Aha, has it been a month already?

Mostly I just have a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share. But indeed it has been over a month since I have been in Zurich and tomorrow marks an entire month of school.

 What an experience it has been so far. There are certainly moments of confusion and loneliness as I get used to living in a different culture. But looking back over the last 30 days, the overwhelming feeling has been one of stepping out onto the edge to realize that I won’t fall in. It has taken some serious self-trust to believe that I’m probably not as weird as I think I am to the people around me 🙂 They don’t know my family though…  

Each day I am challenged by new opportunities to meet and connect with people, finding out what it means to be a foreigner, and work through the language barriers while trying not to lose my own English along the way. I am constantly asked to correct English and pronunciation, which I am happy to do but I hate being the bearer of bad news to say that, “No, you cannot say that you ‘stood up at 7am this morning’, it’s probably better to use ‘woke up’. ” (one of the funny direct translations from German).

But the conversations are usually enlightening for myself and the other person. And the Swiss have an expression that is used more often than you would realize, the simple: ‘Aha’ (with a sort of drawn out second syllable and light intonation on the first). It breaks down all judgements of wrongdoing and quickly leads everyone to an open mind to learn something new.  I tease my family here about it, but truthfully I have already adopted the custom as well!

Each week is full of ‘Aha’ moments that my peers fill with interesting facts about Switzerland, language, food, music and all the rest. And I am more than happy to be open to it.

Not to say there haven’t been the occasional other types of moments, but I’m happy to pass those off as culture shock and stick with what makes me happy. And speaking of culture shock, I went to an interesting workshop on it, presented especially for international students. Rather eye-opening and quite hilarious as we went through many of the typical Swiss stereotypes. One was presented as the map below which is scary how true it is. (And just in case you can’t tell, I’m in the Odd German and English spoken bit)swiss map

So to stick with being a tidy/punctual/chocolate eating Swiss student, I will get on to the pictures.

First stop, the Zurich Zoo! One lovely Sunday afternoon in the fall was spent walking around with some fellow Canadians at ETH. I certainly have a special place in my heart for the Calgary Zoo, so no zoo will quite compare, but this one had a few great moments.

Baby Galapagos Turtles. Well these ones appeared to be babies compared to the elders who were a meter in length!
Baby Galapagos Turtles. Well these ones appeared to be babies compared to the elders who were a meter in length!
I still can barely comprehend that this sign exists. It reads 'Watch out, this is where I feel at home'
I still can barely comprehend that this sign exists. It reads 'Watch out, this is where I feel at home'
Another amazing educational sign
Another amazing educational sign
Inside the tropical forest, this guy slowly turned fully green.
Inside the tropical forest, this guy slowly turned fully green.

Next up, a music show I went to with a handful of Environmental Science students. The drummer, though you can barely see him, is also in Environmental Sciences. You can check out the band here www.myspace.com/coldeve to hear their awesome electro-rock. The guy in the front was dancing from the first moment, and the rest of us joined in by the end. A really great night.

Coldeve and their biggest fan
Coldeve and their biggest fan

And finally, from where I take walks/runs. Up the hill from where I live, through the community gardens and onto the beautiful panoramic of the city and lake.

At night, walking past the garden plots
At night, walking past the garden plots
One of the numerous public fountains
One of the numerous public fountains
Lake Zurich at dusk
Lake Zurich at dusk
Zurich at dusk
Zurich at dusk

 

A few last words:

Thank you for all the comments and e-mails. I love hearing what you think and how you are doing!

Happy Birthday Zahra! xoxo

And if you made it this far, one more stereotype joke…

Heaven is where…

the police are British, the chefs French, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian and it is all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where…

the police are German, the chefs British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss and it is all organized by the Italians.

Schluein

This is the town Lisa (my Aunt) lives in with the gang of Freddi, Mia, Nora and Ruby. I go up (about 2-ish hours from Zurich by train) whenever I feel the need for some family time or a little open space.

It is the ideal place to get to know Swiss living (this last weekend we had fondue and made our own pasta!), take some fantastic walks through the surrounding hills with my Uncle Frederic who is a mountain guide and play with my cousins, Mia and Nora, and the dog, Ruby.

The town is in the area of Flims and Laax which are famous ski resorts in the area. The summer hiking on the ski hills makes for dramatic vistas onto the surrounding Alps.

Some photos for you to get the idea… 

View from Lisa's Living Room
View from Lisa’s Living Room

The big trees on the left are walnut. Lisa and I went out to pick them as the tree drops them over the fall. In a month or so, they harden up and develop their lovely buttery taste.   

Lisa and Nora
Lisa and Nora
My lovely Aunt and baby cousin.
The Mountain Hut above the town of Laax
The Mountain Hut above the town of Laax
The mountain hut that was built by Frederic and his friends. They go up here for three weeks a year during the legal deer hunt. At dawn and dusk they are 30 feet up in the air suspended from their favourite strategic tree waiting for the elusive Red Deer… this year was a bad year (blame it on the hard winter, was what I heard the locals whispering) and only 3 deer were shot amongst them. We hiked up to the hut once to meet them when they came down for lunch. Sitting around over wild mushroom (that they found on their way down) risotto with a bunch of smelly, unshaven, and deer-obsessed mountain men was a funny experience. As I sat there listening to Lisa translate with my eyes wide, I must have looked a bit like a deer myself. It certainly blew away any previous notions about Swiss hunting that I had.
The Flims Stone, the local area is known for this formation
The Flims Stone, the local area is known for this formation

 Taken from the town of Flims, this outcrop is the backdrop throughout the town and is instantly recognizable once you have caught a glimpse.

Flims Ski Hill
Flims Ski Hill
We made our way around the open face of the ski hill with the Flims Stone in the background.
Cool mushrooms everywhere
Cool mushrooms everywhere
I could probably do a whole post only on mushrooms…
Blueberry picking with a sleeping Nora
Blueberry picking with a sleeping Nora
Our path went through a huge blueberry patch. We ate our fill and talked about our safe escape from scurvy. Nora did not partake.
Freddi and Ruby
Freddi and Ruby
The distant mountains just started to clear out of the fog as we finished the hike.