Tuesday, March 27, 2018

No Place Like Gnome

Gnomes in Switzerland are extremely popular. The average Swiss person likes to display gnomes in their gardens and all around their property. We have seen at least one gnome display in pretty much every neighborhood we've visited - and we've visited a lot as we look for our permanent housing.
Some are spread throughout the yard:








Some are concentrated in one area of the yard:
Yes, there are mini palm trees in Switzerland...with gnomes, of course.



















Some stand (sit) alone:
Big gnome by a big home.



















And some are a whole gnome village:
Hardcore intricate mini gnome scene.












There is even a shout out to Snow White and her crew around the corner from our house:

Are the 7 dwarfs the same as gnomes?



















Generally most gnomes in Swiss gardens are sweet little fellas:

















Until you look closely and see a different side to their personality:
This gnome is giving a middle finger salute!



















An interesting side note: Gnomes have had a negative connotation when they have been associated with the perception of Swiss banking practices of the past. According to Wikipedia: "Gnomes of Zürich is a slang term for Swiss bankers. Swiss bankers are popularly associated with extremely secretive policies, while gnomes in fairy tales live underground, in secret, counting their riches. Zürich is the commercial centre of Switzerland." 

Today's poem is micro, just like gnomes:
to gnome me
is to love me
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

PS - Wee Words will be on holiday until Tuesday 10 April. Prost!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Right before we moved from the apartment at the Bahnhof (temporary housing #2) we met the people who at the time were living in what is now our current apartment. One of the things the woman said was, "It is really loud here!" I responded, "Oh, the construction across the street?" And she immediately said, "No! The daycare downstairs!"

There is a daycare that occupies the two apartments on the bottom floor of our building and the building next door. (We live two floors up.)
Here's the sign and some of the little people.



















Hearing that the daycare would be the source of noise didn't bother me in the least. I love kids - even when they are crying...and they do cry downstairs daily:


Luckily they also play and laugh daily:


And I get to see a sight like this when I enter the building:
Could they be any cuter?








Sometimes I do have to step around strollers:
Sometimes there is a random baby sitting there with no adult in sight...though the adult is usually just inside the door.



















I don't mind any of these things because I've gotten unexpected leg hugs and gotten to hear tiny voices exclaim in glee, "Hund!" or "Ruff" when Smidgey and I walk past.

And if the aromas floating up the stairwell are any indication, the kids seem to eat pretty well at this daycare: fresh baked bread, soups, various desserts and more. (I wish I had a smell-recorder so you could enjoy the smells as well.)

Anyway, having a daycare in the building has not been a bad thing for me. It is all a matter of perspective. Little people make me happy. 👶

Here is a little poem about little people:
teeny fingers
tiny toes
padded bottom
button nose


tiny people
down below
tiny voices
say hello
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, March 16, 2018

What Color Will It Be Tonight?

I've mentioned before that we live across the street from the Siemens Corporation. Naturally, their employees need a place to park, so they have a huge parking structure.

By day it looks like this:











And by night it looks like this:










And this:











And this:










And this:










And this:










We don't know why the parking garage colors change nightly (or why some of the lights around the sign don't work with different colors), but we love seeing the brightly colored box each night. In fact, we sometimes play the "What Color Will It Be Tonight?" game when we take Smidgey out for her final walk of the night. It is just another odd, but lovely thing about living in Zug. 😄

Today I tried my hand at writing a triolet for the first time. "A triolet is an eight-line poem in which line 1 repeats as lines 4 and 7, and line 2 repeats as line 8. The rhyme scheme is abaaabab." (Truth be told, blue is my second favorite color, orange is my first. 🍊)

Car park colors change,
Each night a different hue.
We think it fun, others strange.
Car park colors change,
Always within the rainbow range.
My favorite is the color blue.
Car park colors change,
Each night a different hue.
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hockey Bus(ted)

I've mentioned our local professional hockey team, EVZ, on this blog before: in relation to the citywide bull art installment and when we followed the trail of bloody footprints. Today's post is about the EVZ Effect on daily life in Zug...and on opposing fans.

EVZ is BIG in Zug. Think rabid Raiders-type fans all supporting the only professional sports team in an area about the size of Topeka, Kansas. The entire community really supports the EVZ. So much so that the SBB, the countrywide transportation system, converted a regular bus into a rolling billboard.










Now, wrapping buses is nothing new, I know. But they not only wrapped the outside of the bus, they also converted the inside of the bus into a shrine for this hockey team.
There are player pictures above the windows:

















And covering the walls:

















They also made the floor look like ice:
Complete with cracked ice markings.


















And in the center of the bus, it looks like what might be in the center of the ice at the arena where the EVZ play:
Check out the 'pucks' in the upper right corner of the 'ice'.



















This is not a bus that only runs on game days or during the season. Nope, this bus is on the streets everyday, year round. Zug loves the EVZ.

But the opposing hockey team's fans don't. In my post about the bloody footprints, I told you about an altercation between EVZ fans and fans of an opposing hockey team (Geneva) at a cafe near our home. Well, it happened again...but without the bloody footprints (we think). After an EVZ game Saturday night some fans from Zurich got rowdy again...and did some major damage.

Local bar in Zug where windows got broken.













I tried to encapsulate the EVZ Effect in today's poem:
A rolling 'rink'
adverts a team
known for scoring goals.

But opposing fans
look to brawl-
bunch of sore loser souls.

©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 9, 2018

What the CH?

Every country has an abbreviation.

Some make perfect sense:
the United States is US or USA
France is FR or FRA
and Canada is CA or CAN.

Some sort of make sense when you think about it:
United Kingdom is GB or GBR for Great Britain.
(But UK is used informally.)

Germany is DE or DEU for Deutschland, which is what the word Germany is in German.

And then there are some that make no sense at all...until you learn a little history:

You would think the country code for Switzerland would be SW or SZ, but a version of both of these is being used for other countries:
Sweden (SE or SWE)
and Swaziland (SZ or SWZ).

Switzerland's country code is CH or CHE.

What the CH? Why CH when there is neither a C nor an H in Switzerland. (Actually, Switzerland in German is Schweiz, which has both a C and an H, but that is not the reason.)

The real reason Switzerland uses CH is it stands for Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin version of "Swiss Confederation". The founding of the Swiss Confederation traditionally dates to 1 August 1291 and is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day (August 1). The modern day Swiss Confederation is made up of 26 cantons, with Bern as the federal city (capital).

CH is also used in reference to and on Swiss currency. For example, the apple costs 5CHF or 5 Swiss Francs. (A little bit of an exaggeration, but not much. ;)

And Confoederatio Helvetica is featured on the 5CHF coin:
















So when you send a letter abroad to Switzerland you have to add and underlined CH to the address so it lands in the right country and the right mailbox.
From my #1 pen pal.










Today's poem is all the ways Switzerland is CH:
Climb
Hike

Complex
Historic

Close (lipped)
Humorless

Cold
Hockey

Cliché
Haven

Competent
Healthy

Crazy (expensive)
Hamlets

©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sowing the Seeds of Love

One thing I've noticed (and am experiencing!) is the amount of apartments/multi-unit dwellings in Switzerland.
Our apartment building...Mo's window is the 3rd one up.



















The reason for this is Switzerland is a small mountainous country that only has a small amount of land available for housing. In fact only around 30% of the population owns homes, with less than this in cities. It is not uncommon for a family of four to live in an apartment of 100 m2. And unlike the US, detached houses are mainly on the outskirts, not in central areas.

Apartment living has actually been great. We don't really know our neighbors, unfortunately, but for the most part they have been quiet (with the exception of New Year's Eve 😉) and courteous. The only downside is we don't have a backyard. This is a bummer both because it is much easier to let Smidgey out a few times a day than walking her a few times a day, and because we can't really have a garden...or can we?

Actually the Swiss are great about community gardens. All over the city there are community garden plots:
This is right next to the Siemens parking garage.
Some have multiple plots for multiple crops.
You can see a lot of them...
...from the train window.





There are quite a lot right outside of town.
Garden plots can be rented from the Gemeinde (community government), but depending where the garden is, there can be quite a long waiting for a plot. Sometimes plots stay in families for generations. We're not going to put ourselves on a list until we make our final move. (I guess, four times will be a charm?) Until then, I can soothe myself with one my favorite 80's Tears for Fears songs, "Sowing the Seeds of Love". (I know, I'm dating myself!)
And here is a poem that sprung up:
Seeds sown
among family,
friends,
and neighbors
are cultivated in love
and kindness
allowing the community
to flourish
and blossom.
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mixed Bag of Emotions

Moving to Switzerland hasn't been without its downsides.
Missing those you love:















Trying to understand the language around you:












And the general lack of cultural familiarity and comfortability.

I am not trying to complain about my experience, but I do struggle at times. Switzerland is not the easiest place to connect with people. Here is an article from the online newspaper swissinfo.ch. Basically it states, "The Swiss are friendly, but are not actually looking for friends." This has pretty much been my experience. That is not to say that I have not met some very nice Swiss people and other expats from all over the world, but so far none of these acquaintances have blossomed into real friendships. But that is OK because I am keeping busy learning how to speak German, getting my TEFL certification, and of course, writing. Besides all my wife/mom duties.
It is a statement to my present life that this trolley is such a delight to me.



















This week has been an especially mixed bag of emotions for me. You could say there was the Good, the Mixed Feelings, and the Horrifying.

First the GOOD:
I received the best email a writer could ever receive. A woman living in Saudi Arabia read a story I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers and liked it. In fact she liked it so much she went out of her way to send me an email telling me what my words meant to her. Swoon.
How cool is that?














Second the MIXED FEELINGS:
On Monday I was walking through the Bahnhof when a man with a camera stopped me and asked me something in German. I responded to him the way I normally do when someone speaks to me in German, "Es tut mir leid. Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch." (I'm sorry. I only speak a little German.) He immediately switched to English and asked if I wanted to take part in an informal  poll being run by the local newspaper. "Uh, um, I can't vote here," was the first thing out of my mouth. He assured me that it had nothing to do with politics so I reluctantly said OK. I felt very uncomfortable and exposed. (Kind of how I feel writing this post.)
He asked me if I had heard about an auction that the Canton of Zug held to sell the "Zug 10" license plate and how the winning bid was CHF 233,000. I had heard about it because I had read this article. Then he went on to ask if I would ever pay that much for a license plate. I answered...in English. Then the article came out:
With my answer written in German!















Here it is the German version a little bigger:





















Here is the translation:





















 My answer was mostly in line with the other respondents, but they said it more eloquently Swiss: along the lines of it's their money and they can do what they want with it  and I don't want somebody telling me how to spend my money. Overall, as a fairly new American expat I felt weird about commenting on local current events, but I was grateful the reporter translated my answer into German and that he didn't expose me as an American. (Being American here is a mixed bag, too.)

Finally the HORRIFYING:
So I went to the grocery store on Tuesday. (One of three trips this week.) I was in the produce section choosing some lovely Mandarin Oranges:











I plunked a few into my plastic sack and then started to walk away. Suddenly there was a noise behind me. All of the oranges in the lower part of the display slid off the shelf and onto the floor! I'm talking 50 to 75 oranges rolling around the produce section with me standing next to them with a sack of the same oranges in my hand. I was horrified!
Imagine all of these oranges...
...plus these oranges rolling all over...

...this floor.













Luckily, there were two of the NICEST Swiss people EVER who helped me pick up all the oranges. They said several things in Swiss German to me, but with kind smiles on their faces. I was in too much shock to give my normal German response (see above) so instead I smiled back weakly and repeated, "Danke" about 50 times.

What I think happened was two flat cardboard boxes full of oranges were placed in front of a heavy green plastic box full of oranges. At the exact moment after I took my oranges, gravity took over and forced the two cardboard boxes onto the floor leaving the heavy plastic box of oranges still on the shelf. Awesome.

Today's poem is how I felt in the produce section:
the gravity of 
my humiliation
came to FRUITion
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.