How beautiful is the Neuchâtel castle? It looms over the city, and you can see it with perfect clarity as your train pulls in or out of the train station. It's one of my favorite views, and I've been waiting to catch it in the snow. It does not disappoint...
I've been in Neuchâtel since getting back from Paris, here to see Orphée aux Enfers at the opera with A's mom (a truly beautiful performance) and to spend some time with his family and friends. It's been a lovely experience. I'm growing to like the city more and more, and this snowy visit may have finally, truly won me over.
December's been an odd month. I've dealt with a lot of phantom anxiety, found sudden motivation to nail down my new thesis, /and/ found great peace. Christmas last year was a great mess with too much going on and too many emotions in play, but this year has been almost surprisingly calm. I went all out with decorations, wore glittery red nail polish all month, and decided to spend the holiday with A and his family.
Coming from a divorced family spread out over two continents, I've spent a lot of holidays away from "home," but I'd never spent one away from at least part of my family. I didn't quite know what to expect (despite films like The Family Stone telling me to expect disaster), but I know I certainly did not expect everything to feel natural and easy. The short week was surprisingly anxiety-free, and everything about it felt right. Nothing awkward, despite my having interacted with sixteen different people in only a few days! I'm still a socially quiet cookie, so I didn't suddenly start chatting with everyone I met, but I still managed with only one little withdrawal into A's room in the middle of only one of the dinner parties.
My favorite bit though –– other than the moments where I introduced A to a few of my favorite Christmas films (A Charlie Brown Christmas! Miracle on 24th Street! The Year Without a Santa Claus!) –– was when we went on a long walk with A's mom through the countryside near their house. It wasn't a hike by any means, but we passed beside fields and vineyards and walked through part of a forest, and it brought back memories from when I used to go on hikes with my grandparents when I was little. It was brilliant and got rid of all the "athletic" fears I had when I first met A. I'd repressed how much I enjoyed doing things outside over the past decade or so, but now I'm actually excited to think of hikes or maybe even skiing again. We'll see what time brings...
Otherwise, I really enjoyed getting out of the city for a bit and getting to know more of A's family. I also managed to make pancakes for ten people one morning, and I feel oddly proud of myself. Even that wasn't hard (and was even enjoyable?!) and again, excitement! I'm so thankful this year has brought my love of the kitchen back to life.
Here's to more anxiety-free holidays in the future...
The end of summer this year seems to be all about A taking me to his favorite local museums. He took me to his favorites in Lausanne (in early August), the Landesmuseum and the Kunsthaus in Zurich (this weekend), and the Musées d'Art et d'Histoire in Neuchâtel (two-ish weeks ago) and in Fribourg (yesterday!). I'll get to all of them with time, but today I'm going to share pictures from Neuchâtel.
A's been talking about an incredible room at the museum in Neuchâtel basically since our second date last year. He visited the museum with his grandparents the day after our first date and has been promising that I'll love it ever since. The pictures he posted on Instagram don't really give away how truly amazing it is, so I was honestly a bit skeptical — Pre-Raphaelite painting aside, we don't tend to be passionate about the same kind of art. Thankfully, I was wrong about this.
August has been quite the month again this year. I've spent a lot of time with A, working on our respective projects (thesis, him; conference, me), visiting museums, and relaxing over Friends and Community. We've also tried a lot of new places to eat and done our fair share in the kitchen. I remember we would barely eat when we were together last summer, both too nervous and excited by the newness of everything, and now we're all about food. We spent a good five hours in the kitchen last night, making some of my grandma's dishes to serve at A's family's Sunday lunch today and then experimenting with a burger recipe (it had melty cheese in the center!) and sweet potato fries for ourselves. A does most of the work in the kitchen (I spent a good hour of that time typing up notes at the table while he was frying up eggplants), which is excellent both because it pleases me that it messes with gender expectations and because it's just really nice to have someone cook for you.
Otherwise, August has mostly been about getting back to work. I've slowly been getting back into things, reading quite a few articles and trying to jot down ideas. It's been more frustrating than rewarding so far though because despite all the good the last few months have done for me, the guilt of not having more to show for it than my improved mental health is starting to hit me. I feel much better and I have new ideas, but the old "produce! produce! produce!" mentality is hard to shake. I was brought up to believe that great success is the only option and that mediocrity might as well be failure, and replacing that with a healthier, more realistic mindset has me struggling despite my efforts. I'm consequently going between phases where I'm paralyzed by fears that I won't be "good enough" for academia anymore and others where I'm super motivated to prove myself. We'll see where this goes in the next few weeks as the conference draws nearer.
I also spent this past weekend in Neuchâtel, and A and I managed to go into town to visit one of his favorite museums yesterday, so I should have another post coming in the next few days about that!
As I mentioned in one of my "Life Lately" posts a couple of weeks ago, I went to visit A at his family home before they left for Scotland and we left for Italy and I actually managed to get A to put his books down and go for a walk. Of course I didn't get the pictures off my camera until this week, so I'm posting them much later than I would have liked.
There are stone houses and flowers everywhere in A's village, and they do a wonderful job with amping up the lovely Swiss aesthetic stereotypes.
I gave up with the camera about midway through our walk and handed it to A because he has far more fun with it, and I'm terrible at putting my phone camera away.
This is the little "castle" in their village. It's very cute and they take pride in it, but I'm not quite sure what I think of it architecturally...
And of course what little Swiss village would be complete without your random cows or goats?
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.