Sunday, May 25, 2008

I've moved!!!

Greetings from California. I've moved, and so the blog will be moving, as well. No more Geocities, thank goodness, since Blogger is much more customizable than it was back in 2004. Everything - posts, pictures, links - will be here from now on.

See you on the interweb.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

18 March 2008

No time for a real post, as I'm trying to get my entire apartment packed up. Packing in the midst of a normal weekly schedule and a desperate last-minute travel schedule (must see... as much as possible... before leaving...) is no easy feat, and is further complicated by the following:

Even though my lease runs until March 31st, I have to be out of the apartment by March 26th, so that the professional cleaners (who charge about $1,000 to clean a 1BR apartment!) and painters can come in before the next tenant.

As wonderful as it is to move into an apartment in Switzerland - everything is sparkling clean and probably more sanitary than the stuff you're bringing with you, it is equally horrible to move out of an apartment in Switzerland for precisely the same reason. They expect things to be in perfect condition. The cleaning fee seems a bit excessive, but I'm told that they go so far as to take apart the faucets to check for any calcification that may have accumulated during your tenancy. The Swiss are nothing if not thorough.

After that, I'll stay with a friend for the remainder of my time in Zurich. Why didn't I just stay in my apartment until the end, you ask? Well, in Switzerland, they make it very difficult to break your lease at any time other than the end of March or September. I'd rather crash with someone than pay an extra six months' of rent.

Because of the discrepancy between the date I leave my apartment and the date I leave Switzerland, I have to sort my packing into more piles than usual: Trash, Recycle, Sell, To Use in Switzerland, To Use for Diving, To Use Immediately in California, and To Use Later in California. This is so that things can stay here or ship at the appropriate times. Argh.

After I move to San Francisco, much of my stuff will be in storage with friends in Zurich, and will follow once I've found a place to stay in California. A great idea in theory, but in practice, it's a bit difficult to get my stuff into their storage space. We all live in the old town, which is charming, quaint, picturesque, and usually closed to traffic.

We can usually get the car to my apartment, somewhat semi-legally, but to get to my friends' apartment, there is a gate that is closed except for early mornings on weekdays and on weekends. Since my time here is running out, my weekends are fully booked with travel and other hijinks. Weekdays, everyone works, and so we can't really spend a morning quasi-legally shuttling boxes between the two apartments.

It takes longer than you would think, partly because, although both building have elevators, they are very small (three very skinny people or half of an obese person can fit in), and you need to take stairs to get to the elevators. Yes. You have to take stairs to get to the elevators.

Furthermore, although the apartments are only about three minutes apart on foot, by car, it takes about ten minutes, because of all of the one-way streets, pedestrian streets, and looping around. If the gate is closed, add on another five or ten minutes of trying to wheedle the guard into letting you in for a quick dropoff. Whew.

Moving has always been one of my least favorite pastimes, but Switzerland takes it to a whole new level of awful. Don't get me started on what I have to do besides the physical move - Big Brother needs me to fill out countless forms and notify countless offices to erase myself from his books.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

5 February 2008

Life is moving too fast for me to document everything for you here in its full, detailed glory!

So, just a few quick notes on the past couple of months before they slip too far into ancient, forgotten history:

1) Flying from Zurich to JFK to San Francisco to JFK to Zurich in the span of ten days is a bit ambitious, especially if it also involves a delayed flight, a canceled flight, job interviews, and seeing friends and family in four cities on two coasts.

2) It is also ambitious to then go to a New Year’s Eve celebration in Zurich, when your total time between flights is less than 24 hours, and your out-bound flight leaves from another city. The traffic after the midnight fireworks will probably keep you from catching the last train to Basel, and throw a bit of a wrench in your plans to go to…

3) ...Marrakech, home of the best, cheapest, fresh-squeezed orange juice you will ever have. Also home to excellent food at the night markets, and fun bargaining opportunities that later leave you wondering why you were fighting so hard for a price that would have saved you only 40 cents off of the counter-offer.

4) You will drink more red wine in Madrid than anywhere else in the world, as you go from bar to bar, having a glass of wine and tapas. Beware when ordering the suckling pig at Restaurant Botin (the oldest restaurant in the world), because they will bring you one-fourth of the whole, fatty, crispy-skinned pig - little baby pig foot included. As for vegetables, the pig comes with two potatoes. Delicious, but not the most balanced meal ever. Especially since they start you off with a ham-and garlic soup that is festooned with pieces of deep-fried bread.

5) No matter where you go, the food and shopping are cheaper than they are in Zurich. Bring an extra bag to carry stuff back.

As for things that are coming up: my friends and I are going curling! Yes, that’s the one with the ice rink, the rocks, and the brooms. Who knows, maybe I’ll be really good at it, and will give up my lawyerly aspirations and become a pro curler.

Failing that, I’ll be moving to the States in May to start an awesome new job in San Francisco, where I look forward to making fun of the granola-loving, Birkenstock-wearing locals as much as I make fun of the cheese-eating, mullet-haired locals here.

Until then, I plan to get as much traveling and diving done as possible (Scandinavia? Baltics? Balkans? Greece? Asia? Who knows??), because once I’m back in the States, I’ll no longer be within a two-hour flight of two dozen countries. On the other hand, I’ll be able to get decent bagels and sourdough bread whenever I want.

Leaving Switzerland is going to be difficult, both in terms of giving up the fantastic life I’ve lived here, and in terms of deregistering with all of the proper authorities, giving the correct notices on the right forms, and doing all those other things that Big Brother requires of good Swiss residents.

On top of that, there are the usual logistics of an international transfer – packing, shipping, moving, starting a new job, and trying to get the timing of all of those (and the level of your bank account) to match up. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

15 January 2008

Happy New Year!! A lot has happened since the last time I wrote – skiing, interviews in California, family Christmas in New Jersey, seeing friends in New York, New Year’s in Zurich, and a few days in Marrakech, all of which deserve discussion, but I have Switzerland on the brain right now, so that’s what I’m going to talk about.

A college friend was in town this past weekend, so we went into the mountains to go sledding. I grew up sledding in my back yard with cardboard boxes and inner tubes, and I have to say that it’s an entirely different experience taking an old-school wooden sled up a gondola in the Alps to a two-mile (3 km) slope made especially for sledding.

First of all, you go fast. Really fast. And the sled has no steering mechanism. And the trail has all sorts of quick turns and big bumps. They’re sort of like giant speed bumps, and the sled is unpadded, so your butt takes the brunt of the impact. Add to that the fact that on Saturday, when we were there, it was snowing hard, and we didn’t have goggles, so we had to keep our eyes mostly closed to avoid getting stinging snow driven into our eyes at high speed. It wasn’t just sledding. It was Extreme Sledding, very exhilarating, and I highly recommend it, for as long as your butt can take it. I am still exercising caution when sitting down.

That night, twenty of us went for fondue, because it’s not winter if you don’t go out for fondue, and then we went out for drinks afterwards. And my purse got stolen. Stolen! In Switzerland! It was soon found, minus my cash and cell phone. And I am in complete shock. I filed a police report (entirely in my own special brand of German, because the officer taking my statement didn’t speak English), and an insurance report, and the insurance company is transferring money to my account, so there’s minimal material loss, but my faith in Switzerland has been deeply shaken. Sure, bags get stolen in New York, in Madrid, in Paris, but not in Zurich!! What is the world coming to, if your purse can get stolen in Zurich?

There are other signs that the world is spinning out of control. A friend’s Swiss flight back to the States before Christmas was delayed by almost five hours, and another friend’s checked bag was misplaced on the way back. These things may happen on other airlines in the rest of the world, but not on Swiss International Airlines, where you leave on time, arrive early, and pick up your bags ten minutes later.

And just this morning I read an article that clearly signals that the end of days is drawing near. Because of a shortage in Brazilian cow intestines, there is a looming shortage of Switzerland’s most popular sausage, a pork- and beef-based sausage called the cervelat. Six million Swiss people eat a combined 160 million cervelats per year (in addition to the hundreds of millions of other sausages – the 160 million refers to a single kind of sausage!), and this summer, Switzerland is hosting the Euro Cup, when millions of foreign sausage eaters will descend on Zurich and further increase the demand for cervelats.

According to the BBC, a “joint ‘Task Force Cervelat’ composed of scientists, bureaucrats and industry representatives has been formed to tackle the sausage crisis.” We can only hope that they will be able to find a solution to this greatest of problems. I am certain that this crisis is dominating front-page news around the world, so my apologies for beating a dead horse, but I, like all concerned citizens of the world, am worried about not being able to eat my tube-form dead cows and pigs at will.