Monday, 19 November 2007

Public-transport heaven

A visit to the Verkehrshaus der Schweis in Luzern was my first big outing to Switzerland. Went with the school, which meant about 40 pre-teens, three wonderful teachers (including the lovely M), and me.

We made use of the highly efficient Swiss transport system - appropriately so given our destination - catching three trains, a bus, and a boat. Needless to say, they were all on time.

The kids were sweet and I liked the group instantly, for no better reason than that a significant proportion of them were shorter than me. However, during of the course of the day, my eardrums became more and more sensitive (when boys are shorter than me, it usually means their voices haven´t broken yet), and by the end of it I was glad that I usually teach the older kids, for all their teenage misdemeanours.

At the museum itself, I found myself entranced by the trains, and barely gave the automobile, aeroplane and space-travel sections any attention. Cars and planes are merely a means to an end; trains however, are full of suggestive possibilities...

After lunch, saw my first Imax film: Deep Sea, which promised narration by the delectable Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. But their German counterparts were incomprehensible to me, so I switched off my ears and looked at all the pretty fishies.

There was just enough time to go and check out the massive 2D map of Switzerland. Well, there would have been more time, except it took me at least half an hour to find the wing where it was located. (Sometimes it´s hard to believe I´m Pim´s daughter.)

It was fun being a giant walking over the landscape - I was able to find Liechtenstein, after much searching - although in the end it all felt a little flat. (Okay, sometimes it´s not that hard to believe I´m related to Pim!)

A boat took us across Lake Luzern back to the station, and I managed to take a lot of random pictures of water and houses; lose the school group - and I thought I was supposed to be helping to look after them!; find them again; hop on the train with seconds to spare; and then collapse into a fitful sleep for the home journey.

New interactive feature

I´ve been slack in updating this blog. So I thought I should give my readers a reason to visit more often. Vote now in my first "German-English" poll... Results will be posted in one month!

Monday, 05 November 2007

Second visit

3 September 2007

I hadn´t even been here a fortnight when I received my second visitor, Rude Larry, who arrived from Dubai via Zurich. I was still a Liech newbie at the time, so we explored together, which meant we headed to The Castle Inn to drink some beer.

Then we wandered around Vaduz; looked at the princely castle from afar - it seemed too much of an effort to walk up to it; and went for a stroll by the Rhein - my default entertainment for visitors. Hardly a big day out, but I suspect Rude Larry was happy as his namesake that the Kunstmuseum is closed on Mondays.

To liven things up a bit I booked us a ride on the Citytrain (actually a bus, go figure!). So we spent half an hour driving around to all the places which we had already seen by foot, accompanied by commentary that was hilarious in German, amusing in French, and rather less entertaining by the time we listened to the English version. Not 10 Francs I´ll be spending again in a hurry.

Time to sup and suip. We ate at a sedate local "pub" and then ventured off to another one down the road, that F-X had informed me was a little more "rough". It was, if possible, even more sedate than the first one. "Sedate" as in the other clientele seemed more likely to be mistaken for our grandparents than our parents. So we gave up the hunt for a party; drank some wodka (actually it was rum & coke, I just wanted to use the word "wodka"); and reminisced about the good old bad old days at the House of Earthly Delights.

Whenever I see the Citytrain, I think of Rude Larry... Don´t forget about the prize on offer for my 20th visitor. And why would you want to visit? Keep reading my blog for future posts about wild student parties: featuring Hungarian wine, Italian cheese and hot Czech girls.

Visitor count: Mim, Pim, Rude Larry (3)

Sunday, 04 November 2007

Random fact of the week

At Zurich Hauptbahnhof you have to pay to use the toilets. They´re maintained by a company called McClean.

The facilities are indeed sparkling clean. But it costs CHF1 to use them if you´re a guy, and a whole CHF2 if you´re a woman. This didn´t make me feel clean, even when I was sitting on the cute little chair in front of the pristine mirror and powdering my nose to get my money´s worth; it made me feel that it´s a pretty dirty thing to be female.

Wherefore art thou, Megageth?

Little over a month ago, I finally bought myself a laptop - long overdue, as anyone who knew my prehistoric desktop with its manky keyboard can attest to. I made this purchase in Chur at the Media Markt, which made me feel as if I were an extra in The Simpsons.

Buying a computer in a foreign language isn´t easy. And if you´re a Luddite like me, buying a computer is never easy, even in your mother tongue. Oh, why did I not follow through with my original plan of asking Megageth to help me before I left SA?

Somehow managed to choose a model that didn´t break the bank, although I think it might break my back carrying it around. Creditcard cameras are so 20th century - what I really want is a creditcard computer. But you can´t quite get those yet, at least not within my price range... So am now the proud owner of a shiny new Toshiba Satellite L40-12X.

As the sales assistant quickly discovered, my decision was primarily based upon the fact that the laptop was "cheap". But 20 minutes of negotiation wasn´t enough for him to grasp the contradictions of my personality, even though his English was decent.

When it came to choosing a laptop bag, he had his priorities all wrong. "This one is very cheap!" he beamed, pointing at a particularly nasty speciman. I defiantly chose a Samsonite case, which was far from cheap. Style over substance, baby!

When I got home, I managed to switch on computer; install Windows Vista ("Are you sure you want the English version?" Bill Gates asked me. "Yes!" I clicked, with some irritation); connect to the Internet; download Firefox; download Adobe; download iTunes ("Will you sell your soul to Apple?" Steve Job asked me. "Yes!" I clicked, "Now where is my free MacBook Pro?); and download AVG - all by myself. Sorted, and not such a Luddite after all. I still have to buy a copy of Word though - it sucks not being a student.

Monday, 22 October 2007

First visit

23 August 2007

My very first day in Liechtenstein began with meeting Mim and Pim off the bus from Zug.

Felt more like student on my first day of varsity than a young woman proudly showing off her new country of residence.

Pim helped me work out how to open and close the blinds in my room; he found the correct adaptor for plugging in the kettle; and he paid for lunch (in Francs).

Then we went for a walk past the princely vineyards, the football ground, and the Rhein. Whenever I walk along the river, I think of my first visitors...

You too can visit me in Liechtenstein! The good news is you don't need a visa (if you arrive via Switzerland) - even if you're South African. And I hereby declare I shall buy my 20th visitor a case of Liechtensteinischer Ländle Gold - the local brew.

Visitor count: Mim, Pim (2)

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

True love, babe!

No, I haven't been struck down by Cupid...

But, if you buy the November issue of True Love Babe, out today, you'll find my byline on the Passport and Gap Year articles.

Random fact of the week

In 1949 Dior alone provided 5% of France's national export revenue.
- Courtesy of The Golden Age of Couture exhibition at the V&A Museum

Tuesday, 09 October 2007

Muscle hangover

Went on a hike with the Realschule from Malbun (Liech) to Feldkirch (Austria), along the Saminatal.

Mountains, rivers, forests... The scenery was breathtaking and, after 14km, I was breathless.

The next day, as I hobbled around school, I proudly spoke my latest German phrase to all and sundry. "Ich habe Muskelkater" [Lit: I have a muscle hangover].

Thursday, 04 October 2007

Random fact of the week

There are various Trade Unions in Liechtenstein, but it is illegal to strike. Europe is really progressive compared to "darkest Africa".

Yikes! - Generalisation and sarcasm all in one sentence; my style deteriorates as my jaw slackens...

Tuesday, 02 October 2007

Schlössle TV

I am missing hanging out with the Cape Town literati, but there's a theatre right next to my house, so I went to check it out.

Was tickled by Liechtenstein's premier comedian, Mathias Ospelt, and friends. Their latest project is "Schlössle TV" - a mixture of British Comedy and Candid Camera that features two hosts - with a dress sense worthy of Corné & Twakkie - presenting video clips.

Although it was in German - and dialect at that - I still found the show hilarious. My favourite clip was of an actor strutting around Vaduz city centre. He was accompanied by a princely bodyguard, who protected his royal personage, not with a weapon, but with an umbrella. (The weather is the biggest danger in Liechtenstein).

The clueless tourists all thought he was the real prince, and duly kissed his hand in obeisance. The more adventurous ones even had their picture taken with him. A princely addition to the family album indeed!

Friday, 28 September 2007

How to feed friends and influence people

When you can't communicate with language, food is a good substitute.

So I cooked dinner for the students, and Chileans, Georgians, Germans, Hungarians, Latvians, Turks - even a Liechtensteiner! - were united in their appreciation of RK's chicken curry.

"Your cooking tastes very good!" they chorused. Even without turmeric or curry leaves - shopping for spices in Vaduz can be challenging - I had to admit: it didn't taste bad.

"Danke für die Blumen," I said, proud of both my cooking ability, and beginner German.

Then we all drank Russian vodka, and sang Karaoke. I thought it was the Japanese who were obsessed with Karaoke, but the Eastern Europeans could give them a run for their money. The vodka quelled my reservations, and I tunelessly sang along to the Beatles, before tumbling into bed...

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Metaphorical flowers

"Danke für die blumen," was one of the phrases I learnt in my first German class; not too different from the Afrikaans.

A pretty phrase, and pretty useless. I resigned myself to sitting around waiting for someone to give me flowers so I could add it to my active vocabulary

Until H explained to me that it also means "Thank you for the compliment". A pretty and useful idiom after all.

Make-up failure

One way of putting on a brave face is to apply a dash of bright-red lipstick. But when I coated my lips with Dior Rouge Dior #976 in Plum Plot this morning, I didn't feel better; I felt like a clown. So I wiped it off, and had to settle for Boots No.7 Stay Perfect in #15 Café as more appropriate for daytime wear.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

German highlights

In my German class, we have to use highlighters to mark the different nouns in our workbooks. Blue (blau) for masculine, pink (rosarot) for feminine, green (grün) for neutral and yellow (gelb) for plural. There is so much new to learn, but the familiarity of gender stereotyping is cold comfort.

And, although neons are making a fashionable comeback this season, I'm just not a highlighter kinda gal. Conceptually, I'm a fountain-pen princess. Realistically, I'm the chick scrawling last-minute notes with a chewed-down ball-point. Of course, "QWERTY" rules, although in this part of the world, make that "QWERTZ".

Random fact of the week

There are 35 168 residents of Liechtenstein, and 23 261 of these are Liechtensteiners. This is the December 31, 2006 figure, so you can make that 35 169 residents, now that I'm here too!
- Courtesy of Liechtensteiner Vaterland, Mittwoch 26. September 2007

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Spelling mistake of the week

"Fanasticated" for "fascinated" in my 5th-year (grade 10) class. Gorgeous!

Repetitive fashion syndrome

In my German class yesterday evening, I noticed that my teacher was wearing exactly the same outfit she wore on Monday - white pants and a floral top, not a particularly flattering get up, even on its first outing.

Made me think of Pim: during my childhood I used to worry that his students would laugh at him for invariably dressing in the same khaki pants and veldskoene, but he always reassured me with geological nonsenses: "The students don't notice what I wear. They are only interested in hearing about the tessellated conglomerates."

How wrong he was!

I clearly remember Miss H in Std 5, who had three cardigans sporting the same zig-zag pattern: one was black, red, and white; one was indigo, lilac, and white; one was forest green, melon green, and, (you've guessed it!) white. We used to place bets on which one she'd wear each day - much more exciting than doing our Maths homework.

And Mr S in first-year philsophy, who was overly attached to his thin maroon jersey... If he had varied his wardrobe even slightly, I might have been induced to attend more lectures.

I hope that my own clothes don't bore the students to death. I can't display quite my usual flair as I currently have only four scarves to work with (thanks to packing-Nazi friend, Moral Squeeze).

As soon as I have some Swiss Francs to my name, I shall have to go shopping. I know that M, a chubby 14-year-old pupil who has a crush on me, will appreciate an updated look. The catch is, I might have to fly MS over here to help me pack for my return flight!

Random fact of the week

Before the "so-called revolution of 1989", Romania had a German minority of 700 000 people. Now only 60 000 Germans remain there.
- Courtesy of Klaus B, Liechtenstein's resident expert on Romania.

Monday, 17 September 2007

At a loss for words...

Phrases they don't have in my German phrasebook:

1. "My suitcase is very heavy, and I am very short. Please would you help me lift it onto this impossibly high luggage rack?"

2. "I like your band, and you are quite cute. Can I buy you a drink?"

3. "Even though I don't speak German, I am actually very cool, and we should be friends."

You can get round the first situation with gesturing, and saying "danke".

As for the second, body language is universal, but I thought better of my proposition when said singer had a girl draped over him. Also, he was very much younger than I had at first supposed. Check out Rääs, Liechtenstein's answer to Tristan Waterkeyn.

And the third? A smile can't quite convey my inner über babe, so I'm starting German classes this evening... Auf Wiedersehen!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The T-shirt

In class this afternoon, Niko was wearing a T-shirt that read:


"Are you allowed to wear this T-shirt to school?" I asked, in my best teacherly voice. "Yes," he said, "it is a great T-shirt!"

I had to stifle a laugh, while Ulrike reminded me most of the teachers wouldn't be able to understand it.

[Note: Even though I was wearing a moderately low-cut top, Niko didn't check out my tits while he was speaking to me; at least, not obviously.]

Saturday, 08 September 2007

At the Health Office

At the Town Hall, an official asked me some random questions. "What is your mother's maiden name?" (Keeley), and "Do you have a dog?" (Nein).

At the Health Office, the Doctor asked if my family were healthy.
"Meine familie sind gesunde," I said.

I thought about Pim's stomach and Mim's alopecia; Nim's spine and Kim's hypochondria. But my German wasn't up to describing these, which was probably a good thing.

Saturday, 01 September 2007


At the coop
I bought oranges
Aus Südafrika.
I thought they would taste like home;
They tasted like oranges.