Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alas, I am putting away my severe procrastination, to finally sit down and write a bit. I am currently sitting in a shell shape religious center in the heart of campus. It is nice, because the University has study sections in it, so one can bask in incense and stained glass while flirting with the game of knowledge acquisition. The quietness is also welcome, considering the constant bustle of hundreds of new people and faces on campus, dorm life, dances and all that is cliché in terms of college life. Sometimes it is nice to hide away in a nook and soak in a healthy dose of good energy.

So… the bulk of this blog will be centered around my recent trip to Switzerland, considering it is by far the most salient of events. I find it difficult, however, because I feel like the more moved I am by a situation, the less willing I am (or capable) to put it down in words. Maybe that is why blogs are starting to become more difficult to write- the mere fact I feel like words can’t encompass the magnitude or importance. For that purpose, I will put a bunch of pictures (since, as the age old saying goes, pictures are worth 1,000 words). Besides that, I will try my best to at least do some of Switzerland justice.

But first, I need to clarify three things:

1.Some stereotypes are blatantly inaccurate, but occasionally some stereotypes are rooted in total, untainted truth. This is one of those cases. Yes, it is no lie: the Swiss LOVE chocolate!!!!! Dear lord, I consumed more of this sticky sweet brown substance birthed from heavenly Swiss cows than is rationally conceivable.

2.The movie Heidi is totally legit.

3.NEVER insult Swiss cheese or bread…and NEVER EVER assert a). bagels or b). muffins rival baked bread. Trust me…..

Now that I have that cleared up…I can begin:
I was fortunate enough to have met Silvana in the Sussex in September program, being my neighbor and an equally rambunctious blonde lass. Luckily, I was invited to tag along with her for the week long break we had between the SIS program and real classes. She lives in Zurich (which, mind you, is NOT the capital of Switzerland despite common misconception). We flew into Zurich, after an incredible flight over much of France (where I saw Paris from above and the Eiffel Tower) and went directly to a VIP party in one of the most popular clubs in Switzerland. Silvana knows the security of the club personally, so we all we had to do was walk breezily by the massive cue, wave a hand, and be let in with no cover charge. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty cool. It was an electronic dance party, and definitely a first of a kind for me. I can’t really say it is my favorite type of dancing situation, but it was indubitably an experience well received. After about 4 hours of only slightly varied beats, smoke machines, and lights, it was almost a meditative experience. I could not help but correlate the experience of over stimulation and constant rhythm in the brain, and how one could easily slip into a Shaman like trance. Kelly’s next PhD dissertation: Shamanic Ritualization of Zurich Clubs. Haha.

The next day Silvana and I took some bikes out on the town, and rode around the historic and ethnic region of the city. It was incredible. Sizzling foods from all earthly corners, music, specialty shops, and people bustling in and out. There was also an environmental fair going on downtown, which was focused on biking as an alternative to other transportation. Sound familiar? Haha. There are sooooo many bikes all around Switzerland (as well as Brighton!), it is really inspiring. Being overly excited for the upcoming Ghana experience, I wanted to try and find some African (specifically West African) food. Unfortunately we did not run into any weaving in and out of the streets, but we did find an Indian store where I bought Tamilian toothpaste, a chickoo (which is a fruit I have not had the pleasure of eating for 4 years) and soan papadi (basically the best Indian sweet ever). I was delighted beyond belief. We also illegally rode our bikes through the coble stone district of the city, where I climbed the massive church tower (186 stairs straight up) the Grossmunster. Silvana and I sneaked down into the basement region where tradition has it that the saints of the city of Zurich, Felix and Regula, walked up from the lake carrying their heads from battle and took eternal rest. It was pretty eerie.

That night I wanted to return the delicious dinner of (get ready): irish meat, fennel, Italian rissoto, bread, mushrooms, salad, wine, chocolate, ice cream, pears and peaches (they are half Italian=EAT A LOT!) her parents cooked me the night before. I cooked a Mexican dinner of fajitas, guacamole, tacos, salsa and beans (proving to be quite the accomplishment considering the great lack of anything Mexican in the food stores). Food is such an intimate part of one’s culture, so it was really nice to take part in the cross cultural exchange.
And here is where it really begins for me…
The next day we woke up at 8:00 (which is incredibly early there) to test darling Silvana’s driving skills and set sail towards the Swiss Alps, first stopping in Bern to see Einstein’s house and have a sunny Swiss lunch. Silvana’s mom is originally from a little ski town called Murren, hanging haphazardly on the very edge of a massive cliff, jutting over a valley between the tallest mountains in Europe. It is accessed by cable car, and from above truly appears to defy gravity, not slipping off the grassy slope when the rain falls too heavy. Luckily for me, her grandma owned a quaint hotel there, and I was not only blessed with free accommodation (my own room with a view few are able to see in their lives and a symphony of cow bells grazing below), but also 5 star food from their home style restaurant. I am so grateful to them. It was an experience of traditional Swiss life, including evening cups of hot wine, thick cheese slices, and fresh bread.

The next few days we spent (or should I say I spent subjecting Silvana to) hiking around steep trails and peering over cliffs. The Alps…are by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, probably will see, or can be seen, in my opinion. They are simply just so magnificent they seemed unearthly to me, as if someone took the most dramatic of peaks protruding from the Rockies, shoveled 10 times the snow on to them, stuffed them with steroids and a full Thanksgiving dinner, and sprinkled a bit of magic on for good measure. They were massive. They were humbling. They were challenging. I was brought close to tears so many times, and spoke primarily in superlatives while there. :) Little cottages, milk farms, decorated cows, cheese makers, green pastures, electrifyingly white snow caps, blue flowers, and total purity. The Alps have a mystic I cannot express. I really am considering take a year of my life to stay there, either for meditative progression or (hopefully) writing an overly academic book in my professorial years. Haha. One can dream….

Our last day in Murren, after absurd amounts of climbing cliff faces and ridges the previous days, we ended it in the most extravagant of ways: Shilthorn. If the Alps were not already unworldly enough, I found myself suspended on a slick black edge, overlooking an ocean of clouds whipping and undulating below my feet. I felt like I was in an airplane, since that was the only time I had ever felt the feeling of being above cloudline. It was dizzying (possibly due to the altitude, but more probably due to my flabbergasted-ness). At the top they also had a rotating restaurant (which did not help the dizziness), where we met Silvana’s grandma for a breakfast of champagne, cheese, bread, fruit, muesli, and hot chocolate (of course). It was truly the crowning jewel (as well as the location for a James Bond movie in the 70’s) of the whole experience and one that I will hold on to dearly.

Like I’ve said in previous posts, I find myself continually and increasingly taken aback with how kind this universe can be. Frequently I find myself heavy with gratitude, not knowing how to return the kindness that I have encountered both by people and circumstance. I know there must be a way, since this world works in cyclic patterns, but I just don’t know how yet. I am not going to pretend that everything is all peachy peachy all the time. I still have many a problems, concerns, fears, heartbreak, and all that silly negative stuff….but sometimes it is so easy to see the positive. And it seems the more you pick apart the posatives you have been presented, the more they seem to multiply. Maybe there is really a brain-physics-reality relation that can be altered by intentionality (you know, all that consciousness and electron stuff they talk about). Who knows? What I do know is, it is inspiring and reminds me to remain humble. Moral of the story: do the next loving thing and life will respond. Or at least that is where I’m at.


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