Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Innocent Abroad, post one: My grand European entrance

At the beginning of March, my boss asked if I’d like to move to Basel, Switzerland to work on a special project at my company’s global headquarters for about four months. Even if you’ve known me for five minutes, you know that I literally JUMPED at the chance. Right out of my office chair and onto the airplane. Except: WAIT! There’s this stuff Switzerland loves called bureaucratic red tape, and getting my work visa (which allows me to work in Switzerland, clearly) was not as quick a process as everyone expected. I was supposed to start my new job April 1. Then it was moved to April 24. Then May. Then, when the visa still hadn’t arrived by mid-May, we quit trying to put a date on it. Talk about frustration. The last few months brought a whole new definition to the phrase “hurry up and wait.”

Well, I FINALLY got the phone call that my Visa was approved, and everything was set into FAST motion. All of a sudden, I had a week to pack everything, buy my plane ticket and get to Switzerland! It was a whirlwind, and without my mom to help me with packing, errands and moral support, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it all in time. Seriously, I am the WORST packer ever, and also, I love shoes. This is a bad, bad combination. Then, my mom came to the rescue and helped me be slightly less vain and slightly more practical about what I really needed to bring. I went from about 25 pairs of shoes to maybe 15. Baby steps, people …

Exhibit A: My shoe bag.

Exhibit B: The rest of my luggage. Belle is exhausted from all the packing.

My flight to Zurich from Philadelphia was long. It was uncomfortable. It was exhausting. I hated it. The only saving grace was that I had a window seat and sat next to a Swiss guy named Jerk (I am almost positive that’s not how it’s spelled, but that’s how it sounded) and we talked during much of the flight. I taught him silly American phrases and slang, and he gave me lots of practical (and some impractical) information about my new country of residence. He also bought us wine, thinking it would help us sleep. It didn’t, but it was pretty tasty as far as airplane beverages go. He also taught me how Europeans toast (or “cheer” as he put it). Apparently they look into each other’s eyes and say “cheers”—rather than flippantly, Americanly toasting just because you’re supposed to, without making eye contact. It's supposed to be more meaningful, I guess. He had really pretty blue eyes, in case you were wondering. So many of the Swiss do. It’s quite lovely!

Note to readers: let’s revolutionize the toast, Euro-style!

When I arrived in Zurich and collected my luggage, I realized there was no way on earth I’d be able to manage my bags alone, unless I grew a third arm, hand and a lot of muscle, which I didn’t imagine was very likely. In my sleep-deprived state, I nearly started panicking, but I maintained my composure and decided it would just work out. It had to. Somehow, I was going to roll all my bags to the train Station in Zurich, buy a ticket to Basel, then pick up the bags and get them up the train stairs and onto the train.

Then I saw the escalator and nearly got trapped in it trying to get my bags off. My huge suitcase fell over in the process, tripped me and another traveler, and as I nearly got sucked under the edge of the escalator, I lost the will to live.

Then, three knights in shining armor (there was no way just one would do) seemed to appear as if from nowhere to rescue me. They laughed at me a little, but mainly just helped me (and my luggage) get on the train. Thank God chivalry is not dead in Europe! I had more gentlemanly help getting off the train in Basel, and I was over the worst of it.

Note to self: Ship as much as possible home before I travel back to the U.S. in September. There is NO way I’m going through that again.

A quick aside: When I first found out I’d be living in Basel, my friend Amanda bought a plane ticket to visit me May 28 through June 7. Well, as you may have guessed, I ended up arriving the exact same day she did. AND, to make it even better, I didn’t have to start work until June 6. So, I took a few days’ vacation time, and Amanda and I were able to travel without having to worry about me needing to work. Amazing!

Anyhoo, when I got to Basel, it was 4 a.m. according to my body’s clock, and I knew that if I wanted to beat the jet lag, I had to stay awake until at least 9 p.m. local time. Yikes. It was a rough day, but I kept busy until Amanda arrived, and then she and I walked around, ate some dinner (I won’t even get into how expensive things are here—sticker shock doesn’t BEGIN to describe it) and unpacked. My apartment is really, really cute. It’s right across from a big park, and spacious according to European standards. I’m also the first person to ever live in my unit, so everything is brand new and feels clean (which you know I love). Pictures to come soon. I haven’t decorated yet, so I’ll post them once I’ve added the “Carly touch.” (No, I’m not talking about clutter—I’m talking about COLOR! Everything is very European—black, white and gray. No exceptions.)

Below is a picture of my street, though. I don’t plan on decorating that.

Amanda and I only stayed one night at my apartment before we headed off for our excellent European adventure. And excellent it was!

My next post will dish on all we did, saw and the police we met along the way (let’s just say I’ve met and spoken with more cops in the past ten days than I have in my entire life. I know. Now you’re on the edge of your seat. Right where I want you…)

In the meantime, here's a little teaser. It's a picture of me next to the Mediterranean Sea... I still can't say that without grinning. I've been swimming in the Mediterranean Sea!!!!!!

1 comment:

Terri said...

YAY! I can't wait to read more about this amazing adventures and see more photos!