Sonntag, 29. Januar 2017

Abroad and Abstracted

There's an election here in Switzerland next month. There's an important election in neighboring France. There's Roger Federer playing on the television in my living room and my husband and our neighbors are brunching and jumping and screaming at breaks and what-nots. On my social media, friends and family are making signs, joining protests, marching, screaming and I'm here.

The feeling of watching my homeland post-election 2016 reminds me of that boyfriend I broke up with, who started dating strippers, doing drugs and generally declining. How could that be the same guy? How could this be the same country? I chose a different life that didn't involve that boyfriend. I chose a life in another country, but there's a difference - I'm still an American.

I'm in the process of becoming a citizen of Switzerland and I should be focusing on the country that I chose and hoping that it chooses me. But nobody can look away from the US. Not just the US, but the leader, whose policies will effect us all. I'm grateful that the protests and demonstrations are gaining such attention. Because the distraction of the hateful leader and his isolationist policies is too profound as it is.

I remember back in 2004, when Switzerland voted to increase the difficulty in becoming a citizen. My swiss boyfriend was disturbed by it and I didn't understand. He obsessed over the xenophobic implications and was ashamed that the vote had a majority. Comparing it to American citizenship rules didn't make it seem that extreme. I wish that I had been kinder and listened better and given him empathy. Because only now do I understand how it feels to be away from your country of origin and have things happen in it that do not fit the picture that you had of it, or the story that you tell yourself about the place you were raised and molded.

I appreciate that I'm looking back as a white woman and that my life there and here are largely easier because of that fact. I remind myself of my privilege when strangers express their distaste for America when they realize that I am American. I try to do my part for the US and the under-represented while I'm far away. I marched, I write and call my representatives in the region where I'm registered in the US. I'm a candidate for a role in the Democrats Abroad organization. But when I renew my first passport with my married name next month, I will again enter the American consulate with the photo of a president who does not represent me hanging on the wall. The 10 years since I got the passport after I got married will expire and I will feel as alien in the consulate as I did then. But back then, we were on the verge of getting a new, bridge-building presidency, which made me proud to be an American abroad. Now we're back to the wall-building presidency, and I'm on the other side, with only my blue passport to connect me. 

Montag, 9. Januar 2017

I'm afraid of Americans, I'm afraid of a lot of things

I'm filling out forms for my citizenship process and listening to This American Life telling me that Iragi translators can't get American citizenship. Here I am, an under-performing foreign translator in a peaceful nation, getting citizenship in a land I've lived in for 10 years.
When I first moved here, I took an intensive German course. My mother took this fact as proof that immigrants in the US should learn English. Seriously.
Here are the flaws in that maternal logic:
I came here on a visa sponsored by my partner and was able to learn the language without actively earning income. I was a leech on a Swiss citizen and was able to benefit by being given the opportunity to devote myself to learning one of the 4 national languages in the country that I chose to move to for love of a kind and generous guy who loved me too.
Second, America has no official language.

I learned that to get citizenship, you don't actually have to speak Swiss German or Swiss French or Swiss Italian Romansch but an interviewer will speak to you in the Swiss language of the canton your getting citizenship in and you have to understand them enough to respond and be understood by them.

What I mean to say is that mom didn't understand privilege in these situations and I think that too few people do. 

Freitag, 6. Januar 2017

This new year in the mountains was snow-free. But we managed to stay sporty.  There was enough natural snow to go langlaufen, and I decided to challenge myself to learn to cross country skate. I'd been fairly successful at classic cross country skiing the past couple of years, so why not give it a go, right? Well, had I asked, I would have learned that it's not that simple, especially for people who've never down-hill skiied. Apparently, one should really master the classic before moving on to the skating. But I didn't know that. Instead, I cussed and snapped at Ivo and generally felt like a failure, until reverting back to classic, and actually improving. I wish I'd been able to avoid the pity party. 
Next sporty endeavor was jogging in the mountains. Oy. The air is totally different and the uphill feels like it'll never end. Ivo had decided to jog to Ladir, 18km round trip. Mine was 10km round trip but 4 of those I walked in warm up and cool down. It was amazing. My lungs burned. The sun was in my eyes the way back, the air was cold and my legs ached and I felt so strong. I'd made the crucifix rest point my goal and I made it!!!

I'm continuing to train 3 times a week because we've got the new year's race next Saturday. Ivo's doing 12km and I'm doing 6.6. I'm a bit scared of doing it on my own. But I keep doing things that I'd not known I was capable, so hopefully this will be one of them. Today I ran in the icey, snowy, slushy road to the snow covered track at Sihlhölzli. Last night was so cold that my bike gears froze and I was unable to shift. Today was really bitterly cold still. 
Ivo had told me to add a loop when I am headed home, to add on unplanned extensions to keep pushing boundaries and I looped up a big-ass hill on my way home today. It was slow and icy but steady and I did it and felt so proud and when I got home my body temp exploded. It'd been trying to keep me warm in the cold and I was warm and sweaty and when I arrived it took a while to cool down. But I felt like I was flying. 
Sunday I'll hit the treadmill again and Monday and Wed I'll be outside again. I'm psyched and nervous and psyched and scared. But I'm trying stuff and accomplishing stuff and I feel strong. 
Tomorrow is badminton!