Transportation and People Watching

When you’re approaching an intersection, or driving down the highway in Switzerland, and you see a big flash of light come from the approaching overpass, you know you’ve been caught. A few weeks later you will receive your ticket in the mail for 250 CHF, around $220. We know this from experience.

The day we moved into our current flat, we borrowed a University van and managed to get a 250 CHF ticket for running a yellow light. A few hours later, as Doug navigated down our narrow European street, an approaching car clipped our side mirror and sped off. That evening we found a parking ticket under the windshield wiper. This experience, coupled with gas at $8 per gallon, confirmed our decision to forgo owning a car and stick to public transportation.

The Zurich transport system is among the best in Europe. Buses, trams, boats, and mountain cars crisscross the city so you are never far from a stop. At 80 CHF per month for all of Zone 10 (Zurich city proper) it’s a bargain, and a superb venue for people watching.

Wait at a stop, climb aboard, and you will encounter a potpourri of city society. The well-attired woman in Prada sunglasses sits just a few rows ahead of the disoriented woman waving her finger and yelling at no one. Mothers wrestle on and off with their strollers. An old man hobbles to find a seat. A 10-year-old boy boards, unaccompanied, on his way perhaps to his piano lessons. You may even see what my 8-year-old neighbor, Florence, calls “Sheeky-Meeky Ladies” – young women strutting across the tracks wearing $50,000 of the latest styles.

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3 Rooms and a View

When Doug and I got married, we moved into a beautiful duplex; two bedrooms, a large kitchen/dining room, and a nice-sized living room, all on a spacious half-acre plot of land and all for $800 per month. We filled our side of the two-car garage with all kinds of stuff: camping gear, spare mattresses, two extra coffee tables, old dorm room posters of Ireland.

Doug accepted a job at JMU in Harrisonburg, VA and the purging began. We made $400 in a yard sale, and moved into a significantly smaller apartment near the University. A few months later, we cleared even more space for the arrival of our little Abe. And four months after that, we packed our entire household into 8 suitcases and boarded a plane for Zurich, Switzerland.

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80’s Helmet Hair

Confession: Jewelry and makeup really aren’t my thing. I have worn the same silver cross for 12 years, and the same three Cover Girl eye shadow colors since I was 16 years old. Shocking, I know. Before you report me to Oprah, read on.

My hair….now that’s another story. Even as a starving artist in Nashville, I saved my pennies to go see Mark at one of the best salons in town. He knew just how to shape my tresses, and I felt fabulous every time I walked out the door.

Two years after leaving Nashville and my beloved Mark, I have had one bad haircut after another. One lady took a pair of shears and thinned my locks down to nothing. My mom thought my hair had fallen out. Last October I made it back to Mark for a rescue-style while I was in town. But 6 months later, and no Nashville trip in sight, I knew it was time to search out a good Swiss stylist.

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Zurich Day 1: Ode to God and Starbucks and Sir Roland the Benevolent

One might read this title and think this is a story of finding familiarity amid a strange and foreign land. Starbucks is, after all, a home away from home for so many – myself included. But this is no tale of mochas or frappuccinos.

The morning spent sleeping off jet lag, our first afternoon in Zurich was filled with warm welcomes from Doug’s new colleagues at the University. At 8:45pm, after much decoding and a little help from the locals, we managed to buy passes for Tram 10 and headed down to the Main Station for a late dinner. Our stroller is rather large so getting on and off in the seconds allowed at each stop is a bit unnerving. We barely managed to get on. As we rode through the city, we knew getting off would be our next challenge. The tram rolled to a stop, I grabbed the back, he grabbed the front, and we were off. Awesome. Go Team Woodhams! Until…

“Wait. Where’s my…oh, no!” Doug cried.

“What?” I asked.

“The bag! It’s on the train!”

That’s right. Down the tracks to Lord Knows Where went our money, our passports, and our map, not to mention a load of diapers. We looked down the tracks only moments after the tram left to see only an indecipherable maze of rails. With no way to run after it, we panicked.

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