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.

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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!

What Is For Time?

This happens to be one of my favorite phrases. It’s a direct translation from German to English (Was ist fur zeit?) and the kids use it all the time. I’ve picked it up and use it in everyday conversation, along with, “I have a hunger” (Ich habe hunger) and many other turns of phrase. If I had a Franc for every time I said, “genau” (exactly) I would be able to buy out all the banks in Switzerland. I know that these phrases will stick with me long after I leave.

Speaking of zeit, I have recently come into a wealth of watches. For mein geburtstag the family gave me a very nice Swiss watch. I have mentioned once or twice that I really wanted to buy one this year, yet I never seemed to budget well enough to afford one on my pauper’s salary. Who knew you couldn’t save money working as a live-in servant in one of the most expensive cities in the world? But that is neither here nor there.

What are here are two new watches. Why two? Well, unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of the watch they gave me. I wear a watch like I wear my skin, it would be freakish to be without it. (Too far, again? Anyone else noticing a dramatic flair coloring my posts recently? Not sure what it is…). I suppose I’m a wee bit particular on what I strap to my arm. When I opened the gift at the table in front of the whole family I believe I was genuine in my enthusiasm for the watch. It’s a nice watch. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my style. I know it’s something the Mom would love, and apparently Little Bean also because she helped pick it out. In any event, it was incredibly generous of them to get me such a nice gift.

Today, though, I set out to purchase a watch I’ve been looking for for about, oh let’s say, two years. I have been wanting a gold men’s watch sooooooo (dramatic) bad, but just haven’t found the perfect one. A few special people made it possible for me to run out and find the timepiece of my dreams, and this afternoon I made the big splurge. After trying on a few uhren and sleeping on it for a couple days I decided on this Tissot watch. I have wrists like a baby (literally, Little Bean and I have the same circumference of wrist) so finding a big watch was difficult. I didn’t want anything comically large that would inevitable cause me to drag my knuckles. At the same time, I wanted a statement. So, here it is. And thank you once again Mom, Dad, Aunt Winne, and Uncle Ken!

I have thought about doing some hand modeling. Thank you for asking!

I had two other indulgences today. The first occurred on my way into town. I stopped by a little bar called La Stanza located on Stockerstrasse. This little gem of a hangout has been mentioned in magazines and newspapers around the world as the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee in the morning or a drink in the evening. Courtney was able to grab a few drinks at the bar when she was here in October so she can vouch for it’s kEwLness (who just had a flashback to middle school?). I’ve come once before for a cup o’ joe and I couldn’t resist another visit with my eminent departure so close. It is truly the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. The foam on top is like velvet, so smooth and thick. I wish we could all sit at La Stanza and drink coffee and talk about intellectual things. Wouldn’t that be the life?

I have a soft spot for "coffee art"

Mein andere indulgence of the day was shopping in the Christmas Market in the Hauptbanhof with fellow au pairs, Michelle and Rebecca. All over the city vendors are set up selling their finest wares and trinkets. It’s so much fun to walk around and see what’s on offer. Definitely got plenty of ideas and a couple gifts strolling through the aisles. In the middle of the market is a giant Christmas tree adorned with Swarovski crystal ornaments. This massive, sparking, jewel of foliage is the perfect centerpiece for the bazaar.

What a beaut.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What? It’s not Thanksgiving?! I’m late again? Fair enough, but while you’re all sick of turkey and can’t think of eating poultry ever again, I indulged in the feast on Sunday and I must say it was wunderbare. I was invited to share in a Thanksgiving celebration hosted and attended by a few people Adam works with. I am so grateful to have been included in this family tradition. I tried not to think too much about what the holiday would be like at home, and instead enjoyed a new memory I made of eating fondue last Thursday, sufficiently stuffing myself with bread and cheese. And although I was sehr sad to have missed out on making my stuffing, I was so content on Thanksgiving and felt only the tiniest pang of homesickness.

Sunday’s lavish dinner came complete with a gigantour turkey, mashed potatoes, Indian-style green beans, stuffing, rolls, and gravy I could have taken a bath in (too far??). For dessert, there was a choice between pumpkin and pecan pie with ice cream or whipped cream. Really, it was the whole setup. The only thing slightly different were the people around the table. While I wasn’t related to anyone, and have known them all for less than a year, it was one of the few family-dinner experiences I’ve had in Switzerland– despite having lived with a Swiss family for a year. Of course, they are great people, but with every meal there is an expectation; it will be my duty to clear the table and clean up; I am still the employee. It was refreshing to feel like an equal in the group. There was just something in the air. The couple hosting and their two girls, and five other people gathered to celebrate a long-standing tradition. I could not have been more grateful to be surrounded by their company. This dinner reinforced how a family can be created from whomever. I’m so thankful for my family back home, and all the people I’ve met this year who have filled in for them while I’ve been away.

After the fantastic feast, we walked down Banhofstraße to see the Christmas lights. The twinkling, sparkling lights are perfect for bringing people into the holiday spirit.

 

Some of my friends and I on my birthday:

I’m so thankful for them!

UPDATE: I just ate a big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and now have no choice but to crawl into my bed for an afternoon nap. These are the realities of my life.

The Time is Drawing Nigh

Today is my ten month anniversary of living in der Schweiz. I cannot believe it has been that long. Honestly, it is not to be believed.

When I think back to where this year has gone and the places I’ve gone with it, I am shocked at all I have accomplished. It simultaneously feels like it’s flown by and yet moved with the rapidity of snow melting in January. How did I squeeze so much adventure into such a small amount of time? Or, how have I managed to go this long without seeing my friends and family on a regular basis? I view these opposing evaluations of the past ten months almost equally, though I tend to favor the zoomed-past-me-and-was-over-before-you-know viewpoint. It looks a little like:

  • Before coming: Romanticized view of what it’s like to be an au pair. The children won’t cry, because when did they do that when I babysat? Rarely. (Psych!) The kids and I will sit around playing intelligent games and enjoying witty repartee and quips… in German. (Bahahahahah) The family and I will become fast friends and I will enjoy lounging around the house, chatting about mutual interests. (Mmm…no) I will attack the continent of Europe and explore every city imaginable. (yes, Yes, YES!)
  • First month: Excitment! Wowza, I live in a foreign country! The mountains are everywhere! The snow is waaaaay more gorgeous in Switzerland! If I thought I liked cheese before… The beautiful picture the family painted of their life, and then discovering the one that actually exists. Wait, I just sit and play for five hours a day? That’s it?
  • Next two months: Homesickness, especially missing my friends. Relearning how to make friends at the au pair meetings in town. Uncertainty pertaining to my sanity when choosing this job and all that it in entails. Overwhelming frustration with Little Bean as she screams bloody-murder any time I come near her. An exciting, new appreciation for skiing. Planning and participating in a trip to Spain (ya Jillatinous!) and realizing that I can easily make a life for myself here that doesn’t have to involve children.
  • Next several months: Reached a “comfort level” with the family. The job has lost all appeal and I completely comprehend the difficulty of living with and caring for other people’s children. Establishing said “personal life” and truly appreciating how amazing it is to live in this city, in this country, on this side of the world, as an expat.
  • Last two/half months: Sadness at the departure of several important friends. This loss exacerbated my irritation with the job as I felt I was losing some of the things that were keeping me above water. Pervasive sense of “how the h-e-double hockey stick am I going to do this gig for x more months.” Gratefulness that new au pairs started coming, and happiness that I really enjoy them and have such a great time hanging out with them. Continue to establish meaning here in the city, as well as explore and get to know more of Europe.
  • Now (Beware, things get HONEST): Extreme excitement when thinking about seeing friends, holding and embracing them like the sweet, integral parts of my life that they are. A rumbly stomach just imagining all the food establishments I am going assail upon arrival (Blue Bird Bistro, Lulu’s Noodles, Okie Joe’s, Jack Stack, Foo’s Frozen Custard, Latte Land, Blanc…). Ecstatic joy imagining never having to take orders from the Mom. Ever. Again. Heartbreak at leaving this beautiful, centrally located country. A feeling of trepidation returning to a country that even my dad says, “is in really bad shape. Things are not good here, especially in the job market.” Reluctance at having to put a halt to traveling at a moment’s notice: no more zipping to Paris for the weekend, no trips to any city in Switzerland in less than 4 hours, no skiing in the Alps, forget about laying on the beaches in Portugal, wine tastings? not likely. A small amount of worry when thinking about transitioning to life in America–whatever that means. Sadness at having to leave behind this life I have created for myself and the people who are incredibly important to me.

Everyone has asked me recently, “Are you SO excited to go home?” Of course, I am looking forward to going home. Please don’t get me wrong. As I said, I want to see my friends so badly it makes my heart ache a wee bit every time I think of it. On my birthday, Monday, I was choking up reading the emails and messages I received from friends and family back home. I know it’s only been ten months, but it’s difficult. Sometimes I want to send Elizabeth a BBM telling her how awesome the risotto I just made was. I want to call Madeline and tell her how out-of-control, road-rage-mad I am at some people on the road who clearly haven’t learned to drive in the snow. I want Stephanie to text me and tell me where she’s going out tonight because I know, no matter what, it will more than likely be a good time. The reunions will be tremendous. I know this. But, still, in the end, I have loved so much of these last ten months and will be sad to see this world-wise, travel-saturated year go.

 

Oh yes, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADAM!!

I really like this picture.

Only in Kansas

This afternoon Courtney and I had our first Skype sesh since she left Switzerland. It was high time we caught each other up on our weeks and the thrilling, exciting activities that comprise our lives. I, for one, was jumping out of my skin to tell her about the over-the-top entertainment the children provide. She had much more exciting things to share, such as her recent grad school visits. All the sudden an hour and a half had gone by and I had a train to catch. Naturally, I was scrambling to finish packing my bag and do a few last minute tasks around the house. Next thing I knew I had 6 minutes to catch my train. After lobbing a trash bag into the dumpster I began my speedy ascent. I often wonder what the people at the top of the street think when they see me, more often than not, hauling my a-double “S”nake up the hill. I arrived on the platform with one minute to spare. Panting and sweating I was a hot mess; perfect for the over-populated 5:40 train. While I’ve managed to meet next to no one in this town, I have a feeling I’ve made some kind of impression that will be running through the villagers heads long after I leave.

In honor of my dear little sissy (that’s what you get for calling me “Sissy Krissy” in your last card, Courtney), I would like to present you with this stimulating video. Courtney posted this on my Facebook wall, though I’m not quite sure on the message she was trying to send. Perhaps this is one of her school comrades, participating in a little recreation; maybe it’s an activity she’s debating trying out; most likely, she wanted to share her pride in the beautiful, intelligent, crafty state we know as our own. In any event, I hope you enjoy the following image as much as I did. And, please, if you’re not a native Kansian (thank you, Allie, for making it sound like a disease) please don’t judge us too harshly.

Memory Making

This weekend we were supposed to go to Laax to celebrate the beginning of the summer holiday. The Dad threw his back out last weekend trying to pick up Taz, however, and he’s been feeling sore all week. The parents decided we better stay here this weekend, which is alright by me. I was actually not looking forward to going there as I will be out of Zürich for about 4 straight weeks and I wanted to soak up as much time here as possible. Instead of hitting the road, we hit the lake. The family has a nice little Bryant boat (ya America!) that we cruised around on. We dropped anchor near the island by Rapperswil and lazily swam. At one point I was sitting on the back of the schiff, absorbing as much vitamin-D as possible and I noted to the Mom how picturesque it was. Here we were sitting on the boat looking out over the lake to a little piece of the Alps. I wish I had my camer so I could share the view with you all, but rest assured it was sightly. I missed out on an epic weekend down at the Ozarks with my family and some of Courtney’s friends last weekend and was feeling pretty jealous of their lake time. I’m glad I finally made it out on the water, albeit and much, much cleaner and safer body of water.

On weekends when I work and we stay here I am usually responsible for waking up with the kids, getting them breakfast, and entertaining them until their parents decide to grace us with their presence. At 7:4o this morning I heard Taz yell from his room a floor below mine, “KRIIIIISSTIIIIIIIIINAAAAAA. I want to wake up NOOOOOOOWWWWW!” Ich komme, ich komme. After a morning of yogurt, bread, Wheatabix, and chocolate milk followed by painting, playing “shop,” and listening to stories on tape, the Dad suggested we go outside for bike riding. This is fine with me, except for the fact that Rapunzel still cannot ride a bike by herself. She’s 7. I learned to ride a bike when I was 4. She also cannot swim, which is depressing. She’s just so scared of everything and has no real desire to learn. The Dad asked if I would take them outside to ride bikes, and Rapunzel says, “Yeah, and you can help me learn how to ride one.” Uh, no. I count my dad teaching me to ride a bike as one of my favorite memories with him. There is no way I am going to take that away from them. I kindly suggest that her dad should really be helping her with this. So out we all go to the courtyard. The Dad helps for a little while and then goes off for a run. She’s got it down pretty well and can make it about 2o feet before freaking out, stopping the bike, and mixing her features into a worried state. She also has to “make a break” every five minutes and guzzle my water because it’s such hard work. I encourage her to keep trying, offering my bits of wisdom on how to control the velo. Fast forward 30 minutes and the girl is riding around pretty darn well. Rapunzel wants to go get her Mom and show her what she’s learned. I agree that this is a great idea. She goes in, grabs her mom, and comes back out. The Mom says to me, “Well, I guess she wants me to watch her ride her bike. Hmm.” Yeah, this is so weird. Your daughter wants you to be a part of her childhood. She’s crazy! The Mom watched for less than five minutes and went inside. It breaks my heart to watch these kids work so hard for affection and not see much of it.

I feel like I am witnessing so many memory-making experiences and I am not even a blood member of the family. Sometimes I feel so out of place. Do they ever feel strange having this extra person a part of their traditions and family time? Does it ever get old?

On another, more positive note. I came across this video and, to use a Jill-worthy double-negative, couldn’t NOT show it to as many people as possible. I don’t know why, but I think it’s hilarious when guys do girl voices and impressions and this scene ranks as one of the funniest. If you have the time, watch it all the way through because the end is ridiculous.