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Monday, July 30, 2012

How'd he do it?

Found this little bit of "magic" happening in the Dornbirn Marktplatz on Saturday.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sharing a little love...

If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together...there is something you must always remember. You are braver than what you believe, stronger than what you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart...I'll always be with you.

- Winnie the Pooh

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hard to Beat

I am missing that hot, dry, non stop sunshiny Okanagan summer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Riddled with Recycled Angst

I have recycling anxiety. Yes, I know in the big scheme of things it is a ridiculous thing to be stressed about, but alas I am.

You see I thought Austria was organized, but that was only a warm up to Switzerland. I have to admit that it is putting my Canadian free spirited approach to the ultimate test when it comes to recycling. In Canada I had bins; I put paper, cans, cardboard and all that stuff in one bin. Garbage in another and garden waste in its own as well. Bottles and tetra packs have to be trucked on down to the recycling depot and organized for the deposit refund.

In Austria I had to sort everything.

Switzerland mandates sorting and bundling your paper and cardboard. BUT – they cannot be bundled together. They must be separated, organized and tied with a string. And – pick-ups for these items are on days I have yet to sort out. In the meantime my storage area resembles a cardboard and paper graveyard. (Come to think of it, the cellar is a pretty spooky place. I don’t know one person who likes to go in there. )

To make matters worse, a new acquaintance of mine told me that there are serious fines if recycling ends up in the garbage. He is so nervous about it that he takes all his paper recycling to work for shredding.

Okay, that little story did nothing to ease my anxiety. After a 140 SF fine for going 6 km over the speed limit I do not want to learn how much a garbage fine may be.

For the recycling issue, I decided to confront my fear. I purchased some string and spent some time on the weekend sorting and bundling my paper and cardboard. I must admit I am wondering what will happen if the little bits fall out of the bundle. And no, bags are not allowed – not even paper bags. Plus soiled paper and cardboard is not cool either. I have to assume that this stuff must go into the garbage – but then that takes me back to the garbage angst. But I have an interim solution for that too. My son gets to spend part of summer visit with me doing stealth garbage disposal in the dark of night.

Yep, I am living on the edge.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Will That Be Two or Three Kisses?

I have a thing for personal space. You’d be amazed at how much I can create in even the most crowded elevators. Born and raised in southern Ontario, I learned that any type of warmth or affection was reserved for those people with whom you would consider very close relationship wise.

Lets warp back more years than I care to quantify and the Toronto girl moves off to west coast Canada. The land of casual of hugging. I have always taken an element of pride of trying to appear not at all rattled – even when I am. But the hugging thing really sent me for a loop. At first when I saw arms thrust out towards me I would stand ridged like a 2 x 4 and let myself be hugged. The event was an absolute disaster for a lifetime spent cultivating personal space. But that was at first, and it wasn’t long before I became a hugger, and not just the huggee.

When some friends from Europe arrived for a Kelowna visit, I watched as they greeted everyone with cheek kisses. Not to be out done I decided to forgo the hug and greet in the same fashion. I could tell instantly that I had committed a kissing faux pas when I actually kissed the cheek of one of the men. He looked scared and mortified. I can assure you that this is not the type of reaction I was going for and as a result I looked and felt even even more scared and mortified.

A couple of years back when I first started working a lot over in Europe, I developed a light friendship with one of the women who worked at the hotel I often stayed at. It was nice to have someone to chat to about benign subjects like the weather and traffic. After a particularly long stint I went up to say my good byes to everyone. This time I reached out and hugged my friend. And that is about when she slipped into a fit of hysteria laced with panic. I don’t know if she thought I was hitting on her or not.

Note to all; In Austria and Switzerland kissing is considered casual and hugging is intimate.

So, I kiss now too. Air kisses of course. Not the real kind as I strive not to provoke any more panic attacks. But what really messes me up with the whole kissing thing is the number of kisses. In Switzerland they kiss three times, landing on the first cheek kissed. Austria is a mix of three and two. Germany two. I think. France two. I think. Belgium three. Italy is a hug or multiple kisses. To offset this I ask “will this be two or three kisses?” I am not kidding either.

But when I am really happy I have to hug. My good friends here have dubbed it “the Canadian hug.”

My obsession with personal space has been unequivocally challenged. And for the most part I handle it without a moments thought. Except when on a crowded, microscopic sized Euro elevator. For the love of all things good in this world, please do not try and greet me on one. But then, that is another blog…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ta da! They are alive!

Today is my one month anniversary.

For some reason when I moved to Austria I could not keep a plant alive for the life of me. My green thumb turned instantly black once I unpacked. To make matters worse, when a plant dies I take it personally. I reflect on the quality of care I provided and contemplate what I could do to improve it in the future. However, my thumb was so black that when someone gifted me a plant I stressed. I knew I would kill it. I had grown accustomed to tossing the basil plant I purchased on Monday in the trash on Saturday.

Alas, no more. My basil along with another plant I was gifted remain alive - and dare I say are even thriving under my care.

I am so proud I had to take pictures in celebration of the this grand occasion.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Network

I was talking to a good friend of my mine back in Canada. I was excited to share with him that even though only a month in to calling home I had made a ton of contacts. How I did this was in part from tapping into the expat community here in Zurich. A community so incredibly large and organized, I was uncustomarily intimidated. I was telling him about walking into a room with literally hundreds of people and not a soul familiar in the room and that as I made my way through the crowd and contemplated whether I was up for the networking challenge in front of me I was surprised. Hands were extended left, right and centre – introductions made. Before long I had an invite to a dinner, other groups, conversational German practice groups and phone numbers of people I could call if I needed anything. Basically I went from being alone in a city to not at all.

The friend was I excitedly sharing this with has lived in many places throughout the world, but for the time being has decided to make Canada his home – even though he is not Canadian. Ironically I met him on a continent that neither of us called home.

His response to my update has rumbled around in my mind since he shared it. “Expats are generally fun I've found. Most have a sense of being in the middle of an opportunity that's to be made the most of. So they live deliberately, rather than worrying about the laundry and the house and all the other stuff that just kind of creeps up on you in life.”

I really had to consider these words. I don’t want to be different than the people I share geography with – I want to assimilate as much as possible. But I have to admit, there is a bit of a bond that an expat community shares, no matter what part of the world they hail from. We each know that awkward moment of walking into a room of unknowns, of having no clue about the local bureaucracy, we all know of the sometimes struggle and loneliness associated with building a life away from all that is familiar. So yeah, I guess as an expat, we do live a little differently. We simply do not take things or people for granted. We have worked to get here, and being here requires work too.

Another friend of mine who lives here in Zurich suggested that I not do the expat thing and instead work on building a Swiss network.

I have to admit, he is right as well. I should not make the expat group my sole network. But there is something about being in a room with hundreds of people that get you and get exactly what you are going through. It is a bit of a rush sharing that sort of bond with a community that extends to every culture imaginable.

So yeah, I think my friend is correct – being an expat forces you to live deliberately. It is sort of tough to get caught up in the small stuff when you are still trying to figure out the big stuff. And my other friend is right too. It is not really about being an expat – it is about living the Swiss way.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Kelowna Factor

I have dubbed it the “Kelowna factor”. No matter where I am in the world, if I attend an event I will run into at least one person who has visited Kelowna. I find it absolutely mind-boggling. These people fill me in on tales of visiting Summerhill Estate Winery, fishing, the Kettle Valley Railway, skiing Big White and enjoying Okanagan Lake. For a place that is not so large in size, it has sure made an impression on countless people throughout the world.
Last night was again, no exception. At a Zurich Expat group event I was asked from where I originated. And of course I was once again enlightened on Kelowna travel experiences. What makes this particularly unique is that in my travels I rarely meet other Canadians, only people who have visited Kelowna.
On another note, a fellow and I were speaking last night. As we were introduced to others our host mixed up where we were from. I was introduced as an American and the other gentleman as a Canadian. We were immediate and emphatic about clearing up that misunderstanding. Canadians are known for being a bit goofy, and American’s – well for being American and both nationalities do not wish to be mistaken for the other J

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Carnivore and the Herbivore

When you live in Switzerland, there are a few things that you will quickly note. One of the first is that in comparison to Canada meat is quite expensive. No worries for me – I am not a big meat eater anyway. The next thing you will notice is that dairy is a constant in everything. I am cool with that too. For my son (meat exclusive eater) and girlfriend (strict vegan), this is a whole other story. The two arrived yesterday ready for their month long Euro adventure. A few hours in they were already reassessing their grand plans for dining out after taking into account their student travel budgets and eating requirements. However, as every Canadian student abroad quickly discovers some things are relatively inexpensive – and easy to order.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Things That Make You Go Hmm...

A phone booth fit for Superman. Clean as heck, spacious and located on many a street corner. I don't think we even have these in Canada anymore?

Okay, I have to admit, the irony is not lost on me here. I am in Europe, surrounded by incredible beauty and history and what do I snap a picture of? A phone booth. Hmm...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canada Day

I remember Canada Day of my youth. Besides a few fireworks, nothing much happened. I sort of had the feeling that we were not proud of being Canadian. Perhaps I was, and am wrong - but today all that has changed. We are a different nation from the one a remember years ago. Being Canadian means something to us.

As a Canadian expat in Europe, I am grateful for what my heritage has enabled me to do. My passport is usually well received, and as a people we are generally regarded well. But it is much more than than that. Nestled within its expansive landscape is a cornucopia of culture. And with that mix we are one people - we are Canadian.

Being Canadian has taught me much. It has shown me that true riches lie in diversity. That there is much more to this world both within and beyond my countries borders. I learned to watch, observe and enjoy the remarkable diversity of my home. Because of my country I have enjoyed the freedom to live as I chose. I was
able to raise a son and encourage him to pursue a life limited only by his imagination. My family is cared for if ill, I know a justice system that protects the rights and freedoms of its people. I can swim in fresh water and be proud of my education. Because of my country I learned that there is no right way to live life - only different ways.

Happy 145th Birthday Canada. Thank you.