Monday, December 3, 2007

November 18-25

This week was the first time since coming that I've REALLY felt homesick. There were times before when I was missing certain things, but I never really wished I was home. This week was different. Had I still been residing in the US, it would have been the first time of the semester when I would have gone home. All of my friends back at ISU were on Fall break and spending the whole week with their families. It was my first Thanksgiving away from family, I that made me kind of sad.

Even though I was away from my family, I was not without Thanksgiving. In fact I may have had more Thanksgiving than I would have if I had still been in the States. I took part in two dinners, and was invited to another that I was unable to attend. Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) I had a Thanksgiving dinner with a group of international students that I meet with. As one of two Americans I had the opportunity to explain the history and some of the traditions of Thanksgiving. I also offered to bake pumpkin pie for the dinner. I made it from a slice of real pumpkin that I bought at the market. The baking and the dinner were both a lot of fun. It was a neat experience to be able to explain the significance of Thanksgiving. I don't think that's something I've ever had to do before. It really made me think about the holiday more, and the importance of "giving thanks."
Since there is no Thanksgiving holiday in Switzerland, there is also no "Black Friday." I can't say that I missed that. It's definitely not one of my favorite days of the year, both in principle and because I don't like shopping in crowds. Instead of waiting in long lines for a sale at 5:30 in the morning, I instead spent my afternoon in Geneva touring the DuPont facilities there. The tour was for any female students at EPFL and was hosted by the Equal Opportunity Office. I didn't realize it was an all female tour until I met with the group and noticed the demographics. It was interesting to experience the professional life of Switzerland, since mostly I've just been experiencing the academic and religious sides of the culture. The two most notable facts from the tour: DuPont is VERY dedicated to safety (they have a company wide rule about holding the handrail when taking the stairs) and the Swiss take salary confidentiality very seriously.
Most of Saturday was spent baking apple pies with a classmate for Sunday. It was my first opportunity to teach someone to make pie. Since coming to Switzerland, I have made 7 pies. It seems than once someone finds out you come from the US, there is a preconceived notion that you are have the innate talent of making apple pies, thus, when I am invited to dinners, I am often asked to make apple pie. Sunday I had another Thanksgiving dinner. I, along with 5 other exchange students from the US, hosted this dinner for some of our Non-American friends. There ended up being about 20 people in attendance along with a bounty of food. It was fantastic. Along with apple pie, I also made green beans with French-fried onions (but not in casserole form) and stuffing.

Sunday morning, before the dinner, I attended a new church. It was an international church, meaning it was in English. Each canton in Switzerland supports a protestant and a catholic church. Since these denominations are state-supported the pastors/priests are essentially government employees, and there jobs are pretty secure. The congregations are becoming rather old, and the churches don't seem to be reaching out well to younger generations. I think this is a serious problem, and I think it emphasizes one of the important reasons for separation of church and state. The church I attended is not a state-supported church. It is non-denominational, and is a satellite congregation of a church that is located a couple of towns away. The congregation started meeting in Lausanne a year or two ago. They don't have there own building yet, so they rotate between 3 rented spaces for the Sunday morning services. This was really my first experience of being part of a church that was not associated with a church building. Before, in my vocabulary, I've always used "church" for the building and not the congregation. It was an interesting new perspective. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I found the message thought-provoking. It seemed like a place where I could build community. The only drawback is that it's quite far. It took me over an hour to get there. I don't want that to be my deciding factor, but it is something that has to be considered.

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