Swiss opinions and my failings

The Swiss are reeling, as we all are. Everyone’s news-feed on their cell phones on the bus was full of Trump news. We awoke this morning right as you were all watching the train-wreck unfold, seeing on your TV screens the unthinkable become reality. We have had all day to digest this news while you all slept like babies…waking up every 2-3 hours crying, seeking comfort. Like a bad dream that isn’t a dream at all.

The metro papers today focused on the lascivious nature of Trump and the new First Lady. This is how the global community sees Trump. 

A fellow bus-rider holding the local paper and it’s cover shot of the new President.
Highlighting Milania’s long and illustrious career. Now the First Lady.

The respect they believe he deserves. I’d have to admit that I’ve seen more than a few smug grins here. A “poor America, look at the mess they’ve gotten themselves into now” sort of attitude. Like the moment at a high school party when the richest, most popular girl in school does something really mortifyingly embarrassing and everyone, including her BFFS, are all secretly pleased.

It is odd and somewhat comforting to be removed from the train wreck. We will continue to seek the perspective of the locals here to appreciate just exactly how the mighty America is viewed in their eyes.

All that aside, let’s not point out someone else’s flaws without examining our own. I must admit to my own failings and short comings. There are certain things I am continuing to fail at in being Swiss. Body temperature regulation is at the top of the list. I was vocal about not doing well in the heat. I complained about the heat – perhaps too much considering the lack of heat the Alberta summer had. (So glad to hear you Alberta peeps are enjoying summer now, now that it’s November. Sorry about my thoughtless whining in July and August.)

This week we have had 2 outdoor events where the amount of rain, back home, would have resulted in a rain-cheque. Evidently this is a concept the Swiss have never heard of. The show goes on here, despite the pouring rain and bitter cold. It is bizarre and I am not doing my Canadian roots proud. I’m cold and feeling very wimpy. I even risked bringing bad karma our way once again by lying to Helena’s teacher to get us the heck out of tonight’s event. (Gasp! I know, it’s awful, but we were so frozen, had put in over an hour in the freezing cold rain and there was no end in sight! Judge if you will but I’m pretty sure if you were with us and my little white lie helped to spring you too you’d think I was pretty darn heroic.)

The first event was the bizarre lake-like hockey I mentioned in the last post. Tonight it was a school festivity for Helena. Sometime ago a form came home explaining the event with a form attached to be filled out and sent back. All communication from school is in German. Of course it is. I run these sort of school notes through Google translate and needless to say, some vital detail is always lost in translation. This form detailed something about a meal as well as some ravens to decorate. Huh? To cover our bases I checked off each of the boxes (all with a $1.50 price tag so not much risk.) with little idea of what I had ordered. I planned to fill my purse with food in case we (I) really messed up on the food order.

Yesterday, Helena came home with this in her backpack. Evidently we ordered it…

The mighty rutabaga, also known as the turnip. Best of Bridge has a fantastic recipe for a Turnip Soufflé. You must try it.
This was the “raven for decoration” the order form offered. No disrespect, I think a rutabaga is as pretty as the next vegetable but had never thought to use it as a decor piece. Here’s where the confusion carried on, were we to bring it with us to the school event? Are we allowed to simply eat it as would seem like the obvious choice? So much confusion…

At least my good Canadian roots helped me to know how to prepare for a cold evening in the dark in November. What I have no skill in preparing for is the damp cold that comes with a west-coast like climate. Maybe you West Coasters don’t do rain cheques either. Maybe torrential rain is no reason to cancel a jaunty outdoor school picnic.

So we all suited up in our long underwear, despite the kids thinking I was the meanest mom ever making them put on long underwear. Turns out I was a pretty smart mom but even with that forethought we were cold as anything!

Arriving at the school event in the dark we saw lots of families arriving, carrying pretty little lanterns. Wait, what? Did I miss that part in the newsletter. Were we supposed to have a lantern? I ordered everything on the list, how did I miss the lantern!? What the heck!? (I hope you can appreciate just how much uncertainty my days involve. I’m moments away from screwing up in a big way and showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Full disclosure…I did get us to said school event 1 hour too soon due to a screw up with my ability to read the 24hr clock. I’m getting so good at it but still managed to mess this one up. Thank goodness my rural kids still get a kick out of “hey, let’s just ride this bus for it’s whole loop to see where it goes!”
As we got nearer I saw what the lanterns were made of. Rutabagas! Huh! Who knew? They were so pretty.

The glowing lantern Helena made at school. I totally think this tradition should be brought home with us. D is pretty sure it isn’t going to take…

With the considerable amount of rain I was assuming the program would be amended to offer a shorter program or perhaps the option to be inside. But no, we set off into the neighbourhoods, led by festive drummers, swinging our (their) lanterns. The neighbours were watching out their balconies, evidently aware of and anticipating this festive evening. On we marched, stopping occasionally to sing, then to carry on walking. And walking, and walking. It went on forever, as we became more and more drenched. Long underwear, rain coats, toques and mitts and we were FROZEN! Other families had jeans and non-waterproof jacket and nothing more and seemed nonplussed. Back home this would never have happened. Some out spoken parent would have said “WTF!? This is ridiculous. My kid is freezing and we’re out of here.”

So it turns out that I am that out spoken parent…I snuck up to Helena’s teacher, mumbled something about us needing to go, and we raced for the bus. Who knows how long it would have gone on for. Who knows what I ordered for dinner? We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

There was one very bright spot in the evening though. Shortly after we had arrived, while standing in the rain, getting colder by the moment, a teacher stood up on the steps to make an announcement, in German, obviously letting us know how the evening would unfold. All the while, Diego was nattering in my ear, the way he does, in an effort to fill every moment of silence with his voice and my attention transfixed on him. I finally shushed him abruptly and said “I’m trying to listen!” 

“But Mom, I’m interpreting for you.” 

Oh sweet Jesus! You clever, clever child! You understand what he’s saying? You mean all this time we’ve tortured you in the German school is actually working!? Thank heavens. 

Anyhow, back to the cold…Hats off to the Swiss. They are some hardy. Surprising, considering how thin they are…how do they have the body fat to stay warm!?

So I need to adjust our game a bit. Figure out how to stay warm in this freezing, damp cold. I want to do us proud here but I am currently failing miserably. We’re also desperately missing our forced air heating but I digress…

Small worries in light of the very real worries many Americans are facing today. Let’s hope that we can all pull together, rather than away from each other, to work towards a future that is secure, happy and safe for EVERYONE.

And if you are interested in making your very own rutabaga lantern, here are the details. It’s totally a thing. 



One Comment Add yours

  1. Joy Olesky says:

    Hi Anna,

    I’m so enjoying your blog. It brings back many memories of our year in Germany. We remember the time fondly but there were so many situations such as this where we really didn’t understand what was going on. And those forms and notifications they sent home from school! This was the days before Google or any other translators so I’d spend hours trying to interpret the notices and still didn’t really understand – those exceedingly long German compound words aren’t in the dictionaries.

    Hang in there! By the time we returned home we felt pretty comfortable and had forgotten what a battle it had been to get through the first few months.



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