Saturday, December 29, 2007

Forest Grove--how do I love thee?? Let me count the ways

I know--the "how do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." poem is generally applied to men and not towns, but Forest Grove is more lovable than ever these days. Chalk it up to a case of absence making the heart grow fonder perhaps, but it's a truly delightful place. First of all, they sell peppermint mochas here at every coffee shop or coffee drive-through--something that Arlesheim and Basel should definitely consider emulating. If that isn't wonderful enough, the downtown looks adorable! All lights and little store front windows filled with...I don't know...American stuff. And then there is that hometown "connected" feeling you only get from putting around your own stomping grounds, listening to country music, and waving at every neighbor you see driving the other direction.

We've had snow here all week, including Christmas day. Yesterday my neighbor and oldest friend Steven Nelson and his wife stopped by. Steven is my cousin's cousin (but not my cousin) and we've been friends our whole lives. He said he was thinking he's got three inner tubes that need to be used, so the plan was to get up early and go sledding on the other side of the hill down into the park. It rained too much overnight though, and there wasn't enough good snow left for sledding today, so it's postponed until the next time it snows. But still! How fun! Just planning to go sledding with the neighbors makes my heart happy.

In other Forest Grove news, my Mom's cancer-removal surgery seemed to go well yesterday. Thanks for your prayers (those of you who knew!) She starts radiation soon, and will have 30-some days of that. So I'll keep ya posted on how she's doing. She's supposed to be a lady of leisure and take it easy for a while, but if you know my mother you know that's not likely. We're prepared to bungee-cord her to the couch if necessary.

Pictures of Christmas:



Our tree and my friend Anne, hanging out by the fire (which was actually just candles, but it looks pretty convincing, huh!?)



Ah, cousins. Micah, Annika, Laura,and Steph.


My cousins got Powell's books gift certificates for Christmas, but they had to do one of those little maze puzzles to open the box and get to the money. That kept them busy for a while.


Gregg and Sarah at our house!


My cool Grandpa!! Don't you think he has a great smile!?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'fess up!

Alright, who's the wiseguy who voted for Oregon after I already said it was Oregon?? Cheaters never prosper you know, or so the saying goes. In reality, it's a debatable point. I might have prospered more, for instance, if I had cheated on my ethnography exam today. "Who was the Ethnographer who made the Zande famous?" "what does perpetual kinship refer to?" How should I know!! :) Actually, I think I did ok on the latter question, but there were some tough ones on that test! Oh well. It's pass/no pass, so I should be more than safe, but I really think I was a better student when I was younger--back when I lived in fear of my teachers. Now that I'm older and presumably wiser, it's a rare teacher who can strike terror into my heart (Bill Jolliff still can!), but I seem to have lost my better study habits and motivation along with the anxiety. I'll have to muster up some gumption or find some scarier teachers for next semester.

Speaking of next semester, I have decided on my classes. I'm taking two complementary history courses on Apartheid in South Africa with the fabulous (but not very scary) Patrick Harries. I'm also taking Current Topics in Epidemiology at the Tropical Institute, two literature courses--one on the image of white in Africa and the other on African American lit., a course on Governance, the city tour course again, and, just for kicks, a class on International Conflict and Globalization which is in German. But no matter. Some of the readings are in English, and it's a lecture course so if I dont quite follow I can figure it out later without worrying about having to participate in German.

The family I clean for just posted a new ad for a cleaning lady on the university web site. What do you think THAT means?? I emailed and said I saw the ad and asked if there's anything he wants to tell me... :) So if I wasn't fired before, I probably am now!! The whole story is quite interesting...I'll tell ya about it sometime.

Ok, I'm outta here. Ciao.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poll results!

Even though there are two days left to vote, technically, I think everyone who is likely to vote probably has, so I'll end the suspense that I know you have all been waiting in and just tell you. That's a picture of David Hill Winery about 10 minutes from Mom and Dad's house in the great state of Oregon!! :) fooled you!!! But not four of you, I see. I shamelessly procured that photo off the winery's website last week when I was looking for a good Oregon picture to post on my blog.

Gregg (who voted for Germany because he said Switzerland would have been too obvious) said, "why would you put a picture of Oregon on your Switzerland blog?" I said because I felt like it, but there were two reasons really. First, I'm headed home Monday, and I wanted all of you here to see where I'm headed! Second, it really does look a lot like the landscape here (as evidenced by so many votes for CH and DE)! It's easy to overlook the beauty around us and dream of visiting someplace far away, like Switzerland or like the States, when one is just as pretty as the other. So take the time to enjoy the view out your own window today! There are some great views to soak up!

Daniel was surprised that we grow wine in Oregon--thought it rained too much there. It's true, it does rain a lot in Western Oregon, but the area has been gaining noteriety for wine ever since an Oregon Pinot Noir beat fancy pants France in a wine contest. If you're interested in wine, here's an intro to Oregon wine, www.oregonwine.org/ and if you go to the press room and click photo credits, you'll see some more lovely pictures of my favorite state.

ok, 'nuff about that.

So, back to my brother's observation that putting an Oregon photo on a Switzerland blog didn't make any sense. I was reading a Time magazine article yesterday about birth order and how it affects children. It could be argued that Gregg's little comment supports one of the main distinctions of oldest children, which is that they have higher IQ than later-borns. I'm sure Gregg would agree, at least. Time's report seems to hold true for last borns in our family's case too--Brian is indeed very funny and agreeable. Middle children, however, are supposed to have low self-esteem and get less attention, and in some cases, depending on how successful the older kids are, middle kids are more prone to drinking themselves to death, like Teddy Roosevelt's little brother did. So...if my self-esteem plummets and I take up drinking (oregon wine, anyone?!), blame it on being the middle kid. :) and that goes for my IQ too.

And on that note, I'm off to study!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tests and such

Hi Friends!
I have a test shortly, and it's been a long time since I had a real, academic test! I'm not sure if I'm ready not, but I am about as readz as I'm going to be, because I have another class before the test. So wish me well, and if you happen to be awake and see this before noon, please pray that I remember the things I studied.

Last night I studied at Janet's house and we sorta kinda forgot to check when the last tram was leaving. By the time we checked, it was five minutes gone already, so I had to spend the night. We were rustling around getting blankets and stuff and Esther (older lady from Belgium) heard us and came out of her room to talk. She said it was better I wasn't going home so late anyway-it could be dangerous and some man could get me. I said I would have put on my grumpy face, my tried and true defense against strange men on public transportation, but she said she thought Jesus' protection probably had more efficacy than my grumpy face. "Ok," I said. "Jesus and my grumpy face." She didn't seem too convinced. Anywhoo, so I had a short night's sleep, but I feel pretty good today. It's like Janet said--it's amazing how if you don't get enough sleep at all you feel ok!! Much better than if you got almost enough sleep!

Ok, I'm going to use my last half hour to study. Have a great day. For those of you who reside across the pond, the countdown is on!! I will see you soon...you lucky people, you. =) Be sure to check out the poll on the right, too.

Monday, December 10, 2007

To blog, or not to blog...

Alright, alright. I am long overdue, I know. I haven't blogged because I have so much to say! It makes it tough to decide what to write about, you know?? I'm coming home in TWO WEEKS! WOOHOOO! I am looking forward to my month and a half at home, but I'm really starting to think about how much I will miss people here too! I moved with some apprehension about how I would like it in Switzerland, if I would find friends, manage the language, etc., but God has been so kind to give me friends that I love here and a "home" in Switzerland to miss! By the time I come back in February, I'm sure I will be excited to see everyone again. That's a good feeling.

School is winding down for the semester. I have 4 exams (starting with Ecology on Friday), a couple papers and one presentation yet to do, plus the usual reading prep for some classes. So it'll be a busy week. Today in my favorite history class we had a guest speaker from Rhodes U. in South Africa talking about labor history, trade unions, the industrial revolution--great stuff!!! But anyway...back to what I was saying. Saturday I had an all day seminar (what is with Graduate school and Saturday classes! Seriously!). Later that night I ended up going out to Benningen to see Janet and bake REAL chocolate chip cookies (you can't buy chocolate chips or proper brown sugar here, you know, but mom sent me some). Janet lives with this older lady who also had a friend (another older lady) visiting from Belgium. Veronika taught Janet to make Basler Läkerli, a bar cookie that is traditional here in town. Recipe if you want to try it out: http://www.about.ch/culture/food/basler_leckerli.html It's pretty good! And Veronika and Esther were both quite interested in our chocolate chip cookie concoction which we managed sans pastry cutter, since also can't buy those here.

Oh, but before we baked, Janet and I went with them to go see the Bottmingen castle all decked out in lights. It has a moat and everything! http://www.schlossbottmingen.ch/ Check out the pictures, especially the ones toward the bottom (you have to scroll down). That's what it looked like Saturday night, except with no snow. Janet and I shared a "hey! We live in Europe!!" moment, and Esther from Belgium kept chattering away and saying every so often that her English was TERRIBLE (it was great, actually) and telling us we need to find Swiss boyfriends to take us to dinner at the castle. We didn't disagree. I am having tons of fun hanging out with Janet! We share a good bit in common--home schooled, adventurous American girls who like school but like doing being domestic a bit more, and we both have a lot of funny and remarkably similar stories about would-be romances gone awry. Janet was a math major though! That's more adventurous than I am, that's for sure. Her German is also speeding along much faster than mine, partly because she's been here longer, goes to school in German, and talks German with her land lady who is less English-confident than my land lady. Plus I suspect she has a better knack for languages than I do. So I do my best to understand what I hear (I do understand quite a bit!), and I hope eventually I will really be able to say what I want to say in German too. I was thinking today that before I go home I should learn to say a paragraph in both Swiss German and in High German so I can demonstrate the difference to y'all. Mostly so you can sympathize with me...cuz Schwitzer Deutsche is some tough stuff!

Hey, I got a job! yeah, forgot to mention that. I am working in the French-speaking town of Delémont for a diet supplement company called SANKOM. SANKOM's claim to fame at the moment is that it was one of the products that went in the Hollywood gift bag at some award show recently...So you're talking to the newest member of their writing/editing/proofreading/layout/copy-maker/paper-shredder team. It looks like it's going to be a pretty good part-time job, and I wont be working very many hours a week--probably about nine-ish.

So, you want to know what's weird?? In Basel, Santa shows up on Dec. 6th and brings nuts and chocolate and clementines for the kids (and for me too! I didn't even have to send a forwarding address!). He talks to each kid about what he or she has done well, and what they need to improve. And there is a foreboding looking Bishop in a long black cloak standing by, with a switch in his belt for the kids who have been very bad. Simon had a friend's family over, and Santa had a word with each of them. The poor friend! When it was his turn for his talk with Santa, sweat was rolling down his face. Our Simon looked pretty chagrined too...especially when Santa told him he needs to stop throwing fits in the morning when it's time to get up and go to school. I was even glad to hear that one! Not a big fan of fits across the hall at 6 am. What's odd though, is that the roll of St. Nik and Jesus are almost swapped here--kids take Santa very seriously, and literally write letters to the Christ child telling him what they want for Christmas. And it's the Child, not Santa, that brings the tree and all the presents on Christmas. It's a strange idea to me, and seems like a distraction from what a treasure of a gift Jesus himself is. On the other hand, there is a much bigger emphasis here on the advent season and even at school there are advent candles and such. It's interesting to see how other people prepare for Christmas and what they emphasize.

That's what's goin' on, more or less! talk to you soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

happy Santa Claus day!

Santa stopped by today. He comes on the 6th here and brings nuts and oranges for the kids, and gives each one a talk about the things they have done well this year and the things they need to improve. I'll have to tell you all about it later, because I have more homework than a kid in detention....but I wanted to say hi. Oh, and I got a job proofreading/editing, so I'm thankful for that. :) Till I talk to you....all my love.

steph

Monday, December 3, 2007

Starbuck's...at least I got a free drink

Well, we just have to wait and see, but I don't think I got the Starbucks job. The information session was in German (Swiss German, no less) so I only understood maybe 50% of that. Then we filled out a questionaire, and the questions were in German. I wrote my answers in English, but hopefully they will take note of the fact that I understood the questions! That should count for something right?? My interview was in English, but I don't think they were real thrilled about it. I can't really blame them...I mean, they have to hire someone who can talk to the customers. They were concerned that I don't have any background in the hospitality or service sector, which I think is hardly a problem. I told them I sold peaches for a farmer one summer, but other than that, not really. =) So I will call tomorrow to get an answer, but five bucks says it's a no.

-S

Friday, November 30, 2007

Feast or Famine on the Job Hunt

Hi!
I've been busy on the job hunt recently, and it's yielded some results: today I started my recently acquired job as "Putzfrau" (cleaning lady). Now, cleaning is alright. I don't mind doing it, and it pays pretty well as far as very part time jobs go. I'm only supposed to do it 2 hours a week, although today it took me over 2.5 hours! Bad Putzfrau!! Very bad! I will have to hustle a little more next week to keep it down to two hours, but hopefully that will be no problem if I get into a routine. Monday I have my long awaited Starbucks interview, and I still don't know if it will be in German or English. We're hoping and praying for English, but I'm mentally preparing for German, running over all my german pleasantries, and what not. Even at my best though, it won't redeem me if they are hoping for someone who is reasonably competent in both languages. All my Swiss friends are sure it'll be no problem, and they think being a native English speaker is a big mark in my favor. We shall see. :) Then Wednesday, I have ANOTHER interview--sort of. I'm going to work proofreading a health book for the morning to "see how it goes." If they hire me, it'll be for my American English sensibilities (and I'm nothing if not thoroughly American), but the company hadn't seen my resume or even talked to me about my supposed experience in writing and editing before telling me to come for the morning! I've sent my resume now though, and of course it's loaded with writing and editing experience. So, between these three opportunites, things are looking up on the job front. Thanks to those of you who prayed I would find something, and that I would trust God in the meantime. :) I appreciate it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So much to say!

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

I hope you enjoyed a cozy holiday! I missed being at home with you all, but I had a good Thanksgiving too. I have a lot to tell you all since it's been so long! Gregg visited last weekend, I saw the alps (again), visited the church where John Calvin used to preach, met some North Carolinans and a pro basketball player from the Midwest, baked some pies and managed to get lost for an hour in a pea-sized town in Germany.

Gregg and I didn't do as much as we had planned while he was here. He was coming from a week in Paris and was a little tired of traveling and eating foamed goat cheese with his French friends, so we had dinner at Burger King (it cost us a whopping 35 Sfr. too!). We stayed up till 2 talking and the next day decided to not do much. We went for a walk up to the park and found the first veritable evidence of snow on a car parked at the grocery store. It wasn't much, but it was enough to make a snowball or two (see video).

Hey, did you know that in Geneva there are some really big statues of the major Reformers guys (Zwingli and Calvin, etc.)?? I didn't know either, until this week. In honor of Thanksgiving I skipped classes to go to Geneva with some people from church. I think it rained the entire time we were there, but we tramped around town anyway, checked out the cathedral where John Calvin used to preach and the old city that somebody rightly pointed out felt a bit like Paris. There was a building named Alabama too, after a Confederate pirate ship! Apparently, their was some international dispute involving the ship, and a Swiss body mediated. Or something like that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSS_Alabama

We stayed in a youth hostel Thursday night, which was better than I imagined hostels to be. Our door locked, and the breakfast lady let me have extra orange juice, so I thought it was pretty positive experience. It seems like I've known some people who stayed in youth hostels for their honeymoons. The orange juice was pretty good, granted, but still...I'm not sure I would recommend hostels for a honeymoon (in case you were considering it). But anyhooo. Geneva. There are a lot of hotels in Geneva, and a lot of shoe stores too!! But my travel buddies didn't have a proper appreciation for shoes, so I admired from afar. The best part was the drive home through the foothills along the French/Swiss border. If it weren't for all the people I like the best living in Oregon, those hills would be on my list of places to settle down in, with some cows and a cat or two.

As nice as the trip to Geneva was, it didn't constitute proper Thanksgiving festivities, so I joined about 30 other people for Thanksgiving dinner Saturday night. I finally baked some pies. =) And I listened to some goofy Bing Crosby song about promenading a turkey. I had an extra pie Sunday, so I took it to Daniel's family. My phone died on the way and I had a little trouble remembering my way to their house from the train station. I set off in the right general direction, but I quickly found I could only remember about half the route, and I couldn't remember the road name either (German names!), although I thought I might recognize it if I saw it. An hour later, still lost, I stumbled into the main part of town, where I found a map. I still couldn't say the street name for sure, but looking at the map helped narrow the possibilities to a very small vicinity, and I gave myself 10 minutes to find it; otherwise, I was going home. I did happen across it, and they were surprised to see me, hours later than expected (I had missed my train after church in the first place because I couldn't run to the station with a pie in hand). So we had pie, finally, and Dan's brother informed me he "prefers the German" version of apple pie. Sigh. After all that effort...

This week I am trying to finish all my school work for the rest of the term so I can focus on other things, like Christmas presents and getting ready to head home. I'll let you know how that goes. It involves a paper, preparing for a few tests, and a lot of reading, so don't hold your breath or anything. It's just a nice idea and potentially good incentive for me. That's it for now. I'll try to add a slide show here for you (it includes music). It's a work in progress, but it takes a while to upload video, so I will have to work on it more tomorrow. Civil Society class early in the morning tomorrow, you know!

video

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Poll Results

Hi Friends!
Well, as you can see, the poll results strongly suggest you think I should stay here in Switzerland rather than going to another school for a semester abroad. I have a meeting with my advisor in two hours to discuss my options. There was apparently some confusion over the point of the poll. Some people thought that I was making this a simple majority rule, democratic decision. That's an interesting idea, but sorry--that's not how it works. I'll take the votes into consideration along with some other factors. Then I will vote, and my vote counts for 50. I'll keep you posted on what I decide, and just so you can all enjoy the poll split and guessing at who voted for what, I'll leave the results up for a few days.

My other significant news is that I have an important presentation Saturday and I'm still not finished with it. All my spare time until Saturday morning will be devoted to that. Then AFTER my presentation, the real fun starts when Gregg gets here!! We're going to a Christmas market, a castle and maybe go-cart driving too. Should be fun.

Starbucks called last night and I have an interview for December 3rd!!! Woohooo!! Until then I will be practicing all my cashier-related German sentences and rehearsing my lines about why I want to work at Starbucks.

I would write more, but I've got things to do, places to go, people to see, as Grandpa always says...
Talk to you more later. Love and miss you all so much! Can't wait to come home for Christmas.

steph

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Don't worry!!! I'm still alive!


I have to apologize for my lack of bloggage the last few weeks. I have a good reason for it, you see. I was going to blog...I really was. But I got distracted, had a presentation, saw a hedge hog, lost at go-cart racing and bought a really cute top, and in the midst of all that important work, blogging got left behind. But, suffice it to say I have emerged from my grave and scholarly endeavors and can spare some time to write now. However...since it is midnight, I'm going to give you the quick update version.

1) This has been the week of wildlife. I saw a fox and a hedgehog AND there was a guy with a cage of bunnies on the train-A big cage! It made me feel better about the odd things I have taken on the train, particularly that day last week when a friend and I carried 3 big pumpkins on the train. Speaking of pumpkins, on Halloween, and the same day I saw the bunnies, I saw a guy who looked just like Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hallow. (for the unfamiliar: http://www.bartleby.com/310/2/2.html) He was extremely tall and gangly, with a big, bird-like nose and green eyes, and though I had never seen Ichabod Crane myself, I had heard he still travels between here and his native Hudson River valley, teaching school and giving music lessons. He got on at the musik akademie train stop, and I could hear him humming to himself in the next seat and it only confirmed my suspicion that this was most likely Ichabod himself. Plus he was dressed like an American. I was concerned about where he was headed on this Halloween night. I wanted to warn him. "Don't go to the party! Or if you do, don't flirt with the girl, or don't ride a horse home!! But he was preoccupied with the very large bench he was carrying (really!--also on the train), so I didnt bother him. Late Halloween night I had 4 or 5 little ghosts and goblin trick or treaters, and as I dropped snickerdoodles in their sacks, I heard in the distance the hoofs of two horses, racing along the cobblestone street, and I heard a mighty crash, and I haven't seen Ichabod on the train since. But I did see a hedge hog. So I think it is possible that the hedgeless horseman turned Ichabod Crane into a hedge hog that night.

2) I have the possibility of spending a semester "abroad" in this program. My options include several universities in South Africa (which I have not yet investigated), or a semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the schools that so shortsightedly turned down my application earlier this year. Please take time to vote in my poll about what I should do concerning semester abroad!!
pros/cons at this point, color coordinated for your convenience:
UW-Madison Pros: One of the best African Studies schools; among the oldest in the states; snow; I could work (positive for the cash flow!); I would live with Chantelle, my British friend from here; larger program, more class options; potentially good for making important connections for further graduate study; cheapest possible way to take classes at a US school--pay Swiss tuition fees and go to a US school. That is a great deal.
UW-Madison cons: It could be constituted "wasting Europe time;" wouldn't help my Deutsche much, opportunity cost of studying in South Africa.

South Africa Pros: Study in Africa would be an interesting experience, more than Wisconsin, I venture to declare; Opportunity to travel in Southern Africa (maybe); potentially establish good internship or job connections.

South Africa Cons: Don't know much about the schools on the list; I hear parts of South Africa are a bit rough; would be going "all by myself" (and I know that doesn't seem like much of a problem, considering I did move to Switzerland by myself, and at least in South Africa they speak my language); no working possibilities, as far as I know.

Not doing a semester "abroad" pros: can focus on getting to know people here, learning German, traveling in Europe; Cons: no additional connections or opportunity to get to know other people in other programs (including teachers), potentially narrow view of the field as a result.
So there you have it! Your opinion matters, so be sure to vote, or post your advice in a comment.

3)GREGGORY IS COMING TO VISIT! (Insert celebration dance here.)

4) I went go-cart driving with a bunch of guys yesterday for my friend's birthday party (I was the only girl invited...what do you think that means? I think it either means they were counting on me to bring cake, or I should wear pink more often so there is less confusion). Anyway, go-carts are fun, but be forewarned, it messes up one's hair, with the helmet and all. I lost the race, unfortunately. My fastest lap was still slower than all their fastest laps. But in my defense I hadn't driven a go-cart in about 10 years, and they go all the time, and furthermore I was being careful because I am not totally sure my insurance covers me here....so...I thought it best to err on the side of caution. 'sides. Someone had to lose, and I didn't want any of them to feel bad...getting beat by a girl and all. But next time...NEXT time...no more Mr. nice guy.

I have quite nearly finished the Noll book on colonial America (I'll write y'all a review and post it on here). Other recent procrastination tactics have included writing stories in ecology class, staying up until the wee hours of the morning watching the democratic debates (go Obama), shopping at the fall fair, and looking for work. The latter is only half procrastination. I really could use a job. I applied at Starbucks this week, and I hope it works out. My German is one major deterrent I'm afraid, but I talked with the store manager, a sympathetic ex-pat who encouraged me to apply anyway, so that sounds promising.

Well, I am sure other interesting things have happened, but I can't think of any at the moment. I will try to write more often. Until then, all my love.

steph

Hold your horses, y'all

I promise I am updating my blog...right now in fact! At this very moment...
So be patient!! And know that I am alive and well, and I FINALLY have internet at home.

steph

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why the Swiss I think I’m Crazy

“If pigs have wings, then some winged animals are good to eat; now, some winged animals are good to eat; therefore pigs have wings.”

The weather took a turn this week and it is cold cold cold in Basel. Cold enough to make the neighbors cover all their plants with plastic for the night, and the African students take off at least thirteen layers of clothes when they get to class (and they are still perfectly decent!!). There were even rumors of snow flurries today (!!), and when I walk to and from the tram, it feels like my lungs are going to up and freeze on the spot. Fortunately, my coat finally decided to show up Saturday after taking its sweet time getting here from home. By Friday it was already near-freezing weather, but despite the cold, I set out that morning in flip flops. Most of you know I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with shoes—love to buy them, hate to wear them—and when I have to sit in class all day, there is nothing worse than claustrophobic feet for hours on end. So I wore my flip flops, figuring that as long as my torso is warm, the rest of me is fine, and until my toes are at risk of getting frostbite and falling off, flip flops are the way to go as far as I am concerned. Well! Apparently people don’t do that here! Half of Basel, not to mention the lower part of Germany, were quite concerned about my health and scolded me profusely in three languages! My teachers, classmates, friends at church in Germany, teenagers on the train—they all thought it was quite a scandal, and clucked disapprovingly, prophesied I’d catch cold, offered me their own shoes and otherwise generally insisted that really, flip flops in freezing weather is just too much. Vitaly even said he was older and wiser and I should therefore listen to him (he is 23). They don’t really have to worry though, because I got my coat and I’ve been much warmer the last couple days even though the weather is colder and, just as importantly, flip flops don’t match my coat so the whole footwear issue has rather taken care of itself, don’t you think?

Saturday I bought a scarf, and I look like I real European girl now. I must pull it off pretty well, because people are always yakking away at me in Schwitzer Deutsche, sometimes getting whole paragraphs out before I can get a word in edgewise to apologize for not understanding a thing they are saying. This especially happens with old people on the train, and I am probably most disappointed about not being able to talk to them. Just Saturday, for instance, I was on the tram on my way to the train station. I was sitting in the handicap section and had a potted purple pansy in my hand and was busy reading a book by historian Mark Noll about Christians in colonial America (Colonial history is 10 times more interesting than normal when I supposed to be reading African history). Oh, and of course, I was wearing my magical Europe scarf. An old Swiss couple got on the train and the man said, “Ahh, schöne! Die Blumen.” and he leaned over to admire my flowers. I understood that much, of course. He was saying, “oh, what pretty flowers,” and I smiled and agreed in my best German. But THEN I think he asked what kind they were, or possibly what they were for, and when I said, in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak German,” he and his wife smiled and nodded approvingly and continued to talk about the type of flowers. I don’t think they heard me, I thought. So I said again, this time in German, “I only speak a little German,” and they said, yes, they thought I was right—that was the name of the flowers, only they say it different in their dialect (and they demonstrated the difference). Clearly, they hadn’t heard me, but I didn’t know what else to do. By that time they thought we had just had a lovely conversation, and I didn’t want to spoil it for them. So I smiled and agreed again in German, and I don’t think they had any idea that I couldn’t understand them!

Now, you probably want to know why I was carrying around a pot of purple pansies, right? I was going to Dan’s house to watch Walk the Line, the movie about Johnny Cash, and the pansies were for his mother. I bought them Saturday afternoon when I was planting flowers and procrastinating on my homework, because I thought they were so pretty and perky that they had to be given to someone. When I got to the train station (after the miscommunication with the old Swiss couple) I was standing at a counter by a coffee shop. I had nearly an hour before the next train and I had just gotten off the phone with Dan to tell him I would be late when a French guy about 12-15 years older than me walked over. He stood beside me for a second looking around the room, not at me. You know how undercover police officers work on the movies? Always watching the room, never looking at the other cop when they are having an important powwow about the bad guys? He did it just like that—came out of no where, looked around the room and then finally nodded toward my flowers and said in a hushed tone, “You know in Europe, we only give zees kinds of flowers at funerals.”
“What!?!” I said, a little startled, while I mentally noted to myself that either my magical scarf was not working or it was no defense against telephone conversation eaves-droppers as it seemed likely that this guy was. How else did he deduce he should talk to me in English, and that I was from nowhere in Europe?
“Really?! You give pansies at funerals.” I repeated. I was a little dubious. “What do you call zees?” he asked. Pansies? Yes, they are funeral flowers.” “Well!” I told him. “I thought they were pretty, and they are for my friend’s mom.” He laughed and said again they were definitely funeral flowers, but when I gave him my most squinty-eyed skeptical look, and asked, “Who told you that?” he said he read it in a book once, which I hardly thought proved the point. We talked a little longer about why we were both in Basel, about Portland and how far away it is from Canada and Seattle and other famous places. He was eager to see what I was reading and seemed to have an unusually keen interest in American Colonial history. Remarkably keen for someone who appeared to know nothing about it, I thought, and that was about the time I decided I would go wander around and see what other conversations my potted pansy and I could get ourselves into. We didn’t talk to anyone else though (not that I was disappointed), and when I got to Germany Mrs. Boschbach said he was wrong—they aren’t funeral flowers—and she thought they were pretty too.

I went to the English-speaking church in Basel Sunday. A girl invited me to her house for the afternoon along with a bunch of other mostly young/mostly single people for lunch and visiting. They were friendly and fun and I will certainly go back, although it might be a bad move for my German. There was some good natured teasing between the Americans and Brits over proper English. The argument about tomAHto/ tomato confused the guy from Hungary. He thought we were talking about two separate things, and wasn’t sure what the difference was. “Oh, it’s only pronunciation,” one of the Brits explained. “One way is right and the other way is American.”

So…That’s what’s going on. At least, that’s the important stuff. Then there are classes and things of course, but nothing much to say there, except that this week I learned some very interesting things about Swiss Missions, Anthropology in the 1920s, historical cartography in Cameroon, and the rise and fall of the black peasantry class in South Africa. Oh, and I learned in my epidemiology lecture on causality that the number of births in Germany between 1965 and 1980 decreased in proportion to the declining pairs of storks in the area. Correlation or cause?? You decide...
Beyond that, not a lot to tell. People are still completely at a loss for why an American would study African Studies, of all things, and in Switzerland, of all places. I’m asked several times a week, in fact, and I answer each person with a creative variation of “I haven’t the faintest idea.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If you want to be happy in a million ways...

Oh! There’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you wanna be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!

I bought tickets home for Christmas!!! (Grandpa, this leaves you 2 months, i.e. plenty of time, to lock the doors and turn out the lights before I get there). I'm supposed to arrive in Portland Christmas Eve, and I will stay until February 13. So...now I am campaigning for a job. Feel free to get the word out that I am looking for work for the month of January/first week of February, and I will take anything legal and ethical that pays--Dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs, doesn't matter. So if you know of anything, or if you think you might need a house sitter, dog/cat/baby/turtle sitter, mover, garage sale clerk, cleaning girl, research assistant, writer, painter (like for a room, not a picture), Christmas un-decorator, errand runner, old person companion, cook, art teacher, tutor, or a tight rope walker, let me know. I cant actually tight rope walk just yet, but I have a couple months, and I urgently need some work for January. I'm sure I could learn. Ok?? That's just a little FYI for you all. I am VERY excited to be coming home. I like Basel and in general I am still having a wonderful time, but really, Basel ain't got nothin' on Forest Grove.

You will also be pleased to know that I am now almost officially a resident of Switzerland. Not yet, but close. Monday Daniel and I drove 5 hours to Lyon to get my visa, and after several wrong turns and missed exits, and navigating by a combination of the sun, a confusing map, the alps, and a certain McDonald's restaurant, we finally got there. Oh, but first, we were late by that time, so I said, ok, I'm pretty sure the consulate is up this road a couple blocks. I'll hop out. You park, or drive around, and we will call each other. Good plan. I hurried up the block, but I couldn't find the consulate anywhere. I couldn't even find the road it was supposed to be on!! And THEN I discovered my phone was out of money and I couldn't call Daniel or the consulate. There is nothing like being late (the consulate had already closed), separated from your party and lost in a foreign country with no phone. But we managed, and I got my visa and we drove home. This week after I register with the city I can go open a Swiss bank account, which, along with the chocolate, is of course the REAL reason I came.

I have to go to class here momentarily, so ta ta. Have a great day, and don't forget to send any job leads my way. =)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Happy Friday to you!

You could knit mighty matters out of books
So up and tell a story, by cock's bones!
-Chaucer, The Parson's Tale

Hey friends!! I dont have any stories to tell, but I am delighted to inform you that its Friday! I hope you are enjoying the beginning of your weekend. I have one more class still today--a joint lecture series course where a different professor presents each week in regards to his or her area of research relating to African Studies. My favorite Professor is presenting tonight about the history of missions in Africa and the many ways that missionaries have contributed to knowledge in many "secular" realms through their work and writings. Professor Harries is from South Africa, and teaches both my lecture course on the history of labor in South Africa as well as the seminar on land reform history. In land reform, I am breaking one of my cardinal rules this semester. If I am expected to do a presentation in a course, I usually make every effort to avoid the area of the professor's particular interest or expertise. This time, however, other people took the topics I wanted before I voiced my preference, so I will be researching and presenting about a group of South African people called the Makuleke who were removed from their land in the Kruger National Park during Apartheid segregation, and then were the first to get their land back under land restitution after apartheid. Sounds great, except that my professor was personally involved with uncovering the fact that these people were being forcibly relocated, and the process of restitution. That doesn't bode well for my presentation grade, I think. =)

In a different class, the guided city tour course that I mentioned before, I will also be researching the history of the Basel mission. It has actually worked out rather nicely that I ended up here in Basel. The history of Christianity and missions in the 19th and 20th centuries has always been interesting, and here I have the Basel Mission archives just up the street and complete freedom to go read about anything I want. Then, besides that library, there is also the Basel Africa Bibliographien, with all kinds of resources and archives on Namibia especially plus other Southern African countries. Fun, huh?! Since we are talking about classes, mom, I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me about things like biology classification, abiotics, weather patterns, soil types and scientific process when I was in grade school. Ecology and epidemiology are making perfectly good sense to me, while some of my classmates (even some native English speakers!) are bewildered half the time.

In other news, tonight I am going to a party at a classmate's house. This is the guy from Egypt, and he is throwing the party in celebration of the end of the month of Ramadan. All the students in our department are invited, and, while I am usually a bit grumpy on Friday because of having class until 6 pm, and I am not overly excited about spending the evening with all my classmates, I am going anyway. I figure if I am going to spend 2 years with these people, I should make every effort to get to know them and accept hospitality, or else I will soon find myself excluded from invitations. And I'm sure I will have an ok time and will be glad I went. Tomorrow my land lady and her son get back from vacation, so the big wait for Internet at home is almost over!!! Hopefully I will have it this week or next the latest. Okiedokie, gotta go to class.

Talk to y'all soon.
Steph

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pictures!!

Better late than never! I posted a few pictures below. Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, October 8, 2007

CIA officers, Castles, and yet another brilliant idea...

Its about time for some new pictures, don't you think? The ones on here are drivin' me nuts. Last night, as I procrastinated both homework and sleep, I moved all the pictures I want to share with you onto my USB, only to leave it at home in my laptop this morning in my hustle to make it to the tram on time. Such good intentions...such little evidence....

Want to hear my latest brilliant idea?? I decided to write a novel next month. That's right. In November. December would be too busy, you know, with Christmas and exams and what not. But I think November is a good time to make my debut as a novelist. Besides the obvious advantages of the month (few holidays, dreary weather, no exams), there is the added incentive that November is National Novel Writing Month, and a wonderfully ridiculous organization called NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) orchestrates word checks and pep talks for some 30,000 people who commit to writing a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. To be honest, I haven't quite decided for sure if I am going to participate, but I am leaning that way--a serious lack of story ideas notwithstanding. My primary reservations are that it will take a lot of time, and that friends and family such as yourself will undoubtedly think this is another one of my charmingly crack-pot self-improvement projects...not that that has stopped me in the past, of course (studying in Switzerland? Case in point!). So stay tuned. =) I am re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for inspiration and already I feel a best seller coming on. I could really use some NaNoWriMo writing buddies though, so if any of you aspiring authors (Jessica? Tim?!) want to join me, the more, the merrier!! I would highly recommend checking out the nanowrimo website.

Yesterday I visited a church in Basel. They meet in the Gundeli Casino building, which explains why I missed the place the first 3 times I walked by. Who notices a church that meets in a Casino?!? The preaching was in German, but they gave me a headphone set and a funny, slow-talking British guy translated for me. Or he could have been German or Swiss with a convincing British accent. I couldn't quite tell...he translated an awful lot of words as "stuff," a curious translation for such a variety of words, and as distracting as it was to hear both the German and the English at the same time, it was worth it for his parenthetical little insertions, like "You can drop your card in the orange box at the back...he didn't really say that yet, but I'll just tell you that. Ok, I'm shutting up now..." He was really the highlight of the service for me, whoever he was, which doesn't say a whole lot for the rest of the service. I wish I could transplant the Mars Hill church in Seattle to Switzerland. That's what I'm looking for, or something similar in the teaching style, but so far nada. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of modern technology I have been enjoying Mars Hill podcasts from afar.

Did I tell you about the guy I met who works for the Swiss version of the CIA?! He's in a couple of my classes, and in one of them we did introductions the first week and were supposed to say why we were in the class, what we were studying, etc. He said that he travels a lot for his job and he will be likely going to Africa more in the future, and he needs to know more about the continent. Hmmm, I thought to myself. That is an intriguingly vague description, and besides that, even people who want to know more about a particular region to prepare for travel don't normally take Masters level courses in, say, the ecology of the place, or the politics, or the spread of disease. Sounds suspect, if you ask me. So the next week, we both happened to be a bit early for class, and I took advantage of the opportunity to pry into his personal business. "What kind of work do you do that requires you to go to Africa?" He said he gathers information. "What kind of information?" I asked. He gave me a sideways look, as if to say I was a nosy little so and so, but I just smiled, and he said, "information about countries." "Who do you gather this information for?" He skirted the issue a bit longer, but finally said yes, he works for Swiss intelligence, and is primarily involved in issues of Security. Now THAT is interesting! If it's true. But you kind of have to wonder, because usually people who work in intelligence aren't really supposed to advertise that fact in the chit chat of everyday conversation, you know? You would think it would be a little tougher to wrastle that information out of a person, but maybe he thought I seemed harmless enough.

This week I went for a run and found a Castle. I also found some cows with bells, and I had a long conversation with a goose who didn't speak any English but was more sympathetic than some of the other persons around here who don't speak English. I found some great running trails that wind around a pond and up through the hills just outside of Arlesheim. They seem to be well used during the day--there were lots of older people out for walks, and a few runners, and moms with strollers, so I am looking forward to running there instead of in town. I will post pictures of the castle asap.

I secured a German tutor this week. I have been emailing with this woman since before I left the states, but we just finally met up today. We will be meeting for two hours each Monday and spending one hour in German and one hour in English. She is an experienced German teacher, which is great for me. Her English is already pretty good, but she needs to work on her reading pronunciation and vocabulary that is outside of the realm of normal conversation--for instance, the things that she reads for class and understands, but has no idea how to pronounce. This week I will try to track down some good English advanced vocabulary building materials, and we agreed to use my German/English parallel text stories, too.

I think I am out of news and exciting stories, so before I digress into tales of labor relations and land alienation in South Africa, or worse, epidemiology formulas, I will say 'so long' and bid you all a good day. =)
All my love,
steph




Tuesday, October 2, 2007

long time no post

Howdy,
Ok, so I lied. I didn't post pictures from around town after a day or two, and in fact, I am going to keep you all waiting even longer because my laptop stubbornly refused to recognize my camera when I tried to download pictures last night. But at some point in the near future, expect to see pictures from Basel, Arlesheim, my newest shoes (these are white), and possibly even the party I went to Saturday.

I went to a crazy birthday party this weekend!! Remember Simone, the girl on the left in the picture with the gigantic US map? She turned 19 last week, so she invited 35 people over to celebrate. We all brought ingredients for dinner, and then, based on what people brought, we made dinner together. Imagine 35 (mostly) teenagers, four burners, one oven, and a lot of knives, and you will have a pretty good idea of what the party was like. I told her patient parents that if I had tried to pull something like that, I would have been disowned and dismissed from the household. It was a fun party though, and I met some new people. Simone asked everyone to introduce themselves in English as well as German, for Steph's sake. One guy from her school said, "My English is not so good. When Simone was in the US, I called and said `hi, I'm the gay from Germany.' Elli and Johanna told me I am very typically American, in my style and mannerisms, but "It's ok," they said. "We like it." Johanna said she likes Americans so much she is planning to marry an American boy and was like, "So do you have any sisters or...brothers??!!!" I think it's interesting though how much they perceive the United States through our movies. They said they think I look like Reese Witherspoon (the actress in Sweet Home Alabama, or Legally Blond) but Vipka disagreed. She thinks I look like Gweneth Paltrow (the actress in Emma). So--I dont really think I look like either of them, but being compared to two pretty blond actresses in one day? I can hardly complain.

I am enjoying getting to know my classmates a bit more. Friday night my Guided City Tour class took a little walk to see the Basel Mission (a huge building built in 1815) and then went out for drinks and chicken wings. Timo said the wings were so good, it must have been a chased chicken. In Namibia where he is from, the chickens that are fed and kept in a pen are plumper and better tasting than the tough hens that run all over the place. When it's time to eat one, the kids go chase it around the pen and they say that's what makes it taste so good--its a chased chicken. Ibraham, from Egypt, said that they eat pigeons in Egypt, and if he knew how to prepare one he would be tempted to poach the pigeons that are always flying around town. "The pigeons here are so dumb," he said. "They don't watch where they are going, and they just land whether there is a person there or not. I've been hit by pigeons twice!!" None of the rest of us have had this problem...but it was funny listening to him complain about it.

Speaking of Egypt, my landlady and her son are on vacation there at the moment. Agi moved out this weekend, and I moved into my permanent room, which is great--less Legos, more lamps, fewer airplanes, more chairs, no star-spangled canopy over my bed, but as a consolation prize I have an old-fashioned desk with glass hutch doors and everything. I bought a lavender candle that smells like Grandma Bishop's house as a room-warming present for myself. Oh, I bought tulip and daffodil bulbs too!! I haven't planted them yet because I couldn't fit a pot in my backpack last time I went shopping...but just wait. In a week or two I will have tulips buried and waiting for the spring.

I did buy I bike last week. It doesn't have a basket yet, but it will. The bike will be handy for grocery shopping, hauling flower pots, and running around on the weekends. My very fatherly South African professor is quite concerned that Chantelle and I ought to be wearing helmets if we are going to be riding about town, but you know it would mess up my hair, and anyway, nobody else wears them and I cant be looking like a homeschooler!! But I promise I will avoid riding by the trams or on the busy roads without a helmet.

Classes are going well, although my reading is starting to pile up a bit. I got distracted talking to someone here in the library and I have to go to Epidemiology now, so I will write more some other time, though I dare not make promises about when since I seem bound to break them. =)

I need a job. Please pray that I find one.
Behave yourselves, and don't do anything I wouldn't do. =)

Steph

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mistaken for a Highschooler

Hi Friends!
Some things don't change, no matter what side of the world I'm on. For instance, last week, when I was wandering around the city lost I asked for directions at a Kiosk. The lady at the counter didn't understand my English, but a man who was probably 70 years old overheard. He looked kind of like an older version of Mr. Rogers with his slacks and sweater. He stepped right up to help. "Ehh? Which Language? Français? Nein? English? Ok, where do you want to go?" I showed him the street on the map, and he said, "You need to be on the other side of the river--you see that bridge there? The Other side of the river." I should have known that, I thought--whenever I'm lost in Portland, its always on the wrong side of the river. The old man continued "You take Tram 3, Ehh? Number 3!" He held up three fingers to clarify. "And then, you cross the river, and walk up the steps and the highschool is right at the top of the steps. Its a long walk, but you have good legs, and its right at the top of the steps, you'll see the highschool." The highschool! I thought. I'm not looking for the highschool...he must mean the university though. I thanked him and followed the tram tracks across the bridge because I didn't have any coins to buy a ticket for tram 3. I turned right at the end like he said and up the steps, and--sure enough, there was the highschool. I wanted to march right back across that bridge and say, "I'm in Graduate school, not high school!!!" but I was still trying to get to class, so I didn't.

Internet access is still sketchy, but I have just discovered a second library that has Internet access, and this one is closer to the main campus building than the English department library is, so we are in good shape.

Tomorrow we are having a going-away dinner for Agi, the girl from Poland. She moves out this week and then I can move into my permanent room.

This weekend I went with Daniel to a movie (in English!!), went grocery shopping with my hiking backpack on because the store is a long ways away and how else was I going to carry everything back?! and Johannes came down from Frankfurt and we had lunch and dropped by the Starbucks. Would you believe they dont have peppermint mochas here?! I might not have come to switzerland if I had known that. I'm getting pretty settled in and I am finding my way around. I need to make more friends--otherwise I am going to wear out the few I have.

This week I am starting a class called English in America--it covers the development of American English, the regional and ethnic differences, etc. I will be a real live specimen for them, and I am really excited about this class, except I did the reading for this week and it was a very brief overview of US History-- all 200+ years crammed into 15 pages. It was a tremendous oversimplification, of course, and we haven't got to reading about the language component yet, but I am waiting with bated breath.

Ok, I am off to class soon (Slavery to Freedom in S. Africa), so I will talk to you all later. I will post pictures from around town hopefully in a day or two. Much love and saccharine (as my dear elder brother calls it).

steph



Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Didn't really fall off the face of the earth, but close.

Hey!
Sorry for the lack of communication this week. I don't have internet currently at my new place in Switzerland, which is making everything a bit difficult. Until yesterday, I also hadn't found a way to get online here at school either, because I still don't have a student email account or login credentials...but, fortunately, I met a very nice graduate student studying English, who happened to know that jf you cut through a bookstore just past the main building, turn the corner onto an old cobblestone street, go through the huge wooden door marked with the year 1556 or something like that and up the spiral staircase to the English library, there is not only a splendid supply of American and British literature, but also some computers that dont require a student login ID. This works fine while I am here at school, as long as the department is open, but my communication will still be a bit sparse until I have internet at home.

My classes so far look as though they will be interesting! They're about great topics like land reform, mining, class relations in the industrial revolution, the idea of civil society and its application to Africa. I'm also taking epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical Institute with a bunch of science students and doctors (don't worry--it's an introduction to epidemiology), and I start my German class tomorrow.

The people in the program are really remarkably friendly, which is nice, and more than I expected. I've met 3 of the other 7 people who are new this semester, and I have a lot of classes with two of them particulary--Chantelle from London, and Andrea from Hungary. They both are nice, and Chantelle and I will both be learning German, so we have that in common too. And of course, we have our first language in common which is always a plus. There is one other American in the program that I know of. He's from Illinois, and he's given me some helpful tips about the tram, where to find things, etc.

My living situation looks like it will be ok, provided I get this internet situation worked out. I kind of wish it was closer--the tram is easy, but costs about 68 CHF per month, and if I lived a bit closer a bike could be a good alternative. Bikes aren't cheap either, but at least I'd only pay for it once. But then, who wants to ride a bike in bad weather...so I don't know what's best.

I still have some details to work out obviously, and I'm a bit frustrated about them, but I think it will be ok pretty soon. Please pray that we get internet access at home this week. My land lady is going on vacation next week and if they don't come to install it before then, it could be as late as the middle of October, which makes work, banking, downloading my reading assignments, keeping up with class notifications, etc., all very difficult.

love to you all,
steph

Retroactive to Sunday...

Ah, Switzerland. My Euros don’t work, but otherwise, we’re golden. I’m camped out in a kids room: there are boats sailing across my walls, and I have more helicopters and LEGOS in here than I know what to do with. I start my classes tomorrow, although I’m thankful to have a very light day on Monday, and I’ll use the extra time to get my bearings in Basel. I’m pleased to report there is a Starbucks in Basel, by the way. Not that I’ll be frequenting it, since I’m a poor graduate student now, but if I get lonely for the Great Northwest, I might swing by. I think I’m fortunate to have a temperament that adjusts quickly to new places and people, but it’s not so fun not understanding people…so…we’ll see. I might find myself in Starbucks more than I anticipate. I am understanding more and more German every day though, and I’m still having a wonderful time!
Here’s the quick rundown of what’s been happening:
1) I might buy a bike! I haven’t had a functional bike in ages, so I’m excited about that—if I get one it’s going to have a basket and everything. How fun! The guys in Lörrach have been out en force on my behalf all week looking for a suitable used bicycle, and I’ll post a picture if/when I buy one.

2) In other exciting news, I went grocery shopping, and I’m feeling quite domestic. I mean, I am set for nesting: I could bake you a pie or make oatmeal for an army, or invite the royal family for tea, or we could have pasta or potatoes or anything you want!! That is, we could if you were here. Unfortunately, I don’t have very many decorations for my room yet, but don’t be alarmed! I will remedy that situation shortly. I was going to buy tulip and daffodil bulbs yesterday, but Mrs. O reminded me I don’t have a garden (particulars, particulars) so first, I’m going to ask if I can have a pot in the yard, and THEN I’m going to buy flower bulbs.

3) My classes that I’m most looking forward to are “Black and Yellow Gold. A comparison of Mining and Miners in the German Ruhrgebiet and the South African Witwatersatrand, 1880-1950,” “Land Reform: Poverty as History in South Africa,” and “Imagining Africa: Missionary Intellectuals and Systems of Knowledge.” I don’t know if they’ll let me take the class on mining. Some of it is in German, and my German ist nicht so gut. I will have a total of around 11 classes, including German and an African Language (probably Swahili, but depends on availability. Arabic is the other most logical choice). That feels like a lot right now, but it’s about right—their credit system works differently than ours, so a “normal” credit load is about 30 credit points a semester, and I’m at 28ish. I’m also taking a course with the English department on South African Fiction, and I think that will be fun too. I’m a little heavy on South Africa-themed classes this semester, but it’s just what’s offered this time.

4) Olga and I watched Emma Saturday night, and I have to say I love that movie so much. The boys refused to watch with us. We tried to invite them, but they said “NO EMMA! And you aren’t going to contaminate our laptops with it either!” I told Vitaly that I know a couple guys who actually enjoyed the movie, but he said, “are you sure they were guys?,” so Olga and I gave up and watched it by ourselves and had a wonderful time without them.
There you have it. J Steph’s life in a very small nut shell. Feel free to email me or leave comments! I enjoy getting emails, and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely fashion. Blessings on your day!

Friday, September 14, 2007

How to offend, in five words or less...

Some people around here seem to think that the proper English names for things like poop and butt are Sheet and Assophagus. I don't think anyone ever told them that those aren't the polite terms for either, and that in fact, scat and bum or rear or caboose will work just as nicely and will be much less abrasive to the native English speaker's ear. I don't think they're trying to be rude, but we'll be going along in polite conversation, "blah blah blah her assistant..." and it's so hard for me to hear the rest of what the person is saying because I can't believe they just said that to me! In front of old people or children! or AT CHURCH!
I was on the train the other day and some kids in the next seat heard me talking and thought I was British, and when I said, no, actually I'm from the United States they said, "Oh! cool! Are you from the Bronx? Do you know 50 Cent personally (they really said that! do you know him personally!)?" I said no, I live far from the Bronx, and I don't believe I've ever had the pleasure of making his acquaintance (50 Cent is a rapper, in case you don't know). And THEN, these kids busted out some song lyrics. Now, if you know much about rap, or anything about 50 Cent, you know these are not exactly Shakespeare sonnets or the kind of lyrics that people generally quote to a girl in public, much less one they just met. Use your imagination--50 Cent is about as impolite as you can be, and while I'm sure the kids know in their heads, "this is a bad word in English," I don't think they've thought about how it will cause English-speakers to respond to them if they use such crass language to them. I don't even think they were trying to be unfriendly, and I would have been happy to talk to them otherwise. I just really didn't have much else to say to them after they told me I should shake my assparagus for them. Kind of a little irritating, you know?
So, after all that, I'm feeling a bit sheepish, because when I was in school my floor knew one extremely offensive word in Japanese. We even knew what it meant--but the idea didn't carry the same offensive character that it apparently does in Japan. We were all sitting around a line of tables in uwajimaya Japanese restaurant in Beaverton with Yoshie, our Japanese floormate. Her roommate Brittney was sitting next to her, and she said, "hey, lets play telephone," and she whispered a word to the girl on her other side. We all whispered that Japanese word around until it got to Yoshie, who was SO mortified we thought she'd die on the spot. What if the Japanese waiters had overheard!!! She was ticked. We thought it was funny, but she was pretty upset. Ironically, the other time I saw her really mad, she expressed it by flipping off a teacher and the rest of us thought that was totally inappropriate and offensive...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

One old church and two new shoes!

Hi Friends!

For those of you who like to get right to the point, I'll give you the High/lows, as we used to call them at Fox. The highs this week have been exploring Freiburg with a new friend, lots of fun conversations with my hosts, and buying new shoes (black flats, purchased today). The lows have been sparkles in my water, and wishing every single day that I understood German better.

Today I went to Freiburg with a friend from the church. Everyone else was either at work or school, so I would have been holding down the fort on my own. Peter and Vitaly and Mr. O all work at the same place up the road and they come home for lunch every day. Mrs. O had to work today, so the original plan was that I would cook lunch. When they found out I was going someplace the guys were like, "WHAT? NO! you can't go! what are we going to eat!?!" But they apparently managed, and I was sort of glad to not have the pressure of having something edible pulled together when I don't know where anything is in the kitchen, am not familiar with the food they have in the house, and can't read anything in German.


But anyway, back to my story. We went to Freiburg, and that is one cute town (see pics)! I'd like to live there, but so would everyone else, so it's expensive. The point was to take pictures, and I learned a little more about how to use my Nikon. Daniel had a nice Digital SLR too, and he knows how to use his better than I do.

Sunday I went to the Black Forest with Olga and family and took a little boat ride...visited a waterfall...stuff like that. The BF looks a lot like our corner of Oregon, except with better architecture and higher hills. They both have that rich evergreen presence that we Oregonians love so much. It's colder there than in Oregon, though. A guy from church told me that his house in the black forest is at 700 meters. Olga and I babysat for this guy and his wife Saturday night. They have lovely children, but babysitting is a lot easier when you speak the same language as the kids, lets just say that. In all honesty, Olga babysat and I happened to be there.


Monday I went with Peter and Mrs. O to Switzerland to meet my land-lady-to-be and see my room. The house is in a quiet neighborhood, and my room overlooks the garden. I'm happy about that. The room is an ok size--not big, but not much smaller than my room at home, so it's fine. Everything is set for me to move in Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy the pictures! Talk to you soon!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Home Sweet Germany

I am here in Germany keeping a tough schedule of riding bikes and trains, eating ice cream, watching American movies in German, and hanging out with a bunch of nice people my age all day. My trip here wasn't too bad--even the 10 hour layover was endurable. I sat in the white wooden rocking chairs at Charlotte International Airport for a few hours and thought about how I was definitely in the south (who else would think to put rocking chairs in an airport?). I even logged on to wikipedia, found the song Dixie, and me and the 1915 Chamber orchestra performing it had us a nostalgic moment for the south. Then, after that, because you can only be nostalgic about the south for so long and I had a whole 10 hours to fill, I got a pedicure. Now, if you think that's indulgent, be glad I refrained from also getting a manicure and a massage and my shoes polished too! Believe me--one girl, 10 hours in an airport, nobody to talk to--even a shoe shine on a flip flop sounds like an interesting activity. Then I went to Starbucks and took a nap...and the rest of my layover wasn't very interesting.

On the plane I sat next to a lady from Bavaria on one side, and a 21 year old guy from Cincinnati who was on his way to Warsaw doing almost the exact same thing I was doing. He doesn't speak polish, didn't previously know anyone in Poland, but is interested in international affairs, and he was on his way to school. Obviously, we had a lot in common. We talked about expectations, apprehensions, what our mothers think about our crazy ideas. He thinks his is just glad to have him out of the house, but I doubt it. Anyway, when we got to Frankfurt he kindly carried my bags for me, watched my stuff while I hit the ladies room, escorted me to my train and explained in detail how the schedules work and important little distinctions like "arriving" versus "departing" in German. Once I was actually on the train, however, I had a little more trouble with my bags. There were other people with a lot of stuff too...but usually they were traveling in groups and could at least help each other. It was a bit challenging by myself. There were a lot of people, and they all looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going, and I didn't. Then, as if I wasn't feeling lost and silly enough already, the guy pushing the snack cart thought I was entirely amusing (especially my German) and I wanted to tell him, "Look buster, don't laugh at me. It's not funny," but he moved to a different car before I was done being flustered enough to say so.

I was supposed to meet Olga's brother Daniel at the Basel train station in Switzerland, but there are two stations for Basel--one in Germany and one in Switzerland--and I got confused about where we were meeting. By the time I got another train I was a half hour late, and I didn't have any way to tell Daniel that, and I didn't know if he would still be waiting when I got there! I got off the train at the right stop this time, and there was hardly anyone there. Nobody waiting with a sign, like they had said. No indication of a waiting area or anything. I asked the passport control police if they had seen a kid wandering around holding a sign with a girl's name on it, but they said no, they hadn't, and sent me around the corner to check the hall inside. No kid or sign there either, but this guy who was NOT holding a sign gave me a funny look and said, "Stephie?" He turned out to be Olga's older brother Peter, and he had come with his car and his brother and sister to get me. Daniel and Julia had been outside with the sign, but we had missed each other. Peter says when the train I was supposed to be on came, they didn't know if they would recognize me exactly, so they jumped in front of every blond girl who came off the train and held the sign up for her to see, and they were getting worried when nobody responded very positively.

After that little adventure, things have been just great. My host family is warm and friendly, and it's fun to be with people my age again! Olga is a kick in the pants, and we decided we're going to learn to ski together this winter. Her little sister Julia is 11. She's a sweetheart, and she leans on my arm, or writes me letters in German in Google and then translates them to English using the automatic translator. Today she said I'm her sister too, like Olga. The boys are normal brothers, and they're holding the ropes on behalf of my own brothers. They tease me about my pedicure, about running slow, about not being too proficient in driving a standard, and so on. They're helping me find a cell phone too, and are busy bringing me up to speed on Italian car makes, including engine types, of course. The kids speak pretty good English, especially the oldest three who are Peter, Olga and Vitaly. Mr. and Mrs. O make efforts at English and I make efforts at German and occasionally Russian, so we do ok. Mr. O is always saying stuff like "Stephie! Wo ist Deine hausshue?!!" ("where are your slippers?"), of "Stephie! Essen!" (Eat!) but he speaks so little English that he has to ask his kids anytime he wants to say something in English. Tuesday night the kids and I went and saw the Jackie Chan movie Rush Hour 3, in German of course. Wednesday we went to the school and stopped by my department. I think I'm going to really enjoy my classes. There are about 30 people in the program, and 8 new students this term counting myself. The coordinator met with me and a girl from London at the same time to discuss classes and such. She comes from an Art History background, so it sounds like we have some common interests beyond our immediate studies too. The mandatory courses this term are introductions to the various disciplines that shape the rest of the program. Then besides those, I'll take a few additional classes. There is one that is a two semester class basically for designing public history--in this case, the first semester is spent researching Basel's historical connections with Africa and determining which aspects could be best presented to teach about Basel's history and Africa. Then the second semester is spent learning about design principles, presentation styles, multimedia, creating a walking tour of Basel based on the research in the first semester, and coordinating it all in time for some big Africa conference that will be held in Basel next year. I think that sounds fun! It's like working in a museum, without being stuck in a museum, which is the main reason I never wanted to be a curator. The subject matter and presentation design is interesting, but the indoors-with-artifacts part is kind of a drag.

Wellp, there's more I could say, of course, but its 2:30 am, and I should sleep, and you probably wouldn't want to keep reading anyway. :) So, I wish you a guten tag, and all my love. I'll send some pictures soon.

Steph