Monthly Archives: March 2012

Les Amendements

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There are two assertions which I have made in former posts that I hereby wish to amend. The first is in regards to “zebra crossing”. Indeed, zebra crossing exists. My English prof hunted me down and informed me. It does give me a sense of glee to know that all my English teachers are reading my blog. Zebra crossing. It’s one of those aggro British things. British brains work anti-clockwise. It’s not blooming likely that we North Americans will be anything but gormless about the expressions they’re so chuffed about. If only I would chivvy along and clear off with this codswallop. Before it goes all pear-shaped, I’ll put a sock in it and bid you duffers cheerio!

The second of my amendments is in regards to the number of pianos in my school. I’ve been informed that we actually have 4 pianos. 3 baby grands. 1 upright. This is the type of thing which a school in Europe can afford, because in general, the students are WAY more respectful of public property. I think I’ve seen garbage on the ground once since I’ve been here. Only once.

My English class is a steady source of amusement for me. I think it’s because they have no idea how hilarious they are. I-tries buildings are different than high-rise buildings. Today I was asked to rate the pronunciation of the class clown. I gave him a (generous) 4 out of 10, which he was happy with. Then someone said something else, and the class laughed. Whether or not it was in English or French I have no idea. I didn’t get it. My prof asks me, “Did you understand that? He thinks he is seducing you.”

Okay then. “I don’t think it’s working.”

“Maybe he has a chance as long as he doesn’t say anything.”

Oh gosh. Good times.

There’s a difference in French which hangs me up sometimes. “Vous” versus “Tu”. Vous is plural, or formal. Tu is singular, and familiar. You use vous when you talk to your profs, or other people you need to respect. I need to remember this. I REALLY need to not violate this, even though they grant me a lot of grace. My gym prof said to me “Alor, Bon Weekend!” today, and I replied, “Merci, et toi aussi!”

NO NO NO NO NEVER! EVER! That’s a terrible social faux pas.

Fortunately, I can apologize like no one’s business. It’s almost habitual for me. “Je suis trés désolée! Je veux toujours d’être polie, mais je fais plusiers des erreurs. Désolée!”

One of my professors here, on a sunny day, will close the blinds and turn on the artificial lighting. I wonder what he’s thinking.

There’s so many little things which are different. Do you realise I haven’t seen a single kleenex box since I’ve been here? It’s strange. Everyone has their own little 10 pack. What’s even more strange is how people will blow their noses in class. I mean, that’s okay and all, except that Swiss nose-blows are just so LOUD! Industrial-sized. Astronomical. Ground-shaking. I-WILL-MAKE-YOU-BELIEVE-IN-THOR-loud. They have no inhibition. In Canada we’re much quieter. I mean, who wants to be that person making that awful noise? It’s gross. Who wants to hear someone emptying their cranial content into an ill-fated tissue? They think nothing of it. The prof might have to repeat a sentence. No big deal.

One of the things I appreciate about Swiss French is the efficiency when talking numbers. Instead of the traditional french when you say four-twenties-ten-eight instead of ninety-eight, you get to say the literal equivalent of ninety-eight. Nonante huit. *wipes perspiration off forehead* that’s easier than quatre-vingts-dix-huit. It just makes so much sense to continue the pattern of cinquante, soixante, to septante, huitante, nonante, cent.

Also, military time isn’t a nightmare here. They do use expressions like at 13 o clock, but not too often. They’re normal. They say 1 in the afternoon. I’m beginning to think that Québécois complicates the simplicity of French.

Par Exemple, I haven’t heard ANYONE say “fin du semaine” here. They use a surprising, shocking, novel word:
weekend.

There’s also guimauve. Why say guimauve when you obviously know it’s a marshmallow?
Why use courriel in place of email?

They even say lol here. They say it in conversation, having no idea where it’s derived from. It’s so comic, because they don’t say lol in the traditional sense, as in rhyming with soul (Yes, I just referred to lol as ‘traditional’. The irony strikes me, delayed by a few sentences). They say it more like lul. It’s so funny.

To those of you who disdain smart cars, you should know that they’re not that common in my town. It varies locally. Here they refer to them as suppositories. I found that so funny. There’s fewer intersections here. Those are replaced by the roundabouts, which are SO smart! It’s genius! Why have a stoplight when you can keep driving?

It’s also different how all the cars yield to the pedestrians. Only in certain places is there a crosswalk where you press a button and wait. Otherwise, if you see the yellow stripes (zebra crossing… mdr) you just start walking. This is Europe. I think being a driver here would have its fair share of headaches.

Dear Brain,
When I wake up in the middle of the night, why are you still chewing on words and spitting them at me? You’re allowed to get some sleep too, you know?
You’re allowed to come down off your beta waves in the night and be normal like other brains, who sleep in theta and delta waves. It’s alright with me in the daytime if you want to rocket out to the outer limits of the gammasphere, as long as you settle down at night.
Either comply, or no more dictionary for you.
Sincerely,
Self

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You Too

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 “You Too”

If it was the thing that brought you back to your real self,
helped you escape the talons of “what if”,
If it was your ice pick climbing the threatening wall of life,
your cramp-ons digging into the ice
If it gave you more tangible courage than the book collecting dust,
If it was the thing which helped you adjust
gave you time off from the shifts of tension
If it was your candle through the darks of depression,
Believe me when I tell you,
you would be singing too.

I wrote this because I’ve been really tired of people wondering why I sing habitually. Why do I sing in the hallways? Why do I sing in my room? Why do I sing almost anywhere? I understand this is not the norm. I understand. Please adjust your expectations of me in light of the fact that I have no intentions of fulfilling the norm. Everyone has their way of dealing with the times that their soul gets stepped on. Poetry is mine, not for lack of alternatives. I mean, you can become bitter, get sour, or you can be angry, and swear, or you can use your God-given tallest finger. Poetry is my receptacle for every emotion I don’t want to carry with me. It comes with its ups and downs. I think I’m probably more honest with my Word documents than with the entire world, but blogging has helped me remedy the downsides considerably.

One of the reasons I think blogging is great is because the people who read it want to, and if they don’t want to, they close the tab. Ctrl+W. Simple as that.

And wipe the mark of sadness from my face.
Show me that your love will never change.
Lights

Dear Long-Neglected Blog,

Once upon a time, a year ago this time, I learned a word. I was on the football field talking to a teacher. She wasn’t even my teacher, but she taught me a word in German. I didn’t make too much of an effort to remember it, after all, I had no idea how it was spelled or where I might use it. However, today I had a EUREKA moment because I was able to remember it. It was like tying up loose synaptic ends. It was great! Mäuschen!

I taught my laptop to be bïlïngual. Now I have the öf all thé çôôl thîngs.

English class is my comic relief here. When we were asked what the yellow-striped crosswalks are called in English, one student volunteers: “Zebra Crossing!”
No… not zebra crossing. I mean, that doesn’t even exist in French either. Wherever they got that idea, who knows.

But I’m no angel. I say the strangest things. Today when I was loading the dishwasher (parents weren’t home = I could pull that off. Usually only they do the kitchen work.) I was questioning whether or not a specific dish was dishwasher safe. “Does he like to live in the washing machine for dishes?”
My exchange partner has so much patience with me.

The only thing that’s remotely as funny as my French is my family’s English. We were talking about how there is so much more cheese here than in Canada, and, they asked me if it caused me problems with pickles on my forehead. No, it’s not a problem at all. 😛

Cetera Desunt

La Liberté

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I love jazz because of its allowance for poetic atrocities:

exempli gratia:
You’re the top!
You’re Mahatma Gandhi.
You’re the top!
You’re Napoleon Brandy.
You’re the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You’re the National Gallery
You’re Garbo’s salary,
You’re cellophane.
You’re sublime,
You’re turkey dinner,
You’re the time, the time of a Derby winner
I’m a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop
But if, baby, I’m the bottom,
You’re the top!
-Ella Fitzgerald, “You’re the Top”. It’s what I call ‘Italian Restaurant Music’.

Who wants to hear that they’re cellophane? I’m not too sure, but this type of poetic liberty is appealing. I often sit in class, willing myself to not write poetry. Sometimes I cave and do so anyways; sitting and looking out the windows at the castles and mountaintops breaks down my abstemiousness, even though I know that listening to everything is better for me. It starts off in my head. I usually get anywhere from 2-8 lines drafted out in my head before I set my pen to the page. That’s how I write most of my quatrains. I rarely write out the first line until I’ve found a fourth line to complement the second line. I like to keep it all malleable in my brain until I know just what it’s going to look like. It’s like stalling for a rhyme isn’t dignified. I have no idea why I write this way.

I love being in this family. I think it’s one of the best possible experience for me. The other night at supper we were discussing what makes religions different than cults. My raised-Catholic-now-atheist Papa’s exact words were:

“Pour moi, le mot magique c’est la liberté. Quand tu n’as pas la liberté du penser ou de faire, alors tu mets tes chausseurs et COURS!”

For the French-illiterate:
For me, the magic word is freedom. When you don’t have freedom of thought, of doing, then you put on your shoes and RUN!

It’s true. It comes down to freedom. For me, I’ve come to a place where I’ve found myself unwilling to accept the entirety of my religion. I will not be robbed of my freedom to think things through and come to my own conclusions. That’s something I’m never going to give up. To anyone.

To borrow from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, “I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”

My pops here told me that chocolate is his religion, and pulled out the Toblerone. With all the seriousness that my owl-eyes could muster, I replied, “Moi aussi! Je changerai mon religion!” (me too, I’m going to convert!) Apparently if you eat too much chocolate, it’s bad for you liver, and you can die young. However, drinking wine circumvents that risk. Very well then, chocolate and wine will be my religion.

This is my piano. She is beautiful.

Yesterday night I told my family how whenever I skype any of my family members, all I ever say is “I LOVE MY FAMILY HERE SO MUCH!” The only thing I ever EVER want is more hugs… I love my family. As I blog right now, my parents are making supper together. I love them so much. The other day, he brought her roses. No anniversary, birthday, nothing. She’s been sick for a little while and he wants her to get better. Awe… I love watching them. They’re cute. I love watching them pour themselves another glass of wine and sit at the supper table, when the kids have left and are rumbling around the house, and they sit there and talk, before cleaning the kitchen together. Yes. They clean the kitchen together. The other day I told them how luxurious it was here. I get to be a kid! WOOHOO! It’s awesome!

I find it weird that the kids who are given this type of a life -where the maximum amount of work they ever have to do it load the dishwasher or vacuum their rooms- don’t really notice how awesome it is. I mean you get your life handed to you! Think of the possibilities! Think of how many hours you could put in on your instruments like this! woohoo!

My brother came and showed me swiss money from 17 hundred and something, and I reminded him that Canada was born way back then. The truth is: only the name and corporation of Canada was born back then. Before that the land belonged to its hunter-gathering inhabitants. “Canada” as we know it is only a long-term compilation of misplaced Europeans.

Daddy didn’t like what the white man said,
’bout the dirty little kid at his side.
Daddy didn’t like what the white man did,
nor the deal or the way that he lied.
There was blood on the floor of the government store,
when the men took his daddy away,
but the boy stayed back till he’d come to his end,
then he run like the wind from Cherokee Bend.

The other day I saw girl wearing another one of those t-shirts with an Indian on the front. They’re common here. They think nothing of it. In Canada these could be considered racial. The irony of it struck me. They have probably never set foot in a Native trading post on an day-long hour drive north. They have no points of reference about these sorts of things.

You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me

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Feeling broken
Barely holding on
But there’s just something so strong
Somewhere inside me
And I am down but I’ll get up again
Don’t count me out just yet.

I’ve been brought down to my knees
And I’ve been pushed way past the point of breaking
But I can take it
I’ll be back
Back on my feet
This is far from over
You haven’t seen the last of me
You haven’t seen the last of me
-Cher

This week I got back my exam in Biology, with a whopping 18%. Keep in mind you need 67% to pass here. I was considerably proud of myself, considering that I hadn’t been there for all the content of the unit being taught. On the front, were the words in red written, “Good, continue to persevere.” D’accord… Je vais faire…

I’m aware that sometimes I say the funniest things in my second language. I remember asking if it was legal for me to go into the jam jar with a dirty knife.

Yesterday night, 9:45 p.m. in my mushroom pajamas, saying goodnight to my parents.
Me: I’m going outside!
Papa: [Puzzled. The look which crosses his face is priceless. What now?] Why?
Me: [duh] I’m going outside now!
Papa: Is that something you can do tomorrow?
[typical handmotions ensue]
Papa: OH! You’re going to sleep!
Haha yeah that sounds about right…

This one is particularly lolworthy:

Eating supper with my frere and Papa.
Papa: …yes, sometimes we eat at MacDos.
Me: MacDos? That’s different…
Papa: How do they call it in Canada?
Me: McDicks…
puzzled look.
Papa: Why?
Me: I don’t know actually…
Papa: what’s ‘dicks’?
Me: um.

well.

um.

It’s just something that rhymes with Mcs… of course.

I love those moments when I understand everything that’s going on, but I get to stop and say “wait how do you say…” when I can revise my words…

They have really nice palm trees here. I love it!

I bought myself a pair of shoes today. I call them grandpa shoes because that’s what they bring to my mind, anyhow. I love them so much. I’m only hoping that Canadian fashion doesn’t dismiss them as antiquated, but I’m bracing myself for that reaction in any case. They were 20.- francs, down from 50.-
I got to school here and realised that nothing I wear is normal here. I’ve embraced that fact, with wide open arms, because some of the stuff they wear here is REALLY weird.

I had a Toblerone McFlurry today. This is Switzerland, folks. They also sell ovaltine McFlurries, which they call “ovomaltine”. I had tried that kind at the train station in Bern. The McDonalds here are more posh. They’re much classier here. They understand that they have the competition of the little konditoreien/pâtisseries/boulangeries/delicious-fresh-everything-shops.

There’s no peanut butter here, but the ubiquitousness of chocolate and cheese has caused me to not even notice that fact until now.

They don’t use ice cubes as often. It’s only in restaurants, and there’s plenty of restaurants where you don’t get ice cubes. I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen icecubes here a few times.

The other day I had Columbian food. It was cool. We had wooden disposable cultery. There was coleslaw with pineapple and raisins in it. I loved it, minus the raisins. Eating raisins goes against my conscience. It’s like chewing on old people. They come in the same colors. Sultana and golden. It’s worse than soggy fingers. Nevertheless, I piously removed the multitudinous raisins from my coleslaw.

Kiss the planets goodbye

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Sitting in the sun, listening to Owl City and bronzing up in the gentle breeze seems like the perfect time to catch up on my blogging. I have a myriad of funny moments to chronicle, but first, I must first commence this blog by declaring unto you the good news which has illuminated my next weeks/months with the joyousness of its tidings. My soul rejoices and my heart is made glad.

OWL CITY IS RELEASING ANOTHER ALBUM!

Let’s hear it for the Universe,
Where it never hurts,
Diving in head-first.
Take a taste of the melting Milky Way.
And remember to laugh ’cause you’re living in a crazy world,
Where you’ll never guess what could happen next.
Give the outer limits my regards as you float to fly away.

In the back of the car. Parents arguing in German.
Papa: When you go back to Canada, you can take her with you.
me: OUIIIIIIIIIIII! (resounding yes)
Parents: chuckle. (endeared, presumably)

helping brother with English homework.
frere: (reading) Andy yells lewdly, “MARY!”
me: no, lOUDly like lou as in cow… no explanation granted.

Walking through the vineyards with Papa and Frere. Overlooking the stunning two castles of Sion, Valere and Tourbillon.
Frere: I have a joke for you.
Papa: no, just no…
Me: It can’t be that bad, tell it to me!
Frere: Sion, without Valere and Tourbillon–
Papa: just stop!
[a lot of french ensues here. There’s many ways to say the same thing. I was completely unaware of the meaning intended. Brother is running out of steam.]
Frere: Dad you explain it!
Papa: No. Absolutely not. Not at all.
Sion, without the Chateau du Valere, and the Chateau Tourbillon, is like a woman without two of her saleable assets. That was a joke which really scraped its chin on the ground.

Humanity is dense enough to need the obvious pointed out. Thank you, Yann Martel:

“These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.”

“…fear. It is life’s only true opponent.”

For the life of me, I don’t understand dads. Where in the world do they get their stamina? They just keep running and running. The show must go on. Here, my family’s dad leaves for work at 5 in the morning, gets home at 5, runs for an hour around the “hill” i.e. mini mountain for an hour, then cooks dinner, cleans it up, then watches tv and unwinds and goes to sleep at 9. Repeat process. He’s training up for some sort of marathon/triathlon/I’m-a-swiss-man-of-the-mountians-thlon… The whole thing is in the mountains, up and down the sides and everything. It’s the longest mountain ridge of the alps which he’ll be circling.