Mittwoch, 12. Dezember 2012

Dreck and Doodie - or Duty

 I used to nanny for a couple of kids in Philadelphia. One of them offered to do an impression of me for Ivo. "CaaaaLm day-own." apparently, that's how I was "calm down."
When I worked at a tri-lingual Kindergarten, all the kids would say "bea-uuuuuuuuuuutiful" when speaking English. I guess that that is how I say "beautiful."
Now, when I'm at home with Ivo and he's speaking in English and makes any mistake or asks about an English thing, I recognize my teacher voice creeping in. I have my "this is how it's pronounced" voice, for when Ivo says a word he's only ever read before (it has a questioning quality, so that the listener knows that they should repeat after me.) (It sounds better in a classroom than at the breakfast table.) Then there is the moment when he's misspoken or changed sentence mid-thought just like a native would and I jump in to correct  and immediately try to stop myself. "It's - nevermind!"
Ivo is wonderfully patient with me. This is good, because I need to learn when to step in and when to leave well enough alone, when teaching English. I'm navigating the difference between having taught children and currently teaching adults. The biggest hurdle is that one of my students acts like a child.
Last week, we were learning about Names. One way to do this was the use of a family tree. One of my students decided that she hated family trees, that she can't do them in any language and doesn't intend to do them ever. O-K
She then had a similar reaction to grammar. When I asked the class to open their books, she loudly slammed her hands on her closed book and said "No!" I asked if there was a problem and she said "no grammar." I tried to soothe her and tell her that we would be doing this together, that we'd take it step-by-step, that she could ask any questions. no problem. Her hands remained on the book and, I swear, she shook her head with her mouth pinched closed, like a small child. Perhaps it was this child-like behavior that caused my reaction. Whatever it was, i put on my stern voice and said "Oh, I'll wait." and starred her down. I felt so foolish later.
On the up-side, I played a fairly childish game with my students last week, to practice people and place names and my students were totally down. 
I'm really enjoying teaching classes. We're slowly discovering how to best care for Penny with our full schedules.  We're also adjusting to living further away from the dog-doo receptacle. This seems silly, but it's a bit of a nuisance. It used to be, that Penny would poo on our way home and we'd conveniently throw it in the Robidog (said receptacle) in front of our house. now that there is none there, we'd need to drag the dog way out of the way, which is difficult for a stubborn pup. So now, I put the bright red bag of refuse in my bike basket, which is right by the front door. I then throw it away when I'm on my way out next. This often means that I'm walking down the road, dog-less with a bag of dog-poo, looking quite strange.
In the meantime, my husband, the husband of crazy dog-poo-lady, is invited to the Finnish ambassador's house for dinner tomorrow night.
No biggie.

Montag, 26. November 2012

I wasn't even supposed to be here today

Recently, Ivo had a big career decision to make. He'd been offered a gig closer to home, for more cash and a year longer contract and had to choose whether or not to leave the position he's in now; where he's working on a project that he's passionate about and has been shaping for 2 years.
There were pros and cons for both options. I listened to them all. The only 2 cents I gave was to speak to this career counselor, whom he'd enjoyed speaking to in the past.
A few times, Ivo tried to trick me into choosing for him. But I bested him and held my cards so close to my chest, that he didn't even know which choice I'd been hoping for. He thought that I'd wanted the closer job but the secret is, I wanted him to make a choice that would make him happiest in future. I think that he chose that.
In future, when it comes to moving house or applying at far away universities, I will make my voice heard in addition to listening to Ivo's ideas (I hope), but so far as career-shaping decisions that don't involve me moving, I'm fairly neutral. I do know that I do not ever want to be responsible for a decision that Ivo might regret.
When I was getting ready to move to Switzerland, Ivo asked me, in every way that he could think of, if I felt sure that this was a decision I was making for me. It was. I'd read Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris and remembered his way of comforting himself in anticipation of being an "ex-pat."
I promised Ivo that I would never say "I didn't even want to come here."
In the meantime, I think that Ivo reaffirming his comittment to his current job(s) will have a wonderful outcome.

Donnerstag, 30. August 2012

Not your mother's dog owner

When I'm out socializing my dog, (which involves awkward conversation among owners while the dogs terrorize or hump one another) I like to ask other dog owners how long they've had dogs and if this is their first. As coincidence has it, nearly every dog owner I encounter in Kreis 3 have been raised with dogs. This doesn't surprise me.
I'm unsurprised because these people react similar to one another, but unlike myself, when a non-dogwalker walks past. When a pedestrian turns a corner near the park or is approaching us on a sidewalk, I hold my dog tight. I interrupt my dog's eye-line and wait to see how the person is reacting to being near a dog. This is similar to the amount of space I give people when I go on public transport. This is because I was not raised with dogs, but was raised with a cynaphobic. My mother had a fear of dogs.
The dog owners in the hood have no compunction about telling scary stories of dogs eating or drinking something and being mortally ill or talking about the "dog-haters" in the world, but they seem completely ignorant of the fact that they're cynaphobic-haters.
But then, This is only my second pup. Maybe I'll learn

Dienstag, 21. August 2012

and yet more language

I missed the first week of my Swiss Sign Language course. That'd be the class where everyone gets to tell everyone why they're there. So I entered a class full of hearing people, unaware of their motivations.
II learned ASL at school in RI. My motivation for learning Swiss German sign is the desire to know more about the swiss Deaf community, to attend their poetry slams and generally pursue a language that can aid or replace the ASL that I am now steadily losing.
While waiting for the class to start, I walked over to the poster on the wall with the finger alphabet. There I discovered that swiss sign has finger signs for "ch" and "sch." Amazing.
In the break, I was talking to the teacher about where I'm from and then possibly made the worst first impression possible. Up until then we'd been having a great class. The teacher is Deaf, which is new for me. Apparently the first half of the first class included an interpreter. The second half, the students were able to discover how well our teacher speaks and lip reads and how well they can follow his signs with no previous education.
Anyhow, while talking to my teacher, he asked where I was from and I was spelling out places, as I didn't know if certain signs were international. I was pleased when I began asking about country names and discovered that they're mostly the same. Then I spelled out Philadelphia and the students around me got freaked out at the speed of my spelling. Then I felt like a teacher's pet and a weird person who doesn't fit.
But the class was amazing. We did these excellent exercises to work on body positioning and  hand and wrist and head movement. This is something that wasn't really tended to in my ASL course. I'm curious if having a Deaf teacher means that the focus is different and I'm super excited about the class.
Our homework is to study the vocabulary that we learned yesterday. Each sign was slightly or completely different from ASL.
On the way home, I ran a kilometer to the train station in torrential rain with 2 fellow students. We squished into the train and dripped our way to Zürich and I got to hear their motivations for learning to sign.
Best cure for jet lag I've ever found: learning + torrential rain. 

Sonntag, 8. Juli 2012

controlling no more?

Yesterday, I emerged from my weekend certification course to discover an SMS from Ivo saying that he was at the animal emergency room with Penny.
After Ivo fished a chunk of moldy bread out of our pup's mouth on the river side, she instantly evacuated out of both ends and collapsed. Ivo called every vet and clinic we've ever known and then called a cab (requesting one with floor covers) and took her to the emergency clinic. The poor dear was so dehydrated that the docs couldn't palpate her organs. I got home and drove the car to meet them at clinic, but Ivo was there alone. The poop pooch had been admitted for IV fluids and antibiotics and tests.
My heart is slightly broken for our pech-puppy (pech: bad luck) but I never felt terrified while heading to the clinic. I knew that Ivo was doing everything that he could and that there was nothing that I could do. This is all terribly unremarkable for most people. But for me, the fact that I wasn't constantly thinking that I should have been there, that I could have done better, that if only I hadn't had this class.....
This is little, but it makes me happy.
I'll be alot happier when our pupperoni is home safe and sound and stinkin' up the joint

Dienstag, 26. Juni 2012

last post from Kiev

Datcha calmed.
Yesterday, Tobi and Patricia arrived in Kiev from Moscow. Their journey began in Latvia a while ago. After stopping over in St. Petersburg to stay with our friend Danilla, they then took the train to Moscow. I must say that it’s lovely to have another lady around and they’re such agreeable holiday mates. After giving them a quick breakfast, we headed to Larissa and Vladi’s datcha for a relaxing day. The datcha is about 12 km away from the city. The harrowing drive (I can not imagine any tourist renting a car and giving the unwritten rules of post-soviet roads a go) led us past elegant looking high-rises and massive supermarkets. As we got nearer the holiday home, however, the streets got shabbier and the houses were one-family constructions. Vladi and Larissa’s datcha is large and covered in siding. Bars on the window and doors and an alarm system keep it safe in their absence. The security features aren’t as harsh-looking as the description may imply. Behing the garden is a quite large shed; about the size of what I’d been expecting. When Tobi suggested that this was their shed, I said that I thought it may be someone else’s datcha. Larissa soon opened it’s doors however and revealed a number of lounge chairs and plastic garden chairs. Vladi was meanwhile unzipping a tent which covered a large table with benches, surrounded by mosquito netting. There was an outdoor toilet with a lino floor that wasn’t too bad at all. Hands could be washed from a spigot where hand soap lay next to the bucket, which collected our grey water, which was then used to water Larissa’s incredible garden.
The temperature was chillier than it had been and the sky was alternatively cloudy and sunny. The others had a quick swim in the Nieper, which is meant to be cleaner away from the city, but I found the air to be too cool for that. The river was reached by a 10 minute walk along the road-side and the adrenaline rush of crossing said road was as invigorating as a dip in cold water, I suspect. The fellas got draft beers at a stand along the way and other than the large billboard for a tiling company (picturing a woman wearing over-alls with no shirt and a hard-hat) the way was quite rustic.
We had an insanely massive lunch, a lovely nap in the garden and some really stimulating conversation around the outdoor dining table. I tried to help Larissa as best I could in preparing and washing up. My first attempt at offering help was met with her turning her head and shouting to Vladi “Vlad, Jessica is trying to tall me something and I don’t understand it.” (Or so it had sounded to me.) The rest of our interactions were done with small attempts at using words that were common in our languages or that we’d already learned (Larissa took a German course years ago, but the knowledge has lapsed without practice. My Russian knowledge is based, of course, on 2 weeks of holidays in Russian-speaking countries.) Things like “Sol” and “Paprika” being offered while I was preparing vegetables for grilling were easy. Compliments like “schön” while drying a lovely tea cup were appreciated. Otherwise we worked silently and with a number or gestures to denote what we wanted or needed.
Larissa is an amazing orator. When she speaks, it’s always with passionate inflection and an amazing cadence. One can often follow the general meaning of what she’s saying if a few words can be caught. You only need to hang on, as her speech arches and drops, to understand what she’s talking about. Then you need Ivo to clarify that she’s referring to the “singing underpants” that were apparently featured in Eurovision. She’s already let you know what she thought of them. In other pronouncements, Vladi’s response of “let’s not talk about politics” (indicated by tone and the Ukrainian word for politics’ similarity to English) and Ivo’s lack of translation let’s one know that the soliloquy was likely something anti-american or mildly conspiracy-based. (I discovered that after pressing for translation a few times.) At lunch, she said that Ukraine was falling apart before it’d ever really become a true nation. When I answered that many countries are falling apart at the moment, she said that America would never fall apart because there are too many truly patriotic people there. This didn’t feel like a compliment.
Last night, we went to the nearby bar “Nirvana”. The wait-staff all wear T-shirts from the band Nirvana and the walls are papered with posters of American groups. The football was only shown in the basement (above ground a TV was showing America’s Funniest Home Videos.) We had an assortment of Ukrainian snacks and were pleased when the surrounding viewers all showed themselves to be Spain supporters. Patricia is particularly passionate about Spanish football, being half Spanish, but did not loudly sing her version of the anthem. When I’d asked her earlier in the afternoon how she feels about the lyricless anthem (there hasn’t been any agreed-upon text since the 1950s and the text up to then was a temporary post-Franco solution) she said that different regions have different word, but that they are often quite rude.
Today we will finally make an attempt at seeing the Lavra. It’s a Sunday so wait times may be long, but I’m confident that we can keep one another entertained. I must say, the more time I spend with Patricia and the more I get to know her the more I like her. I’m quite excited that she and Tobi will be our downstairs neighbors this fall.

Freitag, 22. Juni 2012

more adventures in Kiev

My previous Maschrutka voyage in Petersburg had been over-filled and stinky and scary. The two Mashrotka rides today, however, had seats enough for everybody and were pretty darned pleasant. On out first ride, a woman entered and then rode two stops without paying. Payment is 3 Grivna, no matter how far you’re going. One either pays the driver directly or hands the money forward, person to person, it the bus is full. The driver stayed at the stop and told the woman had to pay. She had a heated exchange with the driver and then left the bus without paying. Ivo then explained that she’d said “what about the foreigners?” (referring to us.) The driver answered “They’ve paid; 1-2-3.” I think that she was assuming that he’d charged us a foreigner’s price and so she should be able to ride free on his profits.
Here there are often different prices for foreigners. If prices are written somewhere, they’ll often have a lower price advertised in Cyrilic and a higher price advertised in English. Failing that, the price quoted verbally will vary with language. When Ivo and I first went to St. Petersburg, an effort to buy a SIM card for his handy was met with a flat refusal. When Ivo told his local friends, they said that this was just because he was a foreigner and needed to be more assertive. Sure enough, another visit to the Handy shop yielded a card, likely more pricey than any one sold to a Russian.
Last night, we met with Ivo’s hosts from 5 years ago. Pacha has been promoted to a chief engineer and edits and corrects other engineer’s plans. Natascha (Pacha’s cousin) was recently married to the man who accompanied herself and Ivo to that same outdoor museum we visited, lo those five years ago. She works in imports customs for a private company in Kiev and told us about a colleague who took a job at customs in the airport shortly before the Eurocup. He has since complained that there is no possibility of receiving bribes and that the job is far worse for it. Natascha explained that bribes, in her job, are simply an expected part of the system. Similarly, the expectation to refute accusations of taking bribes is equally part of the system.
The two cousin’s English has apparently improved a lot in the past 5 years. Either that or they refused to speak to Ivo in English before so that he could practice his Russian. Whatever it may be, they were able to express themselves very well in English at an increasing rate as the beer and vodka was poured. We watched the Portugal Czec game while having long and intense conversations about everything under the sun (philosophy, biology, anthropology,...) in which every long-winded exchange ended in someone calling someone else a “botanist” (Ukranian for nerd.) Natascha shared a homemade “aphorismus”: women fake orgasms and interest in football. She seemed more interested in talking about pop-culture and personal lives than evolution and prejudices. The evening ended with promises to see one another again. This is made more likely by the fact that Natascha is hooking us up with an apartment for Tobi and Patricia, who are coming tomorrow. I’ll head with Vladi to pick them up at the train station at 8am while Steff and Ivo head to the datcha before us, earlier in the morning. We’ll all meet up at the datcha and grill and swim, we’ve been told. Today is another sweltering day and we’ll head downtown to pick up souveniers.
And we did.
One of my favorite things to do with Ivo when travelling is “guess the person”. We’ll be sat somewhere and see someone and guess where they’re from and why they are here. In Kiev at the moment, most people’s nationalities are either presented in large letters on their chests or with flags painted on to their faces. Nevertheless, we still find occasions to guess at more subtle citizens.
While sitting outside the café after our Chernobyl museum visit, Ivo spotted a woman and began: “She’s an American art student.” Apparently she resembled many different American art history students he’d known in the past. As I was still clearing my brain after the museum, I didn’t truly play along, but as I stood up to go find the restroom, I ducked my head down and told Ivo quietly, “her fork is in her left hand;” thus not contributing to, but crushing the game.
Yesterday we took the metro from its farthest western point (though it appears that construction is leading the way to further Metro stations.) As we headed into the cars, a young woman opposite us considered standing and then decided to sit. As she transferred her backpack onto her lap I observed that she had a Futurama t-shit, with red collar and short sleeve hems. Her hair was frizzy and to her shoulders, nothing held it back except her massive headphones. She closed her eyes as she sat and listened. She did not tap her feet, which were in some sort of rafting sandal.
“American:” I began, “Shoes.”
“Canadian:” Says Ivo “backpack. Or German?”
“Nope, American: Futurama Tshirt.”
“Hmmm,” says Ivo
“Canadian,” I say “eyes closed on a rush hour train?”
“Canadian sophomore on a trip alone. Her grandparents are Ukrainian.” Ivo contributes.
“She’ll be a sophomore in the fall. She’s not sure if she wants to transfer schools because no one at college seemed to get her.” I continue.
This woman remained a mystery to us. Her eyes remained closed and she sat in her seat as the train became more and more full. Eventually we were at our stop and departed the train and will never know where the hell that lady was from or where she was going.
This reminds me of my obsession with an old pedestrian overpass n Providence. I would sit on the foot-bridge over to India Point park and watch all of the people driving places and try to imagine where they were going and why. Now and again a truck would speed under and the old bridge would sway slightly and I’d love feeling moved by the movement of these vehicles. I think that the initial motivation to hang out there came from my summer in the hospital. I’d been encouraged to walk around, but didn’t really like to. It wasn’t just the movement (it was partially the movement) but that not many people want to walk around wearing a johnny while pushing a massive IV tree around swinging their daily nutrition. I never knew where I was supposed to be going because pacing the halls didn’t seem that great but leaving the wing seemed like it would disturb the hospital employees and visitors. The nurses also didn’t really like me to go by myself, as I had a habit of feeling woozy.
So I’d push my IV tree just outside the wing to the large windows that overlooked the large street that ran between the two wings of the building. People emerged from the Orange line and if I leaned my head against the window I could see foot and car traffic on Washington St. I would watch the people and try to judge how hot it was outside from their clothing and pace. Where I was it was the same temperature the entire month: mildly chilly. But out there, those people had temperature fluctuation; they had places to go. Some people had lunches in bags that were solid, not bags of foods in intravaeneous form. These people had important, annoying, envigorating, gauling, pleasant lives. Maybe their visiting someone or just going for noodles. Maybe they work around here or are tourists in search of Chinatown. Maybe their med-students or are heading in for a colonoscopy. Maybe they just want a coffee at one of the city’s 3,000 Au Bon Pains and the New England Medical Center location is most convenient.
Now the footbridge to India Point has been newly built and wouldn’t sway if a herd of elephants were racing beneath it. Sure, there are still families, employees, employers and young couples speeding underneath it, but I don’t get to feel a part of it anymore. Not if the bridge doesn’t shake from their momentum. 

Day 6 in Kiev

The heat is wilting us like so many flowers. It – is – hot. This isn’t that spectacular a fact, but after the cold and rain that we’ve been having in Zürich for the past two months, it’s a shock to the system. (Die Friseur helt nicht.) Monday we were determined to go swimming. As our guide book said that the river water was a bit sketchy and I am on immunosuppresants, we decided to check out one of the pools on the island of Hydropark. Our belongings would be safe, our persons would be safe, and as we would come to find out, our ears would be assaulted by house music.
The pool was refreshing and not over used. It seemed that most of the insanely gorgeous (and mostly ematiated) Ukrainian women prefer to bake in the sun and then use the outdoor shower to cool off and maintain their hairstyles. (Hydropark; 13:00 die Friseur helt.) While Ivo and I were swimming, a man came and taped off a section of the deep end. When Ivo asked if we could still swim, the man answered in Ukrainian and neither of us knew what he was saying. It turns out that they were using the pool to film something. Bored looking scantily clad women waited and waited in the hot sun until “Action” was called and then strode the 2 feet to the pool, only to the hear cut, and return to their boredom two feet away. 
We understood the desire to film at this pool. It was pretty schi-schi (despite the relatively low cost.) Pool boys rushed around getting towels and umbrellas and servers took your plastic card that you loaded at admission for drink and snack orders. Bare chested women in g-strings daintily covered their nipples to cool off under the shower and then made a show of how cold it was in a rehearsed-looking way and two women who donned a series of revealing costumes, danced on blocks in stiletto heels to the house music that banged along at an increasing volume throughout the day. We’re told that these pools become popular night-clubs in the evenings, but we didn’t stick around to find out. We tottered home past the outdoor weight gym made of truck parts and hit the metro and went home for a quick dinner before heading to Vladi and Larissa’s to watch the game.
During the game there was a surprising exchange of jokes. (Our poor interpreter had to continually repeat each joke in the appropriate language each time, all while enjoying the game and a cold beer.) I say surprising because if the cultural differences wouldn’t get in the way, one would imagine the age difference might. Vladi is in his 50s and Larissa in her 70s and it was the latter who was telling some ribald jokes. We also somehow got on to the topic of dance (I believe that watching Ireland reminded our hosts of their love of Michael Flattley.) I asked Larissa if she had to take dance in school and if Ukrainian children still do today. We then discussed the previous practice of learning folk dances in Switzerland and the US which are now defunct (I of course meant square dancing.) Larissa then said that there is no culture in America, because it is too young. For the second time in two days, Ivo found himself vehemently defending America in response to this very statement. Whereas his first defence was to point out that Steff (the initial accuser of American culturelessness) was a consummate consumer of American pop-culture: the music, the books, the movies, the TV programs. Steff’s pop-culture consumption is nearly purely Yankee. Larissa, however, does not consume American media. She also belongs to a culture that Ivo loves so much he’s devoted his adult life to it. It was pretty pleasing to see my husband defend my land so stridently. In the end, however, we suspect that Larissa does not know that I am American and likely would not have said anything had she known. Steff, however….

Tuesday was equally hot and we had a rough start getting into the city and getting money changed at midday. We’d planned to go the Chernobyl museum on Tuesday, thinking that the Sweden:France football game would lift our spirits if anything could. First, though, we had a gorgeous (sweaty) walk through the old town, past amazing cathedrals and through a park and strolled down to the Nikolai Bulgakov museum through “Artist’s Alley” and down an ancient road with stalls of arts and crafts for sale. When we got to the museum, we said that we’d like to go through alone, as the tours were only in Russian and Ukrainian. When we began, however, the nice lady who took us to the starting room of the author’s childhood home tour began describing how the house was set up. As Ivo translated that the furnishing that were natural wood color were originals and that the furniture painted white were made to represent the furnishings in Bulgakov’s semi-autobiographical work The White Guard, the guide realized that we spoke German and continued the tour in her best high German. The tour was whimsical and sweet and ends with you leaving the heroine of one of his book’s bedrooms through a wardrobe and re-entering Bulgakov’s bedroom, where the tour began. It was so lovely that even Steff, who’s not read a Bulgakov book thoroughly enjoyed it
Afterwards, we passed the stalls and stands and headed for lunch at popular buffet restaurant chain. There was a suprising array of vegetarian options and a not so surprising amount of Swedes with bedrolls (They’ve been camping-out on an island south of Hydropark) and we had a lovely lunch (at 4pm) and then headed off to the Chernobyl museum. On our way, we employed our puppy Penny’s tactic: keeping to the shady sides of the street. (If one of strays into the sun, the other will inevitably call out “here Penny!”) The museum, like the World War 2 museum, was amazingly setup and very dramatic. We chose to take the audio tour and Ivo and I shared a recording in German while Steff listened to an English description of the artifacts that were on display behind glass cases. Where the barbed wire had twisted through the air at the WW2 museum, here there were air-hoses leading to fire and haz-mat suits like those used in the 80’s not so far from where we are now. As anticipated, the museum was daunting and left us feeling a little deflated. We grabbed an espresso at a café around the corner and made our plan for the rest of the evening.
We headed to a park that is described in our guidebook under the heading “4 days in Kiev” apparently, this park and it’s blini stand are not to be missed. When we got to the stand, we saw that there was a restaurant attached to it and decided to sit in it’s garden and have a beer and vodka. As we sat at our table (with copies of both Kiev ex-pat newspapers) pipes along the tented roof misted us with water to help keep us cool. It was crazy and lovely and refreshing. We wound up having plates of pickled things and bread and the fellas shared a plate of lard slices (very popular here) and after a rousing discussion of American Imperialism, realized that time had flown and that we’d best be heading off to the stadium.
Sweden was still very well represented at the game, despite their position in the ranking. The stands were a sea of yellow and light-blue, but we soon figured out that these were not merely Sverige fans. As loud as the chants and songs were for Sweden (we continued to sing Zwerge instead of Sverige) the louder chants were when someone would sing “U-krai-ina” and we clap and sing a “U-krai-ina” response. This call and response was peppered through the game as Sweden soundly beat France and Ukraine lost to England, revealing that our match on Sunday will be in the audience of Italy and England. We’re totally thrilled!
The singing of our host country continued on the walk to the metro, on the escalator to the metro and in the metro all the way to our stop. It was exciting. I’m definitely glad that we’re here and not in Poland (especially with my Russia-loving spouse!) (PS the only significant crimes to be reported during this Eurocup have been those that happened after the Poland and Russia game – 183 reports of assault and other crimes.)

Day 3 in Kiev

Day 3 in Kiev
Yesterday started with rain and cold during the trip to the market but the sun shone all afternoon and gave us comfortable temperatures. We took the metro to the square where the Orang Revolution took place. Now, however, it is the FanZone. We couldn’t enter because we had a freshly purchased expensive bottle of mineral water and no such dangerous products are allowed within the fan limits.
We walked along the FanZone and ducked around the corner of a building to call a restaurant that we’d found in lonely planet; Pervak. While Ivo called to reserve an out door table within the next half hour, Steff and I watched a drunken Swede strip to the waist and roll around on the ground in front of 4 young guards. When he tried to stand (a valiant effort, considering how drunk he was) the nearest guard gently pushed him down. He was making quite a racket and his colleagues were sat about 3 feet away on a step, laughing at him.
We continued down the FanZone, walking down the middle of the street as soon as we were away from the protected and Coke sponsored inner area. Large trailers with banners in Ukrainian and English proclaimed their allegiance with their “beloved Julia” and their hatred of the current government. Me thinks that participants of the Orange Revolution would prefer these banners to those advertising Carlsburg beer within the Zone. Then again, not merely the ads, but the masses of vomiting and drunken foreigners may have also given the revolutionaries pause.
Pervak had been described in Lonely Planet as an authentic Ukrainian restaurant with modern takes on classic dishes and very little kitch. The waitresses were dressed in corsets, two large carved figures are at either side of the host’s stand and are dressed as a sailor and farmer. The downstairs bar’s stools are made to look like horse’s rear ends, tails and all. Yup, not kitchy at all. We drank smoked apple and berry juice and had some super great food and then headed across the street to the Lucky Pub. This place was described in Lonely Planet as being likely to be a popular spot during the Euro Cup 2012 (it was written in 2010.) It has 13 TV screens and was filled with locals and foreigners alike. I ordered a milkshake and asked what flavors they had “only milkshake flavor” was the answer. Ivo said, “like, vailla, or….?” and she admitted that vanilla was the milkshake flavor, yes. The actual milkshake seemed to be milk with powder mix and a banana, poured in a glass with marachinno syrup and topped with whipped cream. This - - interesting – milkshake reminded me of the insane milkshake flavors (27?) at Pearl’s burgers in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, including Nutella and other craziness. I never had a milkshake there and sucking some banana through a straw made me think that I should try to have less regrets in my travels and that none of it has to do with milkshakes.
After Russia’s victory we walked back through the FanZone. We found a busker singing Kino songs. Ivo discovered Kino when we were in Petersburg and went to his friends’ for dinner. After we ate, Ivo and Igor took turns playing the guitar (Ivo playing it like a bass) while each fella’s partner sang along to a classic song from our youth. Igor and Sveta sang mostly Kino songs and we later learned that Igor’s personal style was very much taken from Kino. They both come from the Caucuses. But on this night in Kiev, a large group of young Russians and Ukrainians sang loudly and passionately as a busker played and sang the songs of a revolutionary musician who became popular decades ago. It was lovely.
Today we headed to the Mother Homeland statue. The large steely lady holds a disproportionately short sword in one hand and a shield in the other. Apparently nothing can be higher than the nearby monostary and thus it is shorter than it should be. After a walk down the river, we saw the mother looming above the trees. We walked under the highway and bought entry into a garden with lovely floral designs of EM host countries past and present. There’s something so touching about seeing a football made of shrubbery.
After that we walked past stalls selling wares and on to a veritable candy shop for the boys.  The candy shop today was gardens of military vehicles that line the way to the monument. We popped into a museum of wars in foreign lands to buy Steff entry into a pen where a Soviet helicopter from the war in Afghanistan stood. He and Ivo climbed inside the machine and photographed one another while I sat and people watched. The day had involve much sun and walking so far, so I was glad to sit in the shade and glad that I was not wearing the 5-6 inch heels that many of the other visitors were wearing.
We then walked through a tunnel with amazing 3d carvings in the walls representing the soldiers and home-front of the great patriotic war. We then went to a second museum that connects to the statue. We decided to only purchase a ticket that would take us to the middle platform below the statue’s feet. A ticket to climb the ladder through the mother’s arm to her shield would involve a 3 hour wait. Despite the large and interesting and well displayed museum, we couldn’t possibly spend 3 hours walking around there and claustrophobia pushed the camel over while making the decision.
The Ukrainian accounts of the Great Patriotic War are apparently far more balanced than those Ivo has found in Russia. It was very effecting, however; very emotionally draining. After visiting the platform and taking photos and taking in what we could see of this big huge city, we tried to find our way to another Metro stop. Along the way, we got to see young boys with doves who offered to perch them on visitors’ arms, as well as a british man getting short with a stall attendant for not understanding “TWO ICED TEAS!” quickly enough and a man in an SUV driving quickly onto the pedestrian way, blasting music, we got to eat lemon-chocolate swirled soft-serve ice cream. We made our way home and had a rest and then I cooked us up some Pelmyeni and Vereniky (vegetable dumplings and meat dumplings) and spinach with pickles and now we’re just eagerly awaiting the next Euro match.
If tonight is as hot as today was, we’ll likely make our way to the Hydropark and go swimming in the river. We’re still trying to figure out how to do that without getting robbed, so it’s a real adventure. After all, if Ivo’s camera could be so well lifted from a backpack he was wearing (a big, heavy camera, that is), we’ll need to be clever about our belongings.

Arriving in Kiev

Kiev, Ukraine 16.06 (Die Frisseur helt) (that’s a joke that the boys kept telling yesterday ever since we had to go onto the tarmac in Zürich to catch our AirFrance flight. It’s apparently from an ad for hairspray.)
We met Stef at the bus stop at 5:39 and were all relatively fit, despite the early hour. At the airport things went smoothly and we had a coffee and snack and I was far calmer than I usually am pre-travel.  The calm held while we arrived in Paris and discovered that the time we needed to get from one terminal to the next meant that we would miss our connecting flight. Luckily, as we learned this, we also learned that there was another flight 3 hours later, which would get us there in time to have dinner with our hosts and get to the game on time. (Die Ruhe helt.) We went to customer service and got our new tickets, called Vladi, who’d wanted to pick us up, to tell him we were delayed and I ran to the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom, I couldn’t find the boys and began to freak out. I reached them on our cell phone and the decision was made to eat some food. (Most likely the reason for the freak-out. It was already 10 am and I’d not yet eaten.)
After a harrowing flight with dips and dives and crazy turbulence, we arrived safely in Kiev and began our Cyrilic alphabet lessons with Ivo while waiting for passport control. We then nabbed our luggage and discovered that Steff’s bag had not arrived. (As I write this, it still hasn’t arrived) Ivo took the opportunity to show us that we needn’t worry because he knew the language and was unafraid to go from one line to the next, getting a form stamped and then going back again.
Vladi was waiting for us with bottles of water and a large station wagon to accommodate our luggage (Steff’s bag was the smallest of our travel gear.) He has such a large car because he is an RC model plane flyer. It’s been a hobby since his days in the Air force as a youth. We eaked out of the parking lot and then zoomed crazily around highways. Despite using a Vladi’s clever detour, we hit traffic next to some gorgeous fields with vegetables and cows. In the breakdown lane, a line of Ukrainians who had no time for such traffic reversed back to the rotary in an orderely line. Another car simply drove over the field to bypass the traffic. Vladi spotted the origin of traffic, where cars were driving normally, about 100 meters or so ahead.  “Good news! It’s just an accident” (the accident was gnarly – a Zhiguli had been destroyed.) While waiting in the traffic, a spotty young man appeared out of nowhere and began making inquiries of Vladi. Vladi responded monosyllabically and I began to imagine that the fellow was begging, until he began to smile widely, thanked Vladi and ran back to a car which he’d left (and I hadn’t seen before) to drive slowly forward with the last of the traffic. Apparently the young man had just ordered the same car that Vladi was driving and wanted to know if he was satisfied with it.
We were not only gifted the useful water on that trip. Vladi had also bought us a SIM card. He had to explain it a bit, as it was written in Ukranian and not Russian. We got to their house and instantly were greeted with wonderful smells from the kitchen. Larissa had been cooking. We were worried about being late to the match once the food began to be served and after the third time standing to toast something else with our vodka or beer. Luckily, the France Ukraine game had a rain delay and our game was thus also delayed. We ate and drank and gave our wonderful hosts their gifts, were shown our amazing apartment and then Vladi sweetly drove us to the Metro station.
Our Metro station is above ground. At 9:30 pm it was still light enough that the interior lights weren’t yet in use. They would simply blink before a stop. When they went on and stayed on, we knew that we were headed underground. Many metro stations in the post-soviet space are hundreds of meters underground (700-800 in some places.) They are meant to double as nuclear bomb shelters. This makes me wonder about the extreme depth of the Metro stations in Washington DC. Announcements along our trip were helpfully broadcast in Ukrainian and English; a lovely effort by the Eurocup host country. Upon arrival at our first transfer, purple (the color of this Eurocup) signs with football flowers showed us the way to the train that would take us to the FanZone and finally the Stadium. Really, all we needed to do was follow the loud Brits and Swedes. At this point, we began to see the sweet baby-faced guards who were watching the crowds. They are young police academy students and look like spotty pre-teens with their tall hats perched on the backs of their buzzed heads.
As we ascended to the FanZone, an 8 year old England fan was blowing on an obnoxious horn. We all confirmed how grateful we were that vuvuzelas had been banned and I began to hope that this other form of horn (a canister with a handle, the boy blew into an opening and seemed to be able to control the volume with the intensity of his breathe – it sounded like an angry duck) would be banned next Cup. As I was beginning to get properly frustrated with this boy, we came upon another group of baby-officers and the boy demonstrated how quietly and politely he could make his horn sound. Soon we were in a pleasantly sized and spaced crowd of fans. The excitement was building but the stadium was not yet in sight. We were just a jolly group of football fans, walking in the middle of a closed 4-lane road.
A group of fans in crosses of Saint George began singing the national anthem and Ivo admitted sadly that we were likely missing the actual anthem at that very moment. (We did not yet know that our game would be politely delayed due to the first game’s delay.) Ivo has always cherished the National anthems at the International tournaments “it’s what makes them so special.” He’d told me before about the fact that his grandmother (the woman responsible for his football fandom) used to think that it was a shame when players didn’t sing along to their national anthem (I imagine that Spain is excluded from this criticism, as they have no words.)
As we approached the stadium and walked through a small barrier, I’m embarrassed to say that I felt like I was in the fourth Harry Potter movie. Those special effects used for the world quidditch cup stadium were the only thing near what I was seeing now. The stadium was out of this world.
We came in and then walked around half of the stadium to get to our section. Choosing to avoid the concourse, we walked around the exterior and tried to judge from fan sounds and announcer sounds if how far into the game they were (no one thought to check their watch, for fear of disappointment.) We saw blue and yellow uniforms playing against dark uniforms on the screens through the gate and thought that the game was already on. Little did we know that they were showing the France Ukraine match.
Our seats were crazy close. I’ve never been that close before. (FCZ’s stadium has a very large racing track around its pitch, which creates a good barrier for flaming garbage and crazy fans, so one could never be this close. The speed and intensity was so much more impressive at this distance. We were sat among Sweden fans and a smattering of England fans. My sense of self-preservation led me to cheer for Sweden, but Steff and Ivo stuck with England, despite the company it meant that they were keeping. A drunken English man with a mid-lands accent harassed his beloved team with a string of insults, from calling players “muppets” to “bastards” to “fockin’ eejits.”
Things that we saw that were not televised: Upon arrival, we saw a string of nattily dressed guards in black marching up a stairwell. At the half-time, a group of guards with green pinafores came to our section and removed racist banners that had been draped over the rail. The guards for the field had three levels, so far as I can tell: light yellow-green pinafores were the young and yawning guards, darker green pinafores were more beefy, older, more serious guards. Guards in orange pinafores were in charge of the others. In front of our section, in the second half, there was a light-green guard sat every 3 feet. In front of the more passionate Sweden sector (in the Northeast corner) were light green and dark-green guards every 1.5 feet. In front of the more passionate England fans in the Southeast, throughout the second half, the number of guards became uncountable. Dark-green and orange guards stood shoulder to shoulder against the railing. They picked up England fans who had jumped over the rail during their second goal and seemed to multiply. After England’s  3rd goal, a fan jumped the railing and the guards and began running on the track toward the pitch. An orange guard took the man down, with an arm around his throat and was joined by 4 other guards who then threw him into the crowd. During this time, more England fans jumped over the rail and were instantly…inspired…. To climb back to their seats.
After the England win, we stayed through “We Will Rock You” and half of  “3 Lions” and then began to make our exit. As we left, the nattily dressed guards were back, marching over catwalks toward the stadium and down the stairs, herding fans out. The most upsetting guard situation was something that would appear banal: The OMON. The Omron stood in a straight line with weapons and helmets, not moving. Other guards we would later see, (blocking some metro entrances and lining others) included men and women, some who were smiling, and giving directions. The Omon need only stand there to scare me. These are the same soldiers whose actions in Chechneya give one nightmares. These are the soldiers that we saw in Petersberg on a lovely city ramble, who were in a courtyard behind a police building beating dummies with sticks and cheering wildly. Their blue camouflage gives me the shivers and I was glad to be leaving them behind. Our trip home was far less sardine-like than I imagined and our walk home from the metro was long and peaceful. People sat on benches in front of their buildings and chatted and smoked. The craggy, potholed sidewalks made me glad that all that vodka at dinner was through my system. We stopped at the 24 hour “magazin” near our place to pick up a toothbrush for Steff and some Kefir for the morning and headed to our apartment. I took a cold shower. I stupidly (or sleepily? – we had been up since 5am and it was now 1:30 am) hadn’t thought to move the faucet’s handle to the blue stripe when no hot water greeted the red stripe.
This morning we slept in. I was up at 10 and did some work and the men slept on until 11:30. At noon, Larissa (the other half of our incredible hosting team) had told us to call around breakfast time and called us herself to ask if we planned to sleep all day. We went down to meet her and she’d prepared an amazing breakfast for us. She took us to the market and then we went out to the farmer’s stalls to get fruit and veg and milk products (we’d bought something like 5 sacks of frozen Pelmeni dumplings in the supermarket) I waited in line for fruit and veg while Steff guarded the groceries and Ivo and Larissa went into the dairy trailer. The line was faster than expected and suddenly I was confronted with the prospect of ordering my own produce. I held up two fingers and a thumb and said “drei corgette? Gurke?” The young lady chuckled and grabbed three cucumbers. “Ist das alles?”, she asked in German. I was relieved and embarrassed and continued my order until Ivo came and began saying numbers of kilos for the fruit that we needed. I’m unsure what it would have come to if I’d needed to understand how many Grivna I owed.
Ivo just called the airline (at my insistence) to inquire about Steff’s luggage. A recording told him to pusk “1” for Ukrainian and “2” for English. Ivo speaks Russian, not Ukrainian, so he pushed “2” an was promptly hung up on. He called again an pushed the “1” key and was able to ascertain that the bag was in the airport and would be delivered in the next 48 hours. So that’s good.

Dienstag, 12. Juni 2012

from rain to Ukraine

There is a perpetual rainstorm here in Zürich. It's lasted the last few weeks. What makes it worse is the tease of sporadic gorgeous weather and sunshine that are erased by chilly temperatures and deluges. Meanwhile, at the start of every Euro Cup game in Ukraine, the announcers let us know, that it's boiling there. So, apparently we'll be trading our showers for baths of sweat by the end of the week.
Ukraine isn't so very exotic, but I've come to terms with the fact that many exotic destinations I'd like to visit are off-limits to the Auto-immune challenged. I'll never go to India or Bali. After all, a trip east as far as Ukraine or Russia means taking along doses of steroids and antibiotics and my husband's worry about how soon before our trip I take a my immunsuppresants.
After reading an article in Das Magazin, about drug-addled Metalist fans who follow their team religiuously despite knowing that every game is fixed and Panorama's "Stadiums of Hate", all about the neo nazi culture in Ukrainian and Polish Ultras, I feel properly ready. I'll take my drugs and my tank tops that cover my Hebrew tattoo and head off to watch some football. Hopefully the only parasite I come home with is the kind that gets delivered in 9 months.

Montag, 28. Mai 2012


Despite reading Dracula in Ivo's abscence (our pick for this time apart) I haven't had any nightmares until last night. I don't know if it was from reading about police use of drones in the States or Das Magazins artikel about the Metalist fans in Kharkiv, Ukraine (in combination with last months bombs in Dnipropetrovsk). Whatever it was, my dream woke me after a canister bomb went off next to me after I was showered with bombs while escaping some hotel-casino owned by the mafia, in order to right some great wrong. There were also friends from SF and babies in it, so it was more complex than mere fear of Kyiv, methinks.
I've been so blissfully distracted by nervousness about the water and wc situation in Kyiv that I'd forgotten to be nervouse about fan culture in the Ukraine. Simultaneously, I realize that the alternative  to (possibly scary) authentic Ukranian fan culture at the Euro is a super fake family-friendly culture. Which is worse? I guess I'll have to chill out and meditate before sleep because I'm super crazy grateful that I get to go and see Kyiv and 3 Eurocup games and have fun with friends and Ivo.

Mittwoch, 25. April 2012

Unattended things may be robbed.

I remember once entering a train with my mother- and brother-in-law. We wanted to join a guy in a four seat section, but his bag was on the seat. My brother-in-law offered to help him stow it in the luggage rack and the guy was shocked. There in the rack were massive unattended bags. The guy looked at me and said, "people just leave them here?" I shrugged and grinned. It was true and I loved it. People just left there stuff and it was there when they got back.
Moving from Philadelphia to Zürich was like moving to the 1950s. Children ran free with out an idea about "stranger danger," Sundays were all about family, women got time off for having babies in a meaningful way (well, maybe that's not so 50's.) I loved that people would leave there bags on the train and be sure that they'd remain safe.
Ah, but all good things must end and the newspaper this morning brought the news that we must be more careful with our belongings in the train. The funny thing is, it wasn't even the big bags on the train that they were worrying about. The warning was that things of worth (laptops and wallets) should be kept on your person where you can feel it. This is insane and still super encouraging. Apparently, I still live in a partially idyllic land, I guess.

Freitag, 20. April 2012

Tips for people approaching dogs, learned from people approaching my dog.
Tip one: Don't stop at telling your child to approach a dog slowly, go ahead and warn them against waving their hand in front of the dog's face. Apparently, they'll want to do that.
Tip two, go ahead and touch a dog's muzzle if they seem amenable, but don't be surprised by the slobber. (Jowls should warn you of slobber in advance.)
Tip three: If you are curious about whether or not a dog will bite you, don't stick a finger in front of it's mouth saying, "Are you going to bite me? Do you bite? Should I be afraid that you'll bite me?"(If the answer is yes, you'll be sorely disappointed.

Freitag, 13. April 2012

Still an Ausländerin

So, It's 6 years since I moved here and I'm still harping on about my foreignness. There are multiple reasons for this. My days are spent teaching English to other immigrants who are struggling to learn yet another language (sometimes simultaneously learning their German.) I teach engineers, lawyers and pharmacists who now live here and need multiple new languages to continue their careers in their new homes.
I moved here in 2006 and now friends ask if I'm going to get my citizenship. This decision has been postponed because of our little 13 month jaunt in North America. The question sounds different depending on who's asking. It's tax time and the annual freak-out about the American government claiming it's tax money abroad has been refreshed (just in time for labor day).

The third reason I'm thinking about my foreignness is that people continue to stereotype about foreigners right to my face, either ignoring my transplatation or forgetting it. For example, when describing my pup's intestinal infection resulting from eating something gross from the bushes when I wasn't watching, the listener said "damn foreigners chuck their compost out their kitchen windows." I was telling this to a German friend and she said, "It's ridiculous that the Swiss still say 'Auslaänder'."  I was embarassingly unaware that there was any German alternative. I'd come her an outsider and imagined that I'd die here an outsider. Apparently, in German, ousiders are more affectionately called "Immigranten." It's so damn semantic, but for some reason it feels better. I'd prefer that.
In the meantime, I'm mistaken for a Belgian or Dutch lady and encourage my students to see more similarities than differences when they can. What else can we do, we band of immigrants?

Montag, 9. April 2012

then and now

3 years ago, I celebrated Easter by walking through Pére Lachaise cemetary in Paris. I was there for a month but spent the morning looking at old and new graves, watching Japanese girls pretend to kiss Oscar Wilde's tombstone.
I would never have anticipated that Easter back in 1994 when I was 13 and wolfing down easter chocolate and getting car sick on my way to my aunt's house for ham and cheesy potatoes.
Back in 2009 I'd never have anticipated that I would spend some future Easter healing from a misscarriage.
This afternoon, after returning to Zürich, our neighbors were having an Easter-egg hunt. A few children were toddling around searching for the eggs. A woman was taking photos, a few little ones were being dandled around. Ivo said "That'll be us in 5 years." But let noone say that I'm a woman who can't learn. I can not even begin to imagine what will be happening on Easter in 5 years.

Montag, 26. März 2012

5 years as Mijnssen or Parenthood is never Painless

Tomorrow marks 5 years since Ivo and I said "Ja, ich will" in Zürich's Civil Registry and began planning our actual vows for our July wedding. 5 years ago, Ivo had just returned from Kiev and I had just been discharged from the Waidspital, my body having rejected a porcine plug that was meant to aid my chron's ravaged body.

3 years ago tomorrow, Ivo and I began our path to parenthood. Tearful conversations and beautiful trust-building sessions with a family psychologist readied us for the adoption process.

5 years ago at City hall, I used my German to say that I agreed to legally bind myself to Ivo Mijnssen for life. But it was in July that he and I used one another's native languages to promise one another our best intentions, our trust, fidelity and support.
Tomorrow we are eligible for adoption in Switzerland. I've come far enough that I could conduct that process in Swiss-German, filling out forms in high German and translate what is necessary for any American adoption agency. But I don't think we will do that. No, this week, instead of using my Swiss German to re-start the process to adopt a child, I am learning the vocabulary of loss. Last week it was confirmed that Ivo and my miraculous pregnancy (Schwangerschaft) has ended in miscarriage or "Fehlgeburt". Fehlen means "lack" or "abscence", but it also means "want." I choose the latter of these definitions, because our future child is so wanted. A beloved friend told me this week, that we are not having a Fehlgeburt but a Nachricht, or a message. My body has rung a bell and told us (along with all of my doctors) that we are able to get pregnant, that my body did a great job during the pregnancy and that we may naturally become parents.
We are so blessed, because the weight of this Nachricht is so great, that the weight of loss is more manageable. Chrohn's had no effect on this loss, it is blessedly typical. In fact, it happens often to many healthy women.
While preparing to celebrate that civil stage of our partnership, Ivo and I are preparing for our loss. In the meantime, I learn words like "Fruchtwasser" (amnionic fluid) which I produced well and "auskratzen" (the cruel German word that turns "dialation and curetting" into "scratching out", should it come to that.)
Throughout this new experience in our relationship, Ivo and I use our bilingual stock of vocabulary to hold to our vows and love and support one another. This path to parenthood just keeps getting more and more interesting and our partnership continues to prove strong, no matter how it's tested.

Freitag, 20. Januar 2012

Ariel Parallel

When I was 8 years old, I was in love with the Little Mermaid. My two best friends had VCRs (we did not) and we watched it nearly every day.
After age 9, however, the first time I saw the film again was in San Francisco last summer. It was on the big screen, in the Castro, round the corner from a bunch of naked men protesting new nudity laws and other tourists in town for Leather fest. We were in the company of young girls in costumes. Everyone had a swag, replete with anything a mermaid fan could want: a clicker to make Sebastian sounds, a dinglehopper for a fun hair-doo, a necklace, a crown, bubbles.....
While watching the film I was transported to all of those feelings I'd had as a child while watching it. When the film concluded, I remembered my confusion at Tritan's sadness. He's worried about "how much I'm going to miss her." As a girl I thought, "but she can always come visit!" Sure, they'd need to hang around near the surface, or she'd need an air tank, but she can still swim around to see her family. As a 30 year old who was living and continues to live 3,000 miles from my family, I experienced the film differently.
Returning to Switzerland left Ivo as wobbly as the newly-legged Ariel. Now that we've settled in we're enjoying all of the beauty of being part of this world. Ivo's been getting career cousnseling of sorts and exploring his options and getting the encouragement that he needs to weather the doctoral storm. We've both been jumping into every work opportunity and have become expert at accepting every social invitation and generally maximizing our here-ness. I'm taking the advice of not giving in to the instinct to tread water and prepare my parenting self and living life childless, knowing that parenthood will come when it comes, but we need to be us until then. That said, we're also shutting out the notion that we may relocate in the next few years, if only temporarily, if Academic oppotunity knocks.
So we dived in and the water's fine, walking around on those - what's that word again - streeeets of Zürich

Sonntag, 8. Januar 2012

unreasonable concerns

For my second operation, I was to get a bumper of anesthesia through an epidural. The surgery was meant to take 6 hours or more and the spinal entry would keep everything calm. My anesthesiologist was a terribly sweet and friendly man, which is good for a pediatric anesthesiologist.
He told me to give his nurse a big hug, which I did. He'd already given me something to make me relaxed (and loopy) and I said that his nurse was very fun to hug because she was big and squishy. I'd never have said this had I not been given drugs. I also would not have likely told the doc that he had a large nose if I were sober.

10 hours later, I woke very suddenly, in a lot of pain and with a wet back. My epidural had slid out in recovery. A resident put it back in, but it slid out again and I was given a morphine pump. I understand that the epidural sliding out likely has nothing to do with having offended my caretakers. Nevertheless, I'm reminded of this incident in anticipation of my treatment on Tuesday.
When I met the doctor who will be applying my treatment, I was introduced as an American who speaks "Mundart." The fact that I speak swiss-german was cheerily delivered to this German doctor by his cheery assistant Dr.
"She's only lived here 4 years!" He said, grinning. "Perhaps we should all speak in dialect." He added.
The German Dr. groaned and said "keine Chance."
I'm now thinking about this second-hand chiding and hoping that it doesn't effect my care on Tuesday. I'm hoping alot, in fact. I find myself stupidly or sweetly imagining that something might come of our plan this week and that my health may be taking a new, super cool turn.
Who knows. All I know is that I will be as sweet and polite to everybody at the University Hospital . . . just in case.