Freitag, 24. Juni 2016

cut off in the countryside

We had my oldest nephew, Luan for a visit this week and it was a real treat. I was excited about our alone time that would precede meeting up with his favorite uncle Ivo, but once we had, when Luly and I were recalling what we'd done that afternoon, he told him "Jessy verzählt nur Kabbis." It's true, I am a silly goose, but it wasn't until Ivo and I were talking about the visit next day, that I realized that he'd thought that all the "gems of wisdom" I'd thought that I was sharing, were lies and hooey.
Luan moved to a farm house before he turned one and his favorite animals are cows, even though they're his neighbors. He's the second oldest of 5 and when we made our plan for his visit, he had all the ideas: He wanted to swim or visit a museum, depending on the weather. He wanted ice cream and to eat in a pizzeria - which he's done before and we're not to think differently. Luan 'speak cabbage' himself and has shared fantastical things with us for years, mostly parroting other peoples' experiences. He's 6 months older than my next nephew and they couldn't be more different. Simon is a city kid, he's curious as a cat and hungry for learning and has big idea. He was verbal and keen to read and write far before Luan, which makes sense as Luan speaks an unwritten language. I know Simon better and am more used to relating with him and so tried to tell Luan things that I thought he might want to know. I asked him loads of questions too, like when he thought that someone had drawn a flag on the rocks with felt tipped pens. (It was graffitied with spray paint, but we'd had a think about it together.)
When Luan and I arrived in the city, he was overwhelmed - as usual - and I tried to give him loving support. When we got in the tram, he was keen to find a seat for just us, but it was all full up and we sat next to a young man speaking arabic into his cell phone. Luan was not keen. I thought that I'd take the opportunity to educate as a way to comfort. I told him that when I first moved to Switzerland, I didn't understand any of the Swiss people when they'd speak their native language. I told him how scary that was, and how it felt to be in such a new and different place, but how I'd learned through experience and am grateful to know many languages now.
When we walked from the tram to the pool, Luan said he'd 'never seen so many bikes in one place' and I taught him that the bikes with the big, hearty tires were mountain bikes. I told him that I'd not ridden one, but that I've gone down a mountain on a push scooter with the same big tires. (I think that he may have believed both of those things to be the "Kabbis" of which he later spoke.)
The line for the pool was 'the biggest he'd ever seen' and he was frightened of the loud and boisterous children. I quite liked the resulting clinging that he did to me, but it also made me nervous. He's always been a shy kid, but he told me he'd never seen so many 'different' kids before. I thought about this last bit when I saw a graphic of the map of who voted what in the Brexit referendum. Luan is a country mouse and is scared of different people and thinks that I'm lying to him when I tell him about different people and or experiences. 

Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2016

One foot in one land and another on a banana peel

I've been a resident alien in Zürich for 9 years, but it's the 10th anniversary of my moving here this month. This autumn, I can get my C-permit (touch wood) and then begin the naturalization process. I can speak in dialect, I know that I'm meant to hate taking antibiotics and I make all the right sounds of excitement and disappointment while watching the football. You can tell that I'm a proper American Ex-pat, because my English is annoyingly influenced by all the GB Ex-pats around me. But I'll get to that.
The heartbreak over the hate crime in the US last week was felt across the world and it's timing with Zürich Pride seemed to make it more present than it might have been. But I'm only an LGBT ally and I'm not in the States and I'm acutely aware of how different the mourning here is for me.
But today was an online meeting for volunteers for Voters Abroad and I am feeling inspired. On the meeting, the "cheers" and "cheerios" and whatnot made me cringe, when I recognized that we're all susceptible to the English we most often hear influencing our native tongue.
But I'm doing something. I'm involved. And it's giving me strength. Because I'm becoming the neighborhood grumpus. People here seem to think that I might have insight or hope on the subject of the US presidential election, which I do not. As I was leaving my building a couple weeks ago and was in a stressful situation; I'd just discovered that I had an issue that needed to be handled with antibiotics, so of course I was upset. Just then, in my state of stress, with my stinky dog needing to relieve herself, a different neighborhood grumpus approached me with her newly abbreviated greeting of, "So, der Trumpf, gäll?" As the american kids say, I just couldn't. I responded automatically and shortly and embarrassingly with "I don't know! I can't do this now! Leave me alone!" I felt just awful about it (and apologized to her later), but it was a tipping point. I know that I shouldn't have let my pain and fear and painful fear of American politics let me treat a neighbor poorly. But I truly don't know what to say to Swiss people when they want to know my opinions on American politics. I'm clueless. I'm informed as an outsider. I'm missing the context. It's like before the elections in 2008, when European media painted the US as a country saturated with guns and hate and ignorance. Palin was all over everything and I had no context to frame it in. But a visit to the States that summer made me see it very differently.
I feel contextless. But I am an American abroad, with the privilege and  obligation to vote and I'm getting excited to help others more easily do that as well; to give ourselves our own context. What has become the joking "Was meinst du zu den Trump?" has become a more frightened plea for my offer that my motherland will not unleash a reality tv star on the world. Because I'm an American in the context of a continent that was nearly destroyed by hate and north of a country that was more recently negatively effected by the leadership of a reality TV star and failed business man. 

Mittwoch, 8. Juni 2016

10 years ago today

10 years ago today, I moved to Zürich. Back then I knew about 13 words of German, was fresh from a crohn's flare and had no idea what I should do with my new degree.
I left a couple boxes of stuff in my mom's basement, had bid Philadelphia adieu and flew to my new home with my new (as of 2 days before) fiancé.
I'm at the point now, where people seem less impressed with my Swiss German than they used to be. It's not that I'm bad at it. It's just that previously, my swiss german was good for someone who hadn't been here that long. Now, when I tell someone who's said "You're American and you speak in dialect?!" that I've been here 10 years, their face changes from having been impressed to being...well... whelmed.
I've not been in Zürich the whole ten years, of course. There was a year in the States in between, where I relished being in the same country as my family - though equally far away. While there, we spoke Swiss German at home, celebrated the 1st of August and baked the same Christmas cookies that we would have back home (mailänderli.) I've still live on this block, in this city, in this country longer than I've lived on any block in any city in any country. Which just seems kooky.