Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Retro Yodeling, my favorite genre


Maybe it doesn't have techno beats, but this is definitely a modern spin on what could be considered a classical form of music. Never before have you heard yodeling like this (unless I've posted this before). If you can't access it through the link, go to youtube and search "Sonalp mixte". It's a 5 minute and 58 second music clip of only the best retro yodeling in the business.

Monday, January 28, 2013

With all this extra time, I'm becoming a decent weekend chef. Yesterday I made Egyptian Red Lentil Soup and today I whipped up some Raclette!

Word of advice: if you decide to make Raclette, make sure you buy the upscale Emmantaler or Gruyere cheese. Don't buy rip off "Swiss cheese" made in North America. You'll miss out on a variety of soft, nutty flavors. Not to mention a 400-year business and a cut of culture.

They should pay me to write their advirtisments.

daily insight

I've had many enlightening encounters with people along the way. This was sent to me by a friend who, whether she realizes it or not,  helped me get out of my shell and shake off some old habits:

Have you ever heard of The Curse of the Traveler?

An old vagabond in his 60s told me about it over a beer in Central America, goes something like this: The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that's perfect (we all know there's no Shangri-La), but just for a place that's "just right for you." But the curse is that the odds of finding "just right" get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.

Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can't travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you've seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.

None of this is to suggest that one should ever reduce travel. It's just a warning to young Travelers, to expect, as part of the price, a rich life tinged with a bit of sadness and loneliness, and angst that's like the same nostalgia everyone feels for special parts of their past, except multiplied by a thousand.

Friday, January 25, 2013

You will not believe the events of today...

My box from Spain came in and nothing broke!!!!

A friend visited me!!!! I haven't seen my friend since my one semester at the Las Vegas Academy (first semester jr. year of high school).

Oh it was all so exciting!

Okay, so maybe the most thrilling events of today wouldn't be quite so engaging for you, but this is my reality. It's not bad. Like everywhere, I just have to get used to it.

Think, I haven't been settled in one location since my senior year of high school. Coming to UNLV and moving into these apartments was a welcomed break for me after living under the constant supervision of my parents for three weeks. Not that they're strick or anything. (But then again I wasn't asking to go out or anything....).

After straightening things out with my schedule on campus, I walked to the nearest strip malls by my apartments. I was expecting to find a Kosher Deli and an etheopian restaurant; that's what the signs said. The etheopian restaurant did not exist and the Kosher Deli was in fact an over-priced Kosher sit-down restaurant.

The 7-11 nearby is crummy. I felt a little threatened walking through. Gone are the days of my dad and I walking to the nearest 7-11 in Pennsauken, New Jersey for a slurp-ee.

Sketchy looking man looks at me too long while waiting at a buy cross walk. This is how it all went down:

him: "Aw, hey gurl. What's ur name?"
me: shake my head and look away
him: "Do you talk?"
me: "uh, yeah I talk."
him: "u have a boyfriend?"
me: "yes", as I show him my hand as if I had a ring on it.
him: didn't notice I didn't have a ring, amen. "al-ight. you have a nice day, MA'AM." crosses street
me: I cross the other street.

first week at UNLV complete...and it's not even Friday!

So here's the grand schedule for the semester:

-Music Fundamentals
-Spanish, Conversation and Composition
-Elementary German
-Introduction to the Hospitality Industry
-Piano Class

The piano class is too easy, I'm in love with the German professor, the Music Fundamentals prof has long blond dreadlocks. I don't have courses on Friday's and I now have my MagicBullet blender with me! I made Egyptian red lentil soup and a banana and almond milkshake for dinner tonight. It was incredibly liberating.

My room is bare in comparison to my sorority-sister roommates. Pink and fluff everywhere. Me? I have a small Swiss map with three postcards next to it hanging above my desk.. All three from Gandria (town on the otherside of Lago di Lugano).

The campus is expansive. No matter the reason, whenever I come to this campus, I'm armed with a map and highlighted marks scribbled all over it.

I'm thinking about majoring in Hospitality Management. This is certainly the place to do it. (We see the strip from campus. Whose idea was it to build the university that close to the strip???? I guess it serves as a motivator for all those unmotivated students.)

Nothing particularly outstanding has been happening...unless you count actually being accepted as a non-degree seeking student wonderful.

If you'd like me to write about a topic, just email me at swissmade11@cox.net or through facebook. I'd love to know what I've left out from all my travels!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mix a tablespoon of honey and some white sugar to make an awesome facial scrub. Spread the inside of an avacado over dry skin to moisturize.

Enough of the natural remedies! I'm starting classes and UNLV tomorrow morning!!

Between 9:00 and 15:00, my mom and I ran around UNLV campus registering for classes, figuring out payments, unlocking passwords, creating accounts, and securing an apartment.

This isn't a quiet campus. There was a truck blasting music and grilling hamburgers next to it. The cafeteria had every US fast food chain I would ever need in my life : Jamba Juice, Subway, McDonalds, Greens-to-Go. A few guys came around while were were standing in line at the registrar handing out free samples from Jimmy Johns.

What caught me off guard was how casual everyone was. I was wearing my brown boots, Bosnian jackets, and a nice scarf but that seemed to be too much here. I was a bit out of place, even in comparison to the people who were more dressy. Well, I guess anything goes in Vegas.

The housing I have is impressive. I'll have three other roommates, a private bathroom with tub, and a walk-in closet. I even have enough space in my room to bring my keyboard! I didn't get the floorplan I wanted, but se la vie. I registered late. In and around the main office is a tanning salon, a modern gym,  a cyber cafe, hot tub, 3 resort-style pools, a poolside theater, a grilling area, poker tables, and a pool table. (But no recycling.)

So it's a season of firsts. Thank you Andrea for your motivating words of encouragment! We both know these adjustments aren't always easy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I have a theory.

I have a theory that post offices in Spain aren't functional. I've sent simple postcards into Spain from Hungary, Switzerland, and the United States over the past two years and none of them have reached their destination, usually Valencia. I sent a box from Salamanca to the United States and the last time the status was updated on the website was 16 December. (Yes, I've resorted to checking the status of my box. It's supposedly at some international stop in unknown location, Spain. My mom even sent them an email to which they still haven't responded). Lastly, I belive that Spanish post offices aren't functional because they're difficult to find. It's very suspicious. In comparison to Switzerland, Portugal, and the US, post offices are a-plenty, around every corner. I bet you will be shocked to know that Salamanca only has one post office. It's a monster of a building, but not on my beaten path. For over 4 kilometers, I cradled that bulky box. And now I want it. Badly.

I have a funny feeling that once you reach this post office that they don't want you to send anything. You enter to a room full of people with too few seats. You get your number and fill out paperwork in front of the people who do have seats. People stare. Waiting time: normally 30 minutes plus. The cardboard boxes they offer are affordable but they're strange. You can't put the tabs in if the box is completely full but you can't fill the box all the way up or else you won't be able to close it.

Maybe my argument isn't strong, but my experience is. Ye be warn'd: if you travel to the Iberian Peninsula, take a sturdy box with you. They're free at the post office across the United States, as I just learned today...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

European Waxing Center

So there I was, laying on a white sterilized bed in suburban Las Vegas. I was not at a hospital, but instead, at the European Wax Center.

I don't know European waxing experience to be the soothing spa treatment that it is in the US. While North American's typically offer soft music and cucumber water, I remember most European salons with plain white walls, bad love songs on the radio, and, of course, some variants between each one.

Let's start with Spain.

I nearly ran when I walked into a waxing room in Salamanca and  saw a defibrillator.

(Now how often do you think they use that??) The ladies just happened to take me to the same room every time I got something waxed in Salamanca...I hated seeing the defibrillator (more than the huge poster of the most-tatooted and -pierced woman in the world).

In Barcelona, I asked the lady how business was going. She corrected my gramer and conversation ended. This visit was done on a bed behind a curtain rather than an actual room. Someone came into the shop partway through and they were having a conversation while this lady was waxing me.

My best Spanish experience of this sort must have been in Valencia. She was fast, accurate, and spoke clearly for my level of Spanish at the time. Maybe it was a little pricey, but she was personable and I needed it. Everybody, just go to Valencia. Sometimes I think Madrid and Barcelona are not imperative for a fulfilling tour of Spain.

Never was anything particularly relaxing or "rejuvenating", as North American's have us believe a good wax should be.

Switzerland. Like everything else, the price of waxing was/is/will always be astronomical. Never even thought of doing it.

I waited until I got to Bosnia. The perfect place to get waxed. (???) Across from the hotel was a dark alley. Cars were parked over the sidewalk that wasn't even wide enough for one person to walk on. Ice was everywhere in mid-March and it was slick. But someone had given me a recommendation for a supposed-waxing salon through this alley.

I was dumbfounded looking through the door of where I was suppose to go in. Dust had been piling into a cake. It didn't look like anyone had been in there for months. The buzzer didn't sound when I ringed the doorbell so was really convinced this place was abandoned. Wrong. someone let me in. This was sketchy; I was deterrmined.

Up one flight of stairs and to the right, I didn't touch anything. This could be a post-communist scam I'm walking into, I thought at the time. Alas, I just knocked and was greeted with a smile by a beautiful blond woman and was blinded by how exceptionally white everything was. The floors, walls, the woman's uniform, the desk, the chairs and table. Quite a contrast from the view into the hallway...

Long story short, the blond lady and a young assisstant waxed me. They worked together on each strip. They made faces of pain each time it came to yank one off. It was hilarious. It was slightly painful, but I tipped them well. They hugged me. It was a tough departure for everyone. Conversation was short since we didn't have a common language...

To this day, this Bosnian encounter is probably one of my favorite life stories.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Memories of Flamenco

The most famous flamenco singer of our day must be Estrella Morente. After recording her first flamenco album at age 8, she is something of a prodigy. She's also, not suprisingly, a gitana, a gypsy.

I was introduced to her in my history class el Mundo Arabe en el Mundo Espanol (The Arab World in the Spanish World) this past semester in Salamanca.

On another occassion in my flamenco class, the instructor (one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen and proud to say she was a gypsy) told us about Estrella Morente.  She shook her head in approval as she told us a quick biography of a fellow gitana.

On a third occassion, my professor, Lula, brought the topic up in grammer class.

So by now you'd think I wuld know a lot about Estrella Morente. Truth be told, I don't. What I've realised instead is that Spaniards tend fawn over the name "Estrella".

"Estrella, isn't that a beautiful gypsy name?" Lula would inquire.
"I love that name, Estrella", the history prof would mention with a far out stare.

I don't even know if they knew who they were talking about or if they just wanted to say the name. Either way, this is what I remember of Estrella Morente and this is occassionally what comes to mind when I hear a flamenco soloist reciting her song.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Switalian (Swiss-Italian)

The beginner's Italian textbook I snatched from a pile of free books at the end of last May is paying off. I am finally on my way to learning Italian! I'm not learning it the "natural" way, immersed, but it's a start. (If it weren't for the "natural" way, I wouldn't be interested in learning Italian at all. I now find it extremely practical.) With the guidance of this text and the world wide web, this can be a successful endeavor.

Want to listen to some Ticinese music? (Ticino is the only Italian-speaking region in Switzerland and where I called home for a year. Don't know if I ever mentioned that...) Type in "Chiara Dubey" in youtube.com. I recommend "Anima Nuova". It's easy listening with a slightly nostalgic flavor.

By the way, I cooked a stellar eggplant and tomato sandwhich on a panini for dinner. Oh, yes, how I do love having a full-sized kitchen with miles of counter space and an island.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nerves are building

Well, I received four postcards from two exotic Portuguese locations (two from Madeira, two from Porto). Mind you, this was both on the same day.

It's nice to receive mail from myself, but I'm still anxiously waiting for this box. My mom thinks someone in Spain stole it and judging by the way I sent the package, I'm not surprised. (I was rushed, they kept telling me it wasn't packed correctly. It wasn't a good box, though. I bought it from them and it didn't close like a normal cardboard box I would have preferred to use. The ladies at the front desk were frustrated with me). I remember putting down the value of the box as less than it really was as a "deterrent"; don't think it worked. So here I am biting my nails. 

Meanwhile, my parents didn't even read the postcards...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Where's my box??

Nearly five weeks have rolled by since I sent a package from Salamanca to Las Vegas. Where could it be???

It has the Hungarian teacups/saucers, vintage leopard print leggings from Frankfurt am Main, a Spanish liqueur, and who knows what else...

and I didn't get insurance on it...uff, learing the hard way. At least I packed two bottles of Crema de Orujo in my luggage so I have those. (We just opened the first bottle of Orujo straight from the Feria del Orujo and they loved it. Their first reaction was to go to the liqueur store and pick up another bottle....little do they know what I went through to get that bottle).

On the plus side, I was going through my day-planner from 2012, the last few pages where I write all my notes. Among recipies, e-mail addresses, and a list of things to do in Poland, I unearthed a list of Swiss musicians! Who knows where I got this from. Not all of them sing in their respective languages, but I still enjoy their work. Here's a few in case you're interested:

Chiara Dubey (Italian, made it to Eurovision finals for Switzerland)
Patent Ochsner (Swiss German)
Zuri West (Swiss German)
Stefan Eicher (French)
Bligg (Swiss German rap. from him I've learned that I don't like rap in any language)
Baschi (Swiss German)
Mani Matter
Mash-ewigi liabi

(If you want to listen to some of my favorite Bulgarian hits, listen to Ivana--dujd ot rozi is a catchy one--and Zaidi Zaide [there is controversy as to whether this is Bulgarian or Macedonian]. The former is pop from a former lawyer gone superstar and the latter is folkloric). Prepare yourself for something different if you watch Ivana's video clips. There's nothing wrong with them, they're just Bulgarian. =)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6KF7ql01gY here is Zaidi, Zaidi by Tania Skechelieva--live

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just an Update

The jetlag has worn off. My luggage is stowed. Cleaning, errands, and piano practice are my primary occupations.

The next semester is begining in less than two weeks and I haven't even applied yet. The deadline for degree-seeking student passed in December so now I'm stuck with all the extra paperwork and residency applications that go with the non-degree seeking student application. We saw an apartment by the University yesterday but, being Vegas, it's in a traditionally seedy area (and it's not even furnished). So if we can pull all this together (application, housing, finances, the move, credit extension, residency, transcript from Salamanca, etc) by next wednesday, I will be attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

I'm more unsure of which major I'll choose than when I was a high school senior, but here's the list:

--Hospitality Management
--Music Performance
--Primary Education

...or some combination of the two.

I'm hesitant to each one, though. 

Working in a hotel or running a hostel is up my alley, maybe. After looking at the classes I'll have to take, I'm not so sure. There's a lot of accounting courses (I consider accounting to be a math) and such. After not practicing an instrument for two years, I'm not convinced that the music department would accept me. And as for Primary Education, well, it's the closest the have to English Language Teaching (ELT). Though they don't have much of anything to do with ELT, just one upper level couse. Would three years for this major be worth it? I don't want to deal with courses like "Math in the 4th grade classroom". Besides ELT, I'm not interested in classroom education for native english speakers.

For this, my choices are all across the board. But everything will fall in place. If I can get from Budapest to Salamanca after missing a very crucial flight, I can choose a university major.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Leaving the house

Leaving the house for the first time was quite nerve-wracking. This was the first time in a very long time I left the house/hostel/pension/communist cell block, without the following items:

-high boots/old black Spanish leggings

Those are my essentials. But I really shouldn't worry because in Vegas, anything goes. No passport? No problem. Don't have cash? We'lll find another way to let you gamble away your 401K. You're always under surveillance so no camera necessary. No make-up? Probably just an animal rights activist or a natural-beauty enthusiast. As for the high boots (which house my passport, wallet, and camera), I'm still quite attached to those.

I've also found that I'm even more attached to Spanish cafe con leche. Sometimes simplicity is unattainable in the US. For just one tiny euro, I get the perfect size cup, always white, with one shot of expresso plus milk. If I were to go to an establishment like Starbucks, the smallest  I could buy is a "tall"; it would probably be laden with sugar and cost at least 4.00 USD. That's one complaint that the US students have at Franklin: we're used to these tiny little things in most of Europe then recieve something four, five, six times the size when we return to the US. And after drinking my mom's coffee, which she drinks Americana, I no longer crave coffee.

Maybe I never really enjoyed cafe con leche in Spain or cappuccinos in Ticino. I have had bad coffee in Europe, but it's not necessarily the taste that always matters. It's the experience. Going into a cafe allows me to people-watch, to write, to think about how things are going to work out (even if it's just a quick coffee, even if I'm standing). It's not a life-changing moment every time I drink a coffee, however it helps me organize my thoughts. I can plan my day without the small-talk of hostel-goers. I can interact with locals, practice a language, etc.

Well, there's my speil on coffee and how I now leave the house. Don't get me started on the lack of public transportation...

Without a Suitcase

There can't be anything more dull, yet comfortable than living at home. The past three days have been so comfortable that my mom had to beg to get me out of the house just to go to Home Depot and the grocery store.

Do you know how strange it is to understand every word of everything said around you? Going to England used to be something special for this reason. After all the grief of traveling through contries where language is always a barrior (and all your conversations start with a pre-emptive "Do you speak English" in respective language), I was thoroughly annoyed. Listening to English was relaxing in England, it was still a memorable experience.There were so many American accents I heard in Home Depot, so many minute cultural connotations I had forgot about.

But this must be apart of the reintegration process.

Cardena's, the Mexico-inspired supersized grocery store, filled me with joy. I walked through automated doors to mounds of yucca, platano, bottles of rompope (eggnog) with the Virgin Mary on the front, and a type of round bread awfully similary to Bolo da Rei from Portugal. The trumpets and polka-like percussion coming from the overhead made me giggle as my mom and I searched for anona. (No anonas, but we settled on a yucca, which I don't think is a bad substitute at all).The only language I heard was Spanish, it was quite refreshing.

I was heartedly enjoying my stroll through this culture-capsule when I had to come into contact with a cashier. As I approached her behind the counter, I had barely opened my mouth when she cut me off with, "no, closed", in a heavy accent.

Five years of Spanish classes, heard it in the home, semester in Spain, shaken confidence. I was just stereotyped as a gringa.