Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The End of Semi Swiss

Well it has been over a month since I left Switzerland and I figured it was time to put Semi Swiss to rest. 

I decided to switch to a new website for my next blog (thank you to everyone for the positive reinforcement about my blogging skills--because of you all I decided to keep going in Turkey!) because BlogSpot became too confusing for my limited computer capabilities. I hope you will all follow to my new blog on Tumblr (thanks to Luke for suggesting it!) and that it isn't too inconvenient a move.

The new blog is called, "Travels of an Overpacker" but the address is   


I think one of my first posts will be about my weekend in D.C.--which is a shameless ploy to get you Neil (thanks again for reading) to head over to my new blog!

Click HERE to go there! (I'll just attach lots of links so it is easy to find!)

Thanks to everyone who read this, and to the people who felt obligated to read this. You are, by the way, now obligated to read my new blog.

Lots of Semi Swiss love,

Childlike Travels Part 8

The last of the European Diary:

Day 18
Aug 7
8:23 P.M.

Today we went to the sisteen chapell, where Leanardo Davinch had painted the cealling this was so cool. but it's hard to look ["oo"s made into a face] up all the time we had little head setts to use.

Day 19
Aug 8
9:17 P.M.

Today we drove to Pisa (Leaning Tower) [Leaning Tower of Pisa drawn] for half an hour. Then we drove to Mr. Crones house. [Side note: Mr. Crone was our architect who had recently redone our home in Maryland. He had a house in Italy on the border of France that he so generously let us stay at.] We are going to stay in it for two 2 weeks. We are spending 3 weeks in Itaily. I got a shirt in frienze. It to awhile to get to Mr. Crones house. and there were lots of tunnels through Itaily. Lots and Lots of Mts are here. [Picture of mountains.] It's hard to belive!! In Itaily

Day 20
Aug 9
8:59 P.M.

Today we got to Mr. Crones house no it did not take us 1 one night to get here last nigh we staued in Frienze. We went exploring (Jack and me) We got as far as some steps, and then Jack said [and I still remember this moment in time] "Jill you stepped on a dead Mouse!!" [Exclamation face is an attempt at a dead mouse.] Jack began to run to the house I followed. (Because I wanted to get off that MOUSE!!

Day 21
Aug 10
9:46 P.M.

Today we went swimming in a river that was very cold!! We went back to have lunch. Then we came back to the river

That officially ends my journal. I guess the joys of Fanghetto (the town in Italy) were too great to continue my entries. I did try to add another entry when I was older but it isn't the same (I mostly talk about this annoying Dutch kid that we met and how Jack and I really didn't like him--hey you wouldn't like a kid that only sang "We are the champions" and "If you're happy and you know it click your tongue!!").

So that concludes my Childlike travels. Semi Swiss will be ending soon but the good news is I have a new blog! To be revealed later this week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 7

Day 15
Aug 4
8:32 P.M.

Today we explored Roma we walked on the spanish Boring!! steps [with a drawing of steps over the word]. Why are they the spanish steps in Roma. Here in Roma. Here in Rome people say it's Roma. So when in Roma do as the Roman's right?

Day 16
Aug 5
9:19 P.M.

We are spending 4 days in Roma. Today we walked to the Vadigin Museum. I was in two cities at once. [Drawing of me in two cities at once--me in a circle of Roma encircling Vatican city.] The Vadigin is the biggest church int he WORLD. ["O" in world is a drawing of the earth.] bELVE ME there are alot of churches in the world. Theres a statuw made out of brones and people have worn one of his feet down from petting it for good luck!! [Smiley faces in the good and !! with a drawing of a foot.] So did I! After that we had sandwiches for lunch after that I got a balloon with dow and it broked popped and you couldn't mold his face into anything. I was doing and inprression of a old man with wrinkles and powder cam out not all of it. [Drawing of my stress ball/balloon toy.] We went into cassttel saint Angelo. And we took a taxi to dinner we didn't want to drive. They drive fast without seatbelts.

Day 17
Aug 6
10:10 P.M.

Today we went to Pompeii today on a train well two trains. I made a friend from Canada her name is Sarah Carpenter, she is 1 or, 2 years old then me. She was on the first train. When we got out to change the train a con-arrtist tried to get us!! He didn't, he said "Chillout I work here." We didn't belive him. We went to a McDonalds for lunch [inset my mother's disapproval here]. I know we also have a McDolands on the day in Roma and Paris. [in Paris it was with my parents' friends--my mother was horrified every time we had fast food, all three times!]

Grade 4 Jill

 Found a "yearbook" signed by my fourth grade classmates. We all had to write letters to one another and I found this one to be pretty hysterical:

Dear Jill,
Because you are my arch enemy (as all other girls under the age of thirty) and I can't write anything bad about you I'll have to write strong and annoying compliments. I very much enjoy the way you and your friends attempt to annoy me. It gives me something to do when I'm bored.
From, D

This one came from the boy my best friend and I had a crush on:

Dear Jill,
Hi! It's me John. You are good at sports and have good sportsmanship. You are good at type-to-learn, and know a lot of things. You have good handwriting. But you do make weird a's. Well all in all its been a great year,
John S.

The most recurring themes were my good sportsmanship (especially after I lost the Vice Presidential election  for student council for the following year--to a kid with horrid teeth!), my athletic prowess, my nice handwriting and that I can give good speeches. I loved 4th grade.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Post Secret-ish

I am currently in the process of cleaning out my room at home in Minnesota. My room is pretty much like it was when I left for college, most of my pictures are the same as are the decorations. Since I only live here a marginal percentage of the time it is only appropriate that my room be turned into an actual guest bedroom rather than a shrine to a teenaged girl. 

I found this jar, the "Jar of Smiles", that we made and decorated in middle school with compliments from different girls in my class  (I went to an all girls school so these types of things weren't as weird as they sound I assure you). There was a larger note inside with my name on it signed by a lot of my friends with inside jokes (none of which I really remember) peppered all over it. As I was reading it I found an unsigned comment, since it was anonymous it felt rather "Post-Secret-y." 

Since I took the picture of it on my computer it is all backwards, but the top left corner says:

"You are so cool. You always know what to say & how to say it. I wish I did."

I have absolutely no idea who wrote it but it is that sort of sad/sweet thing you see on Post Secret. (And no, I did not write that about myself, my handwriting was much neater--I did however, draw my name. See above photo.) I hope that girl found her confidence.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 7

Today's journal entry has so many drawings I thought it best to just photograph it and let you all read it straight from the source:

The next day--clearly my dates were all getting messed up. Sorry! Never been good with numbers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remember the Time I Went to Crete?

Remember the time I was going to post about my week(ish) in Crete? Well, that time has come. Only a month and a half late!

So I hopped on the one am ferry for Crete and got there around 5:15, just in time for my hangover to kick in. Ugh. I lugged my stuff to the bus station missing my first of two buses to Rethymno by literally three minutes. After purchasing the next ticket for a 6:30 bus I did what I did best in Greece and fell asleep at the bus station. I awoke around 6:15 and headed outside in case my bus was early. There were a lot of people waiting outside so I did what I did second best and struck up a conversation with strangers.

With a little bit of my usual luck the two girls I talked to happened to be heading to my small town of Plakias (we had to take a bus from Heraklion to Rethymno and then to Plakias). At first I wasn't sure if they liked me but I think the early morning bus schedules and my bright pink bag were deterrents to these world traveling Australians. By the time we got to Plakias we were great friends and by that afternoon everyone was asking how long the three of us had been traveling together.
Our youth hostel was described, in every bo
ok and on every website, as a great place to meet people (hence why I traveled there alone). The hostel was in a great location, totally beautiful just a little less "youth-y" than I had imagined. The manager gave us a little speech which was pretty entertaining, especially since he gives it to all the people staying at the hostel--word for word. A lot of people, the manager said, end up staying in Plakias for weeks, months and even years and I can see why. It is totally gorgeous. There are beaches and mountains, lazy activities and hiking trails. We took a waterfall hike (literally hiking up and through waterfalls) one morning and spent the afternoon lounging on the beach--pretty much like paradise.

Two things that I did in Crete that I had never done before:
1. Went to a nude beach. These Australian girls were from a town on the coast and they were a lot more comfortable with nudity than this American girl. But the beach, called "Pig Beach" due to the overabundance of Germans and their pink flesh-
-ick, was too beautiful to pass up. Plus, I figured, why not? None of these people know me! And, you know what? None of the people on the beach gave me a second look, they didn't care what I was wearing and that made me a whole lot more comfortable. I'm not saying I'm going to make it a habit (hello sunburn!) but it was slightly empowering. (Sorry if that is TMI dad/uncles.)

2. I hitchhiked!! I remember my dad telling me stories of hitchhiking around Europe (and I remember him hitchhiking in Providence, RI once whic
h was pretty funny) and again I thought, why not? My friend Kate and I were stuck coming back from the beach and so we decided we might as well try to hitchhike. After 15 minutes of walking with my thumb out (it was a 45 minute walk or a 6 minute car ride) a kindly Italian couple stopped and picked us up. Success!! (And we felt safe the entire time!) I'm glad I did it, at least once (with another person in broad daylight).

Childlike Travels Part 6

I will do a regular post later this evening (back to two in one day!) but for now:

Day 12
Aug 1--which is crossed out and it looks like my father's handwriting that says July 21 on top of it, I'm not surprised he corrected it!
8:13 P.M.

Today we drove to Venic, on a closed road! [True story, we were literally driving around boulders. But, on the bright side, my family knows what "street closed" in Italian is!] We finaly got there. We had to bet a water bus to our hotel. That was so cool. [Smiley face in cool. And a picture of our car approaching a boulder or maybe the water taxi?] We're here in Venice it's O.kay. [Drawing of some odd face.]

Day 13
Aug 2 [Crossed out and 1 written above]
9:48 P.M.

The reason why I'm writing so late is so that I can tell you what's hapend and not what's going to hapen. Today we went walking around today. Me and my brother "Jack" [love that I used quotes--as if that weren't his real name] feed pigins today, at St. Mark's Square. They came right on your hand! [Picture of a forearm and a pigeon.] When they came near my mom got scared and said "They are rats with wings." (She hates rats, and pigins [And still does!] After that we had a gondola ride that was nice. Then we all had dinner. [Messed up picture of a violin or dinner plate or gondola? Unsure.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 5

Day 10
july 29
8:29 P.M.

We saw Mozart's house, nice. [Drawing of a man at a piano, sort of.] We went into a fortric, that was so big, we had to take the funicula, like Bunicula! [Drawing of Bunicula, which was a book we had to read in grade 3.] Up to the top. When we came back to rest went to dinner, had fun head some Motzart [I think I meant heard] in the same day! Two Motzarts! [Drawing of two pianos] LA! LA! LA!!!
I'm going to get my alowince in Americane Money. So we can spend it there! [Drawing of a dollar bill.] Money

Day 11
july 30
10:56 P.M.

We where in the salt mine we had to take a cable car up. [Arrow.] We had to wear white suits for the slide they were fun I had to wear blue pants for small people [Drawing of a person with the word "small" on top and an arrow pointing down.] They need a fashion desginer for those alfit big time! [A picture of a more suitable outfit I think.]

We went swimming

YEAH [Picture of Jack & I swimming.]

(In the Alpine Lake)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 4

Day 8
july 27
10:00 P.M. [This was incredibly late for me at that age, we used to go to dinners so late that I would fall asleep at the table!]

WE DROVE! For 5 hours!
My family went to Louidwick's Castele. Over a brige, the first steel bridge in Europe. We drove some mor had dinner next to a nice little hotel. (I think?)

Day 9
july 28
9:19 P.M.

My dad's crestar card got stuck in the atm machine, when we wanted to get money, but we couldn't read the sing that said it was broken (it was in Germane) We went to the top of the highest mountain in Germaney. THE ZUCHSMITS That was COOL My mom freaked out. Wierd. [The picture follows because I just couldn't do it justice by describing it.]

Monday, August 23, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 3

Hi all! Back from a great, albeit short, weekend in D.C. Once I load my pictures up I will do a complete D.C. post, but until then:

Day 5
july 24
8:00 P.M.

Today we saw the Mona Lesa and the Winged Victory and all the other thing, paintins, sculpturs, and all the other stuff. After that we went to an amusement park we each got to go on 3 (three) rides. I went on the fares wheel, the giant swings, fun house, and th log flume. Well realy 4(four) rides, I went on the fares wheel with my famliy. (+Jack got scarer on the log flume!)

**Two things: I really like how I write a number and then in parenthesis spell it out, like future me wouldn't know what the number 3 looked like. And I also like how I focus more on the kiddie amusement park over the Louvre.

Day 6
july 25
9:05: P.M.

I had to rent-a-car to go every where, that my family is going. I'm at a hotel watching the 1996 Olyimpix [Olympic torch depiction] games. I wish I were in Maryland. I saw [a is an eye] the PLANES! PLANES! PLANES! [Each underlined three times, I have no idea what planes I was referring to.]

I'm posting a third entry and this might be my most favorite because it highlights my family's Griswaldian-ness with such childlike nonchalance:

Day 7
july 26
9:00 P.M.

Today I smashed my finger in the car, my mom forgot How to turn the car on. We had a picnic lunch. It was not THE BEST DAY! We had our room to the hotel, that was good. [Smiley face made out of the "oo"s in good.] It was called "Stien on Rhien", because it was next to the Rhien River. Me and my brother have been collecting rocks from the Rhien River. We tooured around it was FUN!! [Smiley face with lots of hair at the top of the !!]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Childlike Travels Part 2

Day 3
july 22
6:00 P.M.

We saw alot today, like the Eiffel Tower (we went to the top) it was a great view!! [Smiley !! and a drawing of an eye to dot the "i" in view], on a boat and saw where the Mona Lessa, I don't know how it's speeld, is kept in a boat where the Queens head was chopped off!! [This is an intricate drawing of eyes for the .. in the exclamation marks attached to a chopped off head and an axe] We saw a palles, we played with boats, listend to music in the garden of the palles we rode the motorbus and walked Around PARIS [Eiffel Tower "A" again] Went to a FLE MARKET There was a shirt I wanted it was a map of PARIS [Eiffel Tower "A"] it was 49 franks I did not get it I liked it. My brother got a shirt of the Eiffle Tower in PARIS [You guessed it] It was lite UP!! [The !! were pointing up with a smiley face on the bottom]

Day 4
july 23
8:15 P.M

Tonight we are going to see Empire Records [Phil & Marti took Jack and I out so our parents could enjoy a night sans kids. And thus my first entry into the world of secondhand embarrassment. Even at the tender age of nine I remember Liv Tyler embarrassing herself.] and have dinner. Today, I had my portret drawn by a very nice lady, she did a good job drawing it. She said "You pose well."
I have 20 ("twenty") metro tickets some were my parents but they were mostly mine. I am colecting all these tickets two from the Eiffle tower and more to come!! [Smiley face !! and a drawing of a ticket]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Sorry I've been so bad about writing since I've been home. I guess I just don't think about Semi-Swiss as much! I do love being home and seeing my family and friends. This weekend my mom and I are heading to Washington, D.C. to visit my grandma and our friends and family from when we lived there (and, of course, the Denisonians that are there too!). I'm definitely excited to be going back, it's been years since I've been there.

The first time I went to Europe I was nine years old and my family went for five weeks. That is a dream vacation for me now but five weeks [of summer vacation!] when you're that age isn't ideal. My art teacher at the time gave Jack and I bears to take with us to photograph in different locales as well as journals to write about the trip. I didn't make it through the whole trip but the stuff I have I love to read. It makes me crack up (especially the misspellings and drawings that go with the entries). I thought while I'm home I'll give excerpts from my first journey to Europe.

It starts off a little slow (with a lot of complaints--guess some things never change!) but soon I think you'll realize why we call ourselves the Griswalds. When I use the brackets its to describe a picture I have subsequently drawn.

Day 1
july 20
10:15 P.M.
Tower Air!! (with a smiley face using the .. from the exclamation points as eyes)

Horrible!! [Unhappy face on the !!] We have to fly to Boston, Mass. at night! I'm sitting next to my brother, Jack. I think he needs a psychiatrist!! BIG TIME!!!! He is giving me P.E.P. talks. Wierd. [Two of these.] Waiting is very hard, espeacily for three hours. It's not really fun waiting in an airplane it has been at least a half an hour. I'm still in Maryland, but it feels like I'm far away. Goodbye.

Day 2
july 21
12:15 A.M.
Tower Air.

Okay, okay, okay mabe it isn't really july 21 well it is, it's 12:15 A.M. I'm in Boston, Mass. To tell you the truth I miss everything. My friends, bed, and house, plus alot more.The plane is so cool!!! [Smiley face!!]

[Later that day]
I'm not DEAD YET! HORRAY!! [Smiley face!!] So to tell the truth I don't think the trip is that bad. We have a great viwe! Well at least my brother does, he gets the window on the longer trip there. I get to sit in the window sett on the way back!
The food is bad, your ears pop, it feels wierd, like a rollercoaster, but wores! (I like rollercoasters!) [My first foray into the world of parenthesis.] It also makes me feel dissy!, sick!, bad!, and alot more! I couldn't get to sleep. They were showing the movie "The Bird Cage", you had to buy (use) some headsets to hear the movei in case some people were sleeping (HARD TO BELIVE!) Now we are at Phil, and Martha's house (Spin and Marti! My parents call them that) The are nice, not to menchon we're in PARIS. [A in Paris is a drawing of the Eiffel Tower.] We walked arround alot yesterday and saw the tour of France (Bikers but the also go in Spain) We went over the oldest bridge in France, belive me there are alot of bridges in FRANCE! We have are owne Appartment.

So that's Day 1 and 2 of our five week Tour de Griswald. I swear I think my family modeled our trip as closely to theirs as possible. More soon!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wedding Crashers

First: My parents come back today!!!! So very excited.

On another familial note; I went to the wedding of a good friend's cousin on Sunday. There were a number of things that were pretty entertaining about this wedding but I'll only give the highlights.

The ceremony: It was pretty run of the mill (not that I've been to a lot of weddings) but the pastor's "message" was a little out of the ordinary. I even asked our neighbors afterwards if that was usually how these things went. In short he said, "Well if you think you're in for a life of wedded bliss... you're wrong. Might not be tomorrow, or in five years or in 20 years or maybe 50 but one day you'll wake up and realize that the wife isn't as beautiful as you remembered. Or that this isn't the man you married." And then he went on to include a list of ailments that could and are likely to befall them throughout the duration of their marriage including but not limited to: disease, broken bones, natural disasters, ailing family members, a family member with a deadly diagnosis, "or perhaps it will be one of you who you has the bad diagnosis," or "the call that a family member was in a car accident, hit, mercilessly, by a drunk driver." (I kid you not he actually brought up drunk driving in a wedding ceremony.) At this time Luke and I were doing our best not to crack up, which, as you know only leads to more laughter. It was actually ridiculous.

After the ceremony I was in the receiving line to introduce myself to the bride and groom and offer my congratulations. I started chatting with a bridesmaid behind me and we got on the subject of au pairing abroad. I told her it would be much easier to get a higher paying babysitting job if she had a European passport which she said she did. I, being very envious of such a passport, asked her which country it was from. Her: "It's from America." Me: "No, you're European passport." Her: "America." Me: "You mean you have an American passport?" Her: "Aren't they all the same?" A college graduate ladies and gentlemen!

The very same bridesmaid asked if I was going to "boogie down" at the reception and I told her I would be. Then, she excitedly told me there was going to be a "candy bar." No bar bar, but a candy bar. I told her I was excited but left out that I was more excited for the open bar that Luke had prepared in the trunk of his car. Luckily Luke's family members that we were sitting with all imbibed in the adult beverages that we created so we all had a great time.

The wedding was a blast and I'm glad Luke brought me along (thanks!). And if anything, we treated it like an anthropological study of another super-religious-conservative culture.

Oh, and as most of you know I abhor PDA (public displays of affection). I am fairly certain that I am allergic to them. There's a wedding tradition (that I didn't know of until Sunday) where when people clank on their glasses the bride and groom are supposed to stand up and kiss. If I ever do get married and someone tries to do that at my wedding they will be asked to leave. (Kristen I'm warning you now.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dog Days

It was also nice to have a dog when you accidentally dropped food on the floor to not have to worry about picking it up.

Today some pesto fell out of my wrap (I'm sorry Cubby, I know how you feel about the pesto) and I didn't think about it. I then paused and looked around as if to say, "What the heck? Where is BJ to lick the floor clean?" Sort of sad. And yes, M&D, I did clean it up.

Homeward Bound

Well, I'm home.

I actually can't quite believe it yet and I keep walking around exclaiming things (like, "Holy cow this lunch is less than five dollars!" or "I can KEEP filling up my drink? For free? With ice?" and "I love this country!"). So it pretty much all has to do with food and the price of food.

The Father dropped me at the airport with my very full suitcases. I went to a line that wasn't open to weigh my bags and figure out what I could throw away. The first was right at 50 pounds (or 23 kilos) and the second was about six pounds over. I made some moves (taking out a pair of shoes) when a cute-ish employee came over. The next move was something that has never happened and probably won't happen again. He said he would open the counter to check my luggage and then didn't care that it was a little overweight. He let me luggage slide. I guess it was Switzerland's way of ending on good terms. The flights were long (Zurich, New York, Chicago then Minneapolis/St. Paul) but nothing I (and the kindly gentlemen who had to hoist my rolling carry-on into the overhead bins) couldn't handle.

My good friend Cubby picked me up at the airport (thanks again, Cub!) and we headed back to my place with a little tour de White Bear Lake. (Why, you might wonder, did my parents not pick me up? They are on vacation! But in their defense, their trip was planned way before I booked my ticket home.) We sat out on my deck and caught up, although as he is a Semi-Swiss reader he knows most of my good stories, and talked about how it was weird to be sitting on my deck, doing the same things we did in high school but only five years later. I went to bed relatively early (so far not too jet lagged) and let me just say: My bed is awesome. I had forgotten how comfortable and fantastic that sucker really is.

After running errands and a much needed haircut I had lunch with Allison. She said, "It's weird that the last two times we've seen eachother have been in America." It's definitely true of people you meet in one medium (home, college, abroad) to see them in another context. Allison is so great though (aside from the usual things) in that we can get together and be telling approximately eight different stories at one time and still follow the other's. It's great to be back.

The only thing that is a little difficult is my house. It's not that I don't love being in my house it's just the absence of a dog that's tough. I keep waiting to hear the jingling of BJ's collar somewhere or to feel his wet nose on my leg/face/arm when it's time to be fed. It's definitely a little more lonely here but I plan on getting my fix tonight at my friend Ben's house with his dogs Tess & Tucker.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Change Will Do You Good

People say living in Europe changes you.

Aside from a few speech changes (I say "holiday" instead of "vacation" and "university" instead of "college") my changes didn't come from living abroad (except I might be a better sprinter after public transportation), they came from my friends.

The friends I have made here have been nothing short of incredible. And I feel so very fortunate to have met them.

Here's what they have taught me/how I've changed:

Allison: To be open to people of all ages (happy birthday lady!) no matter what purse they carry. I owe so much of my initial happiness here to you.
Kate: You taught me that a little dose of well directed rage and standing dates do wonders for the soul. And that it's okay to have that rage sometimes.
Kristen: I learned that it's okay to love America. And that a cocktail is good no matter the hour-hello Oktoberfest! And that my blog really isn't so bad.
Pei Wen: How to laugh at my jokes and everyone's jokes. How laughter makes everyone feel better.
Danielle: That having fun going out is all about attitude. And to rally!
Chris: Taught me to be open to all people, especially when traveling. He taught me that everyone is worth getting to know and because of that we've met some amazing people.
Allie: Life isn't just black and white, there are shades of grey in every situation. And to be tenacious/persistent, you'll eventually get where you should be (woo RN!).
Nick: I learned that thinking before doing might not be so bad (like in Pictionary). Poison Sumac!
Sarah: Taught me that loving, healthy relationships can turn to marriage, even before you're 25. And that it's okay. Thank you for showing me normalcy!
Nickie: That it's okay to be an adult.
Adam: I learned that a little research, especially in regards to bars and/or music, goes a long way and lead to great discoveries.
Phil: Taught me that I'm pretty awesome (just kidding-ish). He made me realize how much I missed having boy-friends and showed me how much fun it can be. You, my dear, are a blast. Rugrats!
My Aussie friends in Crete (I will elaborate later!): Taught me to be more comfortable in my own skin, literally.
Switter/Kristina: I learned to hate Cruz Campo with you. And how to be loving/forgiving/awesome without giving up your wit, charm or self. (You are amazing!)

So to those of you I mentioned and those that I undoubtedly forgot and will have to add later, thank you. I'm a pretty lucky duck to have met you all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Packing Problem

Did I not mention I was moving to Istanbul? Sorry! That's where the new job is located, or where I'll be located for the bit with the new job.

On a different note I am just about finished packing for home! (Yes I do leave tomorrow morning.) I just decided to weigh my bags and my first was just around 50 pounds. The second, being the one I thought I wouldn't even fill because most of my clothes fit in the first, came out to about 60 pounds. Damn. I've started taking things out to throw away (sad)--only a few more pounds to go! Where did all this crap come from??

Remind me, in a month when I'm packing again, that less is more. And even if you remind me, I'm sure I won't listen.

Also, since today is my last day here does that mean Semi-Swiss blog is over? I'm not sure if I should just keep this one going or start a new one altogether. I was going to start "Almost Australian" (come on, it's clever!) but now that's out. I'll be moving a bunch for my job so it's not all about Istanbul/Turkey. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stranger Danger

I have always been a rather friendly person. I remember when I was first learning to read I read the Berenstain Bears books and there was one called, "Berenstein Bears Learn About Strangers." The Sister said hello to every stranger she met and then had to learn about good strangers and bad strangers. I remember feeling great anxiety that I was going to get into trouble too because I always talked to strangers. (Most likely when I sat in the shopping cart at Snyder's grocery store.)

Although I've learned to be more careful about who I talk to my friendliness has never really waned. I think it is partly due to the fact that I've lived in pretty sheltered environments my whole life. In my neighborhoods and schools in Maryland and Minnesota, at Denison and even in Vienna and Zürich people always greet one another. Even if you don't know them you'd smile and say "Hey," "Hello," "Hi," "Grüss Got" or "Grüezi." I feel very lucky to have lived in safe and friendly locations but sometimes, especially living in a country where you don't speak the language, it can be tricky.

I guess something about me says, "Hello strangers! Please talk to me!" If some wacky weather or slightly humorous situation is occurring whoever is by me on public transport will make a comment. This is usually no problem and I can smile, nod and either laugh or say "Ja, ja." Language barrier avoided and they think I laughed at their joke, everyone is happy!

Although I don't think I'll ever be un-friendly, I mean I've made some amazing friends because I've sat next to them and started talking but, I'm not exactly sure how well this will work in Istanbul, but I realize I'm going to have to be a lot more careful. Maybe I should re-read that Berenstain Bears book.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Might as Well Jump!

Sorry I've been so absent, on Thursday I meant to write about how few days I had left in Zürich--I can't believe it is less than a week!

I've been thoroughly enjoying my last days here and today was (and will continue to be) awesome. Last night some friends were going to a going away party (not for me but I'll tag along!) in a farmhouse which was pretty sweet. Today we met up, swam in the lake and jumped off this high dive at a local bädi. A couple weekends ago the guys had jumped off this bridge (which they guesstimated to be around 35 feet!) and I wanted to be a part of that. While we were en route to the bridge (and I was en route to a panic attack) we saw people jumping off of this platform that had been set up a month ago for Züri-fest. The guys, of course, wanted to jump off. They asked a jumper if just anyone could jump and he said yes. Well, I couldn't not jump if they were jumping.

So we dropped our stuff (I think it is going to be a hard transition from a country where you can leave your purse/clothes/everything next to a park bench and not worry about it to a country where, well you just can't) and jumped into the water. Getting onto the smaller platform was fine, and even then the high platform didn't look that high. Then, a little kid climbed up and jumped making me feel bad about myself. Phil went up the ladder and then I decided it was now or never. Let me tell you, that stupid ladder was the scariest part! It was terrifying climbing up there and I told the guys, "I can't believe I have friends that would make me do this!!!" whilst simultaneously thinking "I'm going to DIE up there!" On the platform I was fine, heights don't bother me, apparently just ladders.

The view from the top was spectacular though (wish I had a camera!). It was a clear day so you could see out over Zürich and see the mountains in the distance--amazing, until you realized what came next. Once the four of us were up on the platform I decided I had to go first. I felt as if I would back out if I didn't (although there was NO way I was going down that ladder!). So after a round of high-fives, some jumpy hesitation and Adam starting a slow clap for the crowd (did I mention there was a crowd? It was at one of the busiest tram stops in the city and there was a bridge next to it where a semi-sizable crowd had gathered) I jumped.

It was a LONG way down. I hit the water and was happy to be alive but then a little unhappy because my bathing suit had seriously wedgied me. I thought, quite literally, that I was going to have to wear this swimsuit for the rest of my life because there was NO way that thing was coming out. (It's okay now, fyi.) The guys jumped and we all survived. Of course, they wanted to do it again. And of course, I wanted to too. The climb was no less terrifying exacerbated by the fact that I now knew how high we were. Adam asked the lifeguard how high it was and he said 10 meters (if you're not metric thats 32 feet). Holy mother of pearl that's high! I jumped first again (still worried I might chicken out) and the landing was much better. It was pretty incredible.

I'm still jumpy from the adrenaline rush. Thirty-two feet/10 meters! Holy moley my time in Switzerland just might be complete.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wardrobe Malfunction

In case you didn't know this about me: I love Denison University. Despite being a year removed from my university on a hill I still remember my Denison days with happiness and some longing. Though I don't often like to speak disparagingly about my school Denison failed to prepare me for a few things in life. Sure, I'll learn how to pay rent (some day), or pay a bill (I did, however, learn to pay a credit card bill) or maybe even have a functioning adult relationship, but there's one thing Denison failed to teach me that I don't think I'll ever learn:

How to get dressed to "go out."

Sure, I go out all the time. And, all the time, I am dressed. But, I've noticed that I don't dress like a lot of people when they go out. (This excludes my Denison friends, home friends and Switzerland-based friends, perhaps that's why we're friends!) Not to generalize (but to generalize) a lot of females, when they go out, are a lot more scantily clad. Nowhere was this more apparently than Greece. After a hard day at the beach I'd go shower and change into something to wear out. Upon rejoining the group I'd feel over-dressed, in the literal sense of wearing too much clothing. Girls were wearing denim boostier-corset tops, heavy makeup and heels and I well, wasn't.

See at Denison my wardrobe wasn't an issue, most people wore the same sort of things out: in the unusually warm fall and spring we'd wear a J.Crew "going out" top (usually of the silk variety) and shorts or a dress. In the winter we'd wear a dress with tights or jeans and a winter-y "going out" top. But, I've come to realize, that our "going out" tops are vastly different than a lot of other people's. I guess it never crossed my mind that this wasn't how people went out at other schools and it is one more reason why I love Denison. I'm not saying that we were all clones of one another (nor that the other ways of dress are wrong!) it was just nice not to have to worry about.

My freshman year of college for Thanksgiving my family went down to visit Jack at school in Florida. Now I got there a couple days before my parents and one of the first nights there we were heading to a party. I got dressed (J.Crew white t-shirt and green skirt) and his roommate (future girlfriend, now former girlfriend--woo!) said, "Don't you want to wear a top that shows your midriff?" This was, mind you, before the freshman fifteen had comfortably settled around my midriff. I replied without even thinking or hesitation, much to Jack's enjoyment, "I'm not that kind of a girl."

And I never will be.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Tuesday!

I am nearly a week away from my departure from Switzerland. It really is amazing how time flies!

I have thoroughly been enjoying my time off. I had forgotten how nice the early evening is, no pressure to go home and make sure children are bathed/fed/finished with homework. It is a wonderful change of pace!

I promise to finish my Greece adventures (hopefully today?) but now I am off to see: TB and TMoTB!!! They have just returned from their holiday (our weeks of vacation didn't coincide with one another's) and I am really excited to see both of them.

Yesterday when I was talking to TMoTB I said, "I wonder if TB will remember me!" And TMoTB said, "It will be a test to see how smart she really is."

Still love TMoTB.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Getting to Know You

Warning: If you hadn't thought me an ungrateful brat deserving of public scorn this post is sure to turn your opinion. Just thought I'd warn you.

Thursday The Family wanted to take me to dinner to thank me and celebrate my year working for them, which was very nice. That afternoon Girl was making me a thank you gift (a cute candle holder) when Boy brought up my "real gift." Now since she is six Girl isn't the best at keeping secrets and said, "No Mummy is getting Jill that necklace."

Here's the thing, I know I should have felt grateful that they were giving me a necklace (and I do realize that it was very kind to get me a gift at all) it's just it reinforced how little they know and/or notice about me.

For my 22 birthday my parents gave me a necklace of my mother's that I had been coveting for a while and I've worn it every day since then. It's a small gold chain with a tiny little diamond affixed in the middle. It's not gaudy or tacky and I absolutely love it. I actually don't think I've taken it off during my Swiss tenure. I sometimes rotate my earrings (between three pairs) and I rarely wear any other pieces of jewelry so, it just seemed odd [to me] that they would give me a necklace.

At dinner that night I gave Boy and Girl "Oh the Places You'll Go" (I had wanted to give them a Shel Silverstein book but alas, they don't sell "Where the Sidewalk Ends" in Switzerland) with some pictures of us, as well as pictures to The Parents of Boy & Girl. Despite my being really, really poor when I can, I like to give thoughtful and/or meaningful gifts. They gave me a sweet card and then the necklace. Perhaps you might recall my birthday present (charm bracelet thingy), well it was from the same guy, Thomas Sabo, and it was a chunky-ish silver charm necklace with a big silver "J" and a pink glass/crystal heart. I smiled, thanked them profusely and even put it on but all I could think was, "That is just not me." When I showed it to my mom later she said, "That is something you would have worn when you were younger." And it is, when I was in my chunky silver Tiffany&Co. phase I would have loved it. I don't mean to sound like a brat but all I could think was, "Really?" Now The Mother has excellent taste (she is French afterall) so I was confused as to why this said, "Jill!" on it.

Boy told me a month or so ago that before my birthday they were thinking of getting me portable iPod speakers but deemed them "too cheap." That would have been a perfect gift.

I was entertaining the thought that maybe, like my dad, I'm just a hard person to buy a gift for. Then, the weekend before my last week with TB I babysat for TB and TBoTB. When I arrived TMoTB gave me a thank you gift. It was a beautiful Longchamp (the purses that I carry everyday). She said she had noticed I didn't have this make or color and I absolutely loved it. It was a perfect and extremely thoughtful gift.

Okay I'll stop complaining about people giving me presents now. Sorry about that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not to Be Dramatic But,

Actually, to be totally dramatic:

To paraphrase the words of the intelligent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who's plight, I fully understand, was far greater and more difficult than mine):

"Free at last; free at last; thank God Almighty [I] am free at last."

And to quote the beloved, if only for humorous reasons, Celine Dion in regards to my sanity, patience and good humor:

"It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now."

Scoot, Scoot Rider

When you arrive in Santorini (real name Thìra) you can't help but be astounded at the place's beauty. The cliffs overlooking the beautiful sea are actually breathtaking. I got off the boat, headed to the guy holding a sign for my hostel and immediately met two Canadian lawyers who were to be my buds for the rest of the trip. I knew I was going to like this place.

I dropped my stuff at the hostel and headed out for dinner. I ate dinner (alone! How mature, or lonely) at a beachfront restaurant. On my way back I ran into my Canadian friends another Canadian lawyer (who had just spent the year teaching in Vienna! She and I clearly had a lot to discuss) and two Swedish guys they had met at their hostel in Athens. While they had dinner I drank (with them) and by the time we hit the next bar we were all enjoying ourselves. Note: It didn't matter how many shots of ouzo I took it was always disgusting. We ran into some Spanish girls on the way and expanded our party. We stayed out way too late (a recurring theme in Mykonos and Santorini) but it was a great night.

Somehow over shots of ouzo and half liters of wine I found myself agreeing to rent scooters to drive all over the island the next day. The guys had cheered to forming a "scooter posse" (something my dad would have said no doubt) so I didn't want to back out. It wasn't the price or the touring the island that worried me, it was the actual driving of the scooters. Now I am a pretty decent driver (parking ticket and speeding ticket excluded) but if my mother recalls, teaching me to drive was a pretty torturous process. When my grandparents lived in Florida I drove their golf cart and that was a terrifying experience. I was worried that if this was anything like that, I would be screwed. Now I'm not one to back down from adventure (or doing something that I think will make a funny blog post later) and this was no exception. The man we rented them from was a little nervous to rent me one but the guys explained it was fine, that I had ridden a scooter before. Yeah, ridden on a scooter. My brother had one for about a year in college (still make fun of him for that) and we rode it to a parking lot where he tried to teach me to drive it. A harrowing experience to say the least.

I could see the man's nervousness escalate when I accidentally put the gas and the break on a the same time (only once did I do that in a car, and we were in a parking lot). He kept shouting to my friends that I need a "quad bike" (an ATV) but I was certain that I could scoot. We took some back roads so I could get a feel for scooting and then we hit the scary Santorini roads. Driving in Greece is scary when you're in a car while on a scooter it is terrifying. I'm a slow driver (aside from that one ticket!) so I was routinely passed by everyone and everything. I think a kid on a bike even passed me once. Thankfully the guys were really great and we continued scootering. We scootered up to Fira the main town for lunch and by the time we left I was pretty confident in my capabilities. Of course my scooter died after lunch (terrifying!) but one of the guys fixed it. After we hit the red beach and continued our reign of scooter terror. Throughout the day we thought of song lyrics that we could substitute the word "scooter" in which provided a nice break from the permeating thought of, "Holy ^$&# I'm going to DIE! On a scooter! In Greece!" We decided to hit Oia where the sunset is supposed to be one of the best in the world. We had a leisurely dinner there, saw an incredible sunset and then scootered back to the hostel. Now I'm not saying I was a pro by any means, but by the end of the night I was leading the pack home. Scootering was one of the best things I did the whole trip and I would definitely recommend it.

After another long night out (oops) I was determined to scoot a little before my tour the next day. Despite not feeling my best I woke up and scootered. I think scootering might be the best hangover cure. After I returned my hog (haha) I hopped a bus bound for the port. I had decided to take a tour of the volcano, swim in a hot spring and visit the old island of Thìra. At the port is where I met Alex, the girl who went to high school with my brother. As she was alone my friend Dave and I added her to our tour group and together we saw the volcano (not the type you're thinking of but really interesting because of our tour guide), swam in the orange-y hot springs (lukewarm at best) had lunch at the old town (yumm, taziki) and met the cutest Indian-American three year old. Best part? It was aboard a "pirate" ship. Very cool. After that they went to Oia to wath the sunset and I headed back to the hostel where I met some Dutch girls. They were gearing up for the World Cup final that night and I found myself liking Holland more and more. We watched the match and then decided to head out. After another late night and a one a.m. ferry to Crete I decided my best bet for the day was to hit the black beach. Dave and I lounged (on chairs because those black stones were scorching!) all day which was just what I needed. I got a couple messages from my friend Chris (who I had left in Mykonos because he had to go pickup his girlfriend in Athens) saying that they were there and wanted to meet up for dinner.

I caught up with them around seven where I met his friend and another awesome American, Neil. Neil, who was on Big Brother 9 I think, was awesome and loads of fun to be with. Because the regional wine is sold in 1.5 liter bottles we didn't realize how much we'd had. And then at dinner the owner kept giving us shots or raki (so much more potent that ouzo. I felt like I could have breathed fire after that bad boy) so by the time I took my 11:30 bus to the port I was a little more than tipsy. I was chatting with an Australian girl at the bar and I could hear myself speaking in an Australian accent but I was powerless to stop it. Very ridiculous. I found a guy from my hostel and some of his friends who were taking the same ferry to Rhodes (16 hours, thankfully my leg was only five) so we all boarded, put of stuff on the ground and promptly fell asleep. I did, however, manage to tell one of the guys I was moving to Istanbul so now I think I'll have some visitors there in November!

I exited the ferry in the Iraklion, Crete port feeling a little worse for the wear but having thoroughly enjoyed my time on Santorini.

Some pictures of Santorini:

The black beach--told you I'd be there!

Dave, Alex (Jack's classmate!) and I on top of the volcano

Sunset at Oia

Looking cool I know

Scooter posse at a sunset dinner

Nearly fell off the scooter because of this view

Parting shot with Chris

The silent killer: raki

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Said Who Am I to Blow Against the Wind?

After the little retainer incident Boy was much better. In the afternoon he wanted to play a card game that he learned over his holiday. Jack and I used to play this with our grandparents (because it was called, "Oh, hell!" and we thought it was awesome that they let us swear for a game) but I needed a little refresher on how to play. As I was looking up the rules online (Boy isn't very good at explaining things) he was perusing the Best Present Ever--the calendar that Howie gave me last year before I came of our greatest pictures. He came across one [of many] photos of me holding a beer. He asked, "Is that a beer?" I figured it was useless to lie so I said it was. He said, "I've never even seen you with a beer before!"

Oh Boy, you are the reason for most of my beer consumption this past year!

Another great quote (that has nothing to do with beer):
When I was picking up Boy and Girl from tennis camp yesterday I ran into Boy's Best Friend's father. He said, "You look different. Is it your hair? Or you changed the color of your skin!"

Tan mission complete.