Friday, September 12, 2008

On a lighter note....

I realize there were generalizations in yesterday's post. I just needed to describe some incidents that lead to the oppressive feeling you can get when living in a place that is so beautiful but has it's undercurrents.

I have Swiss friends who are absolutely wonderful and I wouldn't wish to offend. We see the 'ugly American' tourists here too - and I'll be the first to comment.

OK - Onward to the fun and enjoyable part of life. Kids are back in school - happily so. Why don't they want to spend more time with their Mom?

Because she drags them outside and up mountains, that's why!

Look at how clean and tidy these hillsides are. Makes the accountant in me just melt. It's like a mountain farmers version of a long-term contract Excel spreadsheet - that works. But how does it get that way? Surely some of those hillsides are too steep for commercial mowers?

Which makes me wish I had some photos of machinery contraptions here - would make an Iowa farmers head spin. Who needs a mower when you have man-power? No joke.

I can't tell you how many times we've been cruising on a road and seen someone (man, woman or child) mowing a steep hillside and raking the grass up. They still sell scythes in the garden department - they use them!

Click on this pic below to get a better look though. My apologies for not enlarging it - have a problem cropping out the mountains.

Those are kids cutting grass and raking! ALL DAY LONG!

I took this picture in Wengen this summer. I first saw them about 8am (shortly after rising - lazy mum). We take off on whatever hike we had decided on that day and they are still at it when we returned in the afternoon. And at 6:30pm when Bart & I passed by on a quick and quiet walk without kids.

These kids were all around 9 - 14 yrs old, probably siblings, cousins or neighbors and working alongside their moms. All day long and this is not easy work.

Where do I sign my kids up? I talked to the mothers who said the kids would be "treated with ice cream and then go to bed well" that night.

Now, these kids don't have to work like this everyday. It's seasonal but it is also expected of them. As part of the family and the community. There is a strong sense of responsibility and community here. It contributes to the orderliness and cleanliness of the place.

This sense of responsibility is reinforced by everyone. The expectation is high. They may not tell you to your face - ex. our satellite cable had dropped and - gasp - was the scourge of the neighborhood - but we eventually heard about it and fixed the 'problem.' Or if someones garden is unkempt or blocking signs - they are expected to clean things up.

Sometimes you get it in the face - do not put your shoes up on a seat in the train! If someone is cranky, they'll yell at you about it. If not cranky, they'll politely remind you. You see - the seats must be kept clean for people to sit on! They don't like to sit on dirty seats. Whoa! Neither do I. Many people take off their shoes to rest their stocking feet on the seats instead. I'm not so sure I want to sit near that either. Just my little quirk. I know my socks are clean.....See - told you I had my own discriminatory nature.

Where was I? Right - kids working hard - keeping things clean - enjoying it.

So - While our kids are working hard at school, we are working hard in the mountains. Hiking. I went to Amden with a couple other moms from school on a beautiful day this week. It was nice to hit parts of the trail we never seem to get to when our kids are along.

We had adorable company. Here's my friend, Kris, with a sweet little thing that had already slobbered on me and my poles. She was so curious about us and our stuff . I kept an eye out for the mamas as they have horns - but no one was babysitting this one. Shall I mention that dried cow slobber on your hand doesn't smell good. Especially for someone with over-sensitive olfactory functions.

So we head to this great little restaurant on the side of the hill for lunch and to wash calf slobber off our hands and LOOK:

The REGA helicopter has parked next to the playground so the crew can have lunch. How many restaurants can you go to on the side of a mountain, with a playground for kids (complete with John Deere kiddie tractors - I kid you not), lovely facilities and a helicopter parked on the grass? Come on over and I'll take you there.

Now if REGA comes to visit you personally, I'm really sorry.

It means you've fallen and you can't get up. For example - you've broken your leg skiing, you fell off the mountainside hiking, you were paragliding and smacked into the side of the mountain instead of landing properly - that kind of thing. They don't mess around with ground transportation here. Air lifting is king. I've never seen a "basket" on a ski run either. So you'd better have REGA or other medical coverage - because while a trip in a basket behind Ski Patrol might be free, the helicopter is most certainly NOT.

However, on this day, they were not rescuing anyone. Just having lunch before working on the Avalanche control fences high above this little town.

There they go.........we all kind of wanted a ride but didn't figure they'd go for it. Broken leg anyone? So fun day and thought I would put in a plug for Amden.

It is a little town on the side of a mountain and has some skiing, hiking - but not a tourist destination. So unless you live here, you will probably never go (unless you come and I take you). Therefore, it is very local and we really stand out once we open our mouths.

The young men outside the barn all smiled and responded to our "Gruetzi Mittenand" with "Hallo!" - looking very pleased with themselves that they used English.

We were able to get past the Hoch Deutsch/Schweizer Deutsch issue with the restaurant 'lady' (she's cook, cashier, server, dish washer, etc...) in ordering and figuring out what she had used in the delicious homemade salad dressing. She was so pleased we liked it.

Mental picture: A man, about 70 yrs old, on a bike, green felt Alpine hat with red feather, leather Bavarian style coat, carrying a 20 gallon milk can - riding uphill. Felt it would be rude to whip out the camera.

So if you feel a little blue about being foreign, you just head up to Amden where the view is terrific, you see all sorts of fun things and the Swiss people are warm and friendly.


Linds said...

Now I want to get there faster than ever! It is just like Engelberg!

Anonymous said...

JC will never forget our lunch there...heartbroken over the case of broken bottles by the delivery boy..and the wasted content.