Archive for August, 2013

The Painting Fiasco: Getting Our House to a Normal State

August 29, 2013

The last week has seen our house turned upside-down. It was a bit chaotic – and it happened to be a time we were hosting our beautiful friend Cynthia. 🙂

You see, when we did the walk-through, the landlord said that the walls needed to be repainted. Only problem is, we moved in the next day. Then the painter guy was on vacation. So long story short, he was just now able to paint our place. You know, nearly a month later.

Now, what I thought would be a day affair was not so. He came in, inspected the rooms, then said he could NOT paint the colored walls that we had agreed earlier would be painted. Well, fine, so I could paint them how I wanted. See example A below.

Yellow spongy walls!

Then he proceeded to spend an hour taping up two rooms, leaving for an hour to get supplies, and taking another hour to paint one room. Then he took a three hour lunch break. Wow. If we could all work so hard.

He only came back for another couple hours in the afternoon to paint two more rooms. Then he said he was done for the day and he would come back next week. Umm…really? We didn’t exactly sign up for a multi-day thing here. Dejectedly, we spent the entire time Cynthia was here with our furniture moved into the middle of rooms and the house a mess.

It so happens, he came back on Tuesday to paint the rest of the house. Or so we thought. The day started with him finding a giant crack in the ceiling that made it look like the floor above us was going to cave in. Why we hadn’t noticed this in a month of living here I have no idea. Anyway, after talking with the landlord, he wacked all the plaster away to inspect it, we found that it was nothing to worry about, and then he had to get plastering supplies to re-plaster the ceiling.

While this was happening, I was then able to paint our living/dining room wall light green!

Finally, around 4pm he said he was done for the day. Then he came back this morning to finish the two bathrooms. Meanwhile, this morning we also had visitors from some guys who wanted to do something with our windows. Just what, I have no idea, but it involved sanding down the outside of them. Note to self – learn German better to read the notice they put on the front door of our building.

The rest of our living room — almost back to normal

Hopefully this is the last of it. I just want everything to be back in place and for our home to, you know, actually start feeling like a home. I mean, it’s been over 4 months. I’m getting really antsy to have a comfortable home of my own about now.

My Glamorous Swiss Life

August 11, 2013

I did not know what direction this post would take when I started writing it earlier this week, but it has evolved into more of a reflective post about how living life as an expat isn’t always as glamorous it seems. Therefore, I have created a new “Reflections/Personal” category to file this under and wanted to put out a disclaimer that this post is directed more towards friends and family — and also to fellow expats.

I was going to post about my recently acquired GA pass which allows me to travel the country. It’s a beautiful thing and I made use of it by traveling to Konstanz on Monday, finding a nice cafe on the Rhein with free wifi and working on my grad school applications.

Sojourn to Konstanz

However, I decided that the post praising the wonders of the GA can wait.

You see, I’ve been in a reflective mood this week. Maybe it has something to do with me trying to wrap my mind around writing a personal statement for grad school and thinking about what I want my future to be. In thinking about this, I’ve been reflecting on my time here and how things are so much different than I imagined them to be.

Before I came here, I had imagined a lot of things about how my life would be. I told people that I would have so much time on my hands to do all sorts of personal projects, like finally put together the wedding video (yeah, still not happening), learn how to play the piano and guitar, and have plenty of time for Coursera classes. I’d learn German. I’d learn how to cook and always have a warm meal for my husband. I joked with Aunt Shana and Uncle Dave that I’d be making a trip to the market every day. And most of all, I knew that I would spend most of my time traveling and exploring.

Well, now that I’ve been here 4 months (today!), I’m noticing that my visions of life in Switzerland are not all as planned. Come on fellow expats, back me up: when you are finally living the dream in a foreign country, you find that priorities you thought you would have become shifted and new ones quickly take their place. It can be disconcerting, feeling like you aren’t accomplishing what you told everyone back home you would be doing. And yet it can also be greatly rewarding — finding things to focus your energy on that you would have never imagined when you were dreaming about this glamorous lifestyle way back when.

So, for me… Learning German? Ok, yes, I’m now in level 3 – so this mostly remained a priority, though I feel I never have time to practice or utilize it because A) I surround myself with expats on a daily basis and B) In the land of Swiss-German, it’s not as easy as one might think to practice high-German. Cooking for Mr. Goat? Haha, oh please. I’m actually rather surprised at just how unenthused I am about cooking in general these days. Personal projects? Don’t know if I’ll ever have time! And traveling? Well, this is another area that I’ve seen missing in my life here (besides the few weekend trips Mr. Goat and I have made).

It feels strange. To not have time for all these things that I decided were priorities merely months ago. And thus, I’ve been re-evaluating my goals this week. What is really important?

Well, here is the list I’ve compiled about what I consider (now) my top priorities:

1. Grad School application and studying for the GRE

2. Musical Rehearsal

3. Red Cross volunteering

4. Travel (yes, it’s moved down to #4!!)

5. Learning German

The problem with this is my other various engagements constantly threaten to take over my time — including various social groups and activities I have found myself a part of, trying to make this house a home, planning for friends and family who are visiting, etc. It’s amazing to me  just how easily my time can be used up and just how many distractions I have bombarding me on a daily basis. The previous though was: hey, I won’t be working, I’ll have time for everything.

The thought now is: how did I become this jumbled and when will I ever get anything done?? Interesting to realize that when I was employed, I had it easier. It was so much simpler to draw the line with activities I had time for vs. those I didn’t. To feel like I could get things done. Now, I cannot seem to accurately gauge just how much of a time-suck all my activities are.

I recently have tried many time-management techniques to make myself more productive. So far, nothing has really worked. Don’t get me wrong, I love being this busy and to have discovered so many productive ways to spend my unemployed time. But in a lot of ways, I feel so much more scattered these day. I feel like I need to get more grounded. To fall into more of a routine. And to stop taking on so many new activities! Apparently, much to my dismay, I can’t do it all.

Cannons and Bonfires: Swiss National Day

August 2, 2013

So, I woke up yesterday bright and early at 7am (I know some of you who work earlier than that are snickering at me right now). The cause of why I woke so suddenly was what sounded like people setting off fireworks at very precise spacing apart from each other. I wrote it off as excitement because it was Swiss National Day (much like the predictable occurrence of hooligans setting off fireworks bright and early on the 4th of July to the extreme delight of their neighbors). It went on for, I want to say, a solid half hour, in unison with groans from Mr. Goat.

It wasn’t until later when I was looking up the festivities for the day that I realized exactly what it was. And it wasn’t fireworks. Please click here for pictures and a better explanation than I can provide (although you will need to translate this page with Google Translate or read in Chrome with translator on, as I couldn’t find it in English). I am so going to this next year! Cannons and a 38-shot gun salute? Count me in.

Leading up to the day, I didn’t know exactly how Zürich celebrated August 1st. All the blogs I was reading were telling me to spend the day swimming on the lake, at concerts, or at some party a bar was hosting. Thanks to the Canton of Zürich for posting an official program of the celebratory activities — in English! You can find the Bundesfeier 2013 program here.

So after learning that I missed the awesome wake-up call, I decided I wasn’t going to miss the rest of the day! I went down to see the procession near Bürkliplatz around 10:30 and then the following program at 11. Aaaaand now I know why fellow bloggers weren’t recommending the official program. It was a yawn fest. Note to self: don’t need to see all that next year.

Here are some photos of the day:

Procession through town to Bürkliplatz

And what day celebrated by the Swiss would be complete without the obligatory Alphorn performance?

As night drew nearer, we were looking for ways to celebrate, since much to Mr. Goat’s disappointment, we weren’t able to get fireworks to light off ourselves. At 8pm, sitting outside eating dinner, I began hearing more bells than I have ever heard before in our new home. These bells continued echoing on from all directions for at least 15 minutes. It was quite magical, really. Then, as night fell, we made our way out to Altstetten’s neighborhood bonfire. It’s pretty awesome that neighborhoods put on bonfires for National Day. Next year we are totally bringing s’mores supplies.

And then we came home to this. Poor Marius was cowering in the smallest area he could find in response to all the fireworks.