Happy Halloweeny!!

Yet another holiday comes and goes, with barely a passing glance.

I was unable to celebrate with friends this year as I am working this weekend in Laax. While the other au pairs were coming up with crafty costumes such as members of KISS and fireflies/bugs I was channeling the sullen teen within, pouting at my misfortune. So, rather than come up with a fancy dress of my own, I was left to think about how I celebrated in years past:

FRESHMAN YEAR

I took the outfit that I made for the drill team float senior year (Flinstones) and converted it into cave-woman. Madeline, who was my roommate at the time, was a soccer player.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

I ate too much candy during the day and got a stomach ache. I was too sick to dress up or go out to celebrate. One of my more pathetic moments.

So. Much. Candy.

JUNIOR YEAR

A last minute costume was thrown together by my roommate Abby, who had extra materials from her own costume. Thus, I became a Greek Goddess. When I got over to my friends’ house, Hannah dubbed me “Aphroteeny,” a portmanteau word from Aphrodite and Teeny, my most common nickname. It was a stellar holiday.

Madeline, Hannah, Kathryn, and myself

SENIOR YEAR

I was brainstorming with a bunch of guy friends about what to be for Halloween. Kevin said that I needed to involve my name, Teeny, since it was such a success the previous year. A few collaborations later and Teenyranasaurus-Rex was born. A dinosaur? Duh! This year we hosted a party at our house and it was madness, in the best way possible.

ROOOOOAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

Kevin, the masterMIND behind my costume. He's a brain. See what I did there?

Courtney was her usual self on a Friday night and Elizabeth was Hannah Montana, signing autographs all night.

Brent as a librarian. Priceless.

PeeWee Herman, a cowboy, two cops from Reno 911, and uno amigo. Or Matt, Pat, Harrison, Pearce, and Scott.

LAST YEAR

I actually stole my idea from one of my roommates senior year. She was going to be a bouquet but decided to be Bear in the Big Blue House instead. Thus, I snatched the idea for this year and went to Hobby Lobby to collect most of my costume. The interesting thing about this particular night is that it was the only time I have ever gotten a traffic violation. I made a right-hand turn on a red light (dang you, 75th and Mission!) and an officer, hiding in the bushes, pulled me over. As I sat in my sweet little costume, trying to be as nice and understanding as possible, I was sure there would be no penalty. Who gives a ticket to a girl dressed as a bunch of flowers? Well, this genius, apparently. I took my $110 ticket and met up with some ADPis on the plaza. Still a little ticked off about it…

I stopped by my brother's to visit two of my nephews, the Joker (Spencer) and Dracula (Jacob)

With Melissa, a gold-themed Cougar.

Only in Kansas

This afternoon Courtney and I had our first Skype sesh since she left Switzerland. It was high time we caught each other up on our weeks and the thrilling, exciting activities that comprise our lives. I, for one, was jumping out of my skin to tell her about the over-the-top entertainment the children provide. She had much more exciting things to share, such as her recent grad school visits. All the sudden an hour and a half had gone by and I had a train to catch. Naturally, I was scrambling to finish packing my bag and do a few last minute tasks around the house. Next thing I knew I had 6 minutes to catch my train. After lobbing a trash bag into the dumpster I began my speedy ascent. I often wonder what the people at the top of the street think when they see me, more often than not, hauling my a-double “S”nake up the hill. I arrived on the platform with one minute to spare. Panting and sweating I was a hot mess; perfect for the over-populated 5:40 train. While I’ve managed to meet next to no one in this town, I have a feeling I’ve made some kind of impression that will be running through the villagers heads long after I leave.

In honor of my dear little sissy (that’s what you get for calling me “Sissy Krissy” in your last card, Courtney), I would like to present you with this stimulating video. Courtney posted this on my Facebook wall, though I’m not quite sure on the message she was trying to send. Perhaps this is one of her school comrades, participating in a little recreation; maybe it’s an activity she’s debating trying out; most likely, she wanted to share her pride in the beautiful, intelligent, crafty state we know as our own. In any event, I hope you enjoy the following image as much as I did. And, please, if you’re not a native Kansian (thank you, Allie, for making it sound like a disease) please don’t judge us too harshly.

Home is Where You Make It

Warning: This one gets about as heavy as one of Nonna’s cream-based sauces.

Last night as I was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving I came across an interesting passage. To be honest, I’m having a difficult time finding enthusiasm for this book. A Prayer is interesting and has an inspiring plot-line (the movie “Simon Burch” is based on it), but it just doesn’t excite me. Therefore, I feel like I’m muscling through it and not enjoying it as much as I’d like. But, I really don’t like to leave a book unfinished, so I must persevere.

Back to the passage. The narrator, John, moved to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War, became a citizen, and has yet to return to America. His ardent interest in American politics has never wavered, however, and he finds himself constantly engaging others in a one-sided debate on the state of our country. In the midst of a tirade about breaking the arms agreement with the Soviet Union John remarks,

“Every American should be forced to live outside the United States for a year or two. Americans should be forced to see how ridiculous they appear to the rest of the world! They should listen to someone else’s version of themselves– to anyone else’s version! Every country knows more about America than Americans know about themselves! And Americans know absolutely nothing about any other country!”

This thought-provoking passage, while a little extreme, has some truth in it. I believe Americans tend to lean toward the naive or ignorant. We often have an opinion about everything and facts about little. We believe it is our duty to go into other places and “fix things” as we see fit. Were we invited? Were our duties requested? It rarely matters. Yet, we perceive ourselves as the Greatest Nation on Earth. Our understandings of others are vague and limited. Living abroad I have gained some sense of how Americans are viewed and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. My own host Dad says that whenever he thinks of America he pictures cowboys and the West. Slightly outdated perhaps…

Living overseas has opened my eyes and exposed me to new cultures. While Switzerland may not be the most diverse country (understatement of the year), being an expat has thrown me into a minority position I have rarely experienced. It has helped me appreciate the things I have and opportunities afforded to me. This experience has reminded me how big our world is, and that my home is such a small part of it. I do think it’s important for people to spend time outside of their comfort zone, outside of their residence, purely for the maturation process. I’m not renouncing my citizenship or even criticizing America. I love where I grew up and I’m proud of my country. But I think a little perspective has greatly enhanced my appreciation for my upbringing, as well as realize there are countless other amazing places to live, experience, and learn from.

On My Train Ride Home

When I arrived in W├Ądenswil this afternoon, the stop where I change trains to get home, I took notice of the stunning scenery. Beside the frigid, unseasonably cool temperature, the day was beautiful. I snapped a few photos from the train as I made my way to my village.

The pond where I spent afternoons laying and reading when it was warm. Oh, the good ole days.

This the view from the top of my street, looking toward the lake.

 

Looking down my street. Check out that decline.

Beginning the ascent toward the train station.

Kings

Before I write about the latest addition to my album collection I must share some very exciting news:I bought my ticket home last night!! Last week I asked the Mom if I could fly home a few days earlier than she had originally said so I could spend more time with family that was coming in town (Aunt Winnie and Uncle Ken, that’s you!). She said she would talk to the Dad and let me know. I didn’t get my hopes up as I figured I’d maxed out on favors. Yesterday morning, however, she informed me that I could fly home on the Saturday before Christmas. I made no hesitations on booking a flight so she couldn’t change her mind– I wanted the date set in stone. So, prepare yourselves. I will be arriving on Saturday, December 18th.

In relevant-to-the-title news, Kings of Leon released their latest album this week, Come Around Sundown. The band has come under heavy criticism for abandoning their gritty, Southern roots in favor of a main-stream and radio-friendly sound. I agree that their newer work sounds much more “clean” than their older, dirtier, harder music. Unlike many of their first fans, however, I actually prefer their more recent sound; the albums Because of the Times and Only by the Night are my favorites. And their latest is making its way toward the top of the list. But, I don’t think this makes them a sell-out. A band that is able to keep their integrity intact while maturing and evolving is simply following a natural course. Those who are upset about this evolution of KOL are the same people who write “Never change!” in high school yearbooks. It’s extremely difficult (not to mention unhealthy) to not change or grow. Personally, I think this awareness toward societal and musical trends shows that KOL is able to adapt to demand while still keep their distinct flare and penchant for southern rock. I’m very pleased with what I hear.

Below I included the first single from their album and the creation behind it. While I think it’s a great song, it’s not my favorite on the album. I don’t like to share my favorites right away, though. I’d like you to find your own first, and then we can compare notes. Enjoy!

FREEEEEEEEEZE

No, this post is not in reference to the near-arctic weather that has taken over the village. The snow continues to creep further down the mountain, closing the distance between its frosty border and my doorstep. Over the past several days I have been preparing myself for the dropping temperatures. I’ve bought a new winter hat with fleece lining in a shocking purple/blue tone. Today, I picked up some new leather boots, the likes of which I have been searching for three years. Finally! A giant box does not go unnoticed upon entering the house. Of course, the kiddos wanted to see what was inside. When I showed them my loot, Jan announced they were “so pretty.” I’m trusting his judgment. A couple of scarves picked up at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul round out my new winter gear. I’m ready to tackle the weather.

Well, that was a bit of a tangent. What I originally intended to share with you was a five minute segment of my Saturday afternoon. My friend Nicole alerted me and some other au pairs to a Freezemob that would be taking place in Paradeplatz. For those of you unfamiliar with the activity, it is essentially a gathering of people that “freeze” all at the same time in a large, public space for five minutes. At the end of five minutes people disperse and carry on like it’s any other Saturday at 3:00 in the afternoon. For those not in the know it can be a confusing spectacle to come across. I chose to not be an (in)active participant, and instead watched from the side and enjoyed the amused and confused looks from uninformed patrons. Paradeplatz was an excellent choice of location as several trams converge here and the foot traffic is heavy. People exiting the trams were at first annoyed to find people standing right outside the doors and then bewildered as to why no one was moving–anywhere. People walking into the square had equally furrowed brows and side-stepped their way through clumps of “frozen” people. As a bystander it was very entertaining. You can check out the video here:

American Night

When Maddie and I were Skyping the other day, she commented on the surreality of some of our emails. One in particular had me apologizing that I couldn’t chat with her last Friday because I would be in Istanbul. Of course I would be. What else would I be doing while living in Europe except visit as much of it as possible?

I’ll admit it, I have been up to some pretty awesome things lately: picking wine grapes in Italy, strolling through mosques and ancient palaces in Turkey, drinking wine directly from the source in Sierre, guzzling beer at the biggest party in the world, sun bathing on the beaches in Portugal. And that’s only in the last two months. Plus, I still have a couple more mini-breaks up my sleeve for the next two.

But, there are some things from home I can’t resist. One major player is pizza. Obviously Europe is home to some outstanding pies, yet they are distinct and unlike those that I grew up with. The love I’m talking about has a thicker crust (NOT Chicago-style, that’s too thick for my liking) with extra doughiness and gobs of sauce– I’m a big sauce fan. Pile on the toppings, serve it piping hot and I’m ready to devour. Last night I was so lucky to partake in this delicious pleasure. A Domino’s Pepperoni Passion Pizza (What?! Is that even legal?), size 40cm, along with a side of cheesy bread was mine for the feasting.

Before you begin to call Over-eaters Anonymous know that I wasn’t alone. I had a partner in crime: Adam. And thankfully he enjoys the all-time best pizza side ever, Ranch. How did I acquire said condiment of the Gods in Switzerland? Well, a special lady, who knows who she is, sent me a couple packets of mix that I could combine with sour cream, (which I actually found!) to create this staple. And what’s ever greater about this story? She doesn’t even like it! And yet, she knew how important it was and still sent it over. Must be true friendship. You are my friend, you are my friend….

It was a taste of America that I most happily accepted. This was out-of-this-world good and necessary. To honor of this If You Only Had One Food to Eat for the Rest of Your Life meal I chose the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I’ve been really digging this song lately and it’s become a bit of a go-to. Only two months and I’m there…

Jill, sorry you can’t play this video as I know how much you like the tune. At least you have three copies on your computer.