Monday, June 15, 2009

S for study... And Swiss

So I have been a very busy girl of late, and in the foreground of my work has been the foreign service officer test, and I am taking every chance to study, but here in Berlin with work and friends, I get distracted easily, so I took my last weekend to go to Lausanne to study at Chez Philippe. Since it was Project Week at MBO (the BUW) I worked 2 days solid and was allowed to take Thursday and Friday off. I was pretty exhausted when I got in, but it is always great to be with boyfriendo. The exact chronology of my days there is rather hazy, so I will describe it episodically, and I hope no one gets too mad for it (especially Phil...I heart you, babe).

My 'eart Belongs to zhe Musique!

Philippe is an all-around nice guy and so he didn't say no when some students at the jazz school in town asked him to accompany a singing major in her final exam performance. I got to go to their first performance in public, at a bar with an African theme, which, in the summer heat, felt like Kenya. I ordered a mimosa, thinking it would be a real mimosa but instead got a rum and *something* shot, which I took and then sat back for the show. The singer had a good voice, and everyone was performing well in the space, but the uncontested best song was a version of "my heart belongs to daddy" which, you will recall, has a bit of French in it. It was really meta to hear a french-swiss girl trying to impersonate an American woman singing in french, but she managed well, adding on a really cute "ooh la la" from the men in the pent-dec-a-tet (a massive ensemble). I spoke to the singer afterwards, complimenting her, and she bashfully admitted she had forgotten the words but was confident that no one there knew enough English to realize it. I didn't notice either, I will admit.

I spent one afternoon studying economics at the university, which was hosting several large and international conferences, and the library was so full, and the day was so pretty that we sat on the mensa's terrace, which had this great view of the lake and mountains.

Slightly cooler was behind, where universite de Lausanne ha employed a herd of very cute sheepies to keep the lawn in order! Awwwwwww.

In several cases I successfully navigated the city, which was great. I finally get the place I think.

Booze with your groceries, ma'am?
So it seems any time we ventures out to go shopping we were inundated with alcohol. Not even kidding. One afternoon we went off to the local Osco stand-in, and as we looked for some dinner meat (phil cooks an awesome ostrich btw) we ran into a wine tasting in the store. Bored housewives kept coming by to "just see what that one tastes like," and one lady had so much that she subsequently forgot her credit card in the reader! Later, as we cut through what passes for a shopping mall we found ourselves at a promo for this movie theater that was lotterying off limo rides an passing out pretty nice champagne. I wish American malls did that; I would probably go more if they did!

Wine country
On the subject of alcohol, we took the one day when it was not rainy or cold and took off through the Lutry vineyards, a UNESCO recognized site of quaint vineyards stretching into the mountains and down to the lake. It was really pretty and the experience came complete with a cute little terrace over the town.

Their mascot is...a monkey? With grapes? Drunk monkey!

Scary Bridges

Hmmm...Migros grapefruit soda...a fine vintage

We continued into the quaint town and walked along the lake, seeing phil's old high school, a gorgeous lake side mansion which is a bit like Glenn Brook North or Highland Park ..."public." The sun was warm and the breezes from the lake were pleasant. A perfect little walk, and I got to see a lizard on a rock by the lake!

Brought to you by your local indie jazz label

the venue

Days of studying, memorizing fact sheets on the Cold War or Inflation, are all fine and dandy, but nights off are great too. And the local indy jazz label was having a festival, so we went to this hidden movie theater--well, a screen in a big basement space with theater seating--to see some awesome free jazz and improv. The publicity for it as truly awful, but the music rocked, and most of it is online for free, so everyone go to their website! We chilled, had "set your own price" beer, and afterward Phil chatted up some of the artists who he kind of knew. Through one such conversation we learned that Tom Waits is not an artist he is familiar with. I know, I know, I'm on it. The situation will be remedied.

But anyway, this concert totally fits the pattern of Phil and I totally licking upon really random and great things.

Dahling, I simply ADORE the spa!
On my last day in Switzerland we took the opportunity to go to a spa in the mountains. It was rainy and cool, so perfect spa weather. As we drove there I drilled for the exam (I would not blame Phil for getting jealous of my study books since I basically carried them with me the entire time). I am getting more used to the mountain roads, which I now find rather agreeable, and soon enough we were in Valais. The place was as good as empty (apparently home country hero Federer had everyone glued to their tvs at home), so we swam around the outdoor and indoor pools for several hours watching clouds descend on us, rain, and blow away. From the side of the pool we could see the snowy mountains so close to us; it was so great. All around us people were also relaxing, talking about love, life, and nothing at all. We totally lost over two and a half hours just messing around, but we did have to leave eventually to make it to his parents' in time for Sundaydinner.

Things like this don't grow on trees, you know--wait...
The family de philippe has a well documented history of being aggressively pleasant and patient with me and my french, so it was nice to see them again; I'm also really happy that I can communicate with them. I keep remembering the first time I met them, when I could only speak German, and they later told Philippe that I seemed quite serious because of my silence. Also, Philippe's mom is an awesome cook. After a very nice dinner in which I shocked her by taking my plate into the kitchen we wandered about the house a bit, and then I was taken out to the garden to look at the massive haul of fruits growing there.

They had two types of cherry trees in the back, one black and one bright red (called "pigeon hearts"), and both were covered in fruits. We walked around picking the strawberries that grew like weeds, the black cherries that stained our fingers purple, and the pigeon hearts which were all but white on the inside. It was really idyllic, running around, stuffing our mouths with fruit, and --double bonus-- I learned that mirabel is not just a type of alcohol but a fruit...from which it is made! I was also treated to a view of their bomb shelter.

A word on the bomb shelters: Switzerland required it's citizens during the col war to all have a bomb shelter or a place in a communal one. These days they are mostly used as storage or wine cellars.

Philippe's families' shelter was pretty standard: excessively large with a bogus air filtration system and no toilet. Not too practical to wait out the fallout.

Brute is the new arte!
Lausanne has one museum that sets it apart; it is a museum that you might know, an if you don't then you soon will. It is the musee d'arte brut, museum of brutal art. It is art made by people on the margins of society, mental patients, criminals, recluses, people from Chicago (no joke). They challenge what we consider art, but they are really cool in their own way, and the biographies of the artists are just as compelling.

There was the devoted Catholic and Sephardic Jew who would eat shellfish and then paint them into wildly bright collages, the woman who had a "one sided affair" with an emperor and spent her life drawing in crayon their love story, survivors of trauma, and one Pakistani man who was out to make his own celestial city of bright creatures that were so beloved by his community that they declared his project must be aided.

One special exhibit centered not on crazies per se but rather the inhabitants of canton fribourg, where isolated from others, the Catholic traditions sort of went off on their own. There were shrines centered around tiny an artistic twists of the dearly departed's hair, a bedazzled skeleton (I couldn't make this up if I tried!), and caves dug by hermits into the mountains. So apparently the implication was that Friboirgers are brutes...or something. There were ridiculously intricate drawings and schematics from autistics and knittings from women living on the edge of sanity. It was really interesting, and I am glad we went. I think we are on a mission to discover the more interesting if not famous museums of Europe and we are succeeding in good form.

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