Monday, May 26, 2014

Moving

This morning I asked my students to reflect on two questions as part of our migrations unit:

1.  What are some things people leave behind when they move?
2.  How does moving change people?

As no one in my class is native to Switzerland, I thought this might trigger some interesting thinking about moving and migration.  I also thought it was important to record my own ideas about these two questions to share with my kids.

When I move, the most important things I leave behind are relationships.  Leaving home, I left my mom and dad, who did not want me to move, who were (and at times, still are) very vocal about their disapproval of our overseas life.  I left my brother and his new wife and my sister.  I left behind a tight-knit group of friends that I married into when I married Jason.  It was not easy to say goodbye to any of these people and begin a new life overseas, with no established connections and friendships.

Since that initial move to Egypt, we have moved twice more.  Each time we've left behind dear friendships.  When you live overseas, your friends become your family, and each time we've said goodbye to those friends, my heart has broken a little.  Yes, we have Facebook, email, Skype, and blogs, but it is not the same.

When we move, we also leave behind places that are special to us.  Leaving Texas, I left the home that we brought Luke to after he was born, with many fond memories of good times there, memories of first steps and first words, walks around the block, and good times with neighbors and friends.  Leaving Egypt (gladly), we left behind places that had become part of our routine - Jared's Bagels, Lucille's, Maadi Community Church - and a place that had become our home - our shared apartment building with the Simons.  Leaving Venezuela, we left the beautiful Avila mountains outside our window, an apartment that felt like ours, and a school that was a place of refuge for us.  We also left favorite vacation spots - Siete Mares being the most memorable one.

Each time we move, we leave possessions, too.  I look at this as a good thing, as I always like to pare down what we have and leave with less.  However, there are always 1-2 things that I'd like to take, but can't because of space or weight.

Moving definitely changes people.  I've developed a harder shell that protects me emotionally and lets me detach from people a little bit, but I also have a soft underbelly - when I connect with people, I let them in more quickly than I might have at home.

Another way I've changed is that I can't remember anything anymore!  I have a brain full of faces and names that I can't match up, and I have forgotten so many things about home (like how to drive from one place to another).  When your head is filled with different countries and continents, things blur.

(Enough for now.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Venezuela en Mi Corazon

It’s Tuesday afternoon at 4:15, and I just walked home from school. It took me ten to twelve minutes, was uphill the whole way, and I read the news feed on my iPhone as I walked. About two blocks from home, a car slowed down and the passenger rolled down the window to talk to me.

This whole scenario is chock full of things I am privileged to enjoy here in Switzerland.  I can walk home from school safely.  I can have my iPhone out and not furtively look around to see if anyone notices it.  I can walk, distracted by what’s on that phone, virtually unaware of my surroundings.  I can hear a car slow down behind me and not fear for my life.  (Driving the car was a teacher friend who gave me a lift the last two blocks home.) 

I am so thankful for this life of safety and ease that I live here.  I am grateful that I can buy milk (and even choose how much fat it has in it), butter, toilet paper, flour, and sugar.  I am thankful every day that Luke and I can walk to and from school, and that he can even do that by himself.  I love the freedom and outdoor life we have here.  I know that one day I will appreciate so much more about this country and the Swiss life, and I’m getting there.  But today, my heart is thousands of miles away in Venezuela.

Yes, in the country where I couldn’t have walked home from school alone, where I never had my Blackberry out where anyone could see it (even though it was 8 years old and the screen was cracked), and where I would’ve freaked out if I’d heard the slow-down of a car engine pulling up behind me on the road. 
I LOVED Venezuela, almost from the moment we arrived.  Venezuela and ECA were my adopted home for four years, and Venezuela and its people wiggled its way into my heart almost instantly. 

What is it about that country that grabbed me?  I have been thinking lots lately about why that transition was so much easier for me than this one has been. 

First of all, it should not have been a comfortable place to move to.  In the first week we had a security briefing from the embassy security guys that was designed to scare the pants off of us.  We were told right away about items that might become scarce, like toilet paper and flour, and that we should stock up on them.  We were driven everywhere in groups on school buses and taught about safe places to walk and shop.  Yet, despite the security concerns and the inability to purchase fresh milk, we thrived in Venezuela.

Why?

Luke became best friends right away with Fisher.  They will always be friends, I believe.  Luke still talks about Fisher every single day.  I keep wondering when his homesickness for his good buddy will subside, but six months in, he still misses him daily. 

Luke loved school.  He loved all of his teachers, and he loved seeing teachers outside of school.  He knows no different, I suppose.  He and I talk almost daily about what made ECA so special.  Luke’s teachers knew him, understood him, and loved him right away. 

Lisette, his kinder teacher, made up activities for her class that connected with Luke’s love of pirates.  She allowed Luke to be himself, to be a 4-year old kindergartner, to be a boy.  She expected him to learn and behave, but she always allowed him to be who he was.  I learned a lot both as a mom and as a teacher from this loving, patient lady.

Mariana, Luke’s first grade teacher, loved her Lukie from day one.  She took such good care of my boy.  She took time to learn all about him and the things he loved, too.  One time Luke called Mariana “Mimi”, and she came to tell me how flattered she was that he would call her my mom’s name.  She knew how much Luke loves his Mimi! 

Maya, Luke’s second grade teacher, took time to challenge and push Luke in the ways she knew he needed to grow.  She helped him grow up and mature, all the while nurturing him and nudging him in the right directions.  Kelly, his third grade teacher, stayed patient and calm with Luke while he learned to be responsible for his own work and his things.  She allowed him to fail, helped him to make plans to succeed, and she will never see the fruits of all that patience and calmness.  Kelly, we’ve had a lot less teary meltdowns this year!  That boy has got systems in place!

Luke still talks about art class.  He still thinks about and talks about artists and ideas Kiki taught him YEARS ago. 


video


I asked him yesterday about people he misses from ECA.  He named every single one of these adults, and more. 

My dear friend Andy deserves his own special paragraph.  Orthy, we talk about you every day, too.  Luke brings up funny things you said or did, songs we sang, or places we went.  He and I laugh all over again, and sometimes we cry together, too.  You are forever a part of our family.

My baby moved to Venezuela as a four-year old, and left there a Spanish-speaking, Latin music loving, dancing, happy, confident, well-loved little boy.  I hold Venezuela in a special place in my heart because of how wonderful our time there was for Luke.  Our transition to Switzerland has been really hard for him, but at the same time, I believe many of the successes he has already had here are thanks to the experiences we had there.
video

For me, ECA was a place where I grew professionally.  It was the first school where I had the opportunity to teach the same grade level twice in a row!  I got to spend four years there getting better at what I did.  I had opportunities for leadership and growth that were possible because of the support of our administration and because I was able to stay put for once!  I loved the constant learning, growing, and stretching I got to do there. 

Yet, it is the friendships I miss most.  It is true that many of my friends have moved on, and that’s normal in international schools.  Luke and I often talk about going back to visit, and when we have those chats, we have to talk about the people who are NOT there now, whom we wouldn’t get to see if we were to go visit.  We were blessed with so many close, fun friends there. 

I miss afternoon tea at the Davidsons’ house, where Luke would run wild with the girls or act annoyed while they followed him around, and where Ian would come home and rough house with Luke while Pauline and I had a few minutes to chat. 


I miss daily chats with my friend Kelly.  Weird, random, out of left field chats.  She could always be counted on to shock and surprise me as well as to tell me the truth, even if sometimes that was hard.  I miss the evening time texts.

For the first time in four years, I had to miss being a part of the faculty dance at the annual benefit gala.  I watched on youtube like many others, wishing I could be there with that fun group of people.
I miss dinner at meat places with the Pihowiches.  I miss the choir, miss watching Laura direct and hearing her call people “mi amor.”

And I miss my friend Andy.  I just can’t say more.
What is it that makes me tear up when I think about ECA, though?  It is the thought of walking down the hall to Carmen’s room when I need a laugh or a hug.  I don’t know how many times I walked in there and just sat down to cry to her or stomp my feet about something.  How many people does she take care of, I wonder, and how does she handle us all?  I cry when I think of Laura, of Revi, of Mariana, of Marcela, of Mariolga and her funny stories.  These ladies are Venezuela to me.

We traveled fairly freely throughout the country.  We felt generally safe, but knew we were fortunate to feel that way, as others close to us had experienced scary circumstances.  We developed friendships with our conserje and his wife, with people we saw weekly at the grocery store, with people working in restaurants we frequented.  We came to know that country and its beauty—the beauty of its scenery and the beauty of its people. 

I will always remember the view of the Avila out my window every day. 










 Los Roques will forever be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.















Siete Mares will always be my happy spot. 

Venezuela is a place of uncertainty.  A country always on the edge.   We were there through torrential rains and floods, through elections, through a prison riot that derailed a field trip I was on with students when shots rang out across the highway from our bus, through more elections, through the death of a president, through the expulsions of American diplomats and their families (including ECA children), and through even more elections.  We watched the internet for news like everyone else, and we banged our pots and pans out the window during the cacerolazos in support of Capriles and in protest of the unfair elections last spring. 

Venezuela is technically a “hardship” post now, I believe, for the embassy families.  And yes, there are many things about it that made life challenging.  But now, living in Switzerland, I realize that those hardships are what made my transition to Venezuela easier than my transition here has been.  When people experience hardship, they learn to lean on one another.  Bonds and friendships are formed immediately, and they last.  The invisible grey, oppressive cloud of uncertainty that hung over us certainly shaped our outlook, but it also taught us to share, to be vulnerable, and to hold on to hope. You learn to make the most of what you have.  You focus on what is important and try to let the other stuff go. 

Once again, Venezuela is in a time of uncertainty.  Today is a big day, as protests continue and opposition leaders are marching downtown.  Media in the country is censored and websites and Twitter feeds are filtered or blocked.  It is frustrating not to be able to find out what goes on there, as major news outlets seem to be 2-3 days behind.  Friends there are depending on social media to get their news.  It’s frustrating that the world is not watching more closely. I’m glued to the iPad, watching what you all post on Facebook, and reading Twitter feeds. 

Venezuela is in my heart and on my mind, and in my prayers.  I wish I could do something for that country I love and for my friends and “family” who live there.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Update


I haven't posted anything since Mom was here, because here is how August went:

August 5, new teacher orientation began
August 9, shipment arrived
August 12, inservice week began
August 13, Mom left
August 15, New student orientation
August 19, start school
September 2, week-long field trip to the mountains for Katherine, Jason's soccer coaching started, we had to farm Luke out to other (newly-met) families here both before and after school all week.

Needless to say, it's been a LOT at once.

Our house is looking good.  We love our apartment.  Most things are unpacked.  My books are unpacked, categorized, and alphabetized.  (Read:  I am starting to feel like this can be home.)  We have wonderful neighbors both in our building and nearby.  Luke has made good friends with the neighborhood boys, all of whom are older than he is.  He rides his bike and scooter nearly every day, walks to and from school on his own sometimes, and is growing right up before my eyes.  

Luke is not quite loving school yet, but I keep reminding myself that this is his first big move that he truly remembers and is old enough to have an opinion about.  He talks daily about his best friend, Fisher, and how much he misses him.  No one will ever be as good a friend as Fisher, according to Luke, and I am sure he is right.  At school, his class only has 13 students and is the only third grade class.  It's slim pickin's at school for friends, but he is part of the crowd and not left out at all, so even though he may not feel like he's got a good friend, he has playmates, and I'm thankful for that.

Jason and I are both busier than we should be.  Jason is coaching soccer, with practice 3 nights a week and tournaments just about every other weekend through November.  Luke started both piano and fencing lessons this week.  I am working, cooking, doing laundry, and going on walks when I make myself get out of the house once I'm home from work.  

The weather is getting cooler.  I might be in for it when winter arrives.  I am already wearing a jacket or leather coat while other people are still in their shirtsleeves...  uh oh.

Switzerland is BEAUTIFUL.  We love the outdoor opportunities here.  I took my students to the Alps last week for outdoor education, and it was peaceful, beautiful, with perfect weather.  I would love to do outdoor ed for my real job.  I can't wait for Luke to get to go on that trip next year.  

We have found a church, and it has a good sized children's choir for Luke.  He will go on Sunday morning for the first time.  

Things are good in general.  I have forgotten, though, how hard it is to be new, to have everything change all at one time.  I hope we are here for a very long time, happy and settled.  I think this will be a really good place for us.  

Our first trip will be in October, to Rome, for a week.  I can't wait.  I love Italy (who doesn't?), and I can't wait for Luke to see it.  

That's enough for tonight.  Two updates in one night has exhausted my word supply.  




The "No Problem" Problem

I am the kind of person who wants to do my best at most everything I do.  And if I can’t do a good job at it, I usually don’t do it.  (See: sports of any kind)  I also like to be helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly.  I want to be perceived not just as competent, but as excellent. This means when people ask me to do something at work, to be on a committee, to share some resource, to sit down and collaborate on something, to have a parent meeting, etc., my usual response is, “No problem!”

Which I have realized today, is a problem.

I do enjoy helping others.  I love sharing things that are working for me and hearing about things that work for other people.  I am very fortunate that I work in a place jam-packed with “powerhouse” teachers.  And I am right in there trying to show that I am one, too. 

When I left my last school, I thought it would be kind of refreshing to be the newbie.  To be the one asking the questions, not answering them.  The one receiving training, not facilitating it.  Now that I am the newbie, I wonder what I was thinking!  Not only have I realized that I feel like a first-year teacher again, I feel like I have something to prove.  And I don’t like that much.  I miss feeling secure in my identity and reputation as a professional.

Prior to ECA, I had never taught anywhere more than 3 years.  And in fact, in the 8 years of teaching experience I had at ECA, I taught in 6 schools, not counting the one I taught in for two weeks before they moved me across the district.  I also had never taught the same grade two years in a row.  My point being, I never had a chance to become an expert at anything except changing jobs and managing kids.  I never had a chance to develop any kind of a solid reputation as a professional.  At ECA, I had a chance to do that, with four years in the same grade level, and I am proud of what we accomplished there.  Now I find myself here, on unsteady ground, uncertain of what people think of the job I am doing. 

I find myself saying, “No problem!” a lot, and I wonder why that is.  Am I seeking approval, trying to prove myself?  Am I afraid to say no or admit being overwhelmed for fear that people will look poorly on that?  Or am I just trying to be helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly?  No matter what my motives are, “No problem!” has become a problem for me.

I used to make a habit of tidying my desk and leaving it fairly spotless at the end of the day.  It’s not possible right now.  I look kind of like this at work:

Except worse. 

I have a to-do list that has three columns, high-, medium-, and low-priority.  The high column has about 15 things in it, the medium about 10, and the low, 1.  It’s not looking good, folks.

I know all the things I used to tell newbies.  “The first year is about survival.”  “Everybody has been there…try to relax and give yourself a break.”  “Nobody expects you to be a superstar your first year.”  Except I expect myself to be a superstar, always.  How do I get around that?

This has been such a difficult, negative week for me at school, mostly because I just can’t find the time to feel like I can catch up.  I don’t have enough time with my kids, I’m meeting with 2 sets of parents every morning before school for “snapshot” conferences, I’m meeting with colleagues throughout the day to get collaboration/integration stuff done, and I just can’t dog paddle my way through it all.  Finally, today I felt like I broke through it and scratched some things off that list of mine, and then came the complaint email from a parent about me not doing enough to differentiate for a child…

I always come back to my mom’s advice:  “Sometimes good enough is good enough.”  Reading that brings tears to my eyes because it runs contrary to this selfish, overachiever spirit of mine and I have a hard time agreeing with it.  It is hard for me to call “good enough” good enough when it comes to my job, my family, my home.  But, maybe it’s time to shift from a “No problem” mentality to a “Good enough!” mentality. 

I’ve been out of balance with myself all week, culminating in a lovely moment, right as Jason walked in the door last night.  I had been cooking in the kitchen and had left a cabinet door open right at head height.  I was leaning down to reach something in the freezer, stood up, and banged my forehead on the door.  It was a brain-rattler.  I saw stars and thought I was going to black out.  When Jason walked in, I was holding a towel with ice on my head with one hand, the other hand stirring something, my face contorted with dry sobs.  I just lost it.

Thank you, God, for a husband who can put up with messy me and just hug me and tell me it will be ok.

Recognizing I’m out of balance, I’m trying to do things to restore my self.  Baths with candles and a Madeleine L’Engle book are helping.  (Thankful for a hot water heater that lasts long enough to fill a deep tub with hot water.  Thankful that we were able to ship our household stuff, meaning my Madeleine L’Engle collection and I are reunited after 6 years.  Thank you, Mom, for the candles from Ikea.)  Today I came home determined to bake and cook and do something constructive with my evening, so I’ve made oven fries, two quiches, and a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls for friends and neighbors here.   Seeing the fruits of my labor helps.  Eating them will help more.   I’m planning walks in the woods this weekend and time to rest, even though my classroom is a disaster and I want to move my desk, organize and level my classroom library, and on and on and on…

I’m feeling back to myself, and where I can say, right now, maybe good enough is good enough.  That is, until I get back to school tomorrow and start again. Perspective gained in the evening is often gone in the morning.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fun around Zurich

Note:  Some of these pictures are chopped off in Blogger for some reason.  If you click on one, I believe you can scroll through them all and see the whole thing.

Mom arrived on August 1 in the morning.  Jason went down to the airport to get her.  She arrived at our house happy but tired after the long flight, so we all took the opportunity to nap most of the day away.  All of us but Luke, that is, and he had a great day doing his own thing.  

August 1 is Swiss National Day, so there were festivities going on down in Baden.  After naps, we walked down the hill to town (in the scorching heat), explored a bit, and then settled in the Theaterplatz to watch a band play and to eat.


Jason bought us some meat on a stick, bread, and fries to eat.  The meat on a stick was delicious - like ribs but without the bones and without having to touch it with your hands.  :)  Jenny, we could eat this stuff!  


Luke was our Swiss waiter.  



After the music and food, we got ice cream and then walked up the hill to rest a bit before fireworks.  At 9:30 or so we went down the street a bit to sit on a hill near our house to watch fireworks.  They shot them off from the castle.  We had a great view, and the fireworks were huge!  There were also families setting off their own fireworks in the soccer field just below us.  I couldn't believe how many people were doing it, and right in the middle of the grass.  I guess growing up in dry Texas summers, and with fireworks illegal in city limits, I am just not used to it.

The next day Jason pulled off a near-miracle.  He got our car insured, picked up license plates, and then went to get the car itself.  This involved a lot of running around (literally) in the heat, catching trains and trying to figure out how to get to places before they closed for the weekend.  We now have our car and have been able to drive around.  

In the meantime, mom and Luke and I walked to town again to pick up our internet box (and carry it up the hill!).  We took Luke to the really neat park in town (part of it is under a bridge) to play.


The next day we drove our car to Zurich to enjoy the lake.  We tried to rent some of the free bikes they have there, but we were too late.  Instead we walked around the lake a lot, found a place to put our blanket, had a picnic, and swam.  The water was chilly, but not too bad.  We all jumped off a pier and swam a bit.  


Mom, Jas, and Luke swimming into shore:

Luke did the swim twice and was tired!


On Sunday we drove into town again and went to church.  Before church we took mom up to an area tha overlooks the river and the old town part of Zurich.  Luke fed the pigeons here.  



This spot looked very different than it did in winter!

Today we made a big trip to Ikea to shop for a few things and eyeball some others.  We were there 3 hours!  Luke was amazing...again...we are so lucky.  Tonight my principal had the new teachers over for dinner, and I got to see the Paulsons again.  It was so good to see familiar, friendly faces, and to know that I will get to work with Kris again.  

We are all tired but excited for things to get moving.  Tomorrow is our first "official" day!  

We are thinking of friends all over the world who are headed back to school this week.  Have a great school year everyone!


Apartment Camping

On the 29th we got the keys to our apartment.  We spent about an hour and a half going over rules and regulations for living in a Swiss apartment that is also a new build, instructions on airing the place out and how to share a washer and dryer with other people, etc.  Also how to put salt in the dishwasher.

We moved in on the 30th, the day our shipment was supposed to arrive.  However, our shipment is in Rotterdam, stuck for now because of the sheer number of containers arriving in Europe right now.  We had some idea it would be as late as the 5th, but right now we are hoping for the 9th.  I am trying to be patient and upbeat about the situation, having known others whose shipments took months and months to arrive in Venezuela.  But, with mom here, I feel guilty that I don't have a proper bed for her to sleep on.  She is a trouper, though, and she's camping out with us.

I took pictures of the state of our place now for those who are curious.  Our school director (and friend)  brought us his patio table and chairs as well as the 6 suitcases/boxes of stuff we'd stored at his house since February and March.  So we unpacked those as much as possible, and here we are!

This is our living room/dining area.  It is long and narrow with a good amount of space.  The big window faces west and so is warm in the afternoon right now.  

The mattresses in the floor are two fold-up narrow twin mattresses provided by the school.  The box from our microwave is serving as our entertainment center (with computer on it and internet box next to it).  

Side note: we went to Germany on the 31st and bought a few things there, including fans, microwave, and coffeemaker).


Our kitchen now:

Built in trashcan and compost bin under the sink, dishwasher is the cabinet to the right of that.
Fridge is in the cabinet to the right of the oven, freezer under that - 3 drawers.

This is the room off the kitchen, which right now is our recycling center.  We have to figure out how to organize ourselves, as the recycling is only picked up once a month for some items, and cardboard and paper have to be tied together with string, etc... lots of guidelines to follow.  Today I bought a recycling organizer at Ikea, so that will help some.


This is the room behind the kitchen, which will be our office/craft room/library/workout room.  (On the floor - the art from the ECA art show that I needed to flatten out after it had been rolled up in a suitcase for 3 months).


Coat closet area with good storage - in between entryway and kitchen.


Luke's room


Hallway bathroom with shower in it.
 
Our bedroom 


My bathroom (with tub)


Missing for now are outdoor photos of patio/building, but those aren't finished so those photos will come later.  Also missing - photos of mom's room, but it looks just like Luke's, except more organized because she is in it.  :)

More to come when shipment is here.  :)  Keep fingers crossed for sooner than Friday!!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

First Days in Suiza

After two years in Cairo and four years in (un-blogged) Caracas, we find ourselves in Zurich, Switzerland.  We keep saying, "It's the dream!" and I hope it is.  We really believe God has ordered our steps, and that we are where we are supposed to be.  The story of how we got here is a story for another day (will I ever get around to writing it?).  For today, a quick catalog of our first two days here will have to do.

Yesterday we arrived at about 8 AM and were picked up at the airport by my principal and another teacher at my school and driven to our hotel in our new village, Baden.  The weather was surprisingly hot and humid.  After we arrived at the hotel, we basically dropped our stuff and decided to take a nap.  I went to get out my ipod to listen to as I fell asleep only to realize I had lost it.  :(  Before going to sleep, I filled out a lost and found report online with Zurich airport just in case. Our hotel room was hot and stuffy, but we opened the one small window that opens and managed to sleep a while.  We slept until about 3:00.  When I woke up, I already had an email from the airport saying my ipod had been found!  Happily, we went outside to walk around Baden.

We made our way to the city center, ate lunch at Subway ($30!) saw my new school building from the outside (looks cool, big picture windows, supposedly my room has a view of the castle on the hill!), and then walked up the hill to check out our new apartment.

We went up the walking/biking route to our neighborhood, which was quite steep and gave us all a good little cardio workout.  Our neighborhood is quiet and quaint, with many older houses and forest on either side of the narrow pie-shaped neighborhood.  We easily found our apartment building.  It backs right up to the forest behind it.

Our apartment is the ground floor apartment, which turns out to be built sort-of into a hillside, so the views out the window are not great.  However, each room has light coming in through big windows, and our living room has a big picture window with a door out to the patio.

Yesterday we were really just spying...we didn't have keys yet and our appointment to get keys to the apartment was not until today.  So we settled for peeking in windows.  The door to the building was also propped open, so we were able to explore the area where we have a storage space (almost the size of the storage unit we've been using at home for the last 6 years), the laundry room, and the parking garage.  The apartment looked great through the windows, though we are (more like I am)  a little worried we won't be able to fit our bedroom furniture in our bedroom.  Outside, the construction on the patios and yard is not finished, so it looks rough.  The inside looked ready to go.

After peeking in our apartment, we walked up the path into the forest behind our house.  It's heavenly.  So, so quiet and peaceful.  There is a nice hill which will be good for me to walk up every day.  Luke spent the walk scouting out sites to build a fort (though I am pretty sure there are rules about not straying off the path) and leaving special sticks stuck in the ground to mark possible sites.

We left our neighborhood as thunder rolled in the distance and walked quickly down the hill (by the castle!  There's a CASTLE on my way to school!) and through town so we might beat the rain back to the hotel.

At the hotel, we got dinner from room service and got to bed by 11 or so.  It rained all night and cooled the weather off significantly.

This morning, we got up early and ate breakfast before walking to the train station.  We had planned to go in to the airport to get my ipod.  We got umbrellas from the hotel and walked in the rain to the station.  When we went to buy tickets, we realized it would cost us about $100 for the 3 of us to go rescue my ipod!  We decided to wait and pick it up when my mom comes later this week.  (My mom is coming later this week!!!!)

We walked back to the hotel and crashed for an hour before the teacher who met us at the airport picked us up to go take care of getting phones.  Back to the train station we went! Our new friend brought her son along, so Luke had some company while we got SIM cards and phone numbers.  While in the train station we went to the grocery store (which is more like a really expensive Super Kroger) and bought a few things (toothpaste, plug adapters, flat iron and hairdryer --that detail was for you, Tiffany).  We came back to the hotel, where we had lunch before being picked up again to go to our apartment to get keys.

 At our apartment, we met some other school people and the apartment official people. They showed us every room of the apartment and told us about all the special rules and cleaning/airing out the apartment guidelines. This took about an hour and a half. We are definitely going to have extra furniture and other stuff, but we really did get a great apartment. Brand new, simple but very nice. 

The kitchen is small but the storage space is nice, ceramic cook top, self-closing drawers. :) It's fun having everything be brand-new, too. Other fun stuff about the apartment--there are blinds OUTSIDE every window. Some open and close with a hand crank, but the ones over the picture window are motorized. We have a closet/storage room off the kitchen -- very unusual here. Our parking space is close to the stairway up to our house...nice, it could've been pretty far away. There is a drying room downstairs to hang clothes in, and it has a dehumidifying unit on the wall. You hang the clothes, turn on the wall unit, and leave. The unit senses when the moisture is out of the room and it turns itself off.

 After we saw the apartment, signed the papers and got the keys, we left with the lady from ZIS who is helping us get everything sorted. We went first to the town hall to register. While we did that, our ZIS lady called our shipping company to find out the deal on our shipment. (More soon on that.) Today we got 100 tons of information and our ZIS contact answered all our questions. There is so much to learn and so much to do. We sat in an open-air coffee shop for literally 3 hours and went through it all. Our new ZIS friend is a force to be reckoned with--efficient, businesslike, super knowledgable, strong and unique personality. (Think Mariolga and Carmen rolled into one, ECA friends.) Luke played with an umbrella in the street (no cars, don't worry, Mom) almost the whole time by himself. (We are so lucky with this kid...)

 We arrived back to the hotel at about 6:45, and here we are, me blogging, Jason on Facebook, Luke chilling with his iPad.

 The shipment update--it arrived in Rotterdam almost a week ago, where it sits in a backlog of containers they are waiting to get through and ship out. Our shipping person here in Zurich estimates we will have it no earlier than the 9th of August--a week into orientation, and 10 days before school starts. So when Mom gets here, we will have no beds, no chairs, no couches, no tables...nada. It will be an interesting camping experience.  Those of you who know me well know that this is stressing me out some, but I am trying to relax about it.

 The weather is supposed to heat up tomorrow and be in the high 90s the next week.

 We love our new town and are looking forward to our new life here. Baden is lovely and everyone we've dealt with so far has been very kind. Must. Learn. German... Stat. As Luke said, "It's an emergency."





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer 2012 - Trip to Lake Grapevine

We always wait until the end of summer to get the boat out, and then we all wish we'd been going to the lake all summer long.  We went one afternoon late, around 5:30.  We took sandwiches, picnic blankets, drinks, and games. 



video

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer 2012 - Back to Coppell

Once we returned to Coppell, we had 2 more weeks before leaving for Venezuela.  Luke's number one priority was to get a coonskin cap and to get Granddad to make him his own Old Betsy.  Luke and Granddad worked together to decide what it should look like, and Granddad got to work.  Luke helped where he could.

Mimi also took Luke to Bass Pro to get a Davy Crockett cap. 



It was so hard to decide which pictures to include!







Summer 2012 - More Houston Pics


 I. Love. These. Boys.

They had so much fun playing together this summer.  



Look at those eyes.
  I am so thankful for this family.  These people mean the world to me.
On our way (or out of our way) home from Houston, we detoured to San Antonio to visit our friends Clay and Jennifer.  We stopped first at the Alamo.  I LOVE Texas history, and Luke is growing to love it, too.