Friday, December 4, 2009

Returning "Home"?

For ex-pats on temporary assignment, the word “home” can be confusing.  Is home your new country or is it the place you will return to someday?  For people who have kept a home in their country of origin, it’s even more muddled because they technically have homes in two places.  I have found my answer just listening to the running commentary inside my own head.  Right now I’m packing to return to Switzerland after a Thanksgiving stay in the US.  As I’m packing, I’m going through my mental checklist:

“Don’t forget to bring home more banana peppers.”
“I can’t wait to go to the Colmar Christmas Market when we get home.”
“I wonder if it snowed while we were away?”

See?  Home has subconsciously become Switzerland and away is now what used to be home.  It’s like an Abbott and Costello movie.  Just because you know I like to play “What’s in Your Suitcase?”, I will let you look inside the empty one I brought with me from home to fill up with stuff while I was away.  (If you followed that you are really paying attention!)

2 bed pillows
2 twin sheet sets
5 jars of banana peppers
All of the silver and gold Xmas balls and garland from the attic
A box of brown sugar
A box of Arm & Hammer baking soda
A bottle of Vanilla Extract
The couch cushion cover that got red wine spilled all over it during Thanksgiving

Why, you ask, is she bringing part of her couch?  Because her sewing machine is in Switzerland, of course!  It makes perfect sense to me to tote a stained couch cover 8,000 miles only to use it as a pattern and then throw it away.  Perfect sense.  Although, with the strict recycling laws in Switzerland, I will probably not be able to throw it away at all and will have to bring it back with me next time I return to the US. 

I had to write up a chart to help me throw away my trash without receiving a fine.  There are certain assigned days of the week for yard waste, glass, paper, plastic, etc.  If you dare attempt to dispose of anything on the wrong day, you will be reported to the Trash Police by a “helpful” neighbor.  And, God help you if you attempt to throw away your glass bottles on a Sunday, the National Day of peace and quiet.  Glass bottles make noise, you see.  They clink.  You can receive an actual fine for clanking on a Sunday.  I’m pretty sure you can be deported if you’re stupid enough to fire up a lawn mower on a Sunday.  Here’s a word of warning to any army out there that might be considering attacking Switzerland.  Do not attack on a Sunday.  We will be able to hear you coming while you are still in Austria.  It’s that quiet on Sundays. 

My Trash Chart also tells me the one day per quarter that it is OK to throw away something bigger than our regulation-size trash bags.  Which encompasses pretty much everything and will definitely pertain to the couch cover.  So, if I miss the next Oversized Trash Pickup Day, I will have to “store” it for another 3 months.  Where, I don’t know.  I’m thinking under the bed.

One last word on Swiss trash.  No, not Roman Polanski, the other Swiss trash.  I am only allowed to throw away my “ordures”, aka my non-recyclable trash,  in a regulation-size bag.  All of Switzerland uses the same trash bag.  All.  Of.  Switzerland.  So, Mr. Big, who is not very good with rules, needs to be monitored.  He is forever trying to use yard waste bags as trash bags.  I have explained nicely and also, not so nicely. 

“Mr. Big.  If you put that whomping huge trash bag out on Monday with everyone else’s teeny Swiss-sized bags, you are going to make us the laughing stock of the neighborhood and possibly get us deported.”
“Well, Trailing Spouse, then just put the big bag out on Tuesday with everyone else’s big bags and no one will know and we will live to see another week.”
“But, Mr. Big.”  (Gnashing of teeth).  “Ours will be so much heavier than theirs.  Theirs are filled with leaves.  Ours is filled with coffee grinds, potato peels and a random couch cover that I snuck in there.”

Ahhh! Can’t wait to get home!


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