Bedtime Stories and Other Such Things

Never mind exams, never mind marks on a piece of homework, never mind memorizing verbs- the ultimate test of ones progress with a second language is given by very small children, and their disapproving eyebrows when you don’t understand is far more hurtful than those of a teachers.

I’ve babysat a couple of times while I’ve been in Switzerland- this was my third time, and with a family that I’d only ever seen at a local eating place before [that’s how they met the Wehrlis, actually. It’s a small village!]

I’ve always really liked babysitting- it’s a relatively simple way to earn money, and the kids [however difficult] are always fun; It’s always an honour to be trusted with other people’s kids. I think I’m also a little bit nosy- I like seeing how people live, what books they have on their shelves, how they arrange their kitchens. [Especially if I don’t know the family; especially when it’s in another country].

This particular family lived in quite possibly the more gorgeous house I’ve seen so far. It, like so many Swiss houses, was wooden and old and set in the tangled back alley ways of Ennenda- reached more by crooked footpaths than roads. Inside there were three or four floors, reached by narrow staircases worn smooth by years of feet climbing them. The decor reminded me of a lot of our friend’s houses back home- there were wind chimes and bundles of herbs and bookshelves and a big sofa couch bed in the middle of the living room. Roughly three minutes after I arrived I was pulled [barely out of my coat] onto this sofa couch bed by the two little girls [one under ten and one under five] to read a selection of picture books. But oh no, wait, I needed a tour of the house! The parents were leaving to go to a party over the street, but they first showed me the little tea tray with a teapot and some chocolate and almonds and a selection of herbal teas that they’d laid out on the kitchen table for me, and then they left, with a promise to return at half past ten. It was Friday night, so I wouldn’t have minded staying later, but it was very thoughtful of them! I hope my parents don’t read this- I’m sure they’ll be shocked by what scandalous wild weekend parties I’m having. Such debauchery, so much alcohol and drugs. Such a cool teenage daughter [I thought to myself whilst drinking herbal tea and doing homework to the sounds of two kids snoring upstairs]. 

But anyway, regarding those two children, there is nothing guaranteed to bruise your ego more than a seven year old correcting every single pronunciation error you make whilst reading a picture book. Like, at least five times a page. And we’re talking books with four words to a page! 

The older girl could speak High German, and she was delightfully astute when it came to talking to me. The younger girl spoke Swiss German, and I, as ever, was smugly proud at how much I understood. And yes, I maintain that I did understand what I was getting into when I let her give me a ‘hair makeover’. Totally. No regrets. Although as I was leaving two birds definitely flew down and tried to nest on my head, so she has a bright and promising career as a hairdresser!

When they were both tucked into bed [probably at least half an hour later than normal] I told them about the kiwi bird. In Switzerland kiwifruit are known as just ‘kiwi’s’, and I remembered Gabriella saying that her kids at the wild kindergarten were interested to hear about the kiwi bird. The older girl was very interested, and asked lots and lots and lots of questions about if I’d ever seen one in the wild, and where they lived, and what they ate and so on. It got to the point where I began to suspect that she might have an ulterior motive- perhaps the motive of trying to stay up as late as possible [Runa, their usual babysitter, had warned me of such a crime], so I turned off the light and just sat quietly with them for a while. When the younger one had drifted off to sleep I crept downstairs and made myself a cup of tea and sat and did some work on my computer for a bit [it’s amazing how productive one can be without internet], until the mum came home. We chatted for a bit before I left to walk home [only five minutes away]. The two little girls really were adorable, and their family ‘vibe’ was really similar to that of a lot of our family friends back home [well, as far as what one can know from an evening of babysitting!]. And now I know what I should do next time I need to practice my German- just ask a seven year old!

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Basel

Last Saturday Gabriella and I went to Basel, another city on my list to visit.

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Basel sits right at the intersection of France, Germany and Switzerland.

Basel.

Basel- where the red A is.

We arrived quite early in the morning, having taken an early train in order to make the most of the day. Our first stop was at a theater [I don’t know specifics, but it was old and beautiful].

The old theater- old meets new with some modern art installations outside.

The old theater- old meets new with some modern art installations outside.

 

just some randon stranger i bumped into.

ooooh

ooooh

And then we passed a famous fountain, created by the Swiss artist Tinguely. He specialized in making working, moving machinery-like art.

The Tinguely fountain!

The Tinguely fountain!

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And then we went to the Cathedral, and then I took a small boat across the river, to the old part of the city. The boat was very cute, merely pulled across the river by a wire decorated with flags.

THE CATHEDRAL

THE CATHEDRAL

cathedral

cathedral

yeah just more photos

yeah just more photos

this is not a real bird

this is not a real bird

it had this lovely little spring garden courtyard in the middle

it had this lovely little spring garden courtyard in the middle

The Little Boat

The Little Boat

Views of both sides of Basel- the old town and the new

Views of both sides of Basel- the old town and the new

View form the boat

View from the boat

The 'old' part of Basel in the part that been around for hundreds of years-

The ‘old’ part of Basel is the part that been around for hundreds of years-

Ooh there was a boat with my name on it!

Ooh there was a boat with my name on it!

After that we went to visit Gabrielle’s brother for tea and crackers, and then went to the Tingley [the fountain guy] museum, which was amazing! It was mostly pieces of artwork from him- my favorite was the shadow room!

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DSC01556DSC01555DSC01554The shadow room- all the machines moved to create shapes and figures dancing on the ceilings and walls!
The shadow room- all the machines moved to create shapes and figures dancing on the ceilings and walls!

And there were a few other pieces of modern art by other artists- my favorite from those was undoubtedly the sticker room. When you entered you were given a sheet of stickers, and told to just stick them anywhere! I can think of quite a few kids who would have had a hell of a time there. Gabriella and I had quite a bit of fun too!

There were rows of stickers hanging from the shelves...

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The tv…obviously showing some very colourful programs!

Yes, I couldn't help it- I played a bit on the piano. Some of the keys were very stickered down!

Yes, I couldn’t help it- I played a bit on the piano. Some of the keys were very stickered down!

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Tinguely’s artwork was very interesting, mostly made from garbage and things that had been thrown away. They were all quite old [he made most of them in early second half of the 20th century, 50’s, 60’s and 70′, and some were amazingly delicate and intricate.

 

We could climb up on top of this and walk around...so cool!

 

Tinguely.

Tinguely.

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Made from old farming equipment.

This one played a tune every ten minutes- can you guess how?

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And then it was back to Gabriella’s brother’s tiny bohemian flat, where he cooked a delicious vegan dinner [Gabriella said she found it quite delicious- ‘und ohne Butter oder Rahm!’ ]

Gabriella stayed the night at her brother’s house, and cycled part of the way home on Sunday, but I took the late train back to Zurich. I would definitely recommend visiting some of the other museums in Basel- we didn’t have time, but there were some that sounded interesting- an old toy museum and so on. Basel is an industrial town, but there’s a lot of cultural aspects that stand out- it holds one of the biggest and most famous [broadcast on Swiss TV, even,] Fassnacht celebrations in Switzerland. The streets were still blanketed in confetti when we visited, and there were masks in every shop window.

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The Basel dialect is also very sweet and folkish. An elderly lady on the bus told me I had a ‘scheoene Haaertili’- a nice hat!

Until next time…Hannah x

Frühling und Fasnacht

Well, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since my last blog post- yes, this was intended to be a regularly updated thing! But no, I’ve just been doing other things, which is generally good. I think it’s the opinion of most people who are reading this that the less time spent on one’s computer is better…

Wow, not since Christmas! Ok, what have I been up to?

Well, I went skiing, for what wasn’t the first time, but my first time ‘properly’ skiing.

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Me looking cool and not falling over.

Me looking cool and not falling over.

And then I went with my school a second time, which was fun. I didn’t have any poles, but I kind of managed to make it down an entire slope very slowly and cautiously, like a very old dog walking down stairs. Like I said, fun, but I don’t think I’m one for adrenalin inducing sports.

Suzu and me, secretly exhausted.

Suzu and me, secretly exhausted.

Yay!!

Yay!!

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Hardi, Lionel and I went to St Gallen, a city a couple of hours from where we live. We visited, among other things, a very beautiful library with some very old books [my favorite- a book of Irish Grammar from the Dark Ages, a book with a monk scribbling swear words in the margins about how boring and difficult writing that particular book had been, a tiny book the size of a finger]. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures, but I took some of the cathedral adjacent to the library.

"This one doesn't have any clothes on!"

“This one doesn’t have any clothes on!”

The cathedral.

The cathedral.

Hardi and Lionel.

Hardi and Lionel.

PHOTO

It snowed occasionally in January, but people kept telling me what an oddly warm winter it was- the third warmest in the Kanton in 150 years! I am mildly disappointed that I didn’t get a proper snowed in freezing Swiss winter, but secretly grateful- when it dropped below zero in December I instantly starting squawking about how ridiculously cold it was, and how I couldn’t bear it.

On the 22nd of February Runa, Gabriella, a friend of Runa’s and I went to the Fasnacht Carnivale celebrations in Luzern. Fasnacht is an old celebration, happening approximately on the days leading up to Lent, with the earliest records dating back to the 1300’s. After the reformation [Protestantism becoming the major religion] it was banned. But the Swiss people were so determined to keep it happening that it was officially reinstated, but as a Protestant holiday. Today, in different Kantons, it happens on different days, with varying traditions and rituals, but there is always a fantastic parade, and many amazing costumes.

In Luzern they have a tradition of these incredible masks, gigantic and grotesque, often paired with beautiful, elaborate costumes, everything from full skirted period dresses to goat costumes [with hooves!] to frighteningly realistic devil costumes, or giant birds with wings.

Runa, Sirka and I went dressed as The Three Musketeers, and Gabriella was a chicken!

We wandered around for a while, just admiring the amazing costumes and throwing confetti at each other [ a time honored tradition, I was assured] and having spontaneous sparring sessions. We watched a spot of, well, not street theater, persay. Balcony theater would be more accurate! And then we watched part of the parade.

Our "Mother Hen"!

Our “Mother Hen”!

All for one, and one for all...

All for one, and one for all…

Masks!

Probably a mask.

Balcony theater!

Balcony theater!

Violin people!

Violin people!

Arwen, from Lord of the Rings.

Arwen, from Lord of the Rings.

Hmm...

Hmm…

The Three Musketeers!

The Three Musketeers!

If you are ever in Switzerland around this time, please please PLEASE go to a Fasnachts celebration. The Luzern one is amazing, and I hear the Basel one is pretty cool too. There are heaps of smaller local ones- we even had a parade in Ennenda, which I didn’t go to see, but I heard it! Actually, that might have been the Glarus one- I think that one got pretty wild! [You know, for the Switzerland equivalent of Feilding.]

SPRING

And now it’s March, and spring is arriving! Gabriella says that it’s very early, unusually so. Spring is so beautiful here, there are flowers springing up all over the place, and the evenings are getting longer, and the days are getting warmer. I hope it’s not just a warm spot, I hope it lasts.

Flowers are 'springing; up all over the place

Flowers are ‘springing; up all over the place

SUN O GLORIOUS SUN O VITAMIN D O HOW GLORIOUS

SUN O GLORIOUS SUN O VITAMIN D O HOW GLORIOUS

Spring flowers!

Spring flowers!

Title: Dog Looks at Flowers Art Style: Modern Price: One Millions Francs  Awards: Nobel Prize for Photography.

Title: Dog Looks at Flowers
Art Style: Modern
Price: One Millions Francs
Awards: Nobel Prize for Photography.

The sun here is kind of misty at the moment, and it is so beautiful.

The sun here is kind of misty at the moment, and it is so beautiful.

SUNSET

SUNSET

She's thinking about how much selfies are overrated, and how much she wants the treat that i'm holding above the camera.

She’s thinking about how much selfies are overrated, and how much she wants the treat that i’m holding above the camera.

PHOTOS

Runa and I have a grand new project on the go. If you’ve never heard of cosplaying, it’s where people recreate the costumes of their favorite characters, whether it be movie, book or television. And then get all dressed up in wigs and make up and just, hang around, I guess?

We are making the costumes of our two favorite lady elves, Arwen and Tauriel from LOTR and The Hobbit. Considering that our dressmaking/sewing skills are, well, not seasoned at best, it’s an interestingly challenging challenge. Also recreating a costume from just a few blurry screencaps is fun! So! fun! and! easy!

But actually, all sarcasm aside, so far it’s been really fun and dare I say educational? I find myself doing more math than I have in a long time, and my masking tape/pinning skills are through the roof. It’s really great to be so enthusiastic about a project, something that you’re doing purely out of love for something- in this case, an elf. But like, mostly just her aesthetic.

I’ll make another blog post just about this as some point, because there have been quite a few steps so far, and we’ve barely begun. But for now, here is what I’ve got so far, plus basic designs for the sleeves, undersleeves, skirt and underskirt.

Bodice without elven collar.

Bodice without elven collar.

Bodice + elven collar, draft with old cotton sheets and newspaper and lots of masking tape.

Bodice + elven collar, draft with old cotton sheets and newspaper and lots of masking tape.

And I think that’s all from me for now. I’m going to Paris in a couple of weeks, so…yeah. Feeling pretty happy with my life choices right now. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and if I break all of my promises to myself and don’t write another post for two months, I hope you have a nice spring!