Sunday, July 31, 2005

He's a maniac, maniac!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

More things taken forgranted.

Since writing my top 10 list of things I took forgranted before coming here I've thought of a whole bunch more that should be included. Consider this the "Top 10: Drink edition"

10. Consumption of caffeine purely for its effect: I've been told that Mtn Dew should be on my list, but since I don't really do the Dew, I thought of this wider category. Caffeine definitely seems much more drug-like in the US.
9. Starbucks: I wasn't even a huge fan, but you miss it when it's gone!
8. Water is water is water: Here it's like "What kind? Carbonated? Flavored? Mineral? Natural?"
7. Milk and juice are found in the refrigerated section: OK, I still can't figure out the boxed milk here that you just get off a regular shelf. Real milk needs refrigeration!
6. Christians and alcohol don't mix: OK, so I don't actually believe that, but as an American it's still rather shocking when people bring beer to the youth group BBQ.
5. Large coffee: I've hardly seen a decent sized mug since being here, let alone the option of "venti."
4. Free ice water: Want some water at a restaurant? Yeah, that'll cost ya.
3. Free-refills: Ah America, land of the free and home of the glutton. Seriously though, here I never get the impression that I've gotten my money's worth when I pay 3 bucks for one glass of Coke.
2. Chai frappuccino: How I miss thee.
1. Ice cubes: This definitely merits the #1 slot. I mean, a cold one that isn't cold is hardly a one at all*.

*Strong Bad from quote

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Excursions Galore

The university program I'm doing right now offers two excursions a week. It's a great opportunity to see Switzerland and most of the trips are a lovely combination of natural beauty and urban activities. We've had picnics in the mtns and visited museums and done wine tasting and toured castles. Below are some pics from recent excursions.

All the vineyards in this region (hour from where I live) were destroyed a few days ago by a hail storm.

The town of Gruyere (famous cheese!) is very charming.

Here's where we had a picnic. These are my American friends.

We found ourselves walking through a cow field. Very charming with all of there bells clanging.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ten Trivial Things I Took Forgranted

10. Indian buffet
9. Stacks of Mexican tortillas that cost a buck (it's like a dollar apiece here)
8. One-piece bathing suits
7. Having my mom section my grapefruit for me
6. Free public restrooms
5. Making jokes that other people think are funny
4. Drive-thru coffee. Drive-thru anything, for that matter.
3. Saying simply "Hello?" when I answer the phone and being able to understand the person on the other line.
2. Applebee's half-priced appetizers (Nicole, we're totally splitting a veggie patch pizza when I come home!)
1. Peanut butter, esp PB with chocolate

These are some of the things I think about regularly, paticularly the food items :o) Peanut butter landed as #1 because I had no idea how strongly I felt about it until I found myself amongst people with absolutely no appreciation for the stuff! Last week I was actually angry because a Swiss man could not understand the concept of PB with chocolate. He tried to compare a Reese's Peanutbutter Cup to a chocolate-covered peanut! I'm sure I sound ridiculous, but I find that it's these little things that I can't explain that make me feel alone and culturally frustrated.

I got to have an "American moment" last week though. My housemate Marian can't get over the fact that I tried Nutella (creamy chocolate and hazelnut spread) with peanut butter. I can't get over the fact that it seems weird to her. Marian recently returned from Holland where she recounted my horrible act to her family. Apparently they responded with stunned silence. I love the image of this serious Dutch family stupified over my American antics :o) The best part of the story is this: I was with 2 other Americans at the university and told them this story and they both exclaimed, "Oh! Nutella with peanutbutter is great!" Nobody ever told us to eat them together, it just came naturally!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

American Christian...oxymoron?

Had an interesting encounter at the university yesterday. It's time I broached the subject of politics on my blog. Not that I want to debate anything, or even air any opinions, but you need to know what it's like over here. The subject of American politics, as unpleasant as it is, is brought up rather hastily here. Sometimes one of the first things a person will ask me is whether or not I voted for George Bush. Everyone is very quick to denounce the war. The interesting fact of the matter is that, while it was the evangelicals of America who got Bush re-elected, European Christians are generally against the war.

Yesterday I was talking to a Catholic (possibly a German, but I don't know) who insisted emphatically that war and God absolutely do not mix. (Not sure what Bible he's reading, but that's another story.) But he did have a certain logic: Christians don't kill, war kills, voting for Bush means voting for war, voting for Bush means killing, voting for Bush can't be done by Christians. I'm not here to analyze that, just to present you with the way people think here.

But here's the real pill to swallow: Another man (also German?) said that the 2 biggest threats in the world today are 1) Atomic weapons and 2) The USA. Hmmm. Luckily some sort of defense mechanism shut me down and I was unable to respond to this statement. But actually, I can see where he's coming from. The US and our President seem very agressive from the world's viewpoint. I'm not sure how that makes us more of a threat than the terrorists who are blowing things up everyday, but even so, I can see how he could make such a statement.

So there you have it. In case you had any delusions that the world thinks of us as great heros, I'm here to tell you they think quite the opposite. Makes being an American on foreign soil...interesting.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bonjour! Thought I'd put a photo of me and an elephant on my blog. The other day was surprised to see 5 elephants walking down the street. They'd just arrived for the circus.

Back to School. Again.

Friday I finished up my studies at Inlingua, the language school I've been at for the last 3 months. The last week was great because there was just one other girl there, so we practically got private lessons for 4 hours a day.

Today the 4-week summer program at the university got off to a GREAT start for me on many levels. First off I had to take a placement test. I felt good about the written part, but I didn't know how much the oral part would count for and I didn't feel as confident about that, so I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be in one of the 3 top classes which enjoy a slightly different schedule, including presentations on culture, history, and literature. In the meantime, I met up with a Swiss German girl that I knew briefly at Inlingua, and also (out of the 160 or so students) happened upon another American named Jessica! Considering there are only 5 Americans in the whole program and I only met a couple of people, it was a weird coincedence. The 3 of us had a great time at lunch, enjoying the fact that all of us already spoke French fairly well, even with decent accents.

In the afternoon all the students gathered together to be grouped into classes. First they called the names of the students in Superior 1 (the highest class possible) and I was completely astounded to hear my name called! It was a very pleasant surprise and encouraging to my little linguist self. As equally nice was that my two new friends also achieved the same level. Strange that we'd found each other before being put in the same class. Destiny seemed to have played a role! Jessica and I were also happy to have done our part in defeating the stereotype of Americans who are either monolingual or have terrible accents!

I thank God for this opportunity to deepen my French and also to meet people from all over the world. My class is definitely multinational: 4 Swiss Germans, 1 German, 1 man from Lichtenstein, 2 Iranian girls, 1 woman from Poland who lives in Norway, 3 girls from Russia, and 2 Jessica's from the USA :o) What an incredible opportunity to encounter people from all over the globe. I feel blessed to be able to be an ambassador here on behalf of my country and above all for the Gospel. I'm also pleased with my professor who has taught at the summer program for over 30 consecutive years just because he likes it so much. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better start. Thanks God!