Thursday, February 26, 2009


I was in Milan last week, and I had a pretty ok time. My mom isn't happy with me because I went by myself, but I neglected to tell her I went by myself until I got back. And yes, I did that on purpose.

Anyway, I stayed in a nice little hotel, and got some writing done (non-blog related, obviously, I don't post that often), and saw some sights, and went shopping. It was fun, but a little lonely. The days are getting longer here, so I would stay about til it got dark, and then head back to my little room to do some writing. I took the train both ways, and it's about as long a journey as driving from my parent's house to my grandparents house - 4 1/2 hours. I realized it on the way home, and I was a little sad that I was on my way home from a solo adventure, and not on my way home from a family gathering in Carlyle. Don't get me wrong, I love adventures and living here, and I'm glad I made it to Milan, but I miss my family quite a bit. Can you blame me? It's been over six months since I've seen them all.

Here are some pictures - I didn't really take too many, because Milan is really pretty industrial, and after a while most quaint European streets start blending together. Beautiful, but you think, "haven't I seen this somewhere before? Oh yeah, every city I've visited thus far." But, I was impressed with the sheer size of the Duomo in Milan. I've seen St. Mark's in Venice, the Duomo in Florence, and the Vatican in Rome, but for some reason this massive church just blew me away. I think it's because it's free-standing and you can walk all the way around it... I'm not too sure. But it's beautiful and huge. On the other hand, I was sorely disappointed in La Scala. I've studied music all my life, and for a while was thinking about pursuing a career in art music or opera, so seeing La Scala was a huge deal. It's a pretty building, but really nothing special. I would have liked to see an opera (Wagner's Tristan & Isolde, love it), but it was something like 250 Euros - not on an au pair's salary! I actually didn't even get to see inside, because everytime I went by, the museum (including a tour of the theater) was closed.

Anyway, I enjoyed my time, and I would like to go back, but I think if I head back to Italy, I'll make my way back to Rome.
The Duomo. I tried to include a ton of tourists so there is a reference point for how big it really is.
The side of the Duomo
A statue in front of the Duomo; I love lions!
A lot more bike commuters than in Switzerland.
And everyone rides bikes like this.

La Scala.

I was trying to explain to Dan how much "messier" Italy is than Switzerland. I think that's the best word I can use - messy. People are louder, more expressive, wear more colorful clothes, the streets are dirtier, public transportation isn't quite as efficient, people drive like maniacs, etc. In Switzerland, everything is just so, and I am getting quite used to that. I forgot to write down directions to my hotel, so when I arrived at the station, I went looking for the tourist information. In Switzerland, there usually in tourist info in/around train stations in every city. I was also counting on exchanging my money at the train station. Well, someone forgot not everything was Swiss in its execution. I ended up taking a taxi to my hotel. I also paid an arm and a leg to exchange my money. Just part of the experience, right?

Hopefully, my next excursion will be to Paris, and it won't be alone. Happy Thursday everyone!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

probably shouldn't drink wine while blogging

but oh well.
Anyway, a glass of red wine is good for your heart, right? I thought so. Don't ask me why I'm wearing my winter hat. I just didn't take it off when I got home from church.

There are a few things I've noticed about Switzerland that I am going to share with you all right now.

1. I think it's impossible to live in Switzerland and not become a wine-o. Seriously. I was talking to one of my Swiss friends, and she said at Swiss dinner parties, you should count a bottle of wine per person. Whenever there is a party or get together, you bring a bottle of wine. I'm not sure if it's just the French region, but seriously, there is a lot of wine happening here.

2. Everyone has pencil cases. It's something I noticed a long time ago. I am the only American in my French class, and I am the only one who just tosses a pen and pencil into my bag in the mornings. It's not just a Swiss thing, it's a European/world-wide thing. There are girls in my class from all over the world, and EVERYONE has a little pencil bag. I see it at my church too, with the non-Americans. Hey, it makes sense, you have all your writing utensils in one place, organized in a cute little sack. I might have to jump on board with this pencil case thing. But knowing me, I'd lose it. And then I'd be out all my pens and pencils.

3. Flower Fridays. That's what I've started to call Fridays, at least. Usually every Friday, Ivana brings home a fresh bouquet of flowers. And it's not just our family. Whenever I go somewhere on a Friday evening, I see people commuting home from work with big bouquets of flowers. It's very nice and I love having fresh cut flowers every week - again, something I just might adopt.

That's all I've got for now. I am going to Milan tomorrow, so I will be sure to take loads of pictures and hopefully they won't get lost...


Thursday, February 5, 2009

just about the halfway point

and I can't believe it.

Half of me feels like I landed yesterday and I'm still finding my feet, while the other half of me feels like I've been here my whole life.

It feels appropriate to look back over the past 6 months or so and reflect a little. I looked at the goals I documented here in August and I'm reporting back on my progress.

1. Be somewhat fluent in French.
Hmm... I'm getting there. I really am. I learn a little every day. I get a little better everyday. Mathilde is great because she helps me when I can't figure out how to exactly say something. She supplements my vocabulary and helps me with grammar... which I take with a grain of salt, because she's 6. I try and speak as much French as I can in a day - whenever I go to a store or interact with people, I only speak French. Sometimes I have a hard time with sentence structure and syntax - my French class is slow going, and very conversational, so we don't always cover structure, just phrases - what you'd say to a friend. I wish I could study more, but I'm pretty happy with my process so far.

2. Run a marathon
Not happening. Sorry to disappoint everyone. I need a trainer, more accountability, etc. Cam ≠ discipline.

3. Travel
So far I have been all over Switzerland, which is great. I've also been to France, Dublin, Ireland, and Manchester, UK. I have a week off coming up soon, and I might go to Milan for a few days, but nothing is decided... I want to travel by train, so I'm thinking maybe Austria, or Munich... I'm not too sure. I'm glad I'm so close to everything, and I can do most things in a weekend. I think I might go to Austria.... cause it's the farthest, and I can afford to spend some time traveling. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open!

4. Piano
I'm getting better... I'm playing almost every day, but I just honestly don't think piano is my thing. I would like to pick the flute up again, but I didn't bring it with me to Switzerland. Maybe I'll get Dan to teach me cello sometime. After he teaches me Latin, of course.

I really believed I've learned quite a bit about myself since I've come here. A lot of it I don't feel like I need to share with the world, but I'm really happy I'm here. I've met some amazing people from all over the world, and I feel like I fit well in Switzerland. I'm at that point right now, though, where I am just so ready for my "life to start". Not that I'm not living now, but as I was telling Dan last night, I'm really ready to make my own decisions again. It's weird when your decisions form around someone else's life. I have to find out what weekends I'm babysitting, sometimes I can't have the car and the little red train to my town stops running at 11pm - I have to plan accordingly, if I don't eat dinner with the family I let them know in advance so they don't make too much food... I'm really pretty ready to have my own place, decorated with my own stuff, and eat what I want, when I want, and live near Dan again. I knew at some point, I would feel this way, so I was kind of prepared... the good news is I don't hate Switzerland. I still love it here. I still really like the family. I'm just ready to be an adult again, living in my own home with my own rules. I think most people can understand that. I'm just out of the honeymoon period, and into the "low" period. Hey, if this is as low as it gets, it's not that bad.

Well, everyone book tickets to come see me, cause I'm only going to be here for a few more months. Ivana asked me recently when I'd like to go home, and I think I'm looking at July sometime... not in time for the 4th, sadly, but sometime in July.

Happy Thursday, world. I'll fill you all in with my travel plans as soon as they're figured out.