2015 Review: Featuring an Italian Wedding, a British Mission, a Swiss Ceremony, a German Flood, an American Visa, a Syrian Exodus, and How They Intersect

Since 2007, the year that forever split my life into Before and After, it’s been impossible for me to write a year-end summary. Here we are again, March, and I realize I’ve still not lined up year 2015 and given an accounting.

That’s partially because I fear provincialism. I fear losing sight, even for a moment, of the global context in which my private story plays out. I’ve become aware this year more than any other in my life of how tidy, how survivable, even how irrelevant my personal dramas are in light of the immense complexities rolling out across our global panorama, across huge swaths of humanity. And so  anything I say about my life, I feel, has to be said with the big backdrop in mind.

But here, a quick and dirty recap of 2015. Consider it a preface to my next book.

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Il Matrimonio (The Wedding)

In this post I announced that our Claire got engaged to  be married to her amore, Alessandro. Their courtship had been unconventional; their engagement and wedding followed suit.

After a year of long-distance yearning and reams of letters in Italian while she was finishing her Uni studies in the US and he was finishing his full time service as a missionary for our church in southern Italy, the two were married in a big Italian farm wedding outside of Pavia, Italy. True to the Global Mom story line, it was a multicultural reunion around sumptuous tables (the food!!), with languages flying in as many directions as were friends, who came in from France, the US, all over Italy, and Singapore. I’m still verklempt as I reflect on everyone’s thereness, the way we actually pulled off an otherwise logistically impossible event.

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Swiss Zeremonie

Following the civil wedding, we trundled to Switzerland to join closest friends in a small, intimate ceremony referred to in our religion as  a temple sealing. In contrast to the party in Italy, this rite was simple, quiet, other-worldly. The couple dressed in head-to-toe white for the brief ceremony attended only by closest Italian friends of our faith, and were given profound promises regarding their future together, which we believe extends beyond death.11700901_10153505302157400_7725458925579834161_o

A horse farm reception followed later in Heber Valley, Utah, and we left immediately for a family honeymoon through southern Utah to the southern California coast.

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British Mission

Missing from all these festivities was Parker, of course. That absence doesn’t get easier, but we’re growing in gratitude and perspective and capacity to love life though broken and limping. Our Dalton, too, was far away, because in August of 2015, upon our arrival in Frankfurt, he’d turned right around to fly to England to launch his 2-year full time mission for our church in South London. He’s now been serving for over 19 months.

He’s serving now in an area known as Little Nigeria, working on that accent. He’s never been happier and bemoans that the end is in sight, wishing he could extend his service by a month or two, but is scheduled to enter Uni only shortly after relinquishing his badge.

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German Flood

Underneath (literally) the marriage, the ceremony, the mission,  was The Flood. For nearly nine months, our home was an oceanscape and construction site after an external water distribution system went amok during our absence and…We returned to a bayou that sloshed over our shoes. The entire ground floor of the home had to be decimated, and after jackhammers and turbo ventilators, it became a bombed-out concrete carcass.

Then it flooded again. And again. Workers found leaks inside walls…More than a few times, I hid in my car during the day to escape the deafening noise, and otherwise played hostess to a total of 80+ construction and insurance folks tramping through my door. Month after month. After month.

Yes, we survived it. Just fine. And we were happy that everything was completed the week the newlyweds arrived to live with us for a year. They’re doing this to save money while taking college/grad school entrance exams, working multiple jobs, and applying through the Frankfurt consulate for a US Green Card for Alessandro.

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American Visa

A major part of 2015 and now the prime focus of 2016 has been this US Visa for our Alessandro. For those of you out there who’ve ever navigated the bureaucracy, you have my reverence and respect. I hear you groaning and see you holding your shaking head in your hands right now. Thanks for commiserating.

Now try jumping those same multiple hoops in two foreign languages. Every interview (and form and phone call and interview and returned form and repeated phone call and follow-up interview) has had to be translated from English and Italian to German  and back in reverse. In all of this, Claire and Alessandro have been  good-natured  and unflappable. They’re learning about patience, work, consistency, and faith.

As I type this, they are sitting in Frankfurt’s US consulate in their final, all-determining, face-to-face interview. Claire flies to the US next week for her final face-to-face law school interview, and Alessandro is finishing his college entrance essays for admission to a US Uni in the fall.

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Syrian Exodus

And all this – floods, reconstruction, Visas, marriages, missions, work, everything – is tempered by the bigger context in which we live. Because while we’ve been marrying and missioning, while we’ve been bailing water and applying for universities, while we’ve been fighting for Visas and begging for work, Syria (and surrounding populations) have been under siege.  In desperation, hundreds of thousands of the distressed and traumatized have spilled into Europe, bringing in their wake a humanitarian nightmare unknown in modern history.

Here’s where our quaint family summary connects to the Big Picture. If 2015 began with a house flood, it ended with a world flood. The inconvenience of a  house under jackhammer reconstruction is practically charming compared with the real bombs obliterating Homs, Aleppo and Damascus. Multicultural marriages and missions have their challenges, but are infused with hope and celebration because we have freedom, assets, peace, abundance, and every possible advantage life can offer.

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While helping Ale and Claire with their German residency, I’ve been sitting in government hallways, elbow to elbow with threadbare and disoriented refugees fresh from their harrowing journey, seeking asylum. While editing my daughter’s and son-in-law’s essays for US universities, I’ve also been sitting  in Frankfurt’s University for Applied Sciences, helping my Iranian and Afghani refugee friends apply for courses in mechanical engineering and intensive German language instruction.

These friends figure among the dozens with whom I’ve been working in local refugee camps since the floodgates broke in the early fall of 2015, and Germany welcomed an unprecedented 1 mill+ refugees (mostly Syrian, but also Iranian, Iraqi, and Afghani) across its borders.

The statistics and complexity are beyond staggering. The human stories are heart- rending and breathtaking. Because this is such a proximate and personal reality for me, you should expect to see more of my posts (and all my other social media platforms) weighted with these stories.

As I see it, 2015 and 2016 is where not just my tidy little family tale, but world history splits: Before and After.  The saga will not be the type we can share in a Year End Summary. It is destined to color the future of humanity, everywhere. And it might be where Global Mom and On Loss and Living Onward intersect, inviting both the next book of my career and a focused direction for the remaining chapters of my life.

 

What Does An Author Do Between Writing and Launching Books?

Everything , it seems, but sleep.

Unless you count last week when I spent several nights in a tent in the Swiss mountains, trying to sleep for two-hours-at-a-stretch maximum, while surrounded by 40 teenaged girls.

Who can not fall in love with names like Céléstine,  Clémence, Cléophelie, Angéline, Amandine, Antonella, and Aude?

Who can not fall in love with girls with names like Céléstine, Clémence, Cléophelie, Angéline, Amandine, Antonella, and Aude?

As volunteer president of the teenaged girls’ organization of our church in and around the Geneva, Switzerland region, I’m regularly visiting the eight congregations that make up our regional church body, teaching lessons on Sundays or sometimes midweek, speaking at youth conferences, inviting special guest speakers for multiregional firesides and conducting those events, and getting to know local leaders and all their young women.

Romainmôtier and its abbey dating to the 5th century.

Romainmôtier and its abbey dating to the 5th century.

I also got to attend the annual 3 1/2 day regional Young Women’s Camp held at a site overlooking the medieval village of Romainmôtier with its historic Benedictine Abbey and splendid hiking trails all around.

As fate would have it, Le Camp des Jeunes Filles happened to be scheduled just as I was nostril-deep in Pre-Book Launch mania.

Eh. . . bien.  Tant mieux, (all the better), we say.

Because for me, it’s vital right now to get out of cramped little head upholstered with All Things Book and enter fully into nature and into the heart of others’ lives.  It gave me much, this camp, including dearly-needed fresh perspective. And 17 mosquito bites. On my shins alone.

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From Wednesday until late Saturday afternoon, I was able/forced to unplug completely from this laptop and all other devices and concerns about this woman named Global Mom. I spent the days truly getting to know all these girls and their local leaders (from Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, England).

FOR CLAIRE!

I awoke to the sound of cowbells (and Harley Davidsons) on the slopes surrounding our camp site.  I fell asleep (in a loose manner of speaking) to the giggles and screams of all our girls in the adjacent tents. I made the rounds in the middle of the night, making sure every tent was zip-locked and everyone was accounted for. I watched for critters.

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I sang songs. I gave addresses. I listened to girls’ questions and concerns. I ate well, laughed hard, hiked for hours, read scripture, slept in a bag.JF camp6

I chatted with Sœur Madeleine, one of the local nuns.  I observed growth. I learned critical truths. I grew in gratitude.

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I cleaned toilets, table tops, garbage cans and wounds. I set up and took down (how many?) tents. I got every name.

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I did not shower.

I did not write.

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And on Saturday, after every last girl and flip-flop and hair band and pocket knife and tent spike was accounted for. . .

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I drove home to my village by Lake Geneva.  I kissed my husband, checked my email and accumulating deadlines, packed my bag, showered (yes, in that order),  slept five hours, and boarded a plane.

(No, I did not sleep then, either, unless letting my eyes close and my head bob a few times during my flight from Geneva to Paris to Salt Lake City, Utah counts.  I wrote until my laptop battery was drained dry and the recharging apparatus didn’t work.  But I stayed awake.)

Hours later  — luggage lost, toe sprained, hair still smelling of Swiss campfire, every last mosquito bite well-covered — I was sitting in a TV studio in Salt Lake City, Utah, doing a live morning talk show.  Before cameras rolled, I reached down to scratch a mosquito bite, and in that instant felt so grateful for all 17 of them, for my 40 girls back home in Switzerland, for my 2 boys with me in Utah, my 1 daughter far away in Italy, and for my eldest, who has been with me all along this crazy trail, trying to be a Global Mom.

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Come With Global Mom To London!

Back Camera

So many things happening in June, our dense ramp-up phase leading to the July release of Global Mom: A Memoir. 

This month I’ll introduce you to Christopher, my  publisher extraordinaire, and Familius, the cutting-edge media company.

You’ll meet Maggie, my word surgeon editor.

I’ll tell you all about Crystal and Kim, my super-savvy public relations team from BookSparks PR, who’ve thrown some lighter fluid on the charcoals to make a bonfire out of this book release. We’re linking to a Facebook page just for Global Mom: A Memoir, and I’ll be (gulp) Twitter-pating my life.

At about the same time all this is happening, you’re going to meet a whole string of friends via a series of vlog visits, whose stories (global, familial, nomadic and unedited) will give you an honest portrait of what it is about this kind of life that, well, keeps us living it.

(Why not be one of the first to subscribe to my YouTube channel? Go ahead.  I’ll wait here while you pop over there and click.)

With every blog and vlog, I’ll tell you about the blessings and stressings of living globally, but right now we’ll focus specifically on the peculiarities of living Swissly. In each vlog I’ll show you around my current Swiss stomping grounds. It’s truly one big technicolor wrap-around postcard.  Really worth your visit.

And if you stick here with me, I’m thinking of taking you  – should I give this away?  Oh, alright – I might just tuck you in my glove compartment and drive with you up to Paris.

But first, come with me to another magnificent metropolis, one of the most diverse places on the planet:

Swiss Strolling

Let's take a walk. . .

All images © Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2013

. . . through my village overlooking Lac Léman. . .

Let’s take a walk. . . through my village overlooking Lac Léman. . .

. . .past the cold and withered vineyards . . .

. . .past the cold and withered vineyards . . .

. . .behind Swiss strollers. . .

. . .behind Swiss strollers. . .

. . .into Nyon, minutes from my door . . .

. . .into Nyon, minutes from my door . . .

. . .too late for lunch. . .

. . .too late for lunch, too early for dinner. . .

. . .into the old town quarter. . .

. . .into the old town quarter. . .

. . .with skies the same color as stone. . .

. . .under skies the color of stone. . .

. . .chimneys, tile roofs, solar panels. . .

. . .chimneys, red tile roofs, solar panels. . .

. . .the African refugees running from local police. . .

. . .and African refugees running from local police. . .

. . .the loudest sound in the street is the click of my camera. . .

. . .the loudest sound right now is the click of my camera. . .

. . ."to sort is to show you value something": compulsory recycling bags. . .

. . .”to sort is to show you value something”: compulsory recycling bags. . .

. . .late afternoon, the steeple of the primary school. . .

. . .late afternoon, the steeple of the primary school. . .

. . .your common housetop ornament. . .

. . .your common housetop ornament. . .

. . .Nyon's trademark yellow street lamps. . .

. . .Nyon’s trademark yellow street lamps. . .

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. . .her daily shopping. . .

. . .her daily shopping. . .

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. . .five bells toll from the church. . .

. . .five bells toll from the church. . .

. . .Nyon was once Noviodunum, a Roman outpost. . .

. . .Nyon was once Noviodunum, a Roman outpost. . .

. . .view over Lac Léman. . .

. . .view over Lac Léman. . .but no view to Mont Blanc today. . .

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. . .along the ancient ramparts. . .

. . .along the ancient ramparts. . .

. . .Château de Nyon. . .

. . .Château de Nyon. . .

. . .Château and the newest church in town with its belfry. . .

. . .the Château and the newest church in town with its triangular belfry. . .

. . .view upwards from the lake front. . .

. . .view upwards from the lake front. . .

. . .lake front. . .

. . .lake front. . .

. . .Lac Léman. . .

. . .Lac Léman. . .

. . .and the Swiss stroller. . .

. . .and whom should we meet, but the Swiss stroller. . .

. . .Goodnight, moon. . .

. . .Goodnight, moon. . .

2012: A Year’s Passage

Christmas Day 2011, Tanzania

December 2011, Tanzania

December 2012, Switzerland

December 2012, Switzerland

Like you, winding up a year makes me look back, unwinding it.  While you’ve been with me for half of 2012 (I launched this blog in May), having strapped yourself in just in time for the second part of the year’s ride, (that big move from Singapore to Switzerland, if you remember), you missed out on the entire front half of the calendar.  That’s kind of a shame, really, because there was stuff going on, friend.  Are you interested in seeing a bit of that passage?

Christmas week, 2011. . .

Christmas week, 2011. . .

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Before I get carried away, though, may I insert a small, smiling caveat?

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As you visit here throughout December, would you please keep something in mind? It’ll help so that I don’t feel too crippled by self-consciousness and you won’t feel sludgy or arrggghy or slumpy. Or slap-toppy.

(That stinging state of mind when you slap shut your lap top, resenting what you just saw inside it.)

Not that you would slap shut on me. But in case.  Since you know, things happen.

Please hear my whispered voice saying that these posts are all given in the spirit of sharing between friends this riotously colorful and complex globe we live on. These posts are about nothing but that: sharing, celebrating, being whooshed away with wonder.

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So consider today’s post a jiffy Table of Contents for what you can expect to read here throughout December, this last month  of 2012.

There was an extended trip to Tanzania, Africa.  I will post several times on that and explain why we were there in the first place, what things I observed, why I want to return.  The photos alone are worth clicking in here once in a while. (I didn’t take them; my men did.)

Then there was Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand.

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 And Indonesia and Hong Kong.

And that morning spent diving with dolphins in Mauritius. 

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When not posting on the past passage of 2012, I’ll keep you abreast of the current passage, what we are experiencing in the here-and-now.

“Here”: Central Europe.

“Now”: right about. . . now. This alone will keep us busy, as we’ve planned a couple of family outings.

vienna market

Come with us to Vienna to hear these talented boys sing…

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Drive with us to Strasbourg for the Christmas market that dates from the 1500’s…

strasbourg market

Take the TGV with us to Paris

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Then get some retrospective Paris with a few excerpts from Global Mom: A Memoir where most recently we’ve been looping back to Norway but we’ll now return to France.

Only to leave France briefly.

Only to return to France for a few more years.

All to keep you thoroughly confused and a bit transfixed.

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And finally, come share with us our first Swiss Christmas. They promise to be deeply, whitely, purely holy days.

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La Belle Suisse

To give you a short breather from Global Mom: A Memoir, and to remind myself of where I live, I stepped away from my keyboard for an hour this week. This meant peeling myself from my office with its writing chair and this laptop screen with all the words, words, words that have been my work from predawn to past midnight days and weeks on end. I needed to shake some blood into my limbs, breathe some air into my lungs, get some daylight on my face. So I took a short drive along our local jogging and biking paths.

Because I know these are beautiful paths, I also wanted to take this camera and my visiting parents (Hello, Donna and David.) Our boys Dalton and Luc were already far ahead of us on their bikes, since they know the area by now and have marked out their favorite routes.  They are quiet and postcard bucolic — not Dalton and Luc, but the routes — and I think the photos will give a better rendering of what we see when we drive, jog, bike or walk them than my words ever could. Consider this post your personal invitation to visit.


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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

We Interrupt This List. . .

For the move.

Someone asked me yesterday how the move to Switzerland is going.  Innocent enough question.  But it took an hour to answer.  Poor friend, she was just showing interest — maybe like you are, showing up here, reading this blogpost, peeking in with your soft smile — and I left her quivering.

I promise not to do that here.

Although, take a look at the length of this post. Nowhere under an hour.

Before I explain in relatively measured terms “how the move to Switzerland is going”, I want to be clear about one very important thing.  Full disclosure, flat disclaimer: I come from Mormon pioneer stock.  With that history ever present in my consciousness, I, more than anyone, twinge at wimpy whiners.  My ancestors on both sides, paternal and maternal, were X-treme survivors. The Daltons, Glaziers, Huntingtons, Jacobsens, Johnsons, Leavitts, Abbots, Woodruffs— they all left their homes in central Europe, Scandinavia and Great Britain to cross the globe at the price of  unspeakable sacrifice for their religion and a new (but still brutally demanding) life in the American west.

My husband’s ancestors, come to think of it, were X-treme pioneers, too. Pilgrims, actually. In fact, if you know the name of William Bradford, (passenger on the Mayflower, governor of Plymouth colony, founder of Thanksgiving), you’ve met our Grandpa sixteen generations back.

All this blood tramps stoically through my family’s veins.

These are family, and they left family, home, health, belongings, safety, beautiful Danish coasts and French valleys and English countrysides, languages, loves, and lost their own lives along the agonizing trail leading to the wild blue yonder. Mothers never saw their sons again after kissing them on the cheek on a damp Welsh harbor. Fathers buried their daughters under the desert’s sagebrush. Children lost their little limbs when they froze in the brittle bed of a hand-hewn wagon.

I’ve read many of their journals. I’ve marveled and wept at their conviction and heroism. (And can anyone call it anything less than heroism?) I’ve read in one sitting Of Plymouth Plantation with my brows furrowed, wondering, “Were these folks even human?”

And I’ve cheered Wallace Stegner, who in his introduction to The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, writes:

I should prefer to deal with the Mormon pioneers, if I can, as human beings of their time and place, the earlier ones westward-moving Americans, the later ones European converts gripped by the double promise of economic betterment and eternal life.  Suffering endurance, discipline, faith, brotherly and sisterly charity, the qualities so thoroughly celebrated by Mormon writers, were surely well distributed among them, but there also was a normal amount of human cussedness, vengefulness, masochism, selfishness, and gullibility.  So far as it is possible, I shall try to follow George Bancroft’s rule for historians: I shall try to present them in their terms and judge them in mine.  That I do not accept the faith that possessed them does not mean I doubt their frequent devotion and heroism in its service. Especially their women.  Their women were incredible. (Emphasis added. Shout-out mine.)

All this preamble to say that, as I tell you about our move from Singapore to Switzerland, I’m the first one to wag a firm finger at my pettiness.  Believe me.  Under my kind of family tree, any and all hardships shrink in the shadow.

But you might be curious anyway. After all, this blog is intended as a breeding ground for my book about living internationally for over two decades, and I can’t write about that without writing about The Moves.

This Move came at us a bit out of the blue. When Randall and I accepted the new post in Singapore, we had been in Munich for three years.  The understanding was that this job in Asia would last for several years, long enough, at least, to get our then 14-year-old, Dalton, who had already attended five different schools in three different mixes of languages, safely through his high school years.  To make matters worse (or better), both our boys had established important friendships with teachers and students here in Singapore—had gotten traction, let’s say—which for one son especially, was a tender, vital miracle. Safe to say they were thriving and remarkably, steadily happy.  A parent’s dream.

But what we’d dreamed would continue for our children’s sake did not, alas, happen.  Thus is life. The news that we were going to move at least two years sooner than promised hit our boys hard.  To give them a chance to catch their breath and let the swelling go down in their red eyes by school on Monday, we told them on a Saturday.

Luc called it a Sadder Day.

Almost immediately, Randall began doing two jobs at once, the one on this side of the planet, and the other one way over there.  This meant he was doing that 18 time-zones thing, a marathon he has long since mastered, though it does wear him down.  My man is King o’ the Red Eye, of leading meetings on 3 hours sleep spent on his side next to a stranger whose snoring he breathes in along with the germ-infested-cabin-pressured-recycled-air.  He’s the type who walks in the door at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, the dirt of Moscow or Prague or Buenos Aires still in the tread of his shoes, then spends the day loving his family, and, nine hours later, repacks his carry-on with his blood shot eyes closed and in half the time it takes to check for his passport while taxi’s waiting, he blowin’ his horn.

I write this to underscore that, just as the tectonic plates start shifting beneath our feet and when it would help for us all to be on the same one, we are, instead, doing it by Skype, 3:00 a.m. phone calls, texting.  My ancestors had none of this. Parchment and the pony express were the very best they could hope for. Think how SMS might have saved the martyrs of the Mayflower and the Mormon trail.

So here we are, texting our lists, negotiating our concerns and packing boxes throughout the three-month interim since Sadder Day. There have been micro-bursts of deadline-driven activities, all pulled by The Move, and they are getting closer together.  Like contractions. So here’s a quick-down of how labor’s going:

CLOCK IT BACKWARDS:  This means we start planning logistics from the end and work backward. We’ve researched and found that most Swiss or international schools begin end of August/beginning of September, and so we hope to be settled into a place by that date, which means we can function on a daily basis, even though it might mean out of cardboard boxes and which box, by the way, has all our shoes?

Getting there from zero takes one to two weeks, since I usually work maniacally, day and night, and often the kids work alongside me which makes for a party. So we want to be on Swiss ground with our goods delivered by the second week of August. This means sending off our goods 6-8 weeks before that date.

Which means the movers show up next week.

Which means everything must be sorted or sold or cleaned by then, and every last thing we own (down to the forks, extension cords and paper clips) must be itemized and, in some cases, measured and weighed.

Measured and weighed, you ask?  I learned this on one move where I estimated (instead of tape measured) the length of our beds and they were three centimeters too long for the only space meant for beds in the leeetle Versailles house we moved into. As a result, we were never able to fully close those bedroom doors. For three years, our feet poked out into the hallway.

You weigh things in case you have to employ a monts-meuble, (literally: furniture hoist, but it looks like an escalator without handrails) as we did in the heart of Paris, to get your things from street level up to the floor of your apartment. The movers need to know if your dresser requires the GRAND MONTS-MEUBLE, or the petit monts-meuble. Handy stats help expedite that kink in the move.

In order to have your things delivered to your future home, you need to have found and signed on that home. And to have that home, you need to determine where you will be living, the general geographic radius. To determine that radius, you need your children to be accepted in a school. So you get busy. . .

FINDING A SCHOOL:  For us, the school, as much as any other entity, has been the  geographic/gravitational center for our family’s life in each international setting.   Our children spend five days a week there, their circle of friends come largely (though not exclusively nor even primarily) from that community, and with the exception of the French school Dalton and Luc attended in Paris where parental involvement was not encouraged, I have spent a lot of time on those campuses as an active volunteer.

So finding a school is important.

It is also where we are sitting in a stalemate this time around.

Explanation: Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) is shaped a bit like a squashed croissant with Geneva at the far left end, Lausanne at about the half-way point, Montreux at the far right. The drive (without traffic) from Geneva to Montreux is 1 ½ hours.  Randall’s office (when he’s not in the air) is halfway between Geneva and Lausanne.

Before visiting Switzerland, and based on the best practical reasoning we could come up with, we targeted three schools; one close to Geneva, another close to Lausanne, another close to Montreux. We then used our trip of three weeks ago to visit each of them, talk with administrators and students, drive the roads and get a feeling for the areas. We applied to all three schools.

This means filling out applications, getting multiple letters of recommendation for each child, getting medical releases and detailed physician forms, having the kids write extended introductory essays by hand, getting photos taken, gathering school records for the last three years of school (which means requesting them from Munich), and finally having parent tours and interviews.

All done.

And we are still waiting to get acceptances. Acceptances are rather capricious, I am learning, and hinge on classroom availability, not academic ability or private donations. When a space opens up in a given class, the next person on the waiting list is slipped in, first come first sere, as tidy as a Rubik’s cube. Clickety-clickety-click.

You’d think.

Things aren’t quite as clickety as we’d hoped, because it could be that one son will be accepted, another not.  Will we put the boys in two different schools? Is that logistically possible? All three schools are at least a 45-minute drive from one another. What does that mean for transportation? How much do I love driving, (even if it is driving along the French Alps?)

Should I home school, if one or the other is not accepted in one of these schools? Or should we enroll one or both of the boys in local Swiss schools? It has been five years since they attended French school, and they’ve studied German and Mandarin in the meantime. Will their tongues be tied or even loosely knotted? Or will a bit of scrambling to get back up to speed in academic French be, in the end, a great thing? Knowing the tightly-coiled French system as I do, is it unwise to just drop a non-native teenager into its machinery? One that doesn’t have that certain DNA needed to fit into le gymnase? One thing is sure, that at Dalton’s stage with college applications looming, derailing him right now doesn’t seem prudent.  So  I have been surfing home-schooling sites, and am now well-versed in all the Swiss public schooling options lining the long and lovely Lac Léman.

No one can accuse me of not doing my due diligence.

Back to the issue: getting the boys accepted to one school.  This precedes another weighty factor, and that is. . .

FINDING A HOUSE: Did I mention the movers come next week?  And when they do, it is not only customary but it is preferable—even necessary—to know what your belongings will be dumped into on the receiving end. Why?

Let me take you back to the Goldilocks story of beds three centimeters too long.  Or taller tales, like, will there be a garage? A basement? A yard? Equipped bathrooms? Closets? Will there be a ventilation pipe coming through the wall just where the armoire must stand (since, holy schmoley, there are no closets)?

Will there be walls (for bookshelves or pictures) and not just windows? Windows (for the curtains I had to get for this home) and not just walls? Will there be a staircase so narrow, my child’s desk will not make the corner? Can I take the ping-pong table, last year’s Christmas surprise for the boys? Or must I take it, but only because it can double as dining table and master bed? Will there be a kitchen? (I have moved into two places where there was not one.  Just a water spigot and a lone light bulb dangling from a wire. We had to build).

Will there be room for a piano, or do I have to sell that family heirloom and pull out the electronic keyboard for the next five years? Will there be floors that need rugs, rugs that need cleaning, cleaning machines already on hand (washer, dryer, a mop), handy commerce, or a commercial dearth with the nearest loaf of bread a 20-minute funicular ride down a mountain?  Will the ceilings be too low for bunk beds, unless you can train your top-bunk child to slide in sideways and always sleep with his head turned sharply to the left?

Things like this. Details.

While in Switzerland three weeks ago, we visited as many homes as possible to get a feeling for all of the above.  There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us, and with my list of measurements and weights in hand, I am convinced we’ll be able to settle in just fine.  But the one place that will fit for one school won’t be available after next week.  The other place that fits for the other school will be gone after mid-month. And the home that fits for the third school will go to another party if we cannot finalize by the first of July.

Which we cannot do until, uh-huh, we know about a school. And if the schools grant an acceptance, they won’t hold that place indefinitely. They’ll want a commitment within a week of said acceptance.

Did I mention the movers?

My pioneer ancestors home schooled, which is looking really appealing right about now.  They also ate viper meat and slept under buffalo hides.  They also carried everything they owned in a rickety wooden wagon pulled by sickly oxen.  Or sicklier parents.

Poor, poor petty-full me.

Between now and a week from today, I am doing all I can to be ready.  Listing. Selling. Giving. Sorting. Cleaning. Measuring. Weighing. Waiting. Listing. Writing about listing. And Listing.

KEEP LISTS:

All my fan palms and blade trees are going to friends.

Books not touched in 20 years, going.

CD’s, loading.

Documents, color-coding.

Albums, consolidating.

VHS’s, finally hucking.

(I am quite sentimental, and my original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had to go, but not without a solitary, sniffly bang.)

And finally, here is where being a Virgo really kicks in. I put colored stickers on just about everything.  Slap me, but even pretending you have a system wards off the krazees when chaos overtakes your landscape.  So I’ll share:

CONCOCT A SYSTEM:

Blue sticker: Air shipment To live off of for the interval between your arrival and the arrival of your sea shipment, if it does indeed arrive, since it might end up at the bottom of the Panama Canal.  Which happens.

Green sticker: Sea shipment Remind me to tell you about our arrival in Rue du Colonel Combes and how the container had indeed made it across the ocean, but not without the ocean making it inside of the container.  What luck that all the movers were former fishermen from the coastal towns of Brittany, and for some reason some were actually wearing hip waders. Because when they opened the big metal door at the back of the truck, a briny cascade gushed out and turned our little street into a tributary of the Seine. More descriptions to come.

Red sticker: Suitcases for two months Before flying on to Geneva, we will move into temporary housing then fly from Singapore to the States, where we will spend two weeks preparing our daughter, Claire, for her entrance on August 1st into two months of intensive language training in preparation for her departure to Rome, Italy, where she’ll spend a year and a half as a volunteer representative for our church.  She will be packing strategically, for 18 months of hard work. The rest of us will be packing Kleenex.

Black sticker: Sell or give away It has been unfortunate when the movers have mistakenly wrapped up and loaded for shipment the tacky Oktoberfest beer stein with deer-antler handles, or the pressboard side tables purchased at Osco Bargain Barn when we were in college and $20 was a splurge, or the microwave so old and leaky, it could make hair sprout on your eyeballs.  The same movers left behind in a pile of “unclaimed junk” the irreplaceable framed photograph of grandpa Reed shaking hands with the Ayatollah, the wedding dress in an unmarked box, and all the bed linens.  Don’t let the dross fraternize with your valuables. For this one and only moment in your life, believe that segregation works. Mark ‘em.

Orange sticker: storage Keep a detailed list of what you put here. Take measurements. Take pictures. From all angles.  Be persnickety.  Think CSI. And keep them on file. You’ll thank me one day.

But I do not want your tacky beer stein as payment. Have one.

Still, if someday in a flea market in Duluth or Doylestown you should find a picture of a bald man with glasses shaking hands with the Ayatollah, you know how to find me.

AND KEEP IT ON FILE

AGAIN, KEEP EVERYTHING ON FILE

AND BACK UP YOUR FILES

Remember that you will simplify life by cataloguing the dimensions (and value and weight and condition) of your belongings.  You can avoid sawing off the end of your kitchen table legs (so it will fit under that pesky window ledge), as I had to do once.

Actually, it was only a darned centimeter, but I had to make it work, so I didn’t really saw them off.  I just filed them off.  So when people say to me, “Wow, you’ve managed all these moves. You must have so many files!”, I narrow my eyes and say, “You have no idea.”

So . . .off to managing the adventure of this life-on-the-move. This week our children are in final exams, Randall is in a neighboring hemisphere, and I am saying farewell to this fabulous city and to friends who have settled so deeply and broadly into my right ventricle, I feel the pressure, and it’s stretching my heart.  While we’re at it, the house is on the market again, so there are strangers visiting regularly with real estate agents. A miniscule inconvenience, I know.  My ancestors were being visiting by violated tribes of Apaches and herds of bison, just to keep things in perspective. It  means, though, that I have to be on hand in the house. And we’ve determined it is perhaps best I am clothed in something a bit more presentable than a bathrobe.

Oh, the demands.

**

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012.  This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

Let’s Do Blaunch (Blog-Launch)

…Or I could say writes of passages, since I’ve known them in the plural form.  In this blog, I plan to write about them all.

And what more appropriate blog launch than to begin writing of passages exactly where I stand, smack dab at the crossroads of one.  Today I am straddling worlds–hemispheres, (east and west), countries, cultures, cuisines, climates—with the movers arriving in a matter of days. With me at command central, the crew will pack up our equatorial years and ship them off to our alpine ones. We’re leaving balmy Singapore for brisk Switzerland.

I know, I know.  Not too shabby. Indeed, I feel the golden fortune of this, and am grateful way down past my buckling knees.

After 16 international moves, you’re right to guess that I know this whole spiel by heart. I just pull up the Excel spreadsheet and hit auto pilot, right? Could do it with my eyes closed, hands and feet tied behind my back in a yoga contortion, maybe? Kinda. Sorta. But as I’ve learned over 20+ years of globalicity, these crossroads can either be a predictable stroll to the other curb, or they can slam you broadside.  Inevitably, there will be some unavoidable jerks and mini-whiplashes in between, and as a veteran vagablonde, I can safely say something is bound to happen that at least gets me sweating. Heavily.  (And that means something when you’re not in Singapore.) We’ll just wait and see how this one goes.

Speaking of not sweating, just a week ago today I was standing on the shores of Lake Geneva. I actually had on boots and a sweater, which would have liquefied me on the spot in the perpetual 31˚ Celsius and 95% humidity of Singapore. My husband Randall and I were in Geneva for a few days doing the preliminary legwork of hunting for schools for Dalton and Luc, the two youngest of our four children, the lucky ones who will be accompanying us there in August.  Claire, our college senior studying in the States, had come to Singapore to hold down the roost during our week-long absence.

Geneva is a town begging to be fallen in love with: built along the gray-blue expanse of Lake Geneva, and cupped by the Jura mountain range on one side, Alps on the other, it’s a gentle stunner. It has enough Parisian elegance to remind us of that former home (we were there eight years), enough of Olso’s saltiness to remind us of that former home (we were there five years), enough of Munich’s restraint to remind us of that former home (we were there a total of five years), enough of Vienna’s conviviality to remind us of that former home (we were there a total of over two and a half years), and actually little in common with Hong Kong or Singapore, except for all their diversity.

Geneva’s diversity is due to the presence of the U.N., the W.T.O., the W.H.O., the Red Cross, and numerous international entities including bankers, watchmakers, and candlestick makers. (I’m just tossing them in).  For a metropole, it felt compact, though its 200,000 inhabitants pack a multicultural punch. Nearly 50% of these folks are non-Swiss, I learned interrogating the pretty attendant at the hotel desk, and I witnessed proof of that rumor while wandering the vieille ville (old city), where I heard as much Russian, Korean, Mandarin, German, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English as I did French.

Since we’re all for diversity, Randall and I, we’re glad we don’t have to give that up in leaving Singapore.  What these two cities have in common besides diversity, though, is their high quality of life.  But as you probably might guess, that quality doesn’t come for free. The home we’re exiting like the one we’re entering both rank neck-in-neck near the top of the list of World’s Most Expensive Cities to live in.  (So whatever happened to getting transferred to Kathmandu?)

But I’m stumbling all over myself, writing us already into the future. We’ll get there soon enough.  For now, there are two more months remaining in Singapore, and for these weeks ahead, as the passage ramps up in slope and speed, I’ll return to write of it.

**

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012.  This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.