Wetter

This is one German word I’m having no trouble translating. Because the weather is in fact wetter.

Don’t be fooled by all those stunning photos I’ve been posting. In between the odd gorgeous day with blue skies and sunshine have been a multitude of days with rain, cloud, storms and fog. Especially lately. It seems that every day brings constantly changing skies. Although we are somewhat protected by the mountains that surround us, we do get some nasty winds and violent thunder-bangers (there is one going on as I write this).

Still, we are far less exposed than our neighbours in Zurich, Zug or Lucerne where a hail storm recently ended in this scene:

We have had some lovely weather, just not when we expected it. I think it’s down to climate change in part but we haven’t been here long enough to say what is normal or not for this part of Switzerland.

On the whole I don’t mind the weather here, even if it is wetter. In this first year in our new place, we’ve had more snow than I’ve seen since leaving Canada, as late as April this year. Along with beautiful, sunny days and overall cooler temperatures than in France. Which suits me fine. Our southern exposure can get searingly hot on fine days but thanks to the mountains, the direct sun goes off our terrace by mid-afternoon, giving the apartment plenty of time to cool down before bed time.

Given the tropical storm that permanently rages in my hormone-challenged brain, I had thought living without A/C again would be impossible. But so far, a couple of fans are doing the trick on the hottest nights.

And the view around here is such that even waking up to rain isn’t too depressing. Just look what this morning brought!

How has the weather near you been lately? Wetter or not?

Bas les masques

The masks are starting to come off and guess what? It’s not pretty.

As confinement in the EU lifts despite ongoing concern about the Delta variant, restrictions are softening. It’s a tricky question as to whether this is too early or not. Vaccination is moving ahead but there are still many recalcitrants. I don’t have figures for Switzerland, although I know a couple of people in my own entourage who are very shy of the shot, but in general the numbers are not reassuring.

In France it seems fewer than half of those who work in care homes — yes, care homes, aka EPHADs, which house the elderly and vulnerable — have so far been vaccinated against Covid-19. Medical personnel appear to be among the greatest vaccine sceptics, especially the nursing staff.

Should vaccines be mandatory for all those who work in medical and care capacities? This is so basic that I just don’t get how it’s even a debate. Yet it’s far from the case and a subject of some controversy at least in France, land of libérté. But what about égalité and fraternité? I am a firm believer in the rule that individual freedom stops where it impinges on the right of others to live. So I vote yes for obligatory vaccination in the case of anyone whose job demands contact with the public. No one should have to get a vaccine if they choose not to, but in this case they should stay home to protect themselves as well as others.

I went to an indoor setting for the first time this week sans masque, and it felt strange indeed. Health clubs are now allowed to function without face coverings in Switzerland, and frankly after sweating my face off on the elliptical for the past few weeks, it was a relief to be able to breathe properly while exercising. But it still seemed a little risky entering a confined space with no protection, and I wonder if everybody else felt that way.

It seems the masks are off in more than one sense. People are once again revealing themselves and their beliefs. Rebels, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, those who don’t believe science or the media or anyone at all. People who think a Covid shot contains something that will make them magnetic.

Some people, I’m certain, have simply gotten quite comfortable hiding behind their masks. As odd as it felt to first wear a mask in public, I think a lot of people now feel a little naked without one. And some, according to my daughter, have become quite adept at making faces behind them.

How do you feel about wearing a mask?

Natürlich

Things have this way of working out. For better or for worse, when they’re good and ready. It does no good to fret and stamp your foot, although I still do this. There is a natural cycle to things and it is a lot easier if you just go with it.

It feels that things are finally coming together in this new life we chose a year ago. Nothing major. Just a general sense of freedom, of being able to get out and do things, plan things, live again. To breathe freely. Natürlich.

It helps that the summer season is finally here. Nature is in full swing, from the birds on our terrace to the sheep next door. When I go for walks or a bike ride around the village, I see more than the usual number of people with backpacks and walking sticks. The tourists have arrived and the cafés are busy, both indoors and out. The lake is dotted with sailboats and the sky offers up the spectacle of paragliders. I watch them land on the field below, some with such grace that they land in a single swoop, coming to ground with their sail erect above them before it gently crumples.

My husband went back to the office last week. For a whole day! From next week he will be going back again, at least from time to time. That will give me much needed head space. Don’t get me wrong: we have plenty of room. But we’re both used to doing our own thing, and I’m thrilled to see things returning to their natural order. Natürlich.

Our local swimming pool, indoors but on the waterfront with views over the lake, has opened with limited hours and numbers allowed, and I’ve gone and swum laps a few times. And after a hiatus of more years than I can remember, I’ve returned to the gym. Crazy, eh? Just as summer starts and still with masks required. But I’m determined to beat the creep of pudge that’s come on suddenly, surprisingly, after so many months when I thought I’d managed to keep things in balance. And I’ve rediscovered how much I love the way it makes me feel to move my body in a space dedicated for that purpose. Even without speaking (much) to anyone, being in a place with other like-minded people somehow feels inspiring.

It also helps that I know my way around the area now. Words of German are beginning to break through the static of my incomprehension. I know a few people well enough to say hello. We have a history here now, however short. This is where we sat last summer after seeing our new home for the first time. That’s our neighbour who runs the language school where I tried (and notoriously failed) to take a German A1 course last fall. And there’s the doctor I saw just before Christmas when we had our encounter with SARS-CoV-2.

I know we’re not there yet. Corona (as it’s often referred to around here) is still with us, and its nasty variants may yet sweep through on another wave. But we’ve armed ourselves with vaccines and masks and new ways of interacting. I think I’ve seen more of my Canadian family on Zoom in the last few months than we did before. And client calls are usually with video now, so I can put faces to names.

It’s the little things, I guess. Like this (not so small) apéro plate from a local restaurant we discovered in the nearby town of Morschach. A kitschy kind of place up the mountain where the charcuterie is home-cured and everything is local including the lingo. And you just go with it.

How are things in your world? Are you ready to get back to any kind of normal?

Der wind

It’s not often a new language throws a gift at you: wind is one of them. It’s the same word in German as in English, and one which is easily pronounced: vint.

I’ve been struggling with pronunciation in my on-again, off-again efforts to learn German. For some reason I assumed it would be fairly easy (famous last words, aka story of my life). Seriously, I never understood what people meant when they said German was ‘guttural’. I always found the language nice and easy on the ear. What I didn’t realize was just how hard it would be to get the ‘ch’ sounds out of the back of my throat. At least without sounding like I’m choking. Ich probiere (I’m trying) but it’s a work in progress.

So along comes ‘wind’. Which, like weather (‘wetter’) is easy enough for an English native. And how der wind does blow around here!

I’ve posted before about the winds when we lived on the French side of Lake Geneva. They can be nasty but also nice.

It seems we’ve done it again — moved to a place that’s just as windy. It’s complicated around here by the looming mountains, and the corridors of lakes in between, around and through which various winds whistle their merry way.

Last week we had a sudden rise in temperatures, from 12 to 25 Celsius in the space of the weekend. Unfortunately this came courtesy of the Foehn, which means ‘hairdryer’ in German. Now this wind is known all over the Alpine region as a hot blast of air that dries everything in its path. Do not be misled: there’s nothing ‘fun’ about it.

Except that around here the wind whips up the lake into such a frenzy that it is quite something to watch. From our apartment we could see the dramatic whitecaps and on Sunday afternoon I found myself going out for a walk to see it up close. And quite a spectacle it was.

There were crashing waves, screeching seabirds and a few brave souls looking ready for lift off. There were little clouds of mist blowing across the water that my phone camera couldn’t capture. The whole thing made me feel like a kid again, when I used to believe that if I ran and jumped high enough, I might just take off.

Sadly I remained grounded.

And the next day, as is its wont, the nasty Foehn brought clouds and rain that lasted all week. Now we need a good cold ‘bise’ to sweep them away.

I suppose I like the wind as it keeps things from getting too dull. Here in conflict-free Switzerland, the wind is refreshing as it stirs things up. In France, it always felt like yet another drama.

How about you: wind or calm?

L’étranger

One of the things I love about where we live now is this: ‘La place des Suisses de l’étranger’.

Switzerland is a small country, yet one in ten Swiss people live abroad, making it the country with the highest population of citizens living beyond their borders, whether permanently or temporarily. The square dedicated to the Swiss diaspora just happens to be in Brunnen. You can read about it here (in several languages, bien sûr).

They call this group of citizens abroad, the ‘Fifth Switzerland’. The other four are those who speak the official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch (although the latter is only spoken in the Grisons or Graubünden canton). Not to overlook all of the foreigners who live in this country, representing a quarter of the population, and whose default language is English. Making my native tongue a sort of unofficial official 5th language.

The square itself is a dramatic piece of land built up by a local landowner on recovered ground in an area known as the ‘Wehrihaggen’ from 1906. It was officially acquired by the Swiss foundation, Stiftung Auslandschweizerplatz, on the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation in 1991.

It’s a windswept, open space surrounded by the panorama of lake and mountains. Somehow this geographic setting perfectly symbolizes the relationship with the Swiss and other lands. Open to the world, yet firmly anchored in their place.

Perhaps this is why I feel at home here. Despite the language barrier, the ongoing lack of social contacts due to coronavirus and a certain sense of detachment that comes from moving country. There is less a sense of being a ‘stranger in a strange land’ than I used to feel in France, even after so many years there.

Or it may be that I’ve just gotten used to feeling like a stranger. I’ve now been away from my home country almost as many years as I lived there. And, as I’ve posted before, it no longer feels quite as much home as it once did despite the people, family and friends, to whom I still feel so connected.

Et toi? Where do you feel most at home?