Month: February 2015

One Year On

Now we are four

It’s been a year since we packed up the home we owned in London and moved out with all our worldly goods to a rented apartment in Zurich, Switzerland.

It still spins me out sometimes that I live here. London is one thing but to the average Australian, Switzerland is a whole extra level of exotic.

And what a year it’s been. German classes, shitty pregnancy, new baby, new car, new friends, new city, travel, gigs and holidays. This blog even. It’s funny because, without official employment, it often feels like I haven’t done much! But now I think about it, I really haven’t been idle.

They say it takes a year to get used to a new place. Chuck in the language barrier and a few extra stumbling blocks (such as morning sickness, lack of employment, depression) and I reckon it probably takes closer to two.

If I’ve learnt anything (have I?) it’s not to underestimate the importance of what’s important to me  and that these things are more mundane than I would have expected: good conversation, old friends, family and familiar smells, sights, and contact with places I love.

This move has been at the very-difficult end what I anticipated. Things were particularly bad for a couple of months there after I got back from Australia and the pregnancy was weighing me down mentally and physically. But I’ve felt better since Christmas and the new year and having the baby. Feels like I’ve solidified some friendships here and also that I’m now able to make more effort to seek out further friend opportunities.  And it’s paying off already.

I think I have surrendered a bit to the lifestyle: Ok I can hausfrau it up for a while. And while it still feels like there’s big decisions to make about where both HI and I am going career-wise and where we want our lives to be, maybe we can just cruise for a bit. Or maybe there’s no rest for the wicked!

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Haarschnitt in Zurich

 

It’s taking a while between posts lately because it’s hard to blog one handed. I can do most things on my phone or kindle while feeding the baby – emails, facebook, online shopping, read books – but writing is tricky. I was going to roll a few posts into one but this turned out longer than I expected. Sorry if this entry is not terribly exciting… Coming soon: Dinosaurs and lactobling!

Haircuts in Zurich

It’s well documented on the expat forums that good haircuts in Switzerland are hard to come by. There’s tonnes of hairdressers (Coiffures), that’s not the problem. Haircuts are expensive because everything is expensive here (or if you prefer: staff are properly paid and get decent benefits). The cuts themselves are often a bit daggy because it’s like the 80s here. And, at least around where I live, most of the salons look a bit old lady-ish. Truth be told, I don’t see a lot of cool, alternative or hipster types around Zurich at all, except perhaps near Hardbrucke. Even so, most alternative types appear to be under 30. But I digress…

Not long after I got here, I had my hair cut at Haarock, a gothy / motorbikey / tattoo type place, but I didn’t find it great. You can tell within about five minutes if a hairdresser’s got the goods by how they handle your hair and unfortunately the lady who cut my hair there came up wanting. (she fell into the “goths with scissors” category – someone who looks cool but doesn’t have the skillz to back it up. Maybe she’s an awesome tattoo artist, I dunno). Haarock is probably fine for long-hair trims and crazy dye jobs (and tattoos, presumably) but not for the kind of edgy, sculptural cut I like. So I held out and went back to my fantastic hairdresser in London at Good Old Days when I was there last July. And then I got chopped at Marked Hair in Newtown, Sydney when I was there in October. Many of the expat forums blithely recommend you “Go to Germany” – which is actually the answer for a lot of things (eg: where can I find affordable/decent clothes, baby products, food, anything). But it’s rolled around to February and I don’t have any trips planned anytime soon.

[ASIDE: Even if I wanted to cross the border, I’m stuck to the baby right now and he can’t leave Switzerland until we’ve got his passport, which we can get until he’s issued with a birth certificate. Swiss bureaucracy means that a baby born here to non-Swiss people needs a shedload of paperwork to get a birth certificate, including both parents’ birth certificates, which must have been issued within the last six months… so we’re still getting all that together. Once we finally have his birth cert, then we’ll apply for either a UK or Aussie passport/citizenship, which will also take time and cost money. Anyway, it’s not a huge deal, but just thought I’d explain why I’m currently “grounded”.]

Plus, my parents were here to mind the baby so I had to bite the bullet and get a haarschnitt, or probably wait another six months! I decided I’d just pick a relatively cool-looking place I’d seen from the no. 14 tram so I made an appointment at Black & White. And whaddya know, I got the gothy girl hairdresser who’d worked in London for a year! Nice one. She did a good job and I’ll go back. It wasn’t cheap but I used to spend a fair bit on my haircuts in London so I guess it’s not so very different. I think I’ll have to keep dyeing it myself though. Adding “farbe” to the mix really does start to break the bank. I paid CHF170 (£116, AU$230) for a cut and colour. And that’s fairly standard. Although pretty much exactly what I paid in London too!

I think next time I’ll go even shorter up the back.

Note: I tend to use “goth” in a generic way to mean roughly “a person who looks like they’d go to a goth club”. Not the full-on Morgana Deathspell 😉

A new vocabulary

Geburt

My parents flew back to Australia on the weekend so I’m left feeling a bit more alone again. I think I’ve mentioned this before but, without mum and dad around, my little English-speaking enclave narrows and the isolation of not knowing the local lingo presses more heavily. I guess it’s time to sort out some more German lessons!

Thinking about words – new, old, unusual and familiar – I wanted to write a list of pregnancy-related words you barely hear at other times of your life. I kinda like the way so many unusual small things have their own term: like the first poo your baby does and the early milk they get. I also realised that while waiting for this baby, I actually really dislike the word “pregnant” – it seems a fat, awkward sort of term. Particularly when people would use it as a verb: How pregnant do you look now? Ugh. The German word for it, Schwanger, is not much better, although it does have a sort of swingin’ appeal.

Here’s some interesting words around pregnancy and childbirth I do like:

  • trimester
  • perenium
  • meconium
  • colostrum
  • lochia
  • letdown
  • Hebamme (German for midwife)
  • Schwangerschaft (German for pregnancy – somehow less blunt than Schwanger)
  • Stillen (German for breastfeeding)
  • Geburtshilfe (German for giving birth / obstetrics)

Got any other good ones? Let me know in the comments below…

Beer and Anxiety

Rhinefelder Beerhalle

I got out of the house on Sunday and went into central Zurich. Hooray! It’s so hard to strike the balance of staying home and resting, and not going stir crazy with cabin fever. It’s been snowing a lot too, which makes going out less attractive. But sometimes you gotta GO!

Anyway, I found a good solution in the form of a trip into Zurich’s old town (Niederdorf) in the snow to eat Cordon Bleu crumbed pork with ham and cheese in the middle) and drink Weissbeer. Did this calm my body or soothe my mind? A bit of both, and well worth it. We went to the Rheinfelder Beerhalle – very old school (we were the youngest people there by a few decades, well, baby S certainly was!) Then we wandered around the cobblestone streets for a bit. None of the shops were open because: Sunday. But it’s actually quite nice to take shopping out of the equation, on occasion.

It’s been good to explore a few more restaurants and cafes with my parents in town. They seem surprised I haven’t been to more local places but who do I have to go with? I’m not much of a one for solo cafe exploration… will that affect my novel writing? I hope not! 🙂

The first two weeks with baby S were just bliss. I felt amazing – so happy and content. I wish I could feel that way always. Why can’t I? Unfortunately anxiety has crept in. I remember this “newborn anxiety” all too well from when P was small – a breathless sort of stressy feeling like I need to get lots of things done quickly before… what? He wakes up? But so what if he does?

I don’t quite know what causes this nasty anxiety, but lately, I’ve been thinking about the Two Factor Theory of Emotion, as you do. I might not be completely undertstanding it correctly but, as I read it, it’s about how sometimes if you experience the physical symptoms of a certain emotion, you feel that emotion mentally. Even though you might not actually be “feeling” that emotion.

So – breastfeeding and early weeks with a new baby. Physically I’m tired, which always makes me cry easily. My chest hurts and my back and shoulders are stiff, which makes me feel kind of stooped and vulnerable. I’m sweaty (a common postpartum thing) and the waterworks are still a bit dodgy (it takes at least six weeks to fully heal –  Sorry if TMI!) And I’m anxious as hell.

But I wonder which came first? Because all these physical manifestations are also symptoms of anxiety. Eg: when you’re anxious, you’re sweaty, stooped and need to wee. Is my brain taking cues from my body or the other way around? Maybe I’m not actually anxious at all, it just feels that way in my body, so my brain is reacting to it!

Or maybe I have a 3-week-old baby and I’m trying to do too much: housework, spending time with a toddler and attempting to crack breastfeeding with a hangover of failure the first time around (bfing is much harder than all the literature says – most things you read seem to say a few days and “no pain”. But when you talk to people in real life it seems as though everyone has issues. Pain can last for more like weeks or even several months, there’s problems with oversupply, undersupply, letdown and engorgement – so many women have these issues that I’m surprised the prevailing attitude seems to be that bfing is no problem. Maybe it’s just that once it goes right, people forget?).

So anyway, perhaps I’m faking myself into anxiety by being a puddle of postpartum and bfing mess. Or perhaps I am just freaking out with a 3-week old. (For the record, I mentioned this physical anxiety theory to my Hebamme/midwife and she said: nah you’re a mass of hormones now and you need more REST!) Either way, the answer is beer. Cheers!