Sunday, May 25, 2008

next stop, new life

New life, new blog - I've just moved to San Francisco from Zurich, and figured that it wouldn't make sense to post on my Zurich page anymore. So here we are.

I'd forgotten how overwhelming the States can be. Moving from New York to Switzerland, I was a bit stunned at how few choices there were and how the system quickly funneled you into your little niche. I was never afraid of slipping between the cracks, because there weren't any cracks to slip through. Coming to the States is a much bigger and more chaotic process. Cracks abound. I'm not sure yet if I'm in a crack or on safe ground, but will just hope everything works out.

After living in Cambridge for five years, New York for four years, and Zurich for four years (all are cities with good public transportation), I had mostly forgotten how to drive a car. In the last five years, I had driven a car once. For about eight minutes. My driving skills were even rustier than my Chinese-speaking skills. And then I moved here, and although San Francisco itself is do-able using public transportation, my office is about an hour from San Francisco. I can either live near work, in which case I'd definitely need a car, or I can live in the city, but spend two or three hours every day on the shuttle bus to work. I can't decide which is more frightening - sitting on a bus for three hours a day, or terrorizing unsuspecting Californians from behind the wheel of a car.

In any case, my temporary housing is near work, so I have to rent a car, at least for the time being. With that in mind, my mom and I did some practice driving yesterday, and I don't think anyone was hurt. It's just like I remembered it - a big video game, but without any instructions on how to get points, level up, or find the big boss.

I spent the last four years in Zurich missing American grocery stores. The size. The selection. The price. The layout. The produce quality. In the meantime, I got used to Swiss grocery stores, which are small and offer about two choices for each product that they actually decide to carry. So when I went to the grocery store yesterday, I was completely overwhelmed, flabbergasted, stumped, and confounded. How many different types of laundry detergent can there possibly be? There are like ten brands, and each of them has so many options - organic, hypoallergenic, natural, dye-free, scent-free, extra-strong, color guard, black. And each option has three sizes! Don't even get me started on the confusion that ensued when I entered the cereal aisle and the shampoo aisle. I'm still recovering.

Moving was a bit of a hectic process. I gave up my apartment before actually moving, so I boxed up and labeled all of my things and left them in a friend's basement storage area until the movers came. They showed up and started opening boxes and asking what was in them - for insurance and customs purposes, they need to be able to say that they saw and packaged the goods themselves. They were Serbian, and I'm me, and the language we had most in common was German, which resulted in interesting exchanges. "What here?" "Um... neoprene suit for dive. Automatic lung. Little things for dive." Pause. Then he would write the German word for linens or laundry on the box. Dive gear, clothes, shoes, bags, knickknacks, they all became linens or laundry. At the end of the session, they gave me a "detailed, itemized inventory" of my goods, automatically translated into English, and of the 34 items on the list, half of them were simply labeled "Linens." And then there is the mysterious "Bucket," which was apparently "Packed by owner." I don't own a bucket, so I'm looking forward to receiving my bucket and finding out why it was worthy of being called something other than linens.

After my goods were boxed up and taken away, I got an email from a woman at the moving company asking me to pick a box or two to switch from the air shipment to the surface shipment, due to weight restrictions. She sent me a copy of the inventory to help me pick which things to switch from air to surface. Um... linens, linens, linens, linens, or bucket? I have no idea what's in those boxes, and which ones are more essential than others.

Speaking of essential, I seem to be missing a rather essential item. Pants. Yes, pants. Work starts Tuesday. I will be able to wear jeans to work, but I don't want to show up in jeans on the first day. First impressions, you know the deal. So I have jeans (nope), shorts (nope), a miniskirt (definitely not), a few low-cut dresses (uh, no), and several skirts (which would be great, except that the shoes I could wear with them are in a box labeled linens somewhere between here and Zurich). I do have one pair of pants with me, but they're a little loose and tend to fall down, which I don't think is any better than wearing jeans, first impression-wise.

Do you think they'll notice if I don't wear pants? Maybe that's one crack I don't want to slip through.

1 comment:

MW said...

How funny, I found your old blog while looking for info on Zurich. I'm on my way there this Fall with my husband who will be on assignment there. And here's the small world part... my husband gave your new hire security orientation a few days ago. One of my good friends in the city commutes on the shuttle bus, but we like living on the peninsula. Guess we're trading places! Let me know if there's anything I can tell you about living around here.