Sunday, June 15, 2008

From the Left Hand Side

My summer so far has been considerably quieter than my winter here this year. Except of course for the engagement, that was pretty exciting! But you may remember in the winter I was out doing snowboarding or some other activity every weekend. Partly because the weather has been crap and partly because I am somewhat lazy, I haven't done much other than take Rustbucket around town on a weekend (he's a very cheap date).

Well today I think I found a new summer activity. My friend Bhav has been trying to get me to come wakeboarding with her since last year. The idea of getting up at 7am to go jump in a lake is not very appealing to me. I used to get up at the same time to catch the skibus, but at least for that we got on the bus, had a little snooze, got a coffee and a croissant, got on the nice relaxing chairlift, and THEN started snowboarding. Oh and there's that little part about being dressed in 4 layers, instead of practically naked (bonjour!) and soaking wet. But she was going today at 9, which I agreed would be more feasible.

We biked about 20 minutes to the wakeboard club on the lake and met up with 2 other guys, plus the driver, Nicolas, who would be taking us out. The sky was greyish and it was quite cool (60F), but the water was calm and as smooth as glass. I have a longjohn wetsuit from my triathlon days, although I completely forgot to pack my bodyglide which meat it took me a bit long to get on (and was seriously difficult to get off too!!). We all climbed into the boat and headed out.

First up was this guy Alex, a big, happy guy from Norway with a beard. He jumps into the water and the boat speeds up. Immediately he is up, carving in the wake, riding switch, doing all sorts of jumps. Basically, looking super cool and making it look really easy. It was really fun to watch actually. I didn't realize until then that one big bonus of going wakeboarding was that you get to ride around on a boat on beautiful lake Geneva with nice chill people, blasting music and having a little wakeboarding party for yourself. The sun came out while Alex was riding and on the stereo was blasting "Pass the dutchie from the left hand side." Hilarious.

Next was little Bhav who jumped in the water and proclaimed that it was nice and warm. Although she didn't do as many tricks, she could still do jumps and was attemping to turn a 360, where you pull the rope behind your back and then grab it with your other hand. She was able to grab it and turn and stay up for a few seconds before falling. Still very impressive!

Next up was me. I grabbed a life jacket, and Nicolas helped me to put on the board. Amazingly, it is exactly like a snowboard. The bindings look almost like snowboard bindings except the boot is attached and your toes are exposed. Obviously it's wider than a snowboard, and obviously it floats. Very comfy too.

I eased into the Lac Leman for the first time since arriving in Switzerland and gasped sharply as my breath caught in my chest. Warm!?!?! Of course, Bhav is not really sensitive to temperatures, as you might remember from our picnic in the snow. The water was 60 degrees. And the sun had gone back in. Great. "Ok," Nicolas instructed, "You don't pull wiz ze arms, you pull ze knees hup to your chest when ze boat start to go, you stay bent and slowly you let zeboat pull you hup. And you don't try to turn until you are all ze way hup." "Ok," I answered though clenched, chattering teeth, my heart hammering. I felt like I could barely move or breathe in my wetsuit, which I haven't worn in a long time. I gripped the handlebar with white knuckles and yelled ok.

The boat started to move and I pulled up, and fell forward immediately, getting a huge facefull of ice cold water. It was seriously shocking and not fun. I popped up and gasped for air. "You pulled wiz your arms. You stay bent and let ze boat pull you hup," he instructed from the boat. "Ok, got it." I said. Starting again...I got about halfway up, and fell again. And again. "You don't turn ze board until you are all the way hup. Just wait, zen turn it once you are standing hup." "OK, got it, no turning." And then on the fourth try, I stayed bent at the knees and slowly, slowly let the boat pull me "hup." And I was standing, and I turned to my snowboard position, and I was wakeboarding!!

I decided not to try any jumps or anything on the first time out, just to practice carving a little and get the feel for it. It is pretty much exactly like snowboarding so once I was "hup," I did pretty well. Falling was also similar to snowboarding - impossible to do gracefully, although thankfully I didn't have any more face-first choke sessions like I did on the first try. I ended up having about 4 long runs after I was finally successful. I smiled back at the boat while I concentrated on carving the blue and white wake. Finally, after about 15 minutes, I was done. It is seriously exhausting on your arms - mine kill right now. But it was super fun, and I of course got a huge confidence boost out of the fact I was actually able to get the hang of it pretty quickly (snowboarding took me about 2 full days and I broke my wrist in the process).

I got a "forfait" which means a pass to go back several times. It's not that cheap - about 40 CHF per time. But snowboarding was more, and I did that every weekend, so I can justify it. Plus hopefully it will get my arms all buff.

Next weekend I am bringing my camera so hopefully I can put up some photos and videos. Dude!!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Hi there! I've been putting off posting about some random things because I wanted to keep my super spectacular post about my recent news on top. But I have some things to comment on and can't figure out how to rearrange my posts on here. So I'll just put a link to my love story, in case you still want to check out how it all happened.

I feel I've occassionally strayed sometimes from discussing Switzerland, so I will do that today! Two things I have recently learned which I thought were awesome:

1) Switzerland has air rescue service throughout the country, something called REGA, which can dispatch a helicopter or air ambulance to come get you. Everywhere in the country, except the Valais region (which is the big mountainous valley area with awesome skiing and wine) can be reached within 15 minutes. AND they also cover the ENTIRE WORLD using jet aircraft if necessary to come rescue little Swissies stranded atop some mountains in Peru or Nepal. How much does it cost to get such insurance, you might ask? Like 1000 bucks a year? 500? No. 30 Swiss Francs if you are single or 70 Swiss Francs for a family. That's cheaper than going out to dinner in Switzerland! And it is completely private - not one cent from the government. If I had known about this before, I definitely would have joined for ski season. I honestly don't know how they figure out some of this cool stuff.

2) Geneva has recently been voted by Mercer the #2 place to live in the entire world!! That's right. So how lucky am I that I have been able to live here for almost 2 years? Number #1 is Zurich, which is nice but...they don't speak French and I can't imagine they have as much good wine and cheese as we do here in Geneva, because we're closer to France. So just my personal opinion...I know that normally they are also rated 2 of the most expensive cities in the entire world, but I have to say I have certainly not gone into any sort of debt living here (although if I did more shopping and eating out, I definitely could). The U.S. didn't even crack the top 25 - only Honolulu landed on there, at #28. Even the U.S.'s northern neighbor managed to sneak 2 cities, Toronto and Ottawa in there (clearly, the writer of the article was bought ooout). Obviously if Chicago was able to upgrade its public transport system and recycling programs to a grade above where they are now (D+ for transport, F for recycling), and the winter was 3 months shorter (4 instead of 7) and maybe they could make some big mountains nearby for skiing, it would be just as good as Geneva.

Did I mention the sun is setting at almost 10pm every night at the moment? So cool.

You can read an excerpt of the article here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That's how you know

It's been almost 2 years to the day since I first got the e-mail asking if I might be interested in working in Switzerland. Who knew a one line e-mail could completely change my life. My job, where I lived, my friends, the languages I could speak, my lactose and alcohol intake. I knew it would be exciting and fun (it has been) and probably a bit challenging (I may have slightly underestimated that one). The one question I always got pegged with was "What's going to happen to you and Justin?"

Surprisingly, this is the one thing I didn't worry too much about before leaving for Switzerland. Everyone else worried plenty, believe me. I still remember going to dinner and telling him what I thought were the pros and cons, and getting ready to write out a list (I'm a nerd, I know, he tells me too). Justin just looked at me and said, "Well, it's an incredible opportunity, and I think you should take it if you want to do it. But you have to promise to come back." And that was that. Of course we both knew that living 5,000 miles apart was not going to be easy. Personally I always swore I would never find myself in a long distance relationship and then suddenly, I had created one for myself. But I don't think we ever worried "would we make it?" I didn't. And let's be honest, girls obsess about those kinds of things. We just kind of knew it would all be fine.

This year has definitely been more of a challenge, partly because Justin is working. Which means, he's not home from business school every day anxiously awaiting my call in between rounds of dubious, dilligent studying and maybe a game or two of Tiger Woods golf with an ice cold mug of juice. We can only talk really on the weekends and just email during the week. Now I know you might say "Well, in the olden days, you could only send letters, and people didn't even have email or cheap international long distance!" But I didn't grow up in the "olden days," and so that doesn't really help. We miss each other and a lot of times it seriously sucks. But we've made it this far.

Justin came back to Switzerland about 3 weeks ago for his first visit since last summer. I had last seen him in March for about 55 hours, and that includes time we spent sleeping and on gross planes, so really, it was not very quality time. The week before he arrived was, as usual, agonizingly and painfully long. In fact the only week longer than the week before his arrival is the week after he leaves. On May 23, I met him at the airport and gave him a key and a quick kiss. Then I dashed back to work, because I had to re-do a stupid project that one of my lazy, good for nothing co workers, failed to do correctly (he shall remain nameless but if you come to visit me, I promise to properly introduce you). Plus Justin and I were leaving for Provence on Sunday, so I had a lot of things to wrap up.

I was able to escape around 4pm and got home to find a few things. Justin was asleep. No surprise there. I walked further into the living room. Hmmm roses nicely arranged in a vase? Quelle surprise! That's a rarity. I immediately became suspicious and walked into the kitchen to investigate further. I found cheese and more cheese. Again, not surprising. Therefore, I decided nothing was going on and went to wake up my jet lagged boyfriend.

I'm expecting for Noah to pull up in the ark any day now, which will give you an indication of how much it has been raining here lately (except for when my parents were here, I'm pretty sure it's been raining since April. Every day.). Thankfully the day Justin arrived, the weather was nice again. We went to the store to pick up a few things. We came back and opened a bottle of champagne (my Christmas gift from work) and some cheese and just relaxed in each other's company on the balcony. We decided to watch some Top Chef.

After the episode ended, Justin decided to shower. Then five minutes later, decided not to. Ok, whatever, I understand completely that the jet lag makes us all really confused and tired. I didn't think anything of it. Nor did I think anything of his pacing around the apartment. We had finished our champagne and he suggested we refill and go back out on the balcony since it was still light and now was much quieter, so I went into the kitchen to top off the glasses.

As I was coming back, I noticed him standing and leaning out over the balcony, then turn his head around over his right shoulder, just to give me this look, this half flirting, half serious look, which at the time made me think, "What is that look??" but retelling this now, I realize exactly what that look was.

I stepped outside and handed him his glass, and we did a little impromptu cheers. "Well," Justin said...

...well, gentle reader, you must know what he said to me. What he asked. If you want the story, I will be more than happy to tell you personally, but I am not posting the details of this for the entire world. But, I will tell the entire world this:

I said YES!!!

It was a completely surreal, emotional, laughter and tear and hug filled, deliriously happy moment. We kept trying out new lines like "hi fiance" and "we're engaged!!" and then bursting out laughing. He did have another surprise which I didn't find in the kitchen - a second bottle of champagne (which we followed with a bottle of wine...I mean if you don't celebrate the day you get engaged, when do you?!). We spent a good hour or so just relishing the moment and looking at my new ring (I suppose that was more me...) before we called our families.

Mine of course, were all out (j'ai de la chance!!), but we spoke to Justin's parents, who were very excited. About 45 minutes later, my mom called me back, saying she was out with her friend Kim. Then I said, "Well, you can tell Kim that Justin and I are engaged!," and my mom starting screaming with excitement. My sister as well, was completely shocked, at at Macy's. "Ohmigod, that's so awesome!!! How did he - hold on a sec - yes can I get this in a four? Sorry to keep you waiting like that, but my sister just got engaged!!" This was actually really fun, because Mom and Aimee were pretty much the only two who were REALLY surprised, which is thanks to my dad throwing them off the trail (thanks again Dad). We called Justin's brother Chris (the number one fan of "Jac Goes to Switzerland!") and his wife who knew already, and my brother Chris who confidently announced "Yeah well (insert loud, frat boy sigh here) I'm proud to say I kinda knew something, but I didn't say anything." Our friends we called later seemed to know that it was going to happen, given the circumstances of the trip and of our relationship.

Of course, we've probably known for some time. Since Justin agreed to go to Cubs games with me, or the day I bought a Sox hat. Since the time I tried skiing, and he carried my snowboard. Since five years ago, when I have started force feeding myself olives. Since he agreed to come to my parents' house to do yardwork and move pool furniture. Since we supported and encouraged each other through busy seasons, business school applications, triathlons, internships, working too late, staying out too late, and that liiiiiiiiittle part about me leaving for a foreign country.

There's something else I've always known too: I have no idea how to plan a wedding. I can only hope I learned enough as sorority social chair to plan an event slightly more complicated than a swap with DKE. But I can't wait. All I know is our wedding is going to be legendWAITFORIT...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


1) The plant has been mysteriously removed!! It happened when I was on vacation last week. Almost as strangely as he came, he went. Well GOOD RIDDANCE is all I have to say to that sad excuse for foilage.

2) I would like to clarify a section in my Krakow post where Abby licked the wall of the salt mine as re-reading this, I think it paints a murky picture of our adventure. You may think, not knowing Abby, that this was kind of a stupid thing to do and that her observation ("It's totally salty!) would be quite obvious. First of all, everyone wanted to lick the wall, which was clean (including yours truly) but only Abby was brave enough. I kept seeing good places for licks but couldn't get up the gusto to do it. Secondly, Abby read this book called "Salt" which she recapped for us that sounded super interesting, making us all very excited to see the mine. And in fact it was not really known to us that the walls would be totally (meaning, in total, not meaning, "radically" or "mega" some other 90's word often used as a synonym for totally) salty. But the whole thing was really, totally salty, which we did would not have discovered if it were not for Abby!! Did I mention the salt mine was TOTALLY (and here I do mean it in the other context) AWESOME??!!