Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I really don't like New Year's Eve, maybe it's because I've never had a particularly amazing one, but it has never seemed all that cool. (I mean when don't we stay up until 12 and drink too much?) Although Cait says everyone, "Has more purpose to their party," I'm not a fan. So I guess it was very convenient that my flight(s) back to Switzerland disallow me from going out. What I do love is the New Year and New Year's Resolutions. There is something so cathartic about having a set day to start over. Everyone always says, "Oh I'll start that _____ tomorrow." And there really isn't a better time to start something than January 1.
So here are my New Year's Resolutions:
1. Practice my French more often with more people.
2. Eat less Nutella.
3. Travel more.
4. Spend less money (Number 3 and Number 4 are always in constant conflict...I'll let you know who the winner is).
5. Get a real person job (Or if I can't do that, move to another exotic location and get a job far, far away from children).
6. Try to complain less about my job, and brag more about living abroad.
7. Learn how to pack lightly.
Yeah I threw that last one in there for good measure, I mean I'm 23, if that hasn't happened yet, will it ever?
My last day in the U.S.--worked on my resume with my dad (thanks dad!), shoveled the driveway, and attempted to fit all my clothes in the bag they came in... Wish me luck!
Have a safe and Happy New Year!!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Bartender: "That will be $12."
Me: "I'm sorry, I missed that. How much again?"
Bartender: "Twelve dollars."
Me: "Are you joking?"
Bartender: "Yeah, nah it's actually $24."
Me: "Oh, okay!"
Bartender: "No, it really is $12."
Me: "Wow! Thank you so much!"
The bartender sort of cocked his head to the side but I didn't explain why I was in such disbelief. Twelve dollars for three beers?! Definitely not Semi-Swiss.
Happy Christmas Eve everyone!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My house at home I can flop on any couch, chair, floor, or anywhere really and read a book, or watch t.v. or chat with my parents about something. The same for my friend's house in Chicago where I just was, I am totally comfortable there. My house in Switzerland? Well I feel awkward sitting on the couch unless the family isn't home, so if I'm at the house I am pretty much holed up in my room (which isn't exactly private as Anna has to walk in and out to do laundry in the laundry room...). And you all wondered why I go out so much!
My privacy at Denison was very limited (if there was any at all) and that is how I loved it. Friends in and out of your room at all times was great! But let me tell you it's a different story when it's your employer walking in and out of your room. My house in Switzerland definitely doesn't compare with my home in Minnesota.
A house does not a home make.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In my home I am notorious for leaving my clothes: in the floor, rolled in a ball. Since I’ve “grown up” (i.e. aged but not matured) I have grown to put my clothes into my closet, rolled in a ball. At least they are off the floor, right?
Well the problem is, when you shove things into a tight space they tend to take on the shape of that space, creating a wrinkled mess. Since I never learned the fine art of ironing (my dad was so disappointed I never took a “Home Ec.” Class) I’ve never been particularly fond of it, nor good at it. I wanted to change my sheets and when I pulled the ball from my closet I realized that these wrinkles were truly out of control. The cleaning lady here irons the sheets (yes, irons the sheets) so well that I have to unfold a sheet to figure out if it is a duvet cover or a bottom sheet (seriously, how can one fold a fitted sheet so well?!). I didn’t even know that work-shirts could be ironed, at my house they are always dry-cleaned—perhaps the dislike of ironing is genetic? Anyway back to my sheets. I don’t know how something that is flat and more or less square could be so difficult to iron. Every time I shifted it over to iron a new section the previous section would become wrinkly once more. I finally just gave up and will have to settle with semi-wrinkled sheets.
Oh also, if the cord of your iron gets stuck on your duvet cover do not, I repeat, do not yank it sending the iron crashing to the floor. My reflexes almost beat my brain as I reached to grab the iron but then I thought better of it. Of course two pieces of the iron broke—so now I’m not sure if I’m ironing on low or high heat (oops) but that sort of thing doesn’t matter, right?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In no particular order:
1. My weekend in Milan with Gabri (jealous Ellen?)
2. Any time I ate Nutella and/or a Kebab
3. Kylie’s blog (and Carambars)
4. My trip to Barcelona
5. How tan I was after my trip to Barcelona
6. The week I spent at their house in France (not just because the next week was my holiday and I kept singing Annie’s “Tomorrow”) because it’s full of history & I got to practice my French
7. Our hotel at the Matterhorn (50 CHF! And towels!)
8. Edi’s Weinstube (Thank you for offering the cheapest beer in Zürich)
9. The 4th of July party where I met Allison
10. The Swiss Superbowl
12. Street Parade
13. Coffee Mondays with Kate
14. That Thanksgiving dinner night that ended up in me “swimming” in Lake Zürich (freezing fyi)
15. Seeing old friends in new places
16. Going to new countries on a whim
18. Our trip to Interlaken
20. My Gleis 7
21. The mom of T.B.
22. Fondue, Raclette & Rösti--yumm
23. My gossip sessions with Anna that always go too late
24. No open container laws. (i.e. taking a bottle of wine from one bar to the next with Allison)
25. Kareokee with Laiza (especially hearing her sing!)
26. The au pair meeting
27. In a word: Oktoberfest. I don’t think I could have had a better time sleeping on a Metro Bench with any other people.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Yes, the kids have LICE again. (Insert my mother's audible gasp here. Which, by the way, is the appropriate response. Thank you mom for understanding how much this grosses me out.)
When Mark told me this morning that, "The kids have lice again!" it was along the same lines as hearing:
-"We're adopting a baby and it'll be here January 1! So now you have another to take care of!"
-"We're having a baby and decided you should be the surrogate mother!"
-"We talked to your mom and dad and decided that you are going to be our au pair for another year!"
-"The kids have the week off of school!"
-"The au pair meeting has been canceled indefinitely!"
-"You're not allowed to go out on weeknights anymore!"
Okay so maybe it wasn't that bad, but I've always been a little dramatic.
I think it's time to shave some heads...
Monday, December 14, 2009
In France they kiss on the cheek twice.
In Switzerland they either hug you or shake your hand and kiss you three times, for hello and goodbye.
I actually don't mind the greeting, I like that it seems to personal. At the end of my first lacrosse practice the girls on the team were doing it to me, and after I went out for drinks with some of the guys lacrosse players they did it too (only to girls I've noticed).
In America when I walked into a room with a bunch of my friends I'd say, "Hey guys!" but here you say, "Hey everyone," and then go and shake everyone's hand, kiss them and say hello. Even the kids on the bus do it. The other day a bunch of 5th-6th graders (I think?) were heading home from school and at each of their respective stops they shook everyone's hand and said bye to them. The same kids that a second before were hitting their friends and playing pranks on them. I like the personal greetings from Switzerland, but for those of you with a personal space bubble (I have none) you might not like it so much.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
At least it snowed (sort of) in Zürich today. It's been raining (what?! It's December!) a lot so the snow was a welcome change.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
So this morning I took my baby (yes I will call an inanimate object a baby and a real baby a "thing") to the Apple store in Zürich and it wouldn't even turn on. You know how when cars have issues and you take it to the shop it no longer has the problem, well my computer had the opposite. Now it had so many problems I didn't know where to start. The wonderful Apple Genius Bar technician got the screen to work and did all these tests and said, "Yeah, I think it is the hard drive. I hope we can recover your stuff, we'll try really hard." So of course I tried not to cry because, of course, I don't have an external hard drive (will obtain one ASAP). I thought of all my papers, all my music, all my pictures down the drain. The only silver lining to this storm cloud was that my computer is under warranty for 19 more days (god bless the three year warranty) so it would be free to replace the hard-drive and 100 CHF if they were able to recover and transfer my files. The lovely Karin said they would probably be done today, and definitely by Monday and that they would call me as soon as it was fixed. I told her, "If you can only save some things, please save the pictures and the music first! The papers are secondary!" Sort of like with sinking ships, "Save the women and children first"--come on three years of pictures is more important to me than a paper I wrote on 18th Century British literature...
I went to breakfast with one of my friends (hard to eat with the nervous/anxious pit filling your stomach) and kept my phone in my lap, just in case the store called. They called at noon. My new hard drive was in and they were able to save my files!!! I nearly cartwheeled across the tables!! I danced back into the Apple store and retrieved my baby. The man just handed it to me and I [stupidly] said, "Don't I need to pay?" But he said the most magical words, "Nope, it is all covered under warranty." I checked to make sure things were working and my iTunes didn't load--so naturally I freaked out a little. Karin said I just needed the updates and it would all be fine. So I did a very un-Swiss but very American thing, I hugged her. I love Apple, because even in another country they fixed my computer in less than three hours for free.
They even managed to save my 18th Century British Literature papers!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I hate Tuesdays. Seriously. It's not exactly a new thing (Tuesday was one of the only nights we didn't go out at Denison--meaning that you would have to go to the library and/or study, there is nothing good on T.V. on Tuesdays--not that I would know now) my disdain for Tuesdays. My first Tuesday in Switzerland and second day on the job I realized that I didn't like this job (to put in nicely) and told my mom and friend explicitly why. So Tuesdays are just full of I-hate-my-stinking-Swiss-life thoughts. I can't help it. My typical Tuesday goes: get the kids dressed, fed and onto the bus. Hang with T.B. until noon, home to finish my french homework, French lesson from 2-3, and kids get home at 3:45, force Mark to do some homework before swimming (painful), Mark goes to swim and I take Stephanie & French teacher's son to swim lessons (even more painful), come home with two tired, cranky, annoying children, hang up wet stuff while setting table and making dinner and trying to keep my sanity. I don't know how regular parents (i.e. parents without hired "help") do it, let alone single parents.
Yesterday I had this epiphany: there are some things in life that you love and are great at (reading, spending money, talking on the phone and/or text messaging), things in life that you love but aren't so great at (lacrosse and squash, packing for trips), things in life that you are bad at and hate (chemisty) and then things that you hate and a great at (being an au pair).
Okay so hate is a strong word, but hey, it [was] a Tuesday.
And today being Wednesday I'm in a much better mood! Especially since Mark, although he has a "cough", chose to go to school when his mom told him he could stay home (staying home means that I stay home too). Also it's my friend Jack's birthday and since I don't know how to change the picture on my heading (sorry) I thought I'd post this stalker-shot he took when he visited Zürich to appease him. Happy Birthday!
Monday, December 7, 2009
- Babies can have hiccups. Apparently it does not mean they are going to choke, but just digesting.
- They pretty much poop, eat and sleep (not necessarily in that order).
- People don't exactly appreciate it when you refer to babies as things or nuggets (which they are).
- You pretty much don't have to entertain them (especially if you are a baby whisperer).
- They can't talk back.
- It (I mean a baby) will spit up on you when you look your best but not when you're in gym clothes.
- Baby spit-up is disgusting.
- As are dirty diapers.
- You have to be really prepared when taking babies anywhere. We go on walks every day (so she will sleep and I can read the family's collection of Dave Barry books) and I have to take: a blanket, bottle, formula to make a bottle, hot water in a Thermos for the bottle, Evian (what the heck!) for the cold water part of her bottle, change of clothes, diapers, wipes, outside pad to change diaper, cloth to wipe it's spit-up, toy, actual baby, rain-fly, hat, extra socks/shoes, pacifier, sunlight shield and a hazmat suit (you never know).
- All this fits on the stroller which is roughly the same size and weight as a Jeep Wrangler. This stroller could comfortably seat a family of four and cart them over the Alps, I have no doubt.
- I like to be outside so I'm happy to take TB on walks. Her parents insist that she loves to be outside but I wouldn't know because every single day, by the time we get to the end of the driveway, she is asleep.
- Burping babies isn't optional. I guess their stomachs hurt if you don't burp them and they will be especially vomit-y if you don't.
- When you wear dark clothes the baby vomit/spit-up/grossness will be white. However, if you are wearing white, it will be orange or green or the color of the vegetable du jour.
- For every bite of food I put in TB's mouth three bites come out. I think it might be some sort of baby-magic that more food can come out than goes in.
- New baby smell is a lie. I swear it. I know because this baby is still pretty fresh from the oven and only after a bath does she have that "baby smell". So it's a lie. It's clean baby scent that those creepy people that smell babies like.
- I think all babies look alike. Of course the bald (future blonde) ones and the beautiful brunette ones and eye color makes them look different but TB has brown eyes and brown hair and looks like just me when I was a nugget. If they have the same coloring all babies look the same.
- It is near impossible not to use a "baby voice" when dealing with one.
See the brunette baby is having more fun.
And you can tell it apart from those other nuggets.
Lastly TB's mom was telling me a story today and she asked her son if he had fun with me last week. And he said, "Yeah, Jill is really nice and fun. And TB really loves her." So even though I call it a thing TB really does enjoy my company!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I still don't think I could turn it on.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Wednesday I got up and went upstairs to make the kids' snack for school, and at the top of the stairs was a "Happy Birthday!" sign and some balloons--I loved it because it looks like the one my family puts up every year (except in our house it was for a certain person's 50th birthday so every birthday we tape a piece of paper over with the person's age--Carr family ghetto fabulous). Mark came down (already dressed--yes!) and wished me a happy birthday and gave me a card from the family.
"Happy 23rd Birthday Jill! Best wishes. I hope you have lots of presents!" --Mark
"I weh ywe a happy birthday? Jill (backwards J). Stephanie. (Translation: I wish you a happy birthday Jill)
Very cute and thoughtful and Anna explained that they would really celebrate at our dinner on Friday. As I was helping Stephanie get dressed she started talking about presents. Not presents for me of course, but presents that they thought my dog might like for Christmas (my dog is a big topic of conversation here, both children would like him to come for a visit). After they got on the bus I made myself a lovely breakfast and read through my birthday e-mails--sounds dull but it was seriously great, thank you to everyone by the way. Since it was a Wednesday we had the nanny meeting and I had planned on getting there early (okay well on time) for once to have birthday mimosas. The phone rings at 9:15--its Will. Conversation as follows--my thoughts are in italics:
W: Hi Jill, were you just about to leave?
J: No I'm leaving in about 20 minutes.
W: Perfect, could you send me an e-mail attachment. I guess it didn't work last night.
J: Sure thing. It must be important if he needs it now.
W: Okay just go up and turn on the computer and I'll call back in a minute.
I go up & turn on computer. Finish reading my e-mails. Ten minutes elapse. Shoot I really need to get going, but I'm sure he really needs this. Should I go get ready? I don't want to be downstairs when he calls. I know, I'll go get my stuff and bring it up here, so I'm ready once he calls back. Get dressed, decide not to do my hair (surprise!) because I won't hear the phone ring. Friends at the au pair meeting call/text to see when I'm coming. Put all my stuff by the door so I can run out immediately after.
9:36 realize I won't make the bus. Text Will to see if he still needs e-mail.
9:55 Will calls back, "Sorry got another call." Signs me on to his e-mail and has me attempt to send Mark's Power Point BOOK REPORT. The book report of a 3rd grader? Really? Really?? This is what I waited 40 minutes for? It doesn't work. Will says, "Oh well, thanks for trying. Have a good day." I am now supremely annoyed but I get to the au pair meeting and everyone sings "Happy Birthday" and my wonderful friends even gave me a couple equally wonderful and thoughtful gifts. I go to buy champagne and orange juice (hey I needed a birthday mimosa!) and at the check-out I got carded!!!
Then I realized, wait, you have to be 16 to buy wine/beer in Switzerland. She thought I looked under 16!! Then I thought, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
After the meeting my great friends Kristen & Jen took me to lunch (the Swiss take on Mexican food) which was great. I picked up the kids from French--the wonderful mom of the baby (the turkey lady from last Friday) was surprised and felt terrible that she didn't know it was my birthday--which she made up for by giving me a very generous gift the following day!--and we came home. I got Mark ready for hockey, and Stephanie ready to skate with me and that's when the day started to go downhill. Mark was freaking out because he wanted a hot dog after practice (I know I love hot dogs but a hissy-fit? Over a hot dog?) and Stephanie was just totally wiped and cranky. We skated, had a post-hockey hissy fit because the restaurant was closed so hot dogs weren't even available, and by the time we walked in the door I couldn't wait to get out of there to go meet my friends.
My friends had planned to go out with me and celebrate my birthday and we were going to meet at 8:30--because I figured they'd let me leave at least somewhat early. We walked in and Anna was on her way out to water aerobics class. She said, "I'm sorry you have to work on your birthday." And I smiled and said it was fine because I thought Will would be home momentarily to relieve me so I could leave. Dinner, dishes, shower and pjs and still no Will. I was getting more and more annoyed when the phone finally rings at 8:20. He said Anna would be home around 8:45 (she got home at 9) and his train got in at 9:25 so I could drive the car down and get on the train and he'd drive it up. I couldn't believe it. I didn't think Anna meant "I'm sorry you have to work later than usual, without notice, on your birthday." And to make matters worse Stephanie and Mark were being little shits. I swear that isn't a harsh statement, actually I think it's being rather generous and kind. They were whining and crying, being rude to me and I could not take it. I had already snapped at Mark earlier and told him off for speaking to me like I was stupid and when Stephanie was crying and throwing a hissy fit because she wanted her mom I snapped, "What and I don't want my mom?! At least yours will be home in ten minutes, so BE QUIET."
When you're pissed off on your birthday it's hard to be Susie Sunshine with annoying kids.
I finally got into Zürich at 9:45 and met my friends at the train station. We got a beer and headed to some of our favorite bars. Having au pair friends are great because they don't just listen to you but they can understand and oftentimes tell you a story to make you feel better about your situation. (We also met this very drunk and funny student who studied for two years in Indiana and was a Theta Chi--go dad!) We met up with a friend of one of the girls and his boss but they took us to this great tavern/bar and by the end of the night everyone was speaking French and I was thoroughly enjoying myself (more because of the French, not because of the Swiss wine).
So despite the ups & downs it was a pretty good birthday.
Tonight they took me for dinner (fondue, yumm!) to actually celebrate my birthday. It was up a mountain so we had an incredible view of Lake Zürich and all the Zürich suburbs--it was totally gorgeous. Right as we sat down we had a champagne toast and the fondue was incredible. After we finished eating the lights went down and this Swiss-German song came on and I looked around at Will & Anna who looked very guilty. Although we couldn't understand it when I heard the word "Geburstag" (birthday) I knew this hooplah was for me. They brought out a flaming dessert and the family gave me birthday gifts. The first thing Anna gave me were the cards from my parents, which she said had just arrived today (she said she wasn't hiding them from me). And Stephanie bought me a pair of Swiss flag slippers which she picked out on her own (re: tacky and great). She said, "I wanted you to remember living in Switzerland and remember me too." Makes you forget that only two nights earlier you wanted to throw her out the window. Will & Anna gave me a beautiful pearl bracelet (real I know, thanks to the trick my dad taught me) with a Swiss edelweiss charm on it. And lastly Mark gave me (wait for it dad) a Swiss Army knife!! So now that can go into my purse so it will be complete.
The dinner was great and it was nice to celebrate my birthday but I still don't think it compares to the pizza party in the library last year, or the Absynthe shots on my 21st. I realized that birthdays, no matter how many presents, are only really special when you get to celebrate them with people you really care about.
So my last evening as a 22 year old (Tuesday) I went to the Grade Two & Three Christmas concert at Mark & Stephanie's school. We were pulling out of the driveway and Mark asks Stephanie, " Stephanie, who do you like better, Jill or Daddy?" She immediately points to me and I tense up and shake my head. Mark not noticing her response asks it again. "Jill," she says aloud this time. Awkward. I tell Mark that that isn't a nice question to ask (though internally I was thinking, "Well duh.") and pretend like that didn't just happen. Oops.
Now the concert was only about 30 minutes but I made some observations there: I think elementary school music teachers are either bound for saint-hood, or partially crazy. (Plus I believe they all have the same green and red plaid blazer). This woman asks these kids to make more noise than they already do, and maintains a cheery disposition. I think my mom taught music for a while, so she's gotta be on track for saint-hood, but this lady? Definitely crazy. The kids also sang weird holiday songs--what happened to Dradle, Dradle, Dradle, or Silent Night? S.A.N.T.A. (apparently a disco-esque song complete with disco balls...) was not what I was expecting but it was pretty funny. After the concert the parents were all talking and the dad of Mark's best friend came up and said, "Wasn't that just wonderful? I think it's really special when kids sing." "Uhh yeah, especially painful," I thought. Makes me appreciate my dad for sitting through all our church choir performances because I can only imagine how bad they must have been!
I promise to write about my birthday soon (I feel like the day is a perfect example of how my mood swings as an au pair) but first: The Swine Flu. The Swine Flu (H1N1, or as I like to call it "La Cochon Grippe"--everything sounds better in French) finally came to Switzerland. People were freaking out, parents were nervous, but the Swiss being the Swiss were prepared. Many doctors were offering the vaccination and last week Anna called me and said the dreaded words, "Jill, can I talk to you for a minute?" Now those words, I think, are about the last anyone wants to hear (not from a teacher, not from an employer, not from anyone) and when she said, "Well I just wanted to let you now we are going to get the Swine Flu shot. Now you can get it if you want, it is a personal decision, but if you want it it's available and of course we'll pay for it." I don't think I've ever been so relieved to hear I might get pricked with a needle! (Will also called later that day and said the same sentence, but he was only asking if the family could take me out to dinner for my birthday--which we are doing tonight). I decided to get the shot, why not I guess, and yesterday I walked in to this clinic at the main train station, filled out a form, told them I had health insurance (they didn't even look at my card) and they stuck me with a needle. Probably took about 12 minutes in total. As I walked out I asked where I should pay and they said, "Nope, you don't pay." Man, I love Switzerland. Anna had hers on Saturday and she had a really bad reaction to it, I am feeling very flu-ish but not too swine-y... yet.
Thanks for all the birthday cards & e-mails! Ellen--yours was too funny. I tried to tell my friends later about the practical joke one and I couldn't even explain it because I was laughing too hard at the thought of it. You can make up for the fact that you sent Gabri a package by coming to visit me!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It's weird because a year ago if some one had asked me where I'd be on my 23 birthday my answer would have been sub-Saharan Africa with the Peace Corps, not ice skating with a five year old in Switzerland (and my last evening as a 22 year old wouldn't have been spent going to a Christmas concert of an eight year old). It just goes to show you how things can change in a year! Since I love a good list I thought I'd compile one of
- Graduated from college
- Made it through senior week alive
- Managed to get a job in a foreign country
- Managed to get a Visa
- Moved to a new country
- Traveled to a couple new countries
- Learned some French (did well on my test today by the way!)
- Got health insurance on my own (which is hard anywhere but harder in a foreign country)
- Didn't become a social hermit (aka I made friends) in the new country
- Got people to read my blog (gotcha!)
- Re-kindled my love affair with Nutella
- Learned how to pack lightly (Just kidding! I wouldn't want to go too overboard)
- Become fluent in French
- Travel more (Korea here I come)
- Save money (kind of hard with the above goal)
- Get a "real job"
- Get a "real job" in a foreign country
Also I'd like to say thanks to all the people who read this, I really do appreciate it (and of course, the people who comment!). And thanks to Jess because 1. her e-mail made my Thanksgiving 2. she threw me a birthday pizza party in the library last year (which was impressive because she got pizzas delivered to the library and kicked someone out of study room so we could take a break from the pre-finals workload!) I love & miss you Jess!