The next chapter

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.”

This week marks 10 months into this journey. A journey which we had envisioned as being 13 months of new experiences and transformation. It has lived up to that expectation and beyond. So much so in fact that we’ve decided to invest a little more of ourselves into this journey.

We are staying. For now…


Some of you have been asking us since we arrive “so, are you coming back?” I have carefully evaded all those questions until now.

We will come back. Soon in fact, but only for a visit this summer before we return.

Canada will always be home. But we aren’t quite done pushing ourselves here. Goodness knows I haven’t achieved anything even close to fluency in German yet. There is much work to be done still!

Things I need to master before we can consider returning:

  1. Recycling – my recycling piles are not neat, tidy little bundles made up of right angles yet. Who are we kidding – I will NEVER recycle with right angels.

    Also, I will NEVER vacuum my driveway like this perfectly Swiss gentleman. Best to leave some goals as someone else’s aspiration.
  2. Window decor – my Christmas effort was pretty good. I managed a festive Easter theme too but I am constantly humbled by the amazing talent the Swiss have in decorating their exterior spaces.

    I want pretty windows like this!
  3. Inspiration is everywhere.
    Such vibrant colour.
    Total abundance.

    3. Smoking – not sure I need to take up the habit myself despite it being such a big part of this cultural experience. The amount of second hand smoke we inhale on a daily basis is probably enough. For a country who represents such a fresh and healthy image, we still find the pervasiveness of smoking here astounding.

    When the outdoors smell as amazing as they do here getting a whiff of cigarette smoke is so disappointing.

    We even came across some product sampling at a 7-Eleven style shop here once. Head scratching for sure…

  4. Biking in heels – the season is really kicking into high gear again (oh the puns!!) so now is the time. I feel like this is achievable if only I owned heels – must seek to rectify that!

    I have witness this remarkable feat (not this exact image – this pic I borrowed) biking with heels AND an open umbrella. Seriously talented people here.
  5. Wearing a scarf every time I step out of the house. This one is a crucial part of my attempts to appear European. Without a scarf I feel as though there may as well be a billboard over my head advertising my North American status. “She’s wearing a hoodie under that jacket! She’s a fake!”​

    Even while swinging at the park with your kid, scarf must be in place. 

  6. Eating cheese and bread at every meal and staying slim – that said, the Swiss level of slim is not the definition of healthy in my opinion. There are a lot of very hungry girls walking around here. I digress, more on that in a future blog…
  7. Answering a question in German without jumping to the phrase “Sphrechen Sie Englisch?” I’ve had some good success lately although if my children are within ear shot they typically cringe and try to hide. “Mom, you’re embarrassing yourself!” Hmmm, I thought that all came out quite well.
  8. Walking on the grass without getting yelled at. For so long my lingering fear of getting yelled at for doing something wrong was without warrant. We were greeted with friendly smiles everywhere we went.
    Until recently.
    The kids and I were enjoying a lovely evening walk in the woods on a warm, sunny evening marveling at the size of the dandelions here. Just like all things, the Swiss even grow dandelions better than anyone else in the world.

    This photo doesn’t do it justice. This dandelion was enormous! (Also, see Helena in the background? Keep this image in mind as you read on.)

    Helena was racing through a field of dandelions in an area we’ve frolicked in before when a quintessential grumpy-old-man pulled up in his van. He was talking quickly, Swiss German, clearly disappointed. Not catching what he was saying but knowing we were in trouble I kept repeating “Entschuldigung”. (German for sorry – one of the very first words we learned, thank goodness.)
    As he pulled away I asked the kids if they had caught any of that. One phrase they did catch is his lengthy finger wagging lecture was that we should have learned this in school.
    Hmmm, nope.
    The kids confirmed that to date the topic of never-run-through-the-grass had not yet come up in class.
    Maybe next week.
    I asked a family member here who confirmed. “Oh yes, you NEVER run in the long grass. We learn that as children and we teach our children. It is for the cattle.” And sure enough, a week or so later that same open field of grass had a temporary electric fence up to keep in the happy cows with bells munching away on the grass. Now we know…stay off the grass.

    This grass is perfectly acceptable for frolicking. The difference is a subtlety lost on us.

With the decision to stay we now have the ability to repopulate our list of places we want to see. We’ve done a lot, been to every corner of this country, perhaps seen more than some Swiss who have lived here their whole lives.

But the list will never be finished. There’s just too many places we still want to explore, much of which may forever be outside of our time or budget here. But we’re determined to do our best to experience as much of Europe as we can while we’re here. It’s exciting to have more time here.

Staying means that the kids will start at a new school again in August. At the end of this school year they will have both graduated from the accelerated German program and be ready to integrate into the mainstream school.

This is both great and unfortunate all at once. Great because it will mean that the journey to school will no longer require 2 buses. They will be assigned to a school right here in our neighbourhood which is fantastic because it means the friends they make will be nearby rather than spread out all over the city.

But that’s also the hard part. They will say good bye to the friends they’ve made this year and start from scratch. This time they’ll be the lone new kids, rather than in the comfort of a whole class of wide-eyed newbies. This is the part that kills me and that I wish I could magically make easier.

The decision to stay was hard. So hard.

Thankfully we made the decision during a time when the sun was shining warmly and brightly, the birds were chirping and the blossoms were bursting. That made it easier.

Since the grey and rain have settled in this month it feels a little less like a good idea as I once again try to tackle my giant, frizzy hair. The humidity level here these days is such a new experience for us, being from Alberta, the land of chapstick and electric shocks on the trampoline. I was playing UNO with the kids this morning and the pack of cards felt damp in our hands. The dampness is everywhere.

It’s an environment where everything grows so abundantly; there’s a green tinge to the rocks and slate surfaces out our front door as a thin layer of moss is covering everything.

The rock wall on our front porch.

It’s a tenacious plant, moss, growing wherever it can.

Perhaps we are no different. This is an environment where we are continuing to grow. Like moss if you will… Inspired by the book Mom was reading while here, Gathering Moss, I’ve recently learned that “…moss plants don’t need roots to absorb nutrients from the soil. They don’t need soil. They don’t need a vascular system to pipe nutrients from the bottom of the plant to the top. They’re simplicity itself.” (Anita Sanchez blog.)

Who said that a rolling stone gathers no moss? Can we be the exception? Rolling through this adventure with all the ups and downs it has provided but finding just enough in the elements around us to grow, to soften, to thrive.

We’ll continue to share this journey with you if you’ll continue to read. As always, bringing you all along with us on this journey makes it extra special.



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