Thursday, 31 July 2008


Today a woman sat next to me on the train. After she sat down she asked me a long, meandering question in french about how the trains work in Switzerland (like with seat reservations and so on, not about the mechanics of trains), I got confused and we muddled through in some french and some english and eventually we answered her question. As it turned out that wasn't her only question, though, and since my french was better than her english, we blathered on for quite a while longer in french with a significant amount of success (and who knew I knew so much about trains?).

When we got to Fribourg I got off the train, and nary two steps onto the platform, some woman accosted me and asked if this was the train to Thun. No, I said, it goes to Berne and Zurich, and then I thought "I think I may have just said something in complete gibberish" but the woman looked satisfied with my answer and so off we both went and a few moments later it occurred to me that she had asked me in german and I had replied in german.

Which is hardly earth-shattering, but I was shocked. In my french classes I am forever agonising over whether what I am saying is french or german (or some sort of half-hearted mongrel non-language). Apparently the solution is to not give it any thought at all.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Happy Birthday Steph!

Have a super day ... ... or else scary kitty will zap you with his hypno eyes and then eat you to death with his fang. And who'd clear up the mess?

Saturday, 26 July 2008


As you will all no doubt remember, back in May I went to some sort of herb-selling market thing and bought a few pots of basil and parsley and stuff to put on the window sill. I also bought what I thought at the time was a chilli plant, but as it turns out, I was wrong.
What with all the squillions of different names that things go by, it's no wonder I'm relentlessly confused. A capsicum might also be a pepper or a poivron or a peperoni or it might be related to paprika, and then there's all the misinformation and crossed porpoises when you're wondering what pizza to order and it says "peperoni" and you think "well, I don't really feel like meat" but that's not what they're talking about because peperoni is capsicum and not pepperoni (the unexpectedly appealing meaty delight). For crying out loud.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Urm .... am I really watching some crappy German quiz show about Australia that seems to be implying that couples therapy involves drinking beer (helps with letting the emotions out, it seems), that Australians eat tinned cheeseburgers, that dehydrated wine is normal (you can take it camping!) and that thongs have bottle openers in the soles? They seem to be serious .. although happily they did just admit that the beer therapy thing was a lie, and DJ Bobo is one of the contestants (and surely no one can possibly take him seriously?).

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Not In Kansas .. Or Are We?

That concert that we went to on Friday night (which was super, by the way) was part of the jazz festival that was has been on here for the last fortnight or so, and look at their logo thingie:
Weird. Even better was the backdrop thingie on the stage:
Giganto instrument-wielding kangaroos. Odd.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Nice For A Change

Tomorrow's going to be a nice day. I get Reto back from the army (only slightly damaged!), and then we're going to go and see my favourite Swiss band (it's a very short short-list, but that is more a reflection of my apathy than of the standard of Swiss bands. I suspect they are the only Swiss band I've seen live since I came here, actually) playing at a venue (temporary stage built out of scaffolding) a mere 50m or so from our apartment. Then the next day we're off to Zurich for the party of a friend, and then the next day I'm carrying on loafing in Zurich (and eating fancy brunch!) with another friend! I'm practically like a social butterfly!

And then on Monday it's back to french lessons and being annoyed. Sigh. At least now I can whine about it to Reto in the evenings (in person, not on the phone).

World Youth Day

Happy World Youth Day to all my pals in Sydney. I hope you're all having a charming time and not being annoying at all, even though it's apparently legal again now*.

* And for those who couldn't be bothered following the link: the extremely potted story is that some act was whipped up in the NSW parliament recently so that anyone found to be "annoying" pilgrims there for WYD could be fined up to $5500, but now a federal court has said that our fundamental right to be annoying within the confines of the law is sacred (ha! They didn't say "sacred", that was just me). Which is good.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Not Doing Anything Rash

Since Reto and I have become the owners of Powers Of Taping Stuff On The Telly (which is a few months ago now), I've been watching the episodes of Sex And The City that have been on SF2 (TV station) in the dead of night, every night. Before you get too excited and say "ooh, that sounds nice, I haven't seen that in ages", don't get carried away with programming your recording device, because the last episode was on last night.

And wasn't it annoying? Not that I haven't seen it before, but it was annoying this time around for a whole bunch of new reasons. Yes, obviously the sudden change in her boyfriend's behaviour (the bit where he suddenly went from being totally self-reliant and interesting to needy and pathetic in an implausible but extremely useful piece of plot twistery, just so we would all think it was okay when she fell back into the arms of her relentlessly disappointing other boyfriend) was annoying, and the way she always happens to fall over or be scrabbling around on the floor or something equally charmingly undignifed at just the right moment, but more annoying this time was how atrocious her friends were.

For those of you who don't know, in the last few episodes of Sex And The City, Carrie chucked it all in and moved to Paris with her boyfriend. She got there and had, as we all do, an excellent time having all these shiny new experiences, and a horrible time what with being lost with no language, no friends, no family, no understanding of the culture, no one to rely on except the boyfriend (who already has his own life there and doesn't necessarily have all the time in the world to help her adjust) and the constant feeling of not belonging. Possibly I am exaggerating that a bit with regard to what happened in the TV show, but I think in terms of the daily life of people who have emigrated, it's not too far from the truth.

Anyway, Carrie phoned her friend to complain and to speak to someone familiar and her friend said "If it's so atrocious there, you should come back here!". That, in my opinion, is not a nice thing for a friend to say. Yes, it's nice to know that your people miss you, but surely we all know that already? I think a far kinder thing to say would be "Wow, that sounds terrible, but what a weird problem to have, the fact that you don't even know your own phone number! Today I went to work and then I came home and I did my laundry and I watched Australia's Funniest Home Videos. Look how bizarro your life is in comparison!". People don't move to a new country on a whim, and I think it's a bit belittling to encourage them to chuck it all and move back on one (note that in the show she had been in Paris for a week or something). If my friends encouraged me to wallow in the difficulty of living here and then to throw my hands in the air and say "it's all too hard" rather then providing the emotional support and good sense that I need from them (even from this vast distance), I would be very unimpressed (take note, friends. Not that you're not all doing a lovely job).

Living in another country and being distant from all your dearest people and not understanding the language or the social expectations or the way you buy vegetables in the supermarket (you weigh them before you go to the checkout!) is difficult and frequently infuriating. Not living half a world away from your international boyfriend is rather excellent (depending of course on whether he's an idiot, as in Carrie's case, or not an idiot, as in mine), but it doesn't necessarily mean that life is going to be a basket of puppies. If there's one thing I've learned from reading all these blogs about people moving to new countries, and of hearing the stories of people in my language classes, it's that we all have exactly the same experience of having difficulty making a new life in a new country, and I suspect that what we all need is support and sympathy and people to distract us with stories of their own problems, not friends saying "if it's not fun, why bother?".

Also note that this rant was not brought to you by my friends or family or the quality of my life at the moment. Those last few episodes of SATC really annoyed me a lot.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hang On, I'll Just Check

For how long is it acceptable not to know your own phone number?

Surely in this age of programmed-in numbers, the answer is "forever"? I mean, when was the last time you ever actually needed to know a phone number off the top of your head? Yes, you should have them all written down somewhere in case you have some sort of terrible technological disaster and your mobile phone is destroyed etc, and yes I do admit that if there's anyone whose number you should know it's probably your own, but that doesn't mean you actually need to know them. Not when you probably have them stored in your phone which is probably a metre or so away from you.

I suspect I may have been mocked in my french class for several reasons this morning. First, for not actually knowing how to read out a phone number (as in, do you read out each number individually, do you group them into pairs, do you throw in a little pause after the first four numbers etc), second for getting french numbers and german numbers hopelessly mixed up (which I do alllll the time. German is totally my fallback language for numbers, and once I switch into german I find it very hard to get out of it), and thirdly for not knowing any of my phone numbers in Switzerland. I suppose I've had my mobile number for quite a while now (ie. let's not mention that one), but the landline number is pretty new (since May or something) and I really don't think it's shocking that I don't know it. I've given it to people about twice (both times after reading it out from my mobile phone or from my address book), and I've never called it myself, and I've certainly never made an effort to memorise it.

I have come across many people in the past who haven't known their own phone numbers. It's just not that unusual, and yet there wasn't a single person in my class today who didn't goggle at me like I was some sort of moron. Morons.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Nothing Says I Love You Like ...

... bits of raw chicken shaped like hearts.
I would like to make it clear that it wasn't my intention to make raw meat hearts. I just sliced it up, and this is what I got.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Back To Primary School Reading

There are practically more french books in our house now than there are english ones.

While that's obviously not actually true at all, it is true that the french section of our bookshelf is slowly oozing sideways, mostly because
a) every time I go to my favourite second hand book shop (very rarely, but still) I always get a french book or two these days, and because
b) the dude who lives upstairs just gave me a gigantic pile of his comics (Asterix, Tintin and some other cartoon duo who I've never heard of). Which was lovely of him, because they are right about my speed at the moment and because I really love Asterix. Tintin I don't know so well and he seems to be more olden-days-style-racist than I prefer, but ... well, it's all good practice. Plus it's handy that he (the neighbour who loaned me the books) lives so close, because I would really have struggled under the weight of them all if I had had to walk more than about 15 steps.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Nothin' Much

Apparently I've been in too much of a frenzy of NOT LIKING MY NEW FRENCH TEACHER AT ALL to post any posts lately. She (the new teacher) is small (of stature) and aggressive and spends a lot of time pointing at people until they give her the answer she wants. Long after it becomes apparent that the person she's pointing at can't give her the answer she wants she carries on pointing. It's all a bit high-stress and annoying, but at least it's uniting us against her. Which is really the only bright side.

And that's practically all that's happening here at the moment. I am enjoying eating food that Reto grimaces at (like tofu marinated in soy sauce and ginger, mmmm) and I am drinking more than I do when he's here (which sounds like it might have overtones of depressing solitary drunkenness, but it's much more cheerful than that. I like having a glass or two of wine with dinner but Reto doesn't seem to care as much as I do, so now that he's away I'm liberated from feeling like a bit of a boozehound when I have another glass and he doesn't). But that's about it.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Partially Broken Husband

As is their habit, the army returned Reto to me in worse condition that that which I sent him to them in. And it's only been a week! So that was a fun weekend for us both of sitting around and listening to him complain, and of looking at his bruises (which were inexplicable and impressive), and of being made to put my hand on his forehead to see if he had a fever. Which, as everyone knows, is a completely pathetic way of judging feverishness. Although apparently not as bad as using our thermometer, which told me that my temperature was 33.7 or something, aka officially wikipedia-standard hypothermic. Which I don't think I was. Happily for Reto, though, according to our thermometer he was also far from being feverish (or even normo-thermic or whatever it's called).

Anyway, I've just posted R back to the army now, so that's all the whining over with* for the time being. Or at least until he phones me ...

mystery bruise

* not that I am complaining about complaining. No one appreciates a good whinge like me. Well, possibly everyone does, but my point is that I like whining just as much as the next person. And sadly Reto hogged all the whiny limelight this weekend.

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Floor

Something you possibly weren't expecting, and that possibly isn't interesting, it's a tour of the floors of our house. All of which I am very fond of.

The living room:These Switzies love their wooden floors. It's the same in the bedroom and the spare room, and all of them are VERY SQUEAKY. There are also some really big gaps between some of the boards, which is handy for sweeping. Instead of using a dustpan and brush to pick all the crud up, you can just sweep it into the gaps! No, really!

The hallway: This is lino, which as far as I can tell judging by other people's places is not normal at all. I love it. It's so retro and dorky and excellent.

These are the kitchen tiles:I'm a big fan of the small tile look, and I like the multicoloured nature of these ones. We also have these tiles in the bathroom but they are all the same shade of boring not-white so I'm not bothering with a picture of them. Instead, you get ...

.. a picture of these tiles: which are on some of the walls in the kitchen and some of the walls in the bathroom (and not the floor at all), and how super are they? I love the fact that everything in our flat is so brown and olden-days-ish.

Memory Lane

Because I somehow failed to do it in the last 5 months or so, and because I'm wasting some time when I really should be swotting up on some french, I just made a wee album of photos for our wedding to put on my Facebook profile.

Which reminded me of a happy story.

We got married at Shelly Beach, a (relatively) quiet wee spot in Sydney, just around the corner from the much larger and less charming Manly beach. Shelly Beach has pleasantly calm water (it's in a cove thing so no waves to speak of) and has lovely clear water (the sand there is less sandy and more shelly, and what with the lack of waves it doesn't really get churned up much so you can always see what's going on underwater at Shelly Beach) and is generally popular with families (who are scared of their kids being drowned by waves) and snorkellers. A few years ago I went snorkelling at Shelly Beach. It was all very pleasant until the part where a bluebottle got its horrible bluebottle tentacles all wrapped around my neck and stung the hell out of me.

I don't really have a lot of experience with being stung by bluebottles. In general I find that they usually manage to get other people instead of me, and so my main memory at the time was of when my sister got got by one and it left all these big horrible red welts around her ankles that didn't go away for ages.

Anyway, there I am flailing about in the ocean, probably about 30m or so from the shore, trying to get these tentacles off me and meanwhile getting ever more tangled in them and also getting stung all over my hands and arms. By the time I eventually got back to the shore I was all a-tizzy with the exhaustion of coping with the horrible burning pain, swimming back to shore and trying to remember how you are supposed to treat bluebottle stings. I know we used to be told that vinegar was the way to go, but then didn't they change that advice to fresh water? Or salty water? Or urine? Opting for the easiest and least pervy* option, I went to the shower things and put my neck under the water, but that just made it hurt more. There were no life guards around (ie. the people who would have the vinegar) so instead I went to a cafe and asked if I could have some ice or something, which also didn't really help me much and plus I was getting quite a lot of strange looks as I sat there clutching ice at myself and feeling hysterical. Not to mention the fact that I was almost crying from the pain and I was secretly convinced that I was going to collapse with either a heart attack (because it felt like my heart was galloping along at about a zillion miles an hour) or some sort of anaphylactic shock (because it felt like my neck was swollen to about 8 times its normal size, which I was sure was hindering my breathing and therefore killing me. Incidentally, I was later very disappointed when I looked in a mirror and saw that my neck wasn't red or swollen at all. I do like having the visible signs of trauma; it's the best way to get more sympathy).

Needless to say, I survived and then enjoyed telling people about the day that I got a bluebottle wrapped around my neck. My story lost a lot of its charm (for me) when I met this dude who had been out surfing a week or two earlier and and been stung by a bluebottle and reacted reeeally badly and got these enormous welts all over his torso which ended up turning scabby and taking weeks and weeks to heal, but still, my "and then a bluebottle tried to strangle me!" story remained traumatic and dramatic for me.

And then I got married at the same place. Nice.

* Urine obviously being the pervy option. Frankly, although the pain was pretty bad, I think it would have had to have been a lot worse before I started asking strangers if I could borrow their urine.

Languages? I Don't Like 'Em.

Aagh. What with having been on holidays from french classes for the last 2 weeks, and with having spent a significant amount of time in german-speaking areas lately, I've suddenly becomed trapped in some sort of moronic language limbo where I'm permanently confused and confusing. People speak to me and I'm too busy wondering where I am and what language they are speaking to actually listen to them. Whenever someone looks at me as though they are going to speak, I have a small moment of panic where I wonder how I should say hello. I start to speak in french and half way through the sentence turns kinda german. I'm spending my time crippled with confusion.

Not that I'm setting anything on fire with my awesome non-english-speaking skills at the best of times, but at the moment I really feel like I am floundering more than usual. I'm presuming it will all be less arduous next week when I get back into french lesson mode, but I think as an added precaution I might avoid german-speakers as much as possible for the next little while.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy birthday Dad!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Tiny Whiny

For those of you in Australia (or any sensible-fridge country) who haven't really bothered to notice that I occasionally whine about the size of the fridge here, please note the following photographic evidence:
and for some perspective on just how tiny the freezer is:

That's not unusual here. Fridges, for whatever moron reason, are tiny.

Also note that I have embraced using clothes pegs to keep opened packets of stuff (ground coffee and linseeds in these pictures) shut. I don't know why this never occurred to me before. Actually, I do; it's because we don't have any elastic bands and because I'm apparently the sort of cheapskate to whom the idea of actually buying them deliberately is anathema. Where do all the elastic bands come from in Australia? We always had squillions of them there, but here, none. There are those purple ones around bunches of asparagus, and sometimes you would get them wrapped around the paper (when it was delivered, usually the crappy free local paper), but surely that can't be all?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


As I'm sure I've mentioned, even though I DON'T LIKE SPORT AT ALL, I am sort of a fan of large-scale sporting events, in the manner of the Olympics and this soccer thing that's just finished. I like how people hang around and there is free outdoor entertainment and public transport is more friendly than it normally is (although you're annoyed that there are no spare seats, you enjoy seeing all the enormous dutch men in fluorescent orange wigs struggling with their banners and wondering if this is the stop to get off at).

In this spirit, I was always determined that I would make some sort of an effort to at least go to some of the cities where the games were being held and see what the vibe was like while the soccer was on. Being more of a slacker than a doer, though, the closest I got was R and I going to Berne a few days ago and having dinner in some restaurant that was just next to a fanzone*. There wasn't any soccer on that night, so instead of sporty entertainment there was some woman on stage who is apparently quite famous in Switzo (well, Reto had heard of her, and he is pretty oblivious to everything), singing the kind of music that Reto's mother would like (ie. atrocious folksy sort of stuff with no redeeming features whatsoever). So that wasn't endearing at all. Later we walked past another fanzone in Berne and this one was heaps wackier, but there was still a bit more yodelling going on than I would have liked. Admittedly this was sort of rock yodelling, and the singer seemed to be wearing some sort of heavily spangled outfit that doesn't go with yodelling (and therefore I suspect the yodelling might have been ironic or something), but it was still somehow ... not great.

Ever since I saw Ms Mac's picture of the ginormous soccer player statue in the train station in Zurich, I had also been meaning to go there and have a bit of a squiz. Apathy won for a long time, though, and so the first time I was actually in Zurich with the opportunity to look at them (ie. while they were there) was on Monday, ie. the day after the soccer finished. Switzerland being as it is and all, there was none of this "leaving the christmas tree up until it dies and you're left with squillions of old crunchy pine needles tromped into the carpet" type attitude (not least because this is the land of no carpet), so in spite of the fact that I was there at the crack of dawn (10am or so, after helping Reto lug his vaaaast quantites of army crap onto the train), the soccer giants were already in a state of semi-dismantledness. All their arms were gone. I saw a pile of giganto hands with their pink little (enormous) fingernails sticking out of some giant-hand-mincing machine (or possibly just a normal rubbish skip). One of the armless soccer chappies had been pulled down and was lying in a rather ungainly fashion on the ground, face down, with his shorts missing and a man standing in the area where Soccer Giant's bum should have been had he apparently not been in the throes of being dismantled bum-first.

I had intended to take my camera with me that day so that I could take a photo of Reto in all his army finery, all laden down with his idiotically heavy gun and his bayonet and his cammo helmet and his bags and bags of army junk, but a photo of these partially deconstructed soccer chappies would have been far better. But I forgot the camera, and so now I have neither photo. I suppose that's what I get for saying "I'd like a phone with no features at all, please" when I went to buy my mobile. At least it can send and receive SMSes, which is a distinct step up from my previous phone. Which, by the way, wasn't so old as to predate SMSes, it was just sort of broken.

Just picture them armless, pantsless, and lying face down with normal-sized humans coming out of their bottoms. It's a bit like an Almodovar film, isn't it? Thanks to Ms Mac for the photo, too.

* a fanzone being a fenced off area where everything you could possibly imagine is banned. Like weaponry and pets and glass bottles and anything you might be able to throw (I think that was actually specified on the signage. What can't you throw?? Things that are so sticky that they don't let go of your hand when you try to pelt them? Post-it notes?)

Stoopid Technology

Sigh. Reto's been off killing people (or whatever it is they do in the army) for a good day and a half now, and I am apparently incapable of coping without him. Last night I had to phone him (just five minutes before his army-enforced bed time!) to find out how to turn up the volume on his computer when all the usual methods didn't work, and this morning I can't make the printer print. There's plenty of ink in it, it's just not coming out. Sigh. I disapprove of me being this pathetic, but I also have very little interest in finding out how all this boring technology works. What a dilemma.