Sunday, March 10, 2019

When the Kid was Away...

...the parents did play.

So Maureen had a coding workshop at Google in Zurich over the weekend.

We were there.
Initial trepidation.
Successful completion.
And while she worked all weekend, Joe and I played. Even though Zurich is only about an hour away from our house by train, we rarely spend time there other than to go to/from the airport or meet up with visitors for an afternoon. Since Maureen had to be at her workshop all day on both Saturday and Sunday, Joe and I decided to make a vacation out of our visit. We got a dog sitter for Smidgey, rented an Airbnb in the heart of the city, and wandered around Zurich (in the rain and cold!) looking for the off beat. And we found it.

First off, Zurich has A LOT of restaurants. Most are way out of our price range (not hard to do as Zurich is the second most expensive city in the world, only outranked by Singapore) but many have some clever names. Reading signs is free. Here is a sampling of the wordplay and creative spelling we discovered while checking out the city:
Not a place for vegetarians I'd assume.

Presumably a healthy menu.

Get it?
Then, being atypical tourist types (technically semi locals) we looked up weird and off-the-beaten-path attractions in Zurich. And we found some interesting stuff.

For example, we visited a public park that was created from an old machine factory called MFO Park. On the site a 100+ year old factory used to stand. Now the frame of the factory is visible with multiple vine trellises growing every which way.

You can go inside and walk around. In fact, it has four different levels...

...with a common area in the middle.

From the rooftop level.
Down a corridor.
Unfortunately, it is still winter, so the vines are not completely filled out and the building is not completely covered like it will be in the spring/summer. But for a split second we did get a splash of sunshine on some vines:
Sun hitting the green of the vines.

Mostly the weekend was cold, wet and miserable:
Joe bracing in the wind.
Me seeking 'shelter' from the elements.
But rather than complain and hide from the rain, we sought out more rainy day reminders. In fact, one train stop away from the park there is a restaurant that has a famous canopy of umbrellas that you can dine under:

But, being that it was a Sunday in Switzerland, the restaurant was of course closed. Classic. :(

Then down the street we found an interesting urban garden/shopping/cafe complex that is being constructed out of shipping containers.

A huge elevated ship adds to the ambiance.

Last, but not least, we found an odd, popup flea market. While walking along in the neighborhood where our Airbnb was, we stumbled upon some spray painted signs:

We followed the signs...
... a long hallway with a radio playing music.
And being the people we are, we walked into a weird old building where we found...

We walked through the hallway until we entered an enormous warehouse where we found a huge eclectic collection of stuff - all for sale:
Random everything.
Wooden boxes...
...from someone who drank a lot of wine.

Upon leaving the warehouse things got really, really weird. In front of a surf shop - which is pretty weird in and of its self considering it is in landlocked Switzerland - we noticed something spray painted on the sidewalk. Actually there were many of this "thing" painted along the sidewalk creating a trail that covered 2 city blocks.

Unfortunately, I can not describe what was painted on the sidewalk here, except to say that it is not suitable for a children's blog. If you email me direct I will tell you about this funny, albeit really weird, discovery (with pictures!) How's that for piquing your interest?

I highly recommend Zurich as a destination, but please look around. There is a lot happening off-the-beaten path that can make for a great adventure.

dashing between deluge
and drizzle
we discovered 
the unorthodox 
in the deluxe 
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

This Place Is Getting Nutty

A few weeks ago, while walking Smidgey, we came upon this tree:

That had these faces on it:
He has 2 noses!
Then a week or so later we saw this tree:

All the nuttiness came to a head (see what I did there?) this weekend as Switzerland celebrated Fasnacht. Basically, Fasnacht is Carnival, the lead up to Lent and a reason for the Swiss to let loose. Which is what they have been doing since Thursday. The revelry includes parades, parties and costumed debauchery. I witnessed a group of 10 or so middle aged people (men and women) wearing matching cowboy costumes doing shots on the train at noon.

Joe, Mo, and I got in the spirit of Fasnacht (without the shots!) by attending a huge village parade:
Joe's new 'do', B the bee, and Mo in her squid hat.
Squid-bee hybrid.
The parade was well attended:

And well decorated:
An actual confetti cannon coming out of a giant birthday cake.

But the nuttiness of Switzerland isn't only relegated to Fasnacht.

I've discovered the Swiss like nuts on their playing cards. In fact, one of the suits is Eicheln (acorns):

And a favorite beer brewed in neighboring Luzern is Eichhof which translates to 'oak courtyard'.
I love that they use the squirrel on the label. Squirrel is Eichhörnchen in German.

Notice the repetition of the word EICH? A nutty theme emerges...

a time to be
off your nut
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Identity Crisis

Bridget Magee.

I've always loved my name.

I know people who don't like their first name or their last name or both of their names for a variety of reasons. Not me. I got lucky.

And I've always felt that Bridget Magee was a pretty straightforward name. Both names hint at my Irish heritage, but are somewhat common in America.

Then we moved to Switzerland. And here the name Bridget Magee completely throws people for a loop.

If I am interacting with a Swiss German speaking person, in person or on the phone, they literally can not make heads or tails of my name. Almost 100% of the time, the person I am dealing with (doctor, receptionist, pharmacist, rail office employee, etc.) thinks the name Magee is my FIRST name. As in "Maggie". Simultaneously they have never heard of the name Bridget and/or can not pronounce it.

I've gotten to the point that I immediately say, "Mein Familienname ist Magee." or "Mein Nachname ist Magee." (My family name or last name is Magee.) This is invariably met with raised eyebrows and confused looks and the repeated attempt to call me "Frau Bridget" or "Mrs. Bridget". Ugh.

On the flip side, Joe's last name, Uhlik, is common place here in Switzerland. Ok, it's not exactly common here, but it doesn't cause the same confusion (and naughty innuendo...pronounced You-Lick) as it did in the United States. A sigh of relief for Joe, who deserves it after years of relentless teasing about his last name.

Another funny thing about names in other countries is how different countries/cultures handle movie titles. Given my current identity crisis, when I found out the movie, Bridget Jone's Diary is called "Bridget Jones - Schokolade zum Frühstück" = Bridget Jones Chocolate for Breakfast  in German, I wasn't least bit surprised.

In order to get back in touch with my true identity, I've decided to share an "I am" poem to get me back to who I am.

I am Bridget Magee.
I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a teacher, a poet, an author, an optimist.
I wonder what my next adventure will be.
I hear trains roaring by reminding me to be open to the next phase of my life.
I see snow capped mountains outside my window.
I want to be happy and help others be happy.
I am trying to connect with people through my writing, my teaching and my kindness.
I pretend to be brave even when I am scared.
I feel hopeful about the future because to feel otherwise is unacceptable.
I touch Smidgey's wiggly body and am reminded of unconditional love.
I worry about those I love, but have faith that they will be fine because they are strong and resilient.
I cry when the weight of the world feels too heavy.
I understand that I can affect change by being the kindness and peace I want to see in the world.
I say thank you to all of my loves (Joe, Co, and Mo) and to you, Dear Reader.
I am Bridget Magee.
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Egg + Malt + Milk = Yum?

Doesn't that flavor combination sound good? The people in Switzerland think so.

It is the flavor combination for Ovomaltine. Yep, OVO - MALT - ine.

A Swiss chemist in Bern by the name of Dr. Georg Wander developed the first version of Ovomaltine in 1865 to help combat malnutrition. Then in 1904 his chemist son, Albert, further refined the recipe that eventually was sought out by athletes and is the basis of the recipe in use today.

When the company expanded its operations to export to Britain, it was renamed Ovaltine. The reason for the name change is not entirely clear, but one theory is that name Ovomaltine was misspelled on the trademark registration application causing it to become Ovaltine in the English speaking markets, including America.

You may be asking yourself, what's the difference between Ovomaltine and Ovaltine, besides the name?
Mostly the amount of processed sugar and the added vitamins - the Swiss version has none of the former and a lot of the latter.

A trip to a Swiss grocery store will show you that more than 100 years later, Ovomaltine is still wildly popular with the Swiss and has expanded its product line well beyond a drink mix.

There are bins and bins of the product.

Which includes biscuits.

Sold in squares - little pressed squares of the dry powder.

As a Müesli cereal.

And a Müesli snacks (granola type bars).

Ice cream bars.

And chocolate bars.

Maureen is developing a taste for Ovomaltine, but I'm not a fan for, um, reasons that are explained in today's poem.

When you come to visit we'll be sure to get you a steaming cup of egg/malt/milk so you can decide for yourself.

unusual flavors
stirred in a glass
beloved by Swiss
gives me gas
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sick of Being Sick

I apologize for not posting last week. I was sick.

I was sick the week before that.

And the week before that.

And the week before that.

I've basically blown my nose everyday since the week before Thanksgiving. (I apologize to the trees I have destroyed as a result of my tissue use.)

Last week I was particularly sick (and tired of being sick).

Granted, I work in a Petri dish...uh, I mean classroom. 6 year olds are walking, talking germ factories. And this is a new set of germs in a new country. I get it. I have to recalibrate my immune system. But almost 3 months of non-stop illness? Really?

Don't worry, I haven't been going it alone. I've been to the doctor. Three. Times.

The first time we were in the United States for the holidays and I was diagnosed with bronchitis and an ear infection. Fun. Got some antibiotics and my condition improved, but I never really got completely better.

A few more weeks of coughing and congestion led me to make appointment number two with a Swiss doctor. I was told that since I already had antibiotics, he could only give me homeopathic remedies. Again, my condition slightly improved, but I definitely was not better.

More weeks passed, and I was feeling really, really bad. My ears were clogged. My sinuses were stuffed. I couldn't smell or taste. I was exhausted. Last Thursday I had doctor's appointment number three with the same Swiss doctor. He took my temperature. Looked in my ears and throat. And listened to my lungs. He commented that I sounded bad, but nothing he checked looked "that bad". How about the fact that I've been sick for almost 3 months?! Finally he said that he'd give me a blood test. I got the distinct feeling he wanted to blow me off as hysterical, but decided to placate me with this blood test.

When the results came back a few minutes later he called me into his office with a stricken look on his face. Apparently whatever he was measuring, my CRP (?), was off the charts. It is supposed to be in the 0-5 mg/L range and mine was 44 mg/L. Yeah, I was sick. He immediately said I needed antibiotics for a "severe sinus infection" and that I was forbidden from going back to work until Wednesday. Yep, he used the word forbidden and I got a doctor's note on the spot.

I'm happy to say that after just a couple of days I am feeling MUCH better. I can smell! I can taste! I'm not completely out of the woods, but the trees are breathing a sigh of relief that I don't need as many tissues.

But I'm sad to say that I missed my weekend in Paris. Yep, we were scheduled to fly to Paris and attend our niece Nicole's performance in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (with Nicole's mum and dad and other amazing circus folk).

As you can see, Joe and Mo got to go, but I had to stay home. Boo.

Maureen in front of a building near Notre Dame - Joe doesn't know which one.

Joe shot a really cool video of  Nicole and her partner, Guillaume's, performance, but in order to remain in compliance with the music copyrights, I can't show it to you here. But, here is blurb about their performance:

Guillaume Paquin and Nicole Faubert
Canada / USA
Graduated from the Montreal National Circus School, Guillaume Paquin and Nicole Faubert have created this number based on quicksilver, a shiny silver metal, the only one to be liquid under normal conditions of temperature and pressure. This straps duet is led by the idea of embodying a material by going away from the classic technical codes: Nicole is a high-wire walker and an acrobat, as for Guillaume he is a tightrope walker and an acro-dancer. Their costumes have been created by Sandra Chirico and they work on Remembrance, Balmorhea, Remix by Machinefabriek, Mix by Kyle Cragle.

And if you have some time on your hands (like recovering from an illness) and are interested, here is a playback of the live stream of the whole show. Worth the watch!

Today's poem is how I hope to never feel again:
droopy eyes
stuffy nose
blocked ears
feel bulldozed

can not taste
incessant cough
doctor prescribes
three days off
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.