Random expat thoughts

May 27th, 2010

A grocery store I frequent has a big display at the end of one of the aisles, all “Neu!” and “Jetzt!” and big attention-grabbing signs and a tower of boxes of … Fruit Loops. As soon as I saw them I said “OH! Fruit Loops!” My heart might possibly have fluttered. Here’s the weird part, though: I don’t eat Fruit Loops. I never ate Fruit Loops (we were more of a Frosted Flakes family), except for possibly a few Sunday mornings in the college dorm when I was hung over, and I have no desire for the boys to ever discover the existence of Fruit Loops. I could easily go the rest of my life without eating a single Loop of Fruit. But seeing them in my Swiss grocery store made me so excited I almost actually grabbed a box just because I could. I’ve been here for ten years, but I still get excited when I see American food in the store, even if it’s nothing I have any interest in.

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I’ve been in Switzerland for ten years, and I’ve been toying with writing for much of that time. I never took it as seriously as I have for the past eighteen months, but I always had bursts of energy and Big Plans. And postage stamps for those pesky SASEs. (And 8 1/2 x 11 paper, too.) More and more journals now accept on-line submissions (at least for poetry; I’ve put prose on the back burner these past two years so I don’t know what the status is there), and I’ve found that many of those that say they don’t will make an exception for overseas submissions if you send a polite e-mail asking about it. But there are still those journals that only accept postal submissions, so I’ve always got some US international airmail stamps around. I’ve got 75 cent stamps. I’ve got some 80 cent stamps. I’ve got 90 cent stamps, and 4 cent add-ons, and now I’ve got 98 cent stamps. I’ve even got some regular old 32 cent stamps, and if US postal rates keep going one like this I’ll soon be able to combine them with the 75 cent stamps and get both of those denominations out of my hair. I have seventy-five cent postage stamps. I have been in Switzerland for twenty-three cents worth of rate increases. 

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When Small Boy started talking, he preferred Swiss; he still does, I think. It felt strange, this son of mine chattering at me in Swiss. I guess I’ve gotten used to it, because I kind of think that when The Boychen (who I think is more linguistically balanced than his older brother) says, “Ja, das chöi mir, Mama” * it’s the cutest thing ever.

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When I read the first line of this Tony Judt article, “One is not supposed to love Switzerland.”, I took umbrage. My pride was hurt, and I felt defensive and protective. Damn, I’ve been here a long time, because the truth is this: I love Switzerland. Unabashedly. 

* Yeah, we could do that, Mama.