She can do hard things

I remember when we made the transition from pre-school to Grade 1 a few years back,  I was warned by other moms who had been there before that it was going to be a big adjustment.  Our little girls were growing up and it was time to loosen our hold on them just a little bit – enough for them to start feeling secure in their environment and to learn some responsibility.  I also remember how tough those first few days were, more so for us than our kids, however, if those days were tough then today was brutal.

Today was Julia’s first day at German school, I say school, but it’s more of a language learning institution.  We arrived 20 minutes early after an hour’s commute (a bus ride, a tram ride and a 10 minute walk) and walked head-on into our first big culture shock.

Kids are allowed to wear civvies to school and there really are no rules in terms of what they can and can’t wear.   I had never given much thought to wearing uniforms and was neither for nor against it although coming from a very structured environment where our girls wore matching uniforms I thought it might be fun for Julia to have the opportunity to express herself though her clothing.  This thought was short lived when I looked around the room filled with girls wearing ripped jeans (think more skin than jeans), cropped tops and with piercings all over their faces and bodies.  I opened my mouth to speak to Benito and my father came out, “That girl needs a new pair of jeans!”.

These kids seemed (and are) a lot older than our little girl who walked in wearing ski-pants, a jersey and her favourite sneakers with her hair swaying in a pony tail.  They had also all started the course before the Spring break and although they didn’t all speak the same language, they were able to communicate and felt comfortable with each other.

The teacher hadn’t arrived yet and we were anxious about leaving her but also about staying, worrying that staying could lead to some embarrassment given that she was the only child who had her parents with her.  We said our goodbyes and turned to leave.  Walking out of that building was more difficult than I ever could have imagined and I knew I had to dig deep to find some sort of coping mechanism to deal with the situation.  And you know what I did?  I cried.  Like a baby!  It was as if all of the tools that I had acquired in this journey of life were suddenly made of play-dough and were absolutely useless.  Not knowing what to do with me and worrying that his little girl was possibly having the same reaction on her own upstairs, Benito promptly turned around and marched us back upstairs and into her classroom to wait with her until her teacher arrived.

The next 6 hours passed by in a haze and I did what I do best, I worried.  I worried about whether we had made the right decision, whether she was happy, did she understand and would she have been happier if we had put her straight into the local Swiss school but all of these fears disappeared when I got to her school and saw her smiling face.  Everything is going to be alright.  She can do hard things.

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This is the view from Julia’s school.  She asked why it was necessary to take photos of the landscape.  Well dah!  Who get’s to have grazing cows in their school’s back yard!

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Some added information:  Julz is in a class of 6 students all from different countries (Spain, Columbia, Portugal, Romania & of course, South Africa).  The ages range from 11 years old to 14 years old and she is the youngest in her class.  Her mornings will be spent learning German, followed by Maths in the afternoons until she joins the local Swiss school.

 

 

2 Weeks

As I write this, I am sitting in our apartment enjoying a Rooibos cappuccino – a taste of home and one of the many little surprises Switzerland had in store for me!

Two weeks in and it still feels like we’re on holiday however this could be attributed to the gorgeous Spring weather we’ve been having and the fact that the schools are closed for Spring break.  Zurich really comes alive in the warmer weather and everyone has been heading outdoors to soak up the beautiful sun rays.

We are quickly learning our way around town and by “we” I mean Benito and Julia.  My sense of direction is poor to the point of being ridiculous!  I have however downloaded an app (similar to Waze) called ‘ZVV Fahrplan’ which guides me to my destination from the very first bus stop.  It includes all buses, trains and trams and also provides step by step directions in case I need to walk in-between stops.

At the moment, it feels like everything needs to be planned and I am convinced that once we have fully integrated we will be more ‘Swiss’ than the average Swiss citizen.  Lists and spreadsheets have become our new norm and we are constantly watching the clock to make sure that we make it to our destinations on time (the Swiss are particular about time so no more African time for us).

Our local buses depart every half hour and a trip to the closest Migros or Coop (grocery stores) is a 5 minute bus drive plus a 10 minute walk away.  This is done almost every second day as we can only buy as much as we can [comfortably] carry and I’m sure will become more and more amusing to those around us when we start to buy larger appliances and furniture.

The week ahead promises to be a busy one, with school starting on Monday but for now we are enjoying …

… late bedtimes and lazy mornings

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… trips to the lake and spontaneous boat trips

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… exploring our new city

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… a bicycle which arrived yesterday that brings with it a freedom she’s never had (There are however A LOT of rules when it comes to riding a bicycle.  Cyclists need to have insurance and all bikes have to be fitted with a bell as well as front and back lights.  E-Bikes are extremely popular here and if you have one that goes over 25km per hour you need a special type of licence – similar to a driver’s licence).

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… each other.  As stressful as this move has been it has only strengthened our family bond.

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1 Week

It’s hard to imagine how completely different my life has become in just one short week. 9 days ago, we climbed on a plane and headed to a new life in Zurich, Switzerland.  One filled with hopes and dreams for a more simple, beautiful life.  The reality of this ‘simple’ life quickly became clear when we arrived in Zurich 18 hours later with 10 bags between the three of us and had to catch the bus home.

The day we arrived, I second-guessed my decision to move a thousand times.  What was an introverted girl like me doing in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.  How was I going to learn to speak Swiss-German from scratch and more importantly, how was I going to provide this beautiful life to my little girl when I was feeling so unsure of myself.

The days that followed provided some clarity … whilst travelling around the city I started to realised that nobody actually fits in in Zurich.  There is no one-size-fits-all mould for the people of Zurich and that is part of its charm.  Quirky is normal and differences are celebrated.  There are a lot of foreigners living in Zurich and it’s not unusual to hear at least 3 different languages being spoken around you at one time.

Our first priority was schooling for Julia and whilst there have been many challenges along the way, this has not been one of them.  A mutual decision was made between us and the school principal to send Jules to a specialised school where she will do intensive German lessons for a period of 10 weeks.  Thereafter she will be reassessed to see whether she can be integrated into the local German school or whether she should continue learning German until Autumn.

Our next priority was finding an apartment and whilst this has been tons of fun, it’s also been very stressful.  Years and years of building good credit ratings in SA count for nothing here and we’re basically starting from scratch.  I can’t help but feel that when I moved into my first townhouse in SA when I was 20 years old with nothing but my bed and a fridge (that my parents helped me pay for), that I was better off than I am now.  Nevertheless, we’ve put our names down for a couple of apartments and are holding thumbs that we’ll have some positive feedback soon.

Other than that, our first week has felt more like a holiday than anything else.  We are enjoying …

 

long walks in the neighbouring fields and forests and a sun that only starts to set at 20:30

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placing a lock on the Mühlesteg footbridge for my Mom and Dad so that we’ll have a special place to visit when we are missing them

Walking up a gazillion steps to get to the top of Grossmünster for the perfect view of Zurich and realising that it was right in front of me the whole time.