Monday, September 30, 2013

How do you measure a year?

I've officially been a resident of Switzerland for one year. I arrived here September 16, 2012. Believing in the math that the lyricist for "Rent" calculated, that would be five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. (525,600) However, I didn't spend all of that time here in Switzerland. I won't bother with how many minutes, but I was out of Switzerland 100 days or 27% of the year!! That's more than I expected when I started counting. Most trips were short with the days in the US well outnumbering the days in other countries. There were multiple trips to Germany, France and the UK and also trips to Malaysia, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Tom's count would be different as we do not always travel together. My time in the US is a higher number and he has some countries on his list that aren't on mine. The number of currencies used is higher than you might guess because not all of the European countries listed use the Euro. Even England and Scotland have different "pounds"! 

In daylights, in sunsets....
I don't know how many sunrises and sunsets I've seen from our balcony, but they can be pretty spectacular.

In cups of coffee...

 Many, many more than what is normal for my decaffeinated self.  I brew decaf at home because I like the taste and caffeine does nasty things to my body. I never drink caffeine first thing in the morning. However, when going to a cafe with friends (Zurich and the rest of Switzerland have many to try), I drink regular. Decaf is not easy to come by and besides, they serve cappuccino with cocoa powder sprinkled on top! I just have to counter it with some wine in the evening which isn't so bad!

Here are some other ways I can measure (or count) my year:

Number of Swiss Festivals I've witnessed:  six

Fall is harvest time; therefore, also time for the onion and turnip festivals.

onions, lots of onions

ticket, but also photo of a turnip-lit float

February brought Fasnacht, or what is also known as Karneval or Mardi Gras.

In April, a snowman is burned in order to chase away winter at Sechseläuten.

 In July, we went to Zuri-Fest (Zuri-Fäscht ) which happens only once every three years.

On Swiss National Day, August 1, we witnessed Swiss wresting at a schwingen competition. 

I think that's pretty good for on year, but there are still more for next year.

More ways to measure a year:
Number of wines available to taste at the wine ships harbored in Zurich - too many to count. Number we tried - also too many to count, but know that we didn't come close to tasting them all.  


Number of permanent transformers in our apartment: two. One lives on the kitchen counter to convert the power for the kitchen appliances we chose to bring with us. The other is for the Bose sound system. Number of plug adapters we have for ourselves and for visitors to use =  many.

Number of trains that run between Zurich and Horgen Bahnhof (train station):  two.  The S2 is an express and the S8 is the local, but either will work. There is a second train station in Horgen (Oberdorf or upper town). We learned quickly that we do not want to go there. Our bus line does not connect there. Oberdorf is also not convenient to the Horgen shopping area or our apartment. It would be a long walk home or require extra transfers on the bus line.

The most famous Swiss citizen is Roger Federer. How many ads have I seen with his face? I can't count that high. Last Spring one Credit Suisse building had a different picture of him in every one of their eight or so front windows! Really!

How many CHF have I spent on meat? This is another number I can't say, but is very high. Meat is very expensive here. The cows are dairy cows and the topography does not lend itself to large cattle ranches. Veal is cheaper than beef. They sell chicken from other European countries such as Austria at 2/3 the price of the Swiss chicken. If I have an option, I choose the Austrian. I have also bought meat in France or Germany to bring home.

Number of hours spent in German class: 255 1/2 hours! Wow! That's a big number. That is from 4 months of daily lessons. It has proved very useful, but I still have much to learn. Finding time to get back to study is challenging. It probably won't work until January. I hope I can force myself to study after my visitors leave so I don't have to repeat the same level I was in last year.

Number of kinds of Swiss cheese: lots! You may recognize Swiss town names: Gruyere, Emmental, Luzern, and Appenzell, for example.  They all have their own cheeses and they do taste different. I haven't tried them all, but I'm working on it. You can't say "Swiss cheese" here since the vast majority are Swiss.

Number of official languages in Switzerland: four. We live in the German region , have visited Lugano in the Italian region and St. Moritz in the Romansch region. In our second year, we expect to get to the French region.  

Number of homes where I may find what I'm looking for (or not): three. We have our apartment here in Horgen, the cottage in Westport Point, MA and the house in Westfield, NJ. Although there is a tenant in our NJ house, we also have some "stuff" stored there. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly where something was left.  There have only been a few things I've had to replace because I don't know where the original landed.

It's been a fun and enriching year. We'll keep exploring - there are plenty more new experiences waiting for us.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Home Leave 2013

One of the perks of being an ex-pat is the annual company paid home leave. Maybe it's not really a perk, but a requirement. If they didn't include it in the package, many people would not accept the assignment. We learned from our time in Belgium that the company only pays for the flights. Home leave can get expensive if you need to pay for accommodations and rent a car. Now that we have a US base in Westport Point, MA and a car waiting there, it is much easier. It feels a bit like 2013 had two home leaves, one in June and the other in August.

The timing of our June trip was to attend the wedding of our niece, Cathy, in Puerto Rico. It was a very special event that I would never have missed. Before the wedding, we visited my parents in PA since they were unable to make the trip. My sister, Janis, and her family stopped by too.
the grandparents with their youngest grandchildren

 The timing was especially nice because it was also Father's Day weekend.

 No photo shoot of Tom and Alicia is complete without some clowning around.

Please, stand over there. They did.

Before going to Puerto Rico, we were also able to see Sarah and Anthony. More silliness!
I know where the silliness comes from!

they had the giggles too

We were also able to get a good family shot, thanks to Anthony and my favorite, the girls together.


 Most of the family came to Puerto Rico and we were able to spend a few days together. 

El Conquistador Resort has its own beach

three sisters in one place - yay!

the men
the bride and her sister
pretty in pink

the happy newlyweds, Cathy & Mark

Home leave part two was in August. Tom and I spent two weeks together enjoying our vacation home in MA. One of the highlights of this time was the purchase of a double kayak. We now can stay together more easily when out on the river. We still have the other two and can now have four boaters out at once. 

Tom and our new toy

While in Westport, I did quite a bit of walking on the beach or on Gooseberry Point. 

path from parking lot to beach

almost there


remnants of a sand fortress

I watched this gull catch the unlucky crab

palm tree out of seaweed!

mermaid with seaweed hair

the beach is a great place for kite flying

Views of Gooseberry Point:

While we were in MA, Tom and I also connected with his cousin, Steve and his family. I neglected to get any pictures of Steve or Deb, but I did not miss my chance to photograph their daughter, Holly, in her hockey gear. Tom and I are hockey fans so a chance to see her play was a no-brainer. She is entering her sophomore year of high school and is the only girl on her team. Since she's the only one with long ponytail, she's easy to spot. 

After Tom returned to Switzerland, I took a road trip. First stop was in CT to collect my sister, Karen. She helped with the driving while we continued on to PA to visit our parents. 


Next stop, NJ. Here I did quite a bit of shopping since everything is so much more expensive in Switzerland. I had another chance to see Sarah.

I also joined a tennis buddy for a day at the US Open. I've been to both the French and US Open this year. Hopefully, I'll get to the other two grand slam tennis tournaments (Wimbledon and Australian) sometime in the future. 

the view from Ashe stadium

Jodi and I outside Ashe stadium

As a Chase customer, Jodi had access to the Chase Lounge where there were snacks, a photo-op, a free hat and clean bathrooms. Definitely a good deal.

inside Ashe stadium


 We enjoyed watching the future of American tennis.  

Bradley Klahn
Victoria Duval
Christina McHale, from NJ
Jack Sock

 Also some people that have been around a lot longer.

Roger Federer
Daniela Hantuchova

For my last hurrah, I returned to MA for some more R&R. I also had a visit from two friends. We took a trip over to Newport to see some other summer cottages. Downton Abbey fans should go on the Servant Life Tour at The Elms = fun. 

Lynn and Sherilyn

Chinese Tea House on the property of Marble House

We had dinner together at the Back Eddy restaurant seen here from the other side of the river.  


I also had to walk on the beach again before I left. I learned that all the lifeguards and their chairs are gone after Labor Day. Don't worry, the gulls are still on duty.

The weather was beautiful most of the time we were in Westport which makes it even harder to leave. Bottom line: I love Westport! See you next time!