Saying Goodbye to Basel

 [Note: We’ve been home many many months now, but we had written a few draft blogs before we left. This is one of them.]

“So, what are you doing here exactly…er…why are you here?”

I hear this a lot. When I meet someone new here in Basel, or even tell friends at home what we’re up to this year, there are usually a few polite inquiries about where I’m from or going, and how I was able to arrange it all. A few minutes in, it becomes clear that we’ve put in an extraordinary amount of effort to plop our family down in a place it does not normally belong, and they want to know why.

It is a fair question and one I usually respond to with a slightly guilty, “because we’re privileged assholes,” in my head. Out loud I usually answer with, “Oh, lots of reasons. Mainly to experience new cultures and take time to do more as a family.” Continue reading

Reflections On Our Swiss Family Sabbatical

So, once upon a time a Colorado family took a break from their careers and moved to Switzerland for a year and hijinks ensued.  Our year in Basel ended June 18th when we flew out of Zurich back to the states, complete with 14 pieces of luggage, 2 car seats, and 54 weeks of memories.  The van we hired to shuttle us and all that gear to the airport arrived early in the morning.  As we loaded it up, neighbors came out to the street to say goodbye.  We wished we had gotten to know them better earlier on in our stay, with some relationships not fully forming until a couple months before we left.  It felt as if we were leaving too soon, that we still had unfinished business there.  But, looking back now it is clear that we had a very full year with new friendships and memories we treasure. Here are some of my (Barry’s) favorite things about our year: Continue reading

Sometimes (OK, lots of times) Baffled in Basel

I never know what I’m doing here, but one of the perks about plucking yourself out of your normal routine and plopping yourself down in unfamiliar territory, is that you can immediately feel OK about not knowing what you are doing. Living abroad can be confusing (and embarrassing), but it is also comforting to know that it’s not (all) just me being ridiculous. Sometimes I think I could write a book about how to embarrass yourself abroad, but then I realize that for me it would simply be one instruction: walk outside. Here are a few examples of me doing just that. Continue reading

Basel’s Winter Carnival (Fasnacht)

Beginning the first Monday after Ash Wednesday each winter, the normally reserved Basel-folk don masks, grab their piccolos and let their freak flags fly for exactly 72 hours straight. Okay, by “freak flags” I mean lots of marching, confetti and satire – this is Switzerland, after all. Basel’s Fasnacht is said to be the largest carnival in Switzerland and dates back to, at least, the 14th century (many city archives were destroyed in the earthquake of 1356, so it is hard to say exactly when it began here). Continue reading

Life in Basel So Far

It is hard to believe we are half way through our year-long career break / sabbatical / rat-race-escape! While most of our posts have been about places we have traveled to, we haven’t shared much about life in the town we live in – Basel. Since summer turned to fall, we have traveled less and spent more time here going to school, exploring the town and learning about its traditions. Continue reading

Practically Swiss

It has been a month since we landed in Switzerland to begin a one year career break / sabbatical.  While I hope we might dig a bit deeper into Swiss culture later on, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the practical aspects of daily life in Basel that are different from the U.S.  So, I polled the girls and here is what we came up with so far, in no particular order. I figure if we can master the practical aspects of Swiss life, we are practically Swiss–ja? Genau. Continue reading