Tag Archives: life

Adventure on the Horizon

12 Dec

The last few months my life has been as follows: Work, German lessons, Gym, Work, More German lesson, More Work and Work. I will be glad in a few weeks when the routine should be a bit different, namely less work and a break from German lessons over the Christmas period.

Another task that has been keeping me busy over the last few weeks is my next big travel adventure. Or should I say, Our Big Travel Adventure. In February, I will be taking five weeks off work to join my boyfriend in Argentina. We will then travel around Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, with a short stop over in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

For the best part of nine months, I have been living on my own, after my boyfriend quit his job to improve his language skills in other countries. He has been 6 months in the UK (Liverpool and Cardiff) even though I am convinced that spending time in these two places has probably made his English worse (joke), 2 months in Bordeaux and 1 month in Guadaloupe, which is actually a French territory that uses the Euro. So, with English and French learnt, he decided to go to South America to learn Spanish. I would be happy to be able to speak one other language but there seems to be no end to what he wants to learn. It’s my theory that because Switzerland has four official languages that the people think that this means that they should learn as many as possible.

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’ve invited myself over; partly because I have always wanted to travel more in South America after going to Peru in 2011, and partly because I just can’t stand any more pictures of beaches/wine glasses/beautiful scenery. I want to see this myself.

So far all of the flights, buses and transport are booked and we have a general plan in place. I am in charge of finding accommodation. Once that is done, we are almost ready to go.

I am nervous about the trip. Five weeks is a long time to be on the road, in a place where you don’t speak the language. Although my other half is under strict instructions that he must be fluent in Spanish before I arrive, I am a little nervous about the language barrier still. He will leave on 1st January and is enrolled in a language school for 6 weeks and then I will fly over.

I’m also conscious of the fact that we will have been apart for around 11 months and have only seen each other for the odd weekend here or there. To go from that to being with someone 24/7 with no break from them at all is a little bit daunting. The phrase from one extreme to another has never been so appropriate.

I must admit as well that I am not always in the best mood in a hot country. If that is then somehow combined with sunburn, it could be a disaster. I also have bad reactions to insect bites. They take chunks out of me and then my skin sort of blisters. It looks worse that it actually is but it looks disgusting. In 5 weeks, we will probably come into all sorts of creatures and, like I say, things tend to like to bite me. In Peru, I even got bitten by a parrot. I mean, who actually gets bitten by a parrot? Me, that’s who. But that’s a story for another time.

When I am home for Christmas I will definitely be buying some insect repellent and anything else that claims to repel critters, and a few other things that I need for my trip. Then I will be more than ready to leave the Swiss winter behind and experience a South America summer.

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The arrival of winter

9 Dec

Winter has finally arrived and not just because real Christmas trees are now being sold on every corner that you turn. It has snowed. I did snow a few weeks ago but only a light covering that started to come down early in the evening and had disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. But it looks like the snow has finally decided it is going to stay.

Last night we were working in the office until late to hit our deadline for the last month of the year. I had had a bad feeling about it all week and when, on Thursday we had a technical issue that brought a 10 hour delay, I was fearing the worst.

However, we caught up and apart from a few hiccups on the way, we were finished around 10pm on Friday evening. I was over the moon, as I had expected to be working until about midnight or later. We had finally done it. The last month end close of 2017. Home before the witching hour. Yes!

But oh no! Having been firmly fixed on our computer screens for 15 hours, we had failed to notice that the snow had come down. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as torrential snow but this was something like it. Ok, I have my hat, boots and a big winter jacket (I actually call it my football manager’s jacket because can be found in the wardrobe of any self-respecting Premier League coaching staff member), I thought. I can do snow.

Then news somehow filtered into the office – I still have no idea how, as there were only 10 of us left in a building for eight thousand –  that there had been a accident and none of the trams were running from our offices into town. Great. This was not in the script. I was meant to be home in an hour. This was looking increasingly unlikely.

I left with the plan to walk to the nearest train station, get a train from there to the main station and then get my usual train home. I start walking and I see a tram drive past. Hang on, didn’t someone say that the trains weren’t running? But that was a tram and it was definitely running.

I jogged to the next stop to get the next tram that was making its way down the hill. I looked like Bambi on ice. I had to get a bit of speed up to make the next tram but I wanted to avoid falling flat on my face even though no one would be around to see my embarrassment. I made it! Great not long and I would be at the main station and I just have to wait for the train.

The tram didn’t move for about 5 minutes. Then the driver said that there were two other tram stuck in front of him and he didn’t know when we would be able to get moving again. He left the doors open so that anyone who wanted to get off could do.

I decided it could be ages before we set off again so I got out and headed on foot to the train station that would take me to the main station. I was glad that I did. Not only had 2 cars collided just next to the train station but there was also a bus that had managed to crash into a lamp post and was blocking all trams going up and down.

Luckily, the train arrived just as I was climbing up the steps to the station. I had to wait for half an hour at the main station but at least I knew I wasn’t too far from home.

By the time, I got home the snow was really deep. As most people were inside or already asleep, I had the privilege of being the first one to walk through the newly fallen snow. I love that crunch sound that comes from under foot and being able to look behind me to see the footsteps in the snow. It was clear that this snow was here to stay.

Today it has continued to snow. I’m happy that I don’t have to work or use public transport and I can watch the winter wonderland from the comfort of my home.

40 Before 40: Challenge #21

26 Nov

My #40Before40 Challenge #21 was to watch the whole of the first series of 24 (24 episodes) in one sitting. If you haven’t seen the show before, each episode is an hour long and represents events that happen during the day of the California Primacy.

This was taking binge watching to the extreme and was actually something that I had discussed with a friend a long time ago. As it was November and the snow hasn’t yet arrived to go skiing, it seemed like a good weekend to tick this one off the list.

From an operational level, I know that I needed to enlist some friends to help me stay awake. If enforced sleep deprivation isn’t a test of a good friendship, I am not sure what is. In the end we were 3, as I was joined by Stefan and Mark. As we wouldn’t have time to go shopping etc, I had stocked the fridge with pizza, salad, fruit, vegan chili, drinks and snacks. Stefan, an impressive baker, also brought over one of the most delicious cakes that I have ever tasted.

Because we watched the show without commercial breaks, it means we have 20 minutes in between each show to eat, have a break, etc.

So, here is how it went. Events occur in real time…

Hour 1:

Show: An assassination attempt on Senator Palmer’s life is reported and a Boeing 747 explodes in mid-air over LA. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer, an agent at the Counter Terrorism Unit, is angry that his daughter has left the house to go partying.

Us: Armed with Turkish pastries for breakfast and coffee, we are in high spirits.

Hour 2:

Show: There is a mole in the CTU, who possibly has been working with the bad guys who are trying to kill the Senator. Several suspicious glances are seen in the office. It is clear Kim Bauer is getting herself into quite a bit of trouble.

Us: The boys, who haven’t seen the show before, don’t seem to be convinced about the show. I, on the other hand, have just realised how good the show is. But I can’t remember everything that happened. We are laughing at the outdated technology in the show, like floppy disks.

Hour 3:

Show: Apparently Senator Palmer’s son was involved in a murder and this is going to be revealed in the press. Nina, has been confronted about being the mole in CRT. She manages to prove her innocence because on a specific date she was having an affair with Jack.

Us: We are not as chatty as we were in the first two episodes, but the boys seem to be getting a bit more into it.

Hour 4:

Show: It is now clear that Kim Bauer has been kidnapped. At CTU the agency is in lockdown because Jack can’t follow orders.

Us: We manage to spot a continuity error that you wouldn’t have spotted if you had watched one episode a week, as the show would have been aired in the beginning. Nokia and Ericsson phones are featuring predominately in the show, much to our amusement.

Hour 5:

Show: Kim and her friend get further into trouble as they attempt to flee their captors, despite having been drugged and beaten. Her friend is run over and left for dead in the street. David Palmer faces the journalist, who has accused her son and Jack has broken out a prisoner from jail in order to questions him.

Us: We agree that we don’t trust Janet (Kim’s friends) dad, who has been involved in looking for the girls. He seems a bit suspicious. We start discussing playing a drinking game that we have found online, where we have to drink when certain things happen or are said.

Hour 6:

Show: Janet is in hospital and, though a vital witness, she is in complex surgery and it looks unlikely she will be able to help police. Later in the episode, it is revealed that the man claiming to be Janet’s father is not her father at all.

Us: We knew not to trust Janet’s dad. Meanwhile we discuss the role of women in TV and films. I am already frustrated at how dumb the women in this show are.

Hour 7:

Show: Jack is now being directed by a bad guy, Gaines, who is involved in the assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Jack’s wife knocks out the man who she thought was Janet’s dad with a rock to the head. It is revealed that the mole in the organisation was Jamie.

Us: We can’t believe that Jamie is a rouge agent. We liked her, especially as she has changed her hairstyle three times already. I am starting to feel sleepy.

Hour 8:

Show: Jack is getting framed for the assassination attempt by Gaines. There is a complex operation, including the actual assassin tricking Jack so his prints are on the gun.

Us: The boys seem to be on the edge of their seats but I am really sleepy. We decide to go for a walk to get some fresh air and to wake us up. This turns into a jog because we walk too far and need to get back for the next episode. We are a third of the way through.

Hour 9:

Show: Jack is under arrest for plotting to assassinate Palmer but in reality he saved his life. He escapes custody in classic Bauer-esque fashion and takes a hostage and car to help him get back in touch with the unit.

Us: We don’t like Senator Palmer’s wife. She is a bit of a snake. We can’t help thinking that it would be a lot easier to track people today and to get to places because of Google maps. We’ve cracked open the crisps. I’m feeling a lot more awake.

Hour 10:

Show: Jack is again a fugitive on the run; his hostage double crossed him. A new villain is in the picture and a new head has taken over CTU.

Us: I don’t like the new CTU head and I comment that a lot of undercover things seem to be happening in the ladies toilets. This would almost never happen –  because of some strange law, women’s toilets need to be occupied by at least 2 women at all times. In this episode, we played the drinking game. One can of beer did not last long!

Hour 11:

Show: Jack takes the new bad guy, Ted Cofell, hostage. After threatening physical hart, it turns out that the man is actually Serbian. But Jack pushes him too far and he has a heart attack before he can get any information from him.

Us: There is excitement about the Serbian connection, because Stefan is from Serbia. The Serbian that is spoken is not translated but myself and Mark are told that the Serbian isn’t very good and has some mistake.

Hour 12:

Show: As I suspected, Alberta Green, temporarily in command of the CTU, is an absolute ball breaker. By now, both the wife and daughter of Jack are being held hostage in the same place, by the same people. Teri has shot one of the kidnappers, after one of the young kidnappers, Rick, has taken a shine to Kim and has smuggled them in a gun. Senator Palmer meets with the therapist who is implicating him and minutes later this office, with the therapist in it, is blown up. There is a huge cover-up under way.

Us: We laugh out loud because someone has a pager. The boys are beginning to annoy me (they actually weren’t but they were very interested in what I was noting down and I thought it would serve them right if they read this. Haha) In actual fact, we are half way through and seem to be doing ok.

I will be continuing the next 12 hours tomorrow. Will we make it through the whole show? Can I officially tick off one challenge from my list as completed? Stay tuned!

What has annoyed me most this year

22 Nov

What has annoyed me most this year is perhaps not so surprising. I have spent a lot of time in airports and travelling. It isn’t the actually travelling that has been annoying. Although at one point, I was longing to stay at home and just relax in my own environment. The thing that annoys me about travelling is other people.

If I could get to the airport, board a plane to myself and not have to interact with anyone at all during this time, I would be over the moon. Other people just make travelling more stressful.

It isn’t even other passangers that irritate me. But there is always more than one person, wheeling a trolley behind them with no ide how to control it. People wheeling luggage also forget the concept of other people and think that ambling along without a care in the world, while blocking the way for people trying to get to their gate, is a completely acceptable state of affairs.

Then there are the people who can’t possibly have been on a plane before. Nor have they read any of the 100 signs in the queue for security that say that any fluids need to be in a transparent, plastic bag. The look of surprise on their faces amazes me when they realise that they now have to rout around in the bag to get the contraband out and in the correct bag to be inspected. How can anyone not know the regulations and not ready themselves for it well in advance?

Then there is the person at security with the tray who asks, as I am unzipping my bag to get out my already-prepared, plastic bag. Once I almost turned round and said, “Give me a bloody minute will you, love?” But I didn’t know how to say it in French so I decided to give it a miss. And then she asked me if I had an iPad. I pointed to the iPad which was already sitting in the tray, waiting to be scanned. I’m sure that these people are so bored that they are trying to make conversation

Nothing irritates me more than when I finally get on the plane and someone else have take all the space in the locker above the seat. I have seen people get on planes and put their luggage in the first available locker even though they are sat at the back of the plane. Do not be these people. It is so unhelpful and a huge pain in the ass because it means that your luggage is not next to you when you come to get off. So you have to wait until you can go to the back of the plane to find it.

Taking of leaving the aircraft: where exactly do people think that they are going when they get up before the seat belt sign has been switched off. Everyone has been expressedly been told not to take off their seatbelt but people do at the first opportunity. What advantage do they think that they can gain on their fellow passangers when the crew are still strapped into their seats? Planes aren’t like buses or trains. If you don’t get off on a bus within 30 seconds or less, you have missed your stop and will have to get off at somewhere that you don’t want to. With a plane, everyone has arrived at their final destination. If you don’t get off now, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait for the next stop which is in 13 hours and is in Hong Kong. It does annoy me that people can’t take listen to instructions and do what someone else tells them to. If this is how adults behave, how can we expect children to behave any better?

Rant over. That is until I head off to the aiport again, which, knowing me, won’t be too long at all.

 

 

Signs of Singapore

13 Nov

During my trip to Singapore, I found some extremely funny signs. This is a bit of an obsession for me. Some of the signs in Singapore seemed to have an underlying hint of sarcasm which I thought was great.

Can you guess what this sign was meant to be telling you?

It was actually the sign for the ladies toilets. The sign for the toilet was similar, except that the man had, what I can only describe as, a Mexican-style moustache. At first I had no idea what the sign was meant to be indicating. I think I make this pose when I am deliberately being shy and coy, like after receiving a compliment and feigning a false modest. Like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that. I feel all embarrassed now!” Do you see what I mean?

I saw this sign in a bar and all I could think was, yes, finally someone has had the courage to, not only say it, but to make it into a sign! For those of you who don’t know, PDA means Public Displays of Affection. 

I wish that they had had this sign in the restaurant where I ate the hot curry. The seats were on the floor around a coffee table sized table and there wasn’t a lot of space between the tables. Because they clearly wouldn’t be able to survive an hour long dinner without pawing at one another, they both sat on the same side of the table and he was virtually sat on top of me. All the kissing and cuddling almost made my stomach turn. It was a wonder I finished that curry in one piece. Seems like everything is not perfect in Paradise though because after about 10 minutes, he got his iPad out and they were playing word puzzle games for the remainder of the dinner.

This sign was in a Buddhist temple that I visited.

Surely if you do nod off in a temple and you get caught, the obvious excuse is that you weren’t sleeping but meditating and reached another level of consciousness. Seems reasonable, right?

Everyone loves a bargain. Here is one that you can’t possibly not snap up on the spot. It’s that incredible deal of buy 1cocktail and get 1. Surely too good to miss?

This sign is translated into several languages but I think the picture in the middle says it all and there is no reason for translation. Basically, it you enter someone is going to pull a large gun on you so it is probably a good idea not to enter. Maybe this is what is meant by actions speak louder than words.

I saw this in a bar in Arab Quarter. Every bar needs rules. I agree with almost all of these rules. Sexual discrimination has no place in today’s society and Spitting is a disgusting habit.

However, why can there be no flirting with the cashier? I bet they have a high turnover of staff. When I worked in bars the only thing that I had to look forward to was the occasion flirt with a customer. But maybe the staff turnover isn’t that high. The staff can also sleep in the toilet! Wow, what a perk that is! Forget the private health insurance and the extra holidays, what staff really want is to sleep in the toilet.

And finally, because I have seen this a few times on hotel phones and it never fails to make me laugh:

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In case of emergency, please phone Switzerland. Those guys are pretty good in a crisis and they will know what to do!

40 Before 40: Challenge #27

6 Nov

Reading is one of my passions in life. I could easily sit and read for the whole day if I had the time and there were no interruptions. A great way to learn another language is to read. It is surprising how much you can learn passively.

However, as it is not always easy to read in another language, this can take the fun out of one of my favourite past times. Sometimes it feels like you are taking more time looking up words than you are actually reading the text. Despite this, I decide that my Challenge #27 would be to Read 40 novels in German.

So far, this is what I have read:

1. Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink (The Reader)

I read this book as part of my German lessons earlier this year. I wrote about this at the time on my blog. If you didn’t see it the first time, the link is here.

2. Happy Birthday Türke! by Jakob Arjourni (Happy Birthday Turk!)

This is the story of a private detective of Turkish heritage born in Germany, who is asked to investigate the death of a man, after the police have shown their disinterest to use resources to solve the murder of a “foreigner”. The story begins on the birthday of the detective, hence the title “Happy Birthday, Turk!”

The story also explores issues, such as racial stereotypes and the tensions that exist between people who are seen as foreigners and those who consider themselves to be natives. The books ends with the detective not only discovering the truth but also uncovering a corrupt system.

Thanks to this book I now know more words for prostitute in German than I do in English. I have no idea when I will use these words though.

3. Ein Tag mit Herrn Jules by Diane Broeckhoven (A Day with Mr Jules)

This was am interesting book about a woman whose husband passes away in his armchair in the morning. She doesn’t want to accept this and carries on her day as usual. What throws a spanner in the works is when the autistic child who lives in the same building comes over. He regularly comes over to plays chess with the man who has passed away.

Being autistic, he doesn’t like changes to his routine and the wife has to let him in to play chess with her husband. The boy realises quickly that his normal chess player has passed away but he spends the day with the wife anyway. By the end of the book, the wife has come to terms with her loss and admits that she needs to contact the relevant people, including her son and daughter, to deal with the death of her husband.

4. Ein paar Leute suchen das Glück und lachen sich tot by Sibyelle Berg (A few people search for happiness and laugh themselves to death)

This was an interesting book. I mainly chose the book because the author lives in Zurich. The story has short chapters which focus on individual chapters, by the end of the book several of the individual stories have intertwined.

The book explores themes such as love, loss, the complexity of relationships and, to a certain extent, the meaning of modern life.

By the end I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. I had quite a few unanswered questions. In terms of my language learning, I did learn a lot of new words, especially colloquial terms that are perhaps not easy to pick up by formal German lessons.

Four down, 36 to go…

A long weekend in Bordeaux

3 Nov

Although it seems like a long time ago now, I spent a long weekend last weekend in Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux is where my boyfriend is currently living to improve his French. I suspect, however, that a reason that is just as important is that he likes to drink wine. For the past few weeks, all I have heard about is wine tasting and Cognac. As Easyjet fly from Basel to Bordeaux, I decided it was a good opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

After the shock of arriving back to a cold Switzerland from Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised that the weather in France was warm. I don’t mean warm as in Barbados warm but certainly noticeably warmer than in Switzerland. We walked around the city and my personal tour guide showed me all of the major points of interest.

When in France it is a legal requirement to have a lunch of bread and cheese sat by the river. There was an artisan farmers’ market by the waterfront so we bought some bread, with olives and onions baked in it, and some lovely sheeps’ milk cheese. We watched the world go by for a bit and it was lovely to be able to sit out in October still.

Docked on the quai was a large Russian sailing ship, the Mir. Apparently the ship has been visiting Bordeaux for the past 30 years. It was an impressive ship and not something that I would have expected to see there. It also accounted for why there were so many Russian sailors milling about the place. We did say that we would go back to go on board, because there were a lot of people on it at lunchtime, but we ended up running out of time.

After some retail therapy (I wanted to get some new running shoes from Decathalon), we had some time to sit and have a drink before going to dinner. We stumbled on a local bar that was next to the Basicilica of St Michael. It was quite interesting to observe some of the locals coming and going. The best part was actually watching someone trying to park in front of the bar. That someone was a male of the species before you come to any other conclusions. He tried about eight times to squeeze into a spot that was far too small. Every time he reversed backwards, he nudged a BMW that was parked behind. The BMW physically moved every time. It was an achievement that he didn’t cause any damage to the other much more expensive car.

We ate at La Crabe Marteau, a famous seafood restaurant. There were about 3 things on the menu: crab, lobster or langustinens. We had the crab. It was pretty exciting. You get give allsorts of equipment to get into the crab. Luckily, I didn’t have to de-shell my crab by myself; the waiter took pity on me and did it for me. Markus wasn’t so lucky! The crab itself was huge and I was surprised by how much meat there was in it. I thought that it would be mainly shell but I was so wrong that I couldn’t even finish my meal, which almost never happens.

The next day it was time to head to Libourne for a Chateaux Open Day. A lot of chateaux open up to the public for free wine tastings as a way to market their wines. The first chateau was very small. It was clearly a farm that was diversifying to generate more money. We saw the cellar and how the wine was produced. They even had two shire horses to help harvest the wine. The wine itself was really good. We bought a bottle to have for later.

The next chateaux was more of a wine merchants. We weren’t able to see the cellar or see how the wine was produced but we could try some, which was the most important point. There were almost too many to try here. At the first chateau there were only three wines to try and we tried them in increasing strength. Here it was a bit of a mixture and I wasn’t always sure that I could taste the difference.

We moved on to Chateau de la Dauphine. This was a huge chateau which produces about 200,000 bottles of wine per year. The contrast between this chateau and the one that we had first visited was huge. We had a half hour tour of the whole grounds and the vineyards. Of course, my French is not very good, so I had my personal translator with me. After a late lunch and a bottle of wine at the chateau we headed back to Bordeaux.

In case you are wondering, we didn’t drive. We got the train and then walked to the chateaux. The 25km I walked that day was only just offset all of the wine that I drunk!

Later we went back to the city. I wanted to take a picture of the Miroir d’eau (Water Mirror) in the city centre at night. There is a thin layer of water directly opposite some government buildings which reflects the light perfectly at night. It is breathtaking.

The next day we did a bit more wandering around and some shopping. We bought some Canelé de Bordeaux back with us. I fell in love with this little, delicious treats, which are available everywhere and are normally served with a coffee. A sweet reminder of a lovely weekend in Bordeaux.