Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I walked into the bathroom at school...

And was greeted by the sight of someone with really long, blond, shiny hair washing their hands. I reversed direction instantly while burbling an incoherent apology.

I backed out into the hallway, the door shut facing me, and I came nose-to-door with the sign indicating that I had not been mistaken, this was the men's room.

I re-entered the facilities, scrutinizing the rare male mane-beast. By this time he had noticed me, and was returning my suspicious gaze. I hastened my way around the corner to the toilets, continuing our quizzical staring contest until forcibly interrupted by the wall.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The tale of James and the passive aggressive bathroom schedule

One morning, James, feeling refreshed after his morning shower, discovered a mysterious sheet of paper taped to the bathroom door. 

"What on earth could this be?" he thought to himself. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed to be a schedule, dividing morning bathroom time between James and his host sister. He smiled to himself at the only explanation offered by the piece of paper, "MERCI" written in all capital letters, it took up more space on the page than the actual schedule did.

He considered attempting to spread democracy (as is the duty of every American traveling abroad) by suggesting that he be allowed to have a say in his time allotment, however, after actually reading the schedule, it became clear that everything on it was perfectly fair.

A pang in his stomach distracted James from his embarrassment at having to be reminded by a sheet of paper that his host sister is, in fact, a nice person, and turned his attention instead to coffee and an apple.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

(Insert James Bond name joke here)

My first week of school just finished, and if I had a swiss franc for every time someone made the James Bond name joke with my name, I'd probably have 5 or 6 francs, but I'm not sure, since I wasnt counting.

Some people from Rotary over here warned the exchange students that the Swiss are "very private people" and "it will be difficult to make friends". Fortunately for me, even the Swiss aren't immune to my god-like charisma and intoxicating charm (please don't take that statement seriously).

Kidding aside, I see what they mean, if you're walking by yourself, people wont come up and say hi, in fact, people don't go out of their way to say "hi" at all. That's a bit different than what I'm used to, but I certainly don't find it negative.

Fortunately for me I had a man on the inside before starting school, a friend of mine is in my class-group-thing   (I'll talk about the classes in another post) and since I started a week later than everyone else, he had time to warn people that I was coming.

The day before my first day, he informed me that (thanks to him) everyone was under the impression that I was very intelligent and equally handsome... sounds great, right? Nope. Now people had expectations of me. And if there's one thing I get mildly annoyed about, it's people expecting things from me.

As it turns out, I was worried for nothing, because I am intelligent and handsome buahahaha! (please don't take that seriously as well)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

This is what happens when you give speeches 4 days after arriving in your host country

So, a little over two weeks ago, I had to give a speech to my host Rotary club, and at the time, I though I did pretty well... what I thought I said was this:

"Hello, my name is James, I am an exchange student. Switzerland is very beautiful, and the people are interesting! I'm very happy to be here."

While it wasn't exactly a speech, that was about all I was supposed to say, I had only been there for a few days, and at the time, I was pretty darn proud of myself. But after several weeks of a language course, I now have a more accurate translation of what was said:

"Good morning (it was not morning), my name is James, I am THE exchange student. Switzerland is very handsome, and the people are... interesting... I am very happiness to be here."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Note to self (and anyone else reading)

Never. Ever. Cook fillet of beef in butter ever again, ever.

So I cooked dinner for my host family, and oh boy, it was an event. For me more so than for them, I say this because I tried not one, but two new things. First, I made a mushroom and leek cream sauce to go with the fillet mignon, and second, I cooked the beef in butter.

Now, fillet mignon is a delicate steak, and it can easily have the meaty flavor leeched out of it while cooking. This is most often remedied by wrapping the steak in bacon, however, I had no bacon handy. I theorized that butter would preserve the "meaty" flavor. But, I'm not accustomed to cooking in butter, I didn't stop to thing that the outside may cook differently than in, say, canola oil. Unfortunately, the outside looked very different, and by the time I realized, it was ever so slightly too late. I had slightly overcooked the beef, while only slightly, mind you, it was still enough to mess with the dish.

Next we have the sauce, I started off going off a recipe I found on the internet, but after discovering that I didn't have access to a scale, I threw the recipe out the window. Thank god it turned out OK. In fact I'd go so far as to say it saved the beef.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Captain's log...

I have discovered a strange native custom.

When the Swiss are done eating, instead of saying that they are done eating, or, asking to be excused, they place both the fork and knife at a 45 degree angle between directly to the right and towards yourself (Like a clock at about 4:23). No one may leave the table until all cutlery have assumed he position.

I was eating, and as anyone who has eaten with me will tell you, I'm a slow eater. About 5 minutes after the rest of my family had finished eating, I was starting to wonder why no one had gotten up. At 7 minutes I was starting to worry, and it was only 10 minutes later as I finished my salmon and everyone looked at me expectantly did I realize that I was the reason that no one had gotten up. I quickly observed the plates of my fellow diners and noticed that they all had positioned their cutlery in the same manner. I quickly mimicked this, and on que, everyone stood simultaneously the moment my fork touched the plate.

The more you know.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blogging would be so much easier if my computer didn't flip out every time I open it.

Computer problems aside, I'm having a great time! My host family is very nice, but we haven't talked as much as I would normally talk with the people I'm living with, however, that isn't due to them not wanting to talk to me, or visa versa, it's due to me not knowing how to say the things I want to say. I don't think I've ever been silent for such long periods of time before... I'm getting way more comfortable with french now, and I'm starting an intensive course tomorrow, so I'll soon remedy the problem of not knowing what to say. I'll be riding the train by myself to the course, so we'll see how that goes (I'm not worried, I can get by in french if I have to).

Time for a story! So this morning I was eating an orange, and I walked into the bathroom to throw away part of it. My host sister was in there brushing her hair, I paused to say hi, but she immediately said "Do you have to eat that in here?!" (in french of course) So I started laughing and she just gave me this look like 'whats wrong with you'... I threw the thing away and left, still laughing.