Friday, May 30, 2008


Hi Y'all. I bought this very entertaining book two days ago when I was celebrating the end of the school year with some classmates by hitting up all the book stores in town that have reasonable English sections. It unfortunately is more Zurich-oriented, but for the life of me I can't find anything on Basel Swiss German, so I'll just have to settle for talking like I'm from Zurich. I'm quite motivated to work on my German right now, as you may have noticed. I think 40 hours a week with two little girls who won't breathe a word of English sounds daunting. I start an intensive course on Monday morning (Hochdeutsch,) with a funny old guy who talks real slow so we can understand him and says things like, "talk less through your nose like an American and more in your throat like a German soldier" (except in German). My class will be from 8:00-11:40 every week day for three weeks, so watch out! My German is going to be AMAZING! :) But back to my cool new book. This is one of my favorite pages (click to see view larger image):

I think the "happy" illustration is particularly helpful.

In about 3 hours I'm heading off to help at the Sunday School camp up in the hills, and I'm quite excited about that for several reasons. First, I get to use my fabulously comfy and beautiful egg-shell-blue-with-stars-on-the-inside sleeping bag. That in itself is reason enough to anticipate the weekend. Add to that crafts, coloring, songs, games, good friends and potentiality for marshmellows, and I'm sure you understand my enthusiasm.

Speaking of sleeping bags, I might go camping with my way cool Williams cousins over 4th of July weekend! I was planning to go to the Rodeo in St. Paul, but camping trumps Rodeo, particulary if it's with such good company. If you're looking for a good way to observe Independence day this year and neither Rodeos, nor camping trips, nor county fairs are at your disposal, let me recommend some good summertime reading on our nation's founding. First, if you haven't already read the David McCullough biography of John Adams, that's a great one. It is a bit hefty and detail heavy for some people, however. For shorter and more theoretical discussions, check out William Lee Miller's The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding. Charlottesville: U. Press of Virginia, 1992. Or, if you're specifically interested in a critical work on religion and the founding, see Frank Lambert's The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton: Princeton, 2003. If anyone is interested, I can post book reviews written by yours truly on these two books.

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Venice and other places

I'll Catch up a bit with news from my vacation first, and then at the end tell you about more recent happenings.

May 5th we took the train from Rome to Venice and had quite an adventure finding our next bed and breakfast! I'll spare you the full story with all the details, but in the end it was dark and we were lost and a nice lady we met on the sidewalk drove us there. Now, we kinda think this woman was a cop. She walked like a cop. Talked like a cop. And wasn't going to stand for us wandering around that neighborhood in the dark for anything. So, we let her drive us there, and it's a good thing she did, because just as we were taking the luggage out of the car, a strange guy approached us and tried to insist he was the "porter" for our hotel (do we look like we were born yesterday!?). Fortunately, we had Anne-Lucia (as we took to calling her, since we don't know her real name). She told him what was what and rang some doorbells to get rid of him. She could have taken him if she'd wanted to though. He was scrawny and a bit out of his mind, and she looked like she could have had him in a headlock in no time flat, but still, Ashley and I were REALLY happy to be finally in our room with the door locked that night.
After that we had no further incidents. We had two full, fun days in Venice. Our first day there, we saw St. Mark's Basilica (the part you don't have to pay to see), the Doge's Palace and another museum at the st. Mark's square. We were a bit tired of art and statues by the end, but it was interesting to compare Venice's art with Rome's. Venice really shows its Byzantine influences in the gold mosaics on the ceiling of st. Mark's and the paintings of Mary and Jesus. Rome shows its classical influences much more. Another interesting thing about Venetian art is that almost every picture has Venice in the background! Here's a picture of Mary and Jesus, and there's the Venice skyline on the horizon! Here's a picture of the apostle Paul, and what city is he by? Venice of course. And people think Americans are patriotic! Kind of funny.

One of the things we saw in a museum whose name I forget was a giant print of the Venice cityscape with the original blocks of wood used to make the print! The detail was amazing--right down to the patterns of the stones in the city squares, or the style of the roof tiles on buildings. Apparently the artist had a bunch of assistant artists draw what they could see from the tops of the various bell towers in Venice, and from those drawings he compiled his block. I thought that was very interesting. That was my favorite thing in Venice I think.

That night we were thinking about going to a concert in an old church, but decided it was a bit out of our price range (this was a super budget trip remember!?). But, there happened to be a street musician playing his guitar and singing in the little square to the side of Frari Church. We dropped a few Euro in his guitar case and sat down fr a Private concert. He was Italian, about Dad's age, probably. He stopped singing and asked if we were American (we apparently don't look very Italian). We said yes, and he sang John Denver's "Country Roads" and Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and several Simon and Garfunkel songs, all with a very charming accent. We thought it was GREAT and sang along and clapped and he chatted with us between songs. It sure beat any fancy pants concert we might have gone to.

The next day we went to the Islands of Murano and Burano and Torcello. Murano is famous for glass work and there was a place where we could watch some guys through the door of their shop while they worked. I was on a mission to pick out a necklace for Diana so we shopped for a while for some "authentic" (supposedly) murano glass pendants. I found one for myself too that's kind of pink and brown, but I need a ribbon to put it on. From Murano we took the water taxi out to Burano where they make lace. The island is cute! Well--both are. But Burano houses and shops are painted bright colors and that's fun. But Burano kind of stinks...a bit like a sewer, to be honest.

And that brings me to my next city, Paris. How does a sewer-smelling canal remind me of Paris? Well, you'll just have to read my blog again next time when I tell you all about our Paris Sewer tour.

Ok, now for more recent things. This will be the short and sweet version in the interest of time.

1) My Sisters Before Misters club is suffering decreasing membership again. Janet and Stephan are engaged, which is good, but you know...the club will feel its loss. On the up side, we get to plan a wedding! Oh the fun! Dresses, flowers, music! Bridal showers and toilet paper games! Valda and I are pretty excited about being the personal assistants-to-the-bride, and a first round of wedding dress scouting is underway as we speak.

2)It's about 10:30 pm sunday night as I write this, and in precisely two hours I will be meeting some friends in Basel and heading to Stephan's work to watch the Mars landing. Pretty exciting stuff! Mostly, I say any excuse for a party at one in the morning right before finals. Janet and I are bringing our nail know. In case we get bored.

3)Yesterday was my land lady's 40th bday party and I am pleased to report I understood not just a word or two of Swiss German, but whole conversations! Not everything, of course, but still--noticeable, vast improvements over the last family party I attended. Tomorrow I'm visiting a German class to see if I want to sign up for it for the month of June. If I do, I'll have almost four hours of German class time every day. The coordinator told me the instructor speaks no English. "Oh, that's good," I thought. But when I thought about it for about two more seconds I realized that the chances of a language teacher in Switzerland NOT speaking English are slim to none. So while they know it would help me to believe he won't understand my English...I think it's hogwash.

3)Today I taught the Elementary Sunday school class. Our topic was prayer, and the story was from Acts chapter 12 where Peter is in Jail and the believers pray for him and the angel comes and escorts him out past the guards. I talked to dad yesterday and he pointed out that the angel whacked Peter to wake him up. So I asked the kids today, "is this how your parents wake you up?" and they thought the idea was pretty funny. In fact, I'm afraid that might have been the part of the lesson that stuck--possibly more than the bit about trusting God and talking to him about the things that we need.

Class went well anyway though, and it's funny how much I find myself imitating the teachers that taught Olympians when I was little--and especially using the same teaching games and strategies Grandma used. She taught most of the lessons when I was in Olympians. While I was preparing my lesson I had such strong memories of Grandma, Hillside, and 6 years of Tuesday nights there at the Church. It really made me miss Grandma. I miss Hillside in general too, so it'll be good to be home. Gregg calls it my "30 day therapy session," which isn't a bad description of it. :)

Well, that's all for now folks! Happy Monday to y'all!
love ya.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Venice and Paris...coming soon. :)

Hi! I've been neglecting my blog, as you can see, but I had some prompting from my Aunt Lou Ann yesterday and I planned to write today but didn't get to it. So...Hopefully tomorrow. All is well otherwise. I just got back from the new Indiana Jones movie (my FIRST Indiana Jones movie, in fact). There were a few too many spider webs and mummies and dead Mayans hopping around firing poison darts at people for my taste, but ya know. It was ok.

I am coming home for a month starting the end of June. Most of you should know that by now but in case you didn't, consider this fair warning. When I come back to Switzerville, I'll be moving into my new place and starting my nanny job pronto. I was on the phone with the lady last week and the little girls wanted to say hi to me so she put the littlest on. She's 2, and she said "yo" (means yes) to everything I said--even if it was in English! Then I talked to Sarah. She told me her dad is in the states and some other stuff, which I thought I answered in a perfectly clear and intelligble manner, but there was a long silence. And then she said, "...Was?!" (What??) and handed the phone to her mom. "here, you have to talk to her. I don't understand anything." I'm gonna be great at this job, I can tell already.

Monday I'm sitting in on some German classes to see if I want to sign up to take classes every morning in June. The classes would be here in Basel and I would be ready to enter the A2 level class when I come back in August.

Ok, off to bed I go! Night!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Home again

Ashley and I are back from our Italy/Paris vacation. How about that picture up above? I'm calling it "Breakfast in Paris," and it's a great shot of things that characterized our trip: up with the sun, a budget breakfast (same as lunch) of bread and jam and oranges with water (especially note the classy toilet-paper plates!!), Africa debriefing in the form of daily doses of Malaria meds and stories, and as was typical of most days, Ashley was done, packed, ready for the day and taking pictures while my hair was still in a towel. Hey--someone has to be last.
We had 11 busy days, starting in Rome and ending in Paris. Here are a few highlights from each place:
ROME-Two words can sum up what we saw in Rome: Statues and Ceilings. That's it pretty much, save the Colosseum and the Forums, which I'll get to in a minute. We stood in line two hours to see the Vatican and the huge collection of Roman statues housed there.

An otherwise mundane statue is brought to life as Ashley demonstrates how the subject was probably standing when the statue was created...

The Cistine Chapel ceiling isn't supposed to be photographed and you all know what it looks like anyway. But there were lots of other nifty ceilings too:

But if you think ceilings are impressive, check out the tapestries! Painting a picture is small potatoes next to weaving one. These two were my favorite: The nativity and the part of the story where Herod orders all the baby boys to be killed in an attempt to kill Jesus. This one particularly shows strong emotions in the faces. I thought it illustrated well the old testament prophecy of Rachel weeping for her children.

But just cuz the tapestries were cool, doesn't mean I've given up my first love of paintings and there were plenty of larger than life paintings to admire. Whoever painted this one was nuts:

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm bored. So we'll pick this up tomorrow. Bye!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ciao to rome

Hey y'all!
We're headed out of Rome today. We had a great time sight-seeing. I think my favorite was the coloseum, and we rented bikes and peddled all over a park today, and that was a lot of fun. Time is short at the moment, so I'll just post a couple pictures. dont seem to be working. Will post some later. bye!


Friday, May 2, 2008

checking in

Alrighty, for the peace of mind of all interested parties, I hearby declare we arrived in Italy and are having a lovely time. We are at an internet cafe at the moment checking email, but we spent all afternoon wandering around the Forums, checking out an island thingamajig, and enjoying the cute back streets of Rome. Our flight was super short and we fortuitously sat next to a very sweet woman from Rome who speaks impeccable English and gave us her advice on which places to stop and see and which buildings we should just walk by the outside. Transportation was really easy to figure out too! SO much easier than transportation in the states would be. We made it to our hotel with the only mishap being that somewhere between leaving the house this morning and trying to change shoes at the hostel, I lost one flip flop. Not to worry though! I will soon be sporting some new Roman flip flops...just as soon as I can find some. Tomorrow we are doing important stuff like the Vatican...and...some other stuff. Cant remember. Anyway, we are about to get to the really important work at hand, which is finding some ice cream for dinner.

More news soon! Hope you all are well!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gone Globe-Trotting

Hi friends!

I'm off to Italy tomorrow, so I probably won't write much but if I do, it'll be fabulous tales from far away places. :) Last night I picked up my friend Ashley from the airport (she's on her way back to the states after a year teaching in Ghana). Today we went hiking with friends from church, all the way from Liestal to the castle in Dorneck (took us about 5 hours), and then we had a nice barbeque.

We stopped and had coffee at this GREAT little restaurant that's not really very far from where i live! I could walk there if I wanted...on a weekend. It's probably about an hour and 45 minutes from me. Cute place, though!

Yellow flowers that I think are pretty.Isn't this house cute!?

Grilling! Note the chocolate stuffed in Bananas. Apparently a relatively normal swiss bbq thing, and really yummy!