Sunday, December 11, 2005

Return from Switzerland

Last night, at about 8:00, I rolled back in to town. It was nice to get back, good to see F. I'm sort of a home body lately. I am a little tired of being away. I like being home. We flew business class, which was nice. We also sat in the first class section of the train in Switzerland - going from Zurich to Meiringen. Both of those were nice surprises, but neither overly impressed me. I have flown business class in the past which really impressed me, but this didn't. In fact, Swiss International didn't impress me too much - except their generosity in paying for the trip.

Accompanying me on the trip were five white Dutch women, two Surinam Dutch women, a Dutch guy and a Philapino woman from work. It was generally a good time. There's always the thing at the beginning about which language to speak. Should we speak English or should be we speak Dutch?

The thing is, I'm at this strange stage with Dutch. I understand enough so that when someone is making an announcement, I can follow it and understand enough. I'm even okay one to one, although most people would probably rather speak to me in English because the conversation can be at a higher level. Then there is group conversation. It's really difficult to follow that because eight people are talking and little groups are talking and it's all idioms and sayings and Dutch references.

So my feeling is: Talk Dutch. I'll understand enough during the announcements and if I don't understand, I'll ask. In conversation, I know they would rather speak Dutch and I don't really care that much if I hear every word. Plus, it's good for me to listen. In conversations, English is probably better unless you have great patience.

Switzerland was beautiful. We immediately got on a train and left Zurich for Meiringen. We arrived two and a half hours later. It was dark. We got our rooms - thank God I got a private room - and met to eat. It was fondu. Hot cheese with bread. Lekker.

There was some question as to how sanitary it would be to put a piece of bread on the long fork, dunk it in cheese and then eat off the same fork before you skewered another piece of bread and dunked it in cheese. When someone asked for a fork and knife, the waitress said something to the effect of, "No, you can use that." We all did. In the Netherlands, you get your own fork and knife. Oh well.

The girls like to drink. It was difficult to keep up. They'd bought wine for the train, they had cocktails before and they drank afterwards. I was glad to get to my room and spend time alone.

The next morning, we were up and out by 9:00. We walked to the equipment store and got fitted for skis and boots and things. I was fortunate to find a nice new pair of red ski pants for only 50 Swiss Francs.

What I was prepared for was a children's slope so that I could practice (i.e. learn). I hadn't skiied in fifteen years, and that was one night in upstate New York. I'm from Texas - and we're not the kind of Texans that ski.

What happened was that, after I was assured by the others, that it was a really easy slope, I took off down the hill with the Dutch girls. Then we went over a little bump and it was really steep. I fell. I got up. I fell.

Half of the Dutch girls were with me and half were at the bottom of the slope waiting for me to get up and start skiing. At that point, I had decided that I just wanted to be left alone. I was in Switzerland. I was dressed appropriately and it was absolutly beautiful. The only problem was that I had a bunch of girls waiting for me. It was embarrassing. It was the kind of thing I avoid. When I finally got to them, I said, "Please go on ahead. I'll be fine."

"We're afraid you're having a terrible time."

I said, "I'll be fine. Just go." They finally did.

So I tried for about a half hour longer. I got further down the hill, but I could tell that it just wasn't happening. Finally, a very motherly type Dutch woman showed up and stated that she was going to stay with me for the entire trip down the hill. She gave me all kinds of pointers, all that stuff they tell you. It just didn't work. Finally I begged her to go on. "I'll be fine."

I ended up taking off my skis and walking down the mountain to the next place. I listened to Cinecast on my ipod and enjoyed the scenery. It was absolutley wonderful. It took me 25 minutes. It was a really nice time.

I ended up going to the very top, the Aspen Tower, for the 360 degree view with the other guy and Evelyn, the Philipino woman. I got some nice snaps.

The rest of the trip was eating and drinking. Evelyn turned out to be a Godsend. Her Dutch is about as good as mine, which means she tires out after a while. It's exhausting. Plus it was all this "in" talk with the Dutch girls. So it was a relief to have her there.

We spent about an hour and a half in Lucern shopping. (We'd been promised a whole day.) It was almost enough. But the train trip from Meiringen to Lucern was absolutely amazing. Small villages, lakes, mountains. I took a lot of pictures. I'm really glad I have a digital camera.

I got home Saturday evening. It was nice to see F - someone who "gets" me. I'm glad I went.

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