Saturday, August 30, 2008

Knirri, Knarri, Knorri

What's Steph been doing these days? That's a very good question. What does a person do in Switzerland in between nannying and waiting for school to start? Lots of interesting things, of course. I've been up a tree, over the river and through the woods, roasting marshmallows, investigating castle ruins, riding my bike, and making all sorts of interesting rail trip plans, including a potential concert in Zurich (Jason Mraz) and an expedition to the largest glacier in Europe. Unfortunately, I'm afraid there isn't much that's interesting to tell about it all. So, I'll just sort of summarize a couple points of semi-interest in no particular order:

-Climbing. I had fun learning to use this nifty climbing gear last weekend. Unfortunately, thanks to where Dominic and Raphael are standing, you can see that I'm not especially high up. I should have told them to squat. But, If I remember correctly, I actually had been much higher--at least another 20 feet or so--and I was on my way down at this point. That was it, I'm pretty sure.

-Bikes. I've ridden my bike more this month than I have in the last ten years all put together I think, and it's been quite fun. At least the riding DOWN-the-hill part has been. The riding-back-up-the-hill part isn't going so well, to be quite frank, so I had the brilliant idea of adding a motor. How hard can that be? They sell kits and whatnot, so I'm sure it's quite manageable. I thought it was a pretty good idea, so I mentioned it to a couple people. Except for Emily, who knows brilliance whenever and wherever she sees it, the others were entirely opposed to the concept. Gregg said I should learn to shift properly, and Davorin said if it was a little extra oomph I was looking for, he would advise eating a bigger breakfast.

-Haircuts and small towns. I got my hair cut down the road yesterday by a very lovely lady who speaketh no English. Now, I mention this partly because it was a major accomplishment in German for me to make an appointment, show up at the right time, tell her what I wanted and then chat about our families and all sorts of other things for a whole hour entirely in German. But remember how I said that I keep meeting people who know things about me, even though it's the first time we've met?! In our first conversation, I told her this much about myself: My name is stephanie. I don't speak much German. I'd like to make an appointment. That was a week ago. By the time I showed up for my appointment yesterday, she mysteriously knew where I lived and who I worked for!! And although she politely asked me where I'm from, I can't imagine that she didn't already know that too. crazy little town. Nice lady though. And a pretty good haircut too.

-In other language news (this topic just never wears out, does it?), today I was out shopping in Basel with Aubrey and Mallory and we got stopped twice by people who overheard our English. The first was an Obama campaigner making sure we were registered to vote (and, to her credit, she did ask fist if we were US citizens...otherwise it would have been great fun to tell her we were Canadian). The second time was when Aubrey and I were sitting outside the Starbucks chatting and a guy stopped short next to our table and said, "HEY! ENGLISH! Where are you from?" and wanted to shake hands. Upon hearing we were from the states, he declared that we don't speak real English. He, on the other hand, is from Bristol, where presumably they do speak real English, and, he said, "that explains why I sound a bit like a pirate." Indeed.

-Pippi Langstrumpf (aka pippi longstockings) and Goodnight MoonI've been reading lots of children's books lately. This has been good for my vocabulary and grammar. I read goodnight moon 5 times the other morning, and while I have to admit I didn't want to read it a 6th time right then, I do like reading to the girls. It also is my personal relationship barometer with them. When I started nannying, they sat a good safe distance away when we read. I don't know how they could evensee the pictures. I felt like one of those people that does story time at the know, that miraculous ability to hold a book up, face out, so everyone can see and yet still manage to read it at the same time? That was me. Except I improved the trick by also sounding out German words, or by translating English books on the fly. Well, as of yesterday, the personal bubbles have shrunk to the point that I can't see the pictures because there are two little girls snuggled up, leaning in, pointing and talking about what we're reading. That's a big improvement, I think.

Nannying this week has had me thinking on the topic of time and what it means to make the most of our days. In many ways, ever day looks exactly the same right now: the same playground, hide and seek, coloring every day (I draw a lot of bunnies and horses for M2), the same books and songs, naps, diapers, messy meal times and lots of cleanups of every sort. But there are little changes--new confidence and coordination on the playground, some creativity in finding new hiding places, recognition of more colors (or at least possibly an improved application of "red," which for a while was attached to every color in the rainbow, with the occasional variety of "dunkel rot" (dark red), also liberally applied). But while these days seem the same, all these little changes will amount to a tremendous difference in a few months and years. There's a gap in knowledge and ability between them at this point, and that's only due to an extra 2 years on M1's part. 2 years isn't very long! That helps me keep perspective. Every day of loving them, listening with my full attention, teaching and correcting gently, and encouraging them builds into who they are becoming through all these similar-seeming days (or at least I hope it does). So that's that. But, I think even for us, there are lots of small decisions and habits we make each day that individually or on a daily basis truly are small, yet over time they are who we are becoming, for better or worse, and our lives go by so fast.

Now, I was sort of thinking about this tonight as I was stopped to talk to the neighbors pigs, Knirri, Knarri, and Knorri. As I was scratching one of them behind his big pink ears, I said, "well, dear, you're so sweet, but I guess your days are numbered, huh?" and what should spring to mind but Psalm 90, and "Teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom...O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Labor relations

Let's establish some terminology, just for clarity. I think the family I work for wouldn't want you to know their names, so in order to more effectively tell you tales about them, I will call the older girl M1 (short for girl 1) and the younger, predictably, M2. Late Yesterday afternoon I was busy vacuuming the entryway/mudroom when M1 and M2 came home from their grandparents' house. They said hello and went upstairs. Their mom told me later that M1 had asked her, "Is Stephanie vacuuming?"
"yes," she said.
"Did you tell her to vacuum?"
"Yes, I did."
A quiet pause.
"Why can't you just leave Stephanie in peace?!"

And as it turned out, I was let off work early today. Whether that was happenstance or persuasion at it's finest, I can't say for certain, but I'm planning to unionize and make M1 president.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nanny news

My, I'm getting to be an erratic blogger! I'll try to straighten that out and be more reliable. This has been a busy time of transition for me, starting my new job and getting adjusted to a totally different schedule and transportation scheme. My days go like this: Wake up, get ready for work, help with breakfast/cleanup/teeth brushing and getting dressed; Take the older one to kindergarten and then take the little one somewhere fun. This often involves the playground, and we walk through a farm to get there. Coming and going we stop to talk to the pigs, feed the chickens grass, and sometimes, if we go at just the right time, we watch the farmers moving the cows from the upper pasture back down to the barn. There are a lot of baby cows at the moment, and they're pretty quick about escaping under the electric fence, and the farmer has to jump fences and skirt hedges to herd them back into line. That is some quality daytime entertainment right there...although I don't know how they feel about us standing there watching the spectacle. :) After that, we might read or color, or play hide and seek, and then it's back down the hill to pick up S from school, and back UP the hill once more to make lunch, iron and fold clothes, vacuum and so forth. Fridays I do house and yard work instead of primarily watching the girls, and that's a nice relaxing change of pace.

On the whole, this nannying business puts me in a strange peer group. I'm getting to know all the women in town with children under 5, and of course I'm on my extra good and social behavior (no going to the store without showering first here!) since a new nanny in an itty bitty town lives in a glass house. I think every person I've met knows more about me than I've told them, including where I'm from and what I'm doing here, how long I've been in CH, and who I'm living with and working for now. Other than the pressure to look presentable every time I go out (which I'm sure will wear off in short order, and I'll soon be marching all over Pfeffingen in my running shorts, showered or not), it's nice to be known...kinda cozy and connected-feeling, if you will. Christmas could be problematic since I'll undoubtedly feel compelled to bake or make ornaments, or at least personalized Christmas cards for everyone I know in town, and by December, that might just be everybody.

I have mostly picked out my classes for this semester. The list includes cultural epidemiology; British Social Anthropology; Gender, Race, and Empire (a history class); African National Congress (South Africa history); Epidemiology and International Health; Disease Ecology: Human and Animal interfaces; African Auto-biographies; Islam in Africa, Christianity as an African Religion, Conflict and Media, Statehood in Transition, Urbanization in Southern Africa (a literature class); and History and Anthropology, but a few of these options conflict. I'll finalize things next month, but I'm fairly pleased with the courses offered this term. I'm thinking about taking Arabic too.

I'm off to study some German! More soon...I promise. :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

New town, new job, new faces!

Hello Friends! Aubrey and I left Portland last Tuesday on a beautiful Oregon Morning... ...and arrived back in CH on Wednesday. I was busy the first couple days helping with the final work on the apartment. R’s mom and dad have been here almost every day, and they've textured walls, put the kitchen table together, hung the bathroom door and a full length mirror, added curtains and rugs and dishes (green ones!). The whole place is looking cuter than a bugs’ knees, and I’m mostly unpacked and have been preoccupied with transforming it into home. For example, I went grocery shopping Saturday, and what do you think I found but a painted wooded sign that says "howdy," also green, and therefore more or less matching my decor, or at least my dishes and the kitchen rug. Plus, I say howdy all the time! I decided it was a good apartment-warming, "cheers for the new pad!," "Woohoo I can have guests for tea" sort of item, and it now resides above my kitchen cabinets.

The grandparentals and a cousin were all over for food and fireworks here on Swiss National Day. I sat there at dinner thinking how odd and surreal it is to drop onto people's lives like this. A short while ago, we didn't know each other existed and now here I am, part of the family, eating lots of cheese and trying to remember my few Swiss German phrases (recent additions include "no uf?" which means, "still up?" and "Ich gang oba" (probably spelled wrong, but means "I'm going downstairs" and is particularly useful since I do, in fact, live downstairs). I officially started work today, and it went well--we went to the playground, cleaned house, went for a walk, washed a lot of dishes and ironed a lot of britches.

That's pretty much the news. I thought you'd all like to see a few 'before' pictures of my apartment as well as a couple 'after' pictures, although 'after' is of course subject to change. Nevertheless, enjoy this little slide show. :)