Everything is Awesome

February 12, 2015

We’ve been in Switzerland for almost three weeks now.

The first week was a bit of a blur thanks to the jetlag. But as if on cue, we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow outside on our first morning. We were staying with my brother and we stayed local and kept our excursions small.

The second week we spent a lot of time with my dad. We filled in forms and visited council offices and departments of immigration and copied, scanned and emailed documents around the place. This may sound arduous, but it’s not meant to. Compared to other immigration procedures I’ve been through, this one has been very straightforward. Granted, it helps that I’m a citizen.

This is our third week. We are on our own, ensconced in a cozy flat in Steinhausen. We’ve introduced ourselves to our neighbours and apologised in advance for the children’s bouncy enthusiasm to the people living below us. We’re enjoying our last week of holidays before I return to work and the kids start school, so we went skating and sledding on the Rigi. It’s misty at the moment, so once up on the mountain we were above the mist (called ‘Nebelmeer’ Ocean of mist).

This is Fasnacht season and tomorrow we plan to attend the local parade. Fasnacht is an old tradition where marching bands and people dress up to parade through the streets. Every area does it differently. Last night, the sounds of the local ‘Guggenmusik‘ band having a warm up session drifted through the window. We walk or take the bus and train wherever we need to go. It is cold, I mean proper cold, not Wellington-windchill factor cold. The interior spaces are all heated to high temperatures so we forget that once we step outside we’ll need hats and gloves.

My casual German is returning more and more everyday and I’ve bought a fiction novel in German so I can develop it even more. Everything feels right. The kids are happy and my brave husband ventured to the shops by himself today. We are all making adjustments and collaborating on solutions to new problems. I couldn’t ask for more. Sure, we wish we had one or two kid-friendly English channels, but we got the Lego movie DVD today and so tonight it’s a treat for the kids.

Things that are different: Instructions are printed in at least three languages (German, French and Italian). Sometimes they include English. There is a shop that only sells cheese down the road. Highly heated indoor environments. Electrical plugs are up by the light switches.

Likes so far: The snow. Small regular trips to the very close shops. The cold. Good food. The way people greet each other on the street and on buses. The regulated but logical way that things are organised. The snow. The clear sidewalks regardless of snow. The different types of snowflakes (small sleety and big fluffy, even absolute individual flakes). Daily new things. The elderly Italian men who have lunch together, where Al Pacino would not look out of place. The views.

Dislikes so far: Needing to remember that shops are closed on Sundays. Coffee, we have yet to have a really good one.

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Our House

January 21, 2015

Tonight is our last night in our house.

Oh I’m sure we’ll be back but we have no idea when. I wanted to take a little time to document why I love this house, this place, that our family has created.

The world is big place, with big problems and I feel very lucky to be able to sit here in a place I can call home and feel safe and peaceful. There are many things I like about this place but there are specific things, soft things that have settled under my skin and tethered me to this place.

It’s the lovely view of the bay framed by the long harakeke flowers, sometimes adorned with chatty Tui. They are not here at the moment, the blooms are all drained. I have enjoyed this view when engaged in that most domestic of duties, hanging up laundry. A humble task which has gently communicated to me that I am lucky, I have people to look after, I have things which need care and I have a place where I can step outside and harness the wind and sun to help me with my task.

It’s the comforting sound of the hot water cylinder restoring it’s reservoir while I wash dishes, another domestic task. I always wished for a kitchen that where I could watch the children play from the sink but instead I love our retaining wall, with the Jasmine that refuses to grow up it despite our efforts of training it. That Jasmine is currently filling our entrance with a heady fragrance that still takes me by surprise. The retaining wall which is behind a Nikau palm that was small once and is next to a Puka that was tiny housewarming gift from family. Now it looms in to your path when you walk past.

It’s quite here, at dawn and dusk the birds became amazingly vocal and I’ve learned to identify Bellbirds. At night, we can hear Ruru or owls. The Huhu bugs crash into our windows and moths, when they get in, spiral in manic circles until they collapse in exhaustion.

There is a sense of space here too. I can look out and see into the distance. I can see trains and the hills I drive past on the way to work and where towns begin and end. This country is beautiful.

We’ve collected lots of memories here. We got married here with many of our nearest and dearest around us. We have spend loud hours playing games with friends and quite evenings immersed in separate distractions.

This space has been created truly though our experiences with people which we’ll remember. But it’s been physically created too. With Stephen’s extraordinary talents and energy, he has manipulated and decorated this space. He has transformed it as have the kids and I with our activity and movement in this place.

When we arrived it was old, empty and unloved and we have loved this house and I think it has loved us in return.

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Cat needs new servants

December 19, 2014

The current servants of this gorgeous small cat are moving overseas and she is now in need of new people to feed, house and pet her.

An outdoor cat, she is independent, haughty and lovable. She’ll warm your feet or sneak under the covers with you at night if you let her.

Her favourite time to snuggle is after you’ve fed her, naturally. She’ll let you know when she’s had enough in no uncertain terms.

She would answer to the name of ‘Po’ if she actually answered. And being a cat, you know, she doesn’t.

If you are interested in becoming the new cohabiting servants of this little majesty, please email Karin at karinbrown77 (at) yahoo.com

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Best friends need a home

December 13, 2014

These two lovely dogs need a new home.

Sadly, it’s just not possible to take them with us as we are moving overseas. We would prefer they stay together, but I’m sure they’ll cope with being separated. Both are pure Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffy). Both are excellent with kids! ready to meet your new best friends!

Callie (Short for Calico) – $250

Female about 6 years old. She is a lovely sweet and loyal thing. She is great with kids and people and will enjoy sitting with her bum against your foot. We adopted her about 3 years ago.

She loves walking and could walk every day! But she equally can be left all day by herself if need be.

She is on the anxious side and needs an owner who will help her feel safe and loved. She especially needs close monitoring around other dogs as she can be protective.

Callie

Callie

Reggie – $250

Reggie is male and about two years old. He is still boisterous and wants to play but what he wants more than anything else is to love, love, LOVE people. While he has a deep and loud bark, he is more likely to lick you than anything else. Such a softy. We’ve had him since he was a puppy.

He is really smart and could use an owner who will help him burn his mental and physical energy with play and discipline. He is a builders dog and loves to go to work and hang his head out the window of the car.

Reggie

Reggie

They both know basic commands like sit, come, leave it and get down. Both have been fixed. They are both fully vaccinated and registered.

These dogs will love you forever if you let them.

If you are interested in adopting both or one of these dogs, please contact Karin on karinbrown77 (at) yahoo.com

We love these dogs and are are going to be VERY careful that they go to home of someone who will love them and not abuse them. This will be someone who can provide us with excellent references, hopefully from someone known to us.

Reggie and Callie

Reggie and Callie

Time for a new adventure…

December 10, 2014

Well, time we shared some big news publicly. We’ve decided to move! Not just house, not just towns, but across the world! We’re moving to Switzerland in the new year*.

Last year when we spent a long holiday there, I remember a clear moment when Stephen and I were standing by the national holiday bonfire in Rapperswil, looking out over the Zurich lake and we pretty much agreed, that yes, we could both be happy living here.

This decision is also a big part of why we got married earlier this year. When Stephen agreed to give up his job, social circle, proximity to his family and even his ability to communicate easily, I thought that I really needed to provide him with as much immigrational (its a word, ok!) security as I could.

Even though I was born in South Africa, I grew up in Switzerland. It’s ‘home’ to me. Well, as much as any one place can be home. I tend to commit my heart to wherever I am living and so wherever I am becomes home. But Switzerland is where I had many important formative experiences.

Importantly it’s also where my brother, his wife and children live. I’ve lived half a world away from him for 20 years and I just want to be able to share the everyday with him and his family. My dad is also much closer to Switzerland than Aotearoa. Being in Switzerland will enable us to see him and his wife and daughters, my step-family, much more easily. And I’ve got some lovely friends there too :-)

Sometimes I think I’m nuts. We’ve got so much going for us here! We have a great community here in Titahi Bay and we love the school the kids attend. I’m making great strides at my work, I especially love and respect the people I work with and we have a small business that is humming along nicely.

But this is very clearly not a calculated career-move. This is about extending opportunities for our wider family to spend time together.** I’ve started pulling back from my various obligations and am in discussions with my employer. Working in my current job from overseas is a one possible option and we’re very lucky that this is even a topic of discussion.

The part we are dreading the most will be that we are going to rehome our pets. While we will keep and rent out our house, it’s simply not possible to bring our pets with us. We’ll miss our friends and our extended family but are also very much looking forward to this next adventure.

So watch this space for updates!

Eiger

Eiger

*Exact date to be confirmed.

** this refers to my side of the family obviously. I feel very lucky that Stephen is up for this.

On being believed

October 13, 2014

This post is pretty over due. Hell, I’ve got lots of posts in my head which are overdue being written. But I promised myself to get this one out. It’s been out there as a Facebook post for a while and I just wanted to document the event here on the blog as well. Now that I’ve built that up ridiculously, here goes.

Some weeks ago we were on a road trip and in a city in Aotearoa New Zealand that we are not often in. There were six of us. My mother (Grandma), my cousin, my partner and our two kids.

For those who don’t know, we have two daughters. They are 8 and soon-to-be 7. Wide-eyed, confident and adventurous creatures.

Out for dinner one night, we were in a restaurant that was busy and full of people. The kind of room that is big and full of tables with servers bustling to and fro. We settled in with a full order of food and some wine on the way (for the adults, not the kids).

Proudly, the 8 year old felt able to go the bathroom by herself. We could see the door from where we were so we knew she couldn’t get lost. Off she trotted, returning a few minutes later, slipping silently back to her chair. And dinner continued.

A few minutes later she announced that there had been a man in the bathroom. ‘What do you mean?’ we asked mildly (but my heart started pounding). ‘When I came out of the stalls,’ she said, ‘a man was in there’. We asked a few more questions, to try to ascertain if he had posed a threat in anyway. When she said that he seemed confused and didn’t do/say anything, we praised her for telling us and then, almost brushed it off. In fact, if I’m honest, there was a strong urge to do just that, to minimise. ‘He probably just made a mistake’, I heard us saying.

And maybe that would have been fine. Maybe brushing it off after hearing the story would have been ok and we would have not paid it any further thought. She seemed ok.

But I think what happened next was better. At first she was ok, but then she wasn’t. She said she felt ‘uncomfortable’ and we could tell she was unnerved. We asked her what she wanted us to do and if she could remember what the man looked like and she described him to us. We agreed that I would speak with the manager.

I approached the manager not sure what to expect. I knew it was important to tell him what had happened. Not because I expected him to do anything to be honest, but because I wanted our daughters to see that we believed her and that we would take action. I approached him almost tentatively and I told him what happened, that she felt uncomfortable and, almost apologetically, that it’s important the girls see that they can tell and that they’ll be believed. I had a horrible feeling he was going to brush us off or dismiss us completely. This is what I expected, but he did the opposite.

He immediately sent a female employee into the women’s bathroom to check it out and then he approached our table and gently asked us if our daughter would be able to describe the man, which she did. He thanked her directly and later came back with a gift for her and her sister and thanked her again for saying something.

He really seemed to get it. He got that it’s important to listen, to believe and to take action. He got that even a little short scrawny kid’s feelings of discomfort matter. He spoke to her directly and kindly and seriously. He reassured her that she had done a brave thing by speaking up.

I got a little emotional if I’m honest. I often feel brutally aware of how vulnerable children are and as a parent, I am sure I’m not alone when I feel like I sometimes see dangers in the shadow, even though my rational mind knows that most people and places are good and safe. But I’m no fool too. I know the stats. And while this may have been a small incident in concrete terms, this event was hugely symbolic and instructive.

Kids, especially girls, get many messages as they grow up that their experiences and feelings are not as important as those of adults. This undermines their confidence and their ability to speak up for themselves and their needs, to give voice to their concerns and fears. And while my parenting is far from perfect, I think the way we handled this situation was pretty spot on. Our hope, is that by us and the manager, listening and believing and taking action, she and her sister have learned that if something feels wrong, they should trust their gut, that if they speak up, they’ll be believed. In short, that they, their privacy and their feelings matter.

She continued to feel unnerved and wanted to sleep with us that night instead of her own room. We supported her need for security and now the incident seems to be forgotten.

While it wasn’t nice that our daughter felt uncomfortable, we couldn’t have been happier with the way the restaurant manger reacted.

Soft Kitty, Happy Kitty

June 28, 2014

Sometime ago we bought our kid a toy cat. From the tip shop.

It was in perfect condition and ‘Kitty’ soon became her most favourite toy. A frequently chosen item to bring to school.

And then she disappeared…..

You know how it is, it takes a day or two to notice, then you look in all the usual places, to no avail.

Kadie would cry, often at bedtime. Once I suggested that Kitty might be having adventures, Kadie reminded me that she was only a toy and couldn’t move.

I wasn’t planning on making a replacement, but then I saw some leftover pieces of faux black fur at the local fabric shop. For just six bucks! So no harm in trying I thought.

I jumped on Pinterest and found a suitable tutorial. Here is a link. (Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?)

So I waited for Kadie to be in bed and started. It took me roughly four hours. (A great opportunity to listen to my current audiobook). The kitchen floor slowly became covered in soft fluff. The head was the hardest part, it’s shape wasn’t very well defined, but you can form it a bit with some strategic stitching.

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Overall I was pretty please with the outcome. It’s not floppy the way I thought it would be, but that’s probably a function of how thick the fur is and how full you stuff it.

Kadie just loves it.

Totally worth it.

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For Prue

June 18, 2014

I attended the celebration of Pat Rosier’s life today.

I wish I had known her better. My kids asked me why I went if I didn’t know her very well. And this blog is inspired by my response to them.

I went because I wanted to show my respect for Pat and for her partner Prue Hyman. Both woman I owe my thanks to for influencing my development as a feminist and for introducing me to many more wonderful women. I went because I wanted to show support, to put my arms around the people I knew who would be hurting. To show up. To connect.

Pat was a long-term editor of Broadsheet, which inspired Muse Feminist Magazine which was an important part of my life for five years. Prue ably provided leadership to the Women’s Studies Association (WSA) of which I was a member for several years and where I gave my first proper conference presentation.

Through Muse and the WSA I met many of the people I still hold dear and who ultimately linked me to the Wellington Rape Crisis Governance Group, where I have served for the last number of years. Pat’s book Workwise: a guide to managing workplace relationships (2001) was also formative reading.

The celebration was amazing. So many amazing people paid such incredibly eloquent tributes.  I spent a lot of the time looking around the room, absorbing the vibe of the many strong personalities and presences. I reconnected with some people I hadn’t seen in ages, and others I had seen recently but never knew I had this connection with.

Prue amazed us all, a mighty force of strength intertwined with such honest vulnerability, recounting stories galore and heart-felt messages that arrived from all around the world. Anyone who didn’t know Pat well would have left feeling like our knowledge of her had expanded tremendously and those who did know Pat well would likely have left feeling full to the brim of love for her and the community who had gathered.

Pat’s influence as a staunch, yet kind feminist and lesbian will live on. Looking around the room I was so very very conscious of the battles so many of the women there had fought for rights which people like me take for granted. The feminist and lesbian movement in Aotearoa was strongly influenced and shaped by the actions and fights of many of the women in that room.

As women we are born to be warriors, and feminism is the flaming baton that is handed from one woman to another. That baton becomes a means of protection and of source of light, when the world seems dark and frightening.

While Pat’s light is no more, today’s gathering was evidence that she has passed a flame on to so many people. There were candles being lit all around the world in Pat’s memory, so many lights around the world, coalescing to honor her and which will continue to light our way, and the way of generations of women to come.

 

You can read Pat’s blog here.

oh the sweetest thing

June 15, 2014

Today I was having a mid-afternoon snuggle with my wide-eyed, smiling 6-year old and she gazed and me and said: “Mummy, sometimes I think I was supposed to be born to you.”

“Yes, darling,” I said. “I think that is what love feels like”

I made more things!

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