Sunday, February 16, 2020

M.E. Adventure - Part 1: Hair Tomorrow?

We just returned from a quick trip to the Middle East (M.E.) to visit family. While our main reason for going to that part of the world was this little guy:
And his mom and dad, of course!












 We also encountered many interesting things getting there. Today I am going to share with you Part 1 of our M.E. Adventure: the Istanbul, Turkey airport.

You may be thinking, why would you want to blog about a few hours spent in an airport? Well, we encountered a phenomenon that was surprising and quite honestly, horrifying to witness.

We had a 3 hour layover in Istanbul. While hanging out in the food court eating our chicken nuggets from Burger King (one of the MANY U.S. restaurant chains in the airport and not the most horrifying part of our time spent there) we noticed multiple men with black headbands circling their bald heads.

As time went on, more and more of these men passed our table or sat near us. Upon closer inspection we realized that the men's scalps were bright red and raw looking. After witnessing so many men with the same painful looking head tourniqueted by a black headband, we wondered what was up.


Painful noggin'.
Were they part of a religious sect or cult? They didn't dress in a certain manner and they were traveling with presumably wives/girlfriends, other men with similar wounds on their heads and some with healthy heads, or alone.

Curiosity got the best of me and I did a little google searching. It turns out that Turkey is THE destination for medical tourists seeking hair transplant surgeries! Despite general tourism being on the decline due to unrest in the region, transplant tourism is booming. 150-500 transplants per WEEK booming!

The clinics set up travel/accommodations/surgery packages that draw men from all over the world. And because the competition is so great, the prices are comparatively low, but the quality can be questionable.

From a Quartz online article about the industry:
"Hair transplants are an exacting and expensive operation where a doctor or technician makes thousands of small incisions at the front of the scalp, then takes hair follicles from the back of the head and inserts them into those incisions in the front. When it works, it results in new hair growth and is one of the only methods to combat baldness. When an operation is botched, the hair will grow in an unnatural direction and there’s a high risk for skin infection and scarring."

As an interesting juxtaposition to the red, raw open-wounded heads were the many, many travelers using face masks. Traveling at the height of the media saturation on the Coronavirus was a bit disconcerting even though we were not going to or coming from China. It was really interesting to see so many people in the Istanbul airport wearing the face masks while traveling along side so many men with open sores on their heads.
Coming...

...and going.
And in between.












Today's poem is for the follicle-y challenged folks who opt for a little intervention up top:

hair scant?
implant!
hope to have
bouffant 
©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Now THAT Takes the Cake!

And possibly the world record!

Zug is known for cherries. And a local bakery, Speck*, is known for their Kirschtorte (cherry cake). So much so, that they decided to celebrate their 125th anniversary by competing for the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest cherry cake. We're talking 241 kilograms and 4 meters in diameter! (*The word Speck in German translates to bacon in English! A funny name for a bakery, no? Actually, Speck is the family name of the founders of the bakery.)

Assembling the biscuit crust and base cake.











 
The "baking party" took place in the middle of a mall in Zug. Maureen and I take our German class in a classroom above where the action was taking place, so we got birds eye view of the beginnings of the process.












After the base was set, they set up for the next step: the cherry liqueur. I wish my blog had smell-o-vision feature so you could experience the pungent cherry liqueur aroma that permeated the mall. I think I got a little tipsy just smelling it. Of course, the baker** was flying high distributing the spirits...literally.

**This is Peter Speck - a member of the bakery dynasty family.



















 He was harnessed to a pulley-system with two guys in the rafters serving as his counter weight.

Above to the left of the cake...
...and above to the right.



Using watering cans, the baker poured about 100 liters of cherry liqueur. Part of the world record requirement has to do with where the cherries in the liqueur are grown. The requirement is that "the alcohol that is used in its production must only be only Zug Kirsch (cherry) or Rigi (a local mountain) Kirsch (cherry)".

After the liqueur is poured, then the baker(s)*** spread on the buttercream...using an suspended body board, of course!

Live action...













...or on the Jumbo-tron above the live action.
After the first layer of buttercream they add another layer of biscuits and then more buttercream: 

 












 ***In addition to the flying baker, it also takes a small squad of bakers to pull this endeavor off.














Including the ones with the map of the finished product:

Studying the map...
...then collaborating on the execution of the plan.
The entire event was filmed by a local TV crew and emceed by a local Swiss TV personality.

Filming it all.
Couldn't understand a word of the Swiss German being spoken!

The finished products gets a crunchy nut edge treatment:
















And then topped with powdered sugar:
Photo courtesy of zug4you.ch.











I'm sure that this ginormous Kirschtorte tasted fantastic, but we didn't stick around for the cutting/distributing ceremony. Apparently a 4 meter diameter cake works out to be 3,300 pieces! 

They won't find out if they achieved their world record status for a while. When I find out, I'll let you know! 

Today's poem is my simplified approach to baking a cake. A bit of a juxtaposition to the hoopla we witnessed in the mall.

pour
stir
mix
(no) liqueur

pans
bake
yum
cake 

©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

What's your favorite flavor of cake? Let me know in the comments!🍰

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Swim Good at the Schwimmbad

The Swiss like their physical activities: hiking, biking, skiing. All ages, all the time. (Weather permitting).

One physical activity that is universally revered here in Switzerland is swimming. Indoor pools (in winter), outdoor pools, rivers and lakes (in summer) are always crowded with swimmers. And the Swiss expect that if you use swimming areas you are water safe. That is why at both the local and international schools, swimming is apart of the regular school curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten through grade 5. Lessons are a part of the school day - not a separate extra curricular activity. This commitment shows that the Swiss expect their populous to know how to swim.

All this being said, lifeguards are available in some swim areas, sometimes, but they are not guaranteed. Most pools and many lake/river beaches have a "swim at your own risk" approach to allowing access to water without employing lifeguards. Since this is not a litigious society, the populous is afforded certain freedoms but are expected to take responsibility for their actions. What a novel concept!

We frequent the local Schwimmbad (swimming pool) where they expect that you can swim good*. (I know, not the best grammar. The word, *well, would be better but not as funny of a juxtaposition to the bad in the German word, Schwimmbad.)




















Signs clearly stating that you need to "keep an eye on children" are posted all over the facility.  Granted they are in Deutsch, but the picture explains it all.




















And signs showing what is the proper way to enter the pool in a given area are also clearly posted and language requirements are avoided.

While there are no lifeguards on duty, there is an "office" where a few attendants (all wearing YELLOW shirts, not red) hang out. They occasionally walk through and among the pools (once every half hour or so), but never sit and watch swimmers. They seem to be mostly concerned with whether you have food/drink in the wrong areas.




















Despite taking lessons when she was younger, Maureen had a bad experience while at a swimming pool in Tucson several years ago and has avoided swimming ever since. Moving to Switzerland and embracing the lifestyle has caused her to confront her fears. I am happy to say that she is taking a weekly 'refresher' swim course so she can get her swimming mojo back - taught by an instructor who only speaks Schweizerdeutsch! Hopefully next summer she will be joining Joe and I on our paddle boards on Lake Zug:


Slow and steady keeps Bridget on top of the board instead of in the lake!





















Today's poem is dedicated to my brave swimmer, Maureen:
 
Splash,

splunk, 

and 

her steady breathing

are the only 

sounds

coming from 

the sleek 

form

gliding 

through

the liquid blue.



Back and forth.



Up and back.
She is swimming.
Fearlessly. 

Again. 

©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Magee/Uhlik Family 2019 Nutshell News

Happy New Year! We just got back from a whirlwind, family infused, two-week California vacation where we had lots of fun with many family members, not the least of which is our eldest daughter, Colleen.
Sisters: Maureen and Colleen














32+ hours of travel later and we arrived back home in Switzerland at midnight on NYE!
Fireworks just for us! (as seen through our train window)











New Year's Day (my 9 year blogaversary!) was spent trying to get back on track in this time zone. Not an easy task...
Smidgey is sleeping off her vacation, too.














Which brings us to today. The day we were supposed to go grocery shopping as our refrigerator is empty. And then I remembered. 2 January, is actually a bonus holiday in Canton Zug: Saint Berchtold day. Since shopping is not happening, today became the perfect day to reflect on 2019!

So, without further ado, the Magee/Uhlik Family 2019 Nutshell News:

















*2019 trips:
Paris (February)
30th Anniversary cruise to France/Spain/Italy (April)
Paris (June)
Bern (July)
London (October)
California (December)

Happy New Year, dear reader! Here's to making 2020 amazing with lots of kindness, compassion, and more regular poetic postings. 😃

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Poetry Friday: Thankful From Afar


I am thankful to be hosting Poetry Friday this week. What is Poetry Friday you may ask? Click here for a great explanation. I've been a member of this community for a number of years, but have been a bit irregular in my participation the past 2+ years because I moved...

Herzlich Willkommen in der Schweiz! (Warm welcome to Switzerland!)
Thank you for coming to my home in Hünenberg See, Switzerland for Poetry Friday this week. I am happy you are here. 😀

Swiss chocolate and Swiss cheese at its source.













Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! Being an expat in Switzerland has brought a new appreciation for a lot of things I took for granted in the United States. (Not the least of which is the English language!) Thanksgiving has always been a holiday that I frankly was not that fond of in the past. Many years have been celebrated by eating Turkey Tacos (much to the chagrin of my eldest daughter). But now that I live abroad and the fourth Thursday in November is just like any other day, I long for a traditional Thanksgiving with family, turkey, and days off.

I miss my US based family all year long, but most especially on holidays. Since we couldn't do much about celebrating with them this year, we did invite our downstairs' neighbors to a traditional American Thanksgiving for tomorrow, Saturday.

This invitation is ending up to be a pretty big undertaking. First off, our neighbors are German, from Berlin, and we will be sitting around the Thanksgiving table speaking only German. We know more Deutsch than they know English! It will take our language learning to the next level!

Then there is the food. Finding a turkey is no easy task in Switzerland. Turkeys are native to the Americas, not Europe. As such they are quite expensive when you do find them. If you go organic, you really pay for it.













(The exchange rate right now is $1 = CHF1)

We were able to find an affordable-ish bird locally, but it is not organic nor fresh.

Saturday night's dinner!

Hopefully 2.8kg will feed all 5 of us!





Generally speaking, the turkeys here in Switzerland are smaller than the American birds. One reason for this is the ovens here are generally smaller. A common US oven is 30 inches while a Swiss oven is only 23.6 inches. Smaller ovens necessitate smaller birds.

Now if you are not interested in cooking your turkey yourself, there is a local service, Truthahn Taxi (Turkey Taxi), that will deliver a cooked turkey dinner to your home.











You can tell that they cater to expats as their menu is in English, but the prices are definitely Swiss.

















Needless to say, I couldn't get my husband on board with this Taxi service. Maybe next year there will be a cheaper Truthahn über service. (See what I did there?)

So far our hunt for cranberry sauce has been fruitless. (I did it again!) But the potatoes for mashing, gravy, green bean casserole, and pie ingredients have all been purchased. Now we just have a Saturday of cooking ahead of us!

And finally being in Switzerland at Thanksgiving makes you notice the severe absence of a 4-day weekend. Again, it's just another Thursday in November.

But today is no normal Friday, it's Black Friday! The Swiss do Black Friday in a big way. And interestingly enough, the Black Friday sales advertisements are in English. (Nicht schwarz Freitag.) Too bad we don't get the day off to shop though...

Today's poem is about an unlucky turkey whose relocation efforts defeated her on a certain Thursday in November.

There once was a turkey named Dot,
A new life in Europe she sought.
She got her way
Until Thanksgiving day
Then sadly ended up in a pot.
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Switching gears from an unfortunate turkey to our good fortune of
being gathered together in our shared love of poetry on this 
Thanksgiving weekend. Have you ever celebrated a holiday abroad 
in a country/culture where it was not acknowledged? What did you 
miss the most? Let me know in the comments. 

And be sure to leave a link to your Poetry Friday post below.

Thankfully yours,
Bridget


Monday, November 18, 2019

Dirty Laundry

We've experienced and adapted to many changes since moving to Switzerland: language, food, being away from family. But one change that we are reminded of daily is our move from living in a single family home (we've owned and rented) to becoming apartment dwellers.

There are good parts and bad parts to both living situations. We no longer have yard maintenance or home improvement pressures. But we do have neighbors above, below, and on either side of us. The neighbors below us smoke so the blow back on a hot summer day when the windows are open is none too fun (or healthy!). The neighbor next door blares his Heavy Metal music upon arrival home from work most evenings which is annoying, especially because I don't count Heavy Metal as music 😄. And when the neighbors above relentlessly scrape furniture across the floor day and night, we wonder what is inspiring their constant Feng Shui frenzy.

But probably the biggest adjustment we've had to endure living in a multi-unit apartment building is the shared laundry. 

When we first arrived in Switzerland two years ago, we were housed in a hotel for two weeks (with the dog!). That was when we discovered that there are no public, self operated Laundromats. None. There are dry cleaning shops that do laundry on the side, but the cost is outrageous.

After the hotel experience we were placed in a corporate apartment for our first year. Luckily it was equipped with a tiny washing machine and dryer. It was convenient in terms of when you can do your laundry, but inconvenient on how much laundry you can do at a time or how dry you can get it. Little did we know how much we'd miss those little machines...

For the last year we've been in a building that has shared laundry facilities. In fact, a large segment of Swiss population live in flats with shared laundry. In theory it is great. In reality it can be a little tricky.

First of all there is the scheduling.




















There are five apartments in our section of the building and every apartment is allowed one day a week to do their laundry. Because both Joe and I work full-time, our laundry day is Saturday. Lucky for us, it was available when we moved in. But Saturday is also the only day we can shop - all grocery stores, with the exception of the ones at the train stations, are closed on Sundays. Add to that, Maureen and I take German on Saturday mornings. Saturdays are busy.

Unfortunately, Heavy Metal neighbor has his laundry day on Friday and he doesn't always seem to know when Friday ends and Saturday begins. We've been met with his laundry in a machine or still hanging up on many a Saturday mornings:
Annoying.














Things got so bad at one point, we had to send Mr. Metal a letter (in German!) asking him to please respect our laundry time. It sort of worked...he gets the last of his stuff out by 8am or so, as opposed to noon, so there's that.

But doing your laundry in the basement of your own building is not THAT bad. With a washer and dryer and a drying room equipped with a de-humidifier, we can get a weeks worth of laundry for 3 people done in one day (provided your neighbor takes his stuff out early enough!)

And, I have to say that the Swiss laundry detergent is good stuff. It gets everything clean without stain boosters or extra bleaching agents. And it is actually cheap at Lidl.













The way they handle the billing for the laundry room use is interesting. Monthly, all residents pay an equal amount into a pool of money managed by the landlord/management company. Then once a year the landlord/management company calculate the energy usage of the residents in the building, especially the laundry room. We each have a 'key' that we have to plug into the wall to make the machines work - and calculates how much energy we used/money we owe. Then they split up the 'Nebenkosten' whereby we may get money back or owe something. It's all very mysterious. We just hope we're not getting swindled. :)

The key to clean clothes!














I can't do a post on dirty laundry without sharing an update on something dirty that was growing in our laundry room. About 6 months ago, I shared about the mold in our shared space and its effect on my health - 6 months of respiratory infections!


Before...
  I'm happy to report that the building management cleaned it all up!


...and after!
So. Much. Better. On. Multiple. Levels.

Today's poem is about what happens when we bring the laundry back upstairs to our apartment to get us through the next week:

fold
fold
smooth
stack

clean clothes
we don't lack 

©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Week In The Life

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. My apologies for being away from my blog for a bit, but I was in another neck of the woods a long way away from Switzerland.

I was in San Diego, California! Visiting this cutie:
The amazing young woman, not the bird.

Colleeny, animal conservation educator and daughter extraordinaire.


















And these cuties:

Loki!
And Odin...or is it Thor? I can't tell them apart and I didn't manage to get a picture of both of them.






Of course, while I was there the region was in the midst of a heatwave.

None the less, the trip started on my birthday, but I was bringing a gift to Colleen - her favorite Swiss bakery bread.
Joe proudly showing the loaf.














Unfortunately, the loaf didn't fair well.
It came out of the suitcase literally half the thickness of how it went in.









But this birthday greeting was waiting for me at the airport.

She giveth...
...I receiveth.

Once in CA, I got to visit all of the places in Colleen's neck of the woods. One of those includes the wilds of the Safari Park where she works. I had the amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with these fellas:


Hello, friends!
I even got to feed a giraffe...but it bit me!

This is right after the giraffe bit my finger!
It even drew blood!












I think it was (my) human error. But Colleen was an expert.


Thank goodness for experts!

The adventure didn't end there. Colleen had to work on a couple of days, but I got some writing done while overlooking these amazing views:

Unicorns are REAL!

No hiding from me!
So cool!

But the Safari Park is not the only neck of woods I got to visit with Colleen.
We went to the beach.

Sweetie Loki photo bombed us! JK, we actually took the selfie with him.
And to the Scripps Aquarium.

Fishies!
Teeter-totter FUN!
And overlooking La Jolla!





















(Never have I been involved in so many selfie moments!)

But our neck of the woods adventures weren't just dictated by location, there was also the eating across cultures adventure. We had Mexican food, Chinese, Italian (pizza), and Korean!

Korean BBQ is...
...a lot of food!











But I wasn't the only one having fun on fall break. Maureen and Joe had their own adventure in London!
They are into selfies, too!
A real bridge supporter!










Before I knew it, it was time to go home. Sad to say goodbye to my Colleen, but luckily it is simply, "see you later". 

 Landing in Zurich on Sunday night safe and sound and then off to work the next morning.

 Today's poem is about when your children grow up, sometime you have your heart in two places at once:

visiting
adult child
intercontinental 
love affair
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.