Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Cairo had left us both physically and mentally tired and when a posting to Zurich came up we agreed quickly. We visited Geneva for an interview and it seemed clean, tidy, and most importantly had big streets ideal for pushing a pushchair. So in March 1998 we left Egypt for Switzerland.

Jacques had booked us in a hotel in a village called Bassersdorf near to the airport. His office was nearby. We had a car, for the first time in years, and I was very happy just to gaze out at the pine trees, the mountains in the distance and watch the simple life the Swiss had. The mothers walked their kids to school early, shopped, cooked, collected their kids from school, ate with the family, sent them back and then prepared evening dinner. They squeezed in an hour at the park if it was sunny, or a spot of bike riding or a walk. It was good clean healthy living and seemed so quiet after the hustle and bustle of Cairo. I found us a chalet-style apartment in Bassersdorf and there we settled.

As a regular in the local park with Marc, come rain or shine, I soon was on smiling terms with the other Swiss mothers. They would greet me with ‘Gruezi!’ which was Swiss German for ‘hello!’ I replied the same way. Our conversation was limited though to age and name of child, where we lived and a quick comment on the weather. Still at least they smiled I thought. I hoped for more. It never came. In the end I was happy with my Gruezi and sat quietly in the park, watching Marc dig sandcastle or swing.

I tried to mix with the English expats through the toddlers playgroups organized through the churches. St.Andrews church on Monday mornings was my regular haunt where I helped make coffee, do crafts and tidy up. Still apart from meeting one friend, Carol, an American, I felt excluded. The English would ask a few questions and move on.

Later in the year as autumn arrived an indoor playgroup started up in the village hall. I went along with some trepidation and met the Gruezi mothers as usual. Interestingly the Swiss mamas lined up the tables in the centre and sat drinking coffee and herbal tea while chatting and the kids played around the room. The English mothers put their kids in the centre of the room and sat watching them, also chatting, but in smaller groups. I wondered which was more sociable, and decided that the canteen-style Swiss one was better as we looked at each other rather than the kids! Unfortunately my German remained basic and I had very little idea what was being said, especially with the local dialect.

Luckily I met Stenna in the village, mother of Jonas who was the same age as Marc, soon after I arrived. She was Danish and married to a Swiss optician. She stood out from the crowd with fashionable clothes and attitude in the sleepy Swiss village. We made friends fast and spent many a day chatting in English late into the afternoon when all the Swiss had run home to prepare dinner….

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