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Just got back from the airport…

Michelle and the boys have just flown out, and I’m here for another six weeks to finish work, hand over the apartment and tie up any loose ends.

I’m sure Michelle will blog about her trip, and I’ve got a couple of posts lined up (Geneva Auto Salon, and more) so there will still be plenty more to read about here.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying our sunny balcony – something we’ve not really been able to do until recently.

Heading home

One thing that makes travel abroad tricky is having young kids.  And, after fulfilling our dream of spending some decent time in Switzerland, we have decided to return back to NZ.  The problem is, we don’t want to!  But we are – for many reasons (mostly for the kids – schooling, family, church, language etc).  Everything in Switzerland is perfect and great.  We absolutely love it here.  Funny actually, cos I am Swiss and Daniel is not and I was worried that he would get home sick and struggle with the language.  But he is the one even more keen than me to stay longer.

The plan is that I will return home end of March with the boys and Daniel will finish work and sort out the remaining paperwork(!) and head home a month later, just before our one-year return plane tickets expire.  I kind of wish we weren’t bound by these tickets, then we would stay for another summer.  Ah well.  This is life and I am getting very excited now to see all our friends and family again…  Even if it means sitting through another winter (a wet and windy one instead of a dry, snowy one).  There is nothing a mid-winter escape to Rarotonga or Fiji can’t cure though!

The past couple of weeks have been crazy, getting the house sorted, sending a number of registered mail letters informing Spielgruppe, health insurance, cablecom etc. of our leaving.  And then getting sick has made it the most stressful time.  I think Switzerland has been the most relaxing time of my life… until now.

Daniel and I have been doing a lot of reflecting and trying to decide what things we want to bring back, things we want to do differently in NZ, what is really important in life, other goals and dreams we want to fulfill.

Here are just a few things we have learnt – not all are life changing but are important to us nonetheless!:

  • Our need for family, church, God is as great here as anywhere.  Without the wonderful Vineyard Aarau, making friends would have been tricky.  And spending time with the boys has been so good for me as a mother – not working or too busy for once!
  • There is more to hot drinks than black tea or coffee.  There are a million herbal tea varieties (and it is ok for guys to drink them and not risk losing their manliness).  Gluhwein, Apfel punsch are easy to make at home and so tasty!
  • If you eat less at dinner time, somehow you feel better and don’t put on weight – even if you do have to eat 12 kilos of chocolate to keep up with the rest of the Swiss.  And, it is ok to be vegetarian, even for guys!  (there seems to be a theme here…)  Eat out more at good restaurants (no, that does not include McDonalds, Wendy, Burger King, KFC…)
  • Drive less, bike & walk more.  This will be tricky in the land of the sucky public transport and dangerous drivers though.  We do have our heart set on getting a 1950/1960 VW beetle though, so a little bit of driving is definitely on the cards.
  • Speaking of cards – play more games, board games (have you heard of the game ‘DOG’ – it rocks!).  Is it just me or do the Swiss spend less time in front of TV’s and computer games?
  • Plan better – the Swiss are great at being organised.  I haven’t met a Swiss without a weekly planner…
  • Decorate our home more with candles and seasonal stuff – all the beautiful easter decorations out at the moment blow me away.  So pretty and tasteful.  I love how the Swiss are so house proud.

Things that we will really miss:

  • Earning good money – yip that has to be top of the list.  Swiss employers really look after their guys, in every way (well, Daniel definitely has had a perfectly wonderful employer).  And income tax is low.
  • Trains – I don’t know how to tell the boys that Auckland has one train line and no fast trains.
  • The friends and relatives.  It has been so good to meet new and old friends and get to know the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins.
  • The weather – the hot dry summers and cold snowy winters.

No doubt we will be back – one day.

Lacking or Slacking?

We need to apologise for our lack of blogging. We haven’t been slack, it is that we have had no computer cos it died on us a few weeks ago. We have a lot of things to blog about so will have to catch you all up on that soon. Today is a big day… Toby, Noah and I are heading back to New Zealand. Our year here is up already, far to fast. Daniel is staying a bit longer to finish up with the apartment and work. But we promise lots more blogging adventures with us, whether from NZ or Switzerland!

Basler Fasnacht

I have been excited about checking out Fasnacht for months now. So inspite of still being a wee bit sick, I took the boys on the train into Basel for the Basler Fasnacht Wednesday parade. We missed out on the local Aarau Fasnacht. If we had all been well, we would have loved to go to the opening 4am parade on Monday in Basel too.

Fasnacht is a pre-lenten festival held in parts of southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  I can`t figure out much more than that about the history of it. I have to say that Fasnacht is one of the strangest carnivals ever. Does anyone actually know where it came from and why people wear crazy and quite frankly, scary costumes?! All the websites I check out don’t seem to really know. They do say you have to be a Basler to understand the humour of it.  And their dialect too.  I guess I didn`t really understand.  Like, what was with the Santa Clause look-a-like riding a giraffe with a bunch of aviator head, tropical musicians?

And why do they throw fruit? An elderly man standing next to me wasn’t so lucky, I guess his reflexes weren’t so quick and got and orange thrown at his nose. There were oranges and bananas being thrown in every direction. Along with garlic and leeks?! I know, random! Of course, HUGE amounts of confetti everywhere.

Noah wasn`t too excited about all the noise and fuss.  Well, he fell asleep, so I guess that kind of gave an impression of boredom even though there were always about 5 different bands and flute groups playing around him. The noise was defeaning!  Have to give the musicians credit for being able to wear the heavy costumes, maneuver around town and play instruments (trying concentrating on the song you are playing while 3 other groups are playing something else right next to you!)

It was one of the weirdest events I have even attended, but I am still very impressed. It was pretty cool to be part of this festival, even if  just for an afternoon, and even though I didn`t get it. The costumes were incredible and must have taken lots of work and imagination. And the music was cool. Loved all the piccolo playing gnomes and colourful drummers. I love that people get into character and have no shame in wearing any costume and acting the part. Lots of the crowd were dressed up too, even wee one year olds.   Would love to the see the New Zealand crowd actually get dressed up for real. I have been to heaps of ‘costume parties’ where no one has bothered to get dressed up. SAD! Us New Zealanders have a lot to learn when it comes to tradition, costumes and throwing party parades!

Green Eggs & Ham

Since we are managing to stay sick (running into week three now!), reading stories to the kids has been quite popular. The most favourite book at the moment is Dr Seuss `Green Eggs & Ham`. I saw that Google paid tribute to Dr Seuss yesterday with this cool Dr Seuss logo:

dr-seuss

A bit of interesting trivia – Did you know Green Eggs & Ham was written using only 50 words? Here is what Wikipedia says:

Green Eggs and Ham is one of Seuss’s “Beginner Books”, written in a very simple vocabulary for beginning readers. The vocabulary of the text consists of just fifty different words, of which 49 are monosyllabic (the one exception being “anywhere”)…

Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s publisher, wagered $50 that Seuss could not write a book using only fifty different words. The bet came after Seuss completed The Cat in the Hat, which used 225 words. - Wikipedia Article.

Swiss trains – so mobile!

I have wondered many times whether the Swiss are technologically challenged, considering the amount of paperwork and phone calls and letters and trips to government agencies I have had to do (nothing seems to be done online… or by email).  But the Swiss Railway definitely do not have any technology shortcomings.   I love what SBB are doing…  Now you can buy a ticket for the train using your mobile phone!   And when the train conductor comes around to check your ticket, you show them the code given to you on your mobile phone and the conductor has a bar code scanner / reader to check it.  How cool!  How easy.

I am not looking forward to going back to Auckland trains where they run half an hour late, break down, catch fire, the conductor never has change for a $20 and no machines to buy tickets in advance.  Ah well.

A very snowy drive

After checking the weather forecast on Saturday night, we decided to hire a mobility car and go for a drive on Sunday.  The weather forecast somehow forgot to mention that there would be truckloads of snow all day!  But we had fun anyway, just drove pretty slowly.  We decided to head to the Drei-Seen-Land (Fribourg region).   There were lots of things to do and see – the Gruyere Castle and Cheese region, lots of beautiful lakes, the Papillion.  The kids were keen to check out some butterflys and sloths (I know, weird combination!) so we went to the Papiliorama in Kerzers, also checked out the Murten See and went home via the Emmentaler Cheese Factory.  It is freaky how you drive 50 minutes south and suddenly everyone speaks French!

Was so good to get out of the house after a week of being home sick.  Man, I forget how dumb it is to be sick.  I take good health for granted.  Lets hope this week we are on the up…

It’s been a while…

Hmmm,  we haven’t blogged for a while!  Not because we haven’t wanted too, but because we have been very sick over the past week.  We were meant to go away on a road trip for a few days for Daniel’s birthday but had to cancel / postpone  :(

Will post soon.  I promise!

Top 10 Cars: Aston Martin DB4GTZ

I’ve added a write-up for the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato to my Top 10 Cars list.

Trying Taxes

Ah the Swiss and their love for paper documents and form filling…

Last week, I received the annual tax form, I mean BOOK!  It is pages and pages of forms to fill out.  I had a headache earlier on in 2008 just filling out one page for provisional tax (which, by the way, I had to fill out again after we moved to Aarau – why they couldn’t just transfer our tax details from one town to another puzzles me!).  Along with this booklet of forms comes an ‘easy tax’ CD – which is a wee bit helpful but really just adds so much more information than I can handle and all in proper high freakin’ formal German.

Anyway, I have spent the last 4 hours doing lots of searching in the German / English Dictionary and think I am on my way to having it all sorted! I have definitely increased my knowledge of the German language with wonderful words like:

Wertschriftenverzeichnis, Liegenschaftsverzeichnis, Steuererklärungsformular, Erwerbsausfallentschadigungen, Steuerveranlagungsverfahren, Vermögensbestandteile, Gehaltsnebenleistungen, Quellensteuerverfahren, Kontokorrentabrechnungen, selbstsständiger Nebenerwerbstätigkeit, Ergänzungsleistungen

Gotta love the Germans and their compound words!

Anyway, came across this article today from 2006… So it seems that some Swiss are looking for a way to reduce the stress and paperwork involved in tax forms.  And the saving on administration costs would come as a tax benefit to citizens!  How cool!  I wonder if it ever came into action – doesn’t seem that way in Aargau!

Ok, really tired and have a sore head and eyes so am off to bed now.