It’s ALIVE!!

Phew! I can’t believe my personal game of Cruising the Continent has finally come to an end. I remember sitting down in May with the Mom and planning the calender through today. As we put our planners away I thought, Self, this summer is going to fly by and all the sudden it will be mid-August. And here we are. I’m not sure where to start as there is simply so much to cover. Chronological order has worked for me in the past so I suppose that is the route I will take. How does one compress the past four weeks? I figure pictures will do the job better than even my master wordsmith-ing could.

IRELAND & SCOTLAND

I anticipated this week for a couple months. I can’t fully explain how excited I was to see my family. It had been six months since I last hugged dad and although I adore our regular Skype sessions, there’s nothing like a big bear hug from him. I last saw mom in March, but again, I just wanted to give her a hug and have her call me her “Angel Bunny.” Of course, I always enjoy hanging out with Matt and Courtney and it was so great seeing them as well. We were long overdue for a dinner triple date. They put together a stellar holiday and it was so nice to just sit back and experience what they had in store. Ireland and Scotland are rife with history and stories. I loved seeing the new countries and, guiltily, hearing my Muttersprache was an excellent change of pace. Overall, it was exactly what I wanted: a chance to put some distance between the host family and I for a bit and, forgive me for the blatant cliché, “recharge my batteries.”

After discovering the art of Guinness brewing. Who knew I loved it so much?

Location of a tradition High Tea we had in Belfast

Edinburgh Castle; pretty major.

Dad, Mom, and I in front of Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh. Dad and I climbed them the next morning.

Sir Walter Scott Monument that Matt, Dad and I climbed up. Over 200 steps if you were wondering.

Dad and I in the largest private collection of Whiskey in the world--over 3,000 bottles.

LAKE NEUCHÂTEL

High on a week spent with my family, I boarded a train bound for the western part of Switzerland. The family has a holiday home on the lake that was built by the Dad’s grandfather. In previous discussions, this location, which I never been to prior, was referred to as a châlet. Now, I have never taken French, but if I am to use any deducing skills based on what I saw I would have to presume that this translates roughly as “camp cabin.” The house was hardly larger than my room here at the house. When someone walked in the hallway-width kitchen, I could feel it in my room located on the opposite corner. But it wasn’t the indoors that mattered so much, as the outdoors were simply too good to be true. This is what a lake should be like. Before you go defending the Lake of the Ozarks scroll down a bit and see for yourself as that public toilet bowl has nothing on this lac. The two weeks I spent here were some of the most relaxing I’d had in quite some time. We laid around in lounger chairs, took baths in the lake, lazed about, and life generally felt much slower. It hardly felt like work. I also had a lot of time to go running. I averaged about 3-5 miles a day and loved having some new territory to explore. Each afternoon the parents would ask where I had been running that day and I was lucky enough to tell them a new route almost every time. I was cutting through fields, running along the highway, and jaunting down the marina. In some languages I think this type of running might be called “trespassing” but I prefer to write it off as “exploring.” True to fashion the Dad thought of some ingenuous adventure I could take. One morning he asked if I wanted to take the bike out for a spin. Oh that contraption hanging on the side of the house? Yes, I thought that might be fun to cruise around on. The words were barely out of my mouth before he had it down on the ground, tires pumped up, seat adjusted. No turning back. I wasn’t sure where to take it, but thankfully the Dad had the perfect place. I kid you not, these were the directions he gave me: “When you get to the roundabout by the post office take the road on the right and go uphill. You will go for a while and then take a left. After that you should take a right. Then go some more and at some point take a left and then there will be a right some time after that. Then just keep going and you will be there.” Riiiiight. So I set out with my rudimentary directions and the spirit of adventure. Turns out, it was a great ride. I almost forgot how much I enjoy pedaling around. The bike only had one operable gear so no matter the incline I had to pedal with the same ferocity. This made for some comical huffing and puffing as  I made my way up the first, and only, steep hill. When I got to Estavayer I found that I had covered 13 kilometers. Not bad for an amateur. The way home was without incident and it was the perfect day for a ride. All in all, it was a great holiday with the family and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend time relaxing such a beautiful location.

View of the lake from the front porch

Another view from the front porch

Final Destination of my bike excursion

The kiddos watching a movie in bed. One of the quieter moments.

PORTUGAL

After three weeks of holiday one might presume I would be burnt out on travel. But one would be WRONG. I was beyond ready for this trip to Portugal for many reasons, one being that I had not taken a trip with friends since Italy in May and I was ready to macht a holiday with others. Another au pair, Allie, went on Friday and my friends Adam, Phil, and I met her on Saturday in Lisbon. For the next couple of days the four of us cruised the (mostly uphill) streets and took great advantage of the thriving after-hours scene. The lifestyle demands a late dinner, which usually didn’t start until 9:00 or 10:00. We were treated to many a great meal including a memorable steak with peppercorn sauce (Phil’s) and slow-roasted pork cheeks (mine). After a pre-dinner ritual of drinking local wines in our apartment and snacking on cheese picked out by our own cheese monger (Adam) we headed out to take on the night. This usually consisted of us finding a bar (or three), picking up some drinks, and dancing like maniacs. Besides the castle and, oddly enough, the Oceanarium, we didn’t see too many sights, but needless to say we enjoyed the nightlife enough to make up for whatever we passed by during the day. Unfortunately, Allie had to come back to Zürich so Adam, Phil, and I stole a rental car and made a run for the southern coast. OK, so we didn’t steal it, but we definitely headed down the coast and made our way to a little beach town, Porches. We spent the following four days tripping along beaches and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. At the beach closest to our apartment the guys decided to follow in the footsteps of some local youth and cliff jump. After extensive research and mathematical equations it was determined that their jump was approximately 60 feet. Pretty impressive if I do say so. Their level of manhood jumped about at an equal distance in my eyes as well. The nightlife was considerably more quiet and we contented ourselves to sit in the apartment, drink more local wine and play cards. We ended the week with a bang by venturing to the nearest “big” town and cruised up and down the streets with a couple with befriended that same night at Albufeira’s finest kebab shop. Somehow karaoke got mixed into the night and although I made a tremendous fool of myself, it was still great fun. In the end it was a great holiday, filled with good company, food, drinks, and memories. It was the perfect end to a string of holidays and prepared me to settle back into the routine of work.

Lisbon crew: Allie, Phil, Adam, and myself, tearing up the streets.

Cool "wall-art" outside our apartment

Beach platz for the afternoon

This is the cliff off of which the dudes jumped. Yikes!

Sunset on the beach

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Green Thumb

"I'm so thirsty," it says.

This is the plant that lives in my bathroom. It has lived there since before I arrived. I have never watered this plant. I have been here for five months. I’m not sure how I neglected to water it, other than the fact that it was a piece of the room that I always subconsciously knew was there but to which I didn’t actually give any consideration. Last night as I was brushing my teeth in preparation for slumber I finally saw this plant and realized what a sad piece of nature it was. I stripped off 18 dead leaves–yes, I counted–threw them away and gave it it’s first thirst-quenching, life-giving drink in a long time. As of now it’s a pretty ugly little thing, but I will certainly keep you updated on it’s rebirth.

It’s the same way with the bamboo plant that sits on my desk. It took 7 weeks for me to realize that maybe I should give that sucker some water. Seriously. It was when Mom came to visit and we were sitting at my desk talking to Dad on Skype when I actually noticed it was there. Bamboo plants are frighteningly easy to maintain, so it would be incredibly embarrassing if I killed one. I water it roughly every 3-4 weeks and it has yet to wilt (and I’m 99% sure it isn’t plastic). The interesting bit is that Mom and Dad are both excellent gardeners. Our yard turns into some thing Better Homes & Gardens would be proud to display on their glossy pages. I don’t know what happened to me, but I don’t think I possess the gene for bringing beauty through plants. I remember once helping mom plant Snap Dragons in the backyard and snapping one in half as I was putting it in the ground. Thankfully, Mom wasn’t looking so I just shoved it down in the soil, completely unattached from the root, silently praying it would magically grow. A few weeks later, I’m pretty sure Mom wondered allowed why that flower was dead. “Hmm, yeah, that sure is strange. Best not to pay too much attention to it.” –Sorry, Mom, I don’t think I ever told you that.

Unrelated Nugget of the Day: The Mom and I have been talking recently about what my plans are for when I finish here. She is encouraging me to look for a position as a teacher here as they are always looking for native English speakers and people who actually have a degree in teaching. On Friday she sent me an email with links to all the International Schools in Zurich and the surrounding area. Yesterday morning I sent out about a half dozen emails to the schools inquiring about ways to get involved and/or position openings. I got a call from the primary school in Pfäffikon in the afternoon. Unfortunately the kind lady informed me they have no current openings and that I should check back in March for more information. She also told me that because I have an “L” permit I am unable to even be a substitute teacher, as they would need to supply me with their own work permit. Arg. But, I will not be discouraged! The chances of me staying here are slim, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Plus, after talking to Dad the other day I am reminded of the very real possibility of there not being jobs available in the States anytime soon. That Comedy Troupe with Jill is looking better and better every day…

Happy Father’s Day!

I love you dad, you are amazing. The dedication you have to your family is unlike any I have ever seen. You work so tremendously hard to make things possible for our family. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done and continue to do, not only for me, but for just about everyone you know. You don’t know a stranger and are eager to help those in need. Thank you for not only teaching me, but for showing me exactly what generosity looks like. You have such a servant’s heart; it has always been inspiring. You are an incredible father and I am so blessed to have you in my life. You deserve a Father’s Day that is as incredible as you are. All my love xxo

I wish I could be at home to celebrate Father’s Day. I like this day because it usually consists of us all grilling out somewhere, and honestly what is better than meat, flames, and the outdoors? In honor of the day I will share some of my favorite memories and pastimes with my pops.

  • Dad teaching me a to ride a bike at our old house. It was after a big afternoon lunch and I asked him about 25 times if his food had settled enough yet for him to run around with me.
  • Flash forward 10 years to Dad teaching me to drive a car. I did continuous backward figure-8s in parking lots so I could learn how to handle and control my car. Thankfully he didn’t slam on an imaginary brake pedal like Mom did : )
  • Going on church mission trips. He became famously known as Ricardo by the LYLAS girls and even has a dance move named after him. I loved having Dad along on those trips.
  • Father-Daughter dances at Liz Kelley Dance Recitals. Watching Dad stumble around on stage each week at practice and then finally for the big show made all the cheesy moves worth it.
  • Camping and fishing trips when we were younger. I may not be the world’s most rugged gal but I do like to camp. The time when a raccoon came scratching and hissing at my tent in the middle of the night really sticks out, although I know there were better times in there.
  • Going down the lake. Being out on the boat and coving out, waverunning, any kind of meat in the smoker, watching fireworks on holiday weekends, and hanging around on the dock are still some of my favorite times.
  • K-State football games. Tailgating before the game, screaming in the stands, the requisite snacks at halftime, and the celebratory dinner and beer (or two, or three) are all apart of the package deal. GO CATS!
  • Talking on Skype, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. I like catching up with Dad and hearing how things are going, although I usually do most of the talking. And we talk most frequently after I have just finished working out so I am a little out of sorts.
  • Most recently, skiing the Swiss Alps. Nothing made me feel better than knowing I helped one of Dad’s dreams come true. The day was horrible for skiing, but that didn’t stop us from attacking the slopes.

My Dad is awesome. His “take on the world” mentality has led me to do some amazing things, such as moving across the world becoming an au pair. He is always encouraging us to go for the “extra credit” and to “go big or go home.” Even if he doesn’t know it, he has pushed me to do better, be better, and achieve more. I am grateful for the sense of adventure I got from him and my drive to experience new things. Thank you Dad for being one of a kind. Have a wonderful day!

I love you Dad!

This song always makes me think of you. Sounds of my youth.