Tuesday, November 25, 2008

then and now

Six months after moving from Zurich to California, I'm back in Zurich for a week, visiting friends and checking out my old stomping grounds. Most people flock back to the States for Thanksgiving, where turkeys, yams, and canned pumpkin are plentiful. Not me. I stopped by Safeway to pick up marshmallows, canned yams, French onions, a turkey brining bag, and cream of mushroom soup, none of which are easy to come by in Switzerland, and crammed them into my suitcase in preparation for my first visit back.

Eighteen hours and two flights after waking up to go to the airport in San Francisco, I stepped off the plane in Zurich. First thought -- wow, it's cold here. I had been complaining that it was only getting up to about 65 degrees in Mountain View, and going down to the 40's at night. In Zurich, they warned us to be careful not to slip on the ice as we deplaned. Ice?! ICE?!?! Really? OK. I remember this stuff. I can get used to it again. 

Wait, ice means that it's so cold that things freeze. So cold that I have to wear more clothes. So instead of wearing a t-shirt and light jacket, I have to wear a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, fleece, ski jacket, hat, and gloves. Oh, and that means I can't type on my BlackBerry as I walk around outside, because the gloves get in the way. Part of moving back to the States and working as a lawyer is that I have become wholly addicted to my BlackBerry. This is going to be a tough week, choosing between having adequate circulation in my fingers and feeding my addiction to constant connectivity.

Walking through the Zurich airport was simultaneously strange and familiar. I've been in the Zurich airport more than I've been in any other airport in the world, and it almost felt like I was just coming back from another of my innumerable weekend trips around Europe, except for the fact that I had to wait for a checked bag full of canned goods. The announcements in German, the unbelievably clean bathrooms, the Swiss-accented English, the piped-in soundtrack of yodeling and cows on the airport shuttle -- all of these things that I hadn't thought about but felt so strangely normal reminded me that I was indeed in Switzerland again.

The entire time that I was in Switzerland, I made occasional trips back to the States, during which I would madly stock up on whatever things I was missing in Switzerland. This time, it's going to be the other way around. I'll be eating things that are rare in the States -- good fondue, a certain kind of salad, and perhaps some sausage. I'll go buy large quantities of chocolate to take back as gifts, but maybe eat before they can be given, and I'll consider smuggling some cheese, as well. If I can find some funky sneakers that I like, I'll bring those, too -- there is space in my luggage now that the yams and onions are gone.

It's strange to visit my old life and realize it's not mine anymore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

roller coaster

I live and work in Mountain View, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. Mountain View tends to be flat -- you can look down the road and see all of the traffic lights for blocks and blocks ahead of you. Every couple of weeks, I make the pilgrimage up to the city to see friends and hang out with my sister and her family, and it's like a journey to uncharted territory.

San Francisco is hilly. Like, roller coaster hilly. Forget about trying to see the traffic lights five blocks ahead, you might not even be able to see the next traffic light. Getting your car up the hill to the next intersection is an agonizing approximation of the uphill part of a rollercoaster. Adjacent neighborhoods can be on sunny hilltops or fog-filled valleys. A simple drive across town involves so many quick changes in altitude that your ears pop multiple times going up and down all the hills between point A and point B. I'm not kidding. So weird.