Did You Do Something Special?

· or how I nearly exploded my Swiss kitchen ·

I have a terrible German accent.

I know this because I attempted calling a cab today, a practice run for when I get that call in the middle of the night because my friend has at last gone into labour. It really could be any moment now. I was given detailed instructions by my expat friend of exactly what to say: do you speak English? I need a taxi to … Then give my name. All went according to plan until I was asked my street …



Um. Kraaahhft-schtrow-zuh? …


Krahfft- Shhh. Can I just spell it? …

I do not understand.

I begin spelling the street, and the operator hangs up on me.

I didn’t bother trying to say the street name properly the second go-round. I used my plain ole American butchering of the street name. And you know what? It worked. They understood perfectly as long as I didn’t try to speak their language.

I then accompanied my beautiful expat with her husband and wee daughter to the doctor downtown. And you know, I was struck today by … how deeply personal, how private and special these moments are with this little family. I feel both privileged and yet somewhat unworthy as I try to make myself very small and tuck myself into the corners, the background of their experience.

We stopped by McDonald’s for lunch. Yes. Mickey D’s. It was the busiest McDonald’s I have ever seen. And you know what? Pulp Fiction was not making things up about the revered Quarter Pounder:

Back at the hotel, I decide that I will make dinner at my flat. There is a full-fledged kitchen, so, why not? I walk up the road to the market, purchase bread, mushroom stuffed ravioli, and sauce. Sounds delightful, yes?
IMG_5602 IMG_5594

When I return to the hotel, I pour water into a pot, set the pot on the stove, and realize I have not the foggiest notion of how to to turn the burners on. I turn this knob, then that knob. I stare at the strange Cyrillic like symbols. I do a few more knob-turn combinations and then -*POP* All the lights in the kitchen go off. In fact, all the lights in half the suite go off.  I call Martin.

When Martin arrives, he flips all the switches in the kitchen. He goes to the fuse box and flips all of the fuses. Then he flips all of the switches in the kitchen again, and unplugs all of the appliances.

“Did you do something special?” he asks me.

I think by “special” he means not good. But I prefer special in this moment.

“I… no. I did nothing special. I was in the kitchen turning on the light, and the lights went off…” I hope that for once in my life I can just get away with a tiny fib.

Well, I call electrician tomorrow. Everything closed now. Do you have meat?” he asks.

I can only guess he means in my fridge and that this is not a misspoken word on his behalf. I tell him I don’t have meat in the fridge, but I have milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter. You know, Swiss Heaven right in my icebox.  He tells me not to worry about the dairy. Thank goodness no meat. And then he leaves. I make myself a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in lieu of the decadent pasta I had planned.

I have now been in Zurich for a week now. I have finally adjusted to the time change … I think things are going pretty well … as long as I don’t burn anything up, explode anything in the kitchen or speak German anymore, I should be fine.

Hugs as always,

February 21, 2011

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