Travels in Foreign Lands

This will be my opportunity to share some of my thoughts and experiences in Switzerland with my friends and family back home. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.

Location: Japan

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Its Fun to Stay at The YMCA

"They have everything for you here to enjoy. You can hang out with all the boys. Its fun to stay at the YMCA" OK I do have a purpose in quoting song lyrics here. I was walking back to my hostel in Basel, Switzerland today, and I started singing that song. I am staying at the YMCA Hostel, so it is appropriate. And it really is fun to stay here. The rooms are really nice. And they have free internet for me to use. HOORAY. And they give you a ticket that is good for the public transportation in the city. I like that. My feet are getting tired.

I had two days off in a row for a change, so I decided to go for a trip a little farther from home. Basel is right on the border of France, Germany and Switzerland. Being this close to Germany, I could not pass up the opportunity to go. I have never been to Germany. So I went to the train station and asked what the closest German town was. The lady said Erwachsene. I said ok I will go there. The ticket was only 3.80 Francs. I thought that was pretty cool.

So I got on the train that I thought was supposed to take me to this town, but I did something wrong somewhere. So I just got off at a random stop. It turned out to be Efringen-Kirchen. This is a tiny little town; that I saw in its entirety in about 10 minutes. I also found a place to have dinner. It was called the Nostalgia. The name definetely fit. It was such a cute little place with old time coffee grinders decorating the walls. I felt like I was walking into my Grandmother's home, which I guess was the point. I had Schnitzel with french fries and a salad. It was so good. The two times I have eaten out since I have been in Switzerland were German places and they were both amazing. I think I love German food. Maybe I should have done my internship in Germany.

Tomorrow I plan to spend the day exploring Basel before heading back to Geneva. Pray I don't run into any strange Italian men. Ha-ha.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Day in My Life

I probably should have made this entry a lot sooner, but better late than never. I just want to give you an idea of what a typical day is like for me.

4:20 AM Alarm rings and I think, "No, I don't want to get up." But I do.
5:30 AM Work begins. First we make the sandwhiches for the shop. We make salami sandwhiches, ham sandwhiches, chicken salad sandwhiches, goat cheese, tapanade, and tomato sandwhiches. Those are good, and I hate tapanade. For those of my non-culinary friends tapanade is basically a black olive spread.
6:30 AM We finish off the desserts to be sold that day. This generally includes adding fillings to eclairs, making strawberry tarts and rasberry tarts and adding garnishes to lemon tarts and burning the créme brulée.
7:30 AM Breakfast- This is not your typical breakfast. We have croissants (read butter), pain au chocolate (read sugar and butter), brioche (read carbs). It is all really good. Maybe a little too good.
8:30 AM Back to finishing desserts.
9:30 or 10:00 AM Production begins. I generally weigh out ingrediants for the pastries. Sometimes I get to make ice cream. This is not as glamourous as it sounds. It involves standing over a pot of cream, sugar, milk, eggs, and butter stirring until it reaches 85 degrees celsius. This cooks the eggs and makes it safe to eat the ice cream.
12:00 Lunch. Whatever I can find in the fridge at work.
1:00 PM Back to production. Its different every day.
2:30 PM Begin cleaning. Having a big kitchen is great until it is time to clean the thing.
3:00 PM Work is finished, time to go home.

During my free afternoons I do any number of things, from wandering the streets of Geneva, to riding the Mouettes (boats on Lake Geneva), visiting the Jet d'Eau, checking email, writing in my journal, all kinds of stuff.

6:00 PM Dinner Whatever is leftover from service that day in the shop.
7:00 PM Shower and get ready for bed
8:00 PM Bed and then do it all again the next day.

So that is a day in my life. All times are Swiss which is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Geneva vs. Atlanta

When I first got here I noticed that Geneva is a lot like Mid-town Atlanta. The similarity that I noticed was that everyone here has a dog, just like mid-town. They have big dogs, little dogs, hairy dogs, ugly dogs. And they LOVE their dogs. It is quite humorous to me. Maybe because I am not so much a dog-person.

Geneva is also home to many people just passing through. I have met very few people who are actually from Geneva or Switzerland for that matter. I think the same is true of Atlanta. People move to Atlanta to go to school or for a job, but rarely were they born and raised there. Of course there are exceptions. But for the most part, people in Geneva are only here for a short time, a few months like me, or maybe a few years. I have come across some people who have been here for 10 or 12 years, but most move on to other places.

Something that is dissimilar between the two cities is the public transportation system. Geneva has an amazing public transport system. It is absolutely faboulous. Nobody really needs their car here, but many people do continue to use them. I love public transportaion system. Although as a typical American who values my individualism, I am looking forward to having my car again when I get back to the states . . . and my cell phone. But public transportation really is great when it works well. I do wish Atlanta had a better system.

Geneva is also much, much smaller than Atlanta. And I like this. Atlanta seems so big and impersonal to me. Geneva seems much friendlier. I like that. It is so easy to just walk to so many places. Which I have tried to take advantage of. I like to just wander around the city and see what new places I can find. There is so much to see in such a small space.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the city I live in. It has been fun being here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I love Europe

The other day I was supposed to go home with the other girl that lives at my house, but it feel through at the last minute. So I started looking in my guidebook for a place to go. I came across Zürich. So I decided to go there. I think it is so cool that I can decide to go to Zürich on a whim and just get on a train and go. Europe is pretty cool.

So Zürich

"Drama" characterizes my day in Zürich perfectly. It is a beautiful city and I had a wonderful morning visiting St. Peter's church with a 13th century tower and the largest clock face in Europe. 8.7 Meters. Wow.

Then I visited the Fraumünster which they say has beautiful stained glass windows. But it was closed for renovation and stained glass never looks as good on the outside as the inside. This picture is the best view of the windows I got, and its not that great.

I visited the Grossmünster. A cathedral where you can pay 2 Francs and climb the tower. I figured it was worth it, but all I had was a 100 Franc bill. The lady did not have change. I said it was all I had. She told me to just go on up. That was pretty cool. The view of the city was faboulous.

From here I began the first in a series of many walks along the lake. The walk was really nice, but at the end I wanted to take a boat back up the river, but I could not figure out how to buy a ticket. I don't speak German, much less read it. So I just walked back, thinking I would go find a place to have some good bratwurst. I don't like bratwurst, but it is a German specialty, so I figured I would try it.

This is the beginning of the drama. When I had almost walked the mile back this Italian man named Luko asked me for the time, I replied in French, then English. He got all excited for the opportunity to practice English. So we chatted. He asked me where I was headed. I said to get some bratwurst. He said he knew a good place on the other side of the lake. So we began the mile walk back to the boat. He showed me that you buy tickets on the boat, and let me use his pass, because he had another discount card. So we go to this place and have some amazing bratwurst. It was soooooo goood.

Then he wanted to take me to get some gelato (ice cream). So we go next door and get ice cream. Then we go and sit on the dock. He walks off to throw away the trash, when he comes back he grabs my face and tries to kiss me. Umm NO I don't think so buddy. So I decided I need to leave, this is getting a little uncomfortable. I told him I had to go. He said he would stay and pointed in the direction we had come from and said it was 20 km back to the city. I walked off and then realized 20 km is TWELVE MILES. I can't walk TWELVE MILES in flip flops and jeans. I don't know if he really said 20 km or if I heard him wrong. Itwas definitely not that far on the way there.

I started to freak out, but then I just realized, wait I'll just go back the way we came. So I got on the boat, now I knew how to get a ticket, and I had a discount card too, so it was cheap. I got off on the other side and started to walk down the river for the 4th time that day. I realized later that that same boat would have taken me back up the river, but I wasn't thinking straight after the ordeal with Luko.

The rest of the day was much less eventful, thank goodness. I called Tim, we had a good talk. He thought "my date" with the little Italian man was absolutely hilarious. Then I just wandered around a bit. I do that a lot. Then I got on the train and came home. Even though it was a beautiful city, I don't think I will be visiting Zürich again anytime soon.

Amazing Grace

I have been reading Philip Yancy's book What's So Amazing About Grace. I highly recommend it. Grace is a gift we don't deserve and could never begin to earn. It comes completely free to the recipient and cost the world to the giver. The greatest example is God's gift of His Son to us.

I have seen so much of God's grace in my life lately, that it amazes me. No pun intended. God has taken care of me in so many ways. The other day I was buying a train ticket at a machine and it rejected my card. I was really upset and worried. I called the bank, and they said my card was fine and that it was probably the machine. So I went back and tried to buy a ticket from a person in the office. It turns out that since I was only going to be gone one day the ticket was about $20 cheaper. This was not an option with the machine. So God was taking care of me by having the machine reject my card. It was so cool.

Then later that same day, I was trying to find an English Bible study I had heard about. So I went to the guy's house and you had to have a code to get into the building. I did not know what I would do. So while I was standing there trying to come up with a plan, this guy walks up and looks in the mailbox of the person I was trying to go to see. So I said, "Darrell?" He looked at me like, "How does this strange girl know my name." I introduced myself and said I was trying to get to the Bible Study. He gave me the code so I could come back later. I was a little early. How amazing is it that the exact person I was looking for walked up and looked in his box so I would know who he was. He could have just walked right into the building, and I probably would not have said anything to him. It was awesome.

And as I have the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful country, Switzerland, I am reminded that everything in nature is a gift from God. We do not need all of these beautiful lakes and mountains, but God in His goodness gave them to us anyway.

God is amazing.

Travels in a Different Foriegn Land

The other day I was talking to my good friend Annie. Hi Annie. And she suggested that I tell this story. So here goes. When I was at Covenant, one Spring Break, I went on a missions trip to Northern Ireland. Keep in mind that during Spring Break in Belfast it is cold like winter, not warming up for spring.

One night a group of about ten of us had ventured out into Belfast to look around. We ended up in front of the city hall. We were just standing there being loud obnoxious Americans. Well this guy walks by and takes my hat right off of my head and starts to walk off. Most of the group did not even notice. I was shocked and did not know what to do. I was thinking that I should chase after him but I would never be able to catch him, but I really like the hat, and what could I do? So I stand there making this strange high pitched whimper. I could not even speak. And no one in the group seems to be noticing my distress. I found out later that Lydia Fullolove (that is here real name, cool huh?) saw the whole thing. She thought the whole thing was absolutely hysterical.

So I am standing there making this strange noise. And the guy is walking off with MY HAT tucked under his arm, smoking his little cigarette. Then, he turns around and says what sounds like "Call me." Finally he walks back toward me, hands me my hat and walks off. Crazy huh?

The Laboratory

The shop we work in is called "the laboratory". It sounds like we conduct all kinds of strange experiments inside, but really we just bake bread and make pastries. This is a picture of the entrance to the Lab. All the vans are decorated in the same way.

The people I work with are great. I have come to the conclusion that in order to be male and work in pastry you must be mentally insane. Keep in mind that I mean this in the nicest way possible. I believe this because every pastry man I have worked with was crazy. Yes, Russull, you are definitley included in this. It is fun when they are crazy, because it makes work that much more fun, which is always a plus.

This is one of the crazy guys I work with, Oliviér, holding one of his creations. Its a birthday cake with the Swiss flag on it. He wouldn't care that I called him crazy. I do it every day at work. He knows he is crazy. And you can kind of see how big the kitchen is in this picture. It is absolutely massive.

These are some of the chocolate mousse cakes we make. I got to make the chocolate decoration around the sides of the cake one day. You can't tell in the picture but "Wolfisberg" is written on the chocolate. It looks really cool.

Another interesting thing about my job is that we all, the boss included, drink on the clock. Let me explain. Three times in the six weeks I have been here we have all stopped work and had a glass of champagne. This is generally to celebrate a birthday or wish somebody good luck who is leaving. Maybe we will have champagne when I leave.

The first time this happened I was so surprised. I am still surprised when it happens. Never in an American kitchen would we all stop work and have a drink. Ocassionally after work at PieBar the chef would give us a beer, but that was always off the clock. I love Europe.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Glimpse Inside My Head

Reader Beware: This might be scary.

So I have a lot of time to think while I am here, mainly because I don't interact with that many people that I can easily talk to. It is just easier to think while I work than to talk. A vast majority of my thoughts center around language, mainly because I hear so many different languages on a daily basis: French, Spanish, German. Language is a very interesting thing. It plays a large role in how we see the world. Take for example the Eskimos, they have I don't know how many words for "snow". Because snow is such a large part of their lives. Growing up in Tennessee snow was a small part of my life, so the one sufficed just fine.

I see different languages as a direct result of our sin. Back in Genesis, man disobeyed God's command to fill the earth. Instead the people wanted to build a city and make a name for themselves, when our purpose is to glorify God's name not our own. If man hadn't tried to attain the level of God we would probably all be speaking Hebrew or some other ancient tongue. This would make communication much easier.

But now with all the languages that exist it does make for some interesting experiences while traveling. I have learned that words are not the only form of communication. In fact sometimes they are quite dull. My co-workers and I have begun playing a type of charades as a form of communication. And this is much more fun than mere conversation.

Facial expressions also say a lot. Everyone understands the meaning of a smile, no matter what language they translate it into. It is also reall easy to convey that you don't understand with your face. I use that expression A LOT, much more than I would like to.

I have also come to love the English language. It represent home and everything that is familar to me. It reminds me of friends and family that I don't get to talk to enough. I miss y'all. Most times when I hear someone speaking English I will go up to them and ask them where they are from. Usually they are a bit surprised by my question, I guess they thought no one could understand them. Then they warm up and we chit chat for a bit. I have met people from Washington state and D.C. , Texas, Australia and a couple of others that I can't remember. It is nice to converse with someone from the states, who has a similar accent so I don't have to strain to understand them.

I am also continuously surprised when I hear children speaking French. In reality, this should be, and is, totally normal. But the kids here look and act just like any kid in the States and I always find myself expecting them to speak the same.

Those are a few of my thoughts on the subject of language. I hope it wasn't too scary and maybe next time I will have a new city to talk about.