Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

(disclaimer: I'm not saying this is a masterpiece in quality or creativity, but here is a christmas slideshow for you nonetheless)

video

Love y'all!
-Steph

Friday, December 19, 2008

Commercial Break is Over

Aaand, we're back. I've noticed that when most people say, "hey, you should update your blog" I say, go jump in a lake. But if my wonderful big brother says "you've really negelected your blog, dear," I think to myself, why, he's right, and I get right on it. So you can thank Greggory for this blog entry.

I have been busy with school and other things, so to catch you up most effectively, we'll do this blog rapid fire style.

1)Christmas Last time I wrote about my recently aquired free branches. They turned into three swags and a wreath, which, in combination with my decked out christmas tree, have my apartment looking very festive indeed.






(Santa and his assistants giving M1 the yearly lecture).

I finally sent my christmas presents to the States on Wednesday. The lady said I should have sent them by the end of November to get them there by Christmas, and we shared a chuckle over that thought. I chuckled to think that anyone actually has their christmas shopping done by then. I imagine she chuckled at the silly American girl coming in to send a box half-way around the world a mere week before the big day, when she's known all year long exactly when Christmas would come.

Yesterday I was talking to Gregg, and I had a nearly overwhelming urge to tell him what his present is! I've had this problem for as long as I can remember, and it's particularly bad with some poeople. One year I got Gregg a Checkers game for christmas (or a birthday), and I was so excited about it I gave him a "hint" and told him the first letter. As if that wasn't close enough to telling him, he convinced me to tell him the second letter too, and as soon as he knew it started with "Ch" he knew what it was. He was happy with the present, but I was so devestated that he guessed.

I'm going to Dom and Raph's house for christmas, along with various other expats--some I know and some I don't. I'm looking forward to that, but as the great exedus has begun this week, I'm a wee bit jealous and would be very glad to also be going home.

2)History Nerds Last night I went to a "so long, Switzerland" party to see the American Exchange student Nikki off. Five of us came. Historians are kinda funny when they're all together. What other group would think that sitting around eating Mexican food and brownies and talking about John Stewart Mill and clasical liberalism, the Early Modern period, history of gold and germs, colonialism, various African wars and historical contexts for identity constitutes a "party"?
3)marathon I officially signed up to run the Connemarathon (half...only half) in Ireland in March, with Valda. This is exciting on several accounts. First, it means I'm going to Ireland (woohoo!). It also means an excellent excuse to prioritize exorbitant amounts of time running around in the woods, or in the city, or by the river, or...well, anywhere. Plus! much of that will be with Valda, which means lots of long and pleasant chats.

4)master thesis One of the reasons I haven't blogged is that I've been busy thinking about what to research for my master's thesis. I haven't pinned it down totally, but it's looking like I might do something about water and infrastucture and the like in South Africa. Stay tuned...

5)Snow We have a ton! It warmed up a bit the last day or two, so it's falling off the trees now, but it has been quite wonderful. And it made me miss class the other day...I HATE it when that happens! :)



Who says you can't wear heels with a snowsuit!?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wreaths! and Brandi Carlile

Guess what!? I got a whole garbage bag of evergreen branches for FREE! I know that might not impress you Oregonians, because you can just go out in your yard and clip a few if you want to make a wreath. Still, it's a fact that evergreens are wiley tempters this time of year. I bet that like me, you enviously cast your eye upon the neighbors trees and catch yourself thinking things like, "they wouldn't even miss this half; they totally can't even see it from their window." At home, even with our own collection of fir trees on the property, I can hardly walk down the hill toward the cemetery, past the big, glorious field of squat little Douglas firs, without thinking about my hatchet and which tree would look best in the living room. That none of them is for sale (how stingy!) and the owners don't live on the hill doesn't help the situation. I'm sure you can sympathize. Here in Basel though, Christmas greens are EXPENSIVE! Five francs for a couple lousy short sticks on Marktplatz last week!

(As an aside...when we were little, Brian had a particular affinity for sticks. Well, ok, we all did, truth be told. But Brian left his around the yard and would get quite upset if we picked one of his sticks up and tried to use it for whatever we wanted a stick for (poking around in our gardens, for example, or stirring the "cement" in the dump truck). Gregg and I tried to respect Brian's right to personal property and use sticks that he hadn't laid claim to, but we agreed he was taking things too far when he began claiming sticks that were still on the apple tree. After that, we decreed by the authority of being older that all twigs on the tree belonged to no one and could, therefore, be claimed by anybody. After that, when Brian tried to argue that the stick I had in hand was his, demonstrating that I got it off the tree was a swift and sure defense of rightful ownership).

But back to my story...the neighbors were cutting down a couple trees yesterday, so I toodled up the road and asked if I could take some branches home. They said yes, and voila! Enough greenery (in a variety of colors, no less) to make at least 2 wreathes. Now I just need ribbon and wire.

Would you believe I started out to write about Zurich?! Saturday I went to the Brandi Carlile concert with Melanie from school and Raphael. The concert was good--about what I expected, and well-worth going (check it out on youtube). I knew all the songs she played except for 2. The best "unexpected" thing about the concert was noticing they were all looking very Northwest in their western style, button up shirts. One guy in the band even had his blue plaid flannel on. Does that say Great Northwest, or what!? :) It was my first time in Zurich, and it was a good time to go. The city is alight with Christmas decorations and there was snow. I stayed at Melanie's house overnight and Sunday I saw Zwingli’s church, the university and old town, and this funky little boat-theater that moves around the lake giving regular performances. It would be fun to go to a show sometime.

Back to preparing tomorrow's presentation on historiography in South Africa...but then, afterward (after tomorrow's presentation, that is), I'm going to a handball game. Handball in CH isn't like handball in the states. The best way to imagine it is this: It's just like Basketball, only with soccer nets and goalies instead of hoops, and you don't dribble--you throw a sticky ball around instead. Oh, and you can travel. :) That's my pre-handball experience description of the game. I'll let you know if I need to revise it afterward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The goose is getting fat

Look what arrived in our mailbox this week:



It's a notice announcing that Santa Claus will be in Pfeffingen the 5th, 6th, and 7th of December this year. Anyone who wants him to stop by and visit is encouraged to provide their name and address, their preferred day and time frame, names and ages of the kids, and (what cracks me up) the good and bad ("Nit so guet") things the kids have done lately.

So there ya have it. The goose is getting fat, and Santa is on his way!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stephanie needs a nap

Look what I found:
quilt stuff
You should check out her list of completed quilts on the right side of the blog.

I should write a book: 501 Things To Do In Graduate School Besides Study.
Actually, that's why I need a nap. The last two weeks and the weekend were so busy with school and various other commitments that I feel like I could go to bed right now at 6 pm and sleep all night.

I talked to my advisor today about the game plan for applying to start my Master's Thesis. I need to get my application in within the next month or so, which means settling my topic, my thesis advisors, starting a bibliography and writing a research proposal. This is on top of my 4 upcoming presentations and the rest of my week to week work.

I'll be a busy girl...

In other news, check out this pretty dress I'm buying to wear in Janet's wedding:

I mean, if one's friends have to go off and get married, at least it's a good reason to buy a nice dress. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elections!

Hello and Happy Election Day to you all! I'm trying to decide whether to get up in the wee hours of the morning to watch returns, or assume Obama wins and sleep to a normal hour (but not a very normal hour, cuz I have to work at 7). It's a lot more fun to watch returns with someone. In Reinach tonight, some english-speaking girls, about 14 years old, boarded the tram near the international school and were talking about who was staying up all night. It was two Brits and an American, but I think the American has lived here a while. She rolled her eyes and said that so-and-so's parents "who are super american" are having a big party tonight "so they can all cheer to death."

In November 2004, I was a super senior at Fox and was taking a course on Presidential Elections. The class met at 8 in the morning, and I was always flying out the door of Kershner House at 7.55, just at the same time my friend Paul was running down the hill from the Lewis Apartments for the same class. Neither of us ever managed to eat breakfast before we got to class, but I usually had an orange on me, and he often had a candy bar, so we'd tiptoe into class late (though not inconspicuously, because the doors were at the front) and split our fruit and chocolate evenly.

We kept "political journals" in that class. I was sorting through old files this summer and found it.

November 2, 2004
Election night, starting at 5pm…(dun da dun dun…that’s a drumroll, if you couldn’t tell) [I really wrote that and turned it in just like that! My other "journal entries" contain similar nonsense...My teacher probably thought I was nuts!] Exit polls show Kerry in the lead, but I predict Bush will win with Florida and Ohio and all the usual states…and the ones he carried in 2000. I think I estimated his electoral count at 296 or something like that, but I can’t remember for sure. Kerry will take Penn., I think…and probably Michigan and Minnesota too.
We shall see… I’m watching returns with Joe, Paul, and Sam, and the rest of my house. Sam’s the only democrat…he’s being very quiet right now…but when he does talk he says 'it’s not looking good, friends.' Indeed it’s not. The station just called Florida for Bush, and Paul and Joe are leaping around the room hugging each other).

Friday, October 31, 2008

It looks like I robbed Craft Warehouse...but I didn't!

Please pardon me for waxing all Martha Stewart on you in this post, but it's true: my "Villa" (as Uncle Greg dubbed my apartment) looks like I robbed Craft Warehouse and made off like a bandit! I blame yesterday's snow. If it hadn't snowed, I probably wouldn't have felt an itch to go into any florist shops whatsoever, especially not one having a going-out-of-business sale. But it did snow, and that always puts me in festive mood, and I bought some very lovely glass ornaments for my future christmas tree and some other cool stuff. See below. I had to go back today to look for decorations for Janet's wedding reception (since I am co-in-charge of decorations) and I came home with two more bags full.

Oh, one of the things I bought yesterday is a wreath hanger--you know the type that fit over a door? Well! They fit over AMERICAN doors, and this is apparently an american wreath hanger, cuz it sure doesn't fit on any of my swiss doors! Besides that, when the lady was wrapping it up for me, she was like, "oh, this is so nice! No Schwyzer girl knows what to do with these." That figures. Here I thought I was buying a nice swiss-made item...

But those aren't the only crafty things I've recently come into. Today I had lunch with Mary and Janet, and mentioned to Mary that I'm planning to make quilts for the tricycle motors for Christmas. She brought me her fabric pile and let me pick whatever I liked, so I am now abounding in beautiful fabric! I told Mary she's the most generous person I know, and she said, well, God is generous. So he is. I'm making Mary a present now, but shhh! don't tell her. :) I'll post a picture of it after I finish it.

Anyway, why am I like this, hmm? what posesses me to make things and buy useless stuff?!

I've had the Howdy sign since August, but the chicken is new and I think she really adds to it, don't you?

So, it's slightly hard to tell from the picture, but the blue and copper colored ones are going on the tree, and I think the red ones will be hung in the windows.


I feel a quilt coming on...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

some nanny tidbits

I arrived at work today at 7.30 am to find that my hairstyling services were requested by the resident 5 year old in preparation for school picture today. Now, you probably can't understand how flattering it is to be the Beautician of choice for a 5 year old unless you've been in that coveted position yourself, but let me tell you--it beats just about any other sort of job review. By 7.35 I was wielding a hair brush and a set of purple bobbles like a pro, and by the time she walked out the door, she had two pigtails and something intereseting going on with her bangs...basically a compromise between her preference (pin the bangs straight up) and mine (leave them down on her forhead like normal).

Yesterday I was singing "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart" at teeth-brushing time, when they spontaneously started singing along on the chorus. They got the tune down no problem, and most of the words too, although "down in my heart to stay" comes out kinda like, 'down inaaa.....stay," and we're still working on the third verse, because, after all, "I've got the wonderful love of the blessed redeemer down in the depths of my heart" is a mouthful for anyone.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VERY extremely exceptionally exciting news!!

The first very exciting thing is I'm going to run a half marathon in Ireland in March with my lovely Irish friend Valda! That's quite exciting.

The VERY extremely exceptionally exciting and perhaps more immediate news is that BRANDI CARLILE IS PLAYING IN ZURICH NEXT MONTH! WooHOOOO! I'm so going to a concert!!!! Besides the fact that she's a talented singer/songwriter, she also happens to hail from the Evergreen state, and you know how I feel about all things/people Northwest. :) I'm so excited. I see by her tour dates she'll be back in her hometown in time for Thanksgiving. I'm slightly jealous...


(www.pinnex.net)

Brandi's song Dreams

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Biased

So, I was sitting in my "Conflict and Media" seminar this week, listening , when the student presenting said something about "BS-ed" media. "BS media?!" I couldn't figure out what she might mean, until I looked on her handout and discovered she meant "BIASED media." Big difference there...bias versus BS. But, then, once I thought about it, I decided it was a clever accident...one might accurately say that "Biased" media is "BS."

In two classes this week, people around me snickered at the presenters' English (and not ironic/funny mistakes like "BS" either--just normal mistakes). In one class, there were two girls presenting and one had noticeably better English than the other. While her partner talked, she had the audacity to smirk and, under her breath, correct the speaker's pronunciation. What a way to treat your partner, huh!? I hate it when they do that to each other--maybe because I readily sympathize with people who struggle to say what they mean in a foreign language. The weird thing, of course, is that the people who laughed still make their share of mistakes and akward constructions too, and have distinct Swiss accents. You'd think they'd remember that.

But...that doesn't mean I'm above appreciating a cute swissism, and one I've heard several times in classes lately is the use of "since ever" to mean "forever" or "since the beginning." I think students are copying it from eachother. That tickles me for some reason, but I make every endeavor to not smile. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Has anyone seen my motivation?

Why is it so tough to stay motivated on all the things I'm supposed to be doing!? I'm getting them done (albeit not as fast as some people would like), but my goodness! I have to lecture myself into homework, drawings, and housework every hour. You know it's bad when you go to bed early to read for class, because at least then you're half-way fooled into thinking you're not still working.

I spent my morning spinning M2 around, dangling her upside down, and singing songs to her. I sing to them in English while they brush their teeth, stopping if they stop brushing, and it makes the chore go SO much smoother. M2's favorite song is the one that in the Last verse goes "I just want to be a sheep (baaa), I just want to be a sheep (baaaa)..." because I pretend I have a tail whenever I say "baaa" and she thinks it's hilarious. She's picking up the songs too--I heard her humming "Deep and Wide" today. So work is going well, and we're having fun together.

I'm off to class in a few minutes, but I've been coming up with ideas for Christmas presents for the girls, and I think I want to make them small quilts. I haven't figured out any details yet, but Aubrey is going to lend me her sewing machine, and I think I will probably make a nine-patch for the little one and a Log Cabin pattern for the older one. And in case you don't know what those look like, here are two examples (but you can put them together lots of different ways):

Log Cabin

Nine Patch

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a terrible book

It's a tragedy. If I'd known that I might not have started it, but it has me in its grips now, and I'm reading literary criticism on a Saturday night, trying to sort out my irritation. I'm halfway in, and this story is seriously not going the way I want it to. One reviewer wrote when the book first came out that, "except during a few hours spent with cows," the book has "not a gleam of sunshine anywhere."

The other book I'm supposed to read this weekend is You Can't Get Lost in Capetown, and that looks like it'll prove to be equally cheerful.


There's a harvest lunch at church tomorrow, and I was all set to make a collard green casserole but for the little problem of arriving at the grocery and not knowing what collard greens are called in German. And since I also don't know what they look like...I made Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppy seed dressing, minus the poppyseeds, and biscuits instead.

So, I've been thinking about faith lately for several reasons. One reason is I'm reading a book by Karl Olsson called Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion which talks about the various approaches to the idea of "conversion" that can be found within Christendom, which biblical texts they emphasize, and what we might learn from Christians who hold a different view than we do about what it means to "become a Christian." For me, that topic raises questions about how faith comes to us, how we identify ourselves with Jesus, how we perceive the community of the church, both local and universal, and it's role in our lives, etc. I've skipped around a bit in the book and need to fill in the holes, but that's one thing that has me thinking about faith.

A second reason I've been thinking about this is a conversation I had with the girls' great aunt on Tuesday. She said when the weather is beautiful and she goes for a walk in the woods, she feels that all is right in the world. But, she added, it's not really. There are so many things that are wrong and a general deterioration of the divide between right and wrong, not to mention pain from illness, etc., that sometimes it's hard to pray because it seems like God isn't helping when we ask him to. She said when her husband was in the hospital she found it especially hard to pray, until a friend suggested that God doesn't take all our troubles away, but carries us through them. Although that sounds suspiciously like that rotten footsteps poem, there's truth to the idea for sure: Jesus didn't say we wouldn't have troubles if we follow him. The Aunt brought up Job. Yet he daily bears our burdens if we let him. But who hasn't looked around and wondered if God is really there, or really listening?! She said when she was younger she had a more hopeful outlook on the future, that maybe things would get better. But, the older she gets, the more she feels how far we are from what God has said we ought to be. All this was in German, so I mostly just nodded the affirmative as she talked, but I can sure understand her discouragement.

Finally, as a third factor in my little internal contemplations, I ran across this Brandi Carlile song a few days ago (see below). It's a bit vague in what it's saying about faith, but pulls together an interesting mix of references. First, there's Jesus' comment that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. I think the song invokes the whole story, and the whole idea of redemption and the kingdom of God, not just that line. But the song particularly begs the question: who are 'those like me'? And who is the addressee? Second, there's a reference to the "now I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep..." prayer, and third a line from "Amazing Grace" turned on it's head. Oh, the possibilities of meaning! :)

I really have no synthesis of these thoughts to share with you...they've just been running laps in my brain while I've been baking biscuits. I like literature because it incarnates abstract truth and theology. I heard someone say recently that truth has to become flesh at some point. We have to see it in the context of the physical world to understand. Much like the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that men could behold his glory, literature gives flesh and blood to difficult things. The truth dwells among us as the characters we read become real, as if they are our neighbors and friends, their lives stitched into our own.

The guy drew an interesting parallel to how God related to us through Jesus. He said that when God sought to redeem us, he didn't read a conference paper or hold a seminar to tell us something. He did it by coming to our real world, in the flesh: in the physical environment that we understand. Stories are an incarnation in a similar way. I guess that's why I do, in the end, appreciate and like books like Tess and songs like this one...they make me think about ideas and beliefs in terms of their application and implications for everyday life.


Eye of the Needle
Brandi Carlile

Twenty years of pushing pens
Of up the stairs and down again
Should've learned to style my hair
So I could never sleep at night
I've never mastered eating right
Distracted by the skin I wear

Refrain:
And I'm alive in here somewhere
Cause I can feel me twistin'
I'm so far beyond my years
So don't be fooled by today

Hey please, just believe in me
Don't lose your hope so easily
Because passing through the eye of a needle
Isn't as easy as it sounds
For those like me
Yeah yeah

Nothing short of miracles
Can save a small and dying world
That offers no apologies
To lay their hopes and dreams asleep
But pray the Lord their goal [or gold?] to keep
But I still got a soul in me

And old protects ability
And illusions of grandeur
I once was blind but now I see
They got everything for me but grace

Hey please, just believe in me
Don't lose hope so easily
Because passing through the eye of a needle
Isn't as easy as it sounds
For those like me

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Budapest and Bürchen

Rebekkah and I happened to hop the same bus from the train station to church this morning, each of us with a cup of coffee in hand. She was out early enjoying the great weather, and I was out early cuz it's either that train or one that gets me to church late. I enjoyed sharing the bus ride/walk to church with her, and it remminded me that I need to tell you about our excursion to Budapest! So, meet Rebekkah: Charming, petite, sassy pianist who has lived in more countries than I can remember, and who happens to be fluent in Hungarian. I tagged along on her trip to Hungary a few weekends ago. We stayed with a friend in a wonderful, turn of the century apartment Rebekkah's parents own. It's the only place I've ever been where you have to light a fire in the bathroom to get a warm shower.

Rebekkah attended a reunion Saturday, but other than that she showed me around Budapest. I went to the House of Terror museum and learned about Hungary under Fascism and Marxism. It's a good museum, other than the dramatic music that plays in most rooms and interferes with the information.


Coffee and breakfast in the fabulous apartment, which--although in need of a some renovation--with it's wood floors, high ceilings and antiquated fixtures makes a person feel extremely elegant and sophisticated.



That was several weekends ago. This weekend, I headed south to Bürchen in the Wallis Friday night to meet some friends. I finally looked at a map today, and golly! Bürchen is WAY down south. :) who knew. The weather was perfect yesterday, and even though Raph was tired from hiking all week and "had a foot on his blister," he and Lukas and I went for walk in the woods while their other friend stayed at the house to sleep off a bug he caught.

I can't think of a better way to spend the day than in the woods and hills. My busy heart just settles right down and is quiet when I'm out there. We came home yesterday evening, and by that time Raphael was getting sick too, so Lukas and I are hoping we don't get it. A few pictures from our day:


October is my favorite month...is it any wonder why?



Sunshine! Such a beautiful afternoon! I had fun hanging out with these guys and trying to keep up with their swiss german. On some topics I understand a lot, and on others not so much (but it's NOT that I only understand the words that sound like English, contrary to what some people might think!).

We took a little rest and practiced our grass whistling skills...

...and hung from a tree.

I started reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles yesterday on the train, and I really like it! Dad gave me four books by Thomas Hardy back around Christmas time; this is the second one I'm reading, and they're great.

Ok, off I go. I have to finish reading for class. I'm in a lot of Anthropology classes this semester, and it's a whole different crowd that the history bunch...much more earthy. It's almost like I'm in Portland!

Monday, October 6, 2008

hiking

Hmm, where to begin. It's hard to know what to write when I haven't writtten anything in forever. I'll start where I left off: the ALPS! Switzerland boasts some really pretty mountains, and we had a great time tramping through them a few weekends back now. We headed south after work on Friday night, taking a train and then a cable car to Reideralp. We stayed at Villa Cassel, a really cool old house that Winston Churchill used to stay in when he came to Switzerland. That alone was enough to convince this little historian to stay there instead of hiking up further to more rugged accomodations. But it was slightly rugged, in a 1915 sort of way. We had a budget room upstairs and had to take the back stairs to get there, but whenever we came up or down to breakfast, showers, etc., we exited the staircase on the fancy floor and imagined we were staying there instead. When the housekeepers weren't looking we peeked in one of the rooms and they had cool period furniture and sinks and everything down there! So next time...I am SO staying in the Winston Churchill room. So I can highly recommend both levels of accomodation, but don't think that just cuz you're staying in a fancy house, you won't need a flashlight! We walked from the cable car station 20 minutes or more up the hill in the foggy darkness sharing Josh's flashlight, cuz, whoops! Aubrey and I kicked out of camping mode as soon as there was a house involved and sort of kind of forgot lights.

The next day we hiked down to the hanging bridge and up the other side of the Ravine. It took us a long time on the slick muddy trails, but we were thankful to not have any accidents!

The bridge we crossed is circled in red, and on the left side you can see roughly where we came from.
We're almost to the top!

The sun joined us for the afternoon, dried our clothes and made the mountain sparkle.

But don't let anyone ever tell you hiking in the rain isn't fun. They probably just want the trails all to themselves.




Interesting supports under the houses.

So...there you have it. An Uncle Ernie? next blog: Budapest! I hope it'll be sort of soon. Say hi to Auntie Evelyn for me! Love y'all!
steph

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mountains



We had a fun, precipitation-filled weekend in the Riederalp area. We hiked in a thunderstorm most of Saturday, and set out amid snow flurries on Sunday, but both days were great. And the rain was kind of fun even...

More pictures to follow...I'm off to school!



Safety first!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

129 sq. km Slip-n-Slide

I am off to visit the Aletsch Glacier and the town of Bettmeralp.

In the spirit of last-minuteness that so easily besets some of us, Aubrey and Josh and I got around to booking our accomodations today. We leave tomorrow. :) Although we considered a great many exciting options for activities (horseback riding and hang-gliding not excluded), and several intriguing sleeping options, from teepees to mountain huts that list "rain or snow (all year)" as the only advertised amenity,in the end we booked two nights at a fancy pants place which I shall tell you more about after I go.

Since we're not staying in a teepee or roughing it up in the snow, the most exciting activity of the weekend looks like it will probably prove to be this nifty Suspension Bridge.

In case you didn't know, the Aletsch Glacier is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, but you can google it yourself and read all about it (be prepared to also find photos of whole crowds of people in their birthday suits: Green Peace did a nakie photo shoot on the glacier). Unfortunately, it's supposed to rain and be rather chilly this weekend. Not that rain itself is a huge show-stopper for people from Oregon, where to go hiking almost any time Sept.-May is to hike in the rain.


That's basically all the news I have. School starts Monday. Work has been going fine. M2 and I baked some steller cookies this morning using my great-grandma's recipe. An interesting thing about the girls: boys exist in a sphere almost totally off their radar. Any time they play house, all the babies are named girls names, always. There are princesses and queens, but never kings. And when M2 looks at my family picture in my room, she says "Look! There's your mommy, and your daddy, and you." And I say, "yeah! and who are those other people?" and even though I have told her lots of times that those are my brothers and what their names are, she still says she doesn't know who they are. It's like it's a relationship she doesn't quite make sense of because she doesn't have one that's similar herself. But THEN! the one time I DO hear about boys is when we're at the playground where there is a bit of graffiti nearby. Then she asks "why did some boys write on that wall?" !! Interesting, hmmm?

Ok, I'm off to finish getting ready to go. Y'all have a good weekend now, and I'll post some pictures when I get back.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Knirri, Knarri, Knorri

What's Steph been doing these days? That's a very good question. What does a person do in Switzerland in between nannying and waiting for school to start? Lots of interesting things, of course. I've been up a tree, over the river and through the woods, roasting marshmallows, investigating castle ruins, riding my bike, and making all sorts of interesting rail trip plans, including a potential concert in Zurich (Jason Mraz) and an expedition to the largest glacier in Europe. Unfortunately, I'm afraid there isn't much that's interesting to tell about it all. So, I'll just sort of summarize a couple points of semi-interest in no particular order:

-Climbing. I had fun learning to use this nifty climbing gear last weekend. Unfortunately, thanks to where Dominic and Raphael are standing, you can see that I'm not especially high up. I should have told them to squat. But, If I remember correctly, I actually had been much higher--at least another 20 feet or so--and I was on my way down at this point. That was it, I'm pretty sure.



-Bikes. I've ridden my bike more this month than I have in the last ten years all put together I think, and it's been quite fun. At least the riding DOWN-the-hill part has been. The riding-back-up-the-hill part isn't going so well, to be quite frank, so I had the brilliant idea of adding a motor. How hard can that be? They sell kits and whatnot, so I'm sure it's quite manageable. I thought it was a pretty good idea, so I mentioned it to a couple people. Except for Emily, who knows brilliance whenever and wherever she sees it, the others were entirely opposed to the concept. Gregg said I should learn to shift properly, and Davorin said if it was a little extra oomph I was looking for, he would advise eating a bigger breakfast.

-Haircuts and small towns. I got my hair cut down the road yesterday by a very lovely lady who speaketh no English. Now, I mention this partly because it was a major accomplishment in German for me to make an appointment, show up at the right time, tell her what I wanted and then chat about our families and all sorts of other things for a whole hour entirely in German. But remember how I said that I keep meeting people who know things about me, even though it's the first time we've met?! In our first conversation, I told her this much about myself: My name is stephanie. I don't speak much German. I'd like to make an appointment. That was a week ago. By the time I showed up for my appointment yesterday, she mysteriously knew where I lived and who I worked for!! And although she politely asked me where I'm from, I can't imagine that she didn't already know that too. crazy little town. Nice lady though. And a pretty good haircut too.

-In other language news (this topic just never wears out, does it?), today I was out shopping in Basel with Aubrey and Mallory and we got stopped twice by people who overheard our English. The first was an Obama campaigner making sure we were registered to vote (and, to her credit, she did ask fist if we were US citizens...otherwise it would have been great fun to tell her we were Canadian). The second time was when Aubrey and I were sitting outside the Starbucks chatting and a guy stopped short next to our table and said, "HEY! ENGLISH! Where are you from?" and wanted to shake hands. Upon hearing we were from the states, he declared that we don't speak real English. He, on the other hand, is from Bristol, where presumably they do speak real English, and, he said, "that explains why I sound a bit like a pirate." Indeed.

-Pippi Langstrumpf (aka pippi longstockings) and Goodnight MoonI've been reading lots of children's books lately. This has been good for my vocabulary and grammar. I read goodnight moon 5 times the other morning, and while I have to admit I didn't want to read it a 6th time right then, I do like reading to the girls. It also is my personal relationship barometer with them. When I started nannying, they sat a good safe distance away when we read. I don't know how they could evensee the pictures. I felt like one of those people that does story time at the library...you know, that miraculous ability to hold a book up, face out, so everyone can see and yet still manage to read it at the same time? That was me. Except I improved the trick by also sounding out German words, or by translating English books on the fly. Well, as of yesterday, the personal bubbles have shrunk to the point that I can't see the pictures because there are two little girls snuggled up, leaning in, pointing and talking about what we're reading. That's a big improvement, I think.

Nannying this week has had me thinking on the topic of time and what it means to make the most of our days. In many ways, ever day looks exactly the same right now: the same playground, hide and seek, coloring every day (I draw a lot of bunnies and horses for M2), the same books and songs, naps, diapers, messy meal times and lots of cleanups of every sort. But there are little changes--new confidence and coordination on the playground, some creativity in finding new hiding places, recognition of more colors (or at least possibly an improved application of "red," which for a while was attached to every color in the rainbow, with the occasional variety of "dunkel rot" (dark red), also liberally applied). But while these days seem the same, all these little changes will amount to a tremendous difference in a few months and years. There's a gap in knowledge and ability between them at this point, and that's only due to an extra 2 years on M1's part. 2 years isn't very long! That helps me keep perspective. Every day of loving them, listening with my full attention, teaching and correcting gently, and encouraging them builds into who they are becoming through all these similar-seeming days (or at least I hope it does). So that's that. But, I think even for us, there are lots of small decisions and habits we make each day that individually or on a daily basis truly are small, yet over time they are who we are becoming, for better or worse, and our lives go by so fast.

Now, I was sort of thinking about this tonight as I was stopped to talk to the neighbors pigs, Knirri, Knarri, and Knorri. As I was scratching one of them behind his big pink ears, I said, "well, dear, you're so sweet, but I guess your days are numbered, huh?" and what should spring to mind but Psalm 90, and "Teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom...O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Labor relations

Let's establish some terminology, just for clarity. I think the family I work for wouldn't want you to know their names, so in order to more effectively tell you tales about them, I will call the older girl M1 (short for girl 1) and the younger, predictably, M2. Late Yesterday afternoon I was busy vacuuming the entryway/mudroom when M1 and M2 came home from their grandparents' house. They said hello and went upstairs. Their mom told me later that M1 had asked her, "Is Stephanie vacuuming?"
"yes," she said.
"Did you tell her to vacuum?"
"Yes, I did."
A quiet pause.
"Why can't you just leave Stephanie in peace?!"

And as it turned out, I was let off work early today. Whether that was happenstance or persuasion at it's finest, I can't say for certain, but I'm planning to unionize and make M1 president.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nanny news

My, I'm getting to be an erratic blogger! I'll try to straighten that out and be more reliable. This has been a busy time of transition for me, starting my new job and getting adjusted to a totally different schedule and transportation scheme. My days go like this: Wake up, get ready for work, help with breakfast/cleanup/teeth brushing and getting dressed; Take the older one to kindergarten and then take the little one somewhere fun. This often involves the playground, and we walk through a farm to get there. Coming and going we stop to talk to the pigs, feed the chickens grass, and sometimes, if we go at just the right time, we watch the farmers moving the cows from the upper pasture back down to the barn. There are a lot of baby cows at the moment, and they're pretty quick about escaping under the electric fence, and the farmer has to jump fences and skirt hedges to herd them back into line. That is some quality daytime entertainment right there...although I don't know how they feel about us standing there watching the spectacle. :) After that, we might read or color, or play hide and seek, and then it's back down the hill to pick up S from school, and back UP the hill once more to make lunch, iron and fold clothes, vacuum and so forth. Fridays I do house and yard work instead of primarily watching the girls, and that's a nice relaxing change of pace.

On the whole, this nannying business puts me in a strange peer group. I'm getting to know all the women in town with children under 5, and of course I'm on my extra good and social behavior (no going to the store without showering first here!) since a new nanny in an itty bitty town lives in a glass house. I think every person I've met knows more about me than I've told them, including where I'm from and what I'm doing here, how long I've been in CH, and who I'm living with and working for now. Other than the pressure to look presentable every time I go out (which I'm sure will wear off in short order, and I'll soon be marching all over Pfeffingen in my running shorts, showered or not), it's nice to be known...kinda cozy and connected-feeling, if you will. Christmas could be problematic since I'll undoubtedly feel compelled to bake or make ornaments, or at least personalized Christmas cards for everyone I know in town, and by December, that might just be everybody.

I have mostly picked out my classes for this semester. The list includes cultural epidemiology; British Social Anthropology; Gender, Race, and Empire (a history class); African National Congress (South Africa history); Epidemiology and International Health; Disease Ecology: Human and Animal interfaces; African Auto-biographies; Islam in Africa, Christianity as an African Religion, Conflict and Media, Statehood in Transition, Urbanization in Southern Africa (a literature class); and History and Anthropology, but a few of these options conflict. I'll finalize things next month, but I'm fairly pleased with the courses offered this term. I'm thinking about taking Arabic too.

I'm off to study some German! More soon...I promise. :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

New town, new job, new faces!

Hello Friends! Aubrey and I left Portland last Tuesday on a beautiful Oregon Morning... ...and arrived back in CH on Wednesday. I was busy the first couple days helping with the final work on the apartment. R’s mom and dad have been here almost every day, and they've textured walls, put the kitchen table together, hung the bathroom door and a full length mirror, added curtains and rugs and dishes (green ones!). The whole place is looking cuter than a bugs’ knees, and I’m mostly unpacked and have been preoccupied with transforming it into home. For example, I went grocery shopping Saturday, and what do you think I found but a painted wooded sign that says "howdy," also green, and therefore more or less matching my decor, or at least my dishes and the kitchen rug. Plus, I say howdy all the time! I decided it was a good apartment-warming, "cheers for the new pad!," "Woohoo I can have guests for tea" sort of item, and it now resides above my kitchen cabinets.

The grandparentals and a cousin were all over for food and fireworks here on Swiss National Day. I sat there at dinner thinking how odd and surreal it is to drop onto people's lives like this. A short while ago, we didn't know each other existed and now here I am, part of the family, eating lots of cheese and trying to remember my few Swiss German phrases (recent additions include "no uf?" which means, "still up?" and "Ich gang oba" (probably spelled wrong, but means "I'm going downstairs" and is particularly useful since I do, in fact, live downstairs). I officially started work today, and it went well--we went to the playground, cleaned house, went for a walk, washed a lot of dishes and ironed a lot of britches.

That's pretty much the news. I thought you'd all like to see a few 'before' pictures of my apartment as well as a couple 'after' pictures, although 'after' is of course subject to change. Nevertheless, enjoy this little slide show. :)
video

Friday, July 25, 2008

Busy

I know you've been wondering what has been keeping me so busy all this week. I know, because half of you keep asking when I plan on updating this thing. Well, I'm getting to it! I have a lot to do...planning how I'm going to fit a sheepskin, four framed pictures, a pottery soap dish, new books and a moderate supply of chocolate chips and marshmallows in my luggage takes a lot of time!

I've also been visiting every single person I know in these western states, fishing off a jetty for Bass, painting the back deck green, planning a party, and tonight I'm going dancing...wish me luck. I don't know how to waltz (so...maybe wish the guys luck....).

This is my 100th blog post, and I was going to write something special for the occasion, but since y'all are in such a hurry....here's what's been keeping me:

Anne and Kaitlyn helped me put a coat of primer on the second half of the back porch today. After that, we wore our paint clothes to the buzzing metropolis of Gales Creek for some ice cream.


Fishing out in Garibaldi on the coast last Friday with Dad and Brian was fun.
Here I am, showing Bri how to set up his line...
He's almost got it now....
...good thing I was there to help him out.

That pole Brian's holding? That's MY pole, and that's not a fish he's got. That's a pile of seaweed and a rock. I was kind enough to let him practice his un-snagging skills on this trip.



Take a look at all those rocks we're standing on. Brian and I kinda sorta dropped my keys down between a couple of those boulders. I needed to go to the car to fetch a Kleenex, and we agreed he'd toss the keys to me. This is probably the only stupid thing Brian and I have ever collaborated on. He tossed, I fumbled, and down the trap they rattled, beyond reach. Fortunately, Brian moved a couple rocks and some guy showed up with an old pair of pliers and a piece of wire in his truck. Brian made a hook, pulled them out, and saved the day.

And who do you think caught all the fish? I'd tell you, but I hate to brag.

Brian is painting his truck, and it's projects like this that I wouldn't trade for a house full of the best sisters ever. Do girls ever think of fun things to do like re-paint trucks? No. They don't. And if they did, would they just pull out their trusty Bondo and call out a neighbor to help with the job? Probably not. I love living with boys. They are quite simply the most marvelous creatures on the planet. Or at least the ones in my neck of the woods are. The rest of 'em....wellll, they're just alright.

Steven..."supervising." :) Actually, he was a big help. Oh, and notice it's dark? We do most of our projects in the dark. I've been painting the porches by flashlight some nights.

And...that's what's been going on, folks. In four days I'll be back on a plane, eastbound across the ocean. I was wondering today, if we built a highway across the Atlantic, how long would it take to drive from Oregon to Switzerland? A long time, I reckon. But it would be a fun road trip, wouldn't it? :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

gone fishing

I'm leaving to go fishing with Dad and Brian in a few short hours and should get to sleep soon, but lest I get too far out of touch with what I've been doing...here are some pictures from recent expeditions.


My wonderful friend Christy, paddling the other end of our canoe on Henry Hagg Lake last week. We met at work and each thought we wouldn't like the other. Why? who knows. We have a ton of fun together now...obviously.

Ok, so here we are again, and I'd just like to point out that is a 17 foot canoe you're looking at there, and we tied it to the top of my little car to get it to the lake. The two of us got it down off the car and back up again, without so much as a scratch on my vehicle, and we were quite proud of ourselves. As we were putting it back up, there was a guy getting in the car RIGHT next to ours, but did he help? No sir. It was "That's a big canoe for that car! Good luck!" As Christy put it, we live in the Northwest, "where all the women want to be men," and the men are therefore a bit uncertain whether or not assistance is welcome. It would have been, but when it wasn't forthcoming, we were kinda pleased we did it on our own. We were especially proud when the knots we tied held all the way home (thanks in no small part to Dad's Knot Tying 101 instruction). :)


Wednesdays are "Mom & Steph" days because she has the day off for the rest of the summer. Last week we went to Cannon beach for the day, went into all the stores the boys would hate to go into and took a very long time in every single one. It was great. And so was the pizza.

This week for our mother-daughter day, we got pedicures. We have very cute toes at the moment. Mom says other than a gift certifcate she has yet to use, this will probably be the one pedicure of her life. Grandma flat wouldn't come--not even just to keep us company. But even Mom admits her feet "haven't been this soft since I was born!" So I feel somewhat vindicated about my occasional pedicures.



I also drove up the Gorge to see Jessica this week, and we saw some (more!!) Rodin Statues, some funky furniture that once belonged to the queen of Romania and a lot of other stuff. More about that next post.

We've been having perfect weather here. Brian and I slept under the stars a couple nights ago (which were admittedly hard to see, what with the tree, the roofline, and the almost-full moon). I was reading Emerson a couple days ago and I like his opening comments in an address to the Havard Divinity school, written this week in 1838:
"In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the pine, the balm-of-Gilead, and the new hay. Night brings no gloom to the heart with its welcome shade. Through the transparent darkness the stars pour their almost spiritual rays. Man under them seems a young child, and his huge globe a toy. The cool night bathes the world as with a river, and prepares his eyes again for the crimson dawn."


Isn't that lovely? Unfortunately, in the same address he took issue with orthodox claims to the diety of Christ, and wasn't invited back for 30 years. Way to know your audience there, Ralph.

comings and goings

My "see-you-laters" started this week, and you know what? They're not very fun! Not only am I sad about leaving home again, but then as soon as I get back to CH, I'm leaving my OTHER home! and I'm sad about that too. If you remember to pray for me in the next couple weeks, pray that I will be "present" in the time I have here with my family and friends (not bemoaning leaving, or worrying about what this year will be like) and that I'll use the time wisely and generously. Also, I'm feeling kinda overwhelmed about the new job/new living situation/new language situation once I'm back in Switzerville. Like...maybe I could just not show up (cuz if I do show up, maybe I'll be a terrible nanny!) Maybe I could live in a tent on the River. Maybe learning German was a really dumb idea... Alright, it's not quite that bad, but I am finding myself worried about it all and I wish I was more matter of fact about these things.

I'm moving. I'll build new relationships and find ways to maintain old ones. My new employers will find the grace to be patient with me. And it'll be a good year, because God takes care of his children. That would be the sensible, matter of fact way of looking at things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Swiss Cheese and the President

I'm looking through old class notes working on a couple (brilliant!) ideas I've been tossing around lately, and I'm running into some funny stuff in my notes. First...the margins of my notes from my last semester in college are filled with doodles of prickly cactus and black clouds spitting down rain. My notes have always been graffiti-coated, that's not weird. But usually it's flowers and faces and little houses with happy suns shining over them. I remember it was a rough semester, but my goodness! Cactus!? And what does that say...storms on one hand, and dry, desert conditions on the other. hmmm....interesting. :)

Second, in my Presidential Elections class we studied the history of US elections, the political process, the factors that influence elections, elections in popular culture, etc. We watched all the debates, for example, and in my notes I have written "Presidential debates are to real debates as Cheese Whiz is to Swiss cheese."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summertime


That's what summertime in my neighborhood looks like. Purty, huh?

Summer is a busy time of year anyway, but even more so when it's compressed into 5 weeks at home! Since it's been a week and a half now since I've written anything, I'll have to catch you up via installments of my Insider's Guide to the Great Northwest. This will be part 1.

Date: July 6-7
Destination: Mount St. Helens Forest, Washington, USA
Company: Abby, Libby, Esther, Uncle Bill and Aunt Heather. Drew couldn't make it.
Miles logged: +200
If you go: Plan your meeting point. Don't try to buy a good map just off I-5. And remember--in Washington you pump your own gas and pay sales tax.

Aunt Heather and Uncle Bill are free-spirit travellers--they might decide to drive cross country and leave that very day, they won't call ahead to find campsites or hotels, and they might toodle down any windy road that looks interesting if they aren't pressed for time (and it's hard to be pressed for time if you haven't planned to be anywhere specific). I think this is a splendid way to travel, but when it came to camping two weekends ago, details such as exactly where we planned to make camp were all rather nebulous, as in "you drive northeast and we'll drive southwest, and we'll call each other 'round, oh...say 5 pm." We expected to meet up about then at the Swift Resevoir, though we hadn't checked for camp sites and it was the fouth of July weekend. But camping is nothing without adventure, right?

I set off up the I-5 corridor, and stopped at three gas stations looking for a more comprehensive map than the road atlas I have. At the third station in Woodland, upon discovering that they too had no proper maps, I asked the clerk if she could just kindly point me in the general dirction of Mt. St. Helens. "Yep," she said, "you just go on up this road here, and ya just kinda run into it." Great, I said, and I was back in my car and on my way. Not a half mile down the road there was a fork in the road. No signs, except one labeling the route I was on as "503 South."

South!!?! I don't want to go south! I want to go Northeast! After some trial and error, and mumbling through gritted teeth about how hard can it be to stock decent maps and is it a tourist office conspiracy to control the supply of maps or what, I finally determined that in the interest of clarity, the state had wisely decided that "503 East" should, at that very fork it seemed, turn into "503 South" although it continued generally eastward through Cougar and on toward the resevoir.

Unfortunately, the Washington wilderness doesn't exactly have a cell tower on every hilltop, and as 5pm came around I was near the town of Cougar but hadn't seen a cell phone bar in miles. I came upon the resevoir 20 minutes later and stopped at the first campsite I saw. They had no guests by my cousin's name. I drove down the road looking for coverage...nothing. I drove back to camp to wait, and got chatting with the two old couples who run the place. "Now where'd you say your relatives are comin' from? Ellensburg! Way over east! And you talked to them at 1 you say? Awww, well, heck. It could take 'em till 7 to get here, easy. 'specially if they went through Randall and hit the road block." But, just in case, we talked over all the options: there were three tent camp facilities in the area ("This one is the cleanest, so don't worry--if they go to the others first, they'll end up here). If they didn't turn up, and weren't at the other sites either, they assured me I could sleep in my car. "Inside the gate, we'll have to charge ya. But you can park just as well on the other side of the gate." I was standing in front of the little booth where they take money as cars come in, talking about all this with them between customers until one of the men finally said, "They aren't gonna get here any faster with you starin' up the road like that, so you'd better just go on in there and sit down. You want a coke? I'd offer you a beer, but--I don't drink."

At 7:15 I thought I'd best go find some cell coverage and check my phone for messages. "Now, you know where to call from, don't ya?" they asked. No, I didn't. "Well, you head outta here the way you came and just before you get to Cougar there's a row of houses on the right side. There's a yellow house all boarded up, with green trim, and a little turn-off there. You pull over there and you'll get two bars." Ok, I said. Yellow house. Two bars. "If they come while I'm gone, tell them to wait for me!" They said they would, and "you drive careful,now, hon; there's some real bad curves on that road."

Down the road I went again, driving carefully, with the resevoir on my left and the fir trees on my right. Before I hit the row of houses though I saw my cousins coming. They had in fact run into a road closed for snow at Randall and had to drive 100 miles out of their way to Woodland and come in from the West side.

We made camp, made supper, made s'mores, and slept. Esther and I bored the twins to sleep almost immediately by talking about Esther's college plans. :) whoops. Next day we went spelunking in the Ape caves, which is a cool lava tube with lots of boulders inside to climb around and over. The twins blazed the trail and every so often would fall silent up ahead of us, until we'd catch up and find them crouched behind a rock with their flashlights off, waiting to startle us.

On the way home that day we stopped for lunch at McDonalds in Woodland and I ordered three $1 items. The girl rang my total up as $3.23. "Why is it $3.23 if everything I ordered is $1?" I asked her. She gave me a look that said "what rock have you been living under!?" and said "uh,...tax?!" Oh. right. sales tax. I always forget that when I go to washington, but it usually doesn't compell me to ask stupid questions. A few minutes later, Uncle Bill was like, "need to gas up on the way home, steph? Here's a tip: Don't sit in your car wondering what's taking the attendant so long." Hey-I can't help it. I'm from Oregon. We do things differently down here.

This has been your friendly northwest entertainment guide. Tune in next time for tales from the Oregon Coast, Henry Hagg Lake, and the stunning Columbia River Gorge.

.
Abby and Libby

S'mores...Mmmm! :)

Esther and yours truly

Abby and Esther