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!

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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!

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.

Home is Where You Make It

Warning: This one gets about as heavy as one of Nonna’s cream-based sauces.

Last night as I was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving I came across an interesting passage. To be honest, I’m having a difficult time finding enthusiasm for this book. A Prayer is interesting and has an inspiring plot-line (the movie “Simon Burch” is based on it), but it just doesn’t excite me. Therefore, I feel like I’m muscling through it and not enjoying it as much as I’d like. But, I really don’t like to leave a book unfinished, so I must persevere.

Back to the passage. The narrator, John, moved to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War, became a citizen, and has yet to return to America. His ardent interest in American politics has never wavered, however, and he finds himself constantly engaging others in a one-sided debate on the state of our country. In the midst of a tirade about breaking the arms agreement with the Soviet Union John remarks,

“Every American should be forced to live outside the United States for a year or two. Americans should be forced to see how ridiculous they appear to the rest of the world! They should listen to someone else’s version of themselves– to anyone else’s version! Every country knows more about America than Americans know about themselves! And Americans know absolutely nothing about any other country!”

This thought-provoking passage, while a little extreme, has some truth in it. I believe Americans tend to lean toward the naive or ignorant. We often have an opinion about everything and facts about little. We believe it is our duty to go into other places and “fix things” as we see fit. Were we invited? Were our duties requested? It rarely matters. Yet, we perceive ourselves as the Greatest Nation on Earth. Our understandings of others are vague and limited. Living abroad I have gained some sense of how Americans are viewed and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. My own host Dad says that whenever he thinks of America he pictures cowboys and the West. Slightly outdated perhaps…

Living overseas has opened my eyes and exposed me to new cultures. While Switzerland may not be the most diverse country (understatement of the year), being an expat has thrown me into a minority position I have rarely experienced. It has helped me appreciate the things I have and opportunities afforded to me. This experience has reminded me how big our world is, and that my home is such a small part of it. I do think it’s important for people to spend time outside of their comfort zone, outside of their residence, purely for the maturation process. I’m not renouncing my citizenship or even criticizing America. I love where I grew up and I’m proud of my country. But I think a little perspective has greatly enhanced my appreciation for my upbringing, as well as realize there are countless other amazing places to live, experience, and learn from.

Kings

Before I write about the latest addition to my album collection I must share some very exciting news:I bought my ticket home last night!! Last week I asked the Mom if I could fly home a few days earlier than she had originally said so I could spend more time with family that was coming in town (Aunt Winnie and Uncle Ken, that’s you!). She said she would talk to the Dad and let me know. I didn’t get my hopes up as I figured I’d maxed out on favors. Yesterday morning, however, she informed me that I could fly home on the Saturday before Christmas. I made no hesitations on booking a flight so she couldn’t change her mind– I wanted the date set in stone. So, prepare yourselves. I will be arriving on Saturday, December 18th.

In relevant-to-the-title news, Kings of Leon released their latest album this week, Come Around Sundown. The band has come under heavy criticism for abandoning their gritty, Southern roots in favor of a main-stream and radio-friendly sound. I agree that their newer work sounds much more “clean” than their older, dirtier, harder music. Unlike many of their first fans, however, I actually prefer their more recent sound; the albums Because of the Times and Only by the Night are my favorites. And their latest is making its way toward the top of the list. But, I don’t think this makes them a sell-out. A band that is able to keep their integrity intact while maturing and evolving is simply following a natural course. Those who are upset about this evolution of KOL are the same people who write “Never change!” in high school yearbooks. It’s extremely difficult (not to mention unhealthy) to not change or grow. Personally, I think this awareness toward societal and musical trends shows that KOL is able to adapt to demand while still keep their distinct flare and penchant for southern rock. I’m very pleased with what I hear.

Below I included the first single from their album and the creation behind it. While I think it’s a great song, it’s not my favorite on the album. I don’t like to share my favorites right away, though. I’d like you to find your own first, and then we can compare notes. Enjoy!

American Night

When Maddie and I were Skyping the other day, she commented on the surreality of some of our emails. One in particular had me apologizing that I couldn’t chat with her last Friday because I would be in Istanbul. Of course I would be. What else would I be doing while living in Europe except visit as much of it as possible?

I’ll admit it, I have been up to some pretty awesome things lately: picking wine grapes in Italy, strolling through mosques and ancient palaces in Turkey, drinking wine directly from the source in Sierre, guzzling beer at the biggest party in the world, sun bathing on the beaches in Portugal. And that’s only in the last two months. Plus, I still have a couple more mini-breaks up my sleeve for the next two.

But, there are some things from home I can’t resist. One major player is pizza. Obviously Europe is home to some outstanding pies, yet they are distinct and unlike those that I grew up with. The love I’m talking about has a thicker crust (NOT Chicago-style, that’s too thick for my liking) with extra doughiness and gobs of sauce– I’m a big sauce fan. Pile on the toppings, serve it piping hot and I’m ready to devour. Last night I was so lucky to partake in this delicious pleasure. A Domino’s Pepperoni Passion Pizza (What?! Is that even legal?), size 40cm, along with a side of cheesy bread was mine for the feasting.

Before you begin to call Over-eaters Anonymous know that I wasn’t alone. I had a partner in crime: Adam. And thankfully he enjoys the all-time best pizza side ever, Ranch. How did I acquire said condiment of the Gods in Switzerland? Well, a special lady, who knows who she is, sent me a couple packets of mix that I could combine with sour cream, (which I actually found!) to create this staple. And what’s ever greater about this story? She doesn’t even like it! And yet, she knew how important it was and still sent it over. Must be true friendship. You are my friend, you are my friend….

It was a taste of America that I most happily accepted. This was out-of-this-world good and necessary. To honor of this If You Only Had One Food to Eat for the Rest of Your Life meal I chose the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I’ve been really digging this song lately and it’s become a bit of a go-to. Only two months and I’m there…

Jill, sorry you can’t play this video as I know how much you like the tune. At least you have three copies on your computer.