The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Category: Fathers (page 1 of 2)

Puddle time

It has been raining a lot recently. Every day is grey and wet. The main beneficiary of this situation is Mtoto. He probably thinks puddles were invented for him. Big ones, small ones, deep ones, shallow ones, he’s in them all.

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The other day he was out in the rain with a pal who had less appropriate puddle-jumping footwear – Mtoto wears his fleece-lined winter boots. Mtoto’s friend kept finding puddles and shouted to Mtoto that he should jump in them. Mtoto duly obliged. Cue glee all round.

I’m all for encouraging Mtoto’s love of puddles. It means that he’s excited to go out in the rain – whereas lots of children get conditioned to dislike the rain. Just think about all the negative connotations us adults give to rain, “bad weather”, ” mucky rain”, “a terrible day” and so on. It’s hardly a surprise that our kids don’t like wet weather!

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Blame the patriarchy

It turns out that the trouble Mtoto and I have making friends and meeting up with women, who are the vast majority of people looking after children in this city, is all down to other men.

A friend got in touch. She and her husband read my “Man Friends” post the other week. I paraphrase. He said: “Typical of women isn’t it?” She said: “Hang on, don’t blame the women.”

She and I bumped into each other today and while we walked (that’s my Janathon exercise for today, folks) our kids to sleep we talked. And she told me that this business of women not wanting to meet up with stay-at-home Dads might be because of the husbands (read partners etc). It’s just a theory she said. But what are the wives going to be telling the husbands about their day? That they were meeting up with some chap? The husbands are going to be getting jealous about who exactly these chaps are that their wives are hanging out with. So it isn’t worth the hassle for these women. Much easier to simply hang out with other women.

I conceded a point. Both she and another friend who I had been meeting with today know me and my whole family. They’ve met L, they’ve met me. They’ve met Mtoto. They’ve seen me with their wives and their kids and they’ve seen me with L and Mtoto. I’ve been for beers and football with one of the husbands. Maybe when other men don’t perceive me as a threat to their relationships, it can all work out. Other women who I’ve hung out with for an hour or two, I met at a French class. We’re fellow students, it’s okay.

Assuming that my friend is right, I took it on in a different way. The problem isn’t me, it’s what I represent and how that might make people question themselves and how they’re living.

I’m a guy and who has chosen to spend every waking hour with my kid. After all, I encouraged L to apply for the job that she got, knowing that it would force all kinds of change upon our family. I’m having lots of fun. You might see it as a career break. I see this as an opportunity to explore all kinds of different paths that I might take in life. Are other Dads spending enough time with their kids? Have they got the right balance of time with their families? Is it okay to admit that they would rather not spend time with their kids?

I met a guy recently who works in commodities. He asked me what I did. He told me that although he doesn’t have any kids, my job is his second favourite choice of everything, coming only after being retired. He doesn’t have any kids yet, so he hasn’t had to make the hard choices about pursuing that dream. But other men have and hearing about a stay-at-home Dad can make other men uncomfortable about the choices they’ve made.

And all of that is why lots of women are uncomfortable around a stay-at-home Dad.

All you need is a sandpit

We played a fabulous game today, Mtoto and me. All we needed was a sandpit and our imagination.

Following on from yesterday’s good day, this was another one. Different, but special too. We were up early doors and we played garage and telescopes (poster tubes) until it was time to go out for our playdate. Contrary to the impression I’ve given so far, this was set up with a female friend and her son. She had invited along another female friend with another son. The three boys have about 6 months between them and will be in the same school year. They played well together and at times, I dare say, they really played together rather than just along side each other, as Mtoto tends to do at present. We stayed there for about 3 hours, including lunch together and lots of Duplo train set, cars, books and the like.

The park we found the sandpit in, Place de jeux du parc des Franchises, was a new one on us. We found little for toddlers, just some swings and a sandpit, but boy, what a sandpit. It’s big, with two tables in and it merges with the grass banks. As there was just Mtoto and me, it was a lot of space to play in.

We started as we often do, playing with our sand cups and making mini-castles. We both built them, but Mtoto enjoys knocking them down more. Eventually he tired of this game and asked me to build a boat. I suggested a train instead and he agreed. After marking out an engine and two cars, we were away. To the casual observer, our train looks nothing like a train but with a little imagination you can see the edges, the seats and the funnel. Instead of the usual steering wheel that we use for a boat we had levers. We went on several journeys and then Mtoto asked for a bus. In the summer we mostly made boats, plus the occasional plane or car but this project grew and grew.

The sand bus from the rear.

The sand bus from the rear.

Within about three quarters of an hour as well as the train we had a bus, a helicopter, a Mouette (a Genevois public transport boat), a helicopter and a postman’s bike with post-filled trailer. We also had two ticket offices and a post office. Mtoto went to buy tickets and I was the ticket vendor, selling tickets (leaves, sticks and pine cones) that Mtoto asked for. As well as tickets for Geneva, London and Annecy, he also bought yes/no tickets, yes/yes tickets and a travel pass. At the post office he bought stamps. I was the vendor there too. At the post office he picked up a ticket (number 8), so he could be called to the kiosk when it was his turn. Thankfully I was serving customer number 6 when he arrived, so he didn’t have long to wait.

The imagination play was brilliant. Mtoto also drove most of the vehicles that he had tickets for and the journey only took a few seconds. I sat where requested, which included next to him, in another car, or at his favourite bus seat, across from the driver at the front. I also had the honour or driving the bus (the number 8 again) and the train. We were in the park for almost 2 hours before I called on Quiet Time and despite mild initial protests he was asleep in just a few minutes, no doubt dreaming of public transport adventures.

 

Janathon

I walked to the playdate and back again, enjoying it without logging time or distance. It was at least 4 miles for the round trip, probably a bit longer.

2015 birds

I saw another wren today, this time in Parc des Delices, plus plenty of cormorants, swans, goosander, coots and pochard down by the lake but nothing new.

Observations

We found a painful bus stop in Geneva today.

Les Ouches

Les Ouches

On the way home I stopped off at Rue de St-Jean to take in the views. The apartments there are built on a hill and offer super views over Geneva.

Looking to the Alps from St Jean, over Geneva.

Looking to the Alps from St Jean, over Geneva.

View from Geneva looking out along the Rhone towards the confluence with the Arve.

View from Geneva looking out along the Rhone towards the confluence with the Arve.

 

 

Laconnex

In the pub with the Geneva Dads drinking beer last week, a cry went round the tables that 2015 is the year. The year of what? Someone replied. The year! It came back. Today was the Monday of the year. The start of how I mean to go on. Monday has usually been jobs day. I do the weekly clothes washing in the evening and have been filling the day with food shopping and crashing. We lie in bed and watch videos. Or I fall asleep playing with Duplo in Mtoto’s room. I’ve had a lot of Mondays like that in the past five months.

Learning about the Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois on Saturday helped me find a focus for this week. On the GOBG website is a list of 21 places in Geneva canton which are recommended as spots to watch birds from. Planning our week, I simply set the first place on the list for Monday, the second for Tuesday and so on. Of course, it won’t be as simple as this. We’ve been to some of the places already and a playdate (whose parent is a mother!) for Mtoto on Tuesday means the second place is postponed and so on. But still, it’s a start.

I even prepared the buggy beforehand. I was on it yesterday. I looked up the times and knew we needed to get the 9:22 from Bel Air to get to Croisee de Confignon to get the L to Laconnex. Yeah, I know, Laconnex. Where? I can’t tell you much about Laconnex the village. There’s a playground, a cafe, a shop, a farm and a garage selling old American cars. There’s all the usual stuff that a village in Geneva canton has. To be fair to the people of Laconnex, we didn’t poke about today in their village. We were on a mission. We were on our way to the Pro Natura Reserve Naturelle de Laconnex.

 

Winter's morning at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Winter’s morning at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

We got off at the L stop after Stand Laconnex, turned first right into Rue des Rupettes, then left at the roundabout onto La Vy Neuve. Then we turned right at the next junction, just after the American car dealership onto Chemin-de-la-Loi. The reserve is about 200 yards up on the left. It’s on the site of an old gravel pit and has ponds, reed beds and lots of trees around the edges. It has a noticeboard and a path for visitors around the edge. What it doesn’t have is an entrance that is suitable for buggies, not even Mountain Buggies. I first tried pushing the buggy up the steep path over the bordering mound of soil that serves as entrance but we got stuck part way up. So we went back down and then I went up, pulling the buggy behind me. Which was fine but for the slope down the other side being steeper, longer and narrower. We made it, but only just. Afterwards I went back up the slope to pick up the things that had come out of the buggy on the way over.

Winter's greys at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Winter’s greys at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Unfortunately, Mtoto took an immediate dislike to Reserve Naturelle de Laconnex. Which was a real pain, because it was one of the most peaceful, tranquil and simply beautiful places I have been in a while. And there were lots of birds flitting around in the trees. “Pappi, I don’t want  this path, I want the big path” he shrieked. “I don’t like it, I want to go home” he cried. I tried him in the buggy, I tried him walking, I tried him on my shoulders. Nothing worked. We only reached harmony when we were on the way out and he knew it. Still, we saw Goldfinches (the first of the year), Reed Buntings, Blackbirds, Kestrels, Crows, Robins, Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits. Not bad considering we were a bright red and blue seven feet high two-headed giant, wielding two cameras and in constant dialogue about leaving. As we were about to take on the entrance/exit again I asked Mtoto how he wanted to tackle it. He suggested that he went in the buggy, which was when we discovered that somewhere along the way we had lost Hippo. She’s a nondescript blankety thing, of little sentimental value except that she’s been with the buggies since day dot. So we trekked back along the path until we found Hippo and brought her back.

Droplets at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

From the reserve, we continued on Chemin-de-la-Loi, stopping to see various birds including some buzzards, then turned left down Route des Allues, where we saw our first hare of the year. Cutting a quick left took us on a path that eventually led back onto Chemin-de-la-Loi and back to the village, where caught a bus back, an hour-and-a-half after we had arrived. It was a beautiful morning, cold and crisp. The mountains were clear and had fresh snow on top. We made dragon breaths all the way round, picked up sticks and went fishing from the buggy. We rode mud, ice and roads. We saw one other person in the whole trip, a guy with a large lens on his camera, keeping still and watching the woods. This was the day and this is the year.

Janathon stats

I ran tonight with the Geneva Runners, 9.9km in 52:53 at 5.21 per km. Then I joined the runners for their weekly social – burgers at the Clubhouse and ran home afterwards.

2015 birds

46. Goldfinch

47. Great Crested Grebe

There were more, but I don’t know yet what they are. Edit: (21/01/2015) A Yellow Bunting and a Common Reed Bunting, with thanks to the Swiss birdwatcher, B, who got in touch with his suggestions.

Raptor (I presume it's a buzzard) in flight at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

Raptor (I presume it’s a buzzard) in flight at Laconnex. Photo: Jez Smith

 

yellow bird. Any idea what it is?

Yellow Bunting

More yellow bird. Any i/d?

Yellow Bunting

Little Brown Job. But what is it?

Common Reed Bunting

Little Brown Job on its way.

Common Reed Bunting

Man friends

Probably for the first time since I went to an all-boys secondary school, most of my friends are men. I didn’t expect this when I first knew that I was going to become a stay-at-home Dad. Rather, I thought that I would be friends with more women, since there are more women than men looking after children day-to-day. But the world of caring for children in the day is a strange place and is drawn up, it seems to me, along gender lines.

Making friends with women is harder than I thought it would be. But I can’t say that I wasn’t warned. In his book Men Can Do It – the real reason Dads don’t do childcare and what men and women can do about it, Gideon Burrows describes the problems he faced as a father sharing parenting 50:50 with his wife. He described trying to go to parenting and baby groups and discovering that they were for mothers only and seeing signs that welcomed mothers and babies to cafes and by omission not fathers.

Most fancifully, I thought at the time, Gideon Burrows suggests that women didn’t want to meet up with him for playdates because they feared that he may want to have sex with them. How I laughed at this at the time. I would have laughed still if I had thought of it, until I joined a group on Meetup.com, which was suggesting playdates for parents (not specifically mothers) and their children in our local park. A couple of days later I received a message from the group administrator querying why I had joined the group as she saw that I am a man and she was concerned in case I was trying to hit on any of the mothers in the group. Suffice to say, I haven’t been invited to any playdates in that group and plenty of others state that they are WOMEN ONLY.

Another time a friend  put me in contact with a woman who had also moved from south-east London to Geneva around the same time as us and with a child of similar age to Mtoto. We arranged to meet at a park. I described myself in my last email as ‘a tall man’. The reply came back: I didn’t realise you were a man. We still met, but just the once.

There are other instances, I won’t bore you with all the stories. Ultimately, of course, the real loser in all of this is Mtoto, since he’s losing out on opportunities to play with other children, simply because he’s with me.

Thankfully there are other Dads around though. Most of the stay-at-home Dads I have met have been through the Geneva Dads’ Beer Night Facebook group and through other social networking sites, such as Glocals and one who I met in a ludotheque very early on. The group was set up a few years ago, apparently, when some mothers objected to having fathers in their Facebook group, so a couple of guys branched off on their own. Although I haven’t met up loads of times with these guys and their kids, I’ve got on well with every stay-at-home Dad that I’ve met and it’s good to know that they’re around. As a work comparison, we’re like freelancers working alone and it’s good to have those doing the same role to network with. Our latest get together was last night and there were 9 of us out and 5 of us were current stay-at-home Dads. It was a good craic and I laughed often and hard with the others. They’re good guys.

Which brings me onto today’s adventure. Today I met up with P, who is a father on paternity leave. Our contact was set up by my friend A, who after all this above is a mother on maternity leave who is a friend of mine. She’s a friend of some 13-years standing, so preceding either of us being in Geneva. So A set me up to meet P, though P has never met A, but P’s wife has. Got that? P’s son is just under a year old, so it was very much a case of the kids being near each other in the park rather than actively engaging, although we did have a lovely game of blowing raspberries at one point. P was very jolly and has been making the most of having 2 months paternity leave after his wife went back to work and before they get external childcare. After Mtoto had worn himself out making sandcastles in the sandpit and launching himself down the superfast tunnel slide, tumbling along the wibbly-wobbly bridge and the rope bridge, he went for his quiet time and P and I had time to walk and chat. P’s on maternity leave, so he’ll be going back to work soon, but he said that it had been a brilliant experience that he was very glad to have had the opportunity to do and he felt that he had insights from this period that he would take back to his work.

I didn’t take any recording devices out today, so I have no stats for Janathon. I’d imagine it was a 2-3km walk. I should have done a run today, but Mtoto didn’t want to go in the buggy this morning and my heart wasn’t in it, so I’ll be off tomorrow instead.

Call the midwife!

I’ve just had one of my most enjoyable social hours since becoming a stay-at-home Dad and I may just have discovered how to meet Swiss people. And, it wasn’t even an hour – possibly only about 20 minutes or so.

Partly, I have myself to thank and partly I have a Swiss midwife called Sandrile. For myself, it’s because I’m a fairly social chap – almost always ready to put make myself vulnerable by going into social situations where I don’t know how they’ll turn out.

I had already done it once today. In BM – the magazine of the Bibliotheques Municipales de Geneve – I discovered that today there would a reading hour in the Paquis library for parents with children aged 0 to 2. And it’s in French. So I went along, feeling tired and with a cracking headache. When we got there, we discovered that although the session started at 10, the library wasn’t open until 3. Quite a bit of me wanted to go home at this point. But I stuck around and eventually I saw two women with babies going round the back of the library. I followed them and voila – it turns out that you have to go in the back. We were in. We were a small group, less than 10 parents, carers and staff. The staff read stories in French and explained about registering your child at the library and where to find books in different languages. And, to top off our experience, mtoto was given a pack of 3 books, which are usually given to all children born in Switzerland. The staff made an exception for him. Magnifique! I still had a cracking headache but we had had a good time. We read some great books in French including a lovely one about some animals on a tightrope. We also read a book about Elmer the elephant in the snow. Mtoto made me read it six times before I suggested we try something else.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the library was great practice for the afternoon. After lunch, we went out to the playground, as has recently become our routine. For the first time, we were alone in the Tunnel Slide Playground until a Russian woman and toddler joined us in the sandpit. The boys played together for a few minutes. Or rather, mtoto shared his toys with the Russian toddler who gratefully took mtoto’s and then wouldn’t share his own. As French was his mother’s and my only shared language it was all a bit confusing. Then it began to rain. They left and mtoto and I played football until I decided that rain had stopped play and I got him down so I could walk him into his nap.

I had a sense that something was about to happen and that I needed to be open. But I didn’t know what. So I prayed to be prepared for whatever came my way. I thought it was the Russian woman so I looked out for her again. And then I passed a group of around 8 women with babies, led by one older woman. The second time that I passed them, I heard a noise. I carried on. I heard the noise again. I stopped. Be open I reminded myself. Then I realised that the older woman was calling to me. Her name is Sandrile and she’s a midwife. She and 2 other midwives run a weekly free session for mothers, and why not, for fathers too, she said. They go for a walk every Tuesday in the same park, starting at 2pm. I could join them if I liked. It would have been easy to say no, so I said yes.

I had a lovely chat with Sandrile and then I got into step with a couple of mothers. I got to speak and hear some French and then one mother said “please speak English, it’s good for our babies to hear it”. This is how I can meet Swiss people – I can offer to speak English! I hadn’t realised that English might be a useful commodity.

Again, I didn’t change numbers with anyone. I think that all the other babies are around 18 months or so younger than mtoto, so they wouldn’t be much good for playing together. One of the positive aspects is that it seems to be a local group, which means opportunities to meet local Swiss people and good reason to keep practising my French, though I’m also prepared to speak English to help the Swiss babies!

One of the three midwives leads the group every Tuesday at 2pm from the Rue de Montchoisy gate. I’m sure I’ll be going back!

Geneva’s Jet D’eau and treasures at the end of the rainbow

For many visitors to Geneva, there’s an obligatory photo to pose for, with the famous Jet D’eau fountain in the background. For those who prefer a close up, you can walk up the pontoon, almost to the Jet itself and pose for your pictures there.

Along the way is a sign warning visitors about getting soaked and slipping into the lake and about changing winds that might blow them off the pontoon.

The first time that we came to visit the Jet D’eau I heeded the signs and strayed no further than the signs. But Mamma had other ideas and she happily pushed mtoto in his poussette right up towards the fountain. They got a bit wet but mtoto loved it.

Mtoto loves the Jet D’eau. The Jet D’eau has been central to mtoto’s understanding of Geneva. Mamma’s first ever night away from mtoto was so that she could attend the interview in Geneva for the job that she has now. To encourage her, I taught mtoto the words ‘Jet D’eau’ and he said them to her over the phone that night. When the time came that we knew we were going to move to Geneva, we encouraged mtoto by telling him that we were going to Geneva and that we would live near the Jet D’eau.

Fast forward a few months and our new apartment has a view straight down the road to the Jet D’eau. Almost every day mtoto asks hopefully “can we go and see the Jet D’eau?” Quite often I put him off but at least once a week we go down there.

Today was a good day at the Jet D’eau. The wind was largely taking the falling water away from the pontoon so we could get right past it and out the other side. But it still had some spray drifting back and we got soaked.

And there were two treasures today for going all the way through. The first was the rainbows. We saw them first before we arrived on the pontoon, spreading themselves through the spray. But the best one of all started at our feet, wherever we walked, while we were coming out of the spray.

The second treasure was a sandpiper on the rocks just beyond the Jet D’eau. Just out of range of a decent shot from my camera, I sat down next to mtoto in his poussette and we spent several minutes watching this delightful little bird pecking and interesting things among the rocks.

Then mtoto was ready to move on. Pappa look for a rainbow, he cried. So we went back and this time I dared to keep my camera out.

“Pappa look for a rainbow,” he cried,
We saw it shimmer across the lake,
Flowing from our feet just inches wide,
Then we knew our own treasure we make.

The Carouge Market routine

Mama and I have a distinct memory, from our last period in Geneva, of visiting Carouge Market on Saturdays. So when we ended up in an airbnb stay in Dancet and followed it up with a sublet in Carouge, there was no better incentive to revisit the market.

Going to the market is also a great opportunity to practice a small amount of French in a way that you just don’t get when you shop in the supermarket.

So we’ve been off every Saturday morning to the Place du Marche to get our fruit and vegetables. Until today, I didn’t realize just how big an impression the market has had on mtoto and how it has given him some new routines.

On our first visit, we ended up going to one of the larger stalls. The prices were competitive and it was busy – surely a good sign. And we’ve gone to the same place each time now. So that’s a routine.  Another one of our family routines has quickly becoming stopping to eat fruit on the same bench after we’ve made all of our purchases. And last Saturday we had a whole breakfast at the market, including croissants, yoghurt and fruit. Mama was prepared and had brought her pen knife so she could cut up some of the fruit. She also brought our plastic cutlery (which came from the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank – thank you London!).

We’ve been able to practice our French and the staff on the market stall have put up with our slow choice of words and understand when we say that we would rather not speak English. Today I had fun asking for a “plus grande pomme de terre”. The woman serving me took me to the back of the stall and showed me a stash of dirty potatoes. I declared them perfect. She wasn’t sure but she did ask if I wanted to wrap them in foil. I didn’t, but I said yes, in case that helped. She checked with somebody else and then she got more out and I bought three.

Today, mtoto helped me by putting the things that we bought into the shopping bag. He was quite keen to start before I had someone serving me and then when we going he got the bag upside down but eventually he proved to be a valuable assistant. Then, when we were done I suggested to him that we could go to the playground. He turned and set off in the opposite direction. After appealing in vain I followed him and he took me to a bench in the market where he declared that he wanted to eat melon. Another routine!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought a knife so mtoto had to make do with four plums instead. I topped off each one and pulled the stone out and he munched away until he had finished all of each fruit. I then tried him with an apricot but he wasn’t so into that. The only thing that slightly spoiled our pause was that a trailer selling cheese was parked right in front of the beach, rather hampering our view of the market.

When mtoto was satisfied that he had had enough fruit, off we went through the square, stopping at the fountain so mtoto could wash his hands. Then we went to the playground at Parc Louis-Cottier. And when he was done there we went to the playground at the back of Boulevard des Promenades.

Conversation stoppers and starters

Last night, we were at a barbecue. It was a nice laid back affair with some good friends who are our neighbours. There were some people who we didn’t know and a few who we did.

The conversation was convivial and mostly fairly light. It was lovely to get to know some new people. I do wonder sometimes if people might not want to engage with us once they know that we’re moving away – after all they’re not likely to get to know us any better. Although it turns out that I can be wrong about that. I had two remarkable conversations last night.

The conversation stopper

A Quaker friend of mine warned me recently that being a full-time stay-at-home parent can be a conversation stopper. I experienced this for the first time at the barbecue.

Man: What do you do?

Me: I’m a homemaker.

Man: You build homes?

Me: No, I’m a stay-at-home Dad.

Man: Oh. [He is silent for a moment, then turns to someone else and asks them what they do.]

It was strangely satisfying though. I found myself thinking that if he couldn’t think of anything to say then perhaps we wouldn’t get on anyway and it was better to leave it there.

I also found that although I like the phrase “homemaker” it did roll off the tongue slightly awkwardly. I don’t know if that’s because I’m not used to saying it or because it is a bit odd. But I don’t like some of the alternatives like “house husband” and “stay-at-home-Dad” and everyone with kids is a full-time parent, no matter what other work they do.

But I don’t have a better alternative yet, so homemaker I am.

The conversation starter

There was a woman at the barbecue who hadn’t meant to be there. She was visiting another neighbour and before she knew it the children had hopped over the gardens to get some food. We didn’t know each other. But chatting to her, I learned that she lives around the corner from us and she and her family are in the process of moving to Geneva. And hers was the second local family I’ve heard about moving with us this weekend! It’s as if there’s a measurable migration between south-east London and south-west Switzerland.

Not only did we have lots to talk about Geneva (the woe of finding a suitable place) we got chatting about all sorts of other things too (our children, coincidences). And by the end of our conversation I don’t think either of us had found out what the other “does”. Which only went to show that it isn’t the be all and end all of conversations.

So tell me, what phrase would you use to describe my situation? Are there any other parenting conversation stoppers?

 

Five things you might say when you learn I’m moving to Geneva

We’ve known for almost 4 weeks now that we’re moving to Geneva, Switzerland in a month or so. My partner will be working full-time and I’ll be homemaker and chief adventurer. Oh, and blogger, of course!

When you learn that we’re off, there’s a fairly narrow range of responses that you’re likely to choose from.

  1. You want to know that I’m excited

There is a very popular question that people ask me all the time: “Are you excited?” I’ve found that people will ask more than once on the same day too. At first, I was excited, very excited. Then the novelty wore off and we started planning our departure from the UK and our arrival and settlement in Switzerland. There’s a lot to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the opportunity. It’s more like I’m content with things, rather than hitting the spike of excited.

But I’ve realised that when people ask me if they’re excited, they’re really telling me that they’re excited and maybe they’ve only just heard or only just seen me for the first time since they heard. I love the enthusiasm and energy that we’ve had from family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. So now I’m trying to harness that every time I get asked, even if I’m knackered, to tell you that yes, I am excited.

  1. You tell me that I will get a job soon

All 3 of us in the family are moving and 2 of us have new jobs. One of us will be working full-time in a human rights advocacy role for a non-government organisation working alongside the UN. One of us will be homemaker and chief adventurer. As one of my friends said on Facebook: “I doubt you’ll be idle long!” Men and women have queued up to tell me that they have no doubt that I’ll get a job soon.

I know I won’t be idle at all. We’ve got to find temporary accommodation, then something permanent. We need to set up home, while maintaining a supportive atmosphere around our child, who is going through significant change. Mtoto has a love of physical exercise, hearing stories and developing his language skills. I suspect that I’ll be busier than ever. And right now, I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing.

  1. You tell me that mtoto will grow up trilingual

Switzerland is trilingual, right? French, Italian and German. So mtoto will grow up trilingual, right? Probably not, but it’s fun trying to grapple with this point isn’t it? If we stay in Switzerland for long enough, mtoto will probably be bilingual as he’ll hopefully pick up French quite easily as we hear and speak it every day and we try to learn the language. One of our friends worried that mtoto would lose English if we live in a French-speaking country. We assured them that we have no plans to stop speaking English!

I learned German at school for a year and really didn’t get on with it. And I have some great friends in London who are German but that has never prompted me to try and learn the language. So that one’s out. And we’ll be nowhere near the Italian part of Switzerland so that one’s out too.

Of course, if mtoto loves languages and picks up a third or fourth one at school, we’ll encourage him all we can, but just moving to Switzerland won’t be action enough.

  1. You tell me that Switzerland is expensive and other things you know

As you scrabble around in your brain to pick out anything you know about Switzerland that you can tell me, you’ll probably tell me that Switzerland is expensive. You’re right, too. I can also tell you that I know this.

Thankfully, the only place I’ve seen Geneva topping the polls as the most expensive city in the world is in the hotel club sandwich rankings (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/14/most-expensive-city-geneva_n_5321133.html) and the good news is that we’re not planning to buy any club sandwiches from hotels or anywhere else. Geneva often features in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, along with Zurich. But London is often there or thereabouts too and we’ve survived here for over 7 years so far!

Other things you might know about Switzerland and think to tell me are that they use Euros there (they don’t, they use Swiss Francs), there are a lot of mountains (correct) and it’s good for skiing (also correct, see previous point). You might also come up with some of those funny rules you’ve heard about, like not being allowed to wash your car on a Sunday. Then you’ll ask me if I’ll be able to wash my car on a Sunday and I’ll point out that I’ve never owned a car and have no plans to change that just now so the rule is largely irrelevant anyway!

  1. Best of all you’ll wish us congratulations

This post may sound like a big whinge but it’s really meant to be a celebration of some of the funnier things that people have said to us so far. Best of all though has been the outpouring of love, friendship and support from so many of our friends. We’ve been realising that there are so many people who we’ll miss that we can’t even count them all.

Hopefully some of them will come to visit, some might keep up with our adventures here and some might even contribute to this blog, coming to tell their stories too.

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