Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Final Weeks with the Family

After saying goodbye to some friends, it was time for a few weeks of isolation with the family. Two weeks in France. Two weeks without internet. Two weeks with a lot of French. Two weeks.

So the week started with a Monday train to Le Chaufaud. It is a very small village right on the border of Switzerland and France. I mean right on the border.  It was about a 10 minute walk to Switzerland.  It is an old house that has been in the family for generations. It was the taken by the Nazis in World War II and became their headquarters on the border (as Switzerland was a neutral country people were trying to cross to freedom).  It is also a very old house. It was the end of July and it was raining and freezing in the house. Shoes, sweaters, electric and wood fire heaters were in full use. It was just me Baby Gaga and G for the week; and a few generations of Mama C’s family.  It was such a cool experience to see four generations of a family together.  

Mama C's Dad gave me joking looks of disapproval as I would respond to the French I understood in English. He told G to only speak French with me, which she did every once in awhile, but always quickly returned to English. This is one of the many reason my French is no where close to fluency! Other than that, I went on a couple of hikes with and without the girls. 

This was a tough week. I had been hearing G say things for months about my leaving, but this week, she was telling me how she is going to have a crying, screaming fit when I leave her. She repeated that fact that I am in fact “leaving her” too many times. Each time it became more difficult for me to respond to. On top of that, Baby Gaga has reached 10 months, which is the age of becoming clingy. She would literally only go to me and her Mom. Since her Mom was back in Zurich, we spent a week attached at the hip. Lucky for me she is sleeping through the night and likes to nap a couple of time during the day.  She is as close to “my baby” as I want to be for a long time to come. But she is my baby. When I see her go only to her Mom and me, I realize that the relationship I have with her is special. I am not her Mom and she knows it, but I am second best.

After a weekend off, I headed to Hyéres, to spend a week on a vineyard on the sea with the other side of Mama C’s family. This could not have contrasted more to the cabin in the woods. There was a chef, a pool, and the sea was a short walk away. Many spent the day on the boat, diving and drinking; followed by a French meal. The attire was dressy. Champagne with apértif. Salad or cold soup, meat and vegetables, a cheese patter, and dessert. And obviously, a copious amount of wine. Rosé. Red. White. Ports. 

Most everyone spoke English this week. While most of the time it was French, Mama C’s family is international. There were Americans, French who live in the United States, and the French who live in London. Since, I have not succeeded in speaking French (comprehension only...and even that is debatable at times), Mama C’s family is extremely welcoming and happy to speak English with me. The conversations always ended up back in French, as they should, but I would throw in my own sentence in English here and there.

This was not a bad place to spend my last week with the kids. It was a bittersweet week. I am sad to say goodbye to the kids in a few days but I am glad that the job is over in so many ways. I made it through a year and I am positive I made the right decision in not sticking around for any longer.  I will have one last day/dinner with the kids before I am off to finish my travels and head home. No one is making it easy for me to leave but if goodbyes are hard then it means you made some good friends and did a good job right?

The vineyard on the way to the sea!

The beach

My beach babe

One Last Weekend..Sort of

Note: There were people dearly missed this weekend. 

After a week of 7am-9pm, 5 day work week, filled with a few play dates including bowling and glass blowing, the time had come to have our “Final Week” as the fierce and ridiculous wolf pack was spreading out around the world. While some of the wolves had left, it was the end of the road for the people who have been here since last August. Our year was up. And it has been one for the record books.  So we started off on Friday night at good ol’ Twists. As many (one could say too many) of our Friday and Saturday nights were spent over the last year. After saying hello to a few of our favorite bartenders, we headed off to a few places we have liked.  Then Nicole and I finished the night with some dancing and a sleep over at Rachel’s.

The rain washed away the idea for a hike and a few of us wondered the city and did some shopping. All along reminiscing about our favorite trips, weekends, moments. It is a bitter sweet ending. Being the “help” is coming to an end to some of us but it means that gallivanting around Europe is also coming to an end.

Saturday night was the big night out! We started with a few hours of getting ready and making a delicious dinner (which I might mention had to be gluten free, lactose free, and meat-free).  After some pictures and laughs we headed into Zurich. One last time as a wolf pack. Even though our goal was to branch out, we followed a very similar path of the night before, which is not surprising at all!

Another late night of dancing led to a slow morning and then a final day at the spa. A lovely Irish-Roman spa of cleansing and being oh so very Sex in the City, gossiping from room to room and being told to “shhhhh” each time!  I was also finally able to see the Google Building where we took pictures! Next time, the goal will be to get inside the building!

Now to get a little sentimental.  It was just one weekend; there have been dozens. There have been new girls and friends who have come and gone throughout the year. But this weekend, was the fearsome 6 that started and ended the year together. It was the last time we as a group would take on Zurich as a gang of aupairs.  I have always had a lot of girlfriends in my life and I cherish each one of the past just as I do the ones in the present. Each of these ladies are special. I was able to spend a year gallivanting around Europe, with few worries, and insignificant complaints (our first-world problems..where should we travel this week? etc).

This year is special. I look forward to thinking back on my year living in Switzerland! I look forward to thinking about our group running the streets of Europe, meeting new people, and discussing the countless cultural similarities and differences.  You ladies are absolutely amazing.  We were so lucky to have been able to have each other this year. We all brought something different to a group.  There is a closeness between us, a bond, that will never break. We will be able to call each other when we are thinking about  Not many can fall in love with their children and put up with the endless piles of laundry, tears, and lies.  We complained a bit, but our friendship blossomed and it is about so much more than that. I love each one of you so much and will never forget anyone of you. I hope to keep in touch and that just maybe, one of those reunions we have talked about will happen. And when we forget how much work children are, and how many times we contemplating not having them, I hope we can call each other when we end up with one of our own. We can laugh about the times that we had taking care of other peoples’ and then really plan that spa getaway!

I love you ladies. I am so lucky to have met you! Xoxo Sincerely yours, Wolf pack member for life.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Surprise Birthday!

Ok so it has been over a month since I have posted. I officially reached my year point but let me update you on what has happened since I reached week FIFTY-TWO!

I had been anticipating my European Birthday since I decided to make the move. Where could I go? Who will I go with? Venice? Paris? Barcelona? Greece? The options seemed endless! Since it is summer, my working hours have, for the first time, outnumbered my playtime hours. So a long weekend getaway was not an option. Plus, I have made amazing friends who I wanted to spend it with. So it was around the corner and since people’s work schedules were all over the place, we decided Switzerland was the place to be. We would have a night out on the town for the first night followed by the Montreux Jazz Festival in the French region of Switzerland. I was excited for the weekend as planned.

So my birthday celebrations started on Thursday night. My Papa B’s Dad was in town for the week and we all went out for a very nice dinner. It was a beautiful restaurant with a vista view of the lake and Zurich, surrounded by the mountains and cows of course.  We toasted champagne and they handed me a few gifts.  One of which is the Swissessity: the Longchamp. The week before I bought myself a lovely little Swatch and now only need a fondue/raclette set to complete my Swissessities! After dinner, the restaurant turned off their lights, turned on a disco ball, and started a recording of something no one could understand other than it said “Happy Birthday” somewhere in there. Then “Happy Birthday” was played and I blew out sparklers on a chocolate delight.

It was a really a great birthday dinner and what has seemed like the real mark of the beginning of the end.
Friday, my actual birthday, I woke up to work a bit and then got off around 1pm.  I met my friends in the city to begin a day by the lake with lunch and wine. However, as we were having lunch, my schedule changed. As it turns out my friends have surprised me with a ticket to the “History of Hip Hop” concert at the Jazz Festival. Nicole and I are leaving after lunch! It was quite the surprise! I was super excited!  After missing a few trains, we were on our way!

The concert was absolutely amazing! Coolio and House of Pain among other performed. Nicole and I were on stage for a bit (video below) dancing away. We were screaming and dancing. As it turns out, that is now how the Swiss enjoy concerts. Nicole and I were each given dirty looks on separate occasions for yelling at “inappropriate times” and the security guards hated us even more. We laughed it off and continued to enjoy our time standing feet from some of the amazing hip hop artists of the past! 

After the concert, we met our Couch Surfer, who took us out for a night out at the Jazz Festival. There are great clubs, free dance and music concerts, and people everywhere. It was a night to remember!

Saturday we enjoyed the city and were joined by another one of our friends. It was, dare I say it, the prettiest lake view of the year.  I can only say thank you to the amazing group I have here for ensuring that I had a wonderful European birthday! xoxo

Birthday Lunch with the Ladies

Not the actual concert but the only picture of the night

See why it is my favorite?

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Apple Man

One thing I don't think I have mentioned all year that I love about where we live, and my guess is much of Switzerland is like this, is the Apply Man. At  least that is what he is called in my  house. He is an adorable old Swiss man who comes with a cart every couple of weeks and sells whatever he has been growing. He always has eggs and apples. We bought raspberries from him yesterday. He is just too cute! And the fruit and vegetables are always delicious!

My Week in "Paradise"

My week in Saint Tropez was lovely in many ways but at times it was actually like I was actually under house arrest. The heaven I was staying in was gated and I had to ask to leave the house and schedule my coming back to ensure that someone would be home to let me in.  We were also not in Saint Tropez. We were 25km   outside of the city so I was very isolated to say the least. 

Twice, I was so bored I risked my life walking to the beach up and down a winding hill. It was in no way safe to be walked on but I was willing to put my life on the line to get a break from the kids! It was a little like being a white collar criminal. They put you up in these lovely prisons which everything you could possibly need, but at the end of the day you are still trapped, so it isn't what you want! 

In addition to feeling completely isolated, the area we were in reminded me a lot of home, which made me the most homesick I think I have ever been.  This is a good thing in some ways though, because while since being released back into society, I have adapted to back into my social life, but I am also excited to go home. I have been talking to friends about exploring San Diego in new ways! And I am returning to somewhere similar to the South of France, so it can't be all bad right?

Here are some pictures of my week! They are beautiful and I really have NOTHING to complain about. The pool was great, the temperature was high, and there were beaches! But just wait for the post after I am sent to the woods in a few weeks with  just two of the kids and the French side of the family! Talk about isolation..

My adorable Baby Gaga and I playing by the pool.

Our time at the fair

My death walk to the HEAVENLY beaches!

The dock in San Tropez

G and P