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.