Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kangaroos, emus and crocodiles

Not only does one find all of these creatures in Australia, but also served on a plate in a restaurant near Basel. That’s right. It’s called “The Boomerang” and serves Australian specialties, beers* and wines.

We had been planning to have dinner there with TBFs for quite some time, now, and we finally set a date: March 17th. To add to the fun and entertainment, Rammy and John, another couple of friends, would be joining in as well.

Not only had we agreed to meet at TBFs for an aperitif, but since it was coincidentally St-Patrick’s Day, everybody wore something green. John and Rammy had gotten there earlier in order not to miss the rugby game that was broadcasted that evening (John is a big fan of rugby). After a few drinks and lots of chatting, we decided to walk the 2 tram stops to the restaurant. We were warmly welcomed by the owners, Rolf and Linda, and their daughter Bianca, and taken to our table. It’s a very small restaurant, maybe 35-40 seats, but it was packed full.

Most of us had a salad as starter, but TBF just had to try the crocodile. I now realise that I forgot to ask TBF what he thought of his starter. I’ve had it before and the texture is similar to chicken breast, but with a slight fishy taste to it.

Mrs. TBF had never eaten emu steak before, so she decided to go for that as a main course. It’s a delicious red meat, maybe a bit of a cross between beef and a touch of game, but much milder than deer or such. Rammy had the lamb and the rest of us went for different cuts and preparations of beef.

Orange-X chose a lovely Penfold's St-Henry Syrah wine to accompany the meal …and us!

Notice TBF’s “alcohol vein” (as he likes to call it) on his forehead. I guess it works somewhat like a barometer. I’m not sure.

When Rolf arrived with the main course, we just had to take a few pictures, so he even accepted to sit down with us for a quick photo.

Just as Rolf came in with the last two sets of plates, he pointed out that the plates were very hot. Too late: TBF had already done the test. Ouch! Seeing Feeling is believing, right? Ahhh, there’s nothing like warm food served on a hot plate.

The dinner was excellent! Do we look happy, or what?

Rammy had had a long day, so she decided to go home around 11pm and let us five go on with the fun. About an hour later, we asked for the bill and John suddenly realized that Rammy had left with his wallet. We started making jokes with the owner and with a friendly wink; Rolf said that he had plenty of rubber gloves and dirty dishes. Naturally, TBFs came to the rescue. We left the restaurant and walked back to TBFs for a last night cap.

While Mrs. TBF and I sat in the living room and chatted, the men went to the TV room to watch the end of the rugby game that TBF had taped for John, followed by a DVD with short sketches. Notice how King the cat secured himself a good spot on the chair. Isn’t it funny how men are so easily entertained?

We left around 2.30 am and drove John home. It was a great evening, had lots of fun and we enjoyed many laughs. I think we have to do this more often.
*the real stuff, brewed in “Aussieland” and not in Europe

Good news!!

What a week! I’m sorry if I didn’t get around to reading you all on a daily basis, but I’m doing my best to catch up. This job is taking quite a bit out of me, but I like it.

Good news: I finally got my computer installed at work on Wednesday (!!), which somewhat increased my efficiency and therefore also my sense of worth. On the other hand, I feel I spent (too) much of my time looking for things on the local database and had to go through an online test in order to have access to the purchasing processing system. Still so many new things to learn, but I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

More good news: On Monday, my Mom could finally go home again after three weeks in the hospital. She’s doing quite well. She's so happy to be at home and I think this fact alone will speed up her recovery even more. She still wearing the full gear and has a nurse coming in every day. Family, friends and neighbours are also checking-up on her regularly and make sure that her groceries are done, cook for her and help out wherever they can.

At this point, I wish to express my thanks to all of those people. I am deeply touched and grateful that they are there for her, and I will never forget what they are doing. Thank you all for your support, love and friendship. Thank you also to all you readers out there for your positive thoughts.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Expat's 5-4-3-2-1 Meme

Here’s a meme I stole from Canadienne dans les Alpes a couple of weeks ago and translated it from French into English.

5) Name five things you love in your new country:
· Cleanliness and safety
· The effectiveness of public transportation
· The variety of delicious breads, cheeses and fresh meat selection (I grew up in a small town, and it's very difficult to get fresh, non-frozen, lamb, there.)
· The fact that there are so many different countries and cultures to discover within such short distances.
· The diversity of languages and cultures (German, French, Italian and Romansch) within the country, low taxes (compared to Canada), quality of healthcare and the Alps

4) Name four things that you miss from your native country:
· My family and friends
· Food: Canadian beef, poutine, big breakfasts and home delivery
· The natural openness and sincere, friendly smiles of people. (The Swiss are very polite, but in general quite distant.)
· The vastness and endless beauty of the country in four REAL seasons. I miss the Indian Summer so much and the snow (believe it or not!). There are many more reasons. It's home.

3) Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:
· The Swiss tend to stare… a lot (Note: I have now learned to stare back without blinking. Try it. It works)
· The lack of spontaneity in people
· The Swiss don’t take your taxes off your pay (I’m also Swiss, remember? They don’t consider me as an expat). You have to save up for it.

2)Name two things that surprise you (or have surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:
· Not being allowed to mow the lawn, do the laundry, -in some villages- hang up wet clothes to dry on the line, etc. on Sundays and in most apartments, you have one day to wash during the week (some even every 2 weeks! Eeek!!). Miss it? Tough! I mean, what if you have an ill child at home and he throws up in bed and you have to wait until your wash day?? Come ON!
· The space, or lack of it. Although I knew that Switzerland is expensive and very small (by almost any standard), most people live in apartments or in rented houses and hardly anyone has a single detached house (no space and you need minimum 20% down payment, not to mention that houses are very expensive)

1) Name one thing that you would terribly miss in your new country, if you had to leave it.
· I have not made that many real Swiss friends, but the ones I have, I will miss for sure.

There you have it. I'm not for tagging, so feel free to steel/use it and have fun. You don't even have to be an expat. Maybe you've lived in two very different parts of your own country. Just let me know if you did it. Deal?

Have a great Sunday

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is this fun, or what?!

Well, it’s been quite a week. On Monday, I got a call from the job agency saying I was invited for an interview on the following day. Tuesday, I have the interview and am hired. I come home after the interview and doing the groceries, and call my agent to tell her that I apparently have the job. She tells me that “she missed a call from the HR dept. of the company, tried to call back, but the line was busy". I hang up and get a call from the company telling me that they were not yet able to reach the agent. In the meantime, agent tries to call the company again, but I am talking to her, so the line is busy. Still following me??

Anyway, I started on Wednesday morning and it all worked out. I get there and don’t yet have access to the computer. Hmmpf! Ok, but you have to give them some time, right? But how much time? I call up the IT guys on Thursday and they say they’re working on it. On Friday, I call again and hear (for the first time) that it takes 5 working days to set it up. Ok. It’s a really big company (locally, about 7’500 employees), but they apparently told my supervisor that they’d get it done in less time. Maybe there was a misunderstanding somewhere? Whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, my boss is really good and I love working for her. She’s a tough cookie, but absolutely fair, kind, a good motivator and very understanding. The only thing that really bothers me is that I feel like a race horse that’s being kept behind the starting gate. You know, I need to run, but the stupid gate is not opening, dammit! I have tasks that I can only do with the computer and via the system. It drives me nuts, because I still have no access, and I feel bad because I’m a) not doing (read: can’t do) what I’m supposed to and b) paid to do. Not to mention that my predecessor is on sick leave and we can’t tell how long. I have no one to “show me the ropes”, but that’s okay, it’s not the first time.

Just do the best you can with what you have. You know what? With all that shit happening, I still love it. I knew this would be a challenging job and I’m ready for it. I can't wait to have everything working.

I must love wild rollercoaster rides (YES!) or be a masochist (or both). Same thing? Maybe. What do you think? Am I sick, or what?

Umm. Do I really want to hear your answers? Yeah... Go ahead.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Goodbye freedom, hello cleaning weekends!

Just a few hours ago, I was sitting in an office being interviewed for a (temporary) job* at one of the (huge) multinational companies here in Basel. I was nervous…Very nervous. My last job interview took place 8 ½ years ago, and the other times I was involved in an interview, I was the one to ask the questions and sitting at the “safe end” of the table. I know that a bit of anxiety is normal in such situations and I just hoped I wouldn’t screw it up. I'm a pro when it comes to putting my foot in my mouth. Darn! Knowing me, I could probably even do two-sies (sp?)!

... And guess what? I didn’t (screw it up). I can start tomorrow morning!


I’m still a bit nervous about the whole thing, but I’m sure that if they are a little patient with me, I’ll do just fine. So many new things to learn and tasks I haven’t done in such a long time. It will definitely be a challenge, but, to be honest... I love a good challenge. I'll surely be totally beat the first few evenings, but it's part of the game.

So, goodbye freedom. No more doing the groceries, the cleaning and the laundry during the week whenever I want during the day, less blogging/blog reading (sniff) and hello cleaning weekends and living in a messy house during the week!

*For those of you that don’t know yet, our plans to return to Canada have been postponed a few months, so this temp job is quite appealing. Plus, I really felt the ceiling would crash in on me soon.