Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31, 2010 - Weekend Roundup Part 2, Japanese Drummers and Beef

Japanese Drummers:
Saturday Night we went to see “Yamato – The Drummers of Japan.” If you have ever seen “Stomp” conceptually it’s very similar, except they are playing musical instruments, but ultimately they are putting on a show that engages the audience and is more than “drumming.” First and foremost let me say the drumming is spectacular and I was extremely surprised and pleased that of the 10 drummers 4 of them were women. It may be my own perceptions but I tend to associate drummers and drumming with men. How many rock concerts do you attend where the drummer is a woman? Exactly, there may be one or two but it is predominately male dominated.

The show was 2 hours long and it is great. The musicians are extremely talented and you could feel the energy in the auditorium. If they every make it back to the US and you have a chance to see them I would recommend the show. I’m also a little sorry I never learned how to play the drums. The women had amazing arms.

Beef Festival
Sunday we hopped on the train and went to the “Beef” festival. Yes, you did read that correctly. There is a week-long festival a couple of towns over where they auction cows and have booths with food and a petting zoo. They also had a Beef King and Queen contest. I thought they were going to crown cows, but L thinks its people competing for the titles. Unfortunately I can’t shed any light on the subject beyond that because we didn’t watch the competition.

I did drink a “Swiss Milk” milk shake (banana flavor) which was more like a wicked cold glass of milk than what I think of as a traditional milk shake but it was also very good. Now some of my impression may be tainted by the fact that since we have been here I haven’t seen anything that actually looks like “milk”. We buy these boxes of “latte” that don’t even get refrigerated until after you open them. They taste ok and have the consistency of watered down skim milk but I would never have the urge to drink a glass of it.

We also saw some baby cows with their mom’s ...  I've decided that baby cows are very cute.  I could never be a cattle farmer, I'd want to name all the animals:

This one is cheese burger

This one was called pork chop

We also saw the King of all BBQ grills, apparently you can rent this one if you were having a party with 600 of your closest friends….


Even BBQ grills have babies ....

Then some random pics







© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 2010 – Adventures in Gas Grills

This weekend was packed chuck full of fun things to do. So much so that I don’t have time to tell you everything in one sitting. It would be too long, you’d get bored, and I would be writing a novella. Seriously, who has time for that.
Saturday, L and I got up and went to the CoOp (which sort of looks like coop or poop less the P but is really the “Co-Op” grocery story, hardware store, pharmacy depending on which store you walk into. Well we went to the CoOp with a specific goal in mind: buying a gas grill. You see when we moved here we left our grill at home. The movers who packep up everything and had we wanted to ship a car would have packed that as well. I can only imagine how much bubble wrap that would have taken, bit back to the grill. They had a rule, no propane tanks. I don’t know, there was some silly concern about explosions while at sea. Plus we weren’t sure they had propane tanks like ours or if you could fill them like we were used to. As it turns out, they do have propane here, but the propane tanks are a bit different and the attachments are more like the old style you can’t get at home anymore. In addition, you swap tanks here in a similar way that has started to take hold at home but still not “the” way. So, it was a good choice that we left the trust grill at home.

Our original thought was we would survive without a grill, and we have. Although I have to admit that my cooking repertoire has been seriously limited by the fact that I am not fully comfortable with the oven here, and the fact that I rarely “baked” dinner in the past. So, if it couldn’t be cooked on a stove top we haven’t eaten it.

I had scoped out the CoOp earlier in the week and found that they were having grills on sale and they had one that was under 100sf. My logic is, this only has to last 3 years, be able to cook a couple of burgers or a couple pieces of chicken at a time and occasionally toast a marshmallow or two. So Saturday we hopped into the car and drove to the CoOp to see which grill we would rescue from captivity. It’s sort of like rescuing a puppy without the housebreaking; you need to see which one really calls to you and will fit your lifestyle. L and I actually decided on the grill one step up from the little one, it just gives us a bit more grill space and seemed a little sturdier. We also got a coffee maker and a hairdryer for guests. What the heck we were there and the coffee maker was on sale and we are expecting guests.

Now I knew there would be some assembly required for this project. I wasn’t really concerned I’ve put gas grills together in the past. That should have been my 1st hint that I might have been biting off more than I could chew. We got the box home and I started to unpack it; let’s just say “some” assembly required is in the mind of the beholder. This was “All” Assembly required.

Take a look at this:
I even have to assemble the spark doohickey. Yes that is the technical name.

I tend to approach these projects with some modicum of logic and organization. I like to lay out all the parts and get the various screws, nuts, etc lumped into piles with common pieces together.

It also helps me to figure out if I have all the parts. Anyone who has “assembled” anything can attest to the fact that occasionally some critical piece is missing. In this instance the critical piece that was missing was “words”. Yes words.   I admit that I am a very visual person and pictures are extremely helpful when putting something together but I have found that on occasion words are helpful as well. Or how about inventories of what parts are included in the box. Hey in this instance I wouldn’t have been picky I’d have taken pictures.

So I lay out all the parts and I’m looking at the initial instructions:  I’m looking for a screw that looks like the one in the picture.


Um, no… even I “a girl” can recognize that in the picture the screw has threads that go all the way to the head of the screw but the only screws that are even remotely close/long enough don’t.

This is when I just decide to go for it and hope for the best. Besides I’ve also realized that I need to assemble the gas hose to the knobs that regulate the flow of gas from the tank, and to the doohickey that the flame comes out as well as to the propane tank. Frankly I’m a little concerned about leaks and explosions. This is only in part to a partially over active imagination. I recall being at one of my favorite cousins house for a BBQ when we were little and flames shooting out of the hose that lead to the propane tank. I also recall the plumber who hooked my dad’s natural gas line up to the gas grill outside many years ago. How do you think he tested for leaks… he lit a match. Oye. Fortunately my Dad taught me the soap bubble method of looking for leaks. I slathered the bubbles onto every connection where gas could leak from and even some where it couldn’t just for good measure.

Even afterward when it was time to light the grill for the 1st time, I seriously considered dragging it down to the driveway outside the apartments… just in case. Since I am writing this, you can rest assured that everything went without a hitch and we know have an official “grill” which is missing one screw for the lid but has12 extra screws etc that don't seem to have any home.  You just have to love at home assemblies.





© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27, 2010 – Carnivals

Car-ni-val  - noun
1. a traveling amusement show, having sideshows, rides, etc.
2. any merrymaking, revelry, or festival, as a program of sports or entertainment: a winter carnival.

The second definition immediately reminded me of the shenanigans that take place in college starting on Thursday evenings and running through Sunday (early) mornings. Don’t get me wrong, I am old but I can still recall some of the “festivities” that occurred and I’m fairly certain that all of the parties resulted in merrymaking and revelry, but that’s not the point of this blog. I was just sidetracked by that second definition.

It is the 1st definition that has my true attention today. Have I ever explained that the town we live in, “Küsnacht”, is a small almost quant town? It’s not tiny but when compared to where we lived in the US it is definitely small. The center of town has 2 grocery stores that are about the size of a good sized CVS drug store at home. There are two churches with competing bells that chime on the hour (and at 4pm have a bell off that still makes me a bit nutty), a train station, and several small restaurants and shops.

Over the last few days they (you know the invisible “they”) have been shutting down sections of the center of town to set up carnival rides. There are bumper cars, something that may be a merri-go-round, a mystery cart which I think might be a concession stand, and one of those crazy swing things where there is a seat/car that holds several people and it’s attached to an arm that is like a pendulum. The arm swings the seat/car around and while it’s swinging up and down the seat/car also spins 360 degrees. Did I mention I am now officially an adult, because the thought of flying through the air while spinning 360 degrees makes me a little ill. The fact that I have meniere’s disease also significantly factors into “hell no I’m not going on that thing” response.

Oh and even if I didn’t have meniere’s disease and my equilibrium could handle that ride. I don’t think I would be getting on it.  Why?  It’s another nail in the “I’m getting old coffin” I no longer feel invincible.  Well that and my patented over active imagination….

Check out the ride:



Now check out the legs that they have "stabilized" and leveled

Nice sturdy cement blocks

Umm... wood boxes with a canvass belt holding them together?  AND are those two wood shims that a carpenter might use to level cabinets in your kitchen????

This is where my imagination kicks in and I can easily picture that arm holding the cars swinging back and forth the cars spinning like mad; Vincent Price and/or Alfred Hitchcock sneaking in from some black and white film and fraying the canvass straps. The arm reaching the pinnacle of its height…. cue scary music…. The strap snaps, the boxes slide and the whole contraption tips over in slow motion landing on the bumper cars which are right next to it.


Yeah – I’m passing on that ride, come to think of it I’m passing on the bumper cars as well.

However, I have to admit there is something exciting and fun about carnivals, the lights, the artery clogging food, the noise, and the kids so I am really hoping that the weather plays nice (it’s been pouring all morning) and L and I get to wander down to town and look around.



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26, 2010 – The Swiss DMV

I had plans for this morning. I really did, nothing that was terribly important or life altering but I had my own mental plans. One of those things was going with L to the Swiss DMV to get our licenses switched over. As I mentioned before, the primary reason for physically going to the main office rather than having our local Gemeinde handle it was the concern that we would have to turn in our US license.

 
In a nutshell, this is what happened. L and I walked into town this morning for an eye test. You need an eye test to get your driver’s license. The eye guy was very nice, but he asked us to remove our glasses for the eye test. Just think about that for a moment. Hmm… we’re wearing glasses because we can’t SEE without them. Well that’s an exaggeration I can see without them as long as what I need to see is within arms’ length of my face OR it’s the size of the mountains on the other side of Lake Zurich. So when it’s my turn for the eye test, he asks me to remove my glasses because I have to be able to “see” line 6 without my glasses to get a drivers license. I tried I really did, but if he hadn’t told me there WAS a line six I’d have just thought there was a smudge on the glass thingy I was looking through. Once he let me put on my glasses I discovered there were actually 10 lines and I could see them all; which is comforting considering I drive while wearing my glasses and it’s good to know I can see the other vehicles on the road without having to put my hand out the window like I’m reading Braille.

L and I decided that in fact maybe what the eye test was really doing was saying whether you were allowed to drive without glasses. As you can see from the story above, I’m not allowed to walk without glasses let alone drive.

Off we go to the Swiss DMV. We take a train, to the tram and walk a little bit. We get in the door, go right to a window and the nice lady tries to help us. We discover that L has all the required paperwork but I am missing some piece of paper that “confirms” that I registered with the town of Kusnacht when I moved here and when I did that. We showed her the receipt we received that says, “Hey CAB registered and paid X francs on X date.” I also showed her my passport with the Visa and the stamp that says “CAB entered the country on April 6, 2010 and has 14 days to register with the town to get a residence permit.” Oh, and yes I showed her my residence permit. Nope not good enough I need a special piece of paper from the Gemeinde that says I registered on X date.

 
Ok I a m resigned that I will make a trip back. Ok here’s where the stress kicks in. She’s processing my application anyway. Which in fact is very kind of her, but she is KEEPING my US drivers license and will mail it back within a week or so after I get them the receipt. Here’s what happens in my head all within a 30 second time frame.

“OMG, ok what happens if I CAN’T get the receipt? You have my license. I can’t drive in the US with a photocopy of my license. Can’t I just come back with all my paperwork at one time? What happens if you lose my license the receipt and the application/license remain separated? I don’t want to go to a US DMV to get a replacement license. THAT IS A NIGHTMARE.”

Stress levels skyrocket, I’m looking like a crazy irritable American when in fact I’m just a crazy worried woman and my nationality has nothing to do with it.

We leave all our paperwork there. L heads to work; I head to the Gemeinde to get the receipt. Which I am worried I won’t be able to get. Hey no one said my worries were based in reality. I get to the Gemeinde and explain what I was told I needed. They have no idea what I am talking about and for once it is not the language barrier. The nice woman here says “Don’t you have your Swiss Residency card?” Yes I do. Nice woman: “I don’t understand, that tells them you are registered and it tells them when you registered.” The nice lady and I are guess that the lady at DMV just needs to prove that I have not been in Switzerland more than a year, but again my residence card and my passport both say when I came into the country. Whatever, she writes me up a receipt and off I go back to the SWISS DMV.

 
I take the train, to the tram… again… and walk in and again… no lines. Yeah. This time I go to window 22 which has my paperwork. I hand her the receipt and she says “Oh this isn’t what we need. Sure it says when you registered with Kusnacht but it doesn’t say where you moved FROM. Um, I moved FROM the US, which my Residence Card says. Fortunately I keep this thought to myself since by some miracle I realize it won’t help my cause. The woman then says, she’ll call Kusnacht and try to get the information over the phone but she can’t guarantee that it will be sufficient. I ask if I can wait for her to call. Here’s where the language barrier comes in, she explains that it takes too long and that I can’t wait for my drivers’ license. To which I explain, no that’s ok, but could she please call Kusnacht “now” in case there is a problem and I need to do something else. Ahhhh a meeting of the minds. Yes, yes she can. After a quick call it seems she got what she needed and now L and I have to wait with fingers crossed that we get our US licenses back.

 
As a result of today’s adventure, I’ve learned a few things and I’ve been reminded of a few others.
Things I already knew but apparently needed a reminder:
  1. I have the patience of a gnat. 
  2. Said patience becomes even less so when I start to feel stressed
  3. I have a worry wart button, invisible to the naked eye but easily pressed when I don’t understand the complete ramifications of other people’s action.
  4. When I worry my stress levels SKYROCKET….. see item #2

Things I learned today
  1. The Swiss DMV is very similar to the US DMV’s. except
  • a. there seems to be no lines
  • b. they are very efficient
  • c. they do try to be helpful despite the crazy, stressed, worried lady in front of them
   2.   You surrender your license whether you want to or not
   3.   They will mail your US license back to you…. In a week or so… hopefully.
   4.   You can drive in Switzerland with a photocopied version of your license
   5.   You can NOT drive in Italy with a photocopy of your license

 

 Things I suspect but can’t quite verify

  1.  Murphy’s Law applies in every country

 Things I need to know

  1.  Is there a “universal” sign language? For example: If I flipped the bird at the woman who almost ran me down with her car and then proceeded to do that "how dare you be in the cross walk, legally crossing the road making me stop my car so I don't dent it by running you down" rant/arm waving thing.  


 


© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25, 2010

This is going to sound a little strange but hey what doesn’t sound a little strange coming out of my mouth, brain, keyboard? One of the reasons I haven’t been really dedicated to working out, besides being lazy, is that I have sort of felt ill at ease, not quite comfortable in my skin/environment. Really what’s the big deal, but I realized it the other day when I finally got up the gumption to run with the beastly boy on his morning walk. I don’t want people to “see” me in my workout cloths. I know, I know… I’m rolling my eyes with you on that one, but I have a point. Everything is different here. I feel out of place, I look a bit out of place. I have NEVER ever seen so much spandex on men and women before. No kidding I saw an older gentleman (balding, white haired) riding his bike today in a full spandex bike suit. Certainly the impressive part should be; hey there’s an old guy riding his bike up that steep his, why the heck am I not doing that? However, in truth my reaction was “what the heck is it with spandex and people of all ages?” I’ve actually seen so much spandex that I am a little uncomfortable wearing my loose gym shorts that are cut a little high on the thigh (not too high). How can I possibly be uncomfortable showing a little skin when ¾ of the population in Switzerland has no qualms about leaving nothing to the imagination in spandex? So I think I have fully re-embraced the “I really don’t care what people think I look like as long as I like what I look like attitude.” That and comfort counts.

I also think I have a fitness goal. I’m not quite sure yet but I pinpointed something today during my workout. I just need to do some research and ask my friend Kim some questions.

Happy Wednesday People





© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 2010 - Driver’s Licenses

L and need to get our Swiss drivers licenses, if we do it within a year of moving here then we don’t have to take a driver’s test. I can’t even imagine what it would be like taking an actual drivers test in Switzerland. You can bet it would be in German. As a result, we (I) have A LOT of incentive to get this done before that deadline. That being the case I walked to the Gemeinde today. It’s like the town hall, we had to go there when we first moved here to “register” ourselves and get residence cards. Everyone in Switzerland has to register with the town they live in and you have to carry your identity card on you all the time. I also think if you move from the town to another one you have to register with the new town. I’m not really sure we have anything quite so extensive in the US. People can move from town to town at home almost invisibly, unless the buy/own property.

Anyway that wasn’t my point. I went in to find out what we needed to do to get our licenses. I was prepared just in case the person at the information desk didn’t understand English. I used google translate to say “I need information on drivers licenses” “Ich benötige Informationen über Führerschein.”

I’ll admit that I may have butchered the pronunciation of that last word because the woman behind the desk looked at me funny. Being resourceful, I handed her the piece of paper that I wrote it on. She read it and still looked at me funny. I honestly have no idea what it actually translated to but recognizing the signs of confusion I switched to sign language and broken English. I am always amazed that works so well. The real issue is, we don’t want to turn in our US drivers licenses, which is usually the protocol. A resident turns in the foreign driver’s license and the Swiss issue a new one. Everything I have read (on-line ins blogs) indicates that that the Swiss will let American’s retain their license but will stamp the back of it as being invalid for driving in Switzerland. I really don’t want the hassle of trying to replace my US license or trying to explain in the US why I am driving with a Swiss License. The end story, we can’t get our license through the Gemeinde we have to go to the actual office in Zurich. That will be our next big adventure. Here’s to hoping it’s easier than a trip to DMV back home.



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010 - Neigbors, Movies and Snails

Originally I was going to tell you about our weekend and how we went to see Inception which was just too complicated of a movie for me. Besides I’ve had the same complicated conversation with myself when I was a child: “What if we’re not really real, and everything that is going on is really because someone else is dreaming it and us… and when they wake up… we go to “sleep”. In which case, if we really are in a dream, or a dream in a dream in a dream… could whoever is dreaming this stop dreaming me having night terrors? Seriously, it’s disrupting my sleep and I’m pretty sure L and the neighbors would like it if I stopped screaming in the middle of the night.

Our neighbor Mary and her son Alex made chocolate cake and brought us a big piece. I think they are trying to go out of their way to make us feel better after having had to put Jesse to sleep last week. It seems that Alex, who I think is 4, like to make muffins and chocolate cake. I pointed out that fortunately we like to EAT muffins and chocolate cake.

Then those same neighbors invited us for drinks and appetizers last night which was very nice. Actually they invited us for drinks and appetizers at the other neighbor’s apartment. I was a little caught off guard by the invitation, as you might well imagine, and said yes before I realized “Crap we just got invited by them to show up at someone else’s apartment… what if we weren’t REALLY invited…” Although I want to make friends and be more social I also don’t want to horn in on something that we weren’t really invited to be. If that happened I’d be mortified and would have to hide in the apartment for the next 3 years. Fortunately, it all turned out fine. The other neighbors didn’t act shocked that we showed up, and we had a bottle of wine on hand to bring with us and we had a pleasant time.

So I won’t tell you about those things because this morning I got up and (a) went running with the beastly boy and I feel psychologically really good about that. For some reason I’ve been struggling with getting myself to do that. (b) Then later I took the boy for a walk and I saw THIS:

Sure it looks like an ordinary butterfly bush, but look closely…..
How the heck did that snail get THERE?



So I found myself pondering this question through the majority of my walk when I walked by this hedge
And spotted THIS...

and THIS...

My 1st reaction was “come on now… this is just RIDICULOUS.”

Sure I’ve seen snails hanging in the sides of walls but fairly low to the ground. I’ve even seen them on tree trunks but tree trunks are obviously sturdy. Why the heck would these snails be hanging on a leaf or the tiny tendrail of a bush. How is that tiny tendrail not ripping free from the bush? How the heck long did it take the snail to GET THERE. When the snail wakes up, will it think “HOLY CRAP, how do I get down?” Will it jump? Do snails jump?  Maybe it's the Swiss Snail Olympic Team and they are practicing for the High Diving Competition.




© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20, 2010 – Track Meet

I’m not sure if “they” really call these things track meets or not. All things considered you aren’t actually “meeting” a track. Although if you are competing in a track event I guess you conceivable are meeting “at” a track and in fact are meeting the track in a sort of way. Regardless, yesterday evening L and I went to an official international track event where there was running, jumping, throwing of objects etc. When I think of track events I think of long drawn out affairs that never seem to end. Let me just say right now for the record: The Swiss really know how to put on a track meet. They had a booklet, events were listed and the times that they would start and everything was precise and ran like clockwork. Women’s 100M Hurdles 16:50, Women’s 400M 16:55, etc. etc. Sure I’m making up times, but let me assure you. The time the posted an event was to start WAS exactly when that event started and there was no downtime at all. Boom Boom Boom. It was FANTASTIC. No waiting, no lollygagging about.

The stadium was small enough that wherever you sat you could see most of the events. We were right in front of the Women’s pole vault which was something I really wanted to see. Unfortunately, we were on the opposite side of the sprint races, but they had a giant screen showing everything. While the races where going on, pole vaulting, javelin throw, men’s high jump, and men’s and women’s long jumps were taking place in the infield.

The even had a 400M wheelchair race which was pretty cool to watch and a “steeple” chase which I have to point out was strange. Why men would subject themselves to racing around a course where they have to hurdle a balance beam in 5 or 6 locations as well as one that is directly in front of a water trap is beyond me. So now you are exhausted, your feet are wet and you have to throw yourself over these obstacles. I was seriously waiting for someone to do a faceplant (ok I was also secretly hoping it would happen to. I said statement of affairs but you have to admit that would be exciting and a bit funny. Let me be clear however, in my cartoon world of thinking when those things happen no one really gets hurt).

So here are some pictures (my camera battery gave out ½ way through but I did manage to take a spectacular picture of the sunset.











© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19, 2010 - Book Reviews

My reading as slowed down a bit partially because work has been extremely busy and I can’t tell a lie, “The Closer” started and despite the fact that I said I was going to try and not watch TV while we lived in Switzerland, I couldn’t help myself. Sure some of you dislike Kyra Sedgwicks / Brend Lee Johnson accent but for me it’s the character. I like her character, I like Provinza, I like all of the characters. In some ways she reminds me of a female Columbo. Sure it’s not rocket science but it is entertaining and doesn’t make me want to walk up to someone and smack them for being an idiot on a so-called “reality” show. I always wonder “Whose reality is that?” Anyway, that’s beside the point. Some Book reviews:

The Moonlit Earth by Christopher Rice                                                     3 ½ stars out of 5

This is book is billed as a “thriller” after reading it I would classify it more as a mystery. At the start of the book we meet Megan Reynolds who has just recently moved back home to live with her mother after having been fired from her job as the head of a nonprofit organization in California. We also meet her gay brother, Cameron, who is a flight attendant for Peninsula Airlines.

Megan quickly finds herself caught up in trying to find her brother who has disappeared in Hong Kong with a mysterious Middle Eastern Man immediately following a terrorist attack in the hotel that Cameron was staying in. The FBI has accused Cameron of being responsible for the attack and Megan is racing the clock to find Cameron and prove his innocence.

I enjoyed the book and the story line although I have to admit that there were times when I wished the story felt a little less convoluted with all the different characters and subplots muddying the waters. Then again, maybe without those subplots it would have been easier to predict the ending. Overall it was worth the read.


How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly by Connie May Fowler                                   3 stars
Clarissa Burden is a writer who is suffering from writers block although she has plenty of fantasies which involve a variety of gruesome ways her cheating husband can die. The author takes us on a one day journey into Clarissa’s life where we witness her transformation or revelations about her husband, marriage, and life. Intertwined in Clarissa’s story is the story of the family of ghosts, a fly who falls in love with Clarissa, a one armed angel, a carnival of dwarfs, and a fellow writer. All of whom have a story to tell and manage to give Clarissa courage to become the woman she was meant to be. At times I found myself wondering what all of these characters had to do with the storyline, especially the fly. This was not a story that I would say was a favorite by any means but in its own strange way it was a fascinating story where I found myself enjoying the woman Clarissa was becoming and rooting that she would be successful in her adventure.

If you want to read this one I'd get it from the library ;)



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18, 2010 – The End

If you look very closely at your computer screen… closer …. Just a bit closer. There! Can you see it?

That’s me doing the happy dance. Today was in fact the LAST DAY OF GERMAN CLASS. I missed Monday’s class due to an emergency so I was not entirely sure what today’s class would bring. When I arrived Peter was already there so I asked if today was “The Test”. It was which means today was also the very last time I would have to subject myself to the Berlitz method of learning. Oh, you’re wondering how the test went. Well in keeping with complete honesty here. Once Peter told me the test was today and I stopped jumping up and down yelling “Yippie” (btw it’s “Yippie” in German too) I told Peter it was a pleasure having met him, wished him well on his travels and made a break for it before the teacher arrived.

I know it’s sort of a chicken way out, but honestly I’ve been walking around feeling like a walking case of PMS emotionally for the last few days and the last thing I needed was the mental stress of a test that means absolutely nothing.  So I came home, cleaned the apartment (well ½ the apartment, I do it in sections) took the beastly boy for a walk and now I am sitting down to work.

The other important thing this means is that I know how a large portion of my Monday’s and Friday’s open which feeds into my plan for (a) being more active and (b) making some friends.



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010 – Weekend Round Up - Liechtenstein

This is late but the weekend and especially Monday were crazy. First; Sunday was Liechtenstein’s National Day. So of course we went. The Prince open’s his castle and invites everyone to come up for a light breakfast, little sandwiches, drinks, fruit etc. It also included beer, but I took a pass on that.

I had to look this up but Liechtenstein is 160 sq km/61.8 sq miles which is a bit more than twice the size of the town I grew up in/live. The population is approximately 35K people (Approximately 14K more than at home. It seems we really pack them in at home). Officially we were in Vaduz. I didn’t take many pictures because it was raining but we did see the “Prince” and the “Princess” who were our age or a tad older. I say that because I associate the title of Prince with someone who is younger, a child. I have no idea why since prince Charles is certainly not a child’s age.

So what was my favorite part? I actually think it was the drive to Vaduz. Why? Because we were driving in the alps and we saw some amazing landscapes. At one point we were driving along and we saw two HUGE waterfalls (Not Niagara Falls huge) that were side by side running down the mountain side. There was no place to pull over so I could take a picture which was extremely disappointing but let’s see if I can explain it. Have you ever seen a movie where there is a tropical scene and everything is lush and green and there is water rushing down the side of a mountain? Like a river. That may be a better description, it was like a river was running down hill an incredibly steep hill and then there were spots where the earth would completely fall away from the water. It was really beautiful.


The balding gentleman is "The Prince"


The Prince's Castle (Yes he lives there) from the town down below

The Castle

And Again


The view of the Alps from the Castle... on a cloudy rainy day



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13, 2010 - I'm Not A Vet

But I play one on TV.  Fine, not on TV but saying I played one at home just had too many connotations.  So I mentioned that Jesse has a hurt shoulder.   The other day she was limping about so we took her to the Vet yesterday.  Now as you might have guessed there was a slight language barrier, but the tech spoke English well and she translated what we were saying for the Vet.

First however, let me point out that Jesse is a complete horror on the leash.  So much so that we have resorted to the "haltie" when walking her so she doesn't hurt me or completely drag one of us down.  So, back to the bad leg/shoulder.  Jesse has been favoring the front left leg.  She wouldn't put much pressure on it.  That is of course until you put the leash on her.  Yes, people the leash has amazing healing properties and Jesse is able to drag me about as if there was nothing wrong with her at all.  I would erect a shrine to the leash and invite the sick and lame to try it on but I'm pretty sure that would be sacriligious and I'm in enough trouble with the Catholic Church as it is.

So we put the leash on Jesse and take her to the Vet, who of course wants to see her walk/limp.  Unfortunatley the magic healing powers of the leash are temporarily masking any problems with her leg.  Here's where the fun comes in, initially he asks L to walk Jesse up and down the parking lot so he can observe Jesse.   L's performance was apparently not quite what the Vet was looking for so he says something to the female tech (who I think is a bit older than we are but that could just be appearances).  The tech then takes Jesse's leash and walks her.  L and I are falling all over ourselves apologizing for the fact that Jesse is a puller/dragger.  We're trying to warn the woman that she might not be completely prepared for what 'might' happen.  In my head I can visualize with perfect clarity Jesse taking off, the tech tripping, and then being dragged down the road, face and head bouncing along the pavement as Jesse works up to a full trot.

The tech manages to walk Jesse a bit, but is not in complete control.  Then wait for it, the Vet asks the tech to "jog' with the dog.  By now a waitress from the restaurant is watching the goings on and laughing.  I think she must be friends with the tech because as far as I could tell the tech didn't employ the use of any foul language.

I doubt that the Vet actually saw anything in all this running up and down, and now that I think about it he may simply have been punishing the tech for asking for a raise (I'm guessing).

Anyway at the end of the visit and a lengthy physical examine in which he determined the problem is with Jesse's shoulder he gave us some meds to give to Jesse. 

The meds:


I actually feel like a professional, I have to fill the syringe and shoot the liquid down the dogs throat.  Fortunately I have soem nursing friends who I have watched fill syringes before and I employed my best professional technique.  Heck I even tapped the syringe with my finger to make sure there were no air bubbles.  (The do that on TV).



So here is Jesse thinking "Woo Hoo I'm Getting A Treat!" and Ernie is in the background somewhere wondering why Jesse gets all the good stuff. 

This is Jesse immediately post meds trying to get the taste off her tongue.


Do you think she'll think its a treat again tomorrow?



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

August 13, 2010 - Random Useless Information

I took the beastly boy for a walk this morning. Maybe I should clarify that and say that “we” (the many voices in my head and I) took the beastly boy for a contemplative walk this morning. Every once in awhile I am struck by the fact that I have no friends here and I need to make some friends. Yes, an old story. The thing that I have to figure out how to work around is my working hours. When most people are attempting to be social, I’m working. Although it’s nice that the gardeners and mail people me recognize me and say hello that doesn’t count.
What I really wish, because I am lazy, is that we had neighbors I could be friends with, but that isn’t likely or really possible. So, a game plan is the next course of action. Find a way to be social in my free time, or find a way to have free time when people are being social.

During moments like this I realize how much I miss working in an office. There are certain rituals and social aspects of an office that make me feel connected to the outside world and those are amplified living in a foreign country. If I worked in an office I would have a built in network I could access to meet people.

 
Onto a new useless topic - I turned on my iPod to listen to some music and this is the 1st 15 songs that popped up. My best guess is that my iPod is also having an identity crisis.

 
  • I Love You So Much It Hurts Me – Patsy Cline (yes, I admit it, I like Patsy)
  • The Hard Way – Mary Chapin Carpenter (Mary I need to be in the mood for)
  • Wampum Prayer – Tori Amos (Tori, always an interesting ride although this is not one of my favorite songs)
  • Fools In Love – Inara George ( I like this song but have no idea where is came from)
  • Got This Far – Alana Davis (Alana and Reggae… not so much)
  • Your Joy – Chrisette Michele (Where the heck this song came from I have no idea and I haven’t decided if this song has reached the level of annoying me or not)
  • I Love You – Martina McBride (If you get a chance to see this woman live, take it. Even if you are not a country fan. Her voice is phenominal)
  • I’ll Be Your River – Cyndi Lauper & Vivian Green (I don’t seek this song out but when it comes up I find myself hitting repeat)
  • Sexy Mistake – The Chalets (I actually find this song wickedly annoying)
  • Call Me When You’re Sober – Evanescence (I haven’t found an Evanescense song I haven’t liked. At least not yet)
  • Mr. Man – Alicia Keyes (meh)
  • Black River – Amos Lee (The 1st two albums were good – the 3rd… I could live without)
  • Brain Damage – Pink Floyd (I have no idea why but I really like this song. It must be the lunatics)
  • An Unexpected Rain – Melissa Etheridge (I really like her music but am very disappointed in her recent actions but that is another conversation)
  • Love Letter – Bonnie Raitt (always sure to get me smiling and singing along)

 



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12, 2010

I wish I had something fun and exciting to talk about today but it’s really just a wickedly rainy day and I am doing my best to avoid going to the grocery store. Not that the grocery store is evil, but there are boxes of evil cookies in the store and I can hear them calling my name from the apartment. They aren’t even “good” cookies; just something crunchy and sweet-ish to chomp on. Considering my teeth don’t gain weight they don’t get a vote in this debate. My butt, my butt gets a vote and since it doesn’t want to be bigger it’s saying no. Besides, tomorrow is Friday and we get a brownie.
Did I mention it was raining? Just a moment of random weirdness, I don’t know if you can tell from this pic, but the far 3 rows of blocks are getting rained on and the two rows closer to me are not.


There is no valid explanation except for selective rain. Seriously, I checked, the clouds are not rectangular shaped.

I hope you are all having a lovely Thursday morning, I'm going to hope in the car and go to the grocery store.... Kidding.  I'll wait for tomorrow.



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010 - Madame Viper Attends German Class

Today the official countdown begins and we started our “review” of the prior lessons in preparation for the “test”. You would think a review would be easier than facing a brand new lesson, but its not. The problem is, I understood the information in lesson 5 back when we did lesson 5. I may also have remembered some of the words and their meaning when he started lesson 6. Unfortunately, by the time lesson 7 rolled around we never revisited the information in lesson 5 and my brain had to make room for new levels of confusion, so out with lesson 5 and in with lesson 7. Is there an inventory system in place in my brain; perhaps the FIFO (first in first out) or LIFO (Last in First Out) methods? Amazing I actually remember things from my education. Actually it’s more a use it or lose it methodology, that and my brain and I have an agreement that I will not forget my own name. I will however forget everyone else’s name and other semi-vital pieces of information.

Oh, I got distracted. What does this have to do with my alter ego Madame Viper? Today in class the teacher (a substitute who has only been subjected to my brilliance once before) ask Peter and me if we were planning on continuing on to the next German level classes. Peter explained that he was leaving Switzerland in September, and Madame Viper explained that she would rather stab herself in the eye with a sharp stick.

As you might imagine, this resulted in a perplexed look from the teacher while Peter laughed under his breath. She asked that I explain and I stated that I didn’t think there was a German Translation for that but in short it meant that I hated these classes. Her response was “No that can’t be.” To which I replied, “No really, I hate these classes and I hate the Berlitz method of learning.” I believe this qualifies as the “shock and awe method” of providing student feedback. I later qualified this statement by saying the Berlitz method just doesn’t appear to work well with my learning style and that it was obvious that these classes were not only painful for me but that they were painful for the teachers as well.

Seriously, today the teacher actually resorted to english when I finally gave up and said that I had no idea what she wanted me to do. She’d been trying to explain/pantomime instructions for about 5 minutes on how she wanted me to “role play” using a paragraph from the review lesson. Nothing short of a train wreck, and then she states “Oh it wasn’t painful for me.” Um, honey, seriously… you had to tell me what to do in “English” that’s against the rules, but fine it wasn’t painful for you, but it was excruciating for me and the mere mention that there might be more than 2 classes left makes me contemplate other more productive forms of pain. When I can actually think of something that might qualify as productive pain, I’ll let you know.



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10, 2010

For the last week of so I have thought that I was fighting a head cold.  Certainly it’s a bit odd to get a head cold in August but stranger things have happened. Then over the last few days it’s occurred to me, or rather it’s been pointed out, that this might actually be allergies.  

Now I refuse to believe that I am allergic to Switzerland, but I am willing to take into consideration that there is something here that I am allergic to, which either does not exist at home or doesn’t affect me in the same way.  L has been a real trooper dealing with my crankiness as I complain about not being able to breathe. Literally there are moments when I can’t breathe through my nose at all. I’m sure you were all dying to know that.  Have you ever tried to eat and breathe through your mouth at the same time? In fact at its worst I actually feel claustrophobic. Which seems like a strange was to describe being congested but when I can’t get a free breath of air it’s as if the beginning of a mild panic attack is setting in. I’ve resorted to Afrin sinus spray at night so I can sleep. That’s been working brilliantly but I’d prefer not to do that all the time. I have been taking antihistamines (w/o the decongestant because the “D” makes my heart race) but that doesn’t touch this.

So today I went to the Apothecary. I was brave enough to walk in, but the store was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a CVS kind of store. Um, no. This is “wait in line and the next available operator will be with you shortly” kind of place. Everything is behind glass and counters even Tylenol. Have you been to places in Switzerland that are “line” oriented? You find the little deli ticket dispenser and they call your number. I didn’t see a number dispenser in this place, but I admit to not looking all that closely. Do you remember the 1st time you had to buy a feminine hygiene product on your own? Irrational I admit but that was the feeling I was suddenly overcome with, OMG they are going to know I am a foreigner and I’m CONGESTED. Heaven forbid. Yes even I can roll my eyes at my own foolishness. Honestly I might have stuck it out if there weren’t three lines of people. I was prepared with my trusty German phrase “Do you understand English?”

Now I’ve decided I will go tomorrow on my way to German class. I’ve goggled three things:

Allergies
Congested
Can you suggest something to relieve the congestion?

Allergien
Verstopft
Kannst du etwas vorschlagen, um die Überlastung lindern?
Let’s just hope that doesn’t actually translate to – there is a car stuck up my nose can you relieve it?


© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August 9, 2010 – German Lessons

Are you as sick of seeing that title in my blog as I am of writing it? Well there is good news and bad news. The good news, I have 3 classes remaining; Wednesday, Monday, and finally Wednesday. The bad news; there is a TEST. Yes a test. Really what are they going to do? “CAB, I’m awfully sorry but you have failed the Berlitz German for Beginners Level 1, you must take the entire course again!” Short of slapping an invisible fence collar on me, I am never taking another Berlitz German class again. Ever.

It’s not that my ego can’t take the constant battering. I mean really, my display of ignorance and lack of language aptitude is actually impressive if you care to look at it from a somewhat skewed perspective. I may have even reached history making levels of false starts and confusion in the world of Berlitz.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up on German, just Berlitz. When the teacher said there was a test I asked if she would get into any trouble if I didn’t “pass” the test. She said in perfect English, with emphasis “Oh you WILL pass the test.” I didn’t have the heart to laugh out loud at that statement. The poor thing has no idea what my historical track record has been when struggling with a subject matter that I, ….struggle with. As a matter of fact, I can tell you precisely the last time someone said to me “Oh you will pass xxx” and the outcome. It was my freshman year in College and I was failing “finite math.” For those of you wondering what “finite math” is, I’d like to explain but I can’t. Every other week we would have a test and every other week my friends and I (my sister included) would have a contest guessing what my test score was. I remember one in particular because it was just so horrendous. I received 36 points. That’s 36 points out of 100 available points. Unlike SAT’s you did not get points for bubbling your name in correctly. I hated that teacher; his teaching style was not conducive to my learning style. So I went to see the dean to see if I could drop the class and take it over the summer. The Dean (Dean Martin – seriously) said no and explained that my math teacher had assured him that if I passed the final I would pass the class. I asked the dean how that could possibly be because even with my terrible math skills I knew that even if I got 100 points out of 100 my 48 average was not going to let me pass this class. *sigh*

Needless to say it was an abysmal failure, but the next semester when I took the class again, with a different teacher, I received an A. Oh, and no, the moral of that story is not, “Gee CAB maybe you should take the Berlitz Class again, you might pass.” The moral of that story is, when CAB tells you she isn’t going to pass a test you should believe her.

Oh and if you don’t believe me, this is what happens when I suddenly feel like I am under pressure to perform. Today the teacher asked me to name a hotel I’ve stayed in. Do you know I couldn’t name one single hotel. I’m suddenly on the spot my brain freezes and I can’t think of one hotel I’ve been in. Hello, I was just in a hotel two weeks ago. I finally managed to throw out “Motel 6” although I may have called it “Motel 7” but frankly from the look on her face she had no idea what I was referring to, then she asks me to explain what a Motel 6 is…. I wanted to yell… hey you just asked me to NAME a hotel, not give you the gory details of said hotel. Please, it took me 10 minutes to shake THAT name loose and I’ve never been in one. Could I think of “the Weston”, “Howard Johnsons”, hell I could have said “IHOP” it looks like a hotel. Instead I finally said “I can’t think of one.”

3 classes left… 3 classes left… I can make it…




© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8, 2010 - Weekend Roundup - Bern

Saturday L and I hopped on a train and spent the day wandering around Bern. Lately my diet has been lacking in the vegetable area so I took the opportunity to ingest a little dark chocolate with almonds. What? I’ve explained this before, chocolate comes from the coco plant, plants are vegetables therefore chocolate = vegetables. Plus it was DARK chocolate and it had Almonds, both of which are good for you.


Surprisingly we also ran into the roaming gnome. Although, it appears as if his roaming has been seriously curtailed:


Who knew there was a gnome mafia and that he would be fitted with a cement shoe….

Then we wandered past a road called “Junkerngasse” which of course made me wonder if everything on the street was made of Junk …or Gas. Needless to say we skipped that road.

We also saw this store:

Considering how physically fit everyone seems to be in Switzerland I wasn’t quite sure how a store specializing in Extra Extra Extra large Clothes could survive.


One of my favorite things was this dam, I had to take a picture from the bridge above to try and give you a sense of its size:


I can't imagine the amount of water that would rush through it if they opened all of the gates:




I have this "thing" about gargoyles; did you know that traditionally gargoyles are actually rain downspouts.  Well, in addition to being protectors and keeping evil spirits away.  The point is, we went into this MASSIVE church and it had this incredible downspout.  I don't think it counts as a gargoyle because it depicts a person, but it reminds me of "the scream."   You'd scream too if you had water rushing through your head everytime it rained.




This is the church from the back/side




© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 6, 2010 – TGIF

As Friday’s go, thus far it’s been a banner day. I can’t claim to have done anything terrible exciting but I did start my morning with my Friday Breakfast Brownie. The woman who sells the brownies recognizes me now; she gave me a “thumbs up” this morning as she wrapped up my brownie. The fact is, she sells other things, and there is the farmer who sells vegetables etc, but I’d be lying if I said I went for any other reason than the brownie. If I happen to get something else it’s just a side benefit.

So having started my day with the breakfast of champions I came home, and proceeded to brush, bath, brush, and vacuum the dogs. Yes in that order and yes I did vacuum them. No NOT with the power nozzle. I used the little brush attachment and the vacuum has a lower suction setting so the nozzle doesn’t get stuck on them. I actually think they like being vacuumed more than they like being brushed. Fine, Jesse HATES being brushed, but do you know what she hates even more? Being ignored. So the trick was to brush Ernie 1st and then Jesse. She almost immediately recognizes that she has been tricked and tries to put up a fight but it’s too late she’s already lying down and trapped.

Then we did the bath thing, which was really more of a shower thing. I’ve not done that before. At home I would just take the beastly boy outside and give him a bath using the hose. That’s not really an option here, but the shower is a walk in shower with one of those shower heads on the long hose so you can move it around. It worked out extremely well. So now I have two clean dogs, a newly cleaned bathroom, a newly showered me and I’m ready to start the work day.

Just to share something more interesting than the dogs getting a shower:

This picture is from the Jewish Museum in the area that was supposed to signify the scattering of the Jews who escaped Germany to other countries. You walk out into this courtyard that is really large rectangular pillars.  Al of the pillars are in straight rows and together the form the only square in the entire building. (Athough I don't know the significance of that).

These are the pillars from ground level

But, when you look up, the pillars have olive bushes (trees?) growing out of the top



© C.A. Bailey 2010, All Rights Reserved.