Friday, February 26, 2010

Photo Documentation

Jack & Julie in the classic pose.

My first Soju in Korea! (A toast to Jess no doubt) Don't mind the hookah mom. Christmas Card 2010? Too bad Jack has his eyes closed Trying to touch the Pacific in Uggs=not such a good idea I was not supposed to take a photo of this... Oops. Oldest written Buddhist texts at Haeinsa.

I really was high!

This is me when I realized I was freezing and had to hike back down.

I'll add the rest later!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill

The Korea Post (Finally)

Since I didn't really update while in Korea in order to keep this semi-short I decided to use my favorite: lists.

So in chronological order (not importance) I give you the best things about my trip to Korea:
  • Seeing fabulous family friends for a brief visit during my layover in Amsterdam. They made a six hour layover fly by!
  • Having someone who knows what the heck is going on pick you up at the airport
  • Visiting a friend of a friend (hi Jess!) who is now my friend, Michelle. And for experiencing a small world across the globe. (One of her friends who she hadn't seen since 5th grade Sunday school found her in the street in Seoul Sunday night, not to mention that Michelle was born in South Korea so she blends in more than say, me.)
  • Having all the Korean waiters/sales people come up to Michelle and ask her what we'd like in Korean just because she looks Korean.
  • KOREAN FOOD (to be repeated)--specifically the meat that gets roasted over a fire, and kimchee--it's actually delicious! All I can say is it is wonderful and delicious and sooo spicy--I am having a hard time adjusting to the bland food in Switzerland!
  • Train trips. Now you know I already love those but these were SO MUCH CHEAPER.
  • The price of just about everything in Korea (but then I started to actually feel bad that it was so cheap--I think Switzerland is rubbing off on me!)
  • Going out to eat again.
  • Visiting Jack (of course).
  • Shopping.
  • Busan, Haeinsa & that flat top Buddha on top of the mountain.
  • Asian architecture.
  • The day I spent in Busan with Jack (and touching the Pacific!).
  • The food--seriously, Jack's girlfriend and one of her pals took me out all day Saturday (which was awesome) and we ate the street food (don't read the following Cushing or else you'll probably be sick to your stomach): fried squid (like most food it is much better fried), this rice cake things in a spicy sauce, the rice cake wrapped in a layer of fish of some sort, and this ball of meat and vegetables--all this was before our actual dinner, of course.
  • Korean people--so friendly and giving.
  • Soju, a Korean watered down vodka-y drink and Makali (sp?) which is a Korean rice wine. Well I have a love hate relationship with these two; I love them while I am drinking them, and hate them the next morning.
  • The prices!
  • Dr. Fish--this neat/weird cafe where, while you have your latte you put your feet in a tub and fish come and nibble the dead skin off!!! Terribly tickling but a neat experience.
  • Korean bath house. Jack's girlfriend and friend took me to a Korean bath house which was an incredible experience. Having started the day incredibly hung over (sorry mom) it was a relaxing and amazing experience to end the day with. I definitely felt clean and refreshed after!
  • Seeing where Jack lives & works.
  • Jack's friends & co-workers.
  • Learning what its like to live as a true minority. I've never had to do this before (sure I'm a "minority" in Switzerland but as long as my mouth is closed I could potentially pass for Swiss) but in Korea there was no doubt in my mind. This was especially awkward when I was waiting at a bus station and there was an Olympic race on between an American and a South Korean. When they showed the American flag I could feel all the eyes in the station make there way towards me...
I know there is so much that I am forgetting but it was seriously a great trip. Great to experience a whole other world and see my brother living it--I am such a fortunate girl!

My friend told me it's funny that I came to Europe and ended up going to Asia which is true, but I am so glad I went and I had a wonderful time. Thanks to Michelle & Jack for being great hosts!

You Talking To Me?

I can always tell when the parents have been talking about me in front of Boy & Girl. Clearly over the break they were talking about wanting me to stay.

Monday afternoon. Girl: Why does your dad want you to get a real job this summer? (That is the "easy out" excuse I use instead of saying that I do not want to stay.)

Monday right as the five of us sit to dinner. Boy: So, Jill, will you be here this summer? (Everyone turns to look at me, I say, "Well, until July!")

Maybe it is time for me to stop using my default excuse and tell it to them straight...

(Working on my Korea post now--with pictures!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

By The Numbers

My Return Trip:

  • Hours on a bus to airport: 4
  • Number of hours early for flight: 3
  • Number of hours flight was delayed: 1.5
  • New number of hours early: 4.5
  • Number of hours on plane 1: 10.5
  • Total number of hours in transit: 25 (unless you count the time change, then 17)
  • Number of airplane meals consumed: 1.5
  • Number of bags lost: 1 (which, by the way, has never happened to me on a train...)
  • Number of minutes by which I missed my bus home: 1
  • Annoyance level: 8 (moderately high)
  • Alertness level: ______ (may or may not be a zombie at this point)
  • Number of children going to school tomorrow: 0 (damn)
I will write more tomorrow! And put up pictures, but right now: sleep!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

I've had the good fortune to do a bit of traveling during my 23 years. And a lot of my travel "plans" have consisted of me getting of the plane or train, looking around, and saying, "Now what?" And I find the touristy stuff, or at the very least, the fun stuff. With my laissez-faire, "it's all going to work out," attitude I've found that everything always does work out, and it is usually even more fun that way. Well apparently thinking "it's all going to work out if I try to get on a DMZ tour or take a ferry to Japan for the day" the day before you want to go... doesn't work out.

But! (Of course there's a but, I told you, it's all going to work out.) I had a Lonely Planet guide book (borrowed from a friend, because I would never be so prepared as to buy a guide book for a place I was visiting/living) with plenty of activities in and around Daegu. So this morning I got on the bus towards the Palgongsan Provincial Park, or what I really, really hoped was toward the Palgongsan Provincial Park because the signs were all in Korean and my Korean has yet to improve to the level where I can read it so I just guessed (i.e. hoped) that this was the right direction of the 401 bus. And it was! I was on my way to take the Palgongsan Skyline Cable Car because, like my father before me, if there's a vista I'm going to see it. I get out at the bottom of these hills (now what I like to call mountains) and look around for the cable car. Hmm... Lonely Planet I thought you said it should be right in this town. On the little map in the guide book it looks like it should be right where I am.

I see everyone start to head up this hill so I figure maybe it's just a little bit further... And that's when I realize: everyone is in hiking gear. (Even the old, old, old ladies.) So I start to think that maybe this isn't where the cable car is, and thinking that I look absolutely ridiculous. (Which the Koreans definitely agreed with as they all eyed my outfit, especially footwear.)

I remember when my dad took me to my first NFL game (Giants/Redskins) and my mother was trying to get me to wear more layers of clothing. My dad imparted a very special message to me that day (that still haunts my mother), "It's not about feeling good, it's about looking good." Well, today, at the bottom of this mountain, I neither felt good nor looked good. Looking at my skinny jeans and knit Uggs I looked like a damn fool instead of a hiker. But I figured I was already walking so I might as well continue! As Molly & Brittney might recall when there's a large hill my motto is, "The faster you do it, the faster it's over" (which nearly ended our friendship hiking in Cinque Terre) so I was charging up this paved hill hoping that around the next corner my agony would be over. It wasn't. I also realized that Koreans have a very, VERY skewed idea of distance. The signs kept saying the distance (to what I assumed was the top) but I am pretty sure they just kept saying the distance until the next sign.

At one point in the hike I came across a temple and thought, "Thank you! This is it! I'm done!" but then I saw everyone veering right and continuing up the mountain. Naturally my stupid, overwhelming curiosity got the better of me and I followed them up. And up. And up. There were thousands upon millions (fact) of stairs and every time I looked there were more. And then it hit me. I had NO idea what I was walking up to. It could have been a Buddhist Kool-Aid drinking ceremony (which I would have partaken in just so I could stop walking) for all I knew. I read in the guide book that there is a huge Buddha statue with a flat rock on his head so I just hoped that there was some sort of Buddha-esque statue or else I was going to have to carve one myself. I can't even explain how much of an uphill climb this was (not to mention I was the only non-Korean on the trail) but I thought, "I am 23 years old, I am able and semi-willing, so I can't stop now. Plus I have some pride, I can't let the old Korean ladies get the best of me."

Finally I made it. And yes, Buddha was up there! (Called Gatbawi and is up 850 meters and dates back to 638.) There were tons of people praying but I mostly just took in the view of the surrounding mountains. Pretty incredible. By the time I summited (yes I will call it that) I was seriously sweaty, and what happens when you're really hot and working hard and then stop in cold climates? Your sweat starts to freeze... So I didn't enjoy the view for too long and I began my journey downhill. I think I hate going down even more because I feel like I can get faster and out of control (plus Uggs aren't known for the superior traction) so I mostly hugged rocks and said, "It's all going to work out."

Once on flat ground I decided I deserved some celebratory kimchi. There were two restaurants across from each other, one a lot of people were going into but had a bunch of cats eating outside out of their garbage and an empty one with the woman beckoning me inside. Clearly I went with the welcoming cat-free empty restaurant. She kindly sat me down and I opened the menu. Crap. All Korean and no pictures. I decided as much as the squid surprise of yesterday was tasty I wanted to know what I was eating before consumption, so I pulled out my translation book and she grabbed a menu that had some English translations (another point for this restaurant. And there was a squid dish, so there! My fear wasn't totally unfounded!). I ordered a vegetable/rice thingy and when they serve you here you get a bunch of little side dishes (like kimchi and other vegetables that I really like) and tea--very different from the Swiss style of eating!

My food came (Cushing & Kristen I should have taken a picture for you guys) and the woman told me to mix my lettuce in with the vegetables. Well the salad was coating with little red flakes (i.e. things that will burn the inside of your stomach) so I was a little hesitant. I also kept the rice out because my vegetables were really, really spicy. Of course the Korean lady came over and dumped my rice and salad in and stirred it for me (and then fixed my shirt because my tank top strap was showing!) thus creating a very, very spicy dish with little to no respite from the spice. It was delicious don't get me wrong but if these two women hadn't been hovering over me during my meal I probably would have been gasping for air/water and doing all sorts of other ridiculous theatrics. After the meal one woman came over and said, "hefhfoiafgbfj?" (what I heard) and I've learned its just best to nod in these situations. So then she brought me over coffee. Damn! Now I have to sit here and drink this coffee (black!) while my mouth is still smoking and my nose is running like a faucet. I drank the coffee, paid my $5 (seriously?!) and headed back to the bus.

So all in all, it was a very great trip.

(Pictures to follow when I get home)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Food For Thought

I always ask people, "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?" and I always thought my answer would be to be able to apparate. (If you don't know what apparation is, go read Harry Potter.) But today I changed my mind. My superpower would be able to speak every language. Now most of you know how I desire to be bi-lingual or maybe even tri-lingual one day, but if I could know them all? Well this afternoon would have been a lot easier.

After touring Haeinsa (so cool, and I promise to write all the cool cultural things, some day) and taking the most nauseating stop-go, swerve, honk, go, go, stop, honk, swerve, brake cab ride, sitting in on Jack's first class I decided that I should eat. (The only thing I had eaten at this point was some iced coffee thingy from a convenience store and water, so naturally, I was starving.) Having gotten over the fear of eating alone back in Vienna I knew that wouldn't be a problem, but the issue was where to eat? Jack recommended a Japanese restaurant nearby but I decided I wanted Korean food (it is seriously delicious) so I went in search of the perfect restaurant.

Well, any restaurant. And as there is a restaurant every other step I had plenty to pick from. The thing holding me back? I didn't know which one to pick, would they be open? Many Swiss restaurants are closed in the afternoon post lunch and pre-dinner. Also Michelle and co. said that many Korean restaurants won't serve you if you are by yourself, so I didn't want to be shunned. After an hour (yes an hour) I said to myself, "Jill, you are being ridiculous. Just go in the next one you see." After six more restaurants (oops) I walked up to one and opened the door.

No one was in there, except the workers who quickly ushered me to a table. I'd say Korean hospitality is unparalleled, they are generous and wonderful, so naturally my experience at this place was different... I opened the menu and it was full of Korean, which is fine, I didn't expect an English menu but what I had hoped for was a picture or two. Nothing. So when she came to take my order I just pointed at something. Instead of nodding or smiling she shook her head and spoke to me in Korean. I smiled and tried to gesticulate and articulate that I literally have no skill in Korean. Unfortunately my confused looks did nothing but make her shout Korean at me. Now this is a little trick that I've seen countless Americans perform, if some one doesn't understand your language it does not help to shout it at them. I promise. Volume will not make them understand you. She called over a co-worker and he shook his head (while I was thinking, WHY CAN'T I EAT IT?!?!) and finally pointed to the chiles on the table. Ahh, she understood it would be too spicy for me. Got it, he pointed to something else (more symbols I couldn't understand) so I just nodded and smiled.

When my food came it looked and smelled wonderful. Noodles in one bowl (that I noticed they made fresh there) and a dark red-ish steaming bowl of... something. The guy tried to offer me a fork (no thank you) and I started to eat. I saw the woman laughing at me (never a good sign) and she came over and dumped the red-ish food on top of the noodles (oops) and brought me a fork, which I left in the bowl unused as a sign of protest. (I would have rather dug my hands into the bowl than disgraced myself using a fork!) I took a bite of the meat-looking thing and it was delicious; consistency of chicken in a great sauce, so I was really happy with my semi-choice. There was a shrimp in the bowl too which I thought was weird with chicken... and then I saw it.

A tentacle.

It wasn't chicken, it was most definitely octopus. I'm adventurous in my eating (although I told Jack I would not be participating in the Korean tradition of eating a LIVE octopus--you have to chew it very fast so it's tentacles don't attach to your throat...Yum) but this was unexpected. I ate all the un-tentacled parts first, but after embarrassing myself enough at this meal I knew I had to eat it, all of it. (With the exception of this creepy looking part that I knew I just couldn't stomach.)

So my meal was excellent, surprising and best of all less than $6.

But I still wish I could have spoken Korean to save face and perhaps make a more educated order next time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shower Power

I bet you all thought my first Korean post was going to be educational or clever or have something to do with my travels. But it isn't. Those will come I promise, but first: my showering experience.

My dad showers every day, my mom showers daily, and I, well I've been known to shower on occasion, but Jack, Jack showers at least twice a day. (At least!) I actually have no idea how he maintains that habit here.

When I got back to his apartment (from shopping, what else really?) he had left a note saying I could shower if I wanted and this is how to turn on the heat. It just so happened that I wanted to shower (very rare indeed) and so I turned the heat on and turned the shower on. Nothing but ice water. So I waited. And waited. Still icy. So then I thought maybe I need to turn the know the other way (it does say "open" and "closed" with arrows but who am I to heed those directions?) so I turned it the other way. Nothing but ice. And more ice. Finally after a few minutes I said screw it, I'm just going to shower.

Mistake. When my skull wasn't suffering from brain freeze I was hopping up and down around the room trying not to catch hypothermia. It wasn't a pretty sight. (The whole time I was washing my hair all I could think about is the time at the Family's house in France the shower ran out of hot water and was only lukewarm and both Boy and Girl screamed at me and wouldn't have their showers--I'm so grateful that they didn't have to do this!) It was rough but I made it through, and semi-clean to boot! But seriously, how does he do it?

I promise to write more later....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fun Friday Night...

You know when you want to iron (your own clothes for once) but you are too lazy to set up the ironing board so you set it up on the floor?

And you iron your shirt, no problem. But when you iron your pashmina you find it sticking to the floor and your iron smoking? And then you realize that it's not your pashmina that is poor quality, its that the iron is melting your carpet?


Well, let me tell you, that smell is terrible.

Future proof that the iron hates me.

A Miracle!

No one ever saw this coming, especially me. (No, I do not have a job and/or boyfriend.)

This happened when I went to France, last weekend in Davos, and now for Korea.

I packed light.

(Believe it, mom. And not "light" as in my suitcase only weighed 42 pounds, dad.)

To France and Davos I brought my red Longchamp, this time just a rolley carry-on and a purse.

I know you all think I'm bluffing but it is true.

And I'm going to a new CONTINENT tomorrow (arrival on Sunday though).

Jack & Jill take Korea... here we go.

(And no, no matter how adventurous I am with food I will NOT be eating dog. I have to draw the line somewhere!)

I Did It

I finally did it. I couldn't help myself.

I took a taxi home.

First it is really cold out. And second, the train let me off at the stop that comes out in front of the taxi stand instead of the one further down--it was serendipitous. Or at least very convenient.

There have been so many times when I've taken the train home late and said to myself, "If it is ____ [raining, snowing, et cetera] I will take a cab." And every time, it has been, and every time I haven't. But today was different, maybe because I didn't spend any money when I went out tonight but I needed that taxi. And after nearly nine months without ever having taken one, I felt I deserved it. Yes it was 15CHF to go one mile (it makes me ill) but I made it home in record time. Sure I will most likely never do that again, but tonight, it was worth it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

For the past two days Boy has had standarized testing at his International School and his mom asked if I would make him have a healthy, protein-y breakfast yesterday so I made him eggs. Unfortunately (for me) there were only two eggs, so when Girl came down and couldn't have eggs she freaked out. I was about to get mad because here she is literally sobbing over not having eggs when I'm upset about my poor dog when Boy interjects with, perhaps the most reasonable thing he's ever said, "Girl, you are really lucky. You don't even know. There are some kids who don't even have breakfast or a house full of food." I almost had to pick my mouth up off the floor (and I know the hissy fit would have been reversed had she had the eggs...).

Later in the afternoon (after the cleaning lady had caught me crying after writing my last post) I was thinking about how weird it will be to go home and not have B.J. there, and how he's been in my family for more than half my life when I asked Girl to please practice the piano.

Conversations on my Dog: (My thoughts, that I kept to myself are in italics.)
Girl: Why do you have tears? Is it because we aren't listening to you?
Jill: Because I'm sad about my dog.
Girl: What's wrong with him?
Jill: He's very sick and won't live much longer.
Girl: And you're sad because you won't get to see him anymore?
Jill: Yes.
Girl: That's the saddest thing I ever heard. I love you, Girl.

Later on Boy started to throw a fit during his homework (because his teacher made him re-do an assignment from last week but "It's unfair because no one else had to re-do it...") I got angry and said, "You have absolutely NO reason to be upset. And seriously, Boy, I am actually upset [commence tears] so do NOT play this game with me right now."

Boy: Wait is it your dad or your dog?
Jill: My dog, if it were my dad I'd already be home. Idiot.

Boy: At least it isn't us that died! Clearly you don't know how many times I've wished you dead, or at least severely maimed.

Girl: Well can you still keep him and play with him?
Jill: No, I don't think so.
Girl: Where will you put him?
Jill: Well maybe bury him or cremate him.
Boy: Yeah that's a great idea! Then he can be in your house and you can still play with him! But you have to go buy him back from the store.
Jill: What are you talking about? What the F&%$ are you talking about?
Boy: You know, have him stuffed!
Jill: We aren't stuffing our dog.

Boy: So one day your parents will wake up and he'll just be dead? I hate you.

Girl: [While drawing pictures of my dog to make a B.J. mobile for me to hang in my room.] Why are you so sad?
Jill: Because we've had him for a long time, and he was my friend.
Girl: He was your friend?!
[Since their dad is vehemently opposed to animals they don't understand the sentimental attachment one can get to an animal. We did "babysit" a rodent (commonly known as a guinea pig) during the summer and the only thing they got from the experience was when I sing, "Her name was Lola!" (The rodent's name) They sing back, "She was a showgirl!"]

Boy: Where will you bury him? With your ancestors? I still hate you.

Girl: [As I am tucking her in.] Jill, are you still sad.
Jill: Yes.
Girl: Will you still be sad tomorrow?
Jill: Yes, I'll be sad for a while I think.
Girl: It's okay, you can be sad forever.
Girl: Jill?
Jill: Yes, Girl?
Girl: I love you.
Jill: Love you too, G.

Can't you tell who I like better? (And now don't you like Girl better, at least a little, too?)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Furry Brother

There are a lot of things one would like to hear on their father's birthday:

-"Time for cake!"

-"Instead of presents I thought I'd get you all a gift and take you on a family vacation!" (Still waiting for that one to happen.)
-"Don't use your money to buy me a gift, here, take my cred
it card."
-"I don't need any gifts, save your money or better yet, buy yourself a gift." (Consequently for my dad's birthday I got myself a trip to Korea.)

The one thing you don't want to hear:
"B.J. [our family dog] has lymphoma and 6-12 we
eks to live."

Now that sucks. And it sucks more because yesterday I started writing a post about how babies are like dogs, or more specifically how T.B. is like B.J. I'll still post it once finished, mostly because it's true, but it still sucks. I love my dog even though he barks at me to feed him (even when I'm not eating). My parents' nest will truly be empty soon--although probably never fully rid of dog hair. I knew this would come one day but it was just like other things you know are going to come but never fully hit you until they actually arrive (kind of like my college graduation). My parents always called B.J. "my furry brother," mostly because it was funny but he has been a part of our family for nearly 13 years, so it is sad for us (I mean my mom cried when she gave away our Volvo station wagon calling it, "The Giving Car," like Shell Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," so we get attached to our things).

And, in some sort of cruel joke, (cruelty in the fact that my French teacher gives me comic books to read) I picked up the one she had recently given me (Boule & Bill, a famous French comic about a boy and his dog) and the title is, "Mon meilluer ami" (my best friend). I think I ought to go back to reading trashy French gossip magazines.

B.J. & I at home during Christmas 2009

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekend(s), Part Deux

Just a little bit belated:

So I arrive at Mr. Phil & Marti's apartment around 5:45 and we relax and catch up before heading out to hear a couple of their musician friends (they have about 3,000) play at a bar in Paris. With live music being few and far between (for those of us au poors--sorry just trying out new names) in Zürich I was excited to hear some. There were three acts and all were really good. The girl who played last who was visiting from Boston was really great (Katrin) and her boyfriend/manager thing/guitar carrier was... well he was Andy Bernard from The Office. Well not the actor, and not in appearances but in actions. I couldn't stop laughing to myself about it and wishing my friend Caitlin could be there to witness and laugh with me. (I guess you'll just have to not move to Philly and come here Cait! Please?) We went out to dinner after the sets and then headed back to their apartment for late night music. I was in live-music heaven.

The next morning Marti and I went to the bakery (things were open on a Sunday) to get croissants (how truly French) and Mr. Phil made a lovely breakfast. We then watched the best American t.v. show around, the Jersey Shore, and I explored their lovely Parisian district in the afternoon. I made it to my train and made my way home to Zürich. A quick but fun night/day in Paris! I had wonderful hosts who have the apartment of my dreams in Paris (high ceilings and a balcony on the 5th floor--I don't ask for much!)

This weekend in a few words: (my camera ran out of charge! I really did want to take pictures!)
Friday: Went out with some friends; stayed out too late. Also, my friend Meg said it was Nutella Day. How could I not have known?!?! So my friend and I had some when we got home to celebrate because it was still February 5th in California.
Saturday: Woke up, took the train to Davos. Went cross country skiing (for 30CHF cheaper than what we had thought!) with Allie. Went to the apres ski in the town. Met my friend Nicky at 8, went to dinner. Went to some dull bars but we didn't make reservations for a hotel/hostel (ski towns are expensive!) so we were stuck and had to stay out all night. Met fun British guys at a bar (where most people were prepubescent) so had fun with them. Took the 5:50 am train back to Zürich where I promptly went to Kristen's, showered and fell asleep.
Sunday: Lazed around Kristen's all day (my usual Sunday fare) and then decided to go to a Superbowl party with Nicky that the Swiss American football team was hosting. Of course I didn't get to watch any of the game because I took my last bus home before the game started--I was not up for staying out all night again!

So another fun and interesting weekend!

Happy Birthday, again, Dad!!

Happy Birthday to You!

From reading this blog one might infer that I really, really like text messaging. I can't help it, it's too easy to be in contact with so many people at once (or it was when I had unlimited text messaging, and parents who paid my cell phone bill--those were the days!). In college I even wrote a paper on the use of technology in communication (god bless you liberal arts education) and found that, contrary to what I thought, younger people think that sending a SMS (short message service, i.e. text) makes them closer. Who knew?

So obviously on the Swiss morning of February 8th I knew what I had to do, send a happy birthday text message to my father! What better way to wish him well while simultaneously reminding him how lucky he is that he no longer has to pay the phone bill of a daughter (who may or may not be developing arthritis in my thumbs from too much texting) than through a text message?

But the best part of it is he wrote back! So Happy Birthday Dad! And thanks for texting back--it made my day.

A Waste

This post is essentially a waste, I just wanted to let everyone know that I hadn't forgotten about all the updating I need to do.

I really promise to update on Paris and this past weekend (Davos) tomorrow, but currently with my total lack of sleep I am headed for bed.

Hope everyone has fun watching the Superbowl!

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Biggest Enemy

Girl asked me the other day who my best friend was (hard to explain when you have about 7) and after she asked who "my biggest enemy" was. At the time I couldn't answer her, but now I know.

The television.

We've had our issues before, but now it has crossed the line. Sure before I couldn't work it (still can't) but it didn't mess with me outside of that. Now it is a whole other story. When one turns on the t.v. here they must also turn on some sort of surround sound box thingy (still unsure) and when that box goes on my internet goes out. It happened after my computer got fixed (love you Macs) but this little trick it has been playing isn't fun. It's annoying when you are in the middle of a Skype call with your mother and all of a sudden your internet cuts out because TM or TF want to watch t.v. Of course when my mom suggested I tell them my issues I refused citing that I don't want to make issues. (I swear sometimes my pushover-ness even makes me sick.)

So if my blog posts are more sporadic or untimely, don't blame me. Blame my biggest enemy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guilty, Party of One

I interrupt my weekend post to describe tonight's events. (Hey three posts in one day! Must be Kristen's lucky day!)

Today is my seven month anniversary of being in Switzerland, neat huh? Tonight however, I heard the dreaded words, "Jill, can I speak with you for a minute?" I've said it before, but seriously, no good can come from these words. It's like saying, "We need to talk," to a significant other, or "Just a little shorter on the bangs," to your hairdresser--it never ends well.

TM then says, "Well I was talking to my mom about vacations today..." which is when my mind zooms to what I think she might say next: That I can't go to Korea anymore. She and the kids are going on a skiing holiday while I'm in Asia with her mother, and I instantly assumed that her mother had called to cancel and I would have to cancel my trip (hey I'm an "owned-pair" so I don't rule anything like that out). Instead she said, "What would work best for us is if you could stay, at least, until August."

I'm sorry stay where until when?

Apparently, with their vacation schedule it would be best for me to work the three weeks after their holiday in July and before their two weeks in Corsica in August. She said, "Plus it will give you time to spend with the kids, too."

Two things TM: 1.) I thought you were a lawyer. I was under the impression that lawyers are supposed to persuade you. And this reasoning is the opposite of persuasive. Spend 13 hour days again with your children? No thanks. 2.) If you knew all the nasty things (I admit it) I think while Boy is lying on the floor having a crying and/or hissy fit you wouldn't want me to spend any time with them, let alone more time.

I think the look on my face can only be described one way: crestfallen. I mean staying for any extended period of time is about the last thing I want to do. But then I feel guilty for leaving them in a lurch. I really, really can't stay, but now I feel like I'm being a bad servant (employee I mean). Saying no is really hard for me (one of my mother's biggest fears is that I will be unable to say no to men when the situation arises, but just ask all the skeezy Italian men at Oktoberfest, I was very successful in rebuffing their creepy advances!) I just don't like to do it. I told the mom I'd have to get back to her, and I can't stay. But what am I supposed to do?

Naturally, I phoned a friend. Kristen advised me that you know what? It's not your problem to figure out who is going to care for their children. You are under a contract and once it is up, it is up. I shouldn't have the guilt (that I do) because it is their job to figure it out, not mine. The only thing is, how do I tell them?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pictures, As Promised

Pictures from sledging weekend and Reims.

Not a bad view to wake up to on a Saturday morning

Hanging with the soccer team

My poor photography skills don't do this place justice

It really is beautiful


I'll see you later, Champagne!

Le Weekend, Part One

You know when you build something up in your head and you dread it and dread it and dread it? And then it happens, and it really isn't as bad as you thought it was going to be?

Well that was the car trip with TM, Boy and Girl. I really did think it was going to be hellish, really and truly. But the kids got to watch movies the whole time and I got to practice my French with TM. So it really was quite enjoyable. Except those last three hours. It was still fine but I really had to pee. (Insert my father's eye roll and "T.M.I." quote.) But really, it was all consuming. I really couldn't think about anything else (which made conjugating French verbs very difficult). I spent a lot of the time freezing (stupid body warming my stupid pee) but didn't want to cause a fuss by turning up my seat warmer. Good lord what is my problem? Well it was snowing pretty hard so I didn't want to lose any time by making us stop, and I really thought that one of the kids would have to pee soon enough anyway. I kept glaring back at Girl and thinking, "You're six!! Don't you have to pee every half hour?!" Apparently not. We almost had to stop because Boy was getting carsick (staring at his Nintendo DS screen) and I thought, "Yes! If he ralphs then I can pee!" But no such luck. I finally did get to go once we got to the house.

And by house, I mean mansion. We pull up to this gated estate in Reims on Friday around seven. On the way the mom was explaining that her step-father owned a champagne vineyard. At first I thought it might be a smaller, farm to bottle operation. But then she said he was turning his massive house in Reims (because he mostly lives in an apartment in Paris--although he spends approximately three weeks a month traveling to exotic locations) into a hotel. So I started thinking, "Alright maybe this guy owns a big champagne house." Well later in the evening, while drinking champagne bien sur , the conversation turns to where I'm from. When he finds out my parents currently live in Minnesota the Step-Grandfather (S-G) replies that he's going there next week. Of course I had to ask why (I mean when he spends his time jetting off to India and New Zealand and cruises around Alaska one has to wonder why this man is going to the Twin Cities). He explained, in French so I'm a little hazy on the details, that there's this Spanish Cava that is peddling a "Crystanlino " and that's copyright infringement or something or other because his top-shelf champagne is Crystal. The man owns Crystal. I nearly spit my Crystal out when I realized this. I thought, "I'm living a rappers dream right now!"

So I spent the evening in the mansion of a famous champagne house owner, had a great dinner, didn't have to wash a dish/glass/pot/pan (when I offered the Grandmother said, "Oh no, we have a woman that comes in the morning to do that." But of course you do). During our dinner (which began at the crack of 10:30 pm) Boy comes in. He is scared. Want to know why? Earlier when they were going to bed Boy decided it would be a good idea to make up that there is a troll under the bed. And now what is afraid of? The troll (that he made up) under the bed. Do you see what I have to deal with here!?!

Saturday I woke up and hit the road (I had forgotten how nice it was to travel on your own) and walk around Reims. I went to the tourism office (where they responded to my queries in French even though they gave me maps in English) and got set up with a champagne house tour in an hour. I toured the Notre Dame Cathedral (which is prettier than the Parisian one I have to say) and then looked for the bus to take me to the Pommery house (I wanted to go to Mumm --the champagne I liked best when I did that tasting with my parents, but this seemed easiest) except I couldn't find the bus. I didn't know if Reims was like Zürich where you can just get on, or like Barcelona where you had to show your ticket. I hopped on the back only to have the doors close on me. I put my stuff down when the driver called me up front. Busted! How did he know I didn't have a ticket. I went to grab my wallet when he started explaining that I couldn't get on the back, and I looked and every door/window had a sign that said, "Enter at the front." D'oh! Griswold move. So I didn't pay in money but definitely in embarrassment. Once I finally made it to the Pommery house (which was not where it said on the map thank-you-very-much) I had to reschedule my tour, but they didn't have an English one for an hour. So naturally, I signed up for the French one. The champagne caves were very cool, at least I think. I understood a bunch of what was said, mostly from when my parents and I went to the champagne tasting at Bright Wines in North Saint Paul where the process of champagne making was explained in English. After the tour I drank my two complimentary glasses and set off in search of a train station, food, and champagne to bring to Paris (not in that order). Finding all with less ease and grace than usual (lets just say my new boots were christened by some French dog feces) I managed to make it to Paris and to Mr. Phil and Marti's apartment around six pm.

To Be Continued...

Pictures later this afternoon (promise!!) I just have to run to my French lesson!