Yesterday, nearly 24 hours and four plane rides after leaving Hawai'i, as we descended through the clouds, and Geneva became visible behind a veil of fog, the magnitude of how different my life was about to become hit me like I'd just been slapped upside the head by the abominable snowman. I was scared shitless.
Becoming an expat has always seemed wonderfully romantic to me. There I'd be, wearing a colorful silk scarf, opening a bottle of the local wine as I effortlessly spoke the local lingo. How adventurous to carve out a new life in a foreign land!
Well, I do own the scarf, but as I looked down, and cold, gray Geneva came rushing up at me, and the snow still on the Jura mountains in late March looked like a forbidding fence, I felt like telling the pilot that, so sorry, but I'd forgotten my pajamas so we'd have turn the plane around.
I clamped my eyes shut and saw a movie of disasters: See Bill drowning in icy Lake Neuchatel, unable to think of the French for "please save my soggy ass!" See Bill in snow up to his shriveled privates wondering why he'd ever left the beach. See him eating a McDonald's hamburger because he still couldn't find a job. See his beloved wife leaving him for the dashing British expat wearing a colorful scarf and charming her in flawless French, sprinkled with German, Italian and the musical dialect of the lost Lapland tribe he'd saved from extinction.
Then we landed, and I breezed through customs like magic without ever having to explain to Mr. Scowling Customs Man, that, though I was here on just the usual 3-month tourist visa, I was actually staying indefinitely, and he could rest assured that it was all being worked out in some government office somewhere. In the baggage area, I found Loki the Magnificent in his scuffed up kennel, looking really pissed off at me, which I felt was better than the alternative: Loki the Deceased. Outside customs, my darling wife was waiting, and we fell into each other's arms, her tears of joy washing away my fears.
So voilà, here I was with a new stamp in my passport, and two colorful kinds of currency in my wallet next to a few remaining U.S. dollars, which now, as always, looked like bedraggled bums next to the sophisticated works of art that are Swiss francs and euros.
I slept most of that day and night. Tomorrow we go to our new home, the little country cottage outside Neuchatel, where all will be possible.