Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Year 3 in Review

I can now say I've lived in Switzerland three years. Do I feel Swiss? No, but I am much more comfortable here than when I first arrived. Just like the previous two years, I wasn't always in Switzerland. This year 28% of my time was spent elsewhere with the majority being in the USA. I did venture into six other countries: France, Germany, Netherlands and first time travel into Malta, Finland and a day in Estonia. 

I've kept up my own personal tradition of experiencing as many Swiss festivals as possible. This year I witnessed five.

Zurich hosted a Film Festival in late September through early October. The films are from all over the world and are being premiered.

tent for private functions
ZIWA hosted a private "apero" (apero= champagne and a few munchies) inside the tent. Afterwards, we went across the plaza to watch a film together. I don't remember the name of the film, but it was in Arabic with English subtitles. It was definitely not a happy story, but thought-provoking. 
ZIWA women

If you hang around this area of the city during the festival, you may see a familiar actor in town, but I've never bothered. It was fun to do once, but the ZIWA reception seemed very over-priced and not worth doing again. That being said, the film buffs love it.

It was our second time to witness the Räbechilbi, or turnip festival, in Richterswil. It is the biggest and best in all of Switzerland and it's only 15 minutes away from Horgen! The "downtown" area is lit up with lanterns made from turnips, similar to mini jack-o-lanterns.

Street lights are turned off and a parade goes along the main road. These are floats that are pulled by people, not cars or trucks. 

Audrey Hepburn?

the gears on this float were moving

Zurich's open air art festival, Aufsehen, was held during the summer. 

No matter how long I stay in Switzerland, a highlight will always be the alphorn competition and festival we attended in Nendaz, July 2015. 

The icing on the cake was the chance to give an alphorn a try!

Swiss National Day, August 1, isn't really a festival, but we celebrated like the locals with brunch at a farm.  (and this year we even had our own edelweiss shirts to wear!)

indoor seating for a rainy morning

We haven't had many visitors, only three this year. 

at the abbey in Einsiedeln

A dear friend, Lynn, came once before and this time she came with her husband, Howard. 

To make holiday time more fun, Alicia's friend, Nicole, came to Switzerland and joined us on our jaunt to Malta. 

I'm still walking and hiking plenty of miles or kilometers as they say here. I haven't been keeping track of how many, but I go with a few groups on a fairly regular basis. On weekends, Tom and I go for walks starting at our front door or venture further afield. There are so many more trails to explore! When we return stateside and decide where to live in retirement, scenic hiking or walking trails will be on our list of things we want nearby. 

happy hikers

so many stunning views here
My number of hours in a German classroom this past year was even fewer than year two, a nice round number: 40 hours. 

In the fall, I continued at Sprachwelten, a high quality language school. The class was small, only four students which is ideal. The class actually met three days a week, but since I didn't want to give up my Friday tennis, I only attended and paid for two days per week. It was my responsibility to do the classwork I missed and also all the homework. I absolutely loved my teacher, a young woman from Hungary named Zofia. (pronounced like Sophia and we called her the diminutive, Sofi.)  She was incredibly patient, encouraging and enthusiastic - definitely the best German teacher I have had here. (My Berlitz teacher from NJ is also one of my favorites.) Sadly, when December came around and it was time to sign up for the next level class, we were told we could not continue with Sofi. The director of the school does not allow anyone to teach at the more advanced levels unless they are a native speaker. Sofi was so great, it was months before I realized she wasn't a native speaker.  I also think it can be helpful when the teacher understands problems and pitfalls for language learners because they may have experienced the same themselves. I was also told that they thought the level was going to be too challenging for me to work partially on my own. I would have preferred them let me try and come to that realization myself. Oh well. I joined a drop-in conversation group that met weekly. I was not as committed to this as the class I paid for and got much less out of it, but I felt it was better than nothing. That group has since folded so it's now time to find a new solution. I don't want to go back to the classroom three days a week, but I also don't want to lose what I worked hard to learn. 

The number of days I've played tennis definitely increased to nearly double. Once in a tennis group, I met other people who play in multiple groups and other playing opportunities arose. I stayed with my original ZIWA group in Wädenswil on Friday morning (share the spot in a doubles group), but also joined a Thursday group in Horgen. The Thursday group is half doubles play and half drills with a pro, which I love. I can see the clay courts that are part of the Dow Chemical European headquarters complex from our balcony. I've been able to sub with that group on occasion, but I can't be a regular because I am not an employee, employee spouse or retiree. So close, but no. 

A new experience for me during this past summer was swimming in Lake Zurich. Temperatures soared early in the summer and the lake was irresistible. I didn't take any pictures myself, but here are a few thanks to the internet. All along the lake, there are places where you can get into the water without going through a "schwimmbad" or swim club. I opted not to do that, but go where there were facilities. There is one such place very close to our apartment. It has limited parking, but we don't need that. I made a point of getting wet right before departure so my wet clothes would keep me cool on the walk back up the hill. 

There is quite a bit of shade, but also umbrellas to rent if the shade is all taken. 

There is a zip line to ride into the water. I didn't try it, but the kids sure were having fun with it. 

It is incredibly peaceful to swim and float in the lake.  Only one time was there a current to work against. We'd had storms the night before and the lake was a bit stirred up because of them. 

This is the view from the water. Dow Chemical is the orange buildings on the left - that's how close this is to home. 

At the other end of Horgen, there is another "schwimmbad" which I went to once with several ZIWA women.  Their facilities are quite similar with chairs and umbrellas for rent, restrooms and showers, restaurant with alcoholic beverages (although you are instructed not to drink before swimming). In the water, they both have buoys to swim out to, inflatable equipment to bounce on or jump off, and diving boards. The very non-American piece is the absence of lifeguards. I remember only seeing one at each place. I'm not sure why they bothered.

I've been a regular in the Posaunenchor in the neighboring town of Adliswil for over a year now. Their events do not hold me back from traveling; I support them when I'm home in Horgen. I've played in many venues: in church several Sundays, at local "Altersheims" (nursing homes), at a funeral, at a wedding reception, carol playing outside on Christmas Eve, at evening vesper service and their annual "serenades". The last is a combined effort of two groups. The same program is performed in the home of each group on Friday and Sunday of the same weekend. Here are some pictures from the serenades 2015. The timing was less than ideal for me since I arrived back in Switzerland after five weeks without an instrument to play around noon and the concert was at 7:00 pm! I told the people near me not to worry if I wasn't playing. I wasn't lost, just saving myself for the important parts. I was a little less jet-lagged on Sunday. 

in the Adliswil Methodist church

Viktor and Dagi
We have a strong trombone section. Viktor normally conducts the Adliswil group, but when we combine and Christian is directing, Viktor plays.

folks of all ages

What's ahead for year number four? Not sure, but it will definitely include exploring more of Switzerland (there must be a festival I haven't attended!), hiking, tennis, music and excursions further afield. We have no visitors on our schedule........yet. (Alicia is family and we look forward to her coming at the end of the year.) We don't know how long we'll live here, but we will continue to enjoy the many things Switzerland has to offer as long as we do. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Summer Special Events

There were two special events this summer that deserve more attention than just one sentence in my reflections on year three. The first was an art festival in Zurich: Aufsehen! They advertised the "unique open-air exhibition" "high above everyday life" and encouraged us all to open our eyes and take notice. A special newspaper was printed that listed the locations of the art and some background on the artists. We had fun going around the city looking for some of the installations. 

advertising Aufsehen!
Zurich's main station had photos of immigrants hanging from the ceiling and short quotations giving a glimpse into their lives. "I was here two months when I heard the sound of alphorns - and I had to weep. From then on, Switzerland was in my heart."  (said a woman from Uruguay)   

woman from South Korea and man from Senegal

faces of prominent Zurich businessmen hung above Bahnhofstrasse

There wasn't anyone around when I found the butterfly wings, but the picture of the artist clipped from the newspaper  shows how big they are.

in the style of the Swiss paper cutting art
centipede went around the corner of the building

oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe - covered in green turf

One of the department stores had large kaleidoscopes installed on their restaurant  balcony. This sign at the entrance to the restaurant announced their placement and encouraged patrons to look through them. I tried taking pictures of the inside of the kaleidoscopes and was pleasantly surprised by the result.

Tom takes a look

Urban Knitting

And finally, the exhaust towers of an underground parking garage were given a knitted covering. People from Switzerland, Germany, France and Finland did the knitting.

The second summer event was  August 1, Swiss National Day. This year, Lynn and Howard were with us and we tried to make sure they experienced a typical Swiss National Day.  (perhaps mostly typical for expats, but we did start with a brunch -  just like the locals)

We had reservations at the same farm as in 2014 for the traditional brunch. Unfortunately, it was a rainy morning, but we ventured out anyway. It wasn't the best conditions for the brunch, but they were well prepared with plenty of dry seating areas and tarps over all the food. 

Howard and Tom

Tables were covered with the traditional blue edelweiss fabric. 

buffet under cover

egg, bacon and potato station

Here's my plate...before I went back for something sweet.  I liked the Swiss cross baked into the rolls.
we weren't alone

We went on a self-guided tour of the farm. 

cows and calves

I must admit to never having seen finger painting done with an animal as the canvas. The horse is tolerant, but the expression says "why me?"

The geese did not like us - they were very loud and seemed to be trying to chase us away!


We're nearly Swiss - we have our own edelweiss shirts! Sure did feel like we were wearing costumes.


Luckily, the weather improved during the day. We took Lynn and Howard for a boat ride on Lake Zurich from Horgen to Rapperswil. 

Rapperswil is known for its rose gardens, but geraniums are very popular all over Switzerland.
rose gardens

Lynn enjoying the roses

getting ready for dinner
Traditional Swiss foods served on Swiss National Day: several varieties of sausages, cheeses, "nusslisalat" (salad with a green that is similar to baby spinach topped with hard boiled egg and bacon), potatoes.

We finished the day with a walk back to the lake to view the local fireworks. Afterwards, we were able to see more from across the lake from our balcony. 

Rivella is  a very popular Swiss carbonated soft drink. Its special ingredient is milk whey. It comes in more than three flavors, but I selected only three for the taste test. Although we did not do the tasting on August 1st, it seems appropriate to include it here. Lynn and Howard shared in the tasting experience. I believe we were in agreement that none are great. We all liked the green best which is supposed to be partially made from green tea. It doesn't taste a bit like tea - tastes more like ginger ale. Now I can say I've tasted Rivella and can close this chapter of my Swiss experience.