I get asked that a lot.
I've been in Switzerland for 7 months now, but I must admit that I haven't started German classes yet. However, I've realized lately that I know more than I think I do. Granted, often my response is still a blank stare, but I'm beginning to understand quite a bit more of what people are saying to me.
A lot of what I've absorbed has been from the process of finding a new apartment.
Yup, I'm moving again.
You would think that I enjoy nothing more than packing and unpacking my things and carrying them up and down stairs. In 4 years I will have moved my things 5 times. I've visited between 20-30 apartments and looked at countless floor plans (I do love floor plans). This one only lasted 7 months.
It's a nice place, but the first time I stepped out of the train station in Luzern, back in late September, I knew that's where I wanted to be.
The process of moving in Switzerland is very strange. In my past apartment searches, the hardest part has been finding a place I like with a price I can afford that has an available apartment.
Not here. When I first mentioned the idea at work, I had no less than 5 people try to talk me out of it. They told me how time consuming it would be, how expensive it would be, how picky the Swiss are. And indeed, it has been an intense experience. Especially since all apartment ads are in German, all applications are in German, I wrote a cover letter that had to be in German, I had to make phone calls and visit apartments where the tenants only spoke German...you get the point. I had some wonderful people from work helping me out (thanks again!), but a lot of times I just had to suck it up and do it myself. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I'm certainly glad that it's almost over. Only one piece is still unfinished (besides the physical moving part). I am required to find a tenant to take over my lease, so I've been holding visitations over the last few weeks.
Many of the people who have come by (there have been about 20 or so) only speak German. And they will talk to you and ask questions anyway. It's slightly uncomfortable, but you come out alive and most likely having learned something. And I've discovered, to my delight, that I understood most of what they said. Granted, I can't express myself back to them very well, but I've also learned how to effectively use gestures to get my point across :)
So after nearly 5 months, moving day has finally arrived.
Luzern is quite a bit farther from work than my current apartment. One of the nicest things about where I live now is that it only takes me about 10 minutes to get to work, which includes the 5 minutes it takes to walk to the bus stop. Luzern will be at least 45 minutes by train and bus.
If you know me at all, and especially if you've ever been a roommate of mine, you know that I tend to have a slight problem with mornings. Particularly the getting out of bed on time part.
I actually love mornings. I love the peace of mornings and having time for coffee, breakfast and a book before leaving for work. It's just that my warm, comfy bed usually wins out, leaving me rushing around like mad just trying to make it out of the house on time. This has been complicated even more this year by the need to rely on public transportation.
And trust me, the buses don't wait for you, even if you're running. It's a terrible feeling to watch the bus drive away without you.
So most people think I'm nuts when I say that I am looking forward to my morning commute.
Yes, I realize this means that I have to get up earlier.
But it also means that I've been given the gift of time.
(5 points and a virtual high five if you know the reference!)
I'm very much looking forward to coffee, a book, and a train ride in the mornings. Not to mention the culture of Luzern, the wine bar on the corner, the city atmosphere, meeting new people...
Shortly before I left for Switzerland last July, my sister Valerie and her family moved to Uganda. Needless to say, it was a crazy, crazy time for our family. Although Valerie had lived abroad before, the whole family had been in the US for the past few years.
I was used to seeing my family every few weeks when I was back home. Parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, and 5 amazing nieces and nephews. We all lived close by, and my sisters and I would frequently meet up at my parents' house over a weekend, or occasionally even just for dinner. Seeing my family so often was one of the very best things about living in DC, and is certainly one of the hardest things about living here.
While I was able to visit with my parents and my sister Allison over Christmas, I hadn't seen Valerie in 7 months. So with my February break coming up, I hopped on a flight to Kampala for a visit!
I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on the plane, having gotten up at 4:30 to get there. I woke up an hour later to find that we were still on the ground in Zurich. Grr. Arriving in Brussels, I rushed to the gate only to find out that the flight had been delayed for 5 hours. Grr. Although perturbed (this now had me arriving in Entebbe at 4 AM, precisely what I had spent so much time trying to avoid), it also gave me the opportunity to take the train into Brussels and see a bit of the city.
What do you do when you're stuck in Belgium for 5 hours?
Buy chocolate and eat waffles, of course!
At about 7 AM, I finally arrived at my sister's house and started a fantastic visit!
Since I last saw them, Natalie celebrated her 4th birthday, started preschool, and she is learning her letters and numbers.
Nathan celebrated his 1st birthday shortly after learning how to walk. Now he won't sit still!
I had such a blast playing with the kids and catching up with my sister and my brother-in-law. In addition to two kids, they also have an attack dog who couldn't quite decide whether she'd rather let me pet her or attack me, as well as an insane cat whose name is constantly changing. She used to attack suddenly and without reason (read Val's blog for more info), but now she's pretty calm most of the time. However, she does love to play with her food, including giant cockroaches she's caught.
We wanted to capture it on video.
This was taken immediately after Val said, "No Kelly, you take the video. I'll scream if I do it."
That thing was huge, ugly, and REALLY fast.
I also didn't know that I was capable of making that sound.
I ate a lot of great food and drank a lot of tea. And I enjoyed a brief respite from the cold Swiss snowiness. I must say, though, as nice as it was to be warm, I'd have a tough time living in a hot climate year-round. I like my seasons.
Now if only I could learn how to sleep on overnight flights.
Kelly is an American teacher living in Switzerland and enjoying everything the country has to offer.