Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Swiss Chocolate, Swiss Cheese, Swiss Snowboarders... Heaven.

So, can I just say, Switzerland is BEAUTIFUL!? It has the simple, majestic feel to it that's so suave and yet down-to-earth. I can't even quite describe it.

We left on Friday afternoon from Bonn, and after a six hour drive made it to our little farm home in the Swiss Alps. I had NO idea where we were staying, and didn't even think to ask, so I was a bit surprised when we pulled up. I was also a bit surprised because I had my eyes closed most of the way up the winding roads in attempt to not get car-sick. Haha! Seriously, roads are SO windy up in here (granted that's a bit of a "duh!" as we're in the mountains) and people drive fast because they're more use to it, and the speed-limits are a lot higher. Whatever the reason, I was not having the best of stomachs, and once the headache hit I know it was time I close my eyes or we'f have to soon pull-over. Haha!

Anyway, we pulled up to the farmhouse and I found out we'd be renting part of the house from a family there. We would also be joined by another family of five (two kids (Tom & Lexi), grandma, and the parents (Dave & Hannah)) that have done this trip for four years now with the Merl's. TheI was a bit worried about being freezing in there, but I haven't had a problem with that as of yet. Otherwise, I am in love with the place. It's small, but I feel like I'm getting a real feel for Switzerland (unless you're at the resorts) and the people here. I have pictures of my room and the place - we're SO far up the mountain!

Sidenote: You'll notice in the picture to your right that every mountain has avalanche protection to the MAX up here! Along with that, each home is built INTO the mountain for added protection and is surrounded by stone barriers so to the snow slides over the homes and not INTO the homes if there is an avalanche. It's a bit crazy, but we've already seen a TINY one in the first two days here. Haha!

Saturday morning, upon waking up, I looked at the views around the house (for the first time in the light) and was in complete awe. The mountains are HUGE and COVERED in enormous trees. The air is SO clear and the sun is BRIGHT! You would think the snow would be melting faster, but the chill air keeps it around plenty. It certainly is cold, but the sun makes it drastically better. After breakfast with the fam and taking some pictures of my surroundings, we hopped into the car and headed to Davos, where they use to live. Patrick and Koko wanted to do a round of cross-country skiing, so they asked if I would stay with the boys and go sledding next to the ski resort. We lasted a few minutes before "I'm hungry" came ringing through the air. Thus, we went over to the little cafe/restaurant there and I ordered them fries and vorshti - aks: hot dogs. Haha! The hot dogs were really cool, oddly enough- they take hollowed out baguettes and pump ketchup or mustard inside, then put the brawt into the hole, and voila! You've got your own hot dog - a WAY cool, European hot dog. Haha!

While we ate we sat next to the place where many of the world competitions for snow-boarding take place at this AMAZING pipe-line. We watched TONS of snowboarders (and a few skiiers) come down the runway, carving back and forth and getting mad air. Some simply caught air and it was no biggie, but others were twisting away, doing nose grabs, 360s, etc. It was awesome! I couldn't help but think of my brother Derek the entire time... :)

After lunch, the boys refused to do ANYTHING. They both wanted to just chill in the buggie... After ten-minutes and some heavy coaxing, Finni got out and wanted to go sledding with me. We must have gone down about twenty times! I tell you, it was AWESOME! The wooden sled we had was classic, and got us going SUPER fast! Nico was content to rest in the buggie, no matter how much we asked him to come along, but Phineas and I were sledding like crazy for about an hour - we even made a video going down! Haha...

Koko and Patrick were back about two hours after they took off and we all played with the boys a bit longer before taking off to do some grocery shopping and head home. It was a good day... and my face even got some sun! Double win! Haha...

That night the other family arrived, and the little boys from downstairs came up to play. Things got a LOT louder... Haha! At one point I looked at Patrick and said, "Um... I'm cool with babysitting a bit while I'm here, but I'm not going to have all six at once and by myself, am I?" He laughed and promised that was a "NO," which made me over-the-moon relieved. Haha! However, there were some points throughout the trip that I definitely felt like I had all six, or at least five of them at once. I know it's never meant to be that way, but it happened a few times.

Sidenote: The grandma spoke Czech and German... and barely any English. Yea, it was interesting. Haha! There were a few times she thought I was telling her one of my parents was dead, she asked if she could "pick me up" cause I was "lookin' hot" once... She even apologized cause she thought I was offended that her husband was dead. Haha! It was SUCH a funny time at first, and frustrating in moments, but we really grew together through our time there with the kids and us.

Sunday we went to church in a few cities over in Koko and Patrick's old ward. Upon arriving a few people came up to say hello and one guy asked, "Are you American? Would you like a translator?" I was kind of taken aback... I was SO thankful, but very surprised. I mean, I wasn't planning on translation in Bonn, but every Sunday I get most of my meetings there in English. In Switzerland it was the same thing... Both of the meeting there were translated by this Swiss native who did his grad work at the U of U, and learned English before that in school. Most people over here learn English in school, but the they seem to learn it really well compared to how I learned Spanish or others learned French, German, Latin, etc. in High School. Anyway, they only have two meetings in this Swiss ward and then a lunch with the members. This time it was to say goodbye to a family moving away, but I guess that's the normal routine there.

Lunch, was AMAZING by the way! Haha... The members had all brought some homemade goodies that were totally unique and cultural - They KNOW how to cook there... All their breads and such were SO good! Also, they had this yellow cake, with chocolate fudgy stuff on the outside of each piece, and then it was rolled in coconut... Heaven. Haha! It was nice to visit with a few people in the ward and then head out to see a family that Patrick and Koko were close with when they lived in Davos. I spent most of my time visiting with the daughter, even though she didn't speak English... We played Backgammon and Connect Four. Haha! It was fine - I really didn't feel awkward. I was, however, FREEZING by the time we left - haha! We went to sit outside and eat tea and cake out there and at first it was brilliant. The sun was shining and it was fresh air... and then, the sun started to set a bit and the wind caught slightly... Yea, I was ready to go then. Haha!

Monday... Wow, this is like a little travel-log, but with pictures. Sorry folks if this bores you, but to quote LC, "It is what it is." Haha! Yep, I really DID just quote LC - hm. Haha!

So, back to Monday... I awoke early, 6:45am to be exact, and proceeded to get dressed. I don't know why the proper writing has the need to come forth right now, but um... I think I'm done now. I think.

After getting ready, I headed down to eat breaky and then get ready to have my first driving lesson... with a stick shift... In the snow. Haha! Yea, I forgot that everyone in Europe pretty much drives a stick... and most people in America, don't... especially girls. Hey, be a hater if you must, but it's true. Anyway, when we talked about it the night before I was a little apprehensive about learning to drive a stick in Swiss Alps. It's a cool enough story, but I was just NOT comfortable with it at all. However, I put on a brave game-face cause I knew I didn't really have an option without ruining everyone's plans and took on an "I-can-do-it" attitude. So, that morning Dave took me out to teach me. It was actually pretty easy... I mean, I have to be honest and say that two other people had given me a LITTLE experience before, but not a lot. Plus, when I was learning before I was not serious about it at all. I have never had any desire to learn, and was only doing it for fun before. Now, it was crunch time and I had about twenty minutes to learn how to drive a stick... yea. Haha!

I did alright though! I was really proud of myself and I counted it as a huge accomplishment. I have to be honest though, and say that I was NOT loving that it was snowing while I was learning, but it ended up being fine. I only stalled when I was in the wrong gear once and then once in the afternoon when I was on a really steep hill... Yea, good story there.

So, as I came up the mountain from the kids skiing lesson (we were bringing them back for lunch) I made it without stalling once and was feeling really confident. Yea, pride cometh BEFORE the fall, right? Right. I was to the top of the STEEP hill next to our farmhouse and the about to pull into the drive (an ice-covered drive I was not thrilled about, but decided I could tackle it) when the car stalled. WHAT?! I was almost scott-free and at the last possible moment I NEED the car to function, I stall?! Yea. So, I put on the E-break and unloaded all the kids (and grandma) and then after thinking for a moment decided there was only one option... I couldn't leave the car in the middle of the road, and I couldn't back the car the entire way down the hill with no promise of crashing it... and I would have to do that to get enough momentum to get the car back UP the hill. So, I chose secret option "C." I knocked on the house below our rentals door and prayed the mom would be able to help out...

Luckily, when she answered she spoke a little English and she was chill doing me a little favor with the car. In fact, she had a little private laugh when I told her it was my first day driving a stick and kinda gave a little "no-problem" swat of the hand when I asked her to take car of the issue. So, I flipped her cooking brawts while she ran out to park my car. Haha! It was really a pretty hilarious moment. I was loving it... after it was done. Haha! The entire time she was parking it I was saying, "Heavenly Father, don't let her crash the car. PLEASE, don't let her crash the car!" in my heart. Haha! All was well though, and hopefully tomorrow it's a similar story when I drive the kids again... I'm sure it will be. Haha!

Oh, The skiing lesson with the kids was really good, but it took FOREVER to get Finni to have the deisre to get up on skis... DANG that kid is stubborn. After promising hot cocoa and that we would go home after he tried going down the short slope one more time, he agreed. We got up and he started SCREAMING that he was about to pee his pants... So,what's a girl to do with a screaming child in need of a restroom when you're in Europe - cause there are NO restrooms anywhere to be found? Yea, I pulled his zipper open and let him go right there in the snow. Then, cause we were on the ski track area, I covered up the yellow snow with fresh, white snow. Finni thought THIS was hilarious, was in an instantly better mood and skiied for thirty to forty minutes more with me and the instructor. If I had known making yellow snow was all it took to make the kids happy, I would have let him pee on the track an hour previous to then. Haha!

In the afternoon, I played games with the kids, helped make them lunch, and then when the parents got home we decided to go sledding out in the front yard... Or, should I say, "front mountain?" Haha! Seriously, you walk outside and there is a MOUNTAIN there. So, we tried sledding and when we found the snow to be too-deep, we ended up having a massive snowball and tackling fight. Haha! We were all soaked and wet, but laughing so hard. We have some AWESOME pictures of us doing crazy jumps over the snow bank and dodging snowballs... It was classic. Haha! The kids were all WAY into it, and we had a BLAST! Koko and I decided to do somersaults and twist jumps down the mountain... pretty classic. Haha!

Tuesday was skiing class for the kids again, and let me tell you - all week they were getting better and better! While we were down there, Finni was having trouble being motivated, so I promised him that he could chose a Kinder Eier (egg) or shokolade bar if he went down up the tow rope a certain number of times and came down with the instructor. So, after he did we both got ourselves (and Nico/Lexi for later) a little treat. I chose this AMAZING candy bar called K├Ągi-Fret Coco... OH MY WORD! I found my favorite candy bar of all time. NO joke. Haha!

Now, after their class it was still POURING SNOW - it had been all morning - and so I made the executive decision that there was no way in HELLO and back that we were getting up the last stretch of pure mountain with me driving this stick. So, we parked in the lot below the last hill, put together the buggy and I pushed Tom and Phineas (our sleeping kids) in the buggy up the mountain while grandma encouraged Nico and Lexi to walk. Let me remind you I was pushing them up a MOUNTAIN - not a hill, a MOUNTAIN. Haha! It was SO hard pushing in the snow up the steep slopes (back and forth up the winding road), but I did it, unloaded the kids, and went in to start making lunch... I had my workout for the day, thank you. Haha!
After lunch the kids wanted to play one of the board games they found there, which was a great idea... except there were no dice. So, the first time we played I just called out random numbers as each kid moved their piece. The next time we tried I took Rummikub pieces and randomly picked one of them from the box for the number of spaces they were to move. I thought this was rather creative, to toot my own horn for a moment... haha!

When we were done with board games and the parents got home, we all trekked outside in the snow (still pouring snow) and made a GIANT snowman- the snow was the perfect consistency... which meant it was also the perfect consistency for more snowball-fighting and for the little kids to play "push the adults down the mountain!" over and over again. Haha! That game spawned from the little Swiss boys... I'm sure they have lots of practice playing with all the snow they get - haha!

Sidenotes: I spent the week speaking more German! I really feel like I'm getting better, but I'm nowhere near fluent yet. I'm learning slowly and surely. We started past tense stuff this week - I'm gettin' there! Haha...
- Also, while we were there it was usually the case that by the time I got to the shower there was NO hot water. So, waking up at 6:20am for some became a habit. It was nice to have morning time though, oddly enough I, LINZE, really did say that. Haha!
Other memorables for me:
- Good dinners and drinking milk straight from the cow
- NEIN to Spinat - I don't like it... I tried, but it's a no-go!
- New music I LOVE: Second Time Around, Art of Love, She's Not You, etc.
- As pathetic as it might sounds I was wanting to talk to my mom more while I was there... she really is my best friend.
- New books I adore and am reading: Wednesday Wars/IQ/Rules/StarGirl... I need to write more about all of these!

Wednesday was a day of some shining moments (literally) and some frustating ones.

When I woke up (6:20am for that hot shower - SO worth it!), the sun was shinning and I was ECSTATIC to be outdoors in the sun and fresh air. The mountains are FABULOUS here and it just feels good, but the constant snow of the few days prior to today was not making life easier for me. I mean, it's pretty and fun in some ways, but overall I like sun better. I have discovered over the past few months a little more about myself... Well, a lot more, but this upcoming thing in particular.

I really like vacationing and taking trips, but I do NOT like being cold. I always said I would rather be cold than hot, but I think it's a matter of me never really beeing COLD before this winter in my mind. I love being chilly, but each time I get cold I remember that I really HATE that feeling. If I had my way, I would spend more sunny moments in places like Hawaii... I dont think I'll EVER get over the trip Sarina and I took there last Thanksgiving. Maybe when I'm married and go to the tropics with my eternal boyfriend... That'll probably beat it out. Well, only if there's a convertible involved. Haha!

Summing it up - I like warm places better and vacations that involve laying in the sun, water sports, flip-flops and T-shirts. I had a great time in Switzerland, but I really like the outdoors more in the spring, summer, and fall.

Now, back to Wednesday... After breaky and getting everything geared up, I went down to the ski lessons with Lexi, Grandma and the boys, and spent the morning enjoying the sun, but just chillin' on the side of the mountain... I was really wanting to snowboard, but I didn't want to rent on a day I wasn't going to get a full day of use in... Patrick had suggested snowboarding on the same mountain as the kids, and then talking more about it we determined that it wouldn't be as successful because Finni is having tough moments when skiing. Even if they're doing well, I can't just leave him. Plus, I didn't know what was planned for the afternoon and so I didn't want to plan on snowboarding and then have them tell me we were doing something else. When we came back from the base I drove again AND parked the car in the drive, which requires backing in... a bit more difficult with a stick, but I did it! We made lunch for the kids, played for a few hours and then the parents got back around three.

Sidenote: To kill some time, I helped the kids make their very own music videos... To I'm a Minister of Rock N' Roll by Lenny Kravitz. Haha!!! Enjoy!

Now, by this time I was simply wanting some time to do SOMETHING fun for me. I mean, I love the kids, but it's exhausting caring for four kids (even with someone else's help). So, when Koko got back and said, "I think someone else's shoes will fit you. I was thinking that I could show you how tour skiing goes around here and we could go hike up the mountains around here," I thought she meant that day. Well, that afternoon they said they were going down to the lift to do some runs, and I thought that meant I would be hiking up with Koko while everyone else skied off the lift. Nope. We got there and I ended up watching a crying Finni while everyone else got a few runs in, and then we went home...

So, I didn't feel bad when I went upstairs and took ME time... I went upstairs and watched "Lois & Clark" and stayed up there until dinner time. Haha! I love that show, and it was just what I needed to relax. At dinner I had no desire to visit, but felt I needed to go be polite. So, I ate dinner (somehow ended up talking mostly about my life - no idea how that happened) and then stayed down chatting until about 11:30pm. It was actually really nice to just laugh and visit... I love those times.

Now, on to record Thursday. Haha!

Thursday was the same thing in the morning and the parents got home around 2:30pm... at which time I went straight up to my room to watch more "Loic & Clark" till we headed out to go swimming. Upon arriving there, Koko announced that she had forgotten her swimming suit, which was a bummer. Along with that, Tom was too young to get into the baths (giant spas that are like modern Roman Baths - SUCH a cool place! I wish I had gotten pics, but I was too nervous to take my camera by the pool with the boys around.), which meant that the other parents couldn't come in either. Sad day! It was still really nice and relaxing, but it just meant I had to watch the kids more. It turned out fine though... I just did my thing and had them come with me. Haha! They were chill... I did (SAD NOTE) leave my cute swim suit there though! I was upset cause I really liked that one... Oh well, I guess I can get another one here easy enough.

Anyway, Friday morning was great weather and the kids all did fabulous with skiing, but Finn had to take his skis off after EACH run for some reason and it was just time consuming. After the Friday rush of being done, the kids all got home and went a little crazy. Haha! The older kids formed a "big kids alliance," and did NOT want little 2-yr. old Tom around them for a bit. It's totally understandable, but I felt bad for him. So, I tried playing with him a bit and such, and encouraged the others to let him play until his 2 o'clock nap. Well, finally it became SO hectic and crazy that I got a bit aggravated and said, "That's it! You're done guys! Everyone back up a few steps... 2 more... 2 more... freeze." I had all four kids against the stove area in the kitchen and thought, 'I have to come up with something.'

So, what's a girl to do as four little children (slightly confused and worried) are looking up at you for instructions?

I played a twenty-minute game of Simon Says with them. SOOOOOOOOOOOOO random, but it worked. Haha! Then, I lead them via Simon Says into the living room and sat them in a circle to teach them Telephone. Finally it was time for Tom's nap and I could do some one-on-one things with the others while the other two would draw. It was perfect, but the parents didn't get home till 4pm and by then, I was DONE. I needed "ME TIME" and not in the house... Haha! I was fine watching them, but I just needed to get away a bit. So, I took a walk back into the mountains for around an hour and then met the families down in the local village (St. Antonien) for some hot cocoa, then walked back to the house from there to make pizza. It was a good way to wind down, and the next day, was mine. FINALLY! Haha...

Saturday was glorious as I finally got to venture out onto the Alps and try out some of my snowboarding skills. However, this time does not lack in stories to go with it. We went up to a place called Madrisa in Klosters, and took a beautiful gondola ride up to the top of the mountains. My word, it was SO beautiful up there! I got right to boarding on the kiddie slop, to remind myself how to do the basics since I don't do it very often. I found that I could still do basic carving and breaking, and make it down the tiny run just fine after a time or two. I spent extra time there though to improve my basic skills before I went to tackle the giant slopes - haha! Now comes the real story...

It's a sad, sad tale and some of you are going to think, "Linze, really? REALLY?" You will laugh at me and ultimately think less of me for a moment, but this too shall pass... I think. If not, well.... oh well. I still wanna tell the story for some comic relief! Haha...

So upon my desire to conquer the next mountain, I strapped on the board to my front binding and headed toward the T-Bar lift... Now, I had never gotten on a T-bar before. Ever. In Utah and Virginia they have the the lifts you sit in... They're nice and comfy on the way up, easy to get into, but I do have some trouble getting out at times... balance. You'd think after all those years of dancing and gymnastics my balance on a snowboard would be better... Anyway, back to the T-bar. Um... let's just put it out there. I fell off... twice. Then again... and again... and twice more. Yep, six times. Yep... They had to Stop the lift three times for me as I got a little way up and fell off. Yea... I tried and tried again, but finally I said, "Enough is enough... I'm holding up the lines." And, I was done. Now, I'm no quitter... no, I am merely postponing the experience until at least a year from now. It'll provide time for my bum and my ego to heal. Haha!

You can imagine this girl falling down a gillion times (at two separate points in the day, mind you) and how much you would have laughed, right? Now seriously, it's okay. I like to be the comic relief.

Sidenote: This also happened in front of a lot of good-looking snowboarders... just sayin'. Tragic. Haha! The clientele was fabulous in the Swiss Alps.

Anyway, the rest of the day was spent riding the kiddie slopes and getting better at balance and the basics... and getting my tan on. Haha! In all seriousness, my face and upper chest ARE really tan now, and I love it! I have proof of my awesome, improved snowboarding skills on Koko's camera, so I'll have to post some more pictures later... just to brag. Haha! There are also some of the best mountain shots on her camera too...

That evening we headed back to the little farmhouse and the kids went RIGHT to sleep, while the adults had fondue and chat time... It was a nice way to close everything up. Also, the grandma that I could barely carry conversation with invited my to stay with her in the Czech Republic - I wanted to visit Prague at some point while I was here, so perfect! She was so sweet and sincere too, and gave me a paper with her address and telephone on it to set it up for this summer. I'm excited! It's so great to get the opportunity to see so many places and experience different cultures. I really grew to love her over the week.

In fact on Friday she turned to me at lunch and said, "Let's try and talk. I want to know about your religion." As we chatted she went on to talk about how I am always reading my bible (and BoM) and church magazine (Ensign - I'm re-reading all the last sessions talks before this upcoming session in two weeks), and asked about it. It was hard to talk about it because we only understood of half of what the other person was saying. However, it was really motivating for me to learn better German so that I can have more missionary moments and feel more motivated to share the gospel with people here. Also, I think I might get a copy of the Book of Mormon in Czech, write my testimony in it (in German), and take it to her when I go. Especially since she initated the conversation because she wanted to know more. It's the perfect parting gift! :)

So, Saturday morning the family and I headed toward Munich - Koko had a presentation there on Sunday, so we made a short stop there before going home. I am in LOVE with that city! Patrick was saying how he applied for a job there awhile back and I was like, "Done! Let's move here - apply again!" Haha... I mean, I was only there for a few hours (and for an hour of it was in a sacrament meeting) and I was already really diggin' all the buildings and streets - the look and feel of the place. It's a really cool place so I'll be sure to go back and take pics, y'all!

Um... That's all for Switzerland I think. Now, it's on to planning the next trip - Holland in April for the Tulip Festival and to meet my cousin! I could not be more stoked!

Song of the Day: There are too many good ones to chose! Here's one from my LOOOOOONG list of current favorites: Here is Jordin Sparks and Guy Sebastain singing their new duet "Art of Love." Seriously, Jordin always has the BEST duets - I LOVE this song! Enjoy!


Sam said...

yes, I did just read this entire post. Fantastic! I'm glad to hear you had such a marvelous time, its a good thing we're chatting tonight, I won't comment on the t-lift until then, hahaha

Ash and Matt said...

A few things:
*The Swiss Alps look GORGEOUS in the wintertime! So jealous.
*Hooray for driving a stick!
*You're right--being cold stinks.
*I'm not a good snowboarder either. We should go together so we can give each other company with our bums in the snow haha.
*I LOVE Munich! I'm glad you do, too :-)