Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Autumn Notes

Time has absolutely flown by since my last post.  Fall has come, and last week we received our first taste of Winter with an unexpected October snow storm that dropped a very wet 4" of snow outside our apartment.  Since my last blog post, I have had a wide variety of interesting, fun, and poignant experiences.  Here are some highlights.


My father-in-law turned 70 this year and decided to throw a big birthday celebration and invite all his family and close friends.  He is a director at a 5-star resort just a few miles away from Dubrovnik, Croatia, and this is where he had his party.  I have wanted to travel to Croatia for a long time. Unfortunately, Hodge had to work a tour and was unable to attend the big party, so I was attended alone.  My new family certainly made me feel at home immediately.  My in-laws had put together an  three-day itinerary for everyone.  We went on a wine-tasting trip up the coast, we had a fresh oyster lunch, and we were treated to a day-trip into the beautiful medieval city of Dubrovnik.  And I also learned that my my in-laws sometimes like to stay up dancing until 4am.  I was, and am still, very impressed.  :-)

View from Dubrovnik

Poolside at the resort

For one day of the trip it was pouring with rain and we all had to stay inside at the resort.  I was annoyed that this prevented me from getting out to the beach, but the rain gave me a chance to hang out with my wonderful nieces.  We played games inside, and as the rain let up we blew bubbles into the wind from our balcony.  I find myself growing more and more attached to my nieces.  I am still of course getting to know them...I've only in total spent about a week with them since I moved to Europe...but I take my role of aunt seriously.  I have had unbelievably supportive aunts and uncles growing up.  I would be honored if I could do the same for my nieces.

I was actually quite moved by what the eldest (6 years), told me while we were playing.  She looked up at me and said very seriously, "Daisy, do you remember the spider webs we cleaned out of my playhouse? Well, they come back, but I used a stick like you showed me and I got rid of them again."  I was a bit stunned by this comment.  I remembered us doing this together in England last Spring, but I was amazed that she remembered this...and that I had apparently taught her something that she cared about enough to use on her own.  My heart was warmed in that moment as it struck me that my nieces were slowly growing attached to me too.  I was their aunt.  And apparently they remember the things we do together.  Pretty cool.


It takes an incredible amount of energy to adjust to a new culture.  I'm not sure exactly why, but some days I just feel absolutely exhausted.  I have also learned that there is something distinct about being American that makes me particularly twitchy when I feel my property or privacy is being messed with.  One little voice pops into my head that says "Don't touch my stuff!"and another little voice says "It's none of your damn business!" with equal ardor.  This seems to happen regardless of the other party's intention.  Last week was a prime example of this.  Fed up with our cold and snow-crusted boots, Hodge and I left them just outside our front door on our doorstep.  They were not near anyone else's door.  They were not in anyone's way.  We live on the top floor, so no one has to even pass by our doorstep to get up any stairs.  In any case, the next morning as I opened the door to leave, I nearly trampled the boots, set just against the door, in neat and orderly pairs.  To be sure, it was a harmless act, but it still really annoyed me.  Don't touch my stuff.

I was also told off by a Swiss woman as I walked with my bike in a pedestrian area.   She told me I was "blinding" her with the front light on my bike.  I apologized for the sake of being diplomatic, (and because my German isn't good enough yet to disagree with someone in any meaningful way), but this little encounter also left me feeling annoyed.

I think I've come up with a name for the delicate Swiss sensibility of how things should be done:  SAS.  Swiss Anal Syndrome.  Is it wrong of me to call it this?  Hodge and I were in a Swisscom store the other day and we saw someone dusting an already spotless plant.  Dusting a plant.  For crying out loud.  See the photo below:

The truly upsetting thing about SAS is that it is contagious.    Last month I was in London for a few days, and I found myself utterly horrified by how dirty/stinky/messy the trains and buses were.  I started thinking to myself that I didn't remember it being so bad in London.  And then I realized...nothing had changed.  I had changed.  I now suffer from a very acute form of SAS.  I think the condition grows in proportion to how much time one has spent in Switzerland and become accostomed to everything always being spotless.  Scary, but true.


Resolved to truly begin integrating here, I decided not to get my annual gynocological check up in the States when I visit for the holidays.  Don't worry; I am not about to tell you anything disgusting or too personal.  Just that if this is a place we really intend to stay, I need to try to get all of my needs met here.  I went to the general practice that my health insurance works with to book the appointment.  I walked in and was greeted by a very friendly, slightly goofy female receptionist.  I gave her my very well-practiced line in German of "Can we please speak English?" and she gratiously said yes, although she said her English was very limited.

Here is the coversation we had:

ME:  "I need to make an appointment for my annual gynocological exam."
HER:  "Uhhhh....I do not understand.  I hear the word 'animal' but I don't know what you mean."
(I then realized I needed to cut out the word "annual")
ME:  "I need to make an appointment for my yearly check-up...it is the exam for women."
HER: "Ah yes, you need to have your (points to her chest) and your (points to her lower abdomin) checked."
ME: "Yes.  And I need birth control pills."
HER:  "Uhhh...I don't know what you mean."

I motion with my hands and pretend to take a pill.

HER:  "Ahh yes.  Your doctor here can help you.  Birth control pill?  This is how you say it in English?
ME:  "Yup.  How do you say it in German?"
HER:  "Anti-baby Pillen."

Now, I am a woman usually able to contain herself in public.  At this response, however, I lost it.  I burst out laughing.  Anti-baby pills!  It makes it sound like a person taking these pills not only doesn't want to give birth to a baby, but also has a problem with them generally.  The receptionist smiled back at me, not quite understanding why it was so funny.  At the very least though, she was kind enough to indulge me and not make me feel bad about my laughter.  She gave me an appointment for this week.  Should be interesting...

On the German language front, things are improving slowly.  I will probably start intensive German classes in January, but for now I am getting along okay.  Every now and then something happens and I see that my German is improving.  I successfully talked to a nice old man on the train to Basel about his train collection.  I understood an argument between two elderly Swiss women in the locker-room of my gym.  They were yelling at each other, but the words were pretty clearly articulated.

"UNBELIEVABLE!  There's water everywhere!"
"It's just water."
"Do you want me to clean it up?"
"Yes.  Clean it up."

My belief that I had in fact understood this conversation was confirmed when one of the women walked out to the mirror and sink area in a huff and grabbed a big bunch of paper towels. Small victories.

A Feline Guest

One night Hodge and I were walking up the hill to our apartment.  We complain about this hill to each other frequently, sometimes when we are walking up it late at night, and even sometimes just in anticipation of it before we leave to come home.  In any case, we were walking up our hill around midnight, and about 20 feet before we got to our front door, a small cat jumped out of the bushes on the other side of the road, made a dash across the street, and ran right up to us.  It is times like these that I become convinced that all cats have a special radar sensor for women like me...women who love cats and are utterly unable to say no when it comes to helping one in need.  It is times like these that also am reminded that I have married one of the kindest people I've ever met.  As this cat nearly threw himself on me purring, Hodge, (who is highly allergic to cats), said with no hesitation at all, "I think we need to help this poor little chap out.  Let's have him stay the night."  There he was, purring and rubbing against my legs, and then he proceeded to follow us home as if it was a daily routine of his.  Yes, hello, nice apartment.  He strolled in, looked around, found the master bedroom, and curled up on our bed.  No questions asked.  We laughed at his audacity, but also knew this wasn't a good idea.  We relocated him to the guest bed, where he immediately curled up and slept for the night.

I didn't sleep well that night.  I kept imagining the cat peeing all over our nice apartment.  I woke up and checked on the cat several times...he was always sleeping peacefully.  When I opened our bedroom door in the morning the cat ran into the room and under the bed.  Hodge and I then lay in bed for a few minutes, we both suddenly felt bites on our feet.  The cat had jumped up under the covers and was playfully attacking us from the foot of the bed.  A few minutes later he jumped up and sat on our couch, perched his head on his front paws, and watched Hodge eat breakfast.  This cat was achingly cute, but we knew that most pets in Switzerland have microchips, and that we should probably take him to the nearest vet to get him scanned.  I wrapped him in a towel and carried him about a quarter-mile to a vet's practice.  They scanned him, and he was indeed chipped.  Within minutes they had his owner on the phone.  It was a happy ending, but I have to say...we miss him a little.

A Few Last Tidbits...

My mom visited Luzern and met Hodge's dad.  :-)

We went on a lake cruise.

And we went up a few mountains.


Hodge and I are headed to Tucson to spend Thanksgiving with my mom.  This will be my first visit to the US since I moved and I am VERY excited.  It will also be the first time I've seen my cats in the last 7 months.  I have missed them horribly.  And I mean HORRIBLY.  Since they were tiny little two-month-old kittens, they have slept every night in my bed.  They were loyal and loving companions during some of my darkest law school hours...and when I think about them being so far away probably forgetting about me, I really do get teary.  I am so curious to see how they react to seeing me...will they remember me?  Will they be angry and ignore me for a few days?  We shall see.  Hodge and I are still trying to make the difficult decision about whether or not to bring them to Switzerland.  Hodge's allergy and asthma are serious...I am utterly unwilling to impose breathing problems on my wonderful husband for the sake of my cats.  (even though, Hodge keeps saying he is willing to try...what a sweetheart)

Will these two remember me?

I really hope so.


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