I Love You, Matterhorn

Seriously, I do. I love this gigantic hunk of rock jutting into the sky, dwarfing all surrounding peaks. This mammoth mountain towers over Zermatt, a small village (read: exclusive ski resort where Snow Bunnies and Sugar Daddies abound) in the southern part of Switzerland. Neither Adam nor myself had been and knew we would be remiss in failing to see the magnificence of the Matterhorn.

When we arrived on Saturday we departed the train station eager to see Monte Cervino (In Italian). We begin  casually walking down the main street in Zermatt (cars are not allowed in order to keep the air as pure as possible [only in Switzerland…]) just taking in the sights, when BLAM!!

 

Just doing it's Matterhorn thing.

 

 

The mountain! It absolutely towers over the town. And it’s amazing. Every time it was obstructed from view and then came back into sight I was taken aback by it’s size and majesty (yeah, I said it). Never mind the fact that it looks cool! With it’s distinctly pyramidal shape and four sides representing the cardinal directions, it is easy to spot. And with an elevation of 14,692 ft. how could you not notice this beast?

According to my au pair friend, Whitney, it is essential to take the Gornergrat Rail, a small train that takes you to a record altitude of 3,100 meters, or just over 10,000 ft. The final destination of the line is the Gornergrat glacier, directly acorss from the Matterhorn. After settling down with a brew to do some serious people-watching, Adam and I headed up on the train. Funnily enough it was the last train of the day and would only allow us ten minutes at the top. This actually turned out to be a great thing since there was so much snow and ice at the top, not to mention a crazy-cold temperature. I don’t know what we would have done had we stayed any longer; we took our pictures, we saw der berg, and we froze our buns off. The rides up and down were definitely worth it, as was the view from the top. On our way down the sun was setting and casting incredible colors and shadows across the sky. I can say this with complete honesty: The sunset with the Matterhorn was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Awesome–in the true sense of the word.

I am an Alpine Woman!

An evening with the Matterhorn

I told my dad the word "awesome" was created after seeing this

The Matterhorn is the most photographed mountain in the word. I’m pretty sure we helped contribute to that number with all the shots we captured; this is the Matterhorn at 1:15; this is it at 2:29; here it is at 4:42. I just couldn’t get enough of that glorious peak. Mont Cervin (in French) is an official candidate for the New Seven Wonders of the World (who said there can only be seven?). The mountain’s unmistakable shape, it’s ability to change color based on the weather, and the fact that it is still growing are all reasons it has been nominated for such prestige. Certainly has my vote!

Oh you, silly Matterhorn.

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On My Train Ride Home

When I arrived in Wädenswil 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.

Pick a Little

Little Bean has adopted a new habit. She’s gotten really into picking her nose and coming to show me her finds. LB will go digging for a while, paste a look of concentration on her face, then waddle over to me and say, “Ewwwww.” She will hold out her pointer finger and wait until I remove said treasure from her finger with a Kleenex. Yesterday, after about fifth time she did this, she took matters into her own hands and decided to clean the mess herself. She walked into the bathroom to dispose of her boogies on a piece of toilet paper. When I went into the bathroom ten minutes later I discovered that Little Bean has no knowledge of how to tear off a piece of toilet paper. She had unraveled the entire roll and put it all in the trashcan, which was now overflowing with the stuff. Of course, she also couldn’t disconnect if from the cardboard roll, so the toilet paper was stretch from the wall to the trashcan. I had no choice but to be frustrated with only myself for not coming to help her. This whole situation reminds me of an instance that occurred during my third week in der Schweiz

It can be kind of cute and charming when little ones behave like this, but adults I cannot forgive so easily. I have never been faced with a case of such complete lack of inhibition than by a certain gentleman sitting directly across from me on the train home from Zürich. He was probably mid-sixties and some investor-type fellow. Incidentally, he appeared nothing too out of the ordinary. His behavior spoke to the contrary.

The train had just pulled out of the station and people were pulling out newspapers and iPods to occupy themselves. As we were riding along I happened to look to the window, which has taken on a mirror-like quality since it was now dark outside. I noticed the man across from me was knuckle-deep into his right nostril. No, this was not possible; now way could this man be overtly picking his nose in front of all these people on the train. Then, much to my horror he proceeded to eat whatever little nuggets he managed to find up there. Absolutely, this was not to be believed. At this point I didn’t even know what to do. Should I send out some kind of mental SMS hoping the Polizei will hear me and remove this offender from society? I was barely able to get through this thought when he did it again, repeatedly, throughout the remainder of the train ride. I was mystified as to why this person had an appetite for boogers. Granted, it was dinnertime, but still, I was almost positive there were more appealing options for him at home.

Of course worse things happen in the world. People are dying and starving and suffering from abominable diseases. I recognize and respect these awful tragedies. But, this behavior is inexcusable. This salt-and-pepper haired gentlefellow subjected masses of us to his fetish. Who knows what other passengers, on countless other trains, viewed this? I just could not excuse this man for his revolting behavior. Thankfully, my stop came up quickly and I could leave this guy and let him eat in peace.

That is, until two nights later when I was sitting on a completely overcrowded train and was thankful I even managed to find a seat. I was exhausted, you see, from a day spent ravaging the remainders of a gigantic H&M sale. After dropping my sore body into my aisle seat I rested my head on the back of the seat and let the remaining dandruff of the prior occupant annihilate my scalp. I turned my head and looked into the window, which had once again taken on a mirror appearance. I took notice of the patron sitting across from me and think, Hmmm, looks familiar. Low and behold the man goes digging for treasure straight up his nose and I know where I’ve seen that mug before! It’s him, the same nasal miner from two nights ago. I was once again forced to endure this man’s disgusting habit for another ride home. I am not exactly sure what I had done recently to anger to gods so, but I felt that justice had been served. I immediately apologized for my unknown transgressions. Needless to say, this digger is on my radar and I will not find myself by him again.

This Cinderella Wears Running Shoes

I feel like I am constantly running for trains. It hasn’t always been this way, though. I think I’ve steadily become more cocky about the amount of time needed to get to my locomotive. When I arrived I was advised to give myself at least 12 minutes to get to the train station from my house. It’s a half kilometer, uphill. I have a pretty decent fitness level, so I thought this was enough time, if not more than, to make it. For the first couple of months I stuck with this schedule, especially given the odds it was snowing and/or there were unfavorable weather conditions. Slowly I began to shave off more time. I could leave with only eleven, and eventually ten minutes to spare. I found that if I up-ed my pace I could book it there in 8 minutes. As the temperature began to increase I found I was arriving to the banhof a little out of sorts and usually sweaty. This is intensely distressing if I have just showered and am planning to go out with other humans. I then have to spend the ride cooling myself down, which involves airing out my underarms–gross. If I thought the Swiss looked at me funny sometimes before, then this sealed the deal. Only two weeks ago I hoofed it up the hill in 6 minutes. This is a personal record.

I don’t limit myself to running for trains up in my tiny town. This happens to me with regularity in Zürich as well. In order to get to and from town I have to take two trains, which connect in Wädenswil. The last train to that will get me back home leaves Wädenswil at 12:04. Therefore, the last train I can catch out of Zürich leaves at 11:38. In a nutshell, I have a curfew; something I haven’t hassled with for years. If I really want to extend my stay in town I can swing by my new favorite station, Enge, and pick up the train there at 11:44. I started having to do this because I missed my last train. Now I use it as a crutch. Not that I need to be up late as I stroll down to the kitchen at 7:00 the next morning, but just the restriction of a Cinderella-esque curfew makes me want to stay out all the more. I find that I am pushing it to the last minute and running to catch my train. There was one instance recently when I was running for my last train in a dress and flip-flops, previously having shed my cardigan from exertion. With approximately 30 seconds to spare I bolted across 4 lanes of traffic to tuck and roll onto the train. Just last night the tram doors shut in my face with the blinking lights on, signaling the tram is taking off and not allowing on any more passengers. The kind soul driving this tram graciously let me on and spared me the need of taking a 5:40 a.m. train back home. I have a love hate relationship with pubic transportation. While it’s convenient and efficient, I still struggle with not being the master of my time.

Completely Unrelated Bit: Whilst surfing blogs this morning I came across this quote on John Mayer’s and found it to be quite helpful for my current predicament. He often answers question posed to him by his fans (don’t worry, I’m not working on my own juicy inquiry) and shares them on his blog. This was part of his response to one (probably 13 year old) girl who asked, “What do you do when you have a bad day?” He said he “time travels” and continues to elaborate. Part of his answer reads:

You can’t travel through time, but you can send your thoughts and hopes into the future to camp out and wait for you to arrive there, where you’ll meet up and hug and decide that everything is alright again.

I like the way he put that. I’m probably not alone when I lament that I can find myself stuck in a rut, stewing in my own misfortune, as in these past two couple weeks. It becomes quite burdensome and usually leads to a downward spiral that leaves me want to call my mom–childish I know, but true. If I can imagine myself on the other side of the problem, removed from the situation at hand, I think it will help me recover. I don’t want to wax poetic on the matter but I just thought I’d share that tidbit of advice. For now, I am projecting myself to next Friday…

In the Moment

(Before I begin any significant writing I want to note that the movie “Uncle Buck” is on TV right now. I’m not sure how the Swiss are going to handle this movie as it seems almost a direct assault on their austerity. I, however, happen to love this movie and can think only of the many times I have shamelessly watched it with my family. With the rain pattering outside and me freshly showered, my room is a tiny slice of heaven.)

Due to recent events, I am slightly worried about my sanity and apparent lack of presence in the moment. I spend most Wednesdays in the city as I have my au pair group in the morning and don’t babysit until 5 in the afternoon. I can have lunch with friends, satiate any cases of the “I Wants” I may have, and generally laze about the city. Today I picked up a few items at a couple stores, got lunch at an uber-trendy vegetarian hotspot, Hiltl, and walked around slightly sodden in the drizzle. For most of the day I was toting around a bag of my loot and was constantly reminding myself to keep it in my sights and pick it up when I changed locations. After my delicious chocolate-covered waffle snack I decided to head downstairs in the Hauptbanhof (Main Train Station) to catch a train to Rapperswil, which is where my German class was tonight. I made it down two flights, spotted a train that was leaving earlier than I planned, and found a seat on a relatively crowded train. I was just sitting there planning my route to get to the school when a tiny part in my brain registered that I was sans accessory. My shopping bag was currently sitting under a table where I stopped to eat my snack in the middle of the Wednesday market in the center of the station. I yelled, “Schiesse!” which earned me several reproachful glances from elderly ladies and a couple of goofy grins from the under-16 crowd, leapt out of my seat, and ran off the train just as the whistle was blowing. Thankfully after racing upstairs I found my bag sitting peacefully where I left it, completely oblivious of my neglect. The contents are of no extreme value but there was a birthday present in there as well as my latest finds from the second-hand bookshop. It was more my carelessness that bothered me.

Another incident occurred the other day as I was coming home from Zurich. It was after a rough day (see post below) and my mind was pretty fried. I was in the middle of my most recent book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and I was hardly paying attention to the surroundings of the train. Right before the trains depart an announcement is made, detailing some of the stops. It is usually in German, then French, and finally English. I vaguely remembering hearing the first and about halfway through the next language I realized something was off because it was in Italian. I was on an Italy-bound train, with about thirty seconds to get my little butt off it unless I wanted to ride the rails without a proper ticket, never mind be in enormous trouble. I had no more than gotten my two feet on the ground when the train shut its doors and took off. I looked at the clock and realized I had exactly 55 seconds to find my actual train unless I wanted to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Lady Fortune was on my side as I noticed the next platform over housed my train. I sashayed over and managed to finagle myself on a busting-at-the-seams train. Didn’t matter. At least I was on my way home and didn’t have to detour into another country.

These incidences coupled with the fact that I have lost countless games of Memory to Taz have me slightly worried about my brain and its proper functioning. I think I need to work a little more on keeping my mind present and in the moment.

More Spain

I am in Laax with the family for the Easter weekend and enjoyed a long hike this morning before taking over for the Grandma this afternoon. After being away from this town for a few weeks I was reminded today how beautiful it is. A beach fan myself, I can’t help but be in awe of the view here. Looking around at the picture-perfect scenery makes the early mornings and cranky toddlers all worth it.

Now, for more of my holiday:

Day 3: Jill and I woke up, tip toeing around around the room in order to not wake our slumbering roommates. We were also inclined to get out of there as soon as possible lest someone offer to dread our hair. Optimistically we put our swimsuits on underneath our shorts, grabbed a towel and set out to find some breakfast. Unfortunately the Spanish coffee was the highlight of the day; cloudy skies and a wind chill dampened our spirits and we were forced to wander aimlessly through the streets of Cadiz. Cruzcampo jokes dominated the majority of our conversation and we set out to find some fruit for sustenance. The only supermarket we came across that day had a large stockpile of fruit in the back, past the salted pork rinds and expired cans of who-knows-what. Just in front of this gleaming treasure was a sign written in not one, not two, but three different languages reading, “DO NOT TOUCH FRUIT.” We were banished back to the streets to wonder what to do for the day. After putting some generous mileage on our legs throughout the afternoon, we made it back to the hostel to shower and hopefully meet some new residents of the Casa. On the roof hammocks abound and one can swing away and contemplate the natural world, which is exactly what we found three young travelers doing. Except these fellows were not interested in becoming our friends. They only wanted to tell us about how they dream of living on a commune, growing pot and vegetables, making music, and having no money. Really aspiring. Jill and I were clearly nonplussed and made haste to get downstairs. The rest of the evening proceeded with more tapas and hanging out with some other guys from our mixed dorm who teach English in Madrid. Thankfully, they hated Cruzcampo and had no plans to “reject common ideals” so they proved to be good company.

Day 4: Today we decided to book it out of Cadiz and make our way back to Madrid and spend some time in Sevilla along the way. All of the trains and buses began to take their toll by this time, but frankly it was so great to see so many different parts of Spain. This culture is worlds away from Switzerland’s and it was nice to have a break from the usual. Also, I was finally able to use some of the Spanish I learned in high school. The only differing factor is that in Spain, as opposed to Mexico, they drop most all their “s” sounds and instead insert a “th.” So, essentially, everyone is running around with a lisp. Clearly this is fine, but it just isn’t what I’m used to. Let me tell you, there is nothing more intimidating than a 200 pound man siddling up to the bar to order a “thervetha.” Nevertheless, traveling is what I came to do and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It also doesn’t hurt to have a buddy who is great company. Luckily, Jill and I have a lot in common, including taste in books and music, and also have a very similar social agenda. We both wanted to see the sights but also knew when it was time to take a break and simply people watch. A nice sangria to accompany the people watching always sounded good to both of us. It was also fun to swap stories from high school and college. We even went as far back as elementary school to discuss all the long term relationships we were in in second grade and our all-time favorite movies. It made the trip so much better. After a six hour bus ride and beautiful stop in Sevilla we finally made it back to Madrid. Lady Fortune was back on our side when we found a restaurant around the corner with Negro Modelo and some of the best chips and guacamole I’ve had in a long time. All that was left to do was rest up for my trip home the next day…

Day 5: I have named this one Disaster Day. I arrived at the airport at 9:13 sharp for my 10:20 flight to Basel, from which I would take a train to Zurich. I came across the first set of monitors and decided to check which Hall I needed to go to for check-in and saw it : CANCELLED. I actually had a miniature “Home Alone” moment, you know when he slaps the side of his face and screams? Well this involved all the hand gesture but instead I just said, “No!” I ran to the next set and was greeted with the same response. And then at the next set. Isn’t the definition of insanity repeating the same behavior and expecting different results? I headed to the Easy Jet counter and commenced to wait in line for an hour before speaking to someone. He told me I would be able to fly back to Basel on the 2nd of April. Negative, Sir, those kids can’t watch themselves, I need to get home. I was instead put on a flight to Milan, which left three hours later. That flight was delayed an hour and I happened to be sitting in the “family section.” A baby actually lost her voice on the hour and a half flight from crying and screaming during the whole thing. Of course when we land she is making spit bubbles and smiling. From the airport in Milan I take an hour bus ride to the train station. I wait at the train station for two hours before finally taking a four hour train ride home to Zurich. My town is 40 minutes by train from Zurich Main Station. When it was all said and done I finally was home by midnight. It was a hot mess of a day. But here’s what I learned: I am actually incredibly capable of getting myself around, even in a foreign country (or two). This one day taught me quite a bit of making lemonade out of lemons and thinking on my feet. In the grand scheme, it was only one day and life goes on. Many a person can relate to having a terrible day of travel, but how many people can say they were in three countries in one day. I thought I came over here for a reason…

24

Oh. My. Stars. Mom said this while she was visiting and I had thought it before, but after the last 24 hours the sentiment has been confirmed: This job is absolutely the best form of Birth Control one could find. The kids aren’t little terrors by any means, but 3 kids is A LOT to handle. Mom, I don’t know how you did it. I respect you tremendously. I will debrief:

The Mom left at 1:30 yesterday, at which time I promptly but them down for a nap. I wanted these kids to sleep for as long as possible on my watch. When they all awoke at 3:00 they first asked for a snack and then asked the question that would end up tormenting me until the Grandma came to relieve me today: “What do we do now?” Maybe I’m not remembering my childhood quite right but I feel that my sisters and I entertained ourselves a great deal. I understand that I am there to play and interact with them. But, when you have all three of them looking at you waiting for you to propose the most fabulous and exciting idea, it’s easy to be at a loss. And, sometimes I just can’t handle playtime. The Mom had thoughtfully left me with an army supply of arts and crafts we could destroy, er, use. After exhausting that option I decided to haul them outside to the playground. I discovered that the house adjacent to the area owns about 18 cats and uses it as their own private litter box. Needless to say we all needed a Germ Blasting afterward. Upon returning home I “rewarded” them with a movie. The kids are ga-ga for movies; their eyes glaze over and they become catatonic when the TV is turned on. It’s actually kind of a strange sight. The dinner that followed was uneventful and the kids were in bed at a decent hour with no complaints–the Mom trained them like a pro. They turn into little zombies and head straight to bed. Unfortunately, I cannot say I was anything like this growing up. Sorry Mom and Dad.

The sound of children’s laughter can be sweet, I believe. That same sound, quickly transformed into shrieks and quarreling at 6:12 in the morning does not have the same effect. Yes, that is when my day started. After breakfast and cartoons (what else do you do on Saturdays?) it was apparent that I would need to supply them with entertainment. Apparently they are incapable of finding things to do on their own. The two oldest fight all. the. time. Seriously, you can’t put them together. I put my mind in motion and came up with the most brilliant idea. I would take them on a bus/train ride to take up about an hour and half of the morning. Let the record show this was NOT a good idea. I know that should have occurred to me, but I blame the fact my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. We stopped between trains rides to play on a playground (minus fecal matter) and fed ducks in Zurich Lake, which was the highlight of the trip. After we trained home we found out that the bus didn’t come for another 30 minutes and we would have to walk home. This is not a bad walk alone, but with three tired and hungry kids–one who has to be carried– it is not pleasant. The last remaining hour and a half before the Grandma came passed without difficulty. I think the kiddos could tell I had just about had it with them. I guess I hadn’t spent so much concentrated time with kids before. Usually I can escape to my room after 5 hours of work and relax. Not so this time. It just never stops.

The Grandma arrived right on time and I treated myself to a long run on the treadmill to eliminate the tension. The rest of the weekend is mine and I could not be happier. I know Mother’s Day is a ways away, but Mom, I am so grateful for you. You are amazing. It will be a loooong time before any munchkins of my own appear on this Earth.