Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three times the price of beef

The vet tells me that Milly the dog is seriously under-weight after being away from us for six weeks. Sapphire is seeing a child psychiatrist to discuss her emerging anger about moving across the world and I’m on anti depressants, neglecting this blog terribly.

These are all good things.

Firstly, the pooch. She arrived on Wednesday morning after a twenty seven hour flight that was endured without sedation or food. The thocka-thocka-thocka of her tail against the hard plastic shell of her container was the first sign we had that our furry one was to join us again. “Voila,” the customs bloke said, wheeling her out on a trolley and abruptly departing.

Her container was impossible to open, having been doubly, triply, quadruply fastened with plastic ties commonly used on boxes of paper reams. Customs guy was already gone; another example of a service provider doing the least possible. We eventually flag down a forklift driver who offers us a Stanley knife; Milly’s nose pressing up against the bars eagerly.

The whiff of fear and wee emerges as the door flies open and we’re shocked to see such a bony animal emerge. It’s clearly our dog, but her ribs are painfully visible and the vertebrae on her back protrude like a line of gravel stones. She doesn’t even protest a few minutes later when the taxi driver insists that she be placed back in her container for the drive home.

Secondly, my daughter. Mood swings that include insults, sulking, accusations, heightened versions of old events and heart rending tears. Loneliness, puberty, boredom and fear with behaviour and unpredictability to match. We empathise and sympathise but the lashings are harder and harder to bear.

Our Welfare Officer, assigned by LC’s work, finally shines. This is what she’s good at: people problems, not finding us a good land agent or a bus timetable. She hears LC’s concerns and recommends a child psych who is American and available.

Dr S listens to me, he listens to LC and then he speaks with Sapphire alone. A white noise machine is turned on by his office door so that we only hear murmurings in the waiting room outside. An hour later she emerges. “He understands me,” she says quietly, “and says that things are going to be all right because I’m a smart kid.”

We can see how hard she's trying and I get a small shock when I see her walking around the corner with her father and realise how tall she's becoming. There are bumps still ahead in her road, but mostly progress.

Same with me as issue number three. Frustration and isolation was rapidly turning to despair and self-loathing; feelings that were familiar and unwanted. This time I wasn’t going to suffer needlessly or any longer than was necessary. This move to Switzerland is our life, not a brief holiday and I want to take my full part in it.

I know exactly what medication to ask for and the doctor recognises it. No bumbling French is needed in the pharmacy as I hand over the script. Like beef, the 28 pills cost three times what they would in Australia but I don’t wince.

Two days later my old self returns. Shopping is an outing and not a nightmare. Milly takes to apartment living like a native New Yorker. Sapphire draws this

.......... freehand and sings as she does so. My Achilles behaves itself as it is gingerly tested around our local park and I realise how much we’ve all achieved in a short time when I’m taking a friend-of-a-friend around Geneva and know where I’m going.

That’s all any of us want isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Peu choses

Don't worry dear reader: future blogs will not have French words in them and today's should really be called 'little things.'

Forty two-and-a-half years out of the womb and five weeks with my favourite man and child in a new country and I'm finally starting to understand the importance of little things. It's a torturous process that needs constant updating and reminding especially during the dozen-or-so times a day when the urge to droop and feel sorry for myself by conjuring up the aching pangs of homesickness is waiting in the wings, telling me that it's the safest way, the easiest way.

Stuff that. My best buddy Jill wrote to me from her own personal Peu Choses Challenge in Adelaide telling me that she strove to find some joy every day. With a serious brain injury taking a year to heal and her world suddenly becoming as small as a short visit to the shop and an afternoon in bed to get over it, noticing and appreciating the tiny wins has been vital. It was ironic that I too felt as though my world had shrunk - tiny routes to LC's work, the shop and home as the language barrier, confusing directions and lack of confidence melded into a churning gut and a big case of The Sads.

Despite the Oprah-influenced idea, it stuck with me. Why was I feeling so afraid? Why was I so worried about Sapphire and her own ability to settle in and cope? Why was I thinking so negatively about everything?

"I like that idea," I typed back to her. "I'm going to find my joy every day too." And it's been surprisingly simple. Easy, even:

The coffee made by Love Chunks from our brand new, better-than-Mrs-Krups sixty six percent off-the-retail-price Geneva-sourced DeLonghi every morning.

Attending the second get-together of LC's older, wealthier and worldlier workmates and - admittedly with the aid of some good Gamay wine - not worrying about my innate dagginess and lack of sophistication and actually enjoying myself.

Buzzing in the postman and receiving a Care Package from Australia full of Asian spices, vegemite memorabilia, obscure French word cards and several books in English.

Completing three French lessons so far and discovering that Sapphire and I are testing each other and actually retaining it. "You're my best students," our teacher said, "Because you practice and you're taking this seriously." If I had a tail, it'd have been thumping loudly against the chair leg.

Finding our way to the local farmers' market this morning and asking an old lady for directions. With an 'Excuse moi' and a 'Bonjour' and a bit of pointing to our nanna carts and 'marche' she could indicate the beautiful old building nearby. "Voila," she smiled. The produce inside was worth the bumbling around and we had a bowl of fresh raspberries for breakfast.

Another joy - they actually do say 'voila'. All the time. Here's your meal: voila!

Our tea chests arrived. Almost unrecognisable, torn and filthy and scattered with broken glass from several picture frames that died in transit but full of our photos, ornaments, treasures and extra clothes. All we need now are a few hooks in the wall for our home to be filled with faces and memories.

Finding a doctor, a hairdresser and a vet without deferring to official UN lists or the expat websites. All within comfortable walking distance.

Knowing that Milly arrives next week. Her brand new bed, blankets, lead, dry food, frozen bones and 'toilet mats' are already waiting. Whizzing on the balcony will be an interesting training opportunity, not something to dread.

Most of all, hearing the shared laughter and chatter of Sapphire and her new-found friend N as they play Wii, drag their scooters outside for a spin and generally get to know each other.

I know that IKEA will eventually deliver the (lost/forgotten) furniture we paid for over three weeks ago. School will start for Sapph in September after an unforgettable summer with her fascinating mother. At school she'll not only lap up the mental stimulation and knowledge but also make friends and I'll be able to read more than just 'sortie' and 'interdit' on menus and street signs.

Voila - there it is. Finding my joy, one step at a time.....