Sunday, March 25, 2012

Castles and crazies

Grüsse aus der schweiz! Or in other words (well, tongues); greetings from Switzerland. I think that I am finally emerging from culture shock and I now have the wrinkles to prove it. Where are you French creme that will make me look young again??

So anyway, many of you may be wondering what my life is actually like as an au pair; aka, the daily grind. WELL! I wake up before my wonderful host mother, Regula, leaves for work (7:30 or 8 ish), eat breakfast (usually bread with this awesome cherry jam!, fruit, yogurt, granola...) and see the boys off. Roundabouts 11:50 I start preparing lunch and the boys arrive around 12:15. Depending on the day they either go back to school by 1:15 or stay home but then Regula will usually be home anywhere from 1 to 3. Of course I do light housework after the meals and if there is any washed laundry I'll hang it to dry. That is one thing that I find interesting here; everyone hang drys their clothes! It's to save energy. Also each family will usually only have 1 car as well. It's not because they're poor by ANY means. Switzerland in fact is one of the most expensive countries to live in the world! But just very green conscious. The fact that each garbage bag costs 3 franks might be an incentive to recycle as well...

Snow white....?
That's about it though for my Au Pair duties! Besides my cleaning days on Thursdays and my mandatory German classes at Migros Klub Schule on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 pm. In my free time I attempt to get a grasp on German and I go on walks or jogs. About a mile down a very steep descent (and a grueling ascent) there is the Schwarzwasser river so I spend a lot of time by it. A little ways down there is this extremely interesting house (well, hut) which I thought was empty but NO! A woman named Theresa lives there. I quite enjoy saying "guten morgen" or "guten abend" to her for some reason. Except I didn't say anything to her the time she decided to sunbathe outside of her hut... naked...

Theresa's rock garden and hut
These past couple of weekends I have made excursions to 2 different Swiss towns. Thun, southeast of Bern, is such a cute little perfect example of a European stadt. There's a castle right above the plaza and a beautiful lake surround by the Alps here.  I ate a kebab there which is the european version of a burrito. (Mexican food is to the US as middle eastern food is to Europe.) It was nast. There I also explored/enjoyed it with my Polish au pair friend, Magda. She has AWESOME red/orangey hair. She has one of the kindest hearts I've ever seen. This random guy came up to us and asked if we spoke english and if we could spare some money so he could buy a hamburger. I was ashamed to hear myself already start in on the "I'm sorry I don't" when Magda smiled and gave him 5 franks saying "here, now you can buy yourself two." We secretly followed that man and he did indeed actually go into the Burger King. I asked her why she would just do that and she replied that she would never say no to anyone who was hungry.

The other town was Basel, which is right on the border of France and Germany. There I went dancing with my Colombian au pair friend, Ana! (Being an au pair is like being in a sorority. They got your back.) Only problem was though was that we had so much fun dancing, we forgot to get the last train back. AHHHH. So, dear boy who was smirking/smiling at me on the 7 am train home, no I did not party hard. I had herbal tea with some british guy at 3:30 am and freezed my arse off in a train station til it came at 5:30. 
Really old church in Thun

 My place. Hahah just kidding.
Magda LOVES cats.

Lake of Thun. Notice the adorable little boy sailing his boat and the castle in the background!

Well das ist alles fur jeztz! Aderr. (Actually adieu but that's what it sounds like.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coconuts and Peaches

When I first came over here I expected a few differences but not many. Perhaps I probably should have expected more. It's said that english speaking countries and cultures are like peaches. They have soft outsides and let everyone in quickly. Everyone is their friend! Europeans on the other hand, are like coconuts. You're not going to be there best friend until some time and experiences has past.

Personal example #1. You know how in the US we always male fun of those europeans who wear socks with their sandals? Yeah. Here it's the other way around. I wasn't wearing socks with my sperry's (boating kind of shoes) and literally got a shudder from someone.
Personal example #2. Meat. Don't eat it every day. (This inspired yet another shudder.)
Personal example #3. Obviously the language. These boys came over for Benni and rang the doorbell. No one was home so I had to answer and when I said he wasn't home in german they asked me another question. Uh... I had no idea. So I kind of just repeated myself, said I don't speak german and attempted to say "he'll be here in maybe 30 more minutes." Then they started to laugh and just walked away! Ok.... Ciao ciao! I went inside and translated what I said.. It went something like, "perhaps it is articulated to be here in 30 minutes more." I'd probably laugh at me too.
Personal example #4. Apparently cold drinks are bad for you? When I said I liked ice in my herbal tea (which they have at every meal) my host family looked at me like I was crazy!

There are and will be many more examples to come I'm sure but anyway, life here is good! I'm feeling much more comfortable with the actual Bern area after exploring it on several different occasions. On one such occasion I drank out of one of the fountains (delicious water by the way), played this life sized intense version of tic tac toe on the bundeshausplatz, and watched the very old Zytglogge chime on the hour. It was actually kinda creepy. The chimes were in the minor key and this little jester began to hit his head while random peasants danced around. On another outing I saw the bears (sooooo cute) and had lunch on one of the streets. It was kinda weird because two different people asked me where I was from and the first one thought I was from Germany or Sweden but then quickly found out I wasn't (because of my lack of german skills) and the other one got huge eyes and said "Oh." when I said the US. I still don't know what kind of "oh" she meant. Hm!

Das Munster
Der Zytglogge


More... detail..

I wonder what they were thinking when they sculpted these.. (i actually just found out. This guy is facing West, to France, because the Swiss people were sick of France trying to take them over way back when!)

Margarita pizza #2

Chindlifressen-brunnen. NOM NOM NOM! Built to scare young  medieval swiss kinder.
Other than that Farewell from the barbarian aus den USA!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Margarita Pizza? S'il vous plait

Random street in Bern.
Europeans don't know how lucky they are. Well except maybe the french and swiss. French because, well we all know the french, and the swiss because on more than one occasion since being here has someone told me that switzerland is the best country. But the fact that they grow up in landscapes like this is incredible! And I feel like such a dork because I want to take a picture of seriously everything. Of course we've all seen pictures of the famous buildings, architecture, blah blah… but it's simply their way of life that I find so beautiful.
Yesterday (saturday) I went into town. ALL BY MYSELF. For some reason this incites people to smile not because they're saying good job but because apparently it's easy? Maybe if I had grown up though in a country that actually uses trains and speaks german it would be but alas, I come from idaho. So I view this as a huge accomplishment. However, my stay in bern was short lived because I'm pretty sure my sweat was showing through my jacket (past the usual guard of the shirt) at being so scared to get lost. I stayed on the same road and took a gander in h and m (and bought those khakis...which after I figure out how to say "can I return these" will probably return) and in müller. Müller is like a drugstore pharmacy place. There I successfully got the cheapest toothpaste and one of the least expensive bodywash (alltogether 7 CHF). It's funny too because it's french bodywash... Can you imagine what that goes for in the US? Definitely not the cheapest there. So after looking at the prices of mascara (anywhere from 15-20 CHF) I figured out that those pants aren't worth the price at the cost of my hygeine.
Thanks Paige.

For dinner I had chocolate. Go figure. Later I meant up with Paige and her friends for Paige's going away night.

Today I had cereal! Yes it does exist here! I was so excited to eat those cocoa puff looking things until I took the first bite and they tasted like corn puffs. Oh well it was still really good in it's own way and probably a lot more healthy. Then I had time to go on a jog before dinner at five. (I woke up pretty late. I still haven't really ajusted to the time difference.) My jog was gorgeous. I went down by the river and just ran alongside it. Regula, my host mom, says that it's a good place. Scientifically proven even. She says that they've meassured the radiation in the air or something... I guess that means good vibe?
Just driving through Freiburg.
For dinner we drove to Freiburg which is in the french part of switzerland. It was only a 20 minute drive... On the way we picked up regula's father who lives in a retirement center. To all old people in the world: if you speak french and german, retire here! The center where he lives is run by catholic volunteers basically and the building and grounds are absolutely stunning. From there we went to this italian restaurant called "leonardo de vinci." First margarita pizza in europe? Check. And it was soooo good.

Notice the bite in the middle covered up by the basil.. I couldn't even wait to take the picture!
                     Well tomorrow officially starts my first day as an Au Pair! So until then, gute nacht.
I spy with my little eye.. The womping willow!
Aka the Harry Potter tree.
They're everywhere!

Friday, March 9, 2012

In der Schweiz

It's so lovely here! But really kind of different. These last couple of days have kind of gone by in a blur. There is SO MUCH to take in. Especially with the language. Only Regula, the mom, really speaks a lot of English. For the other part it's mainly German. Usually Swiss... Swiss German sounds like Chinese. Last night when I tried to go to bed my brain was going CRAZY. I was up til 3 am just processing words and trying to memorize them without even wanting to.

My Luggage came yesterday. Two 50 lb bags and all that I didn't have to lug myself the hour and a half ride from Zurich. Grathias Iberia, Grathias.  ALSO! Because they lost my luggage they gave me this little overnight case and guess what it had in it. PERFUME! And it smells so good! Anyway, yesterday Paige and I went into Bern and it was lovely. I had my very first piece of Swiss chocolate. I enjoyed all 3.50 CHF of that freaking expensive truffle. The clothing shops here are really nice too. The fashion here is a bit more conservative than the United States. More classic and almost preppy looking. I all of a sudden have the desire to own a pair of baggy khaki pants. But everything is SO expensive and nothing seems to be on sale. 

Whilst we were out.. we came across some guys (I swear they have gypsy heritage!) playing the bagpipes and some other very interesting flute exotic sounding instrument. They were dancing around and getting very into it. This lady in the audience got really into it to! I wish I had gotten it on video. I left them 2 CHF. (FYI the exchange rate is about 1 CHF = 1.09 USD.)

Onto the language barrier... I was just randomly taking pictures when apparently I had taken one of this guy. So he came up and was talking to me! He was smiling so I'm sure it couldn't have been bad but I had no idea what he was saying.. so all I could say was, "Nein, danke." (No thanks.) Another time that same night I went into a watch shop and the very cute worker there starting speaking to me in Swiss German. AH! All I could do was bashfully say yet again, "Nein, danke" and avoid eye contact. I felt so bad!! Luckily he heard Paige and me speaking English so he exclaimed "ah! You are English!" and after that it was an extremely pleasant conversation. 

Today, it was a very Au Pairy day. Woke up at 7:30 and had  Frühstück (breakfast) with the youngest boy, Benni. He wasn't too interested in eating though. Then I studied German for about eh... 45 minutes. After Paige and I went on a lovely morning walk! The wanderweg (walking paths) here are really nice. The Swiss are all about being outside and enjoying nature. The brisk walk and morning sun was perfect to see Mittelhäusern. We were walking past this house that sold its own eggs and flowers and this HUUUUGE St. Bernard came and attacked me with love. No jumping but a lot of leaning up against and giving me this soulful look that I'm pretty sure meant, "pet me!" His very happy Swiss owner came out and started talking to me about the dog but sadly I did not understand. Ugh this is getting annoying.

We had Fondue for dinner tonight. It was good! But very heavy. The cheese was difficult to make and had wine in it I believe... we dipped bread, potatoes, and vegetables in it. Alex, the father, says that I am now half Swiss because I liked it. I also gave them their gifts and I think they went over pretty well. Regula, the mother, loved the Indian medicine bag that I got for her from a Reservation near to back home. At least I think she did...

Die Schweiz

Morgen Laufen! 

Literally just walked up to this cow. It was a little scared until I said in German, "Come beautiful cow!" So it either understood me or was just curious about my glove... good thing it wasn't leather.

Crepes (they call them either pancakes or omelettes here) that I made for lunch!  For some odd reason they turned out better than they ever have in the US.
Everything else is good! Except I'm really sad because Paige is leaving tomorrow. No more mentor I'm on my own! Kinda really nervous...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Mediterranean Syndrome

Well I finally made it in der schweiz! However it was not easy.. It began with my 2 hours of sleep the night before my 7 am flight. I woke up extremely sick at 2 am and basically just laid there til 4 am when I had to get up. I was on time though! As my plane was waiting to take off I had the rare opportunity to see another plane take off... Right before mine very eyes and right into the sunrise! It was an incredible sight and made me think about just how amazing planes are. Seriously though, how the heck did those geniuses come up with the pull to flight etc. Etc.? Side note, If ever you find yourself in washington dc avoid the space and aviation museum if you weren't planning on having an immense headache because your brain can't process it.

Moving on, everything went smoothly to my chicago layover and then I waited 6 hours.. And then another 45 minutes. I was flying through iberia airlines, a spanish company.. This was a bumpy and loooong flight to madrid. Once there... I had 20 minutes to get to my next transfer to zurich. I became one of those people you always make fun of who are running through the airport rolling baggage in tow. Hunchback and all I finally made it to my gate in 21 minutes (apparently the Madrid airport is one of the biggest in the world?) Turns out.. I could have been about another 50 minutes later because they were delayed. Really Iberia? Never trust a Spaniard to be on time. About the Spanish... I found out that if you didn't speak Spanish to them, they were MEAN! I was dying of thirst at one point and I was sooo scared to ask for more water. But I finally plucked up the courage to approach an attendant and kindly asked in Spanish if I might have more. I got my water and a smile to boot!

On my flight to Zurich I sat next to an elderly Swiss man named Rollie. He didn't speak ANY English but he did speak Spanish! So for 3 hours I conversed with this Swiss man in mostly spanish with a mix of german and Italian on his part. He was very sweet and gave me his address and told me to come visit! When we said goodbye we did the european kiss thing and he went in for a third! I got so confused and but then he explained that that was the custom in switzerland. "Is it the custom in your country to only kiss twice?" I just lied and said yes.

As soon as we landed (an hour and a half late) I found out that my luggage had been left behind in sunny Spain! Great... This was bad because I really needed a shower. Paige, the current au pair, met me there and showed me the way to Mittelhäusern. Since my time being here I have found out three things. Swiss people dress extremely well, they're extremely clean and have really good smelling soap, and they have amazing and outrageously expensive chocolate. I guess that's more than three but yeah! Also, the hills and trees here have a kind of blackish haze around them. It's surreal. I met the family and they're awesome. Very studious and smart. The boys (benni, 7 and jeremias, 12) only speak german though. I need t learn it fast. For dinner we had raclette which was baked potatoes with melted raclette cheese and fresh pickles. Es war sehr gut! Dessert was fruit and a little rhubarb cake.

Well das ist alles! I'll post pictures and my first experience on the town (bern) tomorrow!