Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 10

"The Help" is not just a movie.

I have been back in South Carolina for a week.

The Good Things:
I got to see all three of my children, their spouses/significant others, and two grandchildren for a whopping total of 18 hours.
I was able to play bridge with 20 of my nearest and dearest for 5 hours.
I went out for dinner/drinks with my friends for 4 out of 7 nights.
I bought mothballs to bring back to the chalet to combat the stone martens.  I found them in the very first store I went in.  Imagine that.  No one questioned me.  No one told me that mothballs were a controlled substance.  They just rung up my mothballs.  That’s how we roll in America.
I was able to watch my favorite TV shows in real-time, not in “taped time”.
I basked in the hot sunshine on my porch and saw nary a drop of snow for seven days.

The Bad Things:
18 hours of Kid Face-Time is not long enough.
3 rounds of bridge is not enough.
I will have a hangover that lasts until March because my friends are like Energizer Bunnies with booze bottles.
I think I am going to have a problem at Customs because I am bringing 2 end tables, one mounted antelope skull with 2-foot long horns, 6 Swedish glass bottles, 1 extremely large wine carafe, 6 cartons of Newports and 2 ceramic laughing goat heads in my luggage.  Oh, and an oil painting
I gained my normal “American Five” (pounds) which I will have to lose when I get home, but this doesn’t panic me like it did in the beginning.

This blog entry is going to be kind of screwy, in that it will try to explain to my ex-pat friends why I am soooo not normal and to my American friends why I am getting a little weird.  Does that make any sense?  Unfortunately, it does in my mind, but nobody lives here in my mind except me and my crazy self.

The other day, I was having coffee in Lausanne with some friends and trying to explain the concept to them of organizing a bridge game for 20 women in my home in South Carolina with a caterer, a bartender and bridge prizes.  The logistics of such an undertaking were just beyond them.
1)       WHERE WOULD THEY PARK?  Well, um, they park in the driveway.  Or, if there’s not enough room, on the side of the house.  Or on the grass.  This comment was met by a wall of silence as they each tried to picture in their mind a driveway that would accommodate 10 or 12 cars.  Or, God forbid, parking on grass.
2)      WHAT DO THE LANDLORDS SAY?  There are no landlords.
3)      WHAT DO THE NEIGHBORS SAY ABOUT THE NOISE?  My noise is not the neighbors’ business.
4)      WHAT DO YOU DO IF THE POLICE COME?  First of all, no self-respecting police officer is going to come up on my property for a measly ol’ bridge party.  We are a bunch of old ladies.  Second of all, the police officer’s mother is sitting at Table 4 bidding Three No Trump.  What?  Is he going to arrest his own mother?  No, I don’t think so.
5)      DON’T YOU WORRY ABOUT DRINKING AND DRIVING?  Well, actually, yes we do.  That is why some of the women enlist their children to come pick them up.  Consequently, around midnight, my house is the place to be if you want to hook up with some friends that you knew from High School, because you can come on in, eat up the fabulous left-over food, laugh at your crazy mothers and arrange to meet up later at somebody’s house.

As I said to my European friends, picture the movie The Help.  Fast forward the hairstyles and the clothes a few decades and you have got Modern Day South Carolina.   Yes, we still have Black women who raise our babies and wash our clothes.  But, we pay them very well.  And, we know their names and consider them our friends.  But, they don’t play bridge with us.  Not because we wouldn’t want them to play bridge with us, but because they have much better things to do than sit around with a bunch of old, white ladies comparing chicken salad recipes and playing a game where no money exchanges hands.  But really, the movie “The Help” is not that far-fetched.  It’s still kind-of like that, where I’m from.

Does that make me a horrible person?  I don’t think so.  Which brings me to trying to explain to my South Carolina girlfriends what my life is like in Switzerland.  Tit-for-Tat, right?

On Mondays, before French class, I meet my girlfriends in Lausanne for coffee.  I’m going to try to explain this little get-together to my South Carolina girlfriends:
1)      WHERE DO Y’ALL PARK, BEIN’ AS IT’S A BIG CITY AN’ ALL?  Well, most of us don’t park.  We take public transport.  Me, personally, I walk to the #9 bus stop down below my house and take it up the hill to where the coffee shop is located.  EVEN THOUGH IT IS BELOW ZERO AND I’M WEARING APPROXIMATELY 25 POUNDS OF CLOTHING.
2)      WHAT DO Y’ALL TALK ABOUT?  OK, I might possibly one of the oldest living ex-pats.  Most women “of a certain age” don’t agree to do the ex-pat thing because it’s really hard and stressful and they are completely settled in their lives at home.  Me, I’m just a weirdo.  Therefore, most of my ex-pat friends are in their 30’s and early 40’s.  We talk about the merits of Full-On Swiss-Schools versus Bi-lingual Schools versus English-Only International Schools.   We talk about where to find our favorite food ingredients.  We talk about which new restaurants we tried.  We talk about where we went skiing over the weekend.  We try to “Out-Switzerland” each other, i.e. who had to pay the most outrageous price for something trivial during the week.  (The week that Mr. Big paid 99 Swiss franc for a dimmer switch still holds the all-time record.)
3)      ARE THEY NICE?   Yes, they’re nice!  Their problems are not the same as y’all’s problems but they are (sometimes) even more serious because, without each other, we have no support group, right?  So, even a problem as seemingly easy as finding an English-speaking gynecologist can become a major thing.
4)      WHAT IF YOU DON’T LIKE WINE OR COFFEE?  The hot chocolate is wonderful.  You can live a full, complete life in Europe without wine or coffee.  Order Jus d’orange.  Or “un verre d’eau”(ahn-fair-doh) which is a fancy way of saying a glass of tap water.

Even after three years away, it is gut-wrenching when I have to leave America.  I hate to leave, but I can’t wait to get back.  I swear, if I didn’t have the Mothball War to look forward to, I would be wanting to stay right here in this warm sunshine!

Here is a perfect example of why I love where I’m from.  I just went out to the mailbox, here in SC, to post a Thank You Note to Charming Daughter’s boyfriend, who bought us a lovely house-warming gift for the chalet.  As I’m reaching into the mailbox which is located down by the road, the UPS driver coming up the opposite way screeches across 2 lanes of traffic, stops his big ol’ brown truck next to the curb just to hug me because he hasn’t seen me in a year.  Y’all, only in America are people on a first-name, huggin’, cheek-kissin’ basis with their UPS driver.  (Hi, Joel!  I hope your boss reads this and you get a raise.  What can Brown do for you?  Well, they can make you feel at home!)

OK, fast forward a week later.  It’s Sunday night, I’m in the chalet, I just spent all day at an auction (my favorite thing in the world) in Martigny, Switzerland, I bought a GIANT set of antlers for the wall in the dining room, and I have coffee and French class to look forward to tomorrow.

Count your blessings, people.  Appreciate those things that make you happy.  Me?  I don’t have enough fingers and toes.  I’m two-continents-full-of-happy.

1 comment:

  1. I just found you Blog, and these are some of the funniest x-pat stories I have read about Switzerland in AGES.

    Thank you (and good luck with the Stone Martins - we had Pine Martins here and they ate our brake cables. I thought the mechanic was trying to wind me up when he told me, but sadly not...).