The Swiss Life: Five Months and Thanksgiving Abroad

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Hello, my friends. It is Monday and time for my monthly check in. I have returned from a weekend in Vienna where I went face-to-face with my first real experience with snow since getting here (not counting Klein Matterhorn because it’s always there). If it taught me anything, it’s that my boots are not well-equipped for walking around in the snow. At least I didn’t fall, right?

So, I’ve apparently been here for five months, which is somewhat mindblowing, and I have to admit that Basel has kind of started to feel like home. The food stalls and rides from the Herbstmesse have quickly (and I mean, quickly) been replaced with Christmas decorations and markets. The weather has gotten significantly colder (although, it’s been oddly warm today).

Thanksgiving has come and gone and there was a lot to be thankful for this year. A lot. This includes the assortment of things that were sent or brought to me, in part thanks to my previous post whining about various things I wanted. I have never before been so happy to see Tapatio and the Takis are, somewhat embarrassingly, almost all gone. Now I just need to go to Target and impulse buy graphic t-shirts when I’m back in the States next month…

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This isn’t the first time I spent Thanksgiving in another country. Hell, it’s only been two years since Chris and I had our Thanksgiving dinner in Phuket. This, however, was different. Thanksgiving was really just like any other day. It was a little strange to spend the day without any stuffing, pie or turkey, but it also wasn’t that bad. It helped to have everyone around, even if it was a very chaotic week in this very full house. And because this year has just been so different, Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t really the traditional sit down and stuff your face day. Instead, we went to the opening of the Basel Christmas Market. Well, Chris and I ate at the market. Everyone else had kimchi jjigae before we left and were, therefore, too full to eat at the market. Pretty typical, I’d say.

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So, that’s that. We’re barely into December and it’s turned into a little winter wonderland everywhere I’ve been. Christmas in Europe is certainly something else and I’m about half way through Alea’s 2018 Christmas Market Tour. You’d think I’d be done with warm alcoholic drinks after this weekend in Vienna, but I have several more stops to go. Also, can one really ever tire of mulled wine? Probably yes, but it’s not happening any time soon.

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The Swiss Life – What I Miss at Four Months

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It’s Friday and I am putting my stuff together for my early morning train to Lyon tomorrow. Over the weekend, I will be eating my way around town and will also hit my four month milestone. Now, I’ve spent the last three months reflecting on what each month here has been like, but I think it’d be fun to do a list of ten things (aside from the the obvious friends and family etc) that I miss from home. The list is kind of silly, so spare me the concert of the tiny violins.
In no particular order
1. Carnitas

I could say that I miss Mexican food in general and it wouldn’t be a lie. I am a Californian and good Mexican food is a staple. I miss having a cheap Mission-style burrito and I could really do with some La Vics orange sauce every now and then. The truth is, however, that I’ve found the stuff to cook simple dishes at home and can even make guacamole. And while it’s certainly not cheap, I have located at least one pretty decent restaurant in town (more Tex-Mex than Cali-Mex). Kabobs have more or less also filled the burrito void in my life.

What I cannot replicate here in Switzerland, however, are carnitas. I miss carnitas. If you can tell me where I can find it here in Basel, I will be your friend for life.
2. Target

There’s always something comforting about the fact that if you know your way around one Target, you know your way around pretty much every other one. There’s something convenient about having everything you need there in one place. There are a few stores here that come pretty close to it and I’ve been growing pretty attached to the Migros XXL in Claraplatz (they close late for Swiss standards, too). Still, it’s not quite the same.

An honorary mention here is Costco. There are some things that you just need to bulk buy.
3. Sundays

On a related note, I miss stores that are open on Sundays. Granted, there are, thankfully, stores around the train station that are open on Sundays, but I never realized how convenient it is to have stores open on Sundays until you don’t get them.
4. Boba

I miss boba and I miss having many boba options. There are at least five boba shops within a two mile radius of me back home, which made late night boba runs or mid-errand boba breaks so easy. The good news is that I found out via one of the three Basel ex-pat communities I’m in that they just started selling boba at one of the restaurants in town. Haven’t been yet, but I will. Hopefully, it’s good. The boba I had in Amsterdam was just okay.
5. Hulu

We don’t have cable at home, so I actually watch most of my TV shows on Hulu and most of the good shows that have dropped off of Netflix are also there. I have my fair share of media on Netflix, but I’m also terribly behind on a lot of the fall shows because Hulu is only available in the US. The same applies to the HBO app. I know I can watch the recaps on YouTube, but I miss our Sunday John Oliver nights.
6. Takis

They’re messy and give you disgusting red-stained hands, but they’re so good.
7. Korean Food

As with Mexican food, I’ve found some workarounds for this one that has made this a little better. It helps that I brought a giant container of gojuchang with me here and that I’ve found a store that sells pre-made kimchi. I can cook some of the dishes that I need to satisfy these cravings or at least wait until Chris is here to make anything remotely complicated for me. Nevertheless, there are still are some dishes missing from my life and no Korean restaurants in Basel to fill that void. Given the recent drop in temperature, I’ve been especially missing the comfort of a bowl of sulungtang these days.
8. Amazon

I guess this can be the year that I break myself of my awful Amazon addiction. Shopping on Amazon is a little harder here in Switzerland. There are workarounds (mine being to stockpile things from Amazon for when Chris comes here), but I am missing the convenience of being able to order almost anything and get it in a day or two (or even the same day). I will say, however, that there is something liberating about not having a constant pile of open Amazon boxes lying around the house.
9. “Bad” Cheese

I know, cry me a river. Not only am I living in a country known for its cheeses, but I am also living a stone’s throw from several other countries known for their cheeses. Look, do not get me wrong. I love the cheese situation over here, but sometimes you just need a bag of cheap shredded cheddar to throw into your food. The good thing about living in a country known for its cheeses is that there are some solutions. There are a few cheeses I’ve had identified that have somewhat comparable flavor profile. In a spark of creativity, we even got a bag of fondue cheese for our chili one night.
10. Halloween

Halloween is more of an adopted holiday here and is (probably rightfully) more geared towards kids. It’s not really like we do much for the holiday and the prevalance of incredible chocolate here means that I’m not really short on candy, but it was sad not to dress up in the office or carve pumpkins this year.

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I still dressed up, though, because it’s Halloween. At some point I searched for indoor rock climbing gyms here in Basel to get a spidey picture of me climbing. I talked myself out of that idea, though because 1) even at my best, I could not boulder to save my life and 2) I have no one to belay me. I’m also pretty sure I don’t remember any of the knots…

In all seriousness, though, as much as I whine and as quiet as things got after Chris left, things continue to be good in these parts. The cold is officially gone and there are some pretty cool weekends currently in the works.

The most fitting way to end this post is with a Halloween picture of the stinkiest individual that I miss:

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Also, if you’re in the US and haven’t done so already, go vote. Seriously.

The Swiss Life: Reflecting on 3 Months

We hit the three month mark a couple days ago and it’s still crazy how fast time flies. The days are starting to get shorter, the skies are turning more gray and I think the number of people floating down the Rhine has gone down to zero. I guess it’s officially fall.

The past month has been good, with a number of trips both within and outside of Switzerland. Things like the trash system (which should post about at some point) that once seemed so different have become normal. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Chris here for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been taking German lessons and have been on the painfully slow self-imposed quest of reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in German.

And yet, despite having lived in a country on the metric system for a quarter of a year, I still cannot do the Fahrenheit-Celcius conversion. Ask me again in three months maybe ūü§∑

Wandering Basel: Japanese Festival

I spent this weekend in Basel. Well, I did a day trip to Solothurn on Saturday, but Sunday I stayed around Basel mostly. The timing worked out well as there was a Japanese festival in nearby M√ľnchenstein today. They had performances, workshops, and a karate workshop, as well as shops and (most importantly) food. You got free admission to the event of you dressed up (they were accepting kimonos and cosplay). No, I did not throw something together.

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I actually initially planned on going in the afternoon after my long run, but somehow didn’t feel like going for a two hour run when I woke up. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the festival, I missed a lot of the big demonstrations. I think I¬†just missed the karate demonstration. I did have a lot of Japanese food, which I now realize that I haven’t had since I got here. There were a lot of options, but I ended up getting some yakisoba and karaage. Finished everything up with some matcha.

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It was a good way to spend the early part of the afternoon, but I couldn’t linger around for the afternoon demonstrations and performances. I did ultimately have to drag myself out on the aforementioned run and do some German practice for tomorrow’s class. The run ended up not being so bad even if it was hot. I ran to a big park that was recommended to me, so a lot of it was shaded.

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Not too bad for a somewhat lazy Sunday.

Jazzfest in Basel

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I was going to spend this evening at home and post about my weekend trip out to Rhine Falls. Then, I found out in the office that there was a major jazz party in the city center and I had to check it out. Once a year, stages are set up all through the Old Town with over seventy musicians in a big open air jazz event known as Em Bebbi Sy Jazz.

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There were stages everywhere and you could just follow your ears from one stage to another, playing different styles of music. You could walk into an alley listening to big brass jazz and exit the next listening to funk music. It was a fun and disorienting tour of parts of Basel I have not yet explored.

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They had booths for food and drinks throughout the event. I foolishly went to one of the smaller ones, but quickly found out that the food stands got more and interesting the deeper in you went into the giant labyrinth of jazz.

I have an early morning flight tomorrow, so I was going to spend an hour there, but I ended up spending close to 2.5 and could have spent more if it wasn’t for that flight. It ended up being a¬†lot of fun and I’m glad I found out about it in time.

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The Annual Rhine Swim

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Every year, Basel holds the Rheinschwimmen, which is a day in the summer where thousands of people will swim down the Rhine. Yesterday evening’s event was the 38th annual Rheinschwimmen (or Rhine Swim).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event, but it was branded with giveaways, balloons, and a sunscreen station. The procession of people walking towards the Tiguely Museum was more steady than usual and¬† it was a generally lively event. There was evening a guy spraying everyone on the shore with a hose.¬†In general, it truly was just one big party.

I wasn’t going to jump in, but I was already in my swim suit and it was just instinct to follow the flood of people walking upstream. I figured if there’s any day when I’m comfortable jumping in alone, it’s the day when there are thousands of other people also swimming.

So, there we go. It’s a short post, but I felt I had to report back on the Rhine Swim.

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Wandering Basel: Cartoon Museum and Basel Paper Mill

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After a month of back to back travel weekends, I felt I was due for a more low key weekend. Besides, I should also spend some exploring the city I live in as well.

I spent most of the morning on Saturday at various stores getting things I’ve needed. This includes something that I thought was a non-slip mat for the shower and definitely was not (to be fair, it did translate on Google to anti-slip). On the upside, I did manage to stop by one of the local Asian markets and found out that they sell kimchi. Guess I don’t have to go all the way to Paris to get that.

After coming home with a backpack full of food and whatever else I’ve needed (and didn’t need), I decided to explore some of Basel’s many museums. Because I’m me, I started with the Cartoon Museum.

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The museum exhibits cartoons and comics and graphic novels. The problem was that I was missing the key fact that I don’t really speak the language that the comics are in. The exhibit was on an Austrian comics artist, Ulli Lust. The art was pretty cool, so it was a pity I didn’t understand the text. And these comics were pretty text-heavy. Also, I accidentally walked through the museum backwards, which I don’t think changed things too much.

I was going to keep it to the Cartoon Museum for the day, but found out along the way that the Basel Papermill was a little further down the street from the museum.

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I probably made it to the paper mill a little too late in the day because some of the demonstrations had closed around the time I got there, but I have to say that this museum is so worth the price of admission. It walks through the history of paper and paper-making. Now, while that sounds like something only hipster papery paper and printing nerds and Dwight Schrute, it was actually fascinating.

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Each floor of the museum walks through the history of a different stage in the paper process. The first floor is dedicated to the making of paper itself, including the history of how paper used to be made (whether from parchment or from rags) and how we got to where we are now. This is also where the restroom of the museum is, which in a very clever move, is where they had an exhibit on the history of toilet paper. They even had an interactive exhibit where you can make paper out of mulch, which I kind of messed up.

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The second floor is on printing, so they walk through the different types of presses that they’ve had in the past, including Guttenberg’s press and the Chinese and Korean presses that predated it. They also had interactive exhibits here too.

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The final floor is on book binding. I guess they also do traditional book binding, which is pretty cool. They do marbling on the third floor too, but I missed that.

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All in all, the Basel Papermill was an unexpected surprise and I would highly recommend it.

Besides the two museums, I wandered around a very active old town and ended up eating dinner at what I think is an annual folk music gathering in Claraplatz. All in all, it was a pretty productive Saturday.