Friday, November 17, 2017

Switzerland from a Different Angle - Smidgey

Moving across the world was a big decision. We had to take many factors into consideration - not the least of which was how this move would affect our dog, Smidgey.

Would she have to be quarantined?

Would she need a lot of vaccines/medication?
Just a rabies booster and an EU microchip.

Could she travel with us?
No, but the company provided a pet transport service.

Today, I thought I'd give our littlest, furriest member of the family a chance to to speak.

Smidgey on her throne.

Me (Bridget/Dog Mom): What was your first impression of Switzerland when you arrived in August?

Smidgey: Barkity-bark-bark-yip? Woof bark woof bark. Yip yip, woof woof, ruff YAP-PITY YAP!*

*translation: We live in Switzerland? Huh, I was wondering why I hadn't seen any cacti or snakes. Mostly I remember you were with me and then you weren't and then YOU WERE!

 Me:  Now that you've been here 3 1/2 months, have your impressions changed? How?

Smidgey: Bark-bark, yip? Woof woofity-woof ruff. Yippity-yap-yip. Yap-yap-yip?*

*translation: Has it been that long? You haven't disappeared again so I am happy. In fact you take me on the train in my nifty roller box. But, what's with the dog sweaters?

Roller dog = stroller dog.
Her eyes say it all.

Me: What are the things you like most about living in Switzerland so far?

Smidgey: Yip, yap, yippity-yap. Ruff, barkity-bark-bark-bark.*

*translation: You, dad, and Maureen. Also, I really like all the walks you take me on because of the grass and the smells and the food I find on the sidewalk.

Cuddle time!
Man's best friend...depending on the day.
Me: What things don't you like about living in Switzerland?

Smidgey: Yappity-yip-yap woof bark bark. Ruff, YIPYIPYIPYIP! YAAAAAAAAAAAP!*

*translation:  I miss Colleen and my nephew, Loki.
And, I hate electric cow fences! OOOOOOOUCH!

Who has the bed now?

Me: What part of this transition has been the hardest?

Smidgey: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!*

*translation: Don't bug me, I'm sleeping. 
Cocoon dog.

I guess that concludes our interview with Smidgey. She has a ruff rough life, doesn't she?

Here is my poem celebrating Smidgey's unique Rat Terrier nature:

with only two modes
turbo-speed or asleep
Smidge is either a lump
or taking a flying leap 

©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Duolingo Says What?

As I have mentioned in other  posts, learning German has been a gargantuan bit of a challenge since moving to Switzerland.

Joe, Maureen and I are all taking German classes, und wir lernen mehr und mehr.* In addition to our formal instruction, we have also been utilizing other strategies to survive get along in a country where we don't speak the language(s).

*and we are learning more and more.

One strategy we are utilizing is 'reading' children's books in German:
It IS normal to read kid's books.

Another strategy is to plan out what we want to say at the Post Office or at the grocery store and then looking up the phrases on Google Translate or LEO:
Close enough...
One tool that all three of us find very helpful for learning basic German is Duolingo. It is not lesson based, but it is a wonderful app for practicing speaking, sentence structure, and a ton of vocabulary.

And it can be quite humorous:
Is that all?
How do we know it's green?

Sometimes it is helpful:
Very true in Switzerland!
And sometimes it is not so helpful (if you want to keep your job):
Inappropriate in any context.

Some sentences are romantic...and unromantic:
...and my warm feelings are gone.

But I think the funniest sentences I've gotten on Duolingo were these two in the same lesson:
How I feel sometimes.
My daily mantra as I learn German.

My poem is in appreciation for the happy *ding!* I get when I answer correctly on Duolingo:

each correct answer
brings me closer
to understan -ding
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Switzerland from a Different Angle - Joe

Back again with another post where my peeps speak!

Huge thank you to all who read Maureen's perspective on living abroad. I think I will have to do a follow up interview with her in 6 months or so to see if or how her perceptions have changed. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, Joe has agreed to share his experiences living in Switzerland. He, too, felt most comfortable being interviewed. Take it away, Joe:
Isn't he handsome? Hubba-hubba...
Me (Bridget/Wife): What was your first impression of Switzerland when you arrived in August?

Joe: Green! When we first flew into Switzerland I couldn't believe how pretty it is. Rolling hills. Water everywhere. And SO MUCH GREEN! It is VERY different from the Tucson desert that we were used to. Even the Zurich airport was clean, pretty and surrounded by green.

Once here I was struck by the proximity of apartment buildings and small dairy farms. It's common for cows to be grazing right up next to apartment complexes!

It was also pretty evident that I was a foreigner here. Not all Swiss are friendly and not all of them like foreigners, particularly American foreigners. I'm sure that a guy in our first apartment building repeatedly cussed me out in German, but we were so new here that I didn't understand a word.* Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

Me:  Now that you've been here 3 months, have your impressions changed? How?

Joe: The green is still here. The cows are, too. :)

I've spent considerable time on the Swiss trains and have grown to appreciate ubiquitous, efficient, public transportation. I haven't driven a car since we arrived here and to be honest, I don't miss it.

Me: What are the things you like most about living in Switzerland so far?

Joe: We left Tucson in July, so the weather is high on that list. It's moving into winter here now so I may change my tune, but cool weather has really felt like a blessing.  I love the trains, the beautiful mountains, the old town architecture, water, and the color green!

Tower in Altstadt Zug. (old town)

I also love that Switzerland is a dog friendly place. We have brought Smidgey in retail establishments and even restaurants. Nobody bats an eyelash. There are also pet waste stations, with and unlimited supply of poopy bags, EVERYWHERE in Switzerland. We've even seen them in somewhat remote, rural areas. That takes a lot of the stress out of dog walking.

But my favorite part of living in Switzerland is that Bridget, Maureen, and Smidgey are here with me.

Me:What things don't you like about living in Switzerland?

Joe: Colleen is too far away. :( Maybe she'll decide to go to school in Europe someday. :) 

Also, dogs off leash! Some people are just so sure that their dog is perfect that they can't bring themselves to put it on a leash. Unfortunately, the world also has Smidgey. Note: if your dog meets Smidgey it will not go well - even if it's in Switzerland.
Does this face look ferocious to you?

Another big one is the cost of food. The cost of food in the grocery store is quite high - at least twice what we were used to paying in the US. Going out to eat is almost unaffordable. A cup of coffee at the local Starbucks (yep, they are here too) is 6CHF!!

Me:What part of this transition has been the hardest?

Joe: Language. I can get by at work, and in town, with my unfortunate English-only language skill set, but not speaking the local language is a constant source of stress. We are all studying German, but I am definitely not capable of participating in a German language conversation yet. The sounds of Swiss German spoken complicates things even more. I look forward to the day when it feels somewhat natural to make small talk in German!

In brain overload practicing DuoLingo during commute.

Me: What advice would you give someone considering an across the world move? Any pitfalls they might want to avoid?

Joe: I strongly encourage anyone to jump at the opportunity to live abroad. There is so much to experience, learn about and appreciate. I think that expecting to learn a significant amount about the new language before arriving in the new country is unrealistic. If you have the chance, maybe arrange to take a few months long intensive language course immediately after arriving in the new country.

Me: How do you like your new job? What are your favorite parts?

Joe: Roche is a great company and the Rotkreuz campus is fabulous. The people work hard, are smart and friendly. We do important work and we are given the resources to get the job done. Oh, and there is an unlimited supply of Nespresso!

Me: What do you miss about Tucson?
Joe: Colleen, old friends, and the Fry's grocery store on Grant & Swan. Oh yeah, and cheap hair cuts.

Flying Co!

Me: What do you think about the weather in Switzerland?

Joe: So far, so good. The cold is coming, but it hasn't been bad yet. The cool, crisp air feels good after living in the desert for a while. And there is something relaxing about the frequent rains.

Me:  Moving to a new country is a brave thing to do. Do you have any other ambitious goals you want to accomplish while living abroad?

Joe: I really want to learn German to the extent that I feel like I am a real part of this society, not just a visitor. And then maybe I will want to go do it again somewhere else!

*The guy from our first flat was friends with the people who lived above us and would knock on our ceiling when we laughed or coughed too loud. Friendly neighbors much?

Thank you, Joe, for sharing your 'wild ride' with us!

Here is a love limerick for my Joe:

There once was a man named Joe
I'm so lucky he is my beau
Day after day
Together we stay
Our love continues to grow

©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top That!

Recently I wrote about the many cranes assisting with the multiple construction projects in our neighborhood here in Zug. These construction projects have brought me many hours of distraction as walls have been erected and concrete floors have been poured outside my kitchen window and along my daily walking path.

One detail about these construction projects that I've found fascinating is the presence of a tree on top of each of the partially constructed buildings, though I found out it is not unique to Switzerland.
A tree atop building across the street.

This practice is called "topping out" and it signals that a building has reached its final height when the last beam is placed atop the structure. Apparently it started in ancient Scandinavia when the builders wanted to "appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced during construction". My poem today is in honor of this interesting building tradition.

Under Construction

despite the structure
being rooted in steel
and glass,
nature comes out
on top
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Switzerland from a Different Angle - Maureen

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my musings and poetry about our new life in Switzerland. The subject of each post is ultimately decided by me, but Joe and Maureen have tremendous input into what goes on the blog, because after all, this is just as much their adventure as mine. Today, I've decided to let one of them do the talking.

Maureen didn't want to write a post herself, but she agreed to be interviewed. So here she is:
Isn't she a cutie? 

Me (Bridget/Mom): What was your first impression of Switzerland when you arrived in August?

Mo: My first impression was that it was pretty, and very, very different from Arizona. And, that the weather was nicer, too.
I agree. Do you?

Me:  Now that you've been here just about 3 months, have your impressions changed? How?

Mo:  Well, yes, because my first impression of Switzerland was when we were staying in Sins, which is much less populated than Zug. We didn't do much initially, so my impression now is that Switzerland is a place where everyone automatically knows what to do, and how to do it.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Switzerland so far?

Mo: The chocolate!
Remember these? Yummmm...

Me:What don't you like about living in Switzerland?

Mo:  Public transportation. It's very crowded and people aren't always the nicest... but I did see a hairless cat wrapped up in a pink blanket at the train station once, so I think it's all worth it for that. :)

Me:What part of this transition has been the hardest?

Mo:  I miss my old school.

Me:  Do you think Smidgey likes living here? 

Mo: More or less. She likes having more walks, but doesn't like needing a sweater.
She does look a little embarrassed.

Me: How do you like your new school? What are your favorite parts?

Mo: I like that they offer classes like guitar, drama, and art & design as regular classes, so you don't have to pick only one as an elective.

Me: What do you miss about Tucson?
Mo: My old school.

Me: What do you think about the weather in Switzerland?

Mo:  It's nice. Not hot, just nicely cool. I'm holding my breath for the winter cold snap though!

Me:  Moving to a new country is a brave thing to do. Are there any other accomplishments you've achieved since moving to Switzerland that you want tell us about?

Mo:  I can play "Mary had a little Lamb" on the guitar now! Plus, I've been hiking a lot.
Mo hiking on a school trip...

...with friends.

Here is a tiny poem for my Mo:

doll enthusiast
voracious reader
hiking stud
Smidgey cheerleader
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.
If you have any questions for Maureen, please leave them in the comments. She may or may not answer you - she is a teenager after all. : )

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween in die Schweiz

Today is Halloween. This year we are in Switzerland and we are finding the Swiss don't really do Halloween - at least not the way Americans do (which is not necessarily a bad thing.) Maureen's school has some Halloween activities, but then again, it is an International school. They had a 'Halloween Disco' for the Middle School kids last Friday. (She opted not to go in lieu of watching Stranger Things 2 on the day it came out on Netflix.) They are also having a 'Trunk or Treat' activity for the Primary Students tonight. This is when the kids dress up and trick-or-treat in the school parking lot with the car trunks open and parents handing out candy. A little sad if you ask me.

I have yet to see a Halloween decoration on a house here in Zug. There is a small display of Halloween merchandise in the Coop City grocery store: 

 And a bar just outside the Bahnhof has this going on:

On the Switzerland English Forum listserv there is a multiyear thread about Halloween in Switzerland. Prior to 2014 there were almost no Halloween activities in any part of Switzerland. From 2014 - through today there are more and more posts about Halloween activities happening around the country, though the most are concentrated in the Zurich area.

Yesterday, one person posted some interesting insights into how various holidays and traditions like Halloween came to be celebrated in Switzerland:

So it looks like it is a slow build of momentum for Halloween to be popular in die Schweiz, but we Americans are ready just in case we get any trick-or-treaters:
I wonder what we will do with any leftovers?

Even Smidgey is getting into the Halloween spirit:
She's trying to chase a cat - who I think might be laughing at her outfit.

The entire canton of Zug has tomorrow, Wednesday, 1 November, off for All Saint's Day. (Read here about the Catholic's influence on Switzerland, especially canton Zug.) My poem is based on what some may be recovering from on the day after Halloween:

Halloween Hangover

one too many trips
to the candy bowl

pick, pick, pick

today I feel sick -
my belly aches
ick, ick, ick!

©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Flock of Cranes

The architecture in our Zug neighborhood is varied in size, usage, and age. Below is a quick walking tour of some of the buildings surrounding our apartment building.

There are the old time Swiss houses:

There are the somewhat more modern apartment buildings:

One of many office buildings:

And then, there is the skyscraper:

Our neighborhood skyscraper is attached to the Bossard Arena, where the professional ice hockey team, the EVZ play. This multi-use building houses not only the professional hockey stadium, but also:
a curling hall 
a hockey training hall
an outdoor ice-skating rink (in winter)
office space
apartment space
restaurant (the Uptown)
a daycare
- all in ONE building!

When we moved here, it shocked me that this tall of a building was located in a generally residential area. And apparently it shocks the birds, too - to death. When I am walking Smidgey past this building I usually see this:
Poor birdy!

Dead birds aside, we have a flock of a different species hovering above our neighborhood as well. A flock of cranes! No, not the feathered cranes, instead we have many, many construction cranes flying high:

Outside our front (kitchen) window we are watching the construction of a new Siemens office building for which up to three cranes assist (only one is shown):

Here is a long view of the construction going on across the street:

And here is a big ol' crane assisting in the building of a three story triplex on the tiny street behind our building:
These noisy, looming metal structures inspired my shape poem:

Here it is in regular spacing:
crane frame
truss veins
boom swings
pulley sings
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.