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Kristi
The Boy, 2 Muttleys and I have finally realized our dream of living 1 mile from the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Leaving Atlanta (the World of Coke) for Zurich (the World of Chocolate) hasn't come without challenges, incredible fun or giggles. Follow along as I chronicle our adventures as we acclimate to this new Swiss lifestyle.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nice Choppers

Some women have nice boobs. I have nice teeth.  Some women receive compliments of "nice rack!". I get "nice incisors!".  I have never had a cavity and the only dental procedure I had was the removal of my wisdom teeth.  Since the laughing gas only succeeded in putting my legs to sleep, I vowed to never shirk my preventative care responsibilities and risk another painful procedure. This preventative care included a teeth cleaning every six months and I never missed an appointment.  Why am I sharing this with you?  Last week I had my first cleaning in two years and I feel so ashamed...so dirty.

I am 15 months into my experience abroad, have a rudimentary knowledge of the German language and yet accomplishing simple tasks can still at times seem so hard. Never in a million years would I have waited two years to get my teeth cleaned back in the States.  I found my dentist and slightly crazy hygienist through word of mouth. As a result of receiving a recommendation, I knew my experience was going to be a good one.

Here word of mouth isn't a common practice and recommendations for doctors, dentists or dry cleaners that won't rape you of your last rappen, are sometimes difficult to come by. People tend to go to the closest doctor, dentist or clothing chemist. There is also a belief in Swiss culture that there is quality in every good or service therefore you aren't necessarily risking anything by choosing a doctor, dentist or dry cleaner using proximity as your guide.  For an American like myself, quality in goods and services varied greatly and if you chose a dentist down the street, you could very well end up with the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

So you are probably chomping at the bit to find out of my experience was a good one.  It was incredible and not because I am still cavity free, but because I am now officially 1 degree from Roger Federer.  My new hygienist cleaned his teeth this year. She was in his mouth!!!  Nadal can't even say he has gotten that close to Roger. There is even a good chance I have Roger DNA somewhere on my person.  Do you think shining a black light on my body would uncover some Roger DNA? All I need is a good recommendation for a black light.  Anyone have one?
Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'll Take my Nuts Extra Roasted Please

Heisse Maroni, aka "Hot Chestnuts", aka "Roasted Chestnuts" have become an obligatory subject on many a Swiss Expat Blog.  It is such a polarizing topic because you either love them or hate them. If you are an Expat and actually love them, then you may be accused of being one of those Expats who loves Switzerland so much that they blindly love anything it has to offer.

I had a lot of Heisse Maroni Angst last year because most people I knew who tried them for the first time, hated them.  They complained of weird texture and lack of taste.  It was because of these common complaints that I decided to pass by the cute wooden houses billowing smoke without offering up a glance, let alone buying a sack.

During the Spring of 2010, I focused my energy on working up the courage to try them as soon as they were available this Fall.  I am happy to report that not only did I try a hot sack of roasted chestnuts, I also loved them.  Strike that...I am PROUD to report that I loved them. Whoah...that was cathartic.  Admitting liking something that may make people gasp in horror has a way of liberating you.  And to all you naysayers out there, YES, I love Switzerland but I don't blindly love everything about it here.

I do have to admit, I can see their consistency being an issue for many.  They are sort of in between mushy and firm.  I also admit that I prefer the ones that have roasted the longest.  The extra smoky flavor really pushes the right buttons.  If you are like I once was and have "Heisse Maroni Angst", then it likely occupies all of your thoughts. I am afraid the only cure is to try one of these hot nuts.  Love them or hate them, at least you can go on living.      
Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Pizza Resistance

When I learned the Boy would not be with me for my birthday, my first reaction was self-pity.  It was short-lived however as I was determined...DETERMINED...to have a great birthday.  Instead of  being the solo guest to my pity party, I decided to throw one.  Jupiter and Mars must have been aligned because most of my friends could make it and all who attended, much to my upstairs neighbor's dismay, were ready to party with vengeance. It was a great time and I felt pretty loved.

The day after my party, the Boy returned from his business trip and surprised me with a gift that combined the two things I am currently obsessed with - David Sedaris and squirrels:

Squirrels  +  Sedaris is my Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - Two great tastes that go great together

The following Thursday was my birthday dinner with the Boy and it also happened to be Turkey Day.  Turkey Day is hands down my favorite holiday because it involves my favorite things - eating until a button on my "fat pants" ceremoniously pops off with a ping, belly rubs, football, loved ones, more belly rubs and a few cocktails consisting of my friend Barley and my other friend Hops.  It came as no surprise that I was a little sad this evening, but I put my game face on and was determined to have fun.

We decided on an Indian restaurant in Old Town and as I was chomping on my Samosa, I got to thinking that I have had one of the best birthdays ever. After I took my last bite of the crispy, deep-fried triangle of goodness, the Boy suddenly blurted out "I haven't been quite honest with you".  I just stared back and the first thing that came to my mind was - we didn't have to order the Samosas...that's the great thing about Indian food.  They have so many options which really promotes compromise. He then went on to explain that we weren't doing this and weren't doing that the coming weekend.  Following his nonsensical explanation as to why were weren't going to the Pfaffikon Casino Saturday night, he dug into my bag (which he so gentlemanly offered to carry from home) and pulled out a booklet.

This my friends was a Booklet of Love. Designed by the Boy, the Booklet of Love detailed a surprise trip to Lyon, France and our train was departing the next morning.  My jaw dropped and a little 'mosa fell from my mouth. The booklet was divided into sections with cute little markers detailing different portions of our trip.  As I was going through the booklet, I was letting out all sorts of noises and gasps and "awwwws". The kind of "awwwws" that start at one decibel and end at one significantly higher.  I am sure the diners around us thought we were getting engaged and then they spotted my crows feet.  What could possible top going to Paul Bocuse's restaurant L' Auberge du Pont de Collognes?  Homeboy was the grandfather of Nouvelle Cuisine. Then I got to the section marked with music notes and what I saw next didn't quite register at first. I knew I was staring at tickets but it took about 10 seconds before I saw the words "ARCADE FIRE".  I subsequently yelled out "OH MY GOD!" and totally started bawling in my Biryani.  I was in complete shock and this part of the birthday gift was the Pizza Resistance (or Piece de resistance for you Frenchies out there) to an already amazing two week celebration of ME.



Going to Lyon for the first time was also a great experience in itself.  Although we had drab weather, it was great wandering around their old town and walking along the Saone River.


How cute is this freaking Gargoyle?  I swear he was flirting with this guy:


Mr. Squirrel was too busy with his nuts to respond to cute Gargoyle's advances.  I have a feeling since he has been here since 1684, Mr. Cute Gargoyle has plenty of time to woo Mr. Squirrel.



Um, who doesn't?  



The Boy totally outdid himself and unfortunately for him, set the bar pretty high for next year.  I am thinking tea with Johnny Depp might be a nice follow up.
Friday, December 3, 2010

Video Didn't Kill This Radio Star

Guess what?  I know what you are thinking...Chicken Butt! Nope, something better than a chicken's butt.  I was on the radio last night!  So you wanna know why?  Chicken Thigh!  Sorry, I am so overcome by the emotion of having 3 minutes of radio fame that I am reverting back to my childhood when I thought "chicken parts rhyming with body parts" jokes were funny (um, and still do).  Anywho, I was invited to join a show called The Connectors - a weekly radio show focusing on everything Expat and is broadcast from Geneva, Switzerland.  I was asked to talk about my blog and why I blog.  It was also my golden opportunity to say "evolve" one too many times.  Check it out if you have a few minutes to kill.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zurich - A Sociologist's Wet Dream

Today has been one of those days where I have felt pushed too far - literally and figuratively.  It all started when I boarded the bus this morning.  On my bus there are two types of seat designs, seats of four where two seats face two seats and the other design consisting of two seats next to each other.  I chose to sit in a group of four seats and sat diagonal from an older woman.  The bus started to fill and I moved over to sit directly across from the older woman so I could free up a seat for someone boarding. The older woman didn't budge and literally sat in her seat like she was lounging comfortably in a Lazy Boy recliner.  All she was missing was a built in cup holder and a bag of smoked almonds. Her lounging style meant I was scrunched up against the bus window with my feet and legs having little place to go.  I looked like a 36 year old fetus.  When I gave her the "Really?" look, she just stared straight ahead and gave me the "F You, winner winner chicken dinner" look.

My destination this morning was the gym and once I disembarked the bus, with moderate to severe cramping, I hobbled to the nearest tram stop for the next leg of my trip. My tram had arrived and what happened next happens EVERY time I board a tram in the city.  Flocks of older people come from nowhere and storm the door, trying to get on before any passenger has the chance to get off.  It is shocking, annoying and funny all at the same time.  This morning was no different except this time I was hellbent on getting on when it was my turn.  Cue an old lady in a fur coat, which seemed to have come from a grizzly bear, who cut in front of me and saw out of the corner of her eye that I wasn't having any of that.  She then proceeded to stick out her elbow. This time I actually said "Are you kidding me?" but she just scurried on the tram without a moment's hesitation.

These two events really ticked me off but they also got me thinking.  If I had a gun pointed at my head and was forced to divulge which group of people had the highest "asshole quotient" in Zurich, I would say the older generation.  More specifically, women aged 70 and over.  Before you start brandishing me as an Ageist, hear me out. I started thinking, why in the world are these older women so rude?  Why must they push and shove and cut in line and give you dirty looks when boarding public transportation?  Why aren't the Swiss women more of a domineering presence in the international basketball arena? Because these beeyatches can box the hell out.

The Boy and I discussed a few possibilities last weekend.  I even posed the "maybe it is because they are the descendants of world wars...they always had to fight for what they had and perhaps it has manifested in their everyday life".  But the Swiss have seen little, if any war.  I am sure they have seen the effects trickle into their society over the years and there have certainly been times of famine or hardship.  All cultures have experienced bad times.  Then I saw something on the tram that made this hypothesis null.  An elderly woman who was fitted with a cane was having a hard time boarding the tram.  A younger woman turned around and smiled at her but proceeded to board the tram in front of her.  When I saw her turn around and smile at this incapacitated woman, I thought for sure she was about to give her a helping hand.  Instead, it was more important for the younger woman to board the tram vs help this struggling woman.  I then witnessed the same older woman get off the tram and again, no one helped her.

Independence is fiercely revered in Switzerland and it is taught at a very young age. While it is adorable to see little 4 year old kids hold hands and go to school without adult supervision, it is more a lesson in self reliance being taught.  Swiss independence is something to be admired and yet I can't help but think it comes at the expense of compassion and manners.  Perhaps by the time these women have reached their 70's, they are so fiercely independent and so used to not being helped, that they could give a rat's ass if they cut some young whippersnapper in line.

The Boy and I have heard more than once that us Americans rely too heavily on others and that we are "too nice" allowing ourselves to get pushed over.  By no means do I think Americans have cornered the market on how to treat people but I do always come away from a visit to the US thinking "God, everyone is SO nice!".  For the longest time, I thought a lot of the negative experiences I have had here were the result of not knowing the language but all of the examples above required no conversation at all.  I was satisfied with my new hypothesis, the Swiss are fiercely independent...at all costs.

On the bus ride home, as I was patting myself on the back for figuring old Swiss women and the Swiss in general out, I witnessed a young boy and his mother eating lunch.  The young boy was eating a banana and a portion of it fell to the ground.  I thought to myself, surely this boy will pick up the banana that just fell to the ground...nope.  Then I thought, surely his mother will tell him to pick up what he had just dropped...nope...and quit calling me Shirley!  Argh, back to the "try to figure the Swiss out" drawing board because not picking up 5 inches of banana has absolutely nothing to do with independence.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tales from the ATL

Dirty Old Men on the Plane -  I am not a "chatter" and I especially don't like to chat when I am on a plane.  I want to sort of sit back, sort of relax, sort of sleep and choke down the awful food they give us peons in coach. On a recent flight from Zurich to Atlanta, I was a bit unlucky.

My neighbor was a 60 year old Swiss man who seemed harmless enough.  We spoke for about an hour and a half about our respective trips and families.  He became progressively more chatty as he guzzled down 3 "Thirsty Man" sized glasses of wine. Then dinner was served and afterwards I took about a two hour nap. I was tired from all the forced chit-chat.

When I woke up, I noticed his movements were a bit slower and could tell he was drunk.  He of course wanted to talk again and introduced me to a brand new Swiss dialect - a mix of German and English words, with a sprinkle of the hiccups and a side of slur.  I had to really focus and listen intently as he was speaking Swisserbish so imagine my surprise when he suddenly said the following in perfectly clear English: "Do you want company at your cabin?  I am serious, I will borrow my brother's car and join you for a couple of days.  I promise I will sleep in the car in your driveway".

At this very moment I wished there were snakes on the plane instead of a dirty old man.  I would have happily shared my space with a 20 foot hungry Anaconda vs. a slurring, hiccuping, 60 year old horny toad of a man.  As I tried desperately to come up with a reply that didn't consist of a slap, a call button, a shriek, a spew; another 60 something year old man came to the rescue  - Captain John "Hannibal" Smith.  The movie the "A-Team" had just popped up on the overhead screens and I replied "Um...thanks but no thanks.  LOOK! The A-Team is playing!  I love me some B.A. Baracus".  I turned to the screen, inserted the painful complimentary ear-buds from Delta and was more thankful than you can imagine that an ill-advised remake of the A-Team came to fruition.

Moonshine Mountain - The one place from my old home that sort of reminds me of my new home, is our cabin in Blue Ridge, GA on Moonshine Mountain Road.

Here we sort of have mountains:


And we have low lying cloud cover:


And we have rivers:


And we have beautiful blue skies and lakes and fresh air...SQUIRREL!


Sorry about that.  Those little buggers are just so gosh darned cute and whenever I see one, I can't help but stop what I am doing to admire their twitchy tails and over-the-top fear of everything that isn't a nut.  OK, back to what Blue Ridge and Switzerland shares in common...wait, what the fudge?


I have seen some pretty awful truck art in my day, with Truck Nutz being the most vile, but this was too much.  Then I saw whose truck it was and things became decidedly more clear:


Apparently for Picky Ron there is no separation between God and job. Picky Ron trusts two things to help him cut your lawn: God and a motorcycle-lawnmower contraption. I have to say, as God is my witness, a two wheel motorcycle-lawnmower can trim a pretty tight hedge.     

I Need a Guitar Hero - The morning of the big surprise, the one that was going to consist of me jumping out of something, preferably a closet, to scare the crap out of my brother in celebration of his 40th birthday, the whole reason why I was in Atlanta, I found out some bad news.  My brother already knew I was in town.  It sort of went down like this:

Setting: adorable pre-teen niece enters room.  Also in room are my brother and sister-in-law. 

Pre-teen niece asks "So where is Kristi sleeping?" 

Quick on her feet sister-in-law responds "You mean Chrissy???"

Focused and determined pre-teen niece replies "Noooooo, Kristi!"

Awesome sister-in-law who is getting more desperate by the second answers "You mean CHRISSY???" 

Quite stubborn yet still adorable pre-teen niece wails "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO....KRISTI!"

And the jig was up.  I remember being a pre-teen and I remember worrying that I may lose my bedroom to a visitor for a couple days.  I can't really blame her but I was admittedly disappointed that I couldn't surprise (scare the crap) out of my brother.  I needed a little pick me up...I needed a Guitar Hero.

My brother gets a little obsessed with video games and his newest obsession during my visit was with Guitar Hero.  Watching my 40 year old brother play a plastic guitar with plastic buttons, while bobbing his head and smacking his lips, was the perfect pick-me-up. He really believed he was playing the guitar and he really believed he was a hero.  At that moment in time he was also my hero.  He was proof that even though we get older every single day, you can act progressively younger to compensate for it.  Who needs Botox when you have Guitar Hero?       

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Poo Bandit

Whatever this animal is eating is also beyond fiber
The exterior of our apartment building is being terrorized.  We are under siege by a berry eating animal which has seriously upped its daily fiber intake.  If you have ever upped your fiber intake, then you are well aware of its consequences.  At first it was evident that the berries were a new addition to this animal's diet.  It was benign enough and appeared to only be a passing occurrence.  As of yesterday evening, it just got personal and this animal just got more regular.

Technically we aren't allowed to take Pedro and Dooley to the apartment grounds to do their bidness.  After a late night run-in at a nearby park with some teenager hopped up on something (maybe the same berries the poo bandit eats), our adherence to this rule abruptly changed. Last night as I opened the main door to our apartment building to let the Dudes out, I noticed Dooley slowed down and started sniffing.  I then caught a whiff of something unpleasant.  I looked down and noticed to the left of the door was a pile of poo.  On its own, seeing a pile of poo just outside your apartment's main entrance is shocking. There was something even more sinister about it though: what the neighbors must think.

Why do I care what the neighbors think about a random pile of poo?  Well, we are the ONLY people in the building with dogs.  They have probably all witnessed Dooley at some point smell his own pee after he peed and they have certainly witnessed Dooley dart over to Pedro to smell his pee after he peed.  He sort of reminds you of the kid that eats the Playdough after sculpting it into some sort of hot mess.  Wouldn't it be logical then for them to assume my Playdough eating child is capable of pooing by the door?

More unsettling than that thought is what they must think of us.  Are we the type of owners that allow our dogs to poo by doors?  Are we the type of owners who don't pick up the poo that is pooed by the door?  I had to take matters into my own hands...literally.  I don't particularly like picking up my own dog's poo, but they are my kids and I do it almost happily.  The thought of cleaning up a random animal's poo was horrifying but the consequence of not picking it up was even more horrifying.  I bet the animal responsible sat in some berry bush snickering as I did the deed and probably thinks it owns me.  If I ever catch this animal in the act, we will have words.

After the clean up, I returned to my apartment and slid down the living room wall ending in the fetal position.  I cried a little and second guessed my actions.  If a neighbor sees the poo was cleaned up, is that a greater admission of Dooley or Pedro's guilt?  How do I break free of these poo chains?  Then Dooley ambled over to me and planted a big wet one on my salty cheek.  It was then that I decided that I only knew one thing for certain - the Poo Bandit will most certainly strike again and I will continue to protect my, the Boy's and the Dude's good names.
Thursday, November 4, 2010

Schmolitics

I first want to preface what I am about to say with the following: I want the United States to succeed and I am proud to be an American.

The Boy and I have been relatively unexposed to the political shenanigans that have been going down during the Mid-term elections.  We get most of our news from The Daily Show which is somewhat informative but frustrating at the same time.  I am of the opinion that Jon Stewart likes to hear himself talk and is incapable of framing and asking a question in under 30 seconds.  This leaves the viewer knowing little more about the guest and subject matter after the interview ends.  Because Jon Stewart fancies himself an intellectual, it is hard to discern if the show is still a "fake" news program or a real one.

Even with its negative aspects, The Daily Show has made us privy to tea parties and witches and Kanye West's take on the state of the union.  It is enough for me to realize that I do NOT miss American politics.  I feel fortunate that I am not barraged by the media or drawn into heated debates with friends.  I suppose I should care, but I am comfortably removed from the situation and I got to say, I like it.  I know that things are really rough right now for my fellow compatriots but I am so removed physically and emotionally that it is hard to truly sympathize.  I liken it to the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon that many relationships experience and isn't the link between man and country essentially a relationship?

So after I admitted to myself that I was comfortable with my ambivalence, I had to ask myself: Am I bad American?  Then I thought about vacations.  People take vacations from their kids, their work, their "real lives".  If people can enjoy a hiatus from children that they love and jobs that they need to survive economically, does that make them bad people?  Of course it doesn't.

While you are on vacation, someone is caring for your kids and filling in for you at work.  I am trusting my fellow compatriots to do the same while I am gone...
Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Passport Photo - Avoid Irreversible Damage to your Psyche

Last August while preparing for our move to Zurich, the Boy and I had passport photos taken after our friend Art of Geneva suggested they may be cheaper than having them taken in Switzerland. We needed photos for our visas before our departure anyhow and we knew additional photos would come in handy after our arrival, so we each had 4 taken.  We were about to start the adventure of our lives and we were pretty geeked up, so we both decided it would be a good idea to smile in our photos.  The results were quite epic as we resembled the grandparents from Weird Science.

A few days before our planned departure, we had to pick up our temporary visas from the Swiss Embassy in Atlanta.  We had all of the proper documentation and the last thing they asked for were our photos.  We handed them over in the same celebratory fashion that a catholic priest issues communion.  As the Swiss Window Lady took our photos, the Boy and I shared a knowing glance which went sort of like this: "we just blew her mind with our photos...yeah we did...eye high-five!". Then suddenly our secret eye conversation was interrupted with the following:

Swiss Window Lady Who Makes Decisions with People's Lives: "Um, these won't work"

Remicks: "Wait...whuh?"

Swiss Window Lady who Crushes Souls: "Nope, you are smiling in these pictures. You can't smile or show teeth"

Remicks: "What do you mean?"

Swiss Window Lady who Spits Souls Out after Crushing them: "What do you mean "What do you mean?""

Remicks: "So these won't work?"

Swiss Window Lady then stood silent, pausing to mull over what she does for a living.  She can't fathom answering the same questions, from one more dumbfounded American, over insane photo rules, for one more minute.  She contemplates whipping out the gun made of chocolate she keeps in a drawer under her desk and shoving it in her mouth in an act of protest, but then comes back down to earth and responds: "No, you must have photos without smiles or teeth. Those are the rules. Sorry. Please come back with the correct photos or we cannot process your visa"

We left knowing what we had to do.  Find the closest UPS Store to take the frowniest, non-toothiest photo ever:

Eat your heart out Randy and Evi Quaid.  We look more extraditable than you.

The UPS Store Lady handed them over while wincing. She probably expected us to either ask for a re-shoot or demand all the money in the store. The Boy and I exclaimed "Perfect!  We look horrible and terrifying...great work UPS Store Lady".  We all high-fived and then high-tailed it back to the embassy.

At this point, we had taken 8 smiley photos and 8 horrifying photos.  This set us back just under $50 but we figured "meh...it has to be double in Switzerland".  The horrifying photos were sufficiently horrifying for the Swiss Window Lady and a few days later we had our temporary visas.  Not only that, we each had 3 horrifying photos leftover for our residence cards, transportation cards and drivers licenses.  We were set!

We landed in Zurich on August 19th, 2009.  It was 90 degrees outside and we had been on a plane for 10+ hours.  As a result we looked utterly disgraceful but we were in our new home which gave us energy for the day ahead.  Our relocation agent was to take us to get our residence paperwork processed which required horrifying passport photos.  We were so confident in their horribleness that what happened next was almost too much to bare:

Swiss Desk Lady: "I need 2 photos please"

Remicks: "You need two horrifying photos?"

Swiss Desk Lady: "Yes, two"

Remicks: "Ok...check these bad boys out!"

Swiss Desk Lady: "These won't work"

Remicks: "What do you mean these won't work?"

Swiss Desk Lady: "What do you mean "What do you mean?""

Remicks: "But we aren't smiling...look, no teeth!  Oh and we look absolutely horrifying.  That's good, right?"

Swiss Desk Lady then points to the wall behind us.  On the wall is a guide detailing photo rules and upon first glance, it looked like a physics equation.  From your head to the top of the photo must be 5mm of space.  There appeared to be a margin of error of 1mm.  Our horrifying photos had no space between our heads and the top of the photos therefore they didn't meet the most basic of the many photo rules.

In addition to the spacing rules, there were rules such as these:

1. Do NOT raise the roof in your photo


2. Do NOT wear any hats, specifically your "Thirst Aid Beer Can Hat"


3. While a non-smiling photo of yourself will certainly look horrifying, please do not go out of your way to look menacing


4. Vampires are strictly forbidden from entering Switzerland


Our relocation agent proceeded to take us to the nearest train station to take new photos.  At the station were special photo kiosks designed to take photos that met Swiss photo guidelines and for 8 Francs, you received four. Three trips for passport photos and approximately $70 later, we learned the following:

1. Passport or ID photos are cheaper in Switzerland than the US, about 4:1.

2. You cannot smile or show teeth in your photo.

3. The Swiss are really afraid of Vampires.

4. Your hair must be away from your face in your photo.

5. There must be 5mm of space between your head and the top of the photo.

If you are reading this and thinking about moving to Switzerland, hopefully I saved you some mental anguish.  I remember snapping my 24 passport photos as if it were yesterday and hope I prevented the same thing from happening to you.

Moving to Switzerland and need to save money so you can afford a kajillion passport photos?  Getting a Swiss Calling Card is a great place to start.
Thursday, October 28, 2010

8 Is NOT Enough

I know, I appear to be obsessed with the fact that I am a child of the 80's, but I am strangely proud of my generation's music and television.  When the Boy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary, we shared a toast where he proudly and cutely declared that "8 years isn't enough".  If you don't know the television show "8 Is Enough", then A. You don't get his toast  B. You are sadly unaware of the Bradfords, a family consisting of 8 children that brought feathered hair to a whole new level and C. You aren't privy to the magic of 1980's TV and its impact on my marriage.

In celebration of our anniversary, the Boy took the day off from work and I took the day off from being, well...me.  We hopped a train for Lugano, a city located in Switzerland's Italian region of Ticino.  We figured it had to be warmer than Zurich (which it was) and it had to have better pizza than Zurich (which it did).  It even had these donut thingies stuffed with marinara and mozzarella cheese.  I forget the name of the donut thingies but I am pretty sure it ended in a "la" and made me go "mmmm...donuts with cheese".

We strolled the shores of Lake Lugano and allowed the sun to blind us with its science:


After sufficiently burning our retinas while taking the photos above, we decided to further test our love by hiking the Monte San Salvatore - a 2,992 foot mountain located to the right of Lugano facing away from town.  The hike was pretty brutal for us both but more intense for the Boy since he was carrying his laptop and 10 pounds of German homework in his backpack.  It was worth a little pain to see the following views:




We were pretty limited with our time and didn't do a proper job of touring the city itself.  Not only is 8 years not enough for the Boy and I, 1 day wasn't enough for Lugano.  We will be back you little Italian nugget of pretty!



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hang 10 DUDES - Surfing the Eisbach

Going to Oktoberfest reminded me of being at a convention - I was in a different city, there for a specific reason, and had little time to do much else than what I was there specifically for. With the free time we did have while in Munich, the Boy and I checked out the Englischer Garten.  It is Munich's main green space and to give you an idea of how large it is, it is bigger than NYC's Central Park.  How bout them big apples...

Gardens are great for ambling about and we ambled.  After we got bored ambling, we decided to find the famous surfer dudes who surf a standing wave located on the Eisbach river - a man-made river that runs through the garden and feeds the Isar River. If you aren't familiar with a "standing wave", it is a wave that remains in a constant position. What was particularly freaky about this "standing wave" is how it was created.  Underneath the water appears to be giant cement steps.  The varying heights of the steps and the fact they never move, results in a wave that remains constant and the perfect setting for mini-surfing. Mini-surfing on standing waves with cement a few feet underneath makes for quite the dangerous hobby. If you have a hankering to try this out, just know that there is a sign which states "only experienced surfers are allowed to surf here".  This is obviously an adequate preventative measure for dumbassery.


Can anyone spot Owen Wilson's stunt double?  Guy on the far left looks like he should be guarding a castle tower circa 1461.  


This guy was talented.  As he surfed, he also made dog hand animals for all the children looking on. I thought that was a lovely gesture and he was quite the crowd pleaser.


I call this photo "I Pray For You All and Hope I can Get this Chick's Number because Praying is Hot"


"Oh shit, I think I left the iron on..."

I know you all want to see the real deal so here is a video of these crazy peeps. These guys were totally rad, wicked, dope and any other word used to describe people who like to cheat death for the fun of it:


Friday, October 15, 2010

In Heaven There is No Beer...

That's why we drink it here...

"Here" being the Hofbrau Haus Tent in Munich

and when we're gone from here...


all our friends will be drinking all our beer...

We can't have that!

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit...der Gemuetlichkeit!  Ein Prosit, Ein Proooosit, der Gemuetlichkeit...



Ein, Zwei, Drei, Peas and Carrots...zigga zagga zigga zagga OYE OYE OYE! 

Why thank you Mr. Wall

My Grandfather taught me three things:

1. The above drinking song
2. A passion for cured meats
3. Alligators live in basements (even in Western New York where they aren't indigenous)

Our recent trip to Oktoberfest fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine to sing this song with 10,000+ drunk people, all of which appreciate and celebrate it as much as I do.  For me, it symbolizes a family tradition and while at first glance it may have seemed irresponsible of my Grandfather to teach his Grandchildren a beer song before they could walk in a straight line, it was one of the few traditions we had...and I loved it. Little did we know that learning to sing it while walking in an infant-like diagonal was childhood imitating adulthood.

Minus the insane crowds, the grabby guys and piles of spew, Oktoberfest was the biggest and baddest (bad as in good) party I have ever been to.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amsterdam - 7ish Years Later

My first trip to Europe was in March of 2003 and included the cities of Bar-tha-lona, Paris and Amsterdam.  I was a rookie traveler and relied upon the rumors that Amsterdam was nothing more than a drug paradise with crappy food.  This of course begged the question "what the hell do people do there when they get the munchies?".

I quickly learned that Amsterdam was much more than what it is infamously known for and upon my return home, I promised myself to never rely upon rumors and to always do my due diligence when planning a trip.  When I learned the Boy and I would return, I was curious to find out what a 30 something year old's perspective would be in comparison to a 20 something year old's.  As you will see, age and a shift in one's priorities can influence an experience.

Amsterdam's Beauty



20 something's perspective: Wow, Amsterdam is pretty...hiccup...oh look, a coffee shop we haven't tried yet.

30 something's perspective: Wow, I think I could live here.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful city I have been to in Europe, especially at night.  Then a gust of wind not only interrupts that thought, but also my desire to live there.  Think of standard European weather with the addition of gale force winds.

Amsterdam's Bike Culture







20 something's perspective: How do they ride their bikes here when they are high?

30 something's perspective: How do they ride their bikes here when they are sober? (I LOVE how bikes are so prevalent in Amsterdam but I have to admit that it looks like a scary place to ride one...but I am a wimp, so there.)

Amsterdam's Museum and Art Scene


20 something's perspective: The Anne Frank House is the most amazing museum ever.

30 something's perspective: The Anne Frank House is the most amazing museum ever.


20 something's perspective: Wow...there are lots of museums filled with Dutch art that makes me want to stab myself.  Let's go get high.

30 something's perspective: Let's try something a bit more modern and light this time. There are only so many Dutch self portraits with black backgrounds I can take (they also wore a lot of black clothing back in the 15th Century, making everything seem, well...even more black).  


Our 30 something's need for some art circa 1980 paid off as the Boy's and my name will forever be inscribed on the wall of Amsterdam's newly refurbished Stedelijk Modern Art Museum. Can you pick out our names?  Can you guess how the locations were picked?

Amsterdam's Food

20 something's perspective:  I heard the food sucks in Amsterdam, therefore it must suck.  Minus accidentally finding an amazing vegetarian cafe, it did suck.

30 something's perspective:  There has GOT to be good food in Amsterdam.  Let's do a little research and ask around, shall we?  The Boy found a great food blog called Dutch Grub and it was spot on for all of its recommendations.  In addition we asked our friend Deb for suggestions as she just returned from a trip in May.  The food we had was outstanding and Amsterdam has either improved their food scene, or it always existed and I was too lazy to discover it back in 2003. I was a little bummed that I no longer smoked the Pot because the munchies would have been conquered on this trip by the likes of this nugget:


What you are seeing is NOT a pizza.  Again, this is NOT pizza!  This is a dutch pancake with inlaid bacon and covered in syrup.  I about died and went to heaven after this tasty treat.  I still dream about it in fact.  

So I am not going to compare the 20 something and 30 something perspectives on coffee shops.  The Boy and I were lame this time around.  Nothing high-larious to report.  I love Amsterdam and look forward to another visit from yet another perspective.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just Plain Nasty

I had every intention of blogging about our recent travels to The Netherlands or the insanity also known as Oktoberfest in Munich.  I got derailed from writing about the fun stuff because I have that all too familiar sore throat and heaviness in my nasal cavity.  People, I am getting sick and you want to know freaking why?  Because the coughing season has commenced in this town.  Everywhere you go someone is coughing up God knows what and the whole city is taking on an ominous fluorescent green glow from all the bacteria and viruses floating about.  There are different types of "coughers" and I thought I would list them for your reading displeasure:

1. The Hack - This implies that this cougher is an underachiever.  Quite the contrary I am afraid.  This is the person who coughs 365 days a year due to a nicotine habit that would make Joe Camel blush and Philip Morris want to sue themselves.  While you can hear this person bruise a lung any day of the year, they still add to the total amount of coughing that you must listen to during the coughing season and make you wish you packed a gas mask.

2. The "How Are You Even Alive?" - And secondly, why aren't you home in bed? This person is dressed professionally and maybe even put on a little make-up, but no amount of make-up or polyester will hide the fact that they are infected. I sort of get it...I have felt "calling in sick" guilt and once upon a time I had deadlines to make too. Think about logically though.  If you come into work and make others sick, you end up costing the company more in the long run.  Stay at home. You aren't that important.

3. The No Hand in Sight - I hate this guy.  This is the person that doesn't even bother covering their mouth.  They look capable enough - no noticeable muscle atrophy or lack of coordination in their upper torso.  They just don't bother which makes you want to meet their parents so you can run them over with a car for not teaching them basic manners.  Well, at least it makes me want to run their parents over with a car.

Using public transportation makes coughing or any type of expulsion from the body so much more noticeable and disconcerting.  It wasn't as if our former home of Atlanta was cough-free. We commuted in our own little car wombs - protected from other people's saliva bits.

When someone coughs on the bus, tram or train, you can see the Boy scurry opposite of where the cough originated, as if it were somehow more sanitary. It is self preservation in its most organic form and I could picture a Discovery special documenting it: Watch as the Boy turns his head in disgust.  A cough was just expelled by a competing organism.  He turns, mutters something indiscernible and retreats to the other side of the bus compartment.  This is nature in its purest form...cut to a Tide commercial.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Englishforum.ch - Fact or Fiction?

If you troll the internet, you will likely find trolls.  That is what I learned anyway after discovering englishforum.ch.  There is no doubt that this forum contains a vast wealth of information for the soon to be or current expat living in Switzerland. Unfortunately it also contains a lot of useless banter by unbelievably bored people and opinions tainted with vitriol.  The vitriol is usually directed towards the Swiss themselves.  The Swiss are this, the Swiss are that, the Swiss don't do this or the Swiss do too much of that.  Just a little over a year ago I came over to Switzerland, with knocking knees, expecting the worst because a small group of people decided it was better to be locked up in their apartments talking about the Swiss vs actually living in Switzerland.

After meeting a friend for coffee today, we brought up this forum and discussed it briefly.  It is almost a rite of passage for a person moving to Switzerland to find this forum and read it to death. After a chortle over this phenomenon, we both admitted that we occasionally still use it but only for fact finding missions.  Many people post their lessons learned so you don't have to make the same expat mistakes they did.  In a new country, simple things are no longer simple and this forum contains thousands of great tips including how to recycle Swiss style, which stores are open on Sunday and where you can find a decent Gynecologist.  You can also find people selling entire apartments full of IKEA furniture for Rappen (no, not little rap songs...Swiss change) and someone to watch your pet. There is absolutely no doubt it brings value but it can also suck you into a vortex of off-the-wall opinions and subjects not fit for public consumption.

The Vitriol Example




Unread 19.09.2010, 10:20
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Thalwil, ZH
Posts: 384
Groaned at 46 Times in 23 Posts
Thanked 54 Times in 32 Posts
expat_in_zug is considered unworthyexpat_in_zug is considered unworthyexpat_in_zug is considered unworthy
Re: Aussies survive in Switzerland??

Dude! Your Gf left you! WTF. People here are riciculously uptight. I am going back to N America. You have to make an appointment with your friends weeks in advance to see them! And... get this! When you bring wine over when you are invited for dinner... they put the wine away and then serve you the cheap wine! This has happened to me on several occasions! WTF! Just ead the stuff here about bosses throwing temper tantrums, or whatever. This place is for little children. they move into the floor upstairs from their parents! How often do you want to hang out with grandma? Every day? And gossip over some silly news? This place is like a prison man! break free!

Go back to OZ where people are fun and spontaneous!
Reply With Quote


I am going to call this guy "Crazy Town".  Crazy Town's most "riciculous" statements are highlighted in red. Most notable of the "riciculous" is the statement that people in Switzerland do not pour the wine you gave to them that evening as a gift.  This is somehow a flaw of the Swiss.  What I wish I could tell Crazy Town is that I rarely ever pour wine I receive as a gift the day it is given to me.  I save it for another day as I already purchased wine for that evening.  That is what people do when they have guests over for dinner...they buy things in advance.  And finally, can you really trust someone who uses the acronym "WTF" more than once?  I certainly hope you can't.

The "Holy Crap you have WAY too much free time to be writing this" Examples (oh, there are many)


Treverus
Yesterday 23:57
by cheesey Go to last post
23943


It isn't that I have that much against the post itself.  I love a good "man blows himself up in a toilet" story like the next gal.  What I find amazing is it has received 943 views.  That means 943 people viewed this vs taking a walk outside or meeting a colleague for coffee.  Frightening.


Evita is here
Yesterday 22:51
by Ittigen Go to last post
511,074


Notice that this person's screen name is "Evita is here".  I really wish she wasn't.


Thread Rating: 2 votes, 3.00 average.Evita is here
15.09.2010 21:22
by Evita is here Go to last post
21352


Evita strikes again with a post ending in "haha" when there wasn't anything particularly funny to "haha" over.  I really hate the misuse of "haha".


OBone
10.09.2010 23:40
by OBone Go to last post
23576


Wait...what?


transatlantic
31.08.2010 15:19
by transatlantic Go to last post
26561


You are helpless


farhaneee
07.09.2010 09:45
by 22 yards Go to last post
511,856


You are hopeless


sharkey
25.09.2010 19:00
by Gastro Gnome Go to last post
1331,517


And you should be steralized

If you use englishforum.ch, my only advice to you is go there with a purpose, find what you are looking for and then get the hell out of dodge.

Moving to Switzerland?  What you may not know is that it can take a little while to get a cell phone.  While you are waiting, get a Swiss Calling Card so you can stay connected.