Wednesday, June 27, 2012

J'aime Paris. And Crepes and boulangeries, and it's beautiful men....

"Je vois le vie en rose." Literally translated: "I see life in pink," what it means: "life is wonderful." And after visiting the city of lights, I can clearly understand how in Paris, life really is wonderful. However, not everything started out quite as nice! I took a train to Geneva and from there caught a flight to Paris. I 100% advise, NOT TO DO THIS! First off, I wasted much more time than I would have if I had just taken the 50 CHF more expensive, 3 hour train straight to Paris. Also, avoid at all costs flying into Paris late at night. Beware, most flights are usually delayed! And if they're not, your luggage surely will be! To say the least, I had no way out of the good ol' Orly. I've also found out that German is a pointless language in France. (Along with any other language besides, well, French. Told to me in a very thick accent by a Frenchman on the train.)

Luckily, my Italian friend, Fabrizio saved the day (and possibly my life) and came and picked me up. Next stop, find Erica! My other friend who was meeting us there at a station. Poor girl thought we had abandoned her. Shout out to Erica Rascon!! I know you're probably reading this ;) 

Then off to bed we went. The next couple of days we just visited as much as we could. And all I can say is that if anyone happens to be reading this who is French and interested in a green card want to get married? I'm interested in a Frenchie card.

The highlights of my trip were just wandering around the city, almost getting robbed (by a REAL Gypsy!), and understanding parts of a conversation in French where the men happened to be talking about my friend and I. 

So as I was walking along just enjoying the views, WHOA! All of a sudden this woman bends down in front of me and 'pretends' to pick up a ring. I swear, it was not there a minute earlier. "Quelle chance!" - she exclaimed while showing off a set of gold teeth. "ooh!! cool! good for you!"- I replied and continued to walk.  Scuttle scutttle... "do you think it's real gold? Look!"- while trying to make me hold it. "Yeah maybe! Cool! Good for you! That's awesome!"- and continue to walk on noticing her intense eye contact... "Hallo! Wait! It's for you!! It's your lucky day!"-- literally holding it out for me. Didn't take the bait. I'm pretty sure that the minute she had my hands and mind occupied elsewhere while keeping that intense eye contact ope! There would have gone my wallet. Dangit though! I wish I could have gotten a picture! She was intense looking.

Witnessed police officer giving a scolding to these three girls who had apparently just stolen something  from some unsuspecting tourist.
The second experience was while Erica and I were riding the train into Paris and these two middle aged (late 30's, 40's) gentlemen asked to sit next to us and were asking us something else in French and then ooH! It dawned on one, "Parlez-vous francais?" "Non, desolee!" So then they started speaking to us in English and they were really quite funny. But then again, I've found out that most French people are in their own sarcastic  jingoistic way. They began to speak French again and I could pick out just simple things in their conversation such as, "J'adore, Je t'aime, enchante!!" And I had a feeling that they were talking about us. I was curious about a pronunciation in French so when there was a quite moment, I turned to the one next to me and said, "Excusez-moi, j'ai un question." Pretty sure both of their jaws dropped as they began to rapidly exclaim in French something along the lines of, "what! You spoke french this whole time and you just let us talk like this!! Blah blah etc." Hahah... so they were talking about us...

Speaking of trains... spotted this lovely on the way to the city!
Other than that, please to every tourist in Paris, know what it is you are seeing. It was ridiculous to see the hoards of rude tourists having no idea what it was they were taking  pictures of, imitating, and pretending to hold it up etc. A picture is only a picture and why do we take these? Not to prove to ourselves and brag to our friends that we were once in another country with something famous. These things are famous for reason so first off, know why. Second, appreciate it! And be kind enough to let other people appreciate it. Jeez the poor Louvre guards. 
The other side looks exactly the same.
Montmatre. Mass has been going on her for over 100 years now.
Best. Nothing can compare!!
Watched to football games (soccer for us Americans.) They get so into it!!!
Genuine Parisien experience.
In the Jardins du Luxumbourg
Just from one of the shops while I was walking along the Seine.
Um.. France? What are you trying to prove here?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Age has no culture barrier

This week in Mittelhausern, my host family had a visit from Grosi! Now, you may be wondering what a Grosi is.. Es ist eine Grossmutter! When I first heard another friend call her grandmother "grosi" I thought, "oh my goodness that's so sad! Poor Grandmother." When in reality, all grandmas are grosi and it is not something demeaning! So this Grosi, is quite the lady. She had 8 kids which she raised basically all on her own in St. Gallen because her husband died when he was in his 50's. She is 87 years old, still drives, and has no desire whatsoever to go into an old folks home. (Sound familiar, family?) She is an amazing cook, and so far, as enjoyed two little walks with me. Nordic walking sticks in hands, sunglasses in place, and hat (oh where is her hat??) almost on... we head out the door.

Throughout the first walk she for some reason thought I understood Swiss German. When in reality, all I knew was the one word, "gau" which means, "right?" Of course my answer could only be one thing... "Ja... gau.." Do I have any idea to what I just agreed to? Nay (Swiss German for no.) Even when I told her later that day at lunch that I had no idea... her reply, "oh you understand just perfectly!" "no, really, I don't!" "momol" (which means yes...somehow.) Much to my chagrin? She'll still speak Swiss German to me. Apparently I'll learn  one way or another.

For our walk today Grosi decided to pick up some flowers for my host mother to make some natural syrup (Like healthy cool aid, only tastes WAY better.) I decided to take over the conversation on our way down and just told her all about my traveling plans and asked her what her favorite food, country, desert, etc. was. Then, just like a Grandma would, she begins to direct me on how to get rid of my pimples. Thank you Grosi.. thank you. As if I don't already wash my face...

After we received our flowers of course we must stay and visit and the owners were lovely people. The man even told me he spoke 4 languages! Bern deutsch, High German, French, and Italian. (Even if all he knew in Italian was 'merci.') .....pause... that's french! Hahah he was pulling my leg.

It is just fascinating to me that Grosi here, is quite similar to any grandma in the USA. We went to the market and oh, should she buy some Bratwursts? Alex (my host dad, her son) likes them so much! And he didn't get any yesterday and upon passing a table for sale on the street, maybe she can have it? "Grosi, what do you need it for?" "oh.. you can always use it for something.." Lastly, she even smells the same!! (I wonder why that is so.) Overall she is such a bright lady and like any other sweet elderly lady I have ever met.

On the other side of the age spectrum, we have Benj, my rascal of an au pair child. Today, we played with water balloons and I inducted him into the game that I grew up playing. All in all, what I have come to learn this week that smiling and laughing has no barrier.

Now here are just a couple of pictures that I took when I went to a Jodlerfest parade a couple of weeks ago. These are local traditions all over Switzerland.

Your average Swiss man.

These cows are so beloved. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chateau de Chillon Excursion

What up family and friends!! Sorry it's been a while. I think that things are finally starting to feel normal... hence nothing seems out of the ordinary to tell anymore.

Lake Leman, Montreux, not Hawaii
SO. Yesterday (Saturday) I went to Montreux with my British friend. Quite the interesting trip I must say. It's incredible how different the French portion of Switzerland can be from the German portion.. AND IT'S JUST ONE HOUR AWAY! For instance, we're on the train... and start hearing, "Bonjour! Billete! Bonjour!" So we think it's a ticket man.. he comes by, we show him our passes, and he didn't even look at them! But as he starts walking away I notice something quite different about him... I can see his butt! He had cut out the whole section of his pants exposing hairy behind and all. Haha. Quite the jaw dropper. This would NEVER have happened in the German portion...

Even the weather felt warmer and it was sunnier there too. (It's called the Vaud Riviera.) Another thing is that the language spoken there? Just French. "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" "non." Do you speak English?" "eh... non." Ok... Very interesting. Quite another shock was that I could understand more French than I can Swiss German. I've never had one French class in my life...

Professional pic.. wish i had taken this! But I couldn't get a good view of the whole castle.
Anyway, so my friend and I went to arguably the most famous castle in Switzerland, "Chateu de Chillon." It was a fortress built right on lake Lausanne I believe in the late 1100's? It was a bit touristy but really interesting. Did you know that Switzerland holds the record for the most killings condemned by witchcraft? This castle/fortress/also prison! Was used to try, imprison, torture, and kill the accused. In one particular room a man (held captive for being from France or something, not a warlock) had been kept prisoner for 6 years. The chain that held him was still in the pillar. It was quite an eerie feeling standing in the exact same place that he had laid, dreaming of the outside world. There were windows but they were all just out of his reach and too high. Harsh!
Real moat...
After the chateau we walked a bit around Montreux and ran into this random festival. I had NO idea what they were speaking or where they were from.. So I decided to ask someone! In perfect German I said, "Do you know which language she is speaking?" My answer? A blank stare and a "waaaaaasss?" I take it he didn't speak German. So I repeated my question in English and he said Portuguese? Um.. that was DEFINITELY not Portuguese. My conclusion? He probably thought I had asked what country they were from (Portugal fits after looking up the traditional outfits and confirming a similarity), and they were probably speaking a different dialect of Swiss German (I've heard it's crazy from Valais, which is close by.)

Then we got hungry and split a loaf of fresh baked still warm bread and Italian ham. We ate it on a bench by the lake and I've never had so many awkward stares in my life! We even understood some people saying "look at those hungry girls" or something... Nonetheless, total cost of my dinner? 2 francs. That's how it's done people!

On our train back we got caught in an elderly tour group from England. Oh how I miss English speakers. They are so nice and FUNNY!! However, this group of particular Brits was probably more out there than most. For starters, they were always smiling, I sometimes couldn't understand what they were saying, and they shared their whole life's story with us. Down to the color and projection rate of their puke from the train stop before... Again, ELDERLY. Chipper, fast talkers, and from Cornwall? Or something like that. They decided to invite us on their travels and included us in everything. At one point I asked the leader for some advice of where I should take my sister backpacking. He decided to plop his little self down right between my friend and I. There were only two seats... he had a grin on his face the whole time... He did give me some very interesting tips though!

So that was that for my excursion to Montreux! It was a beautiful day.