Saturday, May 22, 2010

Short Takes

First of all, thanks to the many of you Future Trailing Spouses who have been contacting me in Switzerland.  (When you post a comment on the blog, I get a personal email at my house.  How cool is that!  Who knew!)  I’m glad I can be of help in saving your sanity.  It is very scary, yes, but it is imminently do-able.  Just keep persevering.  Soon you will be like me and find yourself looking for “For Sale”, (A Vendre), signs on your little weekend junkets or bike rides because you suspect you may never be going home—full-time, at any rate.  Plus, it is practically impossible to buy any property here unless you have at least a “B” permit.  Strike while the iron is hot is what I say!  You can’t go home later and THEN decide that you were an idiot to not buy that chalet while you had the Golden Ticket.

Bleach has become my new brown sugar.  I used to own a restaurant so I am a complete and total bleach freak.  By bleach, I mean Clorox, full-strength, full-bore, make-your-nostrils-stick-together-when-you-sniff-it bleach.  Well, you cannot buy it here.  I have looked in the restaurant supply store here in Lausanne.  I have looked in grocery stores and hardware stores and automotive stores and garden stores.  I’ll bet I have about 6 bottles of “Quasi-Swiss-Bleach” in my cupboard right now that I thought might be right, but, no.  None of them are right.  They are all some completely watered-down, funky-ass version of “Green” bleach.  They don’t even smell like bleach.   When you take off the little foil cap, the smell is so benign, I think you could probably drink straight from the bottle and not suffer any side effects.  Ouzo is stronger than the bleach available here.  Gerber Peas are stronger than the bleach here.  Anyway, I tried to smuggle a gallon of Clorox in my suitcase two days ago from the US.  That shit never even made it out of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Some TSA wench brought that Clorox home and is doing her laundry with it as we speak.  When I finally arrived in Lausanne and unpacked, there was a charming little note from the US Transportation Authority advising me that they had “relieved” me of my bleach.  Because it is a hazardous material.  I’m like, PEOPLE, how can it be a hazardous material when they sell it at Walgreen’s and Piggly Wiggly?   The No-Bleach thing is driving me crazy.  I have yet to find a solution, no pun intended.

Mr. Big and I are in a war.  We are “Mountain-Stupid”.  That is not something that you admit here in Heidi Land unless you are among close friends, (of which ex-pats have none).  Anyway ,there is a giant mountain located somewhere on the other side of our lake.  Perhaps you have heard of it.  It is called MONT BLANC.  Ha.  Mr. Big thinks it is the mountain that you can only see once you are in the Geneva vicinity.  I swear it is the biggest mountain located directly right off our deck in our straight line of vision out of Lausanne.  We have poured over Google Earth.  We have looked at Michelin maps.  We fight constantly about this.  Please.  Please.  If anyone out there can direct us to a website that shows the view off of the Port d’Ouchy in Lausanne and the names of every individual mountain peak, you might, possibly, save a marriage.  I’m just sayin’. 

We need a little map WITH ARROWS pointing down to the mountain peaks so we know what the hell we are talking about.  Because, obviously, we don’t.  And Mr. Big is an engineer.  But still.  This topography thing is hard.  YOU try it and then we’ll talk.

I would like to coin a new term, right here, right now.  XP-PS.  Ex-Pat Postal Service.  No kidding, I am going to copyright this XP-PS.  Formerly known as Checked Baggage.  Well.  They are going to charge us anyway for all of our checked baggage on airplanes.  Why not call it what it is?  There was a precious post on an ex-pat forum from a frantic Mom in Switzerland the other day who couldn’t find Star Wars stuff for her 5-year-old’s birthday party.   Bless her heart, she must be very new to Switzerland .  She actually thought she could go in a random party store in Basel and find Anakin Skywalker balloons and plates just lurking there on Aisle 3.   Um, no.  Cows, possibly.  Alphorns, definitely.  Darth Vader?  No.  So, I emailed her and told her that I was in the US for 19 days and would be happy to bring back her Star Wars party supplies VIA the XP-PS.   I think the Customs Authority people in every single country must crack up every, single day looking at what ex-pats put in their luggage.    I will be trademarking the name shortly.  Remember it, people.  XP-PS.  Overloading Baggage With Contraband Items One Suitcase At A Time.

Something else I love besides XP-PS:  Friends Who Don’t Forget You.  This was my real topic when I started today’s blog entry.   One of the things Mr. Big’s company required us to do before we moved, was to have a “consultation” with a trainer/psychologist who specialized in ex-pat acclimatization.  (That is a very hard word to spell.)    This was the BIGGEST WASTE OF TIME  AND MONEY EVER.  Seriously.  The numb-nuts guy who was assigned to us had never spent a moment outside of Cleveland, Ohio and, maybe, if I’m being generous, Detroit   Ever.  And he was supposed to make me feel OK about moving to Switzerland.  Puhleez.  American Corporate Waste Of Money.  Par for the course.  OK, whatever, I have learned to go with the flow.   I was really craving some good, solid, specific, information (about procuring bleach and brown sugar and how to throw away a broken lawn chair!) and what I got was a bunch of drivel on acclimating and my FEELINGS and whatnot.  DUDE!  STOP!  Have you ever been to Switzerland?  And if the answer is no, then go “help” someone else!  Because you don’t have a flippin’ clue!  Go curl up in your Lazy-Boy, click on your ESPN, buy your chips and beer at Walmart and try not to think about me here in the land where THERE IS HORSE MEAT ON THE SHELF IN THE GROCERY STORE!  Anyway, I’ll never forget one thing he said to us.

“Mr. and Mrs. Big”.


“If I cannot stress one thing enough, it is this.  You need to make new friends in Switzerland because your old friends will eventually forget you.”

Huh?  My friends better not forget me because I will come back and beat them with a cow bell on a handtooled leather strap!  What was he talking about?  Apparently, surveys show, that “old” friends move on with their lives and forget about us because we are not there on a day-to-day basis.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Do not listen to the so-called experts.  Our friends are just as wonderful as they always were and we still get invited to every little cocktail party and BBQ, even though they know we are not coming.  They go out of their way to plan future get-togethers for the times they know we are going to be home. 

Mr. Big has installed a telephone that sits here in our living room in Switzerland BUT has is a local South Carolina phone number!  I think it is probably illegal but I don’t care.  (It’s made by a company called Vonage, for those of you who want to be illegal with me).  Anyway, what a marvelous electronic item!  I get so excited when it rings!  (Except at 2 a.m.).  That’s the only drawback—if people are dialing a Swiss number with the plus sign and country code and a long list of digits, this triggers them to remember that we are six hours ahead.  When they are just dialing a local number—no mental trigger.  Hence, more phone calls in the wee hours.  A small price to pay for keeping in touch.  So, here’s to good friends, Facebook and an illegal US phone.  Long may they live!

BTW, if you want to link directly from this blog to Facebook, my tech-savvy sister has installed the “like” button up on the top left of this screen.  It will take you directly to the Trailing Spouse Blog page on Facebook.  Bonne weekend!  Trailing Spouse

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