Rules.

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As a typical Virgo, I was quite excited to hear about the Swiss and their love of rules, sounded like just my kind of place. Little did I know that all the regulations would wake the latent rebel in me. Sometimes I long to do something wild like hang clothes out to dry on a Sunday …

My mum was considered a bit of a hippy back in the 80s for recycling and going on about E numbers. I was greeted every morning by the sight of a Greenpeace sticker urging me to save the whales. It must have sunk in though because I try to do my bit for the environment.

In Sydney I was pretty good at recycling and made regular trips to the yellow bin in our building. Here in Switzerland my efforts have dwindled because there are so many rules about when and where to put everything. At the moment there is a pile of cardboard threatening to take over the kitchen until we make it to collection day on the last Friday of the month. I take the rubbish out after dark because I’m never sure if its unexciting contents might be of interest to the ‘rubbish police’. The empty bottles on the balcony give the impression that there’s a party at our place every night. Recycling is not allowed on Sunday. Or weeknights. Right now I’m more scared of getting told off by the local oldies than the future of the planet.

Many of the rules here are related to noise, so downloading a film is okay, but if you wash your car or mow your lawn on a Sunday it’s quite possible that your neighbour might call the police.

When I can’t ignore the pile of dirty clothes any longer and take it upon myself to spontaneously stroll to the washing machine, I’m forever grateful that I don’t need to enter the world of shared laundry rules.

But as time passes I’m becoming more accustomed to the hushed Sunday’s and general sense of obedience. I was surprised to discover that Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world. Considering it’s not somewhere generally associated with violent crime, could there be something to learn from this tranquil land?

Perhaps the secret to a harmonious society is one where people respect the rules and each other’s right to peace. It might seem rigid and stifling to the uninitiated, but maybe that’s just part of the assimilation process.

I might still grumble about the growing bottle collection because Sunday seems to be the only day I have the inclination to do anything about it, but I’m starting to appreciate that other people might not want to listen to the sound of smashing glass. This new understanding might be a sign that I’m ready to enter a new phase of culture shock – adjustment.

Postcard.

There are times when I’ll be wandering around the Swiss village we currently call home and something will catch my eye, distracting me from whatever task was underway. Living abroad is real life with all its usual demands, but there is something special about finding things to discover on an ordinary day.

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Storytime.

Some time ago I was attempting to read a bedtime story to three disgruntled children who were having a familiar disagreement about who would take the two spaces next to me. In the past the little one had sat on my lap, but now that she wasn’t so little anymore it was getting trickier to see the pages with her head in the way. Something had to change and the each child gets their own story routine was introduced. Bedtime now takes forever, but at least it’s calmer than before.

When my big girl began to outgrow the books she had brought with her from Australia, and the books that started to come home from school were in German, I realised that I wasn’t sure what other kids her age were reading. Harry Potter seemed a big leap from fairy books.

Then I came across when Hitler stole pink rabbit by Judith Kerr. For a girl who is never sure what to answer when people ask where she is from, my daughter could identify with Anna, despite the difference in circumstances, through the beautifully told story of adventure and belonging and identity.

As we followed Anna on her journey from Germany to Switzerland, the words on the page brought to life a village along lake Zurich and we wondered if it could be the very same village as ours. The description of how it felt to start school in Paris, without being able to speak French, had an effect on my daughter because what she was reading mirrored her own experience and was more helpful than anything I could say.

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The wisdom in this book will certainly stay with me and I would recommend it for any nomadic children out there. The feeling of wonder throughout was a good reminder that while I may worry about my children not having a sense of home, all that really matters to them is that we are together. Together we are home, and that is a rather lovely thing to realise.