Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Friends

My goal was to have a meaningful post about something we love and will miss about Zurich for every day of June. The only problem with the plan was that it has left me blogging about the things that are super important to me when I am super tired. Adequate amount of sleep or no, it would be difficult to write about how much we will miss the people we've come to know and trust over our years here. Perhaps I'll return to this month-o-blogging once the dust settles and give this post the weight it deserves.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Townes's Friends

I remember exactly where I was standing when Nancy told me that she was expecting. We had all been suspicious for some time at that point but she pulled a fast one on us with the twin surprise! Here's the girls out for a stroll four days before Townes was born:



And here they are last month at the breakfast table in Burgundy:



Townes loves Rachel and Julia and lately has cried if we walk past the bus stop without getting on to go to their house. He feels as comfortable in their home as ours and loves to give the girls kisses.


Now Edwina and I had been swimming buddies for a couple of months (Doing laps and then going for french fries at the pub next door is not exactly the picture of strong accountability partners but at least it evened out a bit!) when she popped into my classroom at the end of the 07-08 school year and said, 'I've been looking forward to tell you, I'm 12 weeks pregnant.' At this point I was about 11 and a half weeks preggo and had been eager to tell her my news!

There's so much to say about Johnny- Edwina and I have encouraged the boys to be BFFs and they really do complement each other. Johnny is way more physically advanced than Townes- he has been walking since before they turned one and is quite adventurous. Townes is the talker of the pair. (Though Johnny is learning both German and English at home.) I can picture the ways that the two will grow and think that they could have been good pals even without our motherly maneuvering. For now, they've been working on their high five and kicking the football back and forth.





Townes also loves time with Maureen's trio. Abby is the same age as T and Johnny. Townes likes Abby well enough but he adores Luke and just watches him with an open smile for the majority of their time together.



It has been a delight sharing this journey into motherhood with my friends. And I honestly believe that Townes will miss his pals. Annual baby group reunion sounds like a good idea to me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Travel








We'll certainly miss traveling. And we've been very fortunate over the years.

Quiz time- can you identify all the places in the photos above?

We'll post the answers before we leave on the 6th.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ice Cream

Do you know how to say 'ice cream' in Swiss German?
MOVENPICK

I have no pictures of this Swiss brand of delicious ice cream even though I had a bowl tonight with our pals the Langans. Coy bought a Swiss chocolate and a Raspberry & Cream because he is an ice cream visionary when it comes to perfect combinations.

I will be adding photos of us enjoying a cone at the shop just down the street soon. Thank you, blogspot, for giving me the excuse to make the trip again.


In addition to the many flavors of Movenpick that I'll miss, going to the movies won't be the same when we leave. The theaters inset ice cream breaks into the films. It always catches me by surprise...watching your movie and then it just stops in the middle and the lights come on and everyone goes for a stretch and to grab some ice cream! At first it sort of annoyed me but now I like that it makes going to the movies a bit more social- you have the chance to discuss the plot with your pals and enjoy a treat. Maybe we could just keep the tradition up at home!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Swiss

In the international community, we often hear people grumble about the citizens of our host country and we think that's a real shame. Yes, they're sticklers for punctuality and paperwork. Yes, I've been stopped and told that Townes looks like he needs to be wearing a hat and the twins were once brought a glass of water by a stranger in a cafe because she thought they looked thirsty. Yes, I've seen some glaring stares when I'm in a group that is being too loud. But let's face it- Americans do talk really loud!

I have found the Swiss to be kind and helpful. I've only had to wrestle the stroller off of a tram without assistance a few times. Townes is the only child in the apartment building and people dote on him. And when commenting to Coy once about the number of stories I've heard of older Swiss people giving unrequested advice to moms about their children (clothes seem to be the most common hints given- socks/shoes/hats/gloves/blankets), he said that it is actually pretty cool to live in a place where people felt like they could play a grandparenty role to all in the community. Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch but I think he was on to something. There is a true sense of looking out for one another and being aware of how your own actions impact the people around you.

Here's a few random things I like:
When you arrive or leave, you are expected to greet each person with a handshake or a kiss on the cheeks (we're a 3-kiss country, no playing around like with the weak 1-kiss number in Venezuela). To be honest, I'm still not great at this because it's not expected with our American friends but I really like the intentionality .
When having a drink with friends or before a meal, you should look each person in the eyes as you clink and say 'Prost.' Again, it's the idea of taking a moment to acknowledge your connection to each person that I love.

It's a nice day to appreciate the Swiss and their lovely culture. We spent half of our day at a yodeling festival! Though it was a bit more formal than we expected with concerts being held around the town, we enjoyed seeing all of the outfits, eating at the beer halls, and hearing the alpine horns.




In fact the day wore out both of the boys! Here's Townes crashed out in the backpack which gave us the perfect opportunity for a beer and sausage break:



And here's Coy an hour later at the park:


Friday, June 25, 2010

ICS

School's out for the summer for my former co-workers and students at the Inter-Community School of Zurich. Townes and I popped by yesterday and caught teachers slipping into celebration mode. We went in order to pick up some preschool materials that we'll be taking on to Ghana but it was also nice to see good friends.
Here's a shot from some of my kids on their last day of school a few years ago:




As some of you may know, my first year of teaching right out of college was a tough one. I sought out a difficult assignment in an inner city school that was under-resourced and understaffed. And it was hard, really hard. Loving my students and believing that everyone can learn wasn't enough on a daily basis. By the time the year ended, I had decided it was time to step away from teaching. So I stepped really far away to Caracas!

Getting the job at ICS was a true blessing. My friend Nancy had introduced me to the principal who started calling me in to substitute. An unexpected opening popped up and I was hired. Later I asked the principal about why he had hired me when they are turning away dozens of highly qualified teachers at international school fair. He said that many years of working in schools has taught him that personality was often more important than a resume.

The school really is impressive- a bit shy of 1000 students from pre-K to 12th grade, 40+ countries in the student body, and teachers from all over (many of whom have been spinning the globe for years, just teaching in whatever region interested them). The school follows the IB program which means I was introduced to the Primary Years Program. At first it just seemed like a bunch of acronyms to learn but I really was drawn to the emphasis on teaching kids to be lifelong learners.

Hmm, I'm feeling compelled to tell lots of teacher stories about funny things my students did and said. But instead I'll just say that my time at ICS restored my love of teaching and it prepared me to try again. I doubt that I will ever teach at a school that is as abundantly resourced with materials and a tremendous support staff and eager, involved families. And the training I received on using a SmartBoard probably won't be put to use in the schools where I'll be volunteering a bit in Africa. However, I learned many things in my years at ICS that will impact career decisions I make in the future.

Not so many pictures from school...I suppose they're all tucked away in my files. This picture was the day that we mailed our Flat Stanleys around the world and it was also Crazy Hair Day. If you're guessing that the kid in the bottom right corner was trouble, you're absolutely right!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Lake






I'm exhausted tonight but, frankly, I think these pictures say it all anyway.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Huts

The Alps are dotted with hundreds of huts. Some of our favorite outings have been hikes in various regions of the country to spend the night in a hut run by the Swiss Alpine Club. The set-up is ideal. No need to haul your own food or bedding or felt shoes because these things are provided by the hut. (Yep, we've always had to shelve our hiking boots upon entering and don indoor shoes!) Communal sleeping arrangements have left me feeling a bit like one of Snow White's dwarves.





The two pictures above were from our inaugural hut hike in the summer before we were married. And the two below are from our most memorable hut hike that involved a few near-death experiences on some cliffs and way more snow than we were prepared for in June.



We were the only guests beside the hut master and his pal so we spent the evening laughing and drinking schnapps. The hut master didn't speak English but he spoke Spanish and German so we were triangularly covered! The schnapps probably helped to keeping the conversation flowing.

We hiked to this hut with Braden and Anna when I was about 6 months pregnant.


I had called ahead to get a feel for the difficulty of the hike and had just described myself as a 'beginner' rather than being preggie. I was reassured that the climb was quite manageable so we were rather surprised when we had to scale this rock while holding onto a chain! Coy said that he had heart palpitations watching my scramble a boulder with BB in the way!




Coy was able to go on a hut hike just a few weeks ago with Jeremy and a pal from high school who now lives in Geneva:


What do you think- could we make a career out of starting a system of huts in the Smokies?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Porch




Having no proper arrangement for a table to eat around in the apartment, we eat outside as often as the weather allows. Many enjoyable evenings have been passed in the company of good friends and a cool breeze from the lake.

The splintery chairs were hauled off today in a massive attack on clearing out the apartment. I was sad to see them go but Townes probably just think that it allows him more space for declaring his independence and for tossing small objects between the rails.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Community Group

For our first three years here, our Monday nights were usually spent in the company of good friends from IPC. Our church encourages participation in community groups because it is so easy to feel unconnected to the congregation if you just pass through the big morning services. Our involvement in the Seefeld community group provided a wonderful rhythm to our week and a circle of close friends. For awhile, the group even alternated between meeting at our place and Lars's apartment up the street. We are so grateful for the discussions and prayers and fun shared with that group.

Despite our certainty that we would be the sort of parents who had a baby who adapted to our schedule and not the other way around, we soon realized that evening community group wasn't a good fit for fussy Townes. So in the past year, we've begun meeting with a community group designed to accommodate the complexities of having meaningful discussions with kids of all ages around! We have loved sharing family life with these other couples and it has been really good to be around friends whose parenting and marriage skills we admire.
Our community groups have encouraged, challenged, and loved us well.

As it turns out, I don't have a picture of either group so here's a mixmatch.
Philip meeting Townes when he was a day old.



The night I turned comm group into a belated Halloween photo op (I had made an octopus costume for T but had no where to take him in it!)




A hike with some folks from the original crew


The other day at the Women's Retreat with Maureen and Elaine

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, quiet Sundays

Though the Swiss would not be described as a very religious people, the Sabbath is standing strong. With the exception of restaurants and stores in the train stations, shops are closed on Sunday which creates a noticeable sense of calm. The city just seems still and quiet in comparison to the rest of the week.
We'd like to keep our Sabbaths quiet with the emphasis on time at church and time at home when we leave here. So if any of you see me at Target some Sunday in the future, send me home.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chocolate



I suppose this one goes without saying. We will miss Swiss chocolate.
Founded in 1836, Sprüngli is the Zurich chocolatier. In my first six months, I carefully sampled their selection of truffles and chocolates in order to pinpoint my favorite. I would pop into a store when in town (this was back in the day of living way outside of Zurich in farmland) and buy one or two pieces. My favorite is hands-down the dunkel Nougat Truffe- it's a dark chocolate pyramid with a layer of toffeeish crunch in between the shell and the soft dark chocolate filling. Yummy.

Coy was really impressed with Merkur's range of chocolate bark.



You order chunks of this goodness by the gram. The dark, milk, and white chocolate have various things inside- nuts, peppercorn, fruit. They are so delicious but I think you'd have to be a trader to prefer it to Sprüngli- Merkur is the Bern chocolatier.

In addition to the confiseries, the Swiss have a way with sneaking delicious chocolate into planty of foods. Schoggi gipfli was the first word I learned in Swiss German:



That term has been put into use plenty of times over the years!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Football

If we had left Switzerland a few months ago, football probably would not have made the miss list. But football fever has once again overcome Zurich and I LOVE it! (Note to all American readers: the World Cup is being played this month in South Africa. The World Cup is a huge soccer tournament that the rest of the world watches with rapt attention. At the moment I type this, I'm guessing that almost every television in the UK and in Algeria is turned to the game. The US is doing pretty well so far- we tied against the Brits and Slovenia. The game against Slovenia was earlier today and we looked pretty strong. We would have won but the tightly wound ref made a dubious yellow card call that denied our 3rd goal. Why am I going into such detail? I'm sure you were all watching, right?)

On Wednesday, Switzerland surprised everyone by beating Spain, a team who some thought could go all the way. I love this quote I read in an article about the game: "Switzerland interrupted 90 minutes of defending for their lives with a goal that sent shockwaves through Spain."
To say that the Swiss were excited is an understatement. A cinema-turned-bar in the building next to our apartment is showing every game. After the Swiss won, the crowd cheered outside in the street for over an hour! Townes was pretty interested in the commotion and I was thankful that the game had not been later in the evening. Other parts of Zurich apparently kept the celebration alive much longer. This photo was taken by a friend in the neighborhood near Coy's office:




Yeah, wherever we live when the next World Cup or even European Cup rolls round, we'll reminisce about watching in a country where everyone is excited about it.
Remember this shot from when Switzerland hosted the EC in '08:



We watched a lot of those games on this huge screen:



I suppose we'll have to go back to calling is soccer again once we're in the States. Really though, when you compare soccer and American football, it seems pretty obvious which sport should have the rights to the name!

Happy Half Birthday to the Boy-o

For those of you who are checking in with the blog now that we are focusing of the glamorous lifestyle of international jet setters (sausage and playgrounds- wow!), I must regress to being a baby blog. I need to pause from the Zurich-reflection and do some mama-reflection because Townes is a year and a half old today. Hard to believe it. With his actual birthday falling a week before Christmas, celebrating his half birfday may become an annual tradition.




Though he's typically a good sleeper (7:30 to 6), we have had a rough 24-hours so I'm just going to write some lists as a summary of our little boy.

Latest words: ocean, apple, awesome, wow, tractor, moon, ant, window, fan, fish, kick (this means both kick and throw),shoes, socks, no, mama, dada, bob (picked this up from a book), bus, cheese, boat, bike, whoosh (translation: airplane/helicopter and is accompanied by a hand motion), rmm/beep beep (translation: car/motorcycle/tram/train), ball

Animals noises: dog, cat, monkey, lion/bear/tiger (guttural roar for all 3), crocodile, owl, elephant, horse, sheep, pig, duck, cow, frog

Body parts that he can point to: hair, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, teeth, tongue, neck, hand, fingers, leg, feet, toes, knee, tummy

Enjoys: throwing things off the balcony (managed 5 utensils on Saturday), kissing the twins, walking around the park while holding someone's hand (at the moment, he prefers this to actually playing at the park), playing hide'n'seek under the table, strumming the banjo or guitar while his daddy plays, unloading the dishwasher (that's where he got the utensils for throwing!), his transportation-themed puzzle, waking up early, playing catch, reading, and he would happily eat sweet potatoes for every meal (This is a good thing- they're a staple in the Ghanaian diet!)

Recently mastered: the high five

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spas



The thermal baths of Switzerland are super popular and have been a draw for tourists for centuries. We have come to appreciate these 'wellness centers' and have visited several over the years.



In the winter, soaking in the spa feels restorative. The spas typically have stations that you rotate between- dry sauna, wet sauna, whirlpool, strong showers, sometimes a massage. I usually skip the station that involves dumping a bucket of cold water over my head. Sure, it's supposedly good for circulation but I'll just spend those extra minutes in the jacuzzi.

I should apologize to all of our guests who may be reading this and wondering why we didn't take you to enjoy one of our favorite things about Switzerland...you see, there are no bathing suits involved at these spas and I'm not sure if Americans are wired to spend an hour hanging out with each other in the buff!



However, Townes didn't seem to mind a couple of weekends ago when we went to a wellness hotel in the mountains. He's so Euro!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our Walk



Practically every night of the last four months of my pregnancy, we walked our favorite loop. Even now if Coy makes it home before 7, we toss the boy-o in the backpack and walk it. I'm still amazed by how removed we can feel from the city while on this walk. We stroll alongside a small creek that runs to the lake. We pass by the Botanic Gardens. Sometimes there are sheep in the field so we'll stop to 'baa' for awhile (this component was added once we had Townes along for the fun). We usually pause at the open field to look out at the sky. And then we circle back down, passing the small quaint cheese shop and make our way home.



A simple part of our life here but one that will be greatly missed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recycling




So I won't exactly miss hauling all of our glass, plastic, and cardboard out of our place and down the street but I'm proud of the level of recycling that we do here. It is pretty easy to manage because I can take the plastic and cardboard to our grocery store (though apparently taking pictures at the grocery store is an activity worthy of confused and mildly irritated stares from grocery store staff as I learned while snapping the above photo today!) and the glass dumpsters are on the way to our favorite walk. Recycling is highly encouraged here by the ridiculous price tag put on garbage bags. Of course I'd rather recycle than burn through a roll of garbage bags in a week. If only our apartment had a place for composting, we'd be set.




Which reminds me of a story from before my time here in CH when Coy was put in charge of recycling at the shared house with the 3 Swiss gals. Apparently they all thought that he was doing really well with the task until someone opened a door in the basement and found months worth of bottles and newspapers and cans! Busted.

Coy has come a long way and, at this rate with the amount of time/energy that we devote weekly to recycling, our moderate use of cloth diapers, and our reliance on public transport, we definitely qualify as tree huggers by TN/AL standards.