We are one year in. It’s been exactly a year since we landed in Geneva with eight suitcases only to be greeted by a Prius- only the first of many cultural differences to be discovered. We landed in January, deep in the middle of winter– full of gray clouds and fog so thick you couldn’t see the giant mountains all around. For ten days, I thought, “This city is supposed to have beautiful landscape all around and I can only see to the end of the street.” It was both literally and figuratively a dark time. Three days into our life here in Geneva, I got a phone call from my only friend here. “We’re getting moved back to Houston in a month,” she told me. I held it together, shared excitement with her and then promptly sobbed for an hour. This was the first of “one step forward, two steps back” events. But with each setback came a victory and rather than complain about the difficulties (namely the language difference and a variety of changes in help with Forest), I thought I’d focus on a few wins. And yes, I consider them victories (meaning we defeated something) because I am a competitive person by nature.
- I figured out how to buy a hair dryer and a temporary phone. This seems minor but was my greatest victory.
- I learned to communicate at markets and sometimes at restaurants. My French is passable when it comes to making doctor’s appointments and reservations.
- We found a house that is as charming as a ski chalet and moved in ten days after our arrival which was also the first day I saw the mountains.
- I signed up online for a grocery store points card. It arrived in the mail with my name on it and that made me feel at home here. At least the grocery store knows my name.
- I also ordered a box that goes on our car and automatically pays tolls in France and Switzerland, saving us time and cash. Every time we fly through a toll I give myself one point against inefficiency.
- We started a home group at our church and love the members of it.
- Forest learned to walk and talk.
- I found a doctor I like a lot who will deliver our next baby (due in June- that’s exciting too). We also found doctors for Forest and Josh. And we learned where both the public and private ERs are.
- We found a few restaurants that we love and order from regularly. One even gave us a Christmas present because we go there so often. It was a beautiful candle. We are still trying to figure out what to give them.
- I both earned and paid a speeding ticket in France.
- I figured out online grocery delivery. And because this is Switzerland, the delivery is super fast and always on time.
- Forest got into a public preschool here (more on that soon).
- I read 52 books and met my goal (again more to come).
- I can find my way around Geneva pretty well, especially the way to IKEA, the French mega grocery store and the garden center.
- We figured out how to watch American football and sitcoms.
These are obviously small victories. But each one makes me feel more accomplished and settled. We’ve also explored the region, made friends and found a church we love. There are many difficult days- living far from family and friends is hard on us and the language and cultural differences can seem insurmountable. Especially in January. Though this morning, I was greeted by warm sun and 11 degree temperatures- that’s Celsius, not 11 F like my friends on the East Coast. But writing out my list of seemingly small victories helps to remind me we’re farther than we were on January 7 last year. And on a sunny day, I can be very grateful. I’m still working on being grateful on gray days.