Saturday, April 30, 2005

Marian and I spent much time this week assembling a puzzle of Switzerland.


A Pictoral Description of Raclette

Have you ever heard of Raclette? At first I kept calling it Ratcliff, but turns out you can't be in Switzerland for long without learning about this culinary treat first hand. Ate it for the second time yesterday, so thought I would take some pictures to illustrate for you. Scroll down through the photos for an essential lesson in Swiss cheese (not the kind with the holes).

This is a special grill just for heating raclette.

This is raclette.

After adding some special raclette spices, you put the cheese inside the grill. Oh yeah!

The cheese enticingly bubbles as it is heated in the raclette grill

You use a special little scraper to push the melted cheese onto your plate

Mmmm...ready to eat with potatos

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Signs of stress...and possible insanity

Ah, week four. There seems to be something special about this week, like I've reached a milestone...or the point of no return...or a breaking point perhaps.

Since I awoke this morning, my 27th morning in Europe, until this very moment that I am writing this to you, my left eyebrow has not ceased twitching. Have I developed a nervous tic?! If so, how perfectly dramatic of me to make such an outward show of my inward stress. It's rather pleasing actually, like a big bruise that doesn't really hurt much but that can be shown off to others. "See how pathetic I am? Won't you please recognize my pain?" the bruise calls out. Although perhaps a nervous tic sends out a message of a different sort, but I'd rather not think about that.

Actually, I've been practicing not thinking at all. Or specifically, not thinking using language. Have you ever tried it before? I'm not sure it's possible, but for the sake of my nervous tic I'm giving it a go. You see, the problem with thinking using language is that I'm not susposed to use English here, as it detracts from my French study. But my French study is detracting from my peace of mind, as my twitching eyebrow is attempting to tell me. Thus I would think it..or rather "feel" that it would be best to spend some time in tranquility, without thoughts of any sort running about. But I've found this state to be rather difficult to preserve for any length of time. This has taught me an important lesson: I will not judge the next vacant person I come across, but instead congratulate them on their intellectual achievement.

Well then, I suppose I must come up with something pleasant to say, after all the cynicism of late. I hope you can tell from my writing that I've been reading Oscar Wilde. He's terribly British, even when he's translated into French. His characters always say the opposite of what they should. I take his whimsical works very seriously. You should too. I recommend The Importance of Being Earnest. If you're not the literary sort, although to read that play you certainly don't need to be, I also highly recommend the movie of the same title starring two of my favorite actors: Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon. Francis Somebody-or-Other is also in it, and she stars in the movie Mansfield Park which is another favorite of mine. I also recommend Wilde's most famous novel, The Portrait of Dorian Gray. It is an interesting commentary on how our behavior affects our soul. I wonder, does my soul have a nervous twitch?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tour of the City

On Sunday another church came from out of town and shared the service with us, so afterwards we went on a historic tour of Neuchatel. Had opportunity to take some interesting pictures, so enjoy.

View of city on a rainy day

Artistic model of Neuchatel

Yes, there is a castle in the town where I live.

The castle of Neuchatel

Front of Cathedral

A man was playing the organ while we toured the church...lovely atmosphere

At front of cathedral


Stained glass window

Culture Shock

The stages of culture shock as I recall them are as follows: 1)The honeymoon stage where the traveller thinks that everything about the new country is simply wonderful 2)The conflict stage where the person begins to despise the way people do things in the host culture and they wish they could just do things the "normal" way 3)The acceptance stage where the person no longer feels angry or depressed but accepts the culture for what it is 4)The adjustment stage where the person learns to live in the culture and adapts to a new way of life.

Despite what I've been told, I am beginning to suspect that those stages of culture shock are actually what is perceived from outside the traveller. I will now give you the emic perspective. Stage 1: The traveller, having freshly arrived, retains some sense of self and cherishes recent memories of home, thus producing an appearance of loving the new country. Stage 2: The traveller's patience with the foreigners and their foreign ways grows thin, but he is still vaguely remembers a place called home, thus arrousing fits of frustration followed by doubt and depression. Stage 3: Having been told that his reality is no longer valid, the traveller walks about in a comatose state of numbness. The cease of struggling is seen as "acceptance." Stage 4: The traveller's will to live being completely broken, he merely mimics the actions and copies the thoughts of those around him, thus perfectly achieving the desired state of "adjustment."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Eating, hiking, eating

Hello again! Went on a hike today, so have lots of pictures to post. I'm told we could have seen the alps from where we were, but instead we had the beauty of the low-hanging clouds drifting about the tops of the hills. It was raining, but being an Oregonian I felt right at home, as did Nathan from Ireland. It was fun to hang out with Tom from our class and meet his family.

Friday night I had the pleasure of feeding my friends again. Not nachos this time, but another family favorite...roasted garlic! Mmmm...Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and I'm sure we'll be eating that again sometime soon.

One thing that stands out to me about my relationships here is that we all do nice things for each other, without measuring what is owed or calculating our generosity. At school during the break often someone has something to share with everyone, like juice or chocolate. Greta always buys two croissants at the store and gives me one. Nathan often flips a one franc coin to me so I can go buy a coffee out of the machine. Yesterday Marian did some of my laundry for me. I really enjoy being able to have everyone over to eat and bless them in that way.

In my journal I've started writing in Franglish. This is a good sign I suppose...I'm actually thinking in French part of the time. It's the "part" part that makes it weird though. My thoughts are mainly in English, but with French words inserted or with French expressions accentuating the sentiment. C'est la vie!

Bon weekend!

A lovely repas awaited us after our hike. Delicicieux! Sheesh, you'd think my blog was a culinary review! Ah, such is life in La Suisse.




La belle vue...the beautiful view

Tom and his wife, attempting to ascend with 3 children in tow!


Nathan's fashion sensibilities were offended today. But one must attempt to stay dry, even if it means resorting to panchos.

My friends were happy to eat my food.

Nothing better than bread with roasted garlic, cream cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinagar.

Today Nathan compared Swiss homes to a "medieval theme park," since he's always having to bend down.

Lots of beautiful flowers all around town.

Mmm...there used to be baklava on this plate. Perfect dessert after falafel and kabab.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Nachos and Snow...what more could I ask for?

Bonjour my dear e-friends!

All is well in Neuchatel. I must rescind any former suggestion that there would be the possibility of starving in Switzerland. I am invited to dine with others far too often and their cuisine is far too good to resist, resulting in gluttony I fear.

(WARNING: if you are my vegetarian sister, you may not want to read this paragraph) Tonight I tasted horse. Yes, I said horse. But I'll have you know it was only a very little taste. The thought of it makes me gag, but I'm told it's very tasty. The little bit I had was indeed good, although not good enough to override my cultural sensitivities.

So any, I mean fears...that I would return to the States as a gaunt European have been dashed and now it's back to the American way of struggling to make sure I exercise enough so as to eat what I want to without putting on too many pounds. Sigh.

The pictures below are of a recent snow storm and of the nacho feast I prepared for my fellow Wycliffe members. Marian and Nathan had never eaten nachos before! Can you imagine such, deprivation? I was extremely pleased with how they turned out, considering Mexican ingredients are a little hard to come by in Switzerland. Regarding the snow storm, it was very day I'm taking a walk in the sunshine wearing a t-shirt, and the next thing I know it's winter again. In some places in the vicinity they actually had 60cm of snow piled up! (Yeah, I have no clue either how much 60cm is. Ach, that silly metric system!)

I'm happy to report that I have not cried yet this week :o) Actually, I kind of like having hard times because of the great times I get to have with God on account of them. But it's probably best to give the people around me a little reprieve from my moodyness :o)

OK, that's all for now. God bless you!

Corcelles (my village) dusted in white

Snow on Sunday morning. The white car is Marian's.

My after-nachos-happy-face.


Marian, Greta, and Nathan about to enjoy my nacho feast on Saturday

Friday, April 15, 2005

Some Cultural Curiosities in Switzerland:

-The Swiss are known for being clean. But sometimes the need for clean is laughable to us outsiders. For instance, they clean the street WITH WATER. Apparently sweeping the street is not enough. Not only that, but I've heard that after there is a strike, the demonstrators pick up after themselves and wash the road! Also, they think it necessary to WASH THEIR COWS!! And if you question a Swiss person about this they look at you in wonder and say "Oui! Bien sur...they are dirty, why wouldn't you wash them?"

-We have a coo-coo clock in our house :o) That's to be expected in Switzerland I suppose, but the fun part is that the people have adopted "Coo-coo" as a greeting! Instead of "bonjour" you can say to your friends "Coo-coo!"

-I went to McDonalds the other day. I NEVER eat at McDonalds at home, but somehow it really sounded good here. After gagging several times over the prices, I was able to gain enough composure to order my food. After I ordered I looked around for some ketchup and didn't see any, so I asked the worker if I could have some. She said yes and proceded to ring me up again! You have to pay for your ketchup at McDonalds!

-There are many Christians here and almost everyone I hang out with are Christians, so it is customary to pray before we eat, but oftentimes the Swiss sing a little song instead of praying! I like it.

-It is actually difficult here to find lined paper. Lined paper is rather normal where I come from. But in Switzerland one uses GRID PAPER. Remember that paper you had to use once in awhile for math class in 8th grade? Yeah, that's the stuff they write on everyday! Apparently it's very practical. I mean, who knows when you may be writing something and spontaneously decide to do a little math problem or design a floorplan? Let me tell you, the Swiss are ready with their grid paper for whatever the situation calls for.

-When I go about choosing an outfit for the day it is essential to recall what I've worn recently and make sure I don't wear the same things too often. This isn't hard, it's just normal to try to diversify my wardrobe. But come to find out, in Switzerland no one is so shackled. They've been freed by the fashion powers that be, to wear the EXACT same outfit, accessories and all, EVERY DAY FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK. This phenomenon is still under investigation. I have not yet uncovered the rationale behind it. Is it, for instance, due to the fact that most people don't have their own washing machines and must pay to wash their clothes? Or perhaps it's not economic, but is due to a biological difference where Swiss people do not actually have BO and find it unnecessary to wash their clothes at all? This theory is easily disprovable, however, with one whiff of the suffocating air in the little church on Sunday mornings. Maybe it's a psychological reason stemming from the extreme efficiency of the Swiss, who wear the same outfit simply because it makes sense to only take the time to pick one out once a week.

Stay tuned for more cultural observations coming soon to a blog near you...

My class: Me, Marina (Germany), Tom (Wisconsin), and Nathan (N Ireland)

Marina, a German lady in my class, is a precious and generous friend

The tulips are in full bloom

The Bus I take to school every morning

Swiss Fire Hydrant

Hermine, who has helped all of us Wycliffe members a lot

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cultural Conflict...aka: God's refining fire

Verse of the Week
Jean 3:30 « Il faut que son influence grandisse et que la mienne diminue. »
John 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less."

I chose this verse last night after a stressful cultural conflict. If you think you've died to self, try living in a cross-cultural situation! I've found offenses and the pain of being misunderstood to be very helpful in demonstrating the need for denial of self and in showing me how much of myself is still left. I'm also beginning to see that this is a large part of the sacrifice of the life I've chosen, probably second only to leaving my family and friends. But in this I have found great value, because what better way to identify with Christ than to be misunderstood? Surely He was greatly misunderstood! Even His closest friends did not really grasp who He was. And He continues to be misunderstood to this very day.

Also, these trials drive me to prayer. I am beginning to see that to be understood by others is not really necessary, that my only home will be (and always was) in the Spirit, in the presence of God. So I am striving to remember that I don't need to try to make others know me, and that when I am misunderstood I should not feel sorry for myself but take the opportunity to feel the sorrows of our Lord. These experiences are not entirely new to me, indeed I've often struggled with finding people who can understand me and I've known the centrality of spending time with God, but being abroad is a sort of intensified way of living and really brings out the best and worst in a person. But what I mean to say is that these things are just as true for the person at home as they are for me. You may not see or feel just how important your relationship with God is. But believe me, it is everything! He is the only One who knows you. He is the only One who can be relied upon.

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

We had a lovely walk beside the lake

The hills are alive!

This dessert nearly made me cry it was so delicious!

This had to have been the best meal I've ever had in someone's home!

First course of a fantastic meal

Friday, April 08, 2005

First Week

I have finished my first week of classes! I enjoy the teachers and my fellow students and the subject matter, so I generally like going to school. But sometimes I also find myself gazing out the window at the beautiful lake, just trying to give my brain a little repose from the constant strain of speaking and listening to another language.

Besides school, I have kept fairly busy with social engagements, thanks to my fellow Wycliffe members' connections. Just about everyday we have someone to eat with or something to do together. This is good because left to myself at the house I have a hard time forcing myself to study, and going to a French-speaking person's house for a meal can be more rigorous learning even than class.

The first few days I was here it was almost too hot sitting in the sun. But the last couple of days have been rather blustery and drizzly and downright cold. The clouds do not permit me to see the Alps, which is probably nice for my new friends since they don't have to hear me burst into song ("The hills are alive. La, la, la, la!) every time I catch a glimpse of the mountains.

Verse of the week: Proverbs 17:22 « La bonne humeur favorise la guĂ©rison, mais la tristesse fait perdre toute vitalitĂ©. » "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

View from classroom

Nathan (Irish Wycliffe member) and really cute Swiss kids!

I love that everyone takes their little dogs with them everywhere!

Center of Neuchatel