but after the whirlwind of 2010 I know I am prepared to take on anything.

Until we meet again…

 

“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”

-Henry David Thoreau

Tschüss!

All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

This One Goes Out to My Girls

Today was my last au pair meeting. All my friends were there, including bottles Champagne and Orange Juice. It’s so sad to think about these meetings not being a part of my weekly life. This is where I’ve made most of my closest friends in der Schweiz. I come to these meetings to vent about the frustrations of this “job,” the annoyances of the kids and parents, to socialize with people older than 6 and less than 40. They were something to look forward to every week and I will miss them. But more importantly, I will miss the people who are there.

Dear Au Pairs,

You are amazing. You do the work of three people: yourself, the Mom, and the Dad. You raise children who are not your own, and adjust to a lifestyle that is completely different from the one in which you grew up. Battling tantrums, ironing underwear, playing imaginary games, and grinning and bearing it are a part of your daily life. If it wasn’t for you, well, their life would still be fine. Because you are a luxury. Unfortunately, you are not treated as so. The pay is that of a pauper, the respect is non-existent; you are actually looked down upon by many Swiss people, who cannot believe you would do the job of a servant. And for the most part, you are one in a long line of au pairs for the family. That is, you are disposable.

That being said, you have taken on the role of live-in help to help fuel your quest for world domination! Well, perhaps not domination, but certainly conquest. Because of this job can live in a centrally located, efficiently run country, giving you access to numerous countries in the continent. Some days your hardest task is wrestling a child into sports gear. This is not a brain-busting job. No deadlines, homework, exams, or progress reports. Your friends at home are envious of your carefree lifestyle, as they should be. You have the life. I salute you, child-rearing domestic worker. Your job is hard and trying and can sometimes make you want to set your hair on fire and run, screaming out of the house. But, this job comes with the ability to explore the world at your every whim. Take hold of the opportunity, and seize all those free hours you have. The time to leave comes all too quickly.

Because you might not get it from the family: I appreciate you.

All the best,

Swisstina

In my mission to check off any remaining “must-dos” on my list, today I went to Viadukt with my friend Nicole. Despite the brrrrrrone-chilling cold, we strolled down the sidewalk peeking in and stepping inside some of the stores. The Viadukts were created many a year ago to help expansion of the city. Now,  SBB rails sit on top of the shopping center, continuing to shuttle patrons in and out of the city. Located in the Hardbrüke district, the area has a cool vibe and is a great place to spend the afternoon. Nicole and I popped in the shop on the very end of the line, Restaurant Markthalle. I had a delicious meal of wild boar in a ragout sauce over the creamiest, cheesiest polenta I’ve ever had. I’m not usually a big polenta fan, but this one will make anyone change their mind.

Viadukt

Plus, I had great company. Nicole is so much fun to be around. She ranks pretty high as someone who willingly spends her weekends with another au pair’s family, in order to help with a Scottish-themed party. Sounds pretty specific, and it is. I will be forever grateful for her help that weekend in Laax. I always have side cramps after being with her from all the laughter. Like I said, I’m really going to miss my friends. Such a great afternoon!

Nicole dazzling everyone with her amazing artistic skills. Immediately, she was the children's favorite.

A Cheese to Remember

I love cheese. I always have. I must admit, however, that I didn’t have the most respectable start with this fine dairy product. See, I am one of those special brand of people that really likes radioactive cheese: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, American, Nacho. It’s not pretty.

As I’ve matured in age though, my palate as become more refined. I introduced such concepts as smoked, fresh, and even goat. Now I like to think of myself as a cheese-fanatic-addict. With every country I visit strive to sample some of the local flavor. This always involves trying various cheese. Need a snack? Grab a chunk of cheese! Hoping for good dreams? Think cheesy thoughts!

The choice of Switzerland had only part to do with the fact that this is a cheese-lovers paradise. Psych! It was actually a total chance circumstance that I moved here, but still. Being here has done wonders for my commitment to cheese. I feel this will be a lifelong affair.

Today as I was strolling through the Niederdorf after a glance through the Helmhaus Museum, one of my favorites, I happened upon a Raclette stand. Honestly, I was walking, the booth came in sight, and I was powerless against my feet. It was a gut reaction: See cheese, close in for the kill. Raclette is a Swiss tradition, one that I will most certainly enjoy. It’s a giant hunk o’ cheese that is warmed by a flame. The resulting melted gift from the gods is them poured over bread or potatoes. Each patron can decide how much Raclette seasoning to put on top and whether one wants pickles and/or sweet onions on the side. It’s amazing. Warm cheese over carbs? What the what?!

You probably need a bib right now.

I waited 2.5 seconds for it to cool down and then I dug in. At first bite, an involuntary, “Mmmm” escaped my cheese-covered lips. Had anyone else been around, well, no, even then I wouldn’t have been embarrassed. It’s that good. All social-graces go out the window. Just focus on the food. I chose the potatoes and enjoyed my afternoon snack, while watching the shoppers stroll by. Certainly the perfect mid-day pick-up for a frigid day like today.

Fill Me Up With Love, Love, Love

This past weekend I went to Laax with the family for the last time. As much as I would have liked to have my last weekend off, and be able to spend time with friends, I was happy to get to see this beautiful place one more time. As I walked through the woods on Saturday afternoon I couldn’t help but be in awe of the amazing natural beauty. I can’t believe I’m trading in these towering mountains, blossoming one after another into the distance, for the flat lands of Kansas. I’ve become so used to the scenery here, yet always astounded at how the warm winds of the föhn can make the mountains look as if they are sitting on your doorstep. As someone who is vehemently opposed to cold weather, I’ve come to appreciate the snow here and the way the giant wet flakes fall gracefully from the sky. Saturday afternoon was the perfect opportunity to absorb the view one last time before I make my way home this weekend.

The song today comes from mein älterer Bruder, Matt, who reminded me of this tune last week. Matt and I have a shared love (obsession) with Dave Matthews Band. We started going to concerts together when I was in high school and this year marks the first that we haven’t been to a show together. A “Christmas Song” is a gentle ballad about the arrival of Baby Jesus and the rest of his life on earth. Dave’s versatility is admirable. He can go from top-of-the-lungs tunes like, “Rhyme or Reason,” to the sexually suggestive, “Say Goodbye” while still maintaining his “Dave-ness.” A sweet song like “Christmas Song” is more than welcome and always helps to get me in the holiday spirit. And like Matt says, “in true Held fashion, it brings a tear to the eye, every time.”

 

I am Edumacated

Today is such a great day! Courtney graduated from college! Wow, a big timer. I can’t believe the time has come already. I am sad that I couldn’t be there to hoot and holler with the rest of my family. But, thanks to ever-increasing technology, I was able to watch her walk across the stage and receive all her honors and accolades via live streaming. Seven hours and over 5,000 miles can’t keep me from celebrating the awesomeness of this tremendous milestone.

In Nantucket, looking our finest

Courtney, you are amazing. But, of course, you already know this. Why? I’ve told you a million times. Your talent and intellect never cease to amaze me. Your passion for knowledge and dedication to all you pursue are envied by scholars around the world (literally! you did all that work in Kenya…). I am impressed by all you have accomplished in four and a half years (double major and a minor, graduating with honors), not to be confused with our overly-smart big brother (four years, double major, just ask my dad, he’ll tell you). Anyway, I’m so proud of you. College was an incredible experience because we got to do it together. Most of my absolute favorite memories involve times with you. Here are a few for you (and everyone else) to savor:

  • The day you joined ADPi, and as your new pledge class rounded the corner we ran screaming into each other’s arms, ecstatic to now be “sisters by choice.”
  • Talking you through a traumatic boy-related issue your freshman year on the phone, all the while secretly making my way to your dorm so I could give you a giant hug and discuss and dissect the drama at length.
  • Um, every football game. Ever.
  • Living across the hall from you at ADPi, Old and New Sundeck. That is most likely my favorite semester of college. And you were just a heartbeat away.
  • That ghetto date party when we were the Ying-Yang Twins. Well, that, and pretty much every date party.
  • My 21st birthday followed shortly by your 21st day o’ birth. Epic nights to remember.*
  • Friday afternoon lunch dates. I had just finished class and you were just heading off to your first. Still, the best way to end the school week and start the weekend. Totally true, I definitely miss those. Salsaritas, The Chef, Rock-a-Belly, So Long’s…
  • The “last blizzard” before you gave up sweets for Lent. Best part was when you requested they added more peanut butter cup because you wouldn’t get another for a looooong time. Awesome.
  • Just being able to call you up and see you when I wanted/needed. I’m so grateful we had this experience together.

CONGRATULATIONS!!

"Around the World" date party. Perfecting the "dad" dance move.

My own graduation last year.

I (Celine Dion) lurve you!