Friday, June 24, 2011

In three months time.....

I’ve been crapping myself every day.

Now there’s an introductory sentence you’d probably wish I hadn’t written, right?

But it’s true. Moving to Switzerland has utterly thrown me. Yes, off course – as it should considering the change in seasons, time zones and countries – as well as off line (struggling to find the energy or will to write) and well, just off.

Sapphire is struggling too and summed it up the other day when she said, “Mum, Dad, when I smile you know it’s just fake because I’m trying really hard, don’t you? The only time I really laugh or feel happy is when we watch some ‘Raising Hope’ episodes on the iPad.”

All I could do was hug her in response because I feel exactly the same way.

And I hate that I do; hate that I haven’t the strength or energetic positivity to see this experience for what it truly is; a rather challenging settling-in period. My Melbourne-based brave words and dinner party bluster about it being a fantastic experience for travel and new culture now clogs the back of the my throat; a lingering effect of the cold we all got on arrival here. No amount of coughing will clear it and every time I try to speak I have to Ah-hem several times which tires me before trying to ask, “Je suis desolee – parlez vous Anglais?”

The morning crap-fest is the first reminder that I’m frightened of being here and unable to relax. I’m afraid to fully examine how I’m coping or how Sapphire sees me deal with new and puzzling situations as her sole companion and source of entertainment. I can’t remember the last time I laughed without considering it first or being aware of the smaller person observing me as I did so.

Once the toilet is flushed, hands washed and body showered, things improve. Firstly, we’ve moved into our apartment which is roomier than our little Melbourne house. It echoes with emptiness that IKEA furniture can’t yet soften but is a haven from the challenges I don’t always want to face outside. Language, traffic, prices, loss of direction.

Sapphire got the dream room she wanted but the realities of a bunk bed and desk combo are quickly revealed when trying to put a fitted sheet on a mattress only two feet from the ceiling as the metal support structure holding things together creaks and wobbles. “It’s not home yet Mum,” she cries later that night, “I hate it here.” She sobs so hard that my chest thuds in sync and I don’t want her to see that my eyes are filling up too: I’m supposed to the strong one.

I stand on the floor about a foot below her, feeling useless, my arm stretched out to hold her hand. “It’ll get better love, you’ll see. In three months’ time….”

I’m sick of saying that, to her and to myself.

And yet we’re able to buy groceries without any unfortunate incident, smile at our fellow neighbours in the lift and correspond to a French teacher via an expat website. Lessons start next week and all niggling repairs have been completed by varying Swiss tradies that don’t speak a word of English. A hearty “Bonjour” and pointing to the offending powerpoint/cistern/wall vent seems to suffice.

We decide to take our lunch down to the shared garden because it’s a sunny day. The concierge dashes over and all I understand is ‘sun’ and ‘eat’ but it’s clear that we’re not allowed to sit on the grass or eat there. It’s all for looks, not actual use. I feel like kicking him in the nuts and ripping out a rose bush as I stalk by but instead I smile, gather up the plates obediently and walk back upstairs with Sapphire. “He thinks he’s important, doesn’t he?” She squeezes my hand and comforts me as my mouth wobbles slightly.

Money Schmoney as we venture back out again and wheel our two nanna shopping carts the shopping centre and buy airlifted US and UK magazines in our hunger for something to read, sewing gear in anticipation of the machine arriving in an eagerly anticipated tea-chest and a selection of supermarket chain paint brushes, canvases, sketch books, pencils and acrylics. “Why don’t you create your own pictures for your room and help me do something for the lounge?”

For the first time I see a real smile in Sapphire’s eyes.

We’re going to a BBQ for fellow Aussies tomorrow night and are off to a tour of the United Nations on Sunday.

Love Chunks has just walked in the door and is already messing with the wireless control box so we’ll have UK telly and news available soon. The fridge is full of nanna-carted food and Sapphire’s first two works are drying on the parquetry floor as she runs a pre-dinner bubble bath.

It’s long past time for me to count my blessings, but how come tears are still so close to the surface?


nuttynoton said...

I know the three months time seems to never come but it will. You are really out of your comfort zone but it will slowly get easier then you may be able to enjoy the experience. As for UK TV we are watching Glastonbury at the moment miss NN the older likes Mumford and sons.
hang in there you are a few steps into your journey and it is all good life experience!!

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh Kath. Hurting for you all. So scary, so hard, so many challenges all at once. And the fact that it will get better doesn't help NOW when help is needed. Sending hugs, big ones, your way.

Cat J B said...

Kath, nothing to say, but virtual hugs to you all from here.

Are there likely to be any youngsters at the bbq for Sapphire? I remember being in Germany on student exchange when I was 17, it was connecting with other Kiwi/Aussie kids that snapped me out of my homesick funk.

Kids are off to Auskick, sun is shining but chilly, magpies singing, I can just imagine the Litter Ninja doing rounds this morning.
Best wishes, we're thinking of you in Melbourne.

Lidian said...

More virtual hugs from me in Canada. It sounds incredibly hard, I have found much smaller moves really tough so...ugh, yeah. Sometimes when I am having a horrible stressful time I tell myself: every day I get through is one day better, just a tiny bit further down the road to Better.

xxx Laura (Lidian)

River said...

Don't worry about the tears Kath, just let them flow, Sapphire will understand as you hug each other through this. This really is the biggest thing you've ever done as a family, your whole world is literally upside down. But things are already looking up! Look how you've adjusted to shopping with nanna trolleys, (just like I do)and making your own artwork is agreta way of getting something you really like. In a few weeks, the best is yet to come...Milly will be with you and she will go a long way to helping you all feel better. Does the i-pod not have any Big Bang Theory episodes on it? Sheldon is always good for a laugh.

Pandora Behr said...

You know, the worst thing about bravery is that sometimes what you think will take a moment goes on for a lifetime. I'm so very, very proud of how the three of you are doing. Yep, it's woefully hard at first, but as you've said - a place of your own, snippets of conversation and a smile - more will come. You're all doing great. Hugsxx

drb said...

house - ticked
school -ticked
Why tears are still close to the surface?
Excercise back into routine? Achilles/back still hurting?
You know what I think, don't ignore it please.

Helen said...

You didn't mention Millie, so I guess no news is good news - doesn't it make it a bit better to have her soft ears to cry on?

Lightening said...

{{{HUGS}}} I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be. I think you should go and buy some chocolate and review it on Gone Chocco. Who cares if it's Aussie chocolate or not. Or review it on here. Might be something you can do together to make you smile. :-)

Anji said...

I'm sorry. It brings back painful memories to me. You will settle. Sapphire probably faster than you once school starts. I hope you picked up some 'how to manage tips at the BBQ.

Wish I lived closer

Jackie K said...

Hi Kath,
It probably doesn't seem like it, but you are more than halfway there. This post you seemed much better able to navigate life there. Your house sounds great - it will feel like home once you get used to your new stuff. This brings back lots of memories for me. When I was a kid my family moved to the US which honestly felt like a foreign country, and people couldn't understand us! I hated it for months, and my mum put on a brave face for us while secretly also hating it herself. But we eventually fit our way in and were happy there - while always missing home of course. That time was hard but it enriched our lives and I wouldn't change it (now!)
When I was living in Greece and trying to learn the language and culture and everything about both was pissing me off, I remembered my mother then and realized fully just how hard it had been for her.
It is hard - but you are prevailing.

Kath Lockett said...

NN you're right - one day at a time. Today LC's managed to wire up some lights so at least we no longer have to drag the IKEA lamp from room to room!

Thanks TEC. I know that it's my attitude and the way I'm reacting to things that is the hardest thing to deal with at the moment. Actually, blowing off a UN tour and dagging around the house today (Sunday) has done wonders too.

Thank you also, CatJB. No kids at all at the BBQ - everyone is at least a decade older with grown up kids back in Australia. Perhaps having to hang around with boring old me for a couple of months will make the start of school something to look forward to ('thank god; some kids of my own age') instead of dread.

Lidian, you're right. Tiny steps. All forward, which is what I need to remind myself.

River, we have indeed watched TBBT a few times - nothing like a good sitcom to lift our spirits. UK television is now on too, so we'll no doubt soon work out what shows we like and will look forward to. I'll not hear a word that TV is bad for us! :)

Pandora, thanks for support. I hope that 'doing great' will soon apply to our beginner French lessons!

drb - exercise routine has completely died, so I'll definitely need to get back into that (and Sapphire, too). Doctor is next on the list to find....

Helen, Milly arrives on 14th July and yes, those furry orange ears will be kissed many times!

Lightening, Love Chunks agrees with you but I'm not sure I want to do any GoneChocco stuff yet. You'd be surprised how little chocolate I've eaten since I've been here actually. I'm not sure if it's a general loss of appetite or just a bit of relief from a blog that was starting to consume a lot of time or energy....

Anji, I did get a few 'how to manage in Geneva' tips at the BBQ and am ashamed at how envious I was at their confidence and familiarity. Admittedly, most have been here for at least three years so there's a fair bit of impatience and overload on my part.

Thank you, Jackie K. You're right we are doing it hard but are prevailing. I like that word to describe it - prevailing.

Helen said...

Oh, July 14! I read it as June 14. I do that a lot this time of year which gets me into a lot of trouble. Roll on July 14 - not far away at all!

franzy said...

And we, your loyal fans are drinking every drop of those travelling tears. This isn't just a tough time and a settling in experience to be sandpapered down and put behind. Please please please understand that all the writing and emoting and creating you want to do is coming to a head now. Whatever writing and creating you can drag out of yourself now will be grist to your mill, clay to your wheel.

Keep going!
You're doing great

You're not just struggling with new things and sorting and hiding and crying and mothering. You're in the driver's seat of this incredible experience and everything you write about it is marvellous. Keep notes. Take photos. Blog for us!

franzy said...

Sorry - I just wanted to write something different to every one else because I think you also need some happy comments. I remember what moving cities is like and I even had a trailor. But those experiences are still so vivid and worth recording as much of as possible.

Kath Lockett said...

14th July.... not long now.... Fingers crossed that there's not some unforeseen 'issue' with paperwork or regulations at the airport on the day of Milly's arrival.

Thanks Franzy. I'll try to write more often and add some photos. I have a few on your despised Facebook because blogger has been a right bugger for me in the past few months when it comes to putting up photos and messing up formatting.

Helen said...

it sounds really tough, you are a brave family to do that. And it will get better, it has to.

Here's hoping you find a nice friendly, sunny lawn to sit on soon!

Luke said...

Don't feel dicouraged, Kath! I know exactly what you're going through. I was translocated to Italy at the age of 15, and lived there for 6 months before moving back to South Africa. I remember feeling SO alone and finding it so hard to imagine that I could even come close to fitting into a society that I didn't really know or understand.

I really liked your bit about having a picnic on the grass :) I remember being severely reprimanded by the multitude of old people that lived in our block of flats for a) running around bare-foot and b) climbing a tree. Turned out the tree was only for decoration and was NOT to be utilized in any way!

The only thing I can offer as a suggestion for coping is this: get bikes. I realise that it may sound strange, but I remember that I only really started to feel connected to where we were staying in Italy once I started to get myself out of the flat and explored a little. The nice thing about the bikes was that it was free (once you have the bike of course) and it was fun! Cycling from spot to spot, checking out the local countryside, it all made it a little less scary somehow.

Another thing, make sure you hug your daughter A LOT! I remember feeling like my parents were too caught up in getting going in a new country that I always felt very much like I had to do things on my own. It's particularly hard when you have to learn a new language! So be as supportive as you possibly can!

I hope that this helps, and that things get easier. Know that there is someone, a world away from where you are physically, but emotionally, right there with you! I hope that that gives you some sort of courage to keep going :)

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Helen

And you too, Luke. Sapphire is in a sulk in her room right now but a hug is the best thing I can offer her. And bikes is a great idea - LC's been talking about that too.

Red Nomad OZ said...

If you are in any doubt how far you've come, re-read your blog posts. I've just done a major catch up - and even though the tears are still there, you've already achieved so much! Would expat blogs help?? I think you already follow Marie, but there's always TexaGermaNadian! - maybe there's a blog support group for expats??

And I thought OZ was the only country to celebrate Big Things!!!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

I've had a little taste of what you are going through but not quite as intense as you.

All I can say is that it should improve.

There are guys who work at my place who have moved to China and South Korea with work (for periods of a year or two) and after the initial struglle (and they DID struggle believe me) they grew to love it.

One guy actually lives in Kunming, China, and when I went out there for do work with him, his bike was hit by a motorcycle and the motorcycle rider ended up in hospital. It was an absolute nightmare but he got through it.

He is learning Mandarin and loves the place - despite the massive culture shock.

Me? I lived in Hong Kong for three months and I loved it. Still, HK is much easier to cope with than Geneva because just about everybody speaks English.

I have also worked with an ex-pat who lives and works in Zurich and he says he will never leave Switzerland - he has been there for 25 years.

I'm sure everything will fall into place. Let's hope so anyway.

Keep smiling.




Vanessa said...

Oh Kath, it sounds like a real challenge. You must sit down with Sapphire and write down all of the reasons you took this adventure, what you want to achieve while you are there. One thing I am envious of is all of the time you both have together at the moment. Don't waste it! We all know that we need to fake it until we make it. So plan each day, have a purpose, spring out of bed and go and do it. Somewhere along the way the happiness will seep back in. I heard on the radio just last week that the three keys to happiness are:
1. having someone to love
2. Doing something worthwhile
3. having something to look forward to
Grab this experience with both hands and have fun xxx
Email me your postal address so I can send Sapphire some scrapping supplies so she can record her memories and travel experiences x

Anonymous said...

Ah, blossom. Saying "it will get better" doesn't make it any better now, does it? Big hug, across the miles.