Anyways… every time I go back to the States, I go to the drug store and stock up on all kinds of things: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash, Advil, Dramamine, Claritin, and all kinds of other things that I could admittedly buy here in Switzerland, but which would come in much smaller packages with much higher prices. Yes, I actually lug back a bag full of things from Duane Reade because I am so opposed to the idea of paying an extra two bucks for a bottle of lotion in a brand I don’t recognize. I was much relieved to find out that other expats do this as well, and was chagrined to find out that there was one thing I had forgotten, which has an even higher mark-up margin: contact solution. I had forgotten to buy a bottle on my last expedition, and as it turns out, a bottle of contact solution costs about $15 here. D’oh.
Speaking of lotion and body wash, I come from a culture where those things are reserved for girls and metrosexuals. Here, however, such products apparently have universal appeal. Swiss boys buy body wash and facial lotion like nobody’s business, and try out new scents, foaming action, and cleansing beads with undisguised interest. I suppose they have more time and brain capacity to devote to such things, as they are only interested in one sport, soccer, as opposed to the big three that infect the minds of most American boys. When not watching soccer, they often go shopping (they adore their shoes here), often of their own accord, and not as a concession to a consumption-hungry girlfriend. And yes, Swiss boys really care about shoes. Before coming here, it was very rare that a guy would notice my shoes, but here, I have had several instances where a guy has noticed my shoes and complimented them or said that I really shouldn’t go out in them. (Being an American, I wear sneakers and flip-flops a lot. What can I say, they’re comfortable.) I haven’t figured out if it’s liberating to see such gender-bending behavior, or if it’s just sort of weird.
OK, so my landlord had to get into my apartment the other week to let a handyman do some roof repairs, and afterwards, he called me to tell me that he was also going to schedule a gardener to go onto my terrace to pull up the weeds and trim the plants and so on, because I had failed to do so myself. I was more than happy to let someone else do it, although I found it rather strange that he had expected the terrace to be perfectly manicured, seeing that it’s been winter for six months, and who does any gardening when it’s wintertime? Apparently the Swiss do. In any case, my terrace and I are now ready for summer, if only it would stop being rainy and cold.
It’s hard to believe I have been here for about 11 months already. Some things you get used to, and that’s a good thing. Some things you get used to, despite not wanting to get used to them. And some things you never get used to. One of those things is money. I still have difficulty with the money here. It’s colorful and differently sized. It’s like Monopoly money, and it’s hard to remind myself that it should not be treated as such. And there is on way to fold it neatly into your wallet, since they all fold to different sizes. And the people whose faces are on the money all look rather confused to be there. One man is in the act of taking off his glasses. One woman is wearing the kind of hat you use to cover up a bad hair day. One man looks distracted, as if someone asked him a question right before taking his picture. Come on, you’re being immortalized on widely used currency, can’t you wear contacts, comb your hair, and look into the camera?