New new new…schools and stories of police | Travelling Storyteller Photographer
A swiss homecoming
Coming back to our Swiss home was once again an exercise in settling nerves and getting used to new new new.
wait…WHAT?! Back again?..still?…did you leave?
yes dear reader…we are back, it was up and down and mostly all over the place and so so much has happened in the last 3 months that for now I am recapping the story in blogs to follow as the chapters of our adventure book runneth over in my noggin and the written down parts sadly lacking. In various steps and back and forth chapters…we start with right now.
Our Canadian trip back home had us lugging back hearts full from family and friends and struggling under the weight of suitcases filled to the brim with all the goodies and treats that Swiss life just doesn’t afford. Like Skippy peanut butter and bear claws. Despite my repeated appealing to the kids that we indulge in the beautiful Italian pasta, Spanish charcuterie meat, Swiss cheese (and the list goes on), there is nothing that can make you feel like you are clicking your ruby red heels together than a bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Wanna heart attack? Look up how much Amazon charges for 4 pack to be shipped to yours truly. Thank you Edelweiss Air, we brought back 10 boxes.
Not only did we bring back all things edible and many things ‘too cool for school/gonna fit myself right into the crowd’ clothing, we also brought with us…OMA. A wish and a dream had been propelling her to travel to Holland and with us living in Switzerland a hop, jump and step away it was a logical step to come back with us before heading to see a cousin in the Netherlands.
Friends are the elixir of life
Despite the fact that we were in a new town, new apartment, new canton (think of it as the provinces of Canada, despite the fact that we only moved 65km away from our old home, we had crossed the invisible boundary of cantons) and the newness smacked us all over again. All that hard work of creating and making friends last year was seemingly whisked away as the big people in the little people’s lives decided to uproot to be closer to Tony’s job in Lausanne (20 minutes now by train instead of 1.5 hours if you were wondering). I like to think that the universe has our backs and an invite for a birthday party from buddies who shared a classroom last year was on the books before the newness of all the new smacked us too hard upside the head.
The Swiss have a perchance for adrenaline. Flinging oneself from one high ropes adventure to the next was an excellent way to mitigate the soon to start school jitters. Add to this that in hanging with others (see what I did there…snort) us that our French had indeed come back with us.
With a birthday party under our belts,
reassurance that we had indeed not forgotten our french
It was a sleepless night and bellies full of butterflies
the night before school
The beginning of our new Swiss Year was once again fraught with change. New apartment in a new city meant a newly assigned school. Remember, here in Switzerland when you move, you present yourself to the commune (me…my hands fully ensconced in bike chain grease because nothing good ever comes of getting a whole family together rushing to the government buildings on time and…clean…oh no my friend, that is a perfect recipe for bike chain disaster, oy vey) and your children are assigned the school they will attend. Another interesting fact - depending on the school and classroom, you may be with the same kids and the same teacher for 2-4 years..! yoiks!
Knowing all this we crossed our fingers that the teacher would be nice. We weren’t patient - we stalked FB for pictures and so far so good, T’s teacher seemed to like horses and A’s teacher was into acoustic guitars. Couldn’t be all bad could it..?
In my firm belief that all things happen for a reason and despite my Sheldon'esque way of trying to explain everything with science (or the odd “Its Okay To Be Smart” Youtube video where Joe will regale you with all things scientific) there are certain things that happen in life and just make you take a step back and say…wow.
T was headed to Collège de Chanel (as in Coco??) everyday. I think I just swooned a little saying that.. Chanel…sigh.
‘A’ heads off to Collège de la Gracieuse along the Chemin des Philosophes…
Once again, Tony and I felt pelted in our hearts and our tummies as having been the ones who made the big people decision to rip the rug out from underneath us. Our poor kids would have to start all over again. New new new. It was resounding and intimidating and just plain UGH. All while unpacking boxes of goodies from the suitcases, we wondered if we would find the spontaneous fun that would leap out at us at the same time.
And then it happened.
The. Very. First. Day.
My kids had a first day of School outfit. It was the least I could do considering the circumstances. T had practiced the route to and from school a dozen times over the past two days with and without her bike - mandatory training as Dad would bring her in the morning but then she’d be on her own for lunch and home time and a promise of a stop to the candy store for a job well done was motivation enough to stay on track. ‘T’ was shoe-in for school, sidled up to the same size height of all her classmates, looked cool enough to fit right in and despite trepidation and worry, she made it all the way in looking pretty calm. Pony/horse teacher looked like she had what it took to get T off to a good start.
‘A’ is a bit more of a meandering soul so we figured it was a best bet to keep my space with her and work on the go and come back to her School. Nothing like getting back into the 8 trips to and from school each day up and down a hill. Seriously good glute workout.
Dressed to impress and with our strongest smiles forward, ‘A’ and I arrived at the school with all the other fresh faces, matched up our letter to the name on the post and voila - teacher connection made. A male teacher…! At first A wasn’t too sure about this, but was soon sidetracked by the word ‘Nouvelle élève” - new student - and someone wasn’t talking about us. Like a radar going off our heads swung in the direction of the news and we bit. HARD. Determined to not have it take weeks for us to get to know others, we (I) did all we (I) could to forge an immediate friendship with the other little girl who was Just. Like. Us. New. Wouldn’t you know it…the two of them went into class holding hands. Mom and I regaled in our good fortune almost falling over one another when we realized that we lived in the same apartment building and had older daughters that were also in the same school…Chanel. Add to this that said super cool mom also lives on the 3rd floor and on inviting me for coffee was apologizing to me that Mt Blanc wasn’t quite visible due to the clouds while I fumbled my gorgeous Nespresso coffee oggling at the view. …I am pretty sure that part of me died and went to heaven in that moment - really…Quick…lottery ticket…where are you? Did I mention the girls came home thrilled with their teacher and over the moon happy with new friends.?! Ohhhh emmmm geeeee.
Ah..but you ask dear reader…
this ‘too good to be true’ amazingness certainly belies a little drama non..?
Nothing sparks of adrenaline more than the word “Police”
in the first week of school sentences
Prior to the first day of school goodness, T and I had taken the maiden voyage out to the school grounds to scope out the perfect book reading spots. In an effort to hedge our bets on friends taking a certain amount of time to garner she figured she best be prepared. So surprised were we that on coming home at lunch she pronounced (because ‘said’ is far too bland) that she HAD FRIENDS MAMA! I can’t believe it either! And continued to munch on … candies..
Despite my efforts at trying to convince T to stuff her school bag with the ever popular and elusive Canadian rice crispy treat - the perfect friend making recess snack - she was reluctant to look quite that eager the first day. I certainly couldn't remember sending her with sugar laden snacks on the first day … or maybe…
“Don’t hurt your brain mom. The Police were out at school today handing out candy!” munch munch munch..
of course they were
Nothing smacks of Swiss reality than a solid dose of authority coupled with unsealed sweet treats aimed at procuring relationships.
Wait a second…that’s our trick.
***NB; Despite this Swiss/Canadian’s roots telling her she is European to the core, she has an outer layer that sheds Canadianism wherever she goes, and it is often accompanied by people laughing at/with her as she continues her quest at total Swiss assimilation. She tries oh so hard…but often always falls short. In summary … I am chocker blocked full of user error and despite so many telling me how it works and what I should do…I am a work in progress. ***
Never the less I let the smile creep along my face, had a heady T snuggle with me into the couch and we both settled into our first day of good fortune. The sun was shining, no clouds in the sky and ‘A’ announced our Canadian’esque way of being by flip flopping to and from school 4 times a day proclaiming that she had all the friends in the world. Life felt incredibly good that day.
Floating through 3.5 days of school with nary a care in the world - I swear even our homework seemed to just do itself - no-one blinked an eye when T left 15 minutes early to school to meet up with a gym teacher who was to take their class to a ‘different gym class’. I now know that I should have taken stock of the wisp of intuition that was trying to smack me in the face.
Meandering back with ‘A’ from school on any given day is a lesson in advance preparation, guiding, running, stopping, lunging, lizard searching and likely lugging a light/heavy/uncomfortable/it hurts so bad I can’t breath Backpack home we inevitably make it back after T despite the distance being about 1/2 as far. As I turned the key in the lock I knew that things weren’t quite right.
Cue the drama.
I suddenly had a thought.
Oh my god.
Were they “libéré sur place”????
Nothing strikes fear in my mama hear than those three words. Remember…we Just moved here. ‘Libéré en place” is the equivalent of “we’re done and your kids are free to go home/roam/get lost/figure things out on their own no matter where we are” Good Luck!!!
Holy smack. I just figured it out. T went to another gym class. Remember not all schools in Switzerland are equipped like the ones back home, which means they (the kids and teachers) will travel - likely on foot, scooter, bike or the occasional bus which is actually called a CAR, but if that is late, it will be the train but lucky if you hear about it because…Swiss rules. If T was at another gym class then…where the heck is it? And did they get set free afterwards? And holy hannah I hope she made good friends who live close by and didn’t she mention some girl in the apartment block 3 blocks over who has cats who could guide her home? - wait a second…everyone owns cats here! I have no idea where my daughter is and she has no idea how to get around! Dang it I KNEW I should have sent her with rice crispy treats on the first day.
Lady luck was on my side and the school was still open when I called. (The Swiss have a meticulous perchance for punctuality and my timeline to call was within minutes of them shutting down the phone lines).
“Mais madame”….oh boy …I could hear it already..only the laugh was missing.
“Les enfants sont indépendants hors des heures d’école/the children are indépendant outside of school hours. The school is no longer responsible for them after their class”…..oooooh….nooooo. “Your daughter is downtown at the gym…She has a phone?…perhaps she is just taking her time to walk home? ….”
and this dear reader is when this mama spiralled
I asked for their ‘lost student protocol because we have only been here a week and my daughter has no idea how to walk back home through the myriad of pathways and roads from DOWN TOWN and NO she doesn’t have a phone because along with no car we have decided that no phone and minimal screen time is the most responsible way to raise a child”
The other end of the line went decidedly quiet.
Which is when I quietly asked for the number for the nice policemen and woman who had been handing out candy on the first day.
…T arrived home 5 minutes later…
And was aghast that I might call the police
She promptly made me drink a glass of water.
Told me to sit down.
And gave me a lecture on ‘appropriate cool mom protocol. ‘
!! Chill out Mom!!
And so…with my daughter safe back in my arms and rolling her eyes, heavy ‘breath taking backpack’ of the little one back on the rack where it was supposed to live since she doesn’t wear it…ever…we realized we were settling perfectly back into place with this new new new Swiss life of ours along Lake Léman.
Sweet treats, odd phone calls and notoriety spun in the form of random school phone calls by yours truly (I can now NEVER show my face there…parent/teacher night is going to be tricky...), we have breathed a sigh of goodness into what just 7 days ago scared the bejeebers out of us.
What have we learned…?
Take even longer to walk home from school, chase lizards and laugh harder because then T will have enough time to get home from wherever school takes her - always a surprise - and likely steal the extra change from her dad’s bedside table because how else will she sneak to the candy store on her way home without it?
Police treats are totally yummy once you get over the fact that they aren’t sealed and are handed out by strangers.
8 year old love the fact that they get to write with a fountain pen - with erasable ink.
Days where the sun shines over Lake Leman are without a doubt breathtaking and have this magical way of making everything ok.
La rentrée scolaire…fait accompli!