Thursday, March 11, 2010

An expat in a fashion crazed city... in a snow storm

I woke up this morning with a 'spring in my step.' (corny, I know, but it's true) It was one of those happy mornings, when you just feel like it's going to be a good day. One of those mornings where you give your husband an extra kiss as he's off to work, and you hug your daughter extra tight, just because you can. One of those days when you think the sun should be shining when you open the curtains for the first time in the morning.  I opened those curtains this morning to yet another snow storm, and I anticipate, I have a few more of those mornings in my future before spring starts to knock on Switzerland's door. Despite the snow, I am working hard to find the happiness in the weather rather than letting it drive me crazy (because, truth be told, it's driving me crazy!)  I know, I know, we are lucky enough to actually be spending a year of our lives in Zurich, and we are actively taking that year to explore the world around us, and yes, it's awesome and I am loving every minute of it. But the day to day of this freezing cold winter is testing my 'glass half full' morale.

So, after waking up to snow storm, I kept my positive attitude in check and headed off down our hill to take Ella to pre-school. Thus begins the my very odd day. I hope you were able to read 'down the hill, in a snow storm.' As we've chosen to not buy a car during our time here, we have two options to get down the hill - tram, or walk. And, if I'm walking Ella can ride in the stroller, ride on my back, or walk. In a freezing, cold, snow storm, the only decent option is for her to ride on my back. After I put on what I deem as suitable winter gear (hats, boots, scarves, gloves, etc) we're off. This morning, fashion was not on the top of my list, but being able to walk down the mile long hill, safely, was. To get down the first stretch, I walk on the road because it's the only part that has been plowed. The sidewalks are semi-salted and navigable, but with my kid on my back, I don't risk the possible fall. And as I watched others literally sliding down the sidewalk like it is a skating rink, I safely took the road and the dirty looks I got from the drivers that passed me by. Fine.

The second half of the hill is a pedestrian path that gets partially plowed and salted. It is also a combination of sloping pavement and stairs. With my trusty boots on, I easily made it down part of the stairs to a ramp. I look down the ramp to see 4 men sliding down the sidewalk, flailing arms while trying to keep hold of their brief cases, while they attempt to look like they are really meaning to ice skate down the walk, not accidentally slide and pathetically trying to reach out and grab anything they can to stay upright. Then I noticed their shoes. They are all wearing nice, surely very expensive (as we are in zurich) business work shoes. Flat, shiny soles with no traction. Of course they are skating down the hill, they're idiots. Have they done this in every snow storm we've had this winter? Surely, this can't be the first time they've tried to walk to work in the snow. In fact, this nonsense need for 'fashion first' is something I've seen routinely over the course of the winter. Both men and women wear completely impractical shoes when trekking around the city. I've seen heels, stilletos and open toed shoes all trudging through the snow, ice, slushy grossness that happens in a city after the pristine white has long gone. Is fashion so extremely important that you have to wear your best shoes at all times, can't you wear decent shoes to work, then change them when you get there? Maybe I'm just to practical, or I haven't lived here long enough to understand.

After successfully negotiating the hill with Ella on my back, passing all those struggling men, I reach the bottom just in time to hear a loud 'thunk.' Mr. 'I'm too savvy to wear my boots to work' kissed the pavement. Ouch.

Ella and I hop on the train and arrive at pre-school just fine. Ahhh, I have two hours all to myself. Time to take my new American magazine (that John so kindly brought back to me from his trip to the states) and indulge in some good old fashion celebrity gossip. Just as I've lost myself in the magazine, a woman approaches me at my table. She starts speaking in broken German, and mentions something about 'work.' Then she ASKS ME.... Sprechen sie Englisch?!!!!! Umm, what? After living in a world where I don't speak ANY of the national languages, I am CONSTANTLY asking people around me if they speak English. (I've been told to just assume that everyone speaks English, but I still feel like that is a rude assumption, so I ask) But, I have never been asked if I am the one that speaks English. I nearly laughed at her, but I kindly said yes, and we continued our conversation. I guess I'm hoping she was perceptive enough to notice that I was reading a magazine in English, and was just being polite, but sometimes you just never know. It made me feel good that I am not the only one walking around the city asking, 'sprechen sie English.'

To top off my morning, as Ella and I are ascending the stairs to the train station, she tripped and banged her knee on the step. She wimpered a little but quickly recovered, until an elderly (kind of scary) Swiss woman started talking to Ella and grabbed her hand to help her up the stairs and that made Ella cry even more. The continued crying led this, what I naturally deemed as a 'crazy woman,' to continue talking at us. Not with us, b/c I couldn't actually talk back. She just talked at us. Eventually I heard her ask me if I spoke German. Hmmm, have I said anything to you yet? But a polite, Nein, would suffice. Or so I thought. I think what happened next is that she proceeded to talk at Ella about how it was so nice that Ella spoke German and how her mother should really learn German. She followed that up with some commentary of Ella wearing gloves and that she should eat Mentos. Yeah, I know, weird. Oh thank goodness, the train has arrived (on time, naturally) She looks to see where I'm headed and follows. I don't think so lady, and I take off to the next car. See ya.
After re-capping this story to John, he promptly told me I needed to learn the phrase, "Get away from my baby you crazy b**ch."  And so I did. "weg von meinem Baby bekommen Sie crazy b**ch"

And so, another eventful day in as an ex-pat in the snow. I'll do my best to embrace it for now.


  1. Too funny Kim!! Seriously, you just described a day in the life of Heather too. Maybe being a crazy expat is a universal quality that transcends all continents :)

  2. Amazing story!!!! (did the lady who wanted an english speaker have anything cool to say?!) I love what drives your german lessons!

  3. This is the most hilarious post. You are too funny. I can just hear these thoughts in your voice when I read them. And I didn't know E was in preschool. What a big girl. Meg is jealous!