Interview with Vivi: Swiss School

I interview Vivi about her after thoughts of going to school in Switzerland (Luc’s actual school!).

  1. Before you started school in Switzerland, do you remember what you thought or felt about going to school there?
    That’s a hard question. I was scared to not make any new friends. Cuz they would all laugh about my accent.
    And how did it work out? It worked out fine actually, I made a lot of new friends.
  2. What was your first impressions of Swiss school?
    I don’t know. That’s a hard question again. This was a lot more different then I thought it was going to be. In what way? Some things that I didn’t know what they meant in French, I’m like, Ok I think that’s what she’s saying, but I don’t know… Is she saying that or is she saying that? Cuz I don’t know which one. I was a little bit confused. It was more at the beginning.
  3. How did you feel in the beginning?
    Scared. Was there anything that helped you not be scared?  Getting used to it, going every day. What helped you? Somebody explained to me everything. A friend. Avril. Merci Avril. Would you say you were outside your comfort zone?  Yes at the beginning. But then it became the new normal. It was kinda like school in Canada but in French and in a different country – when I was done. Did anybody laugh at your accent? I think a couple did but then they got used to it. I forget.
  4. What was the most fun thing?
    Going to the train to go to the pool, the gym, I love the train and that’s it.
  5. What was the thing you liked to do the most in school?
    Everything that I just said. Ummm… ACM -> where you do crafts, stuff for other people too, when it was Halloween, we made little baskets with skulls on them, I filled it up with candy and give it to someone. Did you like singing? When did I sing? Yeah, I like singing… but I didn’t need to do it in front of the whole class.
  6. What was the thing you liked to do the least?
    Math, and we all had different things to do everyday – so every week we had to change so once I was sweeping and once I was mopping and once I was cleaning tables and I don’t like doing that. Do you do that in Canada? No…. uh a little bit – I forget. What about dictee? No, cuz I only got for 5 months I only got 2 times right.
  7. What is something that is your favorite memory?
    My birthday cuz they all did a parade and said Canada! Canada! Canada! And some people’s birthday and also the train to go to the pool and the pool and the gym and yeah.
    What was it like staying for lunch some days at school?
    The first day was really scary because I didn’t get what was happening. My best friend explained what was happening, she went there last year and she helped me and so that helped a lot. What happens there? You get picked up when you get out of your class, then he collects all the people, and you go to a different room near the gym, you wash your hands, you go to a table that you want, he says “anybody that wants to serve your table?” and you have to put your hand up and you all have to agree. Your table all has to agree what person. And then all of the people who want to collect the  food, and then they go in line to collect the food, and the adults put the food on the plate and then you serve it to your table. What kinds of foods did you eat? Burgers. Once we ate taco, and we ate a whole bunch of other foods [like vegetables, and soup, and fruit] and we always have fruit for desert in Switzerland. When you’re done you brush your teeth and you have your name on a tooth brush and you have a special place to put your goblet and tooth brush on a shelf. They gave us the toothbrush but you have to get it.
  8. Did you learn new games you can teach your friends ?
    Yeah, I forget what they are called but I learned card games, outside games, inside games – there’s a lot of games.
  9. What was your teacher like? 
    Her name is Madame Amandine and she was really nice. She really, oh man I forget, [you told me that she was really nice to, and that she really helped you feel a part of the class and explained things to you as you were new to the class, and with cursive writing, everyone was a year ahead and she really helped you with that but you also told me she was strict and no nonsense.] Yes all of that but only a little bit strict.
  10. What are some of the differences between Swiss school and Canadian school?
    They don’t speak French that much in Canada. Usually the kids just talk in English at recess. But it was really different because sometimes I said words in English, and they copied it but really with a French accent.
  11. What difference would you bring back to Canada if you could?
    I don’t know. What was some of the things that you really liked in Switzerland and wish you had in Canada. Swimming and eating [the canteen, a hot lunch every day], ACM [crafts], sometimes you go in a bus and you go to a place, so I was group “boat”, let’s say, and sometimes I need to go over to another school. I made a pouch for pencil crayons and stuff like that and I made it all by hand and I choose my own colours and my own buttons for the eyes and different stuff like that. And also sometimes I go to a different school and sometimes the one go to a different school. We made a basket for Halloween. It was really cool ACM. So you didn’t do that in Canada? No. You have different tools? Yeah, a cursive pen – ink pen. When you do crafts in Canada, what’s the difference? I don’t know. I forget.
  12. Which school do you like better?
    I like both. 😀
  13. Are you better at speaking and reading in French now?
    Yeah! Yeah.
  14. Would you go back again?
    That’s a hard question because I miss Canada right now, but if I lived in Switzerland, yeah.
  15. If you had a friend that was in Canada and going to Swiss school and that was a bit worried what would you tell them?
    The first time I went there it was a little scary, but once I got used to it it was really fun!

Thanks so much Vivi! Super appreciate you answering all my questions. Your welcome!

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Jaedyn comes to visit!

December 24, 2018 to January 8th, 2019

It was like Christmas when Jaedyn came to visit. It actually was Christmas eve when she arrived. Vivi and I were so looking forward to her coming. She has this joyous disposition to her and she’s my little girl and Vivi’s big sister.

We hadn’t seen her since we said good bye to her in New York about 5.5 months before. Of course she was tired from such a long flight(s) and it took a good couple of days for her to get over her jet lag.

Christmas is magical in Switzerland. We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with her, Vivi, Luc, Guy, Camille, Elise, Moreno and his mother Gabriella. They lit up the Christmas tree with real candles and we played a lot of games and ate a lot of food. Gabriella and Moreno are Italian so we had some exquisite Lasagna and (desert???).

The next morning we loaded up and drove to Morzine, France to an Airbnb chalet that we had rented for 6 days all together. But before we got there, we stopped in Evian to visit quickly, buy some mussels???, and fill our water bottles up with free pure Evian water – the stuff you buy at the grocery store. It just easier comes out of the wall in Evian.

Sadly, there wasn’t any snow in the ski village of Morzine and the mountain snow was kinda shit (from what I understand). Some people went skiing and boarding while the rest of us explored the town. Vivi and Jaedyn also went skating at the outdoor skating rink, and we drank some more hot mulled wine.

Every night was a feast. We all took turns cooking and we didn’t scrimp at all on the meals.

One day some of us walked around the ski mountain on the trails and we all met up for lunch. Another day Gabriella, Luc, Vivi, Jaedyn and myself walked around a frozen lake that reminded me of Durrance Lake in the winter time.

On New Years Eve day, Jaedyn, myself and Vivi decided we wanted to stay home and it’s a good thing we did. Violette started puking at about 9am and didn’t stop until that evening. She spent New Years on the couch – poor thing. We rung in the New Year all together.

We left the next day and our family headed to Lauren and Francois’ house to spend some time just the 4 of us together before we separated again. It was wonderful. Lauren and family were up the mountain and said we could crash at their place to have some alone time.

While we were there, we went to Lausanne one more time. I also caught what Vivi had but was sick for much longer. And of course, Jaedyn wanted to go to Vevey and Pizza Taxi for a walk down memory lane (as I did) so the three girls did that while Luc went and played up the mountain with his friends. It was fun remembering what things were like 8 years before. Of course Vivi didn’t remember but Jaedyn remembered it fondly so it was nice to share these moments with her.

We also celebrated Vivi’s actual birthday with some family members over lunch. Again it was so awesome that Jaedyn could be there for that special day as she is used to spending her birthday with friends and family from Canada.

I loved that she came. It was the best gift I could have received. She provided so much emotional support for me and much needed empathy. For Vivi, she was so thrilled to get to spend time with Jaedyn and have fun with her. Vivi is happiest when all the family is together, so I think this really helped her to not miss Canada quite as much.

We booked a flight for Jaedyn to leave the day before we left so we could see her off to the airport. It was hard, as anticipated, to say goodbye again to Jaedyn knowing we wouldn’t see her for another 6 months. I miss her terribly (I’m writing this 3 months after we said goodbye to her).

The day before dropping her off, we spent hours and hours organizing what we were bringing travelling. We also left some stuff behind in Switzerland and we sent a piece of luggage with Jaedyn. We had too much stuff so we also have to ship a box back to Canada as well which we dropped off in France (because it’s cheaper) after dropping Jaedyn off at the airport. This was much more complicated than you would imagine. In the end we also had a donation bag as well. But we got it all organized and packed. I brought entirely too much stuff with me for the second half of the trip but figured it was mostly stuff I could leave behind and part with if need be. Turns out I actually sent a box home from Thailand and another box with some of our souvenirs from Vietnam.

We said goodbye to Luc’s parents and thank them so much for everything they have done for us these past 5 months. Thank you for letting us stay with you and in your studio. Thank you for the wonderful meals. Thank you for looking after Violette while Luc was on the Camino with me. Thank you for letting us use your car and driving us all over Switzerland. Thank you for your incredible hospitality and generosity. I’m so happy that Vivi could spend these months getting to know you both and that Luc had a chance to connect again with you both.

This concludes this portion of the European trip. We move to South East Asia in my next blog post. Check this map to see where we’ve been and where we’re going.

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Switzerland

October 6, 2018 to January 8, 2019

This post is going to be a bit longer than normal. I’m going to attempt to capture the highlights as well as what I was feeling on the inside. I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular blog post as I feel now, as I look back, that it was a really hard time for me emotionally, but now I see what I was doing and why and what I should have done and what I’ve learned about myself going forward.

Lausanne
I love Lausanne. The architecture, the feeling of the city, the cobblestone streets. I visited Lausanne several times. Once with Kim. Once with Vivi. Once for a date night. It’s only about 15 mins by train (the LEB) from Luc’s parents’ house in Jouxtens to Lausanne. Lausanne in Christmas time is just so picturesque. It’s hard to really put a finger on what it is but it’s like this fusion of old historical buildings with new funky vibe. When you go, visit the Cathedral for outstanding views of the city.

Vevey
This place has my heart. 8 years ago we lived here when I was on maternity leave. Jaedyn would go to school down in Vevey and me and Vivi (6 months old) hung out in a little apartment while Luc went to work during the day. Vevey is right beside the lake and has the most incredible vibe. The lakeside is the best part of it and we really loved Pizza Taxi both 8 years ago and even today. You might know this place by the giant fork or the Charlie Chaplin statue. This year they are having the Fete de Vingeron (only every 25 years or so) and Luc had hoped that he could go back there before heading home at the end of July. It’s not to be. We came to Vevey over and over again for a date day, for a date pizza and when Jaedyn came for Christmas we came here to reminisce and walk around and of course visit Pizza Taxi. I feel one day I will live here again beside the lake when I’m old and want to stare at the lake and mountains forever.

Montreux 
We walked from Vevey to Montreux one day and it wasn’t exactly as we had remembered. We thought there was a beautiful lakeside path that took you the whole way but in actuality there a lot of road walking. As you get closer to Montreux, the path comes back and it’s gorgeous. We had a DELICIOUS fondue at the Christmas Market (I didn’t really share because I think Luc made fun of me – you’d think he’d learn). The Christmas Market here is really outstanding. Lots of things to buy and mulled wine and so many things to taste. Montreux is where the rich and famous come so be sure to stop by here if in you’re in the area. It is beautiful and also lakeside.

Geneva
Vivi and I took a train one day to Geneva in December. Luc didn’t want to go but wanted to visit with some friends and play in the snow so her and I went. I really wanted her to see Geneva and I hadn’t been yet since coming back to Switzerland.

It was COLD! About -2 I think. We explored: visited the outside of the United Nations, walked along the lakeside, had a sandwich, hot chocolate, the Christmas Market and watch the Jet D’eau. We basically walked until we were too cold and then ducked inside to get warm and then outside again. Geneva is an old city. Almost hygienic in its cleanliness and lack of colour. I’m glad I went, I was equally glad we went home. On the way home, the train stopped for about a half an hour because it said that something was on the rail road tracks. I had heard earlier that this happens a lot because people jump in front of the train to commit suicide. No idea if that’s what this was, but we got out and walked home from that stop.

Opening of Dr. Gabs
Dr. Gabs…. Delicious dark (or light) micro-brew beer. I loved this beer. This company was created by 3 men who went to school together (one of them lived down the road from Luc and is friends with him) and started brewing beer from a birthday present that was given to one of them – a home brew kit. From there they have grown and grown and grown. Luc went to work very part time at the factory.

While we were there, they opened a store/small pub/the lab in the most famous and expensive street in Lausanne: Rue de Bourg. So we had to visit. It was the second week of December, and it was opening night. We had a blast checking out the new digs and the beer was exceptional. Another impromptu date night!

I only wish I could import their beer back to Canada. It’s that good.

The Olympic Museum and Ouchy
Some stuff about the school system in Switzerland bugs the hell out of me. You can’t take your kid out of school for a day unless you have a doctor’s note. When we went to Ouchy (by the lake) we wanted to meet Vivi’s class at the train (as they were coming back from the pool) and then directly get on the train to go to Ouchy. Instead of Vivi walking back to the school and us walking up to the train again (she would have missed about 20mins of class time) but the teacher wouldn’t allow it unless she had a doctor’s appointment. Sigh…

Anyway, after doing it the “right” way we got on the train and headed to Ouchy. There’s something about this place – I think it’s the proximity to the lake. I’m beginning to realized I’m a water girl through and through (I am a Pisces after all) and all these places that I adore are close to massive bodies of water (no wonder I want to go home).

I also have an amazing memory of my stagette starting here 10 years ago during August. It must be the memories coupled with the water that gets me all nostalgic.

We walked over to the Olympic Museum and had lunch with Luc’s cousin, Chiara. It was a delicious lunch and so nice to catch up with her one last time before leaving.

Chateau de Chillon, Luc’s Birthday and Halloween
On Luc’s birthday we had a loooooong lunch and then to Chateau de Chillon beside the lake just past Montreux. I’ve been in this castle 3 times now I think… It’s really beautiful. I especially love the dungeon and the story of the guy who lived there for years and years. Not sure why I like it so much… maybe I’m a bit twisted?

Being that Luc was born on Halloween, every year he has to share it with the trick or treating. But this year we made it back too late to trick or treat so Vivi missed out (I think Luc was secretly happy). We ate cake for dinner. Vivi asked for a salad. I think it was really nice for Luc to be home for his birthday to spend it with his parents and friends.

Vivi’s Canadian Birthday Party
Speaking of birthday’s, Vivi celebrated her birthday at a patisserie with a few friends the last week of school before Christmas break. Since she was really missing home, we had a Canadian themed party! If you can believe it I managed to find some Canadian and BC flags, little Canada pins for the good bags, Luc had Canada flag stickers from his stag and we decorated in red and white.

I think it was a pretty big success. It was a wonderful way for her new friends to send her off and for her to feel like her birthday was a big deal. Which it was. She maybe missed Canada just a little bit less for a little bit.

Making friends
While I was there, I got to reconnect with Lauren and Francois and their two girls. The let us stay in their place for a few days between New Years and Vivi’s actual birthday.

We had dinner with Julian and Stephanie and Emily and Yann and their kids. That was really fun. We also partied for Julian’s birthday (I partied a bit too hard if you know what I mean).

We had a few meals with Maxim and Filis and their two kids. One extraordinary fondue in their little cabin behind their house. And another garden meal with Maxim’s parents that was also out of this world.

I was happy to spend a day with a friend back home, Kim who coincidentally was there visiting a friend just about 10mins drive away. That was really neat to see a familiar face so far from home and to be able to talk about life and such.

Walking to and from school 4 times a day
But most of my days after returning from the Camino was filled with walking 1km to and from school sometimes 8 times a day. Vivi went to Luc’s old school and she needed to be walked to school in the morning (the I walked back). Two days a week, she walked home for lunch (we would meet her to walk her home and then walk her back 1.5 hours later). And finally at the end of the school day.

Now, something that Luc and I didn’t agree upon was whether should could walk alone. I felt that 8 years old walking that distance, without a phone, was too far. Call me reserved, scared, fearful, whatever, this is just how I felt. Luc on the other hand was totally fine for her to walk there and back alone – so you can imagine the contention.

For the most part I liked walking her. It got me outside, away from the house, in the fresh air. It was time that we got to be together and the view was gorgeous. It didn’t rain much either and sometimes we drove if we were running late. Sometimes I would meditate on the walk home.

Running and walking
A lot of times I would walk Vivi to school and then I would set off on a run somewhere or a walk to Renens to take some time by myself. I would also walk to a bench and then meditate.

I loved running around Jouxtens and the area. It was fall and the leaves were changing and it was cool. My body temp tends to run a bit on the hotter side so running in the fall is perfection. The cool temps, gorgeous leaves, beautiful swiss architecture – it’s all just a little wonderful.

Creating my business and writing my book
At least 3 times a week I would walk to Renens to a coffee shop there and work on building my business and writing my book. Sometimes I would do research for our trip. I would spend a good 4 hours there before I needed to come back for lunch or something. I loved this time to myself and away from the house. It was always a peaceful time for me – getting to be me.

Our Airbnb rental
After a while of living with Luc’s parents in their house, I felt we really needed to connect as a family unit again. So I looked up a little Airbnb not too far away so that Vivi could still go to school on the Friday and the Monday.

Luc and I had a lot of conversations about this Airbnb rental. He felt that his parents would wonder why. He wanted to go further so we could explore somewhere else. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I held strong in that I wanted this place to be a place of down time. To play games, watch movies, connect. This wasn’t a time for sight-seeing. To be honest, Luc and my relationship was not doing well and Vivi was so homesick. I was close to depression and I needed to have some time together and away. Some autonomy.

We went to visit the Airbnb about 4 days before our check in. It was perfect. We each had our own rooms, our own kitchen, our own living room and dining room. Then the woman said that we could come early – 2 days early even for free! It was like the universe was giving me exactly what I needed and wanted.

We took advantage of our time there and entertained for 3 meals. It’s something that Luc and I really love to do, to have people over to our house, cook a nice meal and connect. It felt so right to do this in our own space.

All in all, the Airbnb was amazing. I’m so glad we went. It at one point was almost just me and Vivi as I took a strong stand for my well-being and told Luc that if he didn’t want to go, that was fine, Vivi and I would go alone. He made a great choice joining us. It was so important for our family to get back to being our family again.

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Bretaye, Switzerland

November 3-4, 2018

Kidney Stone Watch:  The day after returning to Switzerland from Turkey I went to a Swiss hospital to figure out what is going on. After running some tests, they say my kidneys are functioning well, there was a small infection, but no blockage. They ordered an CAT scan. I got back the results from that scan and the stone was still inside about 70% of the way down my ureter. I spoke with the urologist and he said that the only option left was for us to blast the stone apart with surgery.

We spoke with our travel insurance and because the stone was deemed “finished” in Spain by a doctor, they wouldn’t pay for the surgery in Switzerland. The only option would be to pass it naturally or for us all to go back to Canada to have the surgery. I argued that it wasn’t “finished” but once a hospital discharges you, then it’s marked complete. You can’t go back to the hospital for the same thing twice.

Now we were waiting to find out how much the surgery was going to be. Luc had a wonderful idea: In Switzerland it is mandatory to get insurance. So we opted for insurance for me so if I needed the surgery, I would be covered with the Swiss insurance. No need to go back to Canada (although I was a little excited about that).

Bretaye, Switzerland

Our wonderful friends have a Swiss Chalet high in the mountains of Switzerland called Bretaye. We went to this little chalet 8 years ago when Vivi was 10 months old with Jaedyn. Bretaye is a tiny little village that only approved cars can go to. The houses are all the same make and style and you just feel so back to nature and back to yourself up there.

I have such warm and fond memories of this place. We celebrated Luc and Jaedyn’s birthday up there and ate the most amazing raclette. We did a hike up to the top of the mountain to take in the breath taking views.

This time things were a bit different emotionally for me but it was such an amazing place to return to with such special friends.

The week leading up to our trip was probably one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time. It had been an emotional roller coaster with pain and uncomfortableness in my lower abdomen and bladder. Luc and I were really not doing well relationship wise, and Vivi really wanted to go home.

But once I got to the mountain and took in the breathtaking views, it helped to wash away all the bad feelings. We ate a most delicious raclette again around the fire and then took to outside to take in the crisp mountain air and the sparkling stunning stars (no light pollution).

Violette played with the kids in the family and it’s so nice to watch her playing and speaking in French with other kids.

That morning the adults (minus me) headed up to the top of the mountain. I decided to take some time for myself and look after myself by doing some meditation and writing.

We had a delicious breakfast outside on the table and then packed up and me and the ladies walked down while Luc and the fellas drove to get the car. The walk was absolutely breathtaking. If there’s anything you can say about Switzerland – it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

So many thanks to our friends for taking us up here again. This place holds a special place in my heart and I can’t thank them enough for sharing their space with them.

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