Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 17

Today was a fantastic day. It counteracted all of the Monday mishaps. This morning, I met a friend downtown to go shopping. Every Wednesday and Saturday morning there is an open market. I had only ever seen the produce stands before, so I was under the impression that they were the extent of the market, but I was wrong. There was a whole open area for the meat, cheese, bread, and antique stands. It was fun to walk around these while waiting for Elizabeth. I saw lots of interesting things. I bought a slice of pumpkin to use for my pie.
The first place we went after the market was Salvation Army. Yes, that is right, there is a Salvation Army here. It was interesting and was full of really cool things. Some of the things probably wouldn't be seen in US Salvation Armies, but since Switzerland is a very ecological country, everything is reduced, reused, and recycled. For example, half-bottles of soaps and detergents; very practical, but likely not seen in the States. There were also quite a number of jelly-type jars on the shelves. Another surprising find was some Chemistry lab glassware that I pointed out to Elizabeth. She kindly informed me that it was actually a bong. Interesting.
During our shopping adventures, I found a really beautiful scarf for a really good price. Elizabeth also found a great long green wool coat at a second-hand store for only 10 Francs!
With the excitement of both of our good deals, as well as the beautiful sunny weather and general joyful bustle of the market, we were both in really good spirits. We bought lunch from a bakery vendor and then returned to my house to have hot cocoa and watch a movie. We also roasted chestnuts. This was a first for both of us. I bought them last weekend, but I just hadn't gotten around to using them yet. Some of them had gone bad, which was unfortunate, but the ones that were salvageable were quite fantastic. All in all, it was just a really nice, relaxing, fun day.

November 13-16

On Tuesday nights I go to a bible study in French. It is called "Groupe des Disciples," and we are studying the New Testament, specifically Jesus' teachings to the disciples. This past Tuesday night's discussion on forgiveness was really good. Maybe it's because my French is improving and I'm understanding more. That is probably partially true, but I think also that I just had a lot to think about in regards to how it related to my own life. So forgiveness has been on my mind quite a bit this week. Forgiveness is very simple and very complex at the same time. It is something that I need to practice more in my own life.
Wednesday, I put my nose to the grindstone and caught up on a bunch of studying. It was beneficial and necessary, but not too exciting. This past week felt more like a normal week as a student, much more like ISU. Some of the novelty of being here is starting to wear off. Not that I don't like it, I'm just starting to feel more settled in and less like I'm on vacation.
Thursday I had a Thermodynamics test. The first test for this class didn't go so hot, but then again, that was only my fourth week of classes in a foreign language. I think this test definitely went much better. These tests actually don't count though, only the final exam. Thursday evening I met with some classmates for a crepes party because two of the guys in the group had birthdays last week. It was a lot of fun. We had crepes with ham and cheese, strawberry or blackberry jam, Nutella, or just plain sugar. We also played some Foosball (baby-foot). It was fun to see some different student housing arrangements, as well as interact with some of these people more. One of the girls in my class and I have begun to become pretty good friends, and it was good to talk to her about some of the difficulties of long distance relationships. This is something that she has experienced as well.
Friday morning, I met a woman for tea at her home. She is in charge of one of the international student groups that I'm in. The group is having a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, and as one of two students in the group from the US, I offered to make a pumpkin pie. I'm really excited about this, because I'm going to make it from real pumpkin! Anyway, I went to this Karin's house to borrow some pumpkin pie spice from her. It was really nice to visit her home to drink tea and chat. She has two small children, and it was really nice to be around them. I think it is the first time I've really interacted with kids since leaving Nebraska. Karin is from Northern Switzerland and therefore speaks Swiss-German, English, and then French. Her husband is from the US and speaks English and German. Karin's a pediatrician and she said that the latest research says that it's better to speak to children in just one language at a very young age, so the kids speak Swiss-German. I wasn't really sure what to say to the kids, since I don't speak the same language as they do, but at the ages of 3 years and 16 months, they don't do a whole lot of talking themselves.

November 11-12

I want to learn Indian cooking. I've already begun to experiment with curry, but I want to expand my knowledge. I'd been thinking about this past week and then on Sunday evening (November 11) a friend of mine from India invited me to dinner. It was fantastic. I want to explore this more. I also met with a few people in the evening to work on planning a Thanksgiving dinner. I'm in charge of green beans and apple pie. I'll also be teaching one of the other people in the group how to make apple pie. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to buy the crust or try to make it. Buying it is less fun, but I don't have a pastry blender, rolling pin, or Crisco, so a pre-made crust might be a bit more practical.
Monday was truly a day of mishaps. It started out while I was preparing my lunch in the morning. I was slicing some cheese and the wire of the cheese slicer snapped. I'm pretty sure that it was not my fault. It was just old and I just happened to be the unlucky one using it when it broke. I bought a new one to replace it though. Then later, while walking downtown, a pigeon flew right up in my face out of nowhere. It was terrifying and I'm sure I looked ridiculous as I flailed around to avoid it. The next mishap happened while I was heading to watch Stargate with a couple friends. I had something to put in the mail. The mailbox is on the corner about 50 meters from the bus stop. I forgot about it as I was passing by, then remembered and turned around to put my mail in the box. As I was walking back to the stop, the bus came and since I was like 10 meters away, and no one was actually waiting AT the stop, it didn't even slow down, it just went right on by, even though I was jogging to get to the stop. If it had stopped, I would have totally been there before it could have even opened the doors. I was a bit annoyed, I'd never had this problem before. The final mishap happened while I was getting ready for bed Monday night. I broke my toothbrush. Seriously. Have you ever heard of such a thing? The handle just snapped! Since there's this rubbery grip on it though, the two pieces are still connected, but it's more difficult to hang on to. What a day!
So, this is going to come as a big shock to all of you I'm sure, but I'm kind of a nerd. After I broke my toothbrush, I got to thinking about the structural and material properties of it. I drew a Free Body Diagram in my head accounting for the points in which I apply force to the toothbrush and the couple resulting from the brush pressing against my teeth. Then I thought about the Young's and shear moduli of the molded plastic polymer that is my toothbrush and I considered the forces required for elastic and plastic deformation as well as critical failure. From all this, I decided that I must grip my toothbrush too forcefully for it's design. I kind of knew this already, because I had a dental hygienist tell me one time that I brush my teeth too hard and should hold my tooth brush differently in order to brush more gently. Since I am cheap, and the bristles of my toothbrush still have life left to them, I'm continuing to use the broken-handled toothbrush. Although it is slightly inconvenient because it is somewhat more difficult to hang onto, this may actually be better for my oral hygiene. Due to the nature of how I must now hold the toothbrush, I'm applying less force to it. Also, the shorter handle creates a shorter moment arm and applying the same force on this shortened moment arm creates less torque and less force being transferred to my gums. As I said before, I'm kind of a nerd.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November 5-10

I've been doing quite a bit of cooking, since I have the time. I've really enjoyed it. I've been trying out new vegetarian dishes, sometimes with new ingredients. This weeks new ingredients were eggplant, zucchini, and curry. I've had all of the before, but not often, and I've never cooked with them, except for zucchini bread. It was interesting. I really liked the eggplant, but when I was trying to fry it, it had a tendency to soak up the oil, and then get soggy. I didn't really like that. Any tips? I also made some fantastic curried carrot soup. It was great on a cold day.
Saturday, November 10, it was snowing. It was very pretty, but I wasn't quite prepared for the beginning of winter yet. It snowed a lot more up on my hill than it did in downtown. It all melted though when it hit the ground.
I went to the market in Centre Ville in the morning. I really like open air markets, and I wondered if it would still be going on this late in the year. It was. I had fun just walking around an looking at things. I ran into a friend of mine, almost literally. It was nice to see her. We, along with a couple other Americans, are going to be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner the weekend after Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to that.
When I returned home, I spent the day making travel arrangements for my family's trip, and then made my carrot soup. It was a laid back day, but I think I accomplished a couple things.

November 4

I went to a Methodist worship service today. The building is relatively large and pretty old. It is built in an Anglican fashion (or so I was told). I believe it is the only building like it in Lausanne. Also, it is the only Methodist congregation in Lausanne. I thought that the building would reflect the congregation size. I was wrong. The building is actually shared by several congregations of differing denominations. There were only about 20 people in attendance at the Methodist service. Mostly retirees I believe. It was a nice service with an interesting sermon, but there really wasn't anyone else there my age. It made me miss Collegiate UMC in Ames.
I was curious about how communion would work. It was a Methodist church, but it was also in wine country. I was curious if wine or juice would be served. It was juice, I was actually a bit surprised. It wasn't Welch's obviously; I think it may not have been straight up grape juice, maybe cran-grape. It was served the same way that communion was served when I visited St. Francois. Everyone went up to the front and formed a circle. Then the servers walked around with the bread and a common cup to each person. The pastor addressed everyone by there name. I was wondering what he would do when he came to me. I thought he would probably just not say my name, but say "this is the body" or something like that. No, he actually just flat out asked me what my name was. I've noticed that when serving communion, people often whisper, or speak in quiet voices, but not in this service. The servers spoke in normal voices or at least normal amplitudes.
There was a flute accompaniment for all the music instead of a piano or organ. That was neat. Some of the songs were familiar, but the words were all new. It was kind of fun to sing in French. While we were studying poetry last semester in my French class, I learned that the last letter of the last word of each line of the poem is pronounced. Usually the last letter in French words are not pronounced. It's kind of hard to explain in writing. Anyway, songs work the same as poems. The pronunciation is a bit more phonetic. Sounds more like Latin or maybe Spanish, than it does French.
I talked to a man for a while after the service. Pretty old guy. Retired teacher. I think he taught in a primary or secondary school. Maybe music, I think he said he studied music. He told me some interesting things about Switzerland and some stuff about churches. I guess every canton is basically in charge of it's own denomination. For example, the biggest denomination in Vaud, the canton in which I am living, is Vaudois Reformed. This denomination is supported by tax and government money and the pastors, I believe, are government employees. Interesting. Independent denominations are supported by the denomination though. Methodist congregations are not common in Switzerland. Neither are catholic churches actually. For the most part, people attend some form of Protestant Reformed church. Turns out the Cathedrale, the very large, old cathedral in Lausanne, is actually no longer Catholic. I believe it is Vaudois Reformed. I didn't realize that. I had just assumed since it was called a cathedral, it must be catholic.
It was nice to go to this church this morning. It started at 10. I think a lot of services start at that time, because I often hear bells like 10 minutes before 10:00 on Sunday mornings. I think that the ringing of the bells is to call people to the service or something. It's not a song or melody or anything. Just ringing bells. I kind of like it. Bells seem to be quite prevalent in many parts of Swiss life.

November 1-3

Wow, I've gotten a bit behind here. Well I'll take this opportunity to catch you up. Mostly I've just been doing school (gets busier and busier every week), with a little reading, knitting, and movie watching on the side. I won't write about all that though, I'll just write about the more interesting things I've been up to.
Saturday November 3, I went on a wine tasting tour with the Xchange student group. The email I received said to be at the train station at 11:20. I arrived about 11:15, and I then realized that the train to the city we were going was departing at 11:20. It was like 11:18 when I arrived at the platform, and I couldn't find anyone I recognized. I figured they must be on the train already. Since my passage had been purchased with the group, I didn't have an actual ticket, and thus couldn't get on the train. The train left, and I was disappointed, but not too bad, because I had only paid 5 francs (about $4.50). I thought maybe I could just take the next train, but I didn't know where to go after I got to the town, so I decided not to do that. So, since I was already at the station and ready to go, I just decided I would take the train someplace else. I watched a guy playing a harp for a while, then I was going to the entry of the station to buy a ticket. When I got to the entrance, I saw someone I recognized! The group hadn't left yet, 11:20 was the meeting time, not the departing time. The train next left at 11:48.
It was a really fun day. Yeah, I paid 5 francs for my passage and everything I ate and drank all day. At the beginning, everyone received a wine glass, and that was the entrance ticket. I might have visited like a dozen or more "caves" or cellars. I won't lie, I drank a bit too much wine. I wasn't like, falling on the floor drunk, but I was definitely feeling the effects of the alcohol a little bit. I really had now idea what my limit was, and the proprietors just kept bringing the wine. At the last few places, I didn't drink anything. I also made a point to drink water periodically and eat too.
There were so many delicious things to eat. For the most part, everyplace had something to eat. I had several kinds of soup, including pumpkin, carrot, and leek (not all the same soup). I also had cheese, bread, a bit of chocolate, roasted chestnuts (fantastic), little pastries, and mini-sandwiches. Each thing was small, but the grand total was quite a bit. And it was all free!
The specialty of the tour was tasting the Borru, or the new wine. Since the grapes were just recently harvested, the wine has only been fermenting for about 3 weeks. They let people taste the borru and explained the processes a bit. It was kind of carbonated and acidic, interesting to try, but not something you'd really want to serve. White wines are the speciality of that region, but there were also quite a few red wines. I also tasted "ice wine," which is a dessert wine. It was a very sweet white wine that is served chilled. It was alright, but it was a bit too sweet for me.
So this may sound strange, but I think my French improved after I'd had a few glasses of wine. I told this to a Canadian guy I met, he said it was probably because I was more relaxed and confident. He also said my cheeks were rosy. That's when I realized that maybe I should hold back. I wasn't trashed, I just realized that if I were to drink much more, I probably would be, and I didn't want to get to that point. I hope you all don't think less of me for this, or think less of my morals or principles or anything like that. It was a neat and educational experience in a safe environment. I learned a lot about wine as well my alcohol tolerance, but I don't plan to do it too often though.