Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Relearning the 3 R's

While living in the United States, we were well versed in the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Upon moving to Switzerland, we've learned the Swiss take those concepts to the next level - waste management is a really BIG deal here.

Everywhere you go the Swiss demand expect you to recycle:
These receptacles are every 10 feet in the Bahnhof.

The only items picked up at our apartment building are our garbage bags:


And bio waste:

The Sack Stark (stark=strong) garbage bags are government issued and must be purchased at the grocery store. They cost 25CHF for a roll of 10 - not cheap.

Everything else: paper, PET, plastic, cardboard, glass, Styrofoam, etc. must be taken to the local recycling center called the Ökihof.
This is Canton Zug's Ökihof.
In the same building is the Brockenhaus (thrift store).

Luckily for us, our flat is not very far from the Okihof, because we have to walk there carrying all our recyclables in various overflowing bags. We are quite the sight on a Saturday morning.

A former expat warned us before we even moved here that "they" (the recycling police?) will go through your garbage to see if you have thrown anything away that could have been recycled. If they find your address, they will send you a fine. I'm not sure that is quite true, but we've decided we're not taking any chances - we sort everything:

Plastic milk bottles and bio on one side...

We use two drawers to keep the different recycling categories organized.
...and paper, cardboard, and glass on the other.

Some public buildings offer up glass bottle recycling - just separate them by color:
Clear, brown, and green glass recycling in front of soccer stadium.

In honor of this post on recycling, I've decided to recycle a poem I wrote in 2013 (it almost sounds like a cheer - and frankly, our Earth needs a little cheering up) :
help our Earth
thrive and heal
recycle with
pep and zeal

©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brusque Busking

She loves me again
I fall on the floor and I'm laughing"🎶
Lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's song, "Cecilia" warble
off-key through the air, competing with the squeal of train brakes.

On any given day, though more often on Fridays and Saturdays, you can find street musicians performing around the Zug Bahnof. (They are not allowed inside or on the platforms.)
One day it could be a couple of guys with guitars:

Another day it could be a ukulele/accordion duo:

And yet another day it could be a violin/accordion duo:

I wish I had a picture of the woman in a gold hat playing a crank organ. Joe kept hoping for a mini monkey to pop out of her hat.

Buskers are big in Zug, but out right begging is not. In 2013, Canton Zug passed a law making begging a crime. Anyone who is clearly soliciting money from the general public in Zug risks a standard fine of CHF 100.00. Built into the Swiss constitution is the fact that no one in Switzerland should be in a position where they need to beg: Title 2, Chapter 1, Article 7 states: "Human dignity must be respected and protected." And Article 12 states: "Persons in need and unable to provide for themselves have the right to assistance and care, and to the financial means required for a decent standard of living."

I suppose buskers aren't necessarily begging, but their open instrument case combined with their questionable musical talent makes me wonder. Below is my tiny poem about the street musicians we've been forced to listen to encountered in Zug:

brusque musicians play
instrument case beckoning -
free concert?
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Update: On September 12th I wrote a post about the Zug Bull Parade. In the paper yesterday, it was reported that the fundraiser raised 33,200CHF for youth sports and culture programs. Pretty cool...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Funny Money

Switzerland is known for being an expensive country, which we can vouch for, but this is not a post bemoaning how much things cost. Instead, this is a post about the Swiss currency itself - the Swiss Franc and how I feel about it.

I recently realized I have no emotional attachment to Swiss Francs. This is strange to me as I have strong feelings about US Dollars (I'm very fond of them! ;)

188.80 CHF

Swiss Franc bills feel plastic and are colorful. They come in different sizes depending on the denomination. And the Swiss use Franc coins on a regular basis. It is all so different from US Dollars which I think are consistent to the touch, in color, and in size. And change is change (for the most part) - not worth 5 CHF!

When I buy things with cash it feels weird and different - like I am spending play money! Definitely not how you want to feel as a consumer. And because every transaction is fraught with anxiety (on my part) because of the language, I rarely look at, let alone count, the change I get back from cashiers. Boy, if a cashier wanted to make a few extra bucks off of a dumb American, I'm their gal!

Today's poem is a tribute to the Funny Money of Switzerland. I hope I fall in love with you soon, Franc, and so does our bank account.

Fun Fact: Today, 10/10/2017, the exchange rate is 1 Swiss Franc = 1.03 US Dollar.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Baby Boom, Baby Zoom

The best way I can think of to begin healing from all that has been going on recently is to focus on little people. In Zug there are plenty of little people out and about. In fact, Joe, Mo, and I have all noticed that there seems to be a Swiss baby boom: pregnant women, women pushing strollers, toddlers, and preschoolers everywhere we turn. Little people bring me joy.

Previously I wrote about how Maureen navigates public transportation (2 buses and 1 train) on her own to get to school. She is definitely not the exception. Kids as young as kindergarten-age through high school regularly walk, ride bikes, and take public transportation to get to school on their own. But independent kids don't just emerge when they go to school. No, little people on pedal-less bikes zip about in stores, in train stations, and on sidewalks. Usually they are WAY ahead of their grownups. Many times it's hard to tell which adult belongs to the little person that is zig-zagging through a sea of adult legs. And some of these little people are FAST! Like this guy (he's maybe 3 years old) who was zooming through the train station - look at that joy:

tiny legs
on a scooter
helmeted blur
nothing cuter
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

No Words...

Even though I am now living in Switzerland which is about 5,000 miles away from the US, I still keep up with the daily news. Every day it gets harder and harder to look, but yesterday was almost too much...no words can describe our collective horror and despair. But here are a few words that I hope will help for a few seconds at least:

Hold on
Until the pain
Goes away

Then maybe hold on some more...


Friday, September 29, 2017


At top of stairs on way to the bus after a hike.
Stairs on the hiking trail.

Stairs, stairs, stairs...we encounter countless stairs through out our day. To get to the train platform. To get to the front door. To get to the top of the mountain. Everywhere we turn there are stairs. And frankly, we have mixed feelings about all these stairs. On the one hand, it is a cardio workout sprinkled throughout the day. On the other hand, it is a cardio workout sprinkled throughout the day.

Elevators are an option sometimes, but usually they take longer than running up the stairs, which if you happen to be a teenager, doesn't matter. Maureen is happy to use any and all elevators when given the option - and when she comes home from school, she has the option. In our apartment building, Maureen is a diehard elevator enthusiast even though we only live on the second floor.
Looking down our staircase from outside our front door.
I can understand why she is sick of stairs as the poor girl has to go up three flights of stairs to get to the 8th grade floor of her middle school every day - that's a lot of stairs! Just ask her...
Today's  poem is dedicated to my Maureen who gets a bit hySTAIRical about stairs:

if it's a step down
it's a good thing
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Smile and Nod

I would have to say that not speaking German has probably been the biggest challenge of our transition to Switzerland thus far. (Having to move three times is a close second!) In this part of Switzerland,  Swiss German is the official language. French, Italian, and Romansh are the other official languages of Switzerland and are spoken in other parts of Switzerland. (Note that English is not an official language of Switzerland.)

Swiss German is a nuanced dialect of German, but it is not a written language. In written form, the Swiss use High German, but spoken, there are specific words, phrases, and pronunciations that are uniquely Swiss German.

Joe, Mo, and I are trying to assimilate to our new home by taking German classes. Mo is doing well in her German class at the International School, plus she is taking French for the first time. Joe is lucky to be immersed in German at work, hearing the language spoken all around him day in and day out, plus he takes one-on-one classes two days a week. And I am enrolled in two classes - one small group class (three of us) and a one-on-one class for a total of four 90/minute sessions of German instruction per week. You'd think with that much instruction I'd be getting the hang of German. At least a little, right?

Me working on my homework.
 Well, I don't know if it is my age, my brain, my mouth or a combination of the three, but I am having the darnedest time trying to learn German. OK, granted I've only had a few weeks instruction, but I get brain-freeze when someone speaks Swiss German directly to me - whether it is a stressful situation or not. Part of it is I am honestly not sure my throat/mouth is capable of making some of the sounds necessary to speak Swiss German and part of it is I don't have the confidence to butcher the language to try...YET.

For now, I've been using the coping method of "Smile and Nod". It is amazing how much you can figure out from context and body language. I begin whatever interaction with the customary Swiss German greeting, "Grütze", then I pause and smile. The other person returns the greeting and usually adds something more to it while taking care of whatever transaction we are engaged in. If they continue speaking, I simply nod, wide eyed and attentive. When done, I say, "Danke". I'd say 80% of the time I get away with them not knowing I don't totally understand what they are saying. If they ask me a question I don't recognize, I simply say, "Ich verstehe dich nicht." (I don't understand you.) From my extremely bad pronunciation/American accent they recognize immediately that I am a non-native speaker and switch to English if they are able. If they are not able, we gesticulate until the point gets across. I feel like this is a good way to learn the nuance and cadence of the language while building my vocabulary and confidence, but not forcing people to speak English right off the bat just to accommodate me.

Slowly my German skills are improving, and slowly my confidence is growing. Heck, before long I will be having conversations longer than two to six words...hopefully. My poem below demonstrates my rudimentary German skills:

rosen sind rot
veilchen sind blau
beim lernen Deutsche,
ich bin eine langsam Frau 
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.