No matter how great your host country is, as an expat there will always be things that you miss from home. Like Chipotle, or knowing that you'll be able to communicate with the person on the other side of the phone, or being able to find a simple can of black beans.
Not necessarily something that comes to mind when you think Switzerland.
Chocolate, yup. Cheese, sure. But pretzels? Not so much.
But they are delicious.
...that it is possible to sleep quite soundly in a giant tent with 100 other people?
It is much more difficult, if not impossible (for me at least), to sleep on an overnight train when you are not in a sleeper car (even if they promised you it was just as good).
Also, when planning a meeting place in a foreign city, be specific.
And have a backup plan.
And a backup backup plan.
Just in case one of you is half asleep while deciding where to meet and hears 'Piazza del Popolo' when what the other actually said was 'Spanish Steps'. They are not close.
The things you learn when you travel.
I just spent 7 days immersed in many of my favorite things...
narrow cobbled streets with steep staircases at odd angles
brightly colored buildings
For six years I have looked forward to returning to this wonderful place. The four months I spent in Florence and Siena during college made a lasting impact to the point where all you have to do is say Italy and I smile, thinking of the Tuscan countryside, the streets and churches of Florence, Friends pub,
cooking class, my apartment right by the Ponte Vecchio, the gelato...
Ah but I digress.
Last Tuesday Liz and I packed our bags and hopped on the train in Luzern, my new home :)
Six hours later we arrived in the teeny tiny town of Corniglia, smack in the middle of Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is an area on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, five small (really small) towns connected by trains and hiking trails.
We stayed in a room rented to us by Stefano, easily one of the friendliest people I have ever met. He stayed there talking to us for at least a half hour after giving us our keys, telling us about Cinque Terre and who knows what else.
It rained every other day. Which means that on the sunny, beautiful days, we were either hiking or walking around the towns. The rainy days were spent sleeping, reading, or drinking coffee and wine
(and eating. Definitely eating).
Liz also made it to the town of Riomaggiore (she went to all five towns!) but alas, I slept through that day.
We also spent a day in Florence!
Certain things have new meaning when in Italy. Pasta, for instance. I don't know how they do it, but something so simple just tastes so much better in Italy than anywhere else.
But I ramble.
There will be numerous Italy posts over the next few days.
I'm realizing that, while I love Switzerland, Italy...well it's just special.
Maybe it's the memories. Maybe it's the language.
Or maybe I just really like the food.
Whatever it is, don't be surprised if I announce in the near future that I'm leaving Switzerland to go live the Italian life.
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.
My sister got me a coffee grinder and beans.
My parents got me a stay-fresh storage container.
My best friend got me the coolest Thai mug ever.
Apparently they think I like coffee :)
Add it all together and you get my Sunday morning, freshly-ground, consumed in an awesome mug,
cup (or 3) of coffee.
OK, a moment of honesty.
As awesome as Switzerland is (think snowy days, travel, chocolate, new friends, and cultural experiences),
living abroad alone is hard.
No one here has known me for more than 4 months (although I have made some great friends!), German is not an easy language to learn, and there are cultural quirks that I just flat-out don't like.
There have been awesome experiences and incredible people, but there are also frustrations and homesickness. Part of the reason that I wanted to live abroad was to experience as much of life as possible in as many places as I could. That is certainly happening. But it can be hard sometimes to fight the tough days and remember the great things about life here.
I am feeling ambitious.
In the spirit of living life to the fullest (and increasing the pathetically few number of posts that I have written so far), I am going to regularly share and celebrate what was the inspiration for this blog in the first place...the simple things in life. The ones that teach you, inspire you, and just plain make you smile. Every Sunday (because, yup, alliteration makes me happy), I will post something new for Simple Sundays, a celebration of life's simple pleasures. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
Starting right now...
1. Cookies that never become cookies
On Friday I announced rather randomly to my coworker that I wanted to make cookies. Having worked with me for a few months now, he is used to my out-of-the-blue outbursts and proclamations, so he just looked up from his computer, nodded, and told me to have fun.
What he didn't know was that behind that random proclamation was an absolute love of baking, and the fact that I haven't baked anything since I've been here because, well, I don't have any baking supplies. I left most things at home or told Katie to take them to Thailand, figuring that I could use the precious little space I had in my luggage for other things (not something I would recommend to anyone moving to Switzerland, by the way, unless you want to spend a small fortune restocking your kitchen). But the time had come.
I longed for my favorite dessert cookbook (also gathering dust somewhere in my parents' house, along with every other cookbook I own...not sure what exactly I was thinking when I packed) but I settled for a peanut butter cookie recipe that I found on Pinterest. Four ingredients. Ten minutes in the oven. Done. Cookies.
However, after the dough was made, I decided to just have one teeny tiny little bite of dough while I was waiting for the oven to finish preheating.
Tasted just like those peanut butter balls that I used to make with my mom as a kid. I'm pretty sure those peanut butter balls started my obsession with peanut butter.
So I took another bite. And another. And before I knew it I had given up on the whole baking idea in lieu of keeping a bowl of peanut butter cookie dough in the fridge to snack on.
An excellent decision.
Kelly is an American teacher living in Switzerland and enjoying everything the country has to offer.