Friday, 5 October 2012

Three Is The Magic Number

The 3rd October this year marked the 3rd anniversary of my move to Switzerland. Three whole years of life outside of England, adapting to new surroundings, learning a new language, and starting again from scratch.

I think it's fair to say, I've had a pretty eventful three years here, as you could see for yourself by reading through some of my articles from 2009-2011. I feel I've done a lot of growing up in a relatively short space of time, largely because I could no longer rely on the backing of my family if things got tough, as they were over 900km away.

Granted, I was fortunate to have the support of my wife's family, who always did their best to help me fit in here. Still, trying to build a new life for yourself in another country is no easy feat, and takes a lot of courage and a never-say-die attitude.

Without sounding to much like I'm blowing my own trumpet, I think this boy done good.

Although I won't be celebrating the end of my third year in Switzerland in any formal, party-esque way, I thought it would be worth continuing my tradition of writing a few points about what I've learnt since moving here, following up on 2010's "12 Months Later" and 2011's "Another Year Goes Past".

So, here is a little highlight of the last twelve months of my life on the continent.

Toddlers are much more fun than babies
Before you start typing a complaint, I'm not having a go at babies here. It's just that they simply aren't as much fun to have around as toddlers. The reason? Interaction. Basically, a baby is not the most interesting thing to play with. Up to the age of maybe 6 months old, they really just seem to cry and whinge a lot (at least that's my personal experience with Lydia). Younger than 6 months, you are never really sure if they enjoy life or if they even like you. They seem to smile and look at you with a little sparkle in their eye, only to then scream or whinge as they flap their arms and legs in frustration.

Lydia is now 17 months old, walking around like she owns the place, telling us what to do. Well, she is only in the fairly early stages of speech development, but she has a way of getting her directions across (such as wagging her finger at you saying "No, no, no!" if you do something she doesn't approve of). This is an age where we, as parents, can really appreciate our little ones, as they become really interactive.

Once they are walking and a bit more grown up, the kids can do more things for themselves and that serves to boost their confidence, turning them into little adventurers. We've also witnessed Lydia storming off into her room and slamming the door after being told "no", so you can see the kid's character coming through too.

Personally, I'm enjoying Toddler Lydia much more than Baby Lydia. Perhaps other babies are the most wonderful things in the world to their parents, but for us it was a very difficult stage. Lydia didn't seem happy being a baby either, as we often got the impression that she was frustrated by not being able to do something she wanted to do (be it walking, talking, picking something up, etc.). So, both parents and toddler are much happier these days!

1st Birthday Parties are more hassle than they are worth
The Birthday girl
(before she got
really grumpy)
Earlier this year we wanted to throw a big celebratory get-together for both sides of our families for Lydia's 1st birthday (see "Lydia's 1st Birthday"). Although it was nice to get everyone together for the first time since our wedding in 2009, it was a pretty stressful day.

First the birthday girl decided to have an extra long after-lunch nap on the big day itself, meaning we turned up over half an hour late to her own party. I know that might be seen as fashionably late in some circles, but I don't think that applies to babies.

As well as being late, Lydia also wasn't impressed by the sight of the family gathered in one place for her. On entering the forest cabin rented specifically for her party, Lydia cried as everyone smiled at the sight of her. Perhaps it would be a bit overwhelming for a little 'un to see so many people at one time, but it will still a bit annoying. She also cried when we brought her birthday cake to her with everyone singing "Happy Birthday to You", and when we tried to get her to open some presents as well. In short, she didn't really enjoy her day.

That meant we didn't really enjoy it either. It was nice to chat to everyone, but given that Lydia didn't like it, the whole experience just seemed like a bit of a waste of time and money. If we have another child one day, I certainly don't see us repeating this a second time.

I probably should have got out more in England
In the last three years I've been to so many different places in Switzerland, ranging from towns and cities (such as Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Sion, etc.) to mountain tops and beauty spots (including Santis, Lac Noir, Les Paccots, Rochers-de-Naye, Glacier d'Aletsche, and so many more). In the preceeding 27 years of my life in England, I had been to hardly any of the UK's big towns and cities, and - outside of Cornwall - had never really seen the beauty that the UK has to offer.

When I think about this now I realise that I should have done more. I should have gone out at weekends and had a look at what my country has to offer. It's kind of strange to think that I have been to so many places and seen so many things in Switzerland but I barely went outside Hertfordshire in England.

As Lydia grows up I think it's important for her to learn about her English heritage, so I will have to put a lot of effort into exploring my old country. So far she has been to Cornwall this year (see "Holiday in Cornwall"), so at least she has seen a bit of England!

I've achieved 40% of my life goals
Back when I was at university studying for my degree, I felt somewhat lost and unsure what to do with my life. I had no idea what job I wanted to do and in general I felt like I was lacking in direction. So, I set myself 5 life goals:
  1. Go to Australia
  2. Go to Antarctica
  3. Learn to play Guitar
  4. Learn another language
  5. Own a Mazda MX-5
Me at Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
in Australia
OK, so some of these goals were more ambitious than others, but they were things I always wanted to do or have. After finishing my degree, I spent 8 months travelling around Australia, so that checked #1 off my list straight away. Whilst in Australia I met the woman who later became my wife, a Swiss national and French speaker. Slowly, but surely, I've been picking up the French language ever since. Now I can confidently speak French, and although I still don't consider myself fluent, I manage to get by in another language so can check #4 off the list as well.

So that's already 2 out of the 5 life goals I set myself over 10 years ago finished. When I was at university I bought myself an electric guitar that I tried to teach myself, but through a lack of commitment and preferring to go to the pub instead, I never really got very far. In 2009 I ended up selling the barely-used Strat to help raise funds for our wedding and move to Switzerland, so that dream looked dead in the water.

However, for my 30th birthday this year my wife gave me an accoustic guitar, to try and help me finally achieve goal #3. It's a second-hand guitar that was missing a string, but the thought was still there. I have not yet got round to getting it repaired, but plan to do this next year. I will then get some lessons so I actually have someone pushing me to learn to play, something that was lacking from my previous attempt. If I can learn the guitar in the next couple of years, I'll be well placed to finish the full list before I get too old.

A trip to Antarctica is possible but a bit expensive (think it would cost around 10'000 CHF for 1 person), so that'll take some saving up. I might not be able to chalk this one off the list until I'm retired, unless I happen to win the lottery between now and then. The Mazda MX-5 will definitely have to wait until I'm older though, as a 2-seater car isn't very practical for a family of 3...

Well that's pretty much all I can think of for now. Check back in 12 months time for the next episode in this yearly tradition!

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