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

Friday, October 30, 2009

WBSD: Burn, Böögg, Burn!

Wilkommen! Today I'm blogging as part of a World Blog Surf Day - a giant circle of crazy expats who choose to release their blogging powers into cyber space and allow some serious armchair travel.
More details at the end of the blog!

I want to share with you a celebration that is now very near and dear.

A year ago? Wasn't even on my radar. Now, I am hoping and wishing and praying and pleading that I will be around next year to experience it again.
The Burning of the Böögg. (Also known as Sechseläuten)
I don't care too much for the Böögg, so it's ok if he gets burnt.

Let me explain.

Somewhere back in April I had to come via the Zurich City on my way to a weekend away in the mountains. I was meeting friends briefly and I'd heard rumours of a giant snowman being burnt? What was that all about, anyway? But when I got off a very full train, I found myself in a crushing crowd of people.
I hate crowds of people.
Detest. Loathe. Abhor. Despise. Etc.

I couldn't understand the attraction. A big bonfire? A strange looking snowman thing made of wood and not snow?
Why were all these people here and where had they come from? There was so many.

The idea of the tradition if that they'll burn the snowman (false advertising - he is NOT made of snow), correctly know as the Böögg and depending on how long it takes for him to burn, depends on how good the summer will be.

I was skeptical.
At best.
It's just an opportunity to get out, party, and to eat and drink and be merry. Around a (albeit rather large) bonfire with NO marshmallows.

Go home, and let me through this crazy crowd.

Fast forward 6+ months.

I think I've been talked 'round. I've had a summer in Switzerland.
And it's been the most glorious, amazing, beautiful, glorious, spectacular, delightful, marvelous, splendiferous, and did I mention glorious, summer I have ever been a part of.

There is nothing like a sunny summer's day here in Switzerland - thousands of meters up, high on an Alp or two and being a part of such gloriousness.
Now I understand why everyone made such a fuss about Summer coming.
The Burning of the Böögg is now my absolute favourite holiday.

And next year? I will front of the crowd, throwing matches, and begging the Böögg to burn fast.

Oh Summer. How I loved thee. Who loved Summer? Hands up!

Thanks for being a part of the World Blogger Surf Day.
Next on the list is the World Wide Westfields and They too will be blogging on their favourite holiday/celebration.
But don't forget that the Burning of the Böögg is really the best :)

And the WBSD's events will be reported throughout the day on Twitter, by Karen of Empty Nest Expat - Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, "Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Secret Plan: Plan A

MLF3: (who turned 5 this week and is now old and wise. Happy Birthday MLF3!)
I like you so much.
You should not go back to Australia. You should stay here with us.

ME, Au Pair1:
I would like to. But my Papi said I must come home. And my Mami would miss me. (Correction: My Papi said not to marry over here and your Country will kick me out for overstaying my VISA.)
But! You can come back with me to Australia and live there.

MLF3: No. My Pap said I said must stay here and my Mami would miss me.
She was delighted that she could repeat my words and for them to make sense in her context. It dawned on me in this moment that she has been mimicking me and using sarcasm now. Uh oh. She has learnt that from me. Oops.

MLF3: I know! Your Mami, and your Papi and your sisters and your brother can come and live here.

ME: Here? In Switzerland?

MLF3: Yes. But ssshhhh. We shouldn't tell them.

So watch out, family for a dubious looking 5 year old who seems capable of masterminding something of a kidnapping attempt.
When you least expect it...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Big Fat Greek Holiday (9 Things You Should Know About My 9 Days in Paradise)

They said we were crazy. They said we'd never make it. A trip to Greece - outside of Season? But we came, we saw and we conquered - and had an amazing marvelous 9 days.
Zurich - Milan - Athens (will never fly cheap airline again, ugh) - Meteora (via Trikala) - Volos - Skopelos -Volos - Athens - Milan (will never fly cheap airline again, ugh) - Zurich.

I went with another aupair, Pei Wen, who has the ability to make me laugh so hard I was forever needing the loo. We spent the first day looking all around Athens, before heading to the Areopagus (Mars Hill - Paul preached from up here!) to watch the sun set over the Acropolis.

I'd heard rumours of a €2 Kebab. As in, a donor Kebab NOT skewered meat. Living in a world where I can only dream about affording a Kebab meant I rejoiced with anticipation.
And I was not disappointed. I've never seen such a work of art. It was like a bouquet - with hot chips!

At Meterora, I saw some of the most amazing man-made feats I have ever seen. Six monasteries built on these

It's hard to fathom. They date back to the 14th century, when there was more than twenty monasteries.
They're just sitting at the top of these huge pillars, I'm still speechless when I think about it.
Pei Wen and I were lucky enough to have a contact, now friend - Vasilis, in a little village near the Monasteries to stay with, and even more, to be a part of his family and friend's lives for a little while.
They cooked us fantastic food and we stayed at the family home outside of the village, in an even smaller village. I also saw the biggest vat of tomato sauce I have ever seen and we got to clean to vat afterwards (yum!)

As we were leaving, Vasilis' mother gave us both a Pomegranate. Vasilis told us later in the car that it was a special gift, a symbol of fertility.
Uh, thank you?

(Many seeds, am feeling especially fertile)

I met Rebecca the Brave. Rebecca the Brave with Pepper Spray. We happened to be staying at the same place one night. She told me about keeping the Spray at the top of her bag, at the ready if she felt wary. I didn't want to scare or wake her in the night!
But who knew Pepper Spray came in such a convenient little size?!
But she also told me good things, thoughtful things about being a guest in another's home and embracing the life of those around you - wherever you are. But more than telling, she showed me what it looked like. Her gentleness and grace really touched me and I'm glad to have crossed paths.

After visiting Athens and Meteora, we decided to head to the island of Skopelos. Everyone said not to go there, that the season was over and nothing would be open.
I was in search of beautiful beaches, warm weather and no other tourists.
We hit the jackpot.
None of the touristy shops were open, but that suited us 100%. We managed to find the sole car available for hire on the island and went in search of beauty. At night I came home needing to sleep. My eyes had seen too much beauty and needed rest.
I'm serious.

While we were there, might as well see the Mamma Mia film locations. I'm not one to waste an opportunity!
The best place? Agios Ioannis - (the wedding chapel used in the film). It was amazing. We got to visit many chapels on the Island but this one stood out from the rest. It's almost on it's own island, jutting out from the cliff - and there are more than 200 stairs to climb to the top.
I did this twice.
I'm a glutton for punishment.

(see that second rock jutting out? the chapel is on top of that!)

The second time we got up very early and made the trek there to watch the sunrise. It's even more difficult to climb the 200 steps in the dark!
It was more than worth it.

This is an attempt to 'time lapse' the photos I took of the sunrise into a video.

Unfortunately I got a bit sick - even the morning we climbed the steps I thought my glands might actually pop out of my neck (is this physically possible? and if not, why does it feel this way?) and so we headed the chemist. I'd heard on the grapevine that chemists here could give out antibiotics and so I went to plead my case.

Me: I think I need antibiotics. I heard that it was possible to get them from you. (I then proceeded to tell him my medical sorrows.)

Chemist: (cutting me off, glancing furtively around.) Where did you hear this?

Me: Um, just around. Can you?

Chemist: Perhaps. If you don't tell anyone. Hush hush, so to speak.

Me: Um, ok.

Chemist: But I don't know if you need antibiotics. Perhaps you should visit the doctor.

He made it sound so easy. The doctor was just around the corner and it shouldn't take too long.
I rounded the corner to the doctors and something about the long line snaking out the door told me the chemist never needed to visit the doctor, him being able to prescribe himself any medication. Not too long, indeed.

I spent some time playing charades with the other waiting patients as they wanted to discuss our ailments.

Several hours later I left. When the doctor told me I probably shouldn't leave my bed for the next couple of days, I realized that I probably shouldn't mention the 200+ stairs in the cold and wind that morning if I wanted to maintain any respect. I headed for the Chemist, armed with prescriptions that would set me back quite a few Euro.
Me: Can I please get these antibiotics.

Chemist: (glancing at my list) Oh, so you are sick. It's quite serious.

Me: Yes. Just hand over the pills and no one will get hurt.

I think this is why it cost so much. I should have been nicer.

When I fell in love with the beautiful Skopelos I increased with vigour my search for the perfect Greek man. One who would take pity on me and my obsession with beautiful beaches and stunning cliffs and make an honest woman out of me.
However, then I discovered the Pom Poms.
On the shoes.
And the silly dance with the Pom Poms on the shoes.
Nothing wrong with regular visits, me thinks.

An amazing, amazing trip. So glad we went. Happy happy Greek holidaying!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Royal Visit & A Plastic Silver Sword

I know I should be blogging about Greece. And Holland. Report of dream holiday is overdue. I know.
But I must admit the prospect of going through all those photos is daunting. And so I'm putting it off to the weekend. Somebody, make me do it on the weekend, please.
PS: Weekend, where are you? Why are you taking so long to get here?!

But in other news, I was picnic-ing at the Lindenhof (a beautiful park overlooking Zurich, and includes the oldest wall in Zurich) yesterday. Nicole and I were sitting on the wall, braving the cold weather (did I tell you it's winter here now? So rude!) and out of the corner of my eye I notice a man.
Nothing unusual.
Except that he's donning a cape/coat.
A red one with fur trim.
He's putting on a gold crown.
He's mumbling out over Zurich.
Maybe he's cold. Coat and Crown keeps you and your head warm.
He's taking out a plastic silver sword.
Holding it to the sky.
He's got a huge book. He's either got really bad eyesight and needs extra large print or he's stolen a prop from Snow White.
He's reading from the book, mumbling, waving the sword around.
The police drive by. Surely, I think, they must think this odd.
They slowly drive by, bemused looks on their faces.
Arrest him! I want to scream at them. Lock him away!
But they do nothing.
What if he's casting a spell over Zurich?
Perhaps winter will disappear. Please stay, strange kingly man. Bring summer back.
But then he closes the book and and puts it in a shopping bag.
The sword, crown and cape/coat soon follow.
Soon he is a normal man again.
A normal man surrounded by shopping bags at the oldest wall in Zurich.
I wait for winter to melt away and summer to return.
I give him the benefit of the doubt. These things take time.
Still, nothing.
Arrest him! I want to scream. Lock him away!
But now he's just a normal man.
A normal man with a plastic silver sword poking out the top of his shopping bag.

*I managed to take a photo of the strange kingly man. I needed it to prove my story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

To Holland, With Love

Dear Holland,
Ready or not, here I come.
Dutch windmills, licorice, canals, and bikes, here I come.
Please don't rain.
Please don't let me fall off a bike into a canal.
Love Kylie

Friday, October 2, 2009

'Sup Girlfren?

On the way to school yesterday morning, MLF3 narrowly missed stepping in some, ah, doggy doo. This is not normal - we are in Switzerland after all. It is the world's cleanest country (also home of the most expensive Big Mac in the world, but that's another story).

But then she spent the rest of the trip explaining to me how on our walks to and from school, she would look out for me, and I should look out for her, and then neither of us would step in anything.
I think she wanted to say Sisterhood, but she just didn't know it in English. Then we could say things like, 'Sup, Girlfren' to each other.

Needless to say, we didn't find any more doggy doo on our trip but as we neared school she cried, Achtung!

Whew - nearly stepped on a cigarette butt. Close call.

{Same little friend also spent 10 minutes last night trying to sound out YMCA.}