Monday, January 30, 2017
Our first day here in Basel, we had a million of errands to run, in addition to the vital ones that allow us to live in this country legally. We grabbed the kids and ran to tram #11 so we could head into the city and start checking off our list. Joe had ridden the tram before. I had ridden the tram before. Our kids, had not. As we arrived at the stop, Joe and I parked the stroller and sat on the bench that was well behind the white lines in the "safe zone." The kids, immediately upon seeing the railroad tracks, got excited and were dancing and goofing around on the white lines and even crossing them as they got dangerously close to the tracks and as they leapt onto tanbark. In an instant, we pulled ourselves out of our jet-lagged haze and taught the kids the importance of respecting those white lines. Why they were there. What purpose they served. To be safe, it was important to stay comfortably on this side of that paint. We never put Mack's stroller on those lines... we kept him safely away from them until it was time to board the tram. The closer they "danced" around the paint, the closer they would come to heartache and danger. Take that analogy on whatever level you'd like. As our kids are getting older and having a tad more independence, I pray every day that they choose joy through Jesus Christ. I am forever grateful that no matter what happens, He knows and understands them just like He knows and understands me. That He will be there for them even when I can't. I love my Savior. So. Much.
Another day. Another tram lesson.
Trams in Switzerland are known for their exactness. When you look up at the schedule it is says that the tram will be here in 3 minutes, it will be here in 3 minutes and it will not wait for you. It's also known that trams don't break down. Well, on the kids first day of school, Joe, Mack and I went into the city to set up our bank account. We had plenty of time to be there for the "first day" pick up. It was a big deal! Kindergarten, 3rd grade and 6th grade (junior high, oh my). We hopped on the tram ready to make our way to pick up the kids. We were crossing the Rhine River (how cool is that, by the way?!) when there was a loud bang and then a jolt that threw us all forward. And then we stopped. There was a lot of German being spoken everywhere around us and over the intercom. And Joe and I just stood there looking at each other, not knowing more than "thank you," "hello," and "please," in German yet.
We finally started asking people around us what was going on, but unfortunately, even though everyone thinks everyone speaks English here, we happened to be on a tram where no one could tell us anything. We obviously knew something had happened, but we weren't understanding the instructions that were blaring over the speakers. FINALLY, after the tram slowly started going again, we thought everything was ok, and we stayed put. What we didn't know, was that the tram was damaged, and it was making it's way back to the station, in the complete opposite direction of where we were initially headed. This was the only tram line that took us to our kids, and it was shutting down. We didn't know the bus routes well enough to know how to figure out how to get to them. Time was ticking away and it looked like we would be late picking them up on their very first day of school. Suddenly, a man, half Joe's size, who spoke very broken English, with the worst breath I've come across since a few doozies in my dental hygiene school days, grabbed Joe's shirt and said, "I take you. I take you to Aesch." He had obviously heard us talking about needing to get to the canton, Aesch, where our kids would be waiting for us. He literally helped us off the tram, made our way through a maze of people, and then we blindly followed him as he weaved in and out of streets until we came upon a bus. He made sure we all got on the bus, and then another bus, and then guided us safely to another tram so we could get back to Aesch. All we could do was say "Danke" over and over again. We didn't have the vocabulary we would have liked to thank him properly, but we were so grateful for his goodness that day.
And then it hit me. How grateful I am for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in my life. How many times is my Father in Heaven trying to tell me or teach me something, and I am not listening because I'm not in tune with His "language." It is the gift of the Holy Ghost, like the smelly saint who literally grabbed us and guided us to our destination, who helps me get closer to my goal of being on the same path as Jesus Christ. Physical goal: LEARN GERMAN. Spiritual goal: Continue to learn how God speaks to me.
And Finally. My last tram lesson for the day.
Joe and I had just parted from our "Swiss Culture" welcome course. He went back to work and Mack and I were headed home to run some errands before picking the kids up from school. This time, I drove into the city, but was taking the tram just a short way to the parking garage. It was the middle of the day and since I had just learned that from 12-2pm every day is considered "quiet time," not many people were with me on the tram. My stop arrived and I pushed the button to alert the driver that I'd be getting off. I grabbed the stroller and headed out with Mack in front of me, when to my surprise, the front two wheels of the stroller didn't hit the curb, but fell straight out of the tram and into this empty space in between the curb and the tram. As they did, the entire stroller started to fall as well, and I was headed right over the top of it. Suddenly, out of no where, I felt a strong hand on my upper arm, and another hand grabbing the stroller, as they pulled us to safety. Startled, I looked up, and saw 2 older gentleman, of different nationalities, who had jumped to our aid. Again, I mumbled a bunch of "danke's," frustrated with myself that I didn't know enough German yet to properly thank these gentlemen for saving us from a nasty fall. As I walked toward the parking garage, I thought of these men. I don't even know if German was their first language. I do know that they didn't need to help me. But they chose to.
With so much political turmoil in the world and especially in the US with the recent election, I have seen and read about so much division and hatred. But this day, I witnessed kindness from complete strangers who didn't speak my language. And they may have not spoken each other's native tongue. But they chose to be kind to someone who is a newcomer to their land. And I choose to follow their example and be kind. There is still a lot of good in this world. And I choose to focus on it and try to spread it in my own life. Refugees, friends, immigrants, family members, neighbors, strangers... We should treat everyone with respect. What the world would be like if we could all just "try a little harder to be a little better." (Gordon B. Hinckley).
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
I have to say, I'm very impressed with the International School thus far. I remember seeing plenty of educational posts and documentaries about how the Danish and other European countries do education. Kids are allowed to wander and explore in the forest in all types of weather... they don't even begin to teach children to read until age 7... I was intrigued. The concept sounded very promising. Well, as we have started at ISB, I've come to see some things that I already love. First off, Luke gets to participate in Walderkinder. He went exploring in the forest with his class (all bundled up in snow gear) and when they reached the trees, he looked at his teacher and said, "YOU MEAN I CAN GO AND DO WHATEVER I WANT?!!" And she happily said yes. They spend two or more hours outside creating pretend islands and finding the best sticks... It's all about imagination for him. And frankly, it's perfect. My other two had PLENTY of imagination at Luke's age. It isn't something that comes easily to him. He was THRILLED to show me his monsters that he painted after reading, "Where the Wild Things Are." Frankly, he has it way easier in kindergarten here than he did at home with me. Hahaha!
Jake's jealous that he's not in kindergarten. But the great news is, class sizes are small so the kids can go at whatever pace works for them and homework is MINIMAL for him and Kate. No busy work. Hallelulah!!!
Joe had the biggest meeting of his Swiss career on his birthday. What luck. He left early in the morning and didn't return home until after midnight. THANKFULLY it went well. Really well. He was so relieved. So was I. But, we had a chance to celebrate the weekend before by trying out a new restaurant that we will probably not go back to. Hahahaha!!!! Kids weren't thrilled about the raw meat, octopus and rabbit on the menu... Morning of, we sang to him as he blew out his candle in a cutie, sent him off to work with a bunch of cards and a lotta love. He's the greatest. Love him with all of my heart.
Oh how I'm grateful for this one. All of the kids are in school (so weird--still struggling with that one a touch). Joe is at work all day. And I have to go around and figure things out around town. It'll be a bit easier when I learn some German. But for now, all I have to do is take this guy with me wherever I go, and I'm set. They smile and laugh and talk to Mack. And he smiles and giggles back. As long as I have him by my side, people are nice to me. So far. Thank heavens!!!
Sunday, January 8, 2017
When you come into a country with "fresh eyes" you tend to notice things that are so commonplace for the locals, that they don't even think to tell you about them. We've had many of those moments already. And as we figure out:
*tram rules and times (they are never late and ALMOST never break down)
*new cars (ever heard of an Espace?!!! Well, there's not enough space, that's for sure!)
*grocery carts (yes, you have to have a coin to unlock the cart and use it--brilliant way for getting people to return their carts)
*garbage stickers (every canton has it's own. You can't throw away your tiny little garbage bag without one paying for the stickers)
*recycling rules (there are quite a few... overall they need to be separated and taken to the grocery store)
*quiet hours (10pm-7am and 12-2pm daily + all day Sunday. No overly loud music, showering, or children or vacuums or washing machines.... I can guarantee you that I've already broken this rule due to puking, sudden bed wetting and oh, how about that baby that isn't used to the 9 hour time difference?!!! I'm sure our neighbors are saying a few things about these Americans. Can't wait to get into our own place! )
*registering and deregistering in different cantons (every time you move)
*grocery shopping in Switzerland
*grocery shopping in France
*grocery shopping in Germany
*speed limit rules (already got a ticket-- I really did--don't speed in Switzerland. Just don't. And if you see a flash... you've got one too.)
*where to find the nearest bathrooms
*what's the best cheese to use when making Mexican dishes (cheddar is rare-- thinking Gouda)
*I'm sure there's so much more...
*Then of course the day to day stuff like finding good doctors, dentists, hairstylists, etc... we are far from close to getting it all accomplished. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. Thankfully, we have been so fortunate to have people reach out to us and take us places and show us things and answer our questions.
I've noticed a few similarities and definite differences from living in Chile. I'm going to throw a few out there while they come to mind. Definitely not a complete list, but here's what I've noticed thus far:
1. Dogs. They are everywhere in Chile. Never on a leash. Smartest dogs I've ever seen. They are everywhere in Switzerland. Everyone of them has been on a leash. They are treated like children here. They even ask you when you enter the country how many dogs you have. When looking for a house to rent, they assume you will have dogs but will say in the description: "Children permitted (or not)."
2. Driving. Every man for himself in Chile. I considered it a complement when a taxi driver flipped me off. It meant I was a pretty dang good driver with some awesome skills. Never worried about the speed limit. But here it's more like, "After you, please." I have never met such courteous drivers in my life! And everyone obeys the speed limit. They just do. People move over so you can merge, they slow down to let you in, the pull to the side to let you pass...and pedestrians and bicycles have the right of way. It's incredible. I do have to admit, I can't wait to try out the autobahn...
3. Waste baskets, washing machines, trash bags, refrigerators, etc... They were teeny tiny in Chile and they are teeny tiny in Switzerland.
4. Garbage Disposals. Don't exist in either one. I miss mine.
5. Rules. Not really enforced in Chile. Switzerland? You better be a law abiding citizen or you are outta here.
6. Grocery Shopping. You basically go every day. In both countries. That's just how life is. I miss Costco already... ;) You have to weigh your fruits and veggies in both countries. In Chile, you wait in line and have a person do it for you. In Switzerland, you do it yourself. The kids LOVE to help me with it.
7. Food. Both countries don't have brown sugar like the states. Both countries have banned many foods that the US allows. I always get really excited, thinking that I'm going to be so much healthier when I leave the country. In Chile, I just baked more and ate it. Here, I find myself buying soft pretzels and pastries on almost a daily basis... oh and the yogurt... and the chocolate... I'm doomed. Just doomed. We were thrilled to find that they did have some cereals here that Chile did not have. Rice Krispies and Golden Grahams!!! Interesting that the Golden Grahams don't taste as sticky sweet as they do in the states. I like it. And goldfish? Well, we discovered the original ones that don't have the fake cheese. The kids like them better!!! Woohooo!!!! Milk. They have FRESH MILK in the grocery stores here! I was overjoyed.
8. Buses: In Chile, people would get in fist fights so they could get a spot on the bus. Here, people hold the door open and move over to allow you to enter.
9. People: Both Chileans and Swiss are reserved until you get to know them. Then they become your dearest, life-long friends. We experienced this in Chile and can't wait to have the same experience here.
10. Countryside: Both are absolutely breathtaking. Can't wait to get out there and explore!!! (Maybe when temperatures reach above zero degrees...)
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
And I'm actually typing my blog address into the internet and logging in. I haven't done that for... well, since we said goodbye to Chile. I had really great intentions of keeping it up. But when we returned home to California, so much happened-- being with family, vacations, moving into temporary housing, selling our own house, buying 2 cars, finding a place to live after that temporary housing ran out, getting the kids settled into daily life, homeschooling, getting Joe and I settled into daily life, basketball teams, baseball teams, Tae Kwon Do, Swim team, piano, Cub Scouts, Activity Days, OH, and how about having a baby?! Mack Joseph Berryhill joined us on March 31, 2016. We are all smitten. Yes, I could say that our 18 months home was non-stop chaos in a lot of ways, but it was also pure bliss. Being so close to our family again was a little slice of heaven. I didn't have time to document any of it, because I was too busy living it!!! You might catch little blips of 2015-16 in the future, but I'm trying to get our new adventure started off right.
In October, Joe came home and casually asked me if I'd be ready to move to Switzerland. What?!!! We just moved back!! We had a 6 month old baby!! We lived 4 minutes away from Jen and 15 minutes away from Chris!!! The kids were all into their sports and music and half of those things they were able to do with their cousins because we lived in the same town!!!!!!! We had unsuccessfully put 4 offers on homes to buy in Pleasanton and were still looking! No, I wasn't ready to move again. It was too soon. I turned the question back to Joe. "I completely agree." He had only been in this new role for not even 2 years. So that was that. He went into the office and told them that he wasn't interested in this job they presented to him. I didn't think any more of it.
Then 3 days later he came home again and told me that they insisted he look into the job description a little more. It might really interest him. He looked into it. It did in fact interest him. I cringed. But then I started thinking. It's Switzerland. I always told Joe I'd love to go there if the chance ever arose. And if he really wanted to do another international assignment, then we'd better do it quickly, while the kids were still young. After a lot of mental taxation and praying... he applied for the job. And 2 months later, here we are.
So the adventure begins in subzero temperatures. We made it. We are all alive. We are freezing. We don't speak a lick of German. We are exhausted. It's going to be a great 3 years!!!