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.

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.

Fungus Amongus

Since moving to Switzerland our family has learned to
"Take a Hike"...literally. The moist, temperate climate and multiple mountain ranges have been very conducive to our new wanderweg ways.
On our uphill climb.

On our hikes we've come across many flora and fauna that we never encountered in the desert of Tucson (I do NOT miss jumping cholla or scorpions!). But the most interesting discovery we've made on our hikes is wide variety of fungi. Who knew there were so many kinds of mushrooms lurking?

The following pictures are of mushrooms we spotted on the trail in Zugerburg - a mountain overlooking Zug and Lake Zug. Maureen was amazing at seeing the titchy fungis
(or "fun-guys" as we like to think of them).
Like finding an egg on a stalk.
We decided this one looked like an inverted umbrella.

These ones 'stumped' us.
Which are mushrooms and which are leaves?

Mushroom shelving.
Growing out of the side of the mountain.
Looks like warts.
And finally...
...two 'fun-guys' (Dave and Joe).

Here is my tiny poem about the function and purpose of the Fungus Amongus:
mushrooms assemble
to orchestrate
a decomposition 
©2017, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Birthday...

...to ME!

In honor of my birthday I am taking the day off from a regular post/poem and sharing the beauty of Switzerland - my gift to you. Enjoy!
Burglauenen, Switzerland where I am spending my birthday.

View from train on way to Interlaken region of Switzerland.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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...