I’m sitting at the salon having my hair cut. I’ve managed to communicate my needs, they’ve become so simple since moving abroad, a trim, just a little off the ends. My hairdresser is finishing up, we’ve spent the last half hour chatting and as I get up to leave, I can’t help but feel a little giddy. I’ve done it, and all in German! “Go Lisa!”, I silently cheer for myself. I walk out with my head held high. I look good. I feel good. I climb into my car, shut the door and then it hits me. I’m sitting in the front of the car … in the passenger’s seat. I can do hard things, but I struggle with the simple things and after nearly four years, here I am sitting on the wrong side of the car, again.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably never reach the level of ‘coolness’ that I aspire to and that my life here in Switzerland may forever be filled with awkward moments, broken language and climbing over the passenger’s seat to get to the driver’s seat.
My days are often filled with these uncomfortable little moments, some are habits which have been engrained in me from years of living in South Africa, others newly formed from living a life which is sometimes just too foreign and far out of my comfort zone. I’m often left wondering when this ‘beginning’ will end or whether I will be a ‘beginner’ forever.
In a year’s time, I will be eligible to apply for my Swiss passport, something that both thrills me and scares the hell out of me and the pressure is now on to elevate myself from ‘beginner’ to ‘intermediate’ within the next 12 months. Not only will I have to educate myself on the political systems and history of Switzerland and to be able to relay all that I’ve learnt in German, with a few Swiss German words thrown in for good measure to prove that I’m on my way to being well integrated but I will also have to prove the authenticity of my 20-year marriage to Benito. One may be more difficult than the other, considering I have more photos of myself with my dog than I do of my husband.
Proof of life for the teenager might also prove tricky considering she’s barely home these days. The one thing I was
not willing to not prepared for when moving to Switzerland was that I would have to let go of Julz so much sooner than I ever would have in South Africa. Three tiny little objects, all small enough to fit into the palm of her hand, have opened up the door to her world, while slamming the door to mine shut. Cell phone. Bank card. Bus ticket.
The problem is, I’m not impressive anymore. She used to ask me things and take my word as gospel. Nowadays she knows more than I do about many things, she often has to translate when people talk to me and I need her help with my iPhone and laptop. It’s like our roles have become reversed.
Over the past few years, I’ve had to find new meaning not only in my role as a mom to a teenager but as an expat living in this strange land. Our need for independence, both hers and mine, often stretching me to the point of breaking has forced me to muscle-up, grow-up and let go because when she eventually reaches adulthood, I want to be able to say, “I got there first”.
Sharing some goodness from our Winter 21/22.