...I suspect I may be the luckiest kid in the world

Monday, March 30, 2009

Snippets of a Weekend Adventure.

VIA: Vevey

I leave the safe comforts of the German region of Switzerland. I always travel after 7 (Gleis7 - ha! Take that Inspector Ticket!) and it is about 9pm I think when I switch trains at Bern. It is my first time out of German speaking Europe and all of a sudden I am completely out of my comfort zone. I had a comfort zone? But I hadn't realized how much I knew and recognized of signs and places etc. The train was so crowded and it was hard to find a seat. Free ticket pfft. Everyone is speaking French. And I must have chosen the craziest carriage available. It is full of Army boys and I think school kids on a trip. I think. I really have no idea. But there is a roll call going on and I'm half expecting my name. Everyone else gets their name called out. But all the other kids have one! But I shrink lower and lower in my seat, hoping to disappear off this foreign country of a train. The crazy French.

I wake up to the most wonderful view - I can see France out of my window. It doesn't look any different to Switzerland but, hey, I've never seen France out of my bedroom window before. Actually, I've never seen France at all. It is a wonderful weekend with Aline and her family. Strange how one can feel so at home with strangers. They even had a piano - ah bliss.
And Vevey has a giant fork. You don't see that every day eh?

And of course, there was Mamma Mia.
It was all I had hoped for and more. I allocated a whole blog post for it. It was goooooood.
Aline remembered that her favourite teacher lived near the Geneva Arena and so we popped in to say hello. She was indeed lovely and I now have a place to stay in Geneva :) This however cut our time just a little bit short. We then ran the whole way to the Arena (ok - maybe it wasn't that far but it almost killed me.) I just consoled myself that I would have died realizing my dream. Don't judge me.

After Mumma Mia we were waiting for 7pm so that I could use my Gleis 7 (ha! Take that Inspector Ticket!) and decided to take a look at this cool old church in the middle of Geneva. We walked in through a side door - and into the middle of Mass. But it was a really good 45 minutes or so. A chance to be quiet and have some space to think. Because I sure couldn't understand what they were saying. Pfft. A service in French. In the French part of Switzerland. What were they thinking?

Aline and I are walking home. It's about 9pm. Dark, but Switzerland is safe eh?
We're talking and laughing. Mamma Mia is bright and beautiful in our memories. I've converted yet someone else. All is well with the world.
Until Aline screams. I turn around and there is someone jumping on her. She is screaming and yelling and of course I am calm. Level headed. I take up my fighting stance - I know Karate, Judo, Pilates and Origami. Unfortunately I have no idea what the emergency number is in Switzerland. Or perhaps fortunately, or else I might have called.
Lucky for her brother.
Sheesh. You just don't do that to people.

I let Aline (aka Gung Ho) talk me into riding from her house in Vevey to Montreux. Destination: Château de Chillon. As I alight the bicycle the reality hits me that I haven't ridden a bike for...years. I feel like a kid learning all over again. But the allure of a castle proves too great and I'm a fast learner. Gung Ho leads the way and it is a beautiful ride. Today my behind argues with why I insisted upon visiting yet another castle in the space of a few weeks but it's always talking to me behind my back.
Château de Chillon is amazing. So much history. Lord Byron wrote the poem The Prisoner of Chillon from impressions and memories of this Castle. I even saw where he had carved his name.
Aline and I think we are doing so well. We visit torture chambers and dungeons and secret passageways. It is 10 minutes to 6 (closing time) and we are up to site & sight 21. There are 23 site & sights on the page. So well planned and how Swiss of me. However, then we turn the page over and realize there are acutally 50 odd site & sights. Sigh. I'm not that Swiss after all.
Ah well. Next time.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

I was in pure bliss.
Mamma Mia. On Stage. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Need I actually write anymore?
Well, no, but since you're here you might as well listen.
It was marvelous. Colourful, charming, energetic and captivating. I sat entranced for the entire show, almost willing it in my mind not to end. But I also was looking forward to my favourite part at the end.
The day before the show, Aline rang me to say she'd bought a ticket as well which made me very happy. I needed someone to relive the show with, or else there was a chance that I would be on a Mamma Mia high forever.
We made it there with seconds to spare (more about the rest of the weekend in another post). Literally - seconds.
And I suspect there was a rather big smile on my face from the moment I sat down until, well...it's still there.
Then show began with a warning: This show contains white lycra and platform boots.
And then the music began - blaringly loud. But so blaringly good. It was rather funny to watch everyone in sight jump in unison when it began.
So. Blaringly.Good.
And then it was non-stop goodness until right at the very end. I may have watched the movie too many times as I knew all the lines for the stage production. And the cast didn't disappoint at the end - they kept coming out with more songs.
And the entire arena stood up and danced and sang for the last couple of songs. This may have been caused by those of us at the front. You know, you can't see - you stand up. But I can't know for sure.
And now I don't know where to go from here. I've been climbing the Mamma Mia Mountain for months and I finally reached the top and now where?
Not to worry though - I've already sniffed out a few ABBA productions in the coming months in Switzerland. As long as it's a fun slide down to the bottom of the Mamma Mia Mountain I'm happy.
Anyone want to join me for ABBA'S Greatest - showing throughout Switzerland in April??!

PS - I've decided to run away and join the Theatre.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Metamorphosis: Being Sucked In By The Swiss

I've only been here a month.
But there is some unconscious metamorphosis happening.
It's subtle.
Did you know octopuses, chameleons, and some other fish change to fit their surroundings. And, apparently, expats.

Signs of this transformation:
  • I walk around eating hunks of bread. Sometimes I carry bread with me. Just in case.
  • I carry an umbrella around with me. Wherever I go. Just in case.
  • I often feel the need to yodel. Thankfully, it's only a feeling and I can squash it.
  • I'm wearing black and grey. My scarf is my form of identity, my piece of colour. A scarf defines who I am??
  • My hazelnut consumption has increased a billion percent. This may have something to do with the chocolate that covers it but I'm not sure.

But then there are times when I just shake my head and feel like I'm on another planet.
  • MLF1 & 2 setting their watches 5-10 minutes fast so that they'll be on time. They're 10 & 7. They're not supposed to understand what on time means yet. I barely understand it's meaning.
  • I sometimes get these evil desires. I think it mainly happens on a Tuesday and a Friday. This may also coincide with the rubbish pickup days. I secretly want to casually lean down and rip the sticker off the rubbish bags. And keep walking. Not only would havoc be funny to watch, but as these stickers are worth a couple of Francs each, I could make a fortune on the black market. Does Switzerland have a black market?
  • On the Road. I'm something of a crazy person when I'm driving here. I hunch over the wheel, eyes furtively glancing around, mumbling to myself. Stay Right. The driver belongs in the centre of the road. Stay Right. You're doing fine. Stay Right.

So perhaps it will all even itself out. And I'll be on time, drive safely, and stay away from orange stickers.

Today I'm being a part of World Blog Surf Day. There's a bunch of us who are linking to each other in a giant circle. A giant expat blogger circle. Cool eh?
Well the next stop on the circuit is Mark and his blog Traveling Without Moving.
He's got some amazing photos and videos and you can travel without moving! Worth a click!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's No Use Crying Over Spilt Chocolate Milk. Just Use a Bed Sock.

Thursday is Library Day. I mean, BiblioTech Day. I always call it the Library and the girls smile and nod. They have no idea what I mean when I say that.

After school, MLF1 & Friend, and I jump into the car and we pick up MLF2 & Friend from Friend's house and then we pick up MLF3 and it's off to the BiblioTech we go.
Note: I'm driving. I'm repeating: Stay Right, stay right, stay right. Does this worry anyone else? Or just me?

Today it was at MLF3 pickup point that I realized all our library books were swimming in chocolate milk.
Note: This is not good.

I had put the afternoon snack and MLF2's chocolate milk (in a sealed cup!) with the books in the back of the car. However, all the girls want to read their books for the last time on the short trip to the BiblioTech. Why they insist upon this, I don't know.
In grabbing their books, they had unknowingly knocked over the chocolate milk and both bags now had chocolate milk in them. Both bags.
Note: I'm not sure how this was even physically possible.

I'm sure there was more chocolate milk in those bags than I had ever put in the cup. I took all the books out of the bags and emptied the bags out on the ground.
Note: There is now a chocolate river outside of MLF3's daycare.

I look for a tissue, or some sort of absorbent object. But, I had cleaned out the car last week and got rid of all items I deemed as rubbish at the time.
Note: No tissue in sight.

Finally I decided to use MLF3's socks. This morning she insisted upon wearing bed socks to Daycare. Obviously half way through the day she decided au pair knows best and so now (thankfully) they were with her other items. Unfortunately they were not as absorbent as I had hoped, and besides, once a sock is full of chocolate milk, well, it's full of chocolate milk.
Note: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

All this time all the girls have their noses in their books. At least those books are chocolate milk-free. Every now and then one of them will say, Are we going to the BiblioTech yet? I want to give them incredulous looks that will silence them, but I don't. I am supposed to be the adult in this situation. I'm not supposed to be the adult covered in chocolate milk in this situation.
Note: This is not exactly an enjoyable situation.

I finally sop up all the milk I can and wring the socks out. It will have to do.
We arrive at the BiblioTech and the girls run inside. Five hours later, I've done all the cleaning of those books that I can and I go inside to confess our chocolate milk fiasco. Thankfully, the librarian is our neighbour and is also very nice.
Note: An excellent real estate choice, having your librarian as your neighbour.

We return home with new books. New opportunities to lose, spill or otherwise ruin. And I resume my position as guardian of the Library books. I was lax for a few moments, but it will not happen again.
Note: This guardian needs a shower. I still smell like chocolate milk.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reflections on the Last Month

Starting at the beginning is hard. It's difficult, it's slow, it's sometimes humiliating. It's requiring all of me - just to function in normal everyday life.
This is something of a new concept for me. And, not surprisingly. At no other time in my life have I entered a such completely different world. Different in culture, in people, in language.
I've felt like a child. Learning the basics all over again.

And yet, people are still exactly the same. Same frustrations, joys and hopes. Still scrambling to be a part of the social economy that we set for ourselves. Same core desires in relationships. Wanting and hoping to be understood and loved for who we think we are and what we stand for. And often seeking to wrap ourselves in familiarity when surrounded by that which we do not know.

And then green noses were out, and red ones were in. If Only I Had A Green Nose is one of my favourite children's books. In it, a Puppet gets his nose painted green because everyone else is, but then everyone decides that red is the news colour, and then another colour and another. It's hard to keep up and soon he cannot remember what colour his nose actually was. I've thought a lot about outward appearances and the like over the last month. It's almost been a sensory overload to me. All the time I find my thoughts along the lines desiring new things. I see and I want. I could use that. I could need that. And the more I allow myself to think this way, the more unhappy I am with what I have. And, in truth, I am more than happy with what I have. I don't need for anything.
If I start viewing the people and world around me in this way - judging others by what they have and wear, and how they act, then, unwittingly but most definately, I am completely opening myself up to also be judged in this way. Even if it is only in my own mind. And who wants to live life like this? I think it only creates a lack of self-confidence in who we really are and does not encourage truth and goodness.
But yet it is such a challenge to live this way. It requires constant recalling. I crave simplicity, but yet I unconsciously intake messages of materialism. I choose to be content.

It takes transparency to be transparent. And yet, we like to see it before we give it. It takes much courage to turn this process around. It goes against the natural grain of ourselves. But yet it is a truely beautiful thing to be a part of.
Two souls simply being together...involves, requires openness, risks, and the clumsiness of spontaneous words. - Leunig.

When you love somebody, you want to serve them. You want to do everything you can to help them, to make their road easier. You want to. But this love doesn't magically appear in your feelings. I'm not sure how it gets there. Maybe its a slow process. Maybe its a choice. Maybe it is both. I think this is true:
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it
yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. - Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Faith is a confidence in the things we hope for. I think it is sad when Christians do not do so well at representing what God is actually about - what his heart is. And I fail at this all the time. I'm relieved to remember that God in no way needs me, but yet sometimes still chooses to allow me to show what His love looks like. And that I can see tangible traits of God in people. In people. I'm so glad for this.

I didn't realize how many random thoughts had been going around in my head this past month until I've gone to write them down. Such a clutter floating around upstairs.
This month, I've been glad for:
breathtaking views
new sights
new friends
winter coats
german phrase books
lined paper
black tea
an endless discovery of new breads
road trips
audio books

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Please EXIT the Plane Now Before Your Head Explodes

I'm not admitting to it, but sometimes it's like someone switches a light on in my head. A click! and then I understand. Sometimes this little process takes several seconds for the light to fully switch on.

I've only driven on the highway here a few times. I mean actually driving, not just being in the car. I take more notice of things when I'm actually driving. This is my excuse and explanation for the following story. You are not allowed to think any less of me for what is to come.

There's a certain turnoff that I see a lot and I've wondered a few times what that town is like. There seemed to be quite a few exits for it and I assumed it must be something of a sizable town. I didn't ask, but just wondered in my head. Very good decision in hindsight.

Then, in Germany the other day I noticed this same exit sign and some rather loud bells went off in my head. I think it was because of these very loud bells that it took several seconds for the thought to form and process in my head. Too much noise going on in there.

This so called town, this destination, this exit - is an exit. The town of Ausfahrt, besides being a ridiculous name for a town, in German means EXIT.
Shame Shame Shame.

However, now things make a lot more sense in this head of mine. And, to make myself feel better, I looked up online about Ausfahrt and I don't think I'm alone. Phew.

A Canadian band even called their CD - All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt.
And the Urban Dictionary even defines Ausfahrt as Biggest city in Germany. Almost every Autobahn exit directs to it.

Pfft. As if. How dumb are they. Somebody needs to set them straight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Illiterate, Penniliess and Learning the Art of Bag Snatching.

So yesterday I pretended I was in a fairytale for the day.
I got to visit Disney's inspiration for His castle, go through Austria to Germany, and fly because I was wearing Astro Boy's boots. Two truths and One Lie. It's a fun game.

But perhaps more on that in another post.
I was doing the right thing and *cough* paying my *cough* fine. Somewhat begrudgingly but at least the dirty deed is done.
The guy at the Post Office couldn't speak English. What is it with people not speaking English in this German/French/Italian speaking country?!
Midway through the *cough* fine paying process he made gestures. At the time I didn't know what he was trying to say. I raised my hands in question and apologized. Enshuldigung
He looked at me pityingly, and shook his head in a sad, sorry sort of way. In hindsight, I think I was supposed to maybe write my details down. In the split second after his pitiful look I realized that he thought I was illiterate.
But once you've made claims of illiteracy, you can't take them back. I would have just been digging myself a hole. You know, with my extensive knowledge of German and all.
And so I walked out feeling somewhat illiterate. And somewhat poorer.

Now that I'm pretty much a homeless illiterate broke bum, I walk toward my train and for once I was early. I think this was a first. Normally I'm running down the platform, bag and scarf flying out behind me, coat undone, and throwing money somewhere in this ticket machine vicinity.
Not today.
And because I was early I got to spend 10 minutes talking with this Little Old Lady, or LOL for short.. She had good English, she told me, because she read crime books, books of crime and books with criminals and the like. She asked me what time the train came no less than 6 times. Funnily enough, the time stayed the same.
LOL made me feel, mmm, somewhat nervous with all her crime talk. She seemed sweet, but it's never who you expect ja? She could've been a bag snatcher for all I knew. You never hear of little old ladies bag-snatching but they would have the element of surprise on their side.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Me and the Door. And the Jolly Green Jumper

A quick post before I sleep off walking many miles today in Lucern.
It was such an excellent day - Nicole and I explored many places and only got lost a few times.

Firstly - I have a bit of a thing for small doors. I'm not sure when this started but I've been collected a few photos here and there - just me and the door.
I'm thinking this will be a good album name for my debut album: Me and the Door.
Today I was having my photo taken - just me and the door and then Jolly Green Jumper jumped into my photo. I do not know Jolly Green Jumper; He does not know me.
I don't think we even exchanged any words. He probably spoke German. I do not.

This awakened a desire within my to jump in other people's photos. I'm thinking I'll start small - you know, just small tourists and could build my way up to weddings and then modeling. Perhaps I'll even get famous.

Watch and Learn.
When we were coming back on the train tonight (Gleis7 - ahah Inspector Ticket) I noticed an evading boy and girl. They were good at blending in with their surroundings at first but then it became all too obvious to me. Lurking in the loo, hiding on the stairs. And watching for Inspector Ticket behind large newspapers. And leaving the carriage once it was all clear. Beware evading boy and girl. Fare evasion costs an all too recent memory of $80 CHF.

Friday, March 20, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

MLF3 and I were hanging out in her room this morning. I was making beds etc and reading her her nursery rhyme book. She was singing along when she knew the words.
Side note: I couldn't convince her that it was not:
Twinkle Twinkle Little Stark
How I wonder what your ark.

Anyway, it started to snow while we were up there and as it got a bit heavier I was kind of excited. You know, coming from a non-snowy place and all.
Look, MLF3, Look outside!
It's snowing!
Yeah.....so? (Ok, so she didn't say 'Yeah....so?' but her look said it all.)

It was cold today. When I had to pick up MLF3 from Daycare I wore a jacket and a scarf. It was pretty cold. On the way home we passed the friends of the family (remember from last weekend skiing...) and the four year old came running up to me and this is what I heard,
Blah Blah Blah Volkswagon
Translation: Why are you wearing a scarf? It's not cold enough!
Serious. Her Dad translated for me. I protested that it was cold but actually I walked home feeling rather wimpy.
It's not cold enough. Pfft. It is!

And in other news, I'm heading to Luzern tomorrow to discover an adventure and on Sunday am going to Germany to go on a castle crawl. Yip Yip.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"A Series of Unfortunate Events." by MissInformed.

I'm still seething.
I'm trying to forget an unfortunate experience in which I was misled, misinformed and mistreated.

Ticket please?

I've been asked to show my ticket quite a few times already on the train since I arrived less than a month ago. The other day the ticket inspector came up to me out of nowhere and said something.
I didn't what he said because I had my IPod on. And I wouldn't have understood him anyway.
I speak English. I wish I had a sticker on my forehead that said this.
I took my earphones out of my ears, and said 'My ticket?'
And he said with a deadpan voice but a disapproving face, 'You can't buy a ticket on a train.'
I fished out my ticket and showed it to him. I think he was disappointed that I had one.

I'm still trying to work out the travel system but thankfully I've been ticket-equipped so far.
Until now.

On Tuesday night I met up with a few other au pairs at the Irish Pub for St Patrick's Day. I think it's the only one in the Zurich City area and it was packed.
All was well.
I left at about 10:30 because it would take me a good 40 mins to get home and I was pretty tired.
I left the pub and was glad to see Tram #2 waiting outside. I jumped on.
I was too glad.
It was about 4 stops later that I realized that Tram #2 was going in the opposite direction to what I wanted.
This was just ticking over in my head when Inspector Ticket got on board the tram. He was closely accompanied by Sidekick Einstein. (I call him this for his looks only! - not his brains)

Inspector Ticket made his way to me and asked for my ticket. I was on the mark though this time and knew what he was wanting. I am clever.
I fished out my Gleis7 and handed it to him.

-Now, a Gleis7 is a pass I purchased when I first arrived. It is valid for a year and allows me to travel after 7pm for free.
-When you purchase a ticket during the day, this ticket is valid for trains, planes and automobiles. Actually not, but it is valid for trains, trams, boats and buses.

Wrong Assumption #1: Gleis7 is also valid for trains, trams, boats and buses.
Wrong Assumption #2: This would all be over very quickly and I could get off this wrong Tram and start heading in the right direction.

Inspector Ticket informed me that I Gleis7 is not valid for trams and then started to get his things together for a ticket.
It was at this point that I should have started crying. You know, for sympathy. But I don't know how to cry in German.

It was about this point that Sidekick Einstein entered the scene. He was sort of mumbling to himself and laughing every now and then.
Inspector Ticket kept dropping his papers and ticket machine and things and swearing.
And it was English. I could understand exactly what he was saying. Now he speaks English.

It took forever to fine me. And it felt longer because I was still heading in the wrong direction. All the while Inspector Ticket is swearing and Sidekick Einstein is laughing somewhat hysterically. It was kind of a quiet hysterical laugh.
Then I realized: I think he is drunk. Sidekick Einstein drunk on the job.

And I'm still heading in the wrong direction. They finally give me the ticket which I stuffed into my purse and haven't pulled out since. And I hopped off at the next stop. Good riddance!
And found myself in the middle of nowhere.

I started walking back to the previous tram stop - hoping it would be bigger than this one. There were a number of crazy people around and I was pretty keen to get home.
I walked fast.
And bought a ticket at the next stop. Ha! Not falling for that one again!

Tram #2 finally made its way in the right direction and it seemed slower than normal. It always does when you have that one last train of the night to catch and if you miss it, you're walking.

Well I missed the train by 30 seconds but thankfully there was one more 1/2 hour later. Phew.
So I sat in Maccas and drowned my sorrows in a cheeseburger.
And caught the train home for free with my Gleis7.
So there, Ticket Inspector. Take that and don't drop it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Real Reason I Came to Switzerland.

It is here I feel my people calling me.
The car almost has my name on. Literally.

This makes me happy.

There are giant gold rabbits just sitting around.
I wanted my photo taken with them.
But they just hopped away whenever I went near them.

This one is not real. It is just a blow-up one.

I get excited over the hanging eggs. Or some other such delight.

Aisles and aisles of goodness.
A glass and a half in ...every...bunny?
Or is that the competition?
Cadbury who?

Trolleys. This made me laugh.
Just as if you were grocery shopping.

The street smelled like chocolate.
I'm not joking.
And they were sooooo good.

And so I set my sights on bigger things.
But - my eyes were too big for my stomach.
I couldn't get through it all.

Location: Kilchburg, Switzerland.
Date: March 18, 2009.
Dedicated to My Mother - who first got the (red) ball rolling on Operation Eat Lindt.*

*Am I funny or what? I think I hear Les calling my name!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Day I Almost Vaccuumed Up Lake Frome and then Visited a Castle (And Other Not-So Tall Tales)

Today was a really good day. So many really good things happened.
  • After lunch I took a train to Rapperswil. It's about 40 minutes away. I'd heard rumours there was a castle there and who doesn't love a good castle.
  • The weather was gorgeous. Spring was definitely in the air. Birds were singing, so was I...because
  • I discovered the Waifs on my IPod. I thought I'd left the CD at home without putting it on I-Tunes and today I randomly found it. So I got to explore a Swiss Castle to the tunes of the Waifs.
  • A few weeks ago I found these really pretty boots in this upmarket store. I really liked them but they were rather expensive and they didn't have my size (the decision was taken out of my hands). Somehow I managed to be off the normal shoe size scale in European sizing. What are these people? Small-footed midgets?! (No offense to any Europeans reading this) Anyway, I was disappointed but determined to get on with life. Today...I found this random liquidation store in Raperswil. I went in. They had shoes. Not many. But some. And they had my boots! The exact same pair. Seriously. Only the one pair, the one size. My size. And they were only $20CHF. How good is that!
  • Did I mention how good the weather was?
  • I went to CoOp to find something to eat and they sell in a little roll the same bread that I love in a loaf. I forget what it is...but it is good. And Kylie-sized.
  • I randomly found this little Christian Book Store and they had this one copy of The Compassion Art CD. It's a project I've been following but I don't think it was released in Aus before I left. This store had it for $5. I was so excited.
  • At this point I'm realizing that perhaps I sound a bit sad - I just love good bargains!
  • This castle was so pretty today. I walked around the Altstadt of Raperswil. Meaning the Old Town. So much beautiful architecture and history. And the view of the mountains was amazing because the skies were so clear. The weather was gorgeous!
  • It's only a week and half til I see Mamma Mia on Stage. Much excitement.
  • I saw two guys rollerblading at Zurich HB (the main train station). I also want to do this.
  • I understood when MLF3 spoke in French today. I think this is a first. We picked some flowers for MLF1 & 2 and she said something something something l'eau. And I knew she meant water for the flowers. Ok, it seems small, but it is BIG. Major step for mankind kinda stuff.
  • I got two lovely letters in the post today - one from my wonderful parents (thanks so much Mum and Dad!) and one from my little 4-year-old friend Georgia. And apparently it was her first written letter. I feel honoured.
  • Oh - and I almost vaccuumed up Lake Frome this morning. I had given the girls a puzzle of Australia when I first arrived and MLF1 & 2 have been steadily working on it. I normally vaccuum around it but today I almost sucked up a piece which had strayed too far from its friends. Let this be a lesson to you all. You might not be so lucky as Lake Frome.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why I'm Not Very Good at Skiing (And Other Winter Stories)

The other people on the mountain make it look so easy. The little kids make it look so easy.
They go swish swish swish and spray snow up at me.
I think they do it on purpose.
And this is the first reason why I'm not very good at skiing. I spend a bit too much time being jealous of 4-year-olds who swish and spray.

Ski Lifts freak me out.
(This includes but is not limited to T-Bars, J-Bars, Rope Tows, Magic Carpets, Chairlifts etc) And you have to go on them so that you can ski back down so that you can go back up on the lift. It's a vicious cycle. Yesterday I went on a T-Bar that seriously lasted for an eternity. I'm serious. It went on forever. Mother and 4-year old daughter are next to me chatting away about trivial things (actually, I have no idea what they were talking about - it was all Swiss German) and I'm about to die. Every muscle, thought, and breath was focused on staying on the lift. Just stay on the lift. This trepidation may have something to do with me falling off a children's rope tow last weekend but I'm not confirming anything.

When I ski I have flashbacks. Constant reminders of very scary previous experiences. I have flashbacks of last winter in Australia - skiing so fast down a steep hill heading toward a black run and being very unable to stop. Screaming shheeeet! all the way down. People came from far and wide just to see what the end of that story was.

Skis are heavier than they look. And I think mine have, um, weights on them or something. And then MLF3 gives me hers as well. And her helmet, gloves, goggles and anything else she wishes to be free of in the moment. And then runs ahead and says, 'Coom, Kylie, Coom.'

Sometimes I secretly wish I could ski in front of my parent with a harness on. Yesterday we went went skiing with a family who is friends with my host family. Their 4-year old is not quite as advanced as MLF3 and so skied in front of her Mum in a harness. She fell over a lot and cried a lot and inside I felt we had a lot in common. Only when she is 22, she'll be a pro at this game.

I spent too much time looking for Austria and Lichtenstein. Both of which, apparently, you can see on a good day from where we ski. Not quite sure what I was looking for - perhaps Maria Von Trapp out on the hills singing the Sound of Music?

(I skied down that mountain. Ok, maybe not that one particularly, but it was a big one.)

Even though I seem to spend most of my skiing hours freaking out and putting all my energy into just staying alive and upright, there are a few moments when I feel like I'm doing it right - that this is enjoyable. And when I'm flying down a slope and there are no immediate dangers and I've got some semblance of control then it feels good. That this is what it is supposed to feel like.

I think there are a few similarities between those feelings and life in general. Sometimes you get these hints and breezes of what the truth and goodness of life is supposed to look and feel like. And its these moments that give us the courage and strength to press on to the next one.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shop Til You Drop (The Basket)

I was sent this morning with a list in hand to Migros.
Migros is one of the two main food supermarkets in Switzerland. The other is Co-Op.
All the items fit onto a post-it note and so I hoped to get it all in one quick sweep.
Not quite.
I forgot to get a trolley.
I realized this when I was already inside and the trolleys are outside.
Small list - I'll just use a basket.
After all, this was going to a quick shop. Quick shop - light basket, right?
I had to find special garbage bags - after searching high and low, I finally asked Shop Assistant #1.
Very helpful. Got the bags.
I had to find this certain type of spaghetti. Searched for a very long time as it was important that I got that brand.
Finally asked Shop Assistant #2.
Very helpful. Unfortunately, this brand only sold at Co-Op - the competition. Ouch.
I had to find beef mince. Searched everywhere. They have many places where meat might be.
Finally asked Shop Assistant #3.
He and Shop Assistant #4 conferred in German as to what I was looking for. First he told me that only the English have mince meat.
I must have looked confused. I was.
He pointed to big chunks of beef. But no mince. I told him my host mother had asked for packets of mince.
He brightened. And led me to - packets of mint! Herbs!
Finally I thought to mention mince for spaghetti bolognase.
And this was the clue that gave the game away. He showed me not only beef, but also pork and also something else which I wasn't too sure about. And a mixture of all 3!
He said he'd never heard of this being called mince. It looks a bit different to what we have at home, but it was definitely mince.
I heard him telling Shop Assistant #4 about my mince.
Very helpful.
When I finally had everything I lugged the basket to the checkout.
I wasn't using the handle anymore. I had put way too much in the basket and the handle didn't feel quite safe.
I put everything on the conveyor and separated the house shop from my personal purchases. Chocolate was on special! Ah.
Shop Assistant #5 seemed very confused with my separation. And she didn't understand English. And I have no clue with German.
Fortunately, the customer behind me understood me and translated.
Thank you, following customer!
45 minutes later I made it out.
The moral of this story:
Ask each of your questions to different Shop Assistants. Then none of them know just how clueless you really are.
And always grab a trolley.

In other news, I made ham & cheese & quark croissants for lunch. I still have no idea what quark actually is, but it's the glue that holds it all together.
They were good. As was the banana cake/bread that I made.
The girls told me the banana cake was the best they'd ever had and had too many pieces, and Pa was quite surprised when he knew that these were the first croissants that I had made.

Small Victories. Excellent croissants. Really good banana bread. And chocolate on special.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


This family has taken security to a whole new level.
Yesterday I was tidying rooms and making beds etc with My Little Friend Number 3 (henceforth to be known as MLF3). She was following me around and chatting - some I understood, some - not so much.
Then she picked up her toy camera and said "Smile!"

I, being the ever-agreeable au pair, of course turned around and gave her a winning cheesy grin.
Then the flash went off.

And I thought, 'That's cool - a kid's camera with a working flash.'

Then she turned the camera towards me and asked if I wanted to see myself. And there I was.
Cheesy grin and all.
Apparently this toy camera works and has batteries and a flash.
I laughed to myself and thought, 'Any cool toys that we used to have when I was kid - never had batteries. They always ran out too fast.'

Unfortunately MLF3 then followed me around for quite some time. Snapping away.
Me making the beds.
Me opening the shutters.
Folding clothes.
Tidying the bathroom.

I had to wonder whether her parents put her up to it. To see if I actually do anything during the day.
For a 4-year old, she is pretty smart.
I wonder if she charges per job. Or if she works on commission?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Toto, We're not in Kansas anymore.

I've spent many hours wandering around Zurich in the last days and seen many strange and wondrous things.
Some I've understood.
Some I haven't. Actually, most I haven't.
Mostly I've just been reminded that I'm quite far from home.

Yet again, surprised by the innovation of the Swiss. So clever. I almost wish I were Swiss.

I said almost. Imagine having to deal with the best of Swiss gastro!

It wasn't that good. Quite disappointing actually. Still, a McDonut was hard to resist.

It was a bowl of broccoli. I'm serious. And I don't think it was for eating.

Zurich has a giant toy store. Floors and floors of toys and things and lollies and fun and crazy kids whining and cranky parents and declined credit cards and stuff and stuff and stuff.
But who cares? I got a photo next to a life sized unicorn! How cool am I?

And - something not so far from home....Charlie & Lola! (Actually Clarice Bean, but same dif). Hooray for me! I would have bought the card for myself, but I'm feeling fine so not really appropriate.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Through Painted Deserts

Last night I again began to read Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller and again, just wanted to read the author's note over and over again. It's so beautiful and I substantially identify with it at the moment due to my moving so far away from home.
It's long, but its worth the read. Truely. Grab a block of chocolate and settle in.


IT IS FALL HERE NOW, MY FAVORITE OF THE FOUR seasons. We get all four here, and they come at us under the doors, in through the windows. One morning you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out of the window to see clouds that mist out by midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness like God yawning.

September is perfect Oregon. The blocks line up like postcards and the rosebuds bloom into themselves like children at bedtime. And in Portland we are proud of our roses; year after year, we are proud of them. When they are done, we sit in the parks and read stories into the air, whispering the gardens to sleep.

I come here, to Palio Coffee, for the big windows. If I sit outside, the sun gets on my computer screen, so I come inside, to this same table, and sit alongside the giant panes of glass. And it is like a movie out there, like a big screen of green, and today there is a man in shepherd's clothes, a hippie, all dirty, with a downed bike in the circle lawn across the street. He is eating bread from the bakery and drinking from a metal camp cup. He is tapping the cup against his leg, sitting like a monk, all striped in fabric. I wonder if he is happy, his blanket strapped to the rack on his bike, his no home, his no job. I wonder if he has left it all because he hated it or because it hated him. It is true some do not do well with conventional life. They think outside things and can't make sense of following a line. They see no walls, only doors from open space to open space, and from open space, supposedly, to the mind of God, or at least this is what we hope for them, and what they hope for themselves.

I remember the sweet sensation of leaving, years ago, some ten now, leaving Texas for who knows where. I could not have known about this beautiful place, the Oregon I have come to love, this city of great people, this smell of coffee and these evergreens reaching up into a mist of sky, these sunsets spilling over the west hills to slide a red glow down the streets of my town.

And I could not have known then that if I had been born here, I would have left here, gone someplace south to deal with horses, to get on some open land where you can see tomorrow's storm brewing over a high desert. I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God's way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn't all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can't find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

HERE IS SOMETHING I FOUND TO BE TRUE: YOU DON'T start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I realized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be separate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:

I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time...

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street

I love the Dr Suess book - And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street. I was telling a friend about it the other day. In it, a father tells his child to be aware of what he sees throughout the day so that he can come home and tell his dad all about it. Some pretty amazing things happen in the book - and I had a few little inner laughs today as I explored some new streets of Zurich.

A lady dressed in red with a very large basket of strawberries.
I think she chose strawberries because they matched her outfit. And she ate them in the space of 15 minutes. From Zurich HB to about Kusnacht Goldbach.
I couldn't believe it. I was
wishing I was wearing red so that she might offer me one. Or two.
Then she unwrapped a beautiful box of chocolates. But she was just looking. She re-wrapped and put them back in her bag.
They wouldn't have matched her outfit.

A young punk with a musical instrument case on his back. A violin perhaps? I started to follow him as I had been searching for the Zurich Music Conservatorium. Just to have a look. I followed him for a few minutes - inconspicuously of course. He'd stop and turn around. And I would be engrossed with my watch.
Or oops! My shoelace needed tying.
Alas, he lead me to ... his motorbike. Not the Music Con.

A man in black - the national Swiss colour. He was wrapped up in so many layers, in fact it was hard to find him. I asked him if he knew where the train station was. He apologized - he didn't speak English. And then I apologized - I didn't speak German. So I put my hands in a questioning pose and asked for the bahnhoff. He then rattled off a big long list of directions - in German of course. After many wild gestures, I set off in the general direction. I think I need to take an express German course.

Peter Dinklage - only much taller. You know the actor who plays Trumpkin in Prince Caspian and the dwarf in Death at a Funeral? Today he was running really fast towards me. Except he was much much taller. And he was huffing and puffing and looking really angry.
Ok, so if it wasn't Peter Dinklage, then maybe this man needs to team up with him - so that he can play both short and tall characters.
I tried to tell him this as he shot past me, but he didn't seem to keen.
His loss.

Half a dozen little kids on little kiddy cars trying to cross the road. With only one adult. They all looked about 2. Apparently kids develop early in Switzerland. But seriously, I really wonder what they were doing. First one across is the winner??

Lots and lots of people at Brocki-Land. I felt somehow connected to them all. I walked in and instantly felt at home :) It seriously is the thrill of the hunt for me at second-hand stores. I love it. It was huge - I kept rounding corners and going down stairs to find aisles and aisles of stuff. So much stuff. I didn't really need anything but it was therapy just to look...
But of course, I couldn'
t leave empty handed.
I left Brocki-Land quite some time after I entered and when I left it was snowing. I need to
become more swiss and carry an umbrella. I've never carried an umbrella in my life!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wise Words From a Friend

I received a really encouraging email from a friend today - and it has been a good solid reminder.
The words in bold have been a big relief to me! I know it to be true and I think it was good just to see it written in plain English (and not German, or French, Swiss German or Spanish - another language I've been listening to all weekend!) :)

"...just remember about the seasons we go through,and be encouraged knowing that the season of adjustment can take all our energy and that's OK, because with time it will become second nature to do the things you are doing and the relationships you are now forming are moving day-by- day nearer to the next season."
My view this weekend has been just gorgeous - and almost overshadows the humiliation of the many skiing stack of the weekend!

(My view from the bathroom window!)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ah-mazing Snow

It was ah-mazing!

I woke up this morning and opened the shutters - to this.

I've never seen anything like it before. So pretty.

And then we hit the slopes.

Ah-mazing. Good powder makes such a difference when skiing. I even skiied for a while on a red run.
Pretty proud of myself.
I much more enjoyed the blue runs though - and I had to constantly remind myself to focus on skiing - and stop looking at the awesome view all around.

But then I would hear a 4-year-old's voice, "Come, Kylie, Come."
I think she was slightly frustrated with me - I am slowing her down and she has black runs to complete.

I was reminded all day long of an excerpt that I read recently from a blog I follow - http://donmilleris.com - by my current favourite author.

My favorite part of the conversation was when Tim talked about the beauty of life, how he leans toward a belief in something greater, something that gives life a greater meaning. And of how we need somebody to be grateful to when we see a sunrise or come over a ridge to see the ocean lapping toward us.
And just felt grateful all day long for this new, fresh and ah-mazing view that I got to be a part of today. Today I really felt this beauty of life, this something greater. Thanks Jesus!

Time for bed - I'm absolutely stuffed! And perhaps a tincy bit sore.
But I'll never admit it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Left to my own devices

Eeek. The time arrived and passed this evening. The out-going au pair has now out-gone and it is just me.
And we drove off into the snow to go to the holiday chalet for the weekend.
Me and them.
It was dark when we arrived and so I am yet to see the surroundings. But from all appearances it will be beautiful.
And I need to remind myself that relationships take time. Effort. And love.
And I'm really glad for Jesus' example. His relationships didn't happen overnight either. But he was with people and he loved them.

Time for sleep now - its late. And tomorrow I'll need every ounce of oompha I have in me to ski.
And humilty. I'll also need that tomorrow to ski :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ruby Tuesday

Last night we were exploring a few side alleys walkways on the outskirts of Zurich. (It's amazing - so much history everywhere. Tiny, skinny walkways are well-used thoroughfares and there are little hidden shops and cafes to be found.)
At one point my ears pricked up and I could hear some good acoustic guitar. And so we followed the sound until we found him in a corner.
He was in his own little world and singing a song that I can't quite remember. He had his face painted and was just playing away by himself.
It is the festival of Fasnacht here at the moment. I don't quite understand the full meaning but it literally means 'fasting eve.' It falls before the beginning of Lent, I think, and they traditionally 'let their hair down before they have to put it up (for Lent), so to speak.
I think.
Anyway, there have been some pretty weird and wonderful costumes and processions and crazy music happening around Zurich. *Side note: today I was stuck following a yak (I think it was a yak) who was wearing a red coat and a pretty dress and he was walking with his wife (or lady friend) who was dressed normally. Awkward. And then awkward later on when the same yak wanted to use the train ticket machine at the same time as me and I was trying to translate German and I was slow and trying to work out money and just awkward.


I went into all that because I assumed the guitar man had his face painted for Fasnacht.
When I first found him I had tears come to my eyes because his music was so beautiful. I don't think he was particularly musically talented, but somehow it was so beautiful.
The acoustics of the narrow but high passageway were amazing.

I mentioned to my friend (the out-going au pair) that I found it hard to take him seriously - with his face paint and wig. It was beautiful but bizarre.

And then he began to sing Ruby Tuesday.

We listened in silence and then she said that maybe his disguise was the reason he could play. Maybe it gave him the courage to put himself out there like he was.
Or maybe he was Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone who wrote the song.

And I've had Ruby Tuesday in my head most of the day. And it's been good to be reminded not to take people at face value, to judge by appearance.

This is rather relevant to me at the moment - for a time and place when everybody I meet is new to me. It's overwhelming. But I still need and want to make an effort with each one. Perhaps to even use my disguise of anonymity to give me the courage to put myself out there. And to treat people like Jesus did, as Donald Miller mentions in his book Blue Like Jazz (favourite quote of last year :))

"Jesus - didn't just love me out of principle...
I think I realized that if I walked up to His campfire, He would ask me to sit down, and He would ask me my story...He would look me directly in the eye, and He would speak to me;
He would tell me the truth,
and I would sense in his voice
and in the lines on his face

So thanks Mr. Anon Guitar Man, or Keith Richards - whoever you were. And not just for some really great music.

----And I've almost eaten an entire block of Lindt chocolate whilst writing this. Living with Swiss benefits eh? -----