Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Love Song To Zurich

I want to love you, Zurich. I really do.

But the truth is I love the thought of you more than actually being there with you.

I am thrilled every time I cross the border into Switzerland. It's not just leaving Germany; it's arriving in Switzerland. The air feels different the minute the border guards decide you are cool enough to join the privileged elite.

And Zurich. You like me too. You are warm. You are friendly. You smile at my children and make room for them on the train or tram. You wait patiently behind them on the Bahnhof steps. You smile and show us where to find the closest McDonald's or Burger King.

You don't look down on us for not being able to afford anything else as a family of six.

And you just as cheerily take Euros and dollars when we run out of Swiss Francs.

I find it cute the way everyone here speaks English. And I mean REAL English, the way it was meant to be spoken. You turn it into a global language, accented with Italian and Spanish and German. You'll speak to us in German too, and not even look down on us for being German. But – if we're not going to speak your language properly, it seems you prefer your Swiss brand of English.

I love it. Swiss English is the language of the world.

Zurich, you show me that people CAN wait for the people to get off the train before gentiley boarding yourselves.

You are more beautiful, better dressed, wealthier and down right classier than your neighbors. You are the Bold and the Beautiful of German-speaking Europe.

It takes a minute to get used to your friendliness. Strangers greeting you as they pass by on the street. „Gruezi.“ And smiling. Always smiling. Conversations on the tram between people who don't know eachother. A camaraderie simply from being in the city together. And smiling. Always smiling. Offering seats to the children. It's like being in another world.

I love that you love me Zurich. I love that you accept me, welcome me, treat me as one of your own. It never seems to occur to you that I cannot afford your 20 SF (20USD/17 Euro) minipizza for each of my children. So that I feel like I shouldn't be here at all. You make me feel welcome. I am the one who knows I have no right to be here.

We've tried to make it work, dear Zurich.

But I have horrible memories of each time I have been here, dear Zurich. The worst of my Europe memories. The first summer we came, when Ryan was two and Andrew just born. We took the train and backpacked it. To a hotel with no fan, let alone airconditioning. And couldn't afford any of the restaurants, including Burger King. (15 SF for ONE person at BK, dear Zurich, your love comes dear.) Other times – without stroller and carrying two unhappy children, with twin stroller and two unhappy children plus two crying babies.

I can think of no happier sight in Zurich than those golden arches. (Imagine spending 60 dollars to eat at McDonald's!) Unless it's that orange Migros sign. Migros. Food for the hungry masses. Rolls and croissants. Taken straight out of the grocery bag, and passed around, eaten dry. Some fruit and cookies. Bottles of water and coca-cola shared on the street. Hunger assuaged. Thirst quenched. And still I feel vulnerable, defeated, like I am on the verge of not being able to provide sustenance for the children. Another few days here and we'll be begging in the streets.

My worst fights with my husband have taken place in Zurich.

You make me confront my worst nightmares.

My memories of you, dear Zurich, generally revolve around trudging through gray streets, in ungodly summer heat, looking for a restaurant we can go to with the kids. We never find it. Your cafes are quaint, but too delicate for us. We don't dare venture inside to anything more formal. And so we trudge on, surrounded by expensive boutiques and classy restaurants, but with nowhere to sit and grab a meal for a family with four small children.

You have a fantastic zoo. With the most formal restaurants I've ever seen near a zoo. They looked warm and friendly on the inside as the four children and I stared through the window from our place on the sidewalk. Damon was at a conference. He is always at a conference. He doesn't feel the lack here, the way I do.

It's not your fault, dear Zurich. You must be a fantastic place to live. Everyone here is so friendly and helpful. They must be happy here.

It's not my fault either. I just don't fit in. I'm not interested in the boutiques, even if I could afford them. You are too large, too worldy and important, for someone like me.

But, I want to love you Zurich. I really do. I think that maybe, someday, our time will come.

On that day, dear Zurich, I will sit at a cafe and order that 20 SF omelette. Maybe even spring 5 SF for some ham. And order an 8 SF coffee. I will smile, because the sun is warm, but the breeze is cool, because the day is young and I haven't a care in the world.

Until that day, dear Zurich, I must be content with the thought of you.

The reality is just too darn painful.

1 comment:

  1. Yu-uh-up, even without a family of 6, Switzerland is incredibly expensive!