Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

It was a sunny day here on the ski slopes, and the locals were celebrating the holiday with some local tunes, so we had to "do as the locals do" of course... don't forget the Glühwein :) ...

Happy Holidays to All!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Visit to India - Part 2

I just can’t get over how life here seems to be the TOTAL opposite of things in Switzerland... at least for little things like "rules" (!) It's so weird to go from a country where you HAVE to walk between the lines or else you get fined right away, to one where there seem to be no lines at all. Literally or figuratively!

On Tuesday we did the day trip from Delhi to see the Taj Mahal – a very impressive sight...

It was beautiful. Not as huge as we all expected, but the intricateness of the jewels in the marble was very impressive. And as with Delhi it was just interesting to just drive around and see how people live, and the contrast between rich and poor...

Every minute there was something new and different to see and experience. Just the final trip to get to and from the Taj Mahal was an adventure, riding in a rickshaw...

and then having to push through the local street vendors (who always seem to surround us the moment we’re in sight).

On Wednesday we had to get up very early for our flight to Chennai. The Kingfisher Airlines is one of the best I have ever flown - such wonderful service both at the airport and on the plane, it was incredible. When we arrived in Chennai the Abrahams and Chris and Manisha were all waiting and waving for us at the airport -- Definitely a much nicer reception than when we arrived in Delhi!! It was wonderful seeing them again, and having the family connection in such a faraway place.

Our hotel was very nice and we just hung out there for a while to rest. Eventually our car arrived (late) to take us to the Abrahams' for a late dinner. (Everything runs at least an hour late in India – Yet another sharp contrast to the Swiss and their timeliness!) It took almost an hour to go the short distance, because of the traffic here -- It is the worst traffic I have ever seen. We travelled with their cousins who are also staying in a nearby hotel - one is from Australia and one from Malaysia.

We had drinks and dinner at the family’s apartment... The dinner was supposedly "without any spice" but it still seemed spicy, even to me! It was nice to have the family all together on this adventure...On Thursday the Abrahams took us shopping at a nearby "mall" area... and I bought a local outfit to wear to the wedding reception. I wanted to get a saree, but that takes many days to prepare the correct size, so instead I tried on “salwar kameez”’s, which are like a dress with pants underneath, and very decorative.

Since shopping always makes one hungry, we took a break for lunch (a late one, of course). I wanted to try more local cuisine, so my new sister-in-law ordered for me a sort of sampler plate. Lots and lots of different things – and all for the equivalent of just a couple dollars! I don’t know what all was on it, but I just dug in without asking questions. You scoop up the food with the bread and eat it all with your fingers, including the rice. (Washing hands right before and after is a definite.) Needless to say it’s a messy affair, but delicious!

The next day we just enjoyed the warm weather by hanging out at the pool – Nice to get a chance to work on the tan in December! The big event – the wedding reception – was this evening, so we wanted to be rested up. While I laid soaking in the warm sunshine and enjoying the cool breeze, I felt very appreciative again... as I looked around at how nice our surroundings were at the hotel, you could hear all the horns blowing on the other side of the fence from the horrible traffic and know that people are having a much harder life just living day to day.

The wedding reception was really nice – There were over 500 guests, and we felt like sort of guests of honor being the groom’s family from “so far away”. Here's me and the happy couple...

Everyone was dressed to the hilt in all the different beautiful colors of sarees...

and the food was incredibly delicious. It will make going to an “Indian” restaurant anywhere else in the world pale by comparison!

The next day our new “in-laws” took us to a beach area outside Chennai, as well as to visit a temple and a crocodile farm. I can’t emphasize enough how nice it was to have their support there to show us around and help us with everything. I had to leave to fly back home the following night and was sad to have to go. I was genuinely appreciative to have had the opportunity to experience so much in such a short trip. It is definitely a life-altering event to visit a third world country, so if you ever have the opportunity I would suggest taking it.

ChekolaChekola (that's Cheers, at least according to one of our Indian drivers!),

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Visit to India - Part 1

Hello and Greetings from Delhi!!

All I can say is - Whew. And wow! It is all overwhelming. This experience brings back a LOT of memories from Africa. Plus a bit more, since we don't have a tour company taking care of everything we do here. It's just me and my parents, figuring it out as we go!

My brain feels like total mush after travelling all yesterday and everything we’ve experienced today. The trip started out with my flight from Zurich almost not happening. They announced that it was delayed and may be cancelled, but at the last minute they got whatever problem fixed and we were able to take off. The delay meant I had a very tight connection in Paris, where I was to meet my parents on the plane to fly to India together. If I missed the flight I would have to wait until the next day to get another flight, and my parents wouldn’t know where I was or what to do when they got to Delhi. So, I really needed to catch that flight!

I ran thru the Paris airport and made it on the India-bound plane just in time!... Just in time to sit there for an extra hour before we could finally take off. I could have just taken my time after all! Oh well, the 8-hour flight went smoothly and I had a nice time catching up with my parents with some wine, reading and napping...and before we knew it we were in India! Here we just got off the plane...

When we arrived in Delhi it was almost midnight, and we were welcomed by a mile-long line for passport check. Since we were almost at the end of the line already, we decided to let it shorten a bit while we went to the restroom - only to discover when we returned that two more flights had arrived and made the line even longer - Doh! Ah, the joys and “glamour” of travel. Who would have expected so many people there at 1am?
After surviving the looooong wait and having our passports approved, we went to pick up our baggage - only to find that it still hadn't arrived yet -- and we had disembarked the plane over an hour and a half earlier!! We waited still another half hour watching the baggage belt go verrrrrry sloooooooowly by. There was dust all in the air in the airport, seemingly from some construction they had been doing.

When we finally collected our belongings we looked for our driver who would take us to our hotel. Unfortunately among the throngs and throngs of people welcoming the arriving passengers, no sign had my name on it like it was supposed to. I used a phone to call our hotel and they said that the driver had given up on us since our flight was late and the wait was so long. Well isn't that nice, especially since it was pre-paid!! So we ended up taking a taxi. That experience was a separate adventure in itself - too much to put into words, so just remind me to tell you next time I see you in person. Let's just say we were really glad to finally see the hotel and to arrive with all our bags and all our people together and in one piece!!

The hotel was bare-bones basic, but relatively clean. The windows would not close fully, which was worrisome with mosquitoes and their accompanying malaria risk. There was no tub or shower - just a water faucet on a side of the bathroom.

The noise outside on the streets was never-ending -- horns honking constantly, Indian music playing, bells ringing from rickshaws, people yelling, more horns honking on and on and on... But we were so tired we finally fell asleep and slept thru it all! (of course earplugs are definitely a travelers' best friend).

In the morning we decided that a change of hotels was in order. We got connected with a local tour agency who helped us find a better place and also set up a car and driver for us to get around the next three days. So we moved to the new hotel, which was a very welcome haven after all the hecticness. This one even has a tub AND a shower!

We spent the rest of the day touring Delhi. It is hard to put into words what a moving experience it is to see a place like this in person. There seem to be no rules for driving - the lane lines are ignored, and horns are constantly blared while cars push ahead into spaces you didn't think previously existed, along with rickshaws, bikes, motorbikes, people, ox-carts, camels...

lots of cattle crossings...

everything vies for position to get ahead...

There are people sleeping on the sidewalks and children sitting by fires on the corner of the road...

people selling anything you can think of, and people eating right next to people relieving themselves... I really don't know how to describe it, there was so much to see at once and so many emotions that it created. There are a lot more pics in the picture album here.

For lunch we ate at a wonderful restaurant and it was my parents' very first experience having Indian cuisine. They can't take spicy things, so I knew it might make for quite a challenge here... But they loved it!

And I did too -- so much flavor, what's not to love. Our driver dined with us and helped us pick out things from the menu. He is a great guy and I would recommend him to anyone travelling to the Delhi area.

Well after all this we are exhausted so time to rest before dinner... It was a big day filled with seeing many many different things, and witnessing first-hand how there are lots of people in this world that have hard lives where every day it is a challenge to obtain food and a clean place to rest their head. It especially hits home when I was reading some of my emails just now, and there was one from a company selling things for Christmas which said something about how "the holidays are so exhausting and overwhelming". Of course it is true, in our world it can be a "stressful" time if we let ourselves get bogged down with all the expectations we put on ourselves. But hopefully we can remember just how GOOD we all have it in life - so comfortable, so convenient. We have it downright easy compared to so many other people in this world!!

More later...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Inferno Race Report: Part III: T1, Oh Europe

In most Ironman triathlons, you exit the water and find an army of volunteers waiting to strip off your wetsuit, hand over your bag of cycling clothes, and guide you to the changing tent. It's in this tent where you strip off your sometimes icy swimwear, throw on your bike clothes, perhaps grab a snack, and then head out to receive your bike (which is handed to you by another one of those great race volunteers). This is exactly what I'm envisioning will happen at the Inferno, although as I exit the water and begin to feel my chilled legs come to life again, I see that there is no army of volunteers to strip off my wetsuit, hand me a gear bag, or guide me to a changing tent. What I see is my bike, my gear bag laying where I left it the day before (right under my bike), and a handful of naked butts catching the sunlight like prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. Yep, this is Europe -- no place for good old-fashioned puritanical American modesty. Apparently the changing tent is ... well, open-air.

So, with fans a clappin' and snappin' photos and with my only coverage a partially-filled row of bike racks, I stripped down, laughed out loud at memories of Seinfeld, and greeted my new homeland in my birthday suit.

Now you triathletes out there will get this I'm sure -- for the rest though, you see -- triathletes can be a bit obsessive-compulsive. One of the things we're really good at is visualizing and worrying about every single detail of a race starting months before the starting gun is fired. Now I had envisioned this transition many times and never in my visualizations did I think through the feeling I would have standing in an open field surrounded by a hundred bikes, a dozen athletes, and more onlookers than I care to consider, approaching the whole disrobe, dry off, re-robe transaction. Had I actually visualized this, I'm sure that I would have thought through the impact of recently cut grass, an early morning sun angle, the right towel coverage technique to facilitate a clothing swapperoo, and I don't know ... maybe the best direction to face during the whole episode or whether or not I should go for a full towel-off or just hastily slip on bike shorts while still dripping wet. Since I never, ever, ever, thought about this scenario, I just had to stand there for a minute thinking "Is there really no changing tent here? Am I about to make a fool of myself by stripping down in the open only to find out that in Switzerland there's some rule that you have to walk your bike out of the transition area before you enter the changing tent?"

Well, you only live once and with more than a dozen hours of racing ahead of me on this day, I made the best of it, plopped down on the grass, and did what had to be an even less graceful move than the "whale dance wetsuit re-zip" to get my clothes on and off. In hindsight, I think I should have also done the naked dance and ran a couple laps through the transition area to air-dry off. My modesty got the best of me though and before I knew it I was out of T1 and starting off on the first of two bike segments.

Inferno Race Report: Part II - The Swim

COLD! As my feet hit the water, this is the thought that shocked my state of zen into the state of PerplexiChillituity .. yes, a made-up word describing the seemingly never-ending, rattling, and quite disturbing feeling that one is about to enter really cold water for an hour or more, just for sport!

One of my challenges for this race is that I didn't really train for the swim. You see, things are often a bit crowded in the Netherlands and swimming pools are no exception. In the States, I found it mildly annoying to have to share a swim lane with someone else. In Holland, I was lucky to share a lane with less than six people. I promise you, I'm not exaggerating here! My most enjoyable swim ever was in a large crystal clear lake in Maine during my first season of triathlon. In a lake that was at least 10K long, Becky and I were only joined by a sail boat on the far end of the end. Me, my wife, a sail boat, and fish ... that was it and it was thus a beautiful swim. You're probably with me now on how I didn't enjoy the swim training in Amsterdam and why I entered the water in the Swiss town of Thun thinking three things 1) wow, this is really cold; 2) seriously, really, really cold, and 3) maybe I should have trained for this swim because I can't even see where we're supposed to exit the water because it's so far away.

Ten minutes into the swim and I had confirmed to myself that lots of my new Swiss friends were serious swimmers (it felt like all of them!) and that the value of preparation can never be under-estimated. Maybe 3 sessions in the pool wasn't enough for a big race like this ... hmm, time will tell. It seemed like the swim lane was 100 yards across and I often wondered if I was on track as I really felt alone (and slow)! As I continued to plod my way through the water, trying to sight the castle-looking building (which was probably a real ... castle), my wetsuit zipper decided that now that the thin later of water between the suit and my skin had warmed up a bit (thus creating the insulation that keeps you from turning into an ice block in cold swims like this), it was a fantastic time to reintroduce ice cold water to Jeff's back. The zipper somehow snuck its way past the little safety velcro and completely opened all at once. Voila -- ice cold water, meet Jeff's spine. Not so fun! What's even more 'not-so-fun' is the whale dance you have to do to re-zip the back-mounted zipper in the middle of a deep lake!

With that challenge past and the whale dance re-zip completed, I continued to fight boredom, enjoy the occasional peak at the mountains on every right stroke, and fight the sensation that I was getting colder - especially my legs. That's when the cramps started. It started in my calves, but moved on to my quads and hamstrings. I've never had this happen in a swim and I've done cold swims before -- perhaps the wetsuit that I haven't worn in a decade had something to do with it! Yeah, and that whole lack of swim training thing. Nonetheless, the cramps were so bad that I couldn't move my legs at all lest a cramp start. This causes several other problems though -- first, it makes you swim slower (yeah I know, the no-brainer). Second, it takes away the one thing that could generate heat -- which makes you even colder. The last half an hour of the swim was a real challenge as I was forced to keep my legs completely still. I tried to stay positive (which is certainly the key in long multisport races), enjoy the occasional views, and think about the great mountain scenery that awaited me later in the race.

I was thrilled to reach the exit, but the moment I tried to stand I realized how frozen my legs were. I could barely walk to the transition area. Doing a goofy waddle (can a waddle ever not be goofy??) I made it to my bike, pausing only to say hi to Becky and to mutter with a frozen face "cold, legs cramp, cold, hi, swim over".
Stay tuned for part 3 as the real fun begins!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Scout

So, after a whole year of relying solely on our bikes and our own power to get around (as well as public transportation here and there), we finally gave in and bought a car! Something about the thought of mountain sports beckoning us to haul around bikes, backcountry skis, and backpacking gear made us decide it was time. Don't get us wrong ... public transportation in Switzerland is wonderful and we still plan to take great advantage of it, but for our lifestyle in the Alps, one car seemed to be a really good fit.

The car-shopping experience was interesting here... We didn't realize how much we were used to the "instant gratification" system in the U.S., where you are inevitably asked by the car salesman: "What can I do to help you drive away in a new car today??" Here you must have muuuuuuuch more patience and an understanding of no pressure sales techniques! The cars on the lot are not actually available. It takes at least 2-3 weeks, often as much as 3 months, to actually get your car delivered to the dealer ... and then you have to wait 7 more days from delivery until you can pick it up from the dealer. This system definitely diminishes the opportunity for "impulse" purchases!

Another interesting thing was with the test drive - we are used to having the salesman ride in the car with us, or at least to record our personal information and make a copy of our driver's license before we drive off in their car... Well not here. The dealer gave us the key with no questions asked and no licenses copied. He actually asked if we had a driver's license and when Jeff said 'yes' and started to hand it over, he said "no, no, just show me when you get back." The only trace we left at the dealership was the set of commuter bikes we rode to get there! Now that's some kind of trust.

Anyway, we finally decided on an all-wheel drive Skoda Scout - a blend of a wagon (popular in the Alps for carting around bikes and skis) and an SUV (which despite the ubiquitous Porsche Cayenne in Zürich is a big symbol in Switzerland of environmental-unfriendliness). Hopefully we found a perfect blend that will safely get us to the best backcountry skiing spots when the powder is dumping, but with a smaller environmental footprint!

Here's Jeff and the new car!:

We immediately put our new car to use by filling it with some new purchases... This recliner would have been quite a challenge to bring home on a bike...

Then it was time to take Scout out on its first excursion to the mountains...

Proud new owner...

A great way to get to those remote hiking trails!

Click here to see more pics.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Inferno Race Report: Part 1 - Pre-race

At this point I've yet to sign up for a race that takes as long to complete as my post-race reports do! So, without further ado, I bring you my Inferno race report!

For new readers, the Inferno is an ultra-distance multi-sport race in the Swiss Alps. For more background, please most posts on selecting the event, training for a mountain race in the Netherlands, and the final beckon.

August 17, 2007:

Race Day Eve was full of that typical pre-race air of confusion, stress, and anxiety -- with me sometimes feeling like a bull ready to burst out of the rodeo gate, tearing a destructive path up the Schilthorn and other times falling into a zen-like state of tranquility, quietness, and deep reflection. The night before, Becky and I had a conversation about how senseless it was to sign up for a race like this right in the middle of an international move, with a very heavy workload, and with a less-than-fitting flat terrain as my training ground. We concluded that yes, it was senseless ... it stressed both of us ... and it was far from logical. I concluded that its senselessness somehow made sense to me in that it was so senseless, that it was the exact way I wanted to start my courtship of the Alps, and that I had sacrificed too much of myself to prepare for the race to start having regrets. I'm sure that Becky's final conclusion was that her husband is often nuts.

Realizing that there was no turning back and that senselessness was water under the bridge at this point, we drove our rental car around the lakes near Interlaken and up the Lauterbrunnen valley to set up my gear in the three transition zones. During our drive, I discovered Swiss speed control cameras, so my first race picture isn't Jeff in a wetsuit at the swim start, but Jeff and Becky in a rented Audi speeding between transition areas!

I think that my American friends will especially appreciate my confusion at T1 (the Swim-to-road bike transition area). As a walked down to this area, I kept looking for the changing tent. In all the long distance triathlons I've done in the States, there is a big tent (one for women, one for men) where you run into, strip off your swim clothes, and suit up in your bike clothes. At the Inferno T1 I could only see rows of bike racks. Concluding that they must be waiting until the morning to setup the changing tent, I dropped my bag of bike clothes beside my now-racked bike and set off for T2 in the picturesque village of Grindelvald. We'll revisit this one later.Setting up T2 and T3 proved uneventful, except for the stunning scenery that continued to pierce my psyche and fill me with wave after wave of chill bumps. Yes, mountains touch my soul.
With a collection of gear and my two favorite bikes distributed around the Bernese Oberland region, we set off on the gondola ride up to the car-free village of Mürren, a town that hangs on a cliff edge with an in-your-face view of three of the most beautiful mountains in the Alps: Jungfrau, Mönch, and the famous mountaineering peak, the Eiger. (In English, virgin, monk, and ogre/monster.) The one and only time that I had visited Mürren was on a training run a month before the race. I remember running though town the first time thinking that this is the story-book Alp I had seen in photos but didn't believe could possibly exist: a small village of traditional chalets, covered with flower boxes and overlooking snow-capped peaks.
We made our way to the pre-race meeting, which we learned was to be given entirely in German. I was the only American doing the full race and one of only a handful of native English speakers. So, as the race director presented I laughed along when the crowd laughed, looked serious when others looked serious, and tried to appear analytical during times like the weather presentation -- which appeared to be the most detailed and technical meteorological pre-race briefing ever. Having lived in Switzerland for one week by that point and having never studied German, I had more than a few gaps in my understanding of this pre-race meeting. In short, my rough translation was that at some point I would encounter a large bus, which was being pushed up a hill by a motorcycle that was exactly 10 meters behind it. When that happened I was supposed to raise a French Horn and blow it, while listening to an ipod. Then the protocol was apparently to jump off the hillside and laugh while covering my ears. I know that the Swiss have lots of rules, but this one seemed a little excessive and I thought that I may need to record it on an index card, lest I forget an important step and find myself disqualified from the race because I blew the horn when the motorcycle was only 8 meters behind the bus and with my ipod on shuffle mode instead of playing a podcast on weather forecasting.

Following the meeting, I went to the English Q&A session because I really needed to understand how that motorcycle was supposed to push the bus and what I needed to do to get a French horn. At this enlightening Q&A, I learned that my translation skills were somehow far off of target and I also met a fellow English speaker from the UK. Becky and I joined David and his wife for dinner, where we enjoyed and admired his stories of racing with nearly 30 years of additional wisdom than me!

Retiring to our room, I was happy that I had learned of a bag-drop for cold weather clothes in Mürren. We heard that the temps on the Schilthorn were predicted to be around 0C/32F, so I had stashed an extra shirt, cap, and gloves at this stop along the run course. Thinking that the last exposed part of the run course in freezing temps and wind could be, well ... interesting to say the least, I drifted off to sleep before 10.

3AM arrived and soon we were groggily joined by other Inferno people at the hotel restaurant for a special breakfast. Following my now daily muesli and yogurt, we took the gondola back to Stechelberg and joined our fellow athletes and partners on a sleepy bus ride to the start town of Thun. It was at this point that I entered my pre-race zen mode. Nervousness left my body and I became very quiet and very centered. I suited up in my long-sleeved wet suit, which I hadn't worn since the 1997 Ironman Canada race and hoped that it wouldn't fall apart during the race. It had several cuts that were starting to spread open, nearly exposing skin. Just last for one more race, that's all I ask!
Minutes before the race started I escaped to a quiet place on the shore for a final bit of yoga and meditation -- facing the Schilthorn, thinking of the people who are the closest to me, and asking the mountains and valleys for safe and happy passage. I exited warrior pose, offered my namaste and a slight bow to the mountains and the lake, and entered the water.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The conversion from roadie to MTB'er is complete! Ok, maybe not totally yet, since I don't actually have any real MTB skills to speak of (details, details)... But now at least I've got the dual-suspension setup and nice fat tires...
The "new addition to the family" came from an online German company, and first impressions are that the attention to detail is superb (we knew we could count on the Germans to be precise! see here for more pics).

It's much too shiny though - Time to get it dirty. Our Zurich friend Martina immediately put together the plan for a MTB day in the Swiss hills. We met on the train and traveled to Unteraegeri, where we then hopped on a bus (which had hooks on the back for bikes). Eventually we were off under our own pedal power. The morning started out a bit foggy...
The climb up to Wildspitz was mostly on a paved path and went on for a couple hours...during which the whole time I'm thinking - what goes up must come down - How in the world am I, the total newbie that I am, actually going to descend this whole distance on a trail??!

Jeff doesn't seem concerned at all himself, as we stop at the top for lunch. A nice typical German meal of bratwurst and kartofelsalat is a great idea to fill the stomach with before tackling the singletrack, right?
We made some new Swiss friends along the way (see the two on the left below). Nobody told me we needed to bring full-body armor though! Guess I'd at least better fasten my helmet strap...

Martina was a fantastic coach for me as I tried to put aside my fears and realize that it's okay for the bike to bounce up and down and all around as if it has a mind of its own. "Look where you want to go"..."Let off the brakes a little"... Easier said than done! She was very, very patient with me as I bobbled down the trail, and so was Jeff who in his infinite wisdom knew that even when your spouse can also provide coaching, sometimes it's better to just smile and offer encouragement :) ...
Pretty soon I was getting used to being jarred all around, and saw that you actually can ride through a bunch of rocks without having to avoid them (this is a new concept after years of road-riding where you point out every little pebble). Eventually I even started to enjoy it (I think I'm even smiling in this picture, or is it just that I'm gritting my teeth)...

Toward the end it smoothed out enough that I could catch my breath and enjoy the views. Or was it just that I got more used to being bounced all around? Hey, this isn't so bad after all! What fun, to combine the thrill of cycling and play in the woods at the same time! Woohoooooooo!!

Cheers from a newly-addicted MTBer wannabe!!

(Click here for more pics)

Monday, October 8, 2007

By the way...

In case you didn't already notice, you can now see the final Top Five favorite things about living in Amsterdam (the blog is post-dated to keep it in chronological order). Sorry for the delay - I guess there were just a few "distractions" the past couple months :)


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hills AND chocolate? Even better!

Today as I was jogging along one of the many local “Wanderwegs” (walking trails), enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, and green scenery all around, I realized that there was a distinct chocolate aroma wafting through the air. Mmmmm... chooooocolaaaaaate... All the sudden I’m craving some of that yummy Swiss specialty. Must be coming from the Lindt factory which is just down the street. It stimulated another sense and was just one more thing that made me say “Wow! This place is magical.” Maybe it’s just that everything is new and different, and the excitement may wear off eventually, but for now Jeff and I are both amazed by things here every day. So we thought we’d share a little more (in case you’re not already motivated to come visit just to see us!)...

We never realized how beautiful of a setting Zurich has. Extending from the city center are many small villages which border the huge Lake Zurich. Conveniently there is a hill that rises up on either side of the lake, so everyone can have a chance to enjoy a view of the lake...

...and of course of the mountains in the distance...

As we always heard, everything is clean and well-kept (cleanliness is next to godliness for the Swiss), and there are flower boxes full of geraniums in every window (except ours, guess I need to catch up!)...

and big green pastures with cows, and more flowers...

We are only 10 minutes outside of Zurich, but yet the area feels very rural. There are cows right outside our bedroom window...

and a neighborhood orchard selling fresh apples and other fruits, as well as sunflowers...

Bells from church towers echo all around… and cow bells ring in the nearby fields… The sounds just add to the magical feeling.

The Swiss are keen on walking (usually with poles so the upper body gets worked out too), and it shows with all the Wanderwegs all around – Here’s one we take regularly from our village back to our apartment...

Walking up those hills must be how they stay thin with all the chocolate they eat here. Jeff has been having chocolate cereal every day and has still lost weight! Well, we always heard chocolate was good for you. Even Special K has chocolate pieces in it...

Speaking of hills :) , the hills here in Zurich are steeper than we expected. The grade right out of our driveway is 15%! (we asked for it didn’t we)

Those hills keep it interesting when bringing home the groceries on the bike, but I think of it as my “secret” training... Now I wouldn’t feel complete biking up a hill without my basket full of wine and swiss cheese (so next time we ride in the Gaps we can have a swiss picnic at the top!)...

We hope this has given you a taste of our life here so far. Of course not everything is perfect, and there are new and different challenges every day, so we will share more of that soon too. Till then, we just wanted to share some of the pleasant things here. The only thing that could make it better is to have our family and friends here with us!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Namasté from Zürich

Such a beautiful morning in Zürich today -- Crisp, fresh air, birds chirping & cows mooing, cool breeze, warm sunshine rising over the lake, the Alps beckoning in the not-so-distant distance ("come play on my hillsides again soon")... The sun shines directly at our apartment in the morning this time of year, so some sun salutations seemed appropriate...

Jeff, enjoying some coffee after a morning jog in the nearby forests, was revved up and ready to go to work...

We hope you can take some time to enjoy some of life's little pleasures today too!

Becky & Jeff