Doin’ stuff
July 13, 2008

so my current internet is shaky, I don’t have a permanent home right now, and I really need to get on this Swiss report.  I won’t be updating the site until I’ve at least made some major headway on the report.  Oh and now there’s a girl involved.  And she’s totally badass.  So I’ll check back in with you peeps in the somewhat distant future.  peace.

 

-pegleghippie-

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Switzerland: Second Wednesday
May 28, 2008

sorry I haven’t told you of my travels; it’s been busy and computer free over here, and this one will have to quick too.  I’ll continue my Swiss special blogging after I’m back to fill in the details.

We went to Geneva for two days, saw Rousseau’s birthplace, went to the UN and the Red Cross, toured the city.  Not only is it a mjor international hub, it has been for most of it’s history, as there seemed to be a statue to some diplomat or other on every corner.  Also, hookers everywhere, attractive hookers no where.  Oh and we washed our clothes in a bathtub, cause laundry is expensive, like everything else.  Night life was ok.

Now I’m in Lassaune, which is super pretty, the hilliest city I’ve ever seen, and has one ugly university.  We met a guy named Digby Thomas there, a brit.  He’ll get his own post later on.  Also:  weed in a can in vending machines!  I’ve picked my paper topic, focusing on political influence on the Swiss banks, internal and external, and what that means for the long history of secrecy and corruption.

Today we toured a cheese factory, and saw our second castle.  More on Castles in the future.  The cheese factory was boring and short, but we did get in a fight with a group of elementary kids on the train.  Apparently our fat American asses take up too much seat space, so their teacher, rather than let the kids seperate throughout the car to find seats, came in yelling at our professors.  He was polite, but she was so rude, we held our ground.  The Swiss solution was to add another car to the train for the kids.  The just happened to be on the return train too, which was much more crowded.  We made sure the teacher didn’t have a seat and had to stand.

Oh and I went to France!  The riverside town of Evian, where the water is bottled.  Even prettier than Swiss towns, and in the French tradition, everything was presented well and organized, in a planned way.  The Swiss just kinda keep building on top of whatever medieval foundations they have.

And thats it for now, I’m off to free dinner (one of the few).  More to come!

Switzerland Day Whatever: Bern
May 23, 2008

by pegleghippie

This is going to be short and un-proofread since I’m paying for my internet time.  I am at a hostel in Bern, Switzerland capital.  We got to talk with a Dr. Spellman yesterday about politics, he’s a bit of a local academic celebrity.  I would go on for hours about him if I had the time.

Saw a movie about Bern, saw some bears, tonight we’re going to a concert through a mutual friend of one of the professors, food is good, hostel showers suck ass, Switzerland is still beautiful.  Payphones are in short supply.

Talked with my poli-sci professor a lot about Swiss parties and Swiss politics.  more later when possible.

Cheers!

(Edited by Mekhami for proofreading purposes.)

Switzerland day 3, or, pegleghippie kisses a Swiss bartender
May 21, 2008

She was hot guys.  Like, punk rock hot.  One arm entirely tattooed, long red streaks in the hair, at least 3 crazy belt buckles, totally amazing.  And at the end there, I was getting free drinks.

But you’re not here for that, you’re here for the hardhitting political commentary.  Ahem, here it goes:

My government professor on this trip is swiss, and her mother is the mayor of a small town.  Today, we went to visit the town.  Absolutely beautiful, dating back to the 16th century, and full of kind, happy people.  I could live there for the rest of my life in contentment.

First we toured the water cleansing facility, which is new and one of the most advanced in the world.  Basically the Swiss spring for super hitech, local solutions to deal with maintaining infrastructure, and it pays off in terms of good health, a clean environment, and a happy citiyenry.  The only thing I did not understand was the aesthetic upgrades that the water facility had: why make a utility pretty?  The director responded by saying, ”what speaks against it?  Pretty is better than ugly, it’s good for our psychology, and it didn’t really add anything to the cost.”  This spoke volumes:  First it considers a project’s social effects beyond that project’s intended purpose.  This is very forward thinking, and illustrates a long-term investment mindset.  Second, since the people themselves voted to have this sort of facility, it shows a citizenry that wants the best from it’s government, not the cheapest.

Next we ate at a little place next to the lake, and all I’m going to say is:  Best spaghetti I’ve ever had.  It was so good, I was considering moving here just so I could have it again.

Finally, we saw just how much power local Swiss government has.  Immigration is decided at the local level, by democratic decision of course.  Welfare and social services are also handled at the local level, with a focus on helping people to become self-sufficient and productive down the road.  Even refugees (‘asylum seekers’ is the proper term) are handled on the local level.  So Mayor Kempin, even though she only oversees 10,000 homes, has much more power than American mayors have.  And with the heavy democracy element, it’s a better system in every way:  better welfare, better education, better immigration, better utilities (especially water!).

One last thing about the town:  Our tour was conducted by the husband of one of the council members, a doctor from the local public hospital.  I hope I’m as excited about life and where I’m living once I reach his age.  He was jumping up buildings, going on about the town’s colorful history (everything from monks to slaves to revolution), and telling us stories about when our professor was a little girl.  hehe.

Which brings me back to tonight:  We started out like we did yesterday, drinking in the hotel room and playing cards.  We didn’t stay there, however, as we headed out towards a bar called ‘Con Tiki.’  This has to be the greatest bar in Zurich:  Loud german rock and hardcore hiphop downstairs, american rock and punk upstairs.  It was smoky, full of soccer fans, and seedy as hell.  I loved it.  We went upstairs, because it was less crowded.  That was where I found the hot bar tender.  One of my friends didn’t bring money, so I ended up buying her alcohol.  The bartender noticed this, and pressured me into buying all the alcohol for the girls.  Yeah, I’m a sucker for the right stare.  Then she started making out with some chick, so I figured it was all in vain, and started hitting the alcohol hard. 

But then things turned in my favor. We were basically drinking whatever she recommended, and she was drinking too.  Once closing time started to get near, she basically kicked everyone out but told me to stay to share a drink with her.  I was all, ‘holy shit what have I got into?’  and she knew she was in control.  I think she had me drink vodka mixed with I-don’t-know-what,  before I found my lips locked with hers.  She kept playing with my hair, talking about the need to buy drinks for non-pretty girls too, and how I could be less American.  Ok so she was drunk.  I don’t care, so was I.  It was all just a tease though, as she finally told me to come back to find her when I was five years older, and that it was time to close up. 

Oh well, it was still the best night yet ; )

Switzerland day 2: museums!
May 20, 2008

so today i got free hotel breakfast, ripped off for a sandwich at lunch, and ate a weird spanish pizza for dinner.  All food is expensive (but liquor isn’t!) , the goal for tomorrow is to spend no money on food (we get two meals free thanks to our professor’s touring connections).

Anyway, today was all about museums.  The first was a history museum, which was very pretty, but really boring.  I mean really, just lots of artifacts, and an elaborate exhibit on families.  Turns out swiss families developed the same way as the rest of the western world.

The other museum was an art museum, and it was awesome.  From ancient art (medieval paintings literally pulled from walls) to modern stuff, from Picasso to dadaism, and plenty of weird trippy post-modern stuff.   Seriously, I think i get modern art now.

We had a discussion over the comparison about Switzerland comparing the two, and our french professor went onto a long tangent about Marxism (Marx was quoted in the family exhibit).  So not the most substantive discussion.  Oh well.

I called my family today, my sister doesn’t leave for New York until thursday, which was a surprise, and my dad is going to someone’s retirement party?  So yeah not much news on the home front.

We spent a lot of time in the train station today, which is like a mall, since the Swiss are all about efficiency and putting transportation and consumerism together is superefficient.  Swiss Chocolate is even better than Swiss cheese (which has found its way into every meal I’ve had so far), My friend got a 125 frank watch, and vodka is about the same price as it is in the US.  After that, lots of card playing, I suspect that my french professor has been buying illicit drugs, and staying up way too late for how early I have to get up tomorrow.  Peace out guys, Pendel, it’s up to you to curb mekhami’s conservative side while I’m gone.

Pegleghippie in Switzerland, Day one. or, me on absinthe
May 19, 2008

So I am in Switzerland right now, for a study abroad program, gettin’ down with direct democracy for a couple of weeks.  I promised Mekhami I would try to write once a day on what I was doing, so here’s the first part of achieving that goal.

Just so you know, I’m on a German-language keyboard right now, so don’t expect my usual literary greatness.  And I’m still jetlagged.  Our first flight to philly was delayed, then our flight out of philly to Zurich was delayed.  Not fun, but I did get to know some of my fellow students better (woo 4 hour card games in the terminal!).  Finally got here, local time 8 am, and had to take a tour of the city and shit.  It’s amazing and historic and all, and I^ll have pictures for you when I^m back home, but, I was damn tired.

Got a three hour nap, then back to historicity.  Eventually, we went to dinner at this very upscale, traditional place, where I had the Alps equivalent of fettuccine Alfredo with caramelized onions.  Very awesome, if I spoke German I’d give you the real name.

The real fun came at night though.  One of the girls just happened to be turning 22 today, so we went out to celebrate.  Most of the bars we found were too small for the size of our group, but eventually we ended up at the best gay bar ever, a place called Cranberry.  It was a little awkward, but the B-day girl wanted to stay, so that was that.  We got some chairs together in the upstairs pool hall, and about this time I decided that I needed to get over my awkwardness of crashing someone else’s scene, and fast.  So I ordered a shot of absinthe.  That’s right, my first legally purchased alcoholic beverage was a hallucinogen from a gay bar (background: absinthe , in addition to alcohol, has thujone, which makes you trip.  It’s illegal in the US.  Also, this was my first legal drink because I’m 20 years old, and in Switzerland, the legal age is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits).

Absinthe is cool as hell.  At some points my brain was racing like on speed, sometimes very happy about silly details found on the side of beer bottles and the floor.  My self-reflection was severely reduced, making me easy going, unembarrassed, and accepting of everyone.  Especially accepting of the lesbians making out in the corner.  Yeah.  Anyway, absinthe also made me very happy with my fast heart rate, the nation of Switzerland in general, and with the constant activity of my peers around me in particular.  Simply describing the trip to them was a rush.  About 20 minutes after I took it, two of my friends decided to do it.  Expectantly, they tripped their asses off as well.

So that’s Switzerland day one.  More to come, expect the unexpected, cause i didn’t see tonight coming.