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,


  1. Good luck with NaNoWriMo.

    It'll be my second year, I found it a really amazing experience last year - hope you do too!

  2. It's always best to write about what you know - Steph's Book of Nothing could make you a rich girl.

  3. Very funny, Greggory (or was it Brian?). Comments like that could get you (both of you!) written out of my will!!!

  4. Your room is too cute, Steph. It looks very cozy. I can't wait for winter pictures of the country-side! --Sarah