Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Escalade Geneve 2009 (Briefing)


Here I am in Hungary, full of holiday spirit -- and my aunt's wonderful creations (think cheese rolls and pumpkin pie, bejgli and mákos guba). So in keeping with the above mentioned spirit and also because for the first time in days I have a couple of quiet minutes, I'll write a short review, as promised a long long time ago.

In short: it was amazing. I'm really really (really) crazy about festivals but I'd never had so much fun in my life. Despite the (incredibly) cold weather the Escalade topped St Stephen's Day (August 20, also the anniversary of the Hungarian state) and the Carnival of Nice.


The "trick" I guess is quite obvious. It's very well done. Lots of programs; lots of sights to see (including a secret medieval passage open only during the festival) and lots of things to do. Also, the Compagnie (de 1602) makes sure that the whole thing is as authentic as could be and they keep things rolling (and rocking).


So the whole thing started with us eating part of our marmite, a delicious little cauldron made of dark chocolate and stuffed with nougats and marzipan fruit. Then we set out for the Old Town. The fun usually starts on Saturday afternoon and lasts till Sunday evening. I can't really tell you about all the events first of all because it was extremely cold and second because there were so many we just couldn't attend all.

What I enjoyed most was the stalls selling mulled wine and locally made (and thus special) sweets, the tour of the Cathedral and the marches with all the musicians. Medieval muskets were fired during the performances of the Compagnie and groups of drummers and pipers were marching the streets of the Old Town all Sunday (it was amazing how those little children managed to be walking up and down the whole day!).

The festival offers some special treats as well. Besides selling some specialties only available during the festival season, members of the Compagnie offered a special tour of the Cathedral and its towers. I was told that normally only part of the towers is open for visitors but on Sunday afternoon we could even ring the (huge) bells. I had so much fun looking down from those heights and jumping a little every time a bell (rang by some visitor) shook the wooden top of the tower.

On Sunday we had lunch at the Armures. I loved their fondue (one of the best in Geneva) and the atmosphere of the place. Members of the Compagnie coming ad going only added to it.

The festival ended with the huge bonfire in Court St Pierre being lit and the crowd cheering to the old song Ce qu'e Laino. By that time we felt frozen and were happy to march home following the drummers and pipers through the little streets only to get home and go through the hundreds of pictures we'd taken, drinking tea and thinking of the next Escalade de Geneve -- something we'd never miss.

This post does no credit to the festival. I couldn't put it into words how cool it was and how much fun we had. So I won't even try. But I do remember that before deciding to participate I was browsing the web for days and couldn't find any decent account of the events. Whether it's worth visiting or not, etc. Now I can tell you: if you're wondering whether to participate, stop. It's totally worth it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Escalade Geneve 2009 (Videos)

Hi.
As I'm leaving for Hungary tomorrow at dawn, I can't really comment on the weekend's fun. But I'll definitely do so as soon as I can. Till then: I've uploaded the videos we've made (of the different muskets being fired and the marches and the bonfire).
















Enjoy! ;)

Thanx for reading! ;)

xoxoxo

Friday, December 11, 2009

French language & culture =) Part II.

Season 1 Episode 2:
And then...

French language & culture =)


I've had lots of comments on the facebook thread I started with these pics. I'll just post them here for fun. With only adding that it's the third unit of a beginner's French coursebook. Enjoy! ;D

Escalade de Geneve -- It Begins Tonight

According to the official website the first march is tonight. It's the "Hommage aux Victimes" so it's more like a commemoration. As I have nothing better to do (thesis? well... XD) I'll go and see what it's all about. I can still go Christmas shopping if I don't like it that much (or feel too cold :D).

I have to stress the point that I love festivals no matter what the occasion is. And I simply adore the Swiss attitude to such things and life in general. I really do, I guess my posts can only confirm it. But I can't help my Hungarian sarcasm from surfacing here.

The basis of all the fun is actually a battle that took place during the night of December 11-12, in 1602. It was a long long time ago and as we all know the fighting style of the time didn't really lead to losses we're sadly used to today. Although I do understand (and am of the opinion) that one life lost is one too many and I can see the importance of this very battle, I still feel that there's something ironic about this festival.

As Switzerland was lucky(/smart/lazy/mean -- opinions vary) enough not to participate in the wars that shook much of the world to its core during the course of the last 100 years (well as a matter of fact we can go way back before that), this event is really something to remember and celebrate. Coming from Hungary, I'm used to much sadder commemorations, much longer lists of the dead. I don't mean to say that's any better =). I hate sadness as much as I hate war. (I hate hatred for that matter so I can't really get out of the paradigms...) But still, something about this "huge battle" here feels... too much ado for nothing.

On the other hand, if one takes a step back and puts facts and figures aside, it's easy to see the importance of this event. It's not really about a bunch of men in shining armor and women pouring their supper over the enemy's head. It's about freedom. And that's a totally different issue.

Everything we (wrongly or not) associate with Switzerland today has been built on this freedom. It wouldn't have meant much for Geneva to be lost that night, there were such skirmishes all around the border at the time. It would have been gained back. But what that night symbolizes is the constant struggle of the Swiss against various forces that have been trying to shred their exceptional freedom. I say they're right to defend it and celebrate its victory.

And on an even greater scale, this celebration of freedom can also mean something particularly personal to everyone. I'm not Swiss. Not yet =D But I do find my own struggles parallel to theirs. And I guess we all can in a way. Every day offers something to threaten our freedom and integrity. But we fight on. So although the whole issue might seem superficial and ridiculous at first sight -- think out of the... cauldron!

Celebrate (your) freedom!

OK, I'm off now. I have lots of things to do. And then I'll go and... escalate! =D

Nice weekend, guys! ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yuletide Spirit

It's not strictly connected to any geographical location. I can't even put a tag on it. :) But Christmas songs have put me in the mood so

Merry Christmas Everyone and spend these days, weeks, hours doing what you love with whom you love to do it. ;)

In a week I'm going back to Hungary to celebrate with my friends and family. I'll be back in January and I'll update all my adventures here. I'll be looking for a job so plenty of chances of those XD

Thinking of wearing a costume?

Actually I'm not planning to wear a costume at the Escalade but -- according to the videos on youtube -- lots of people do. I was looking for stuff for a New Year's party and found this great shop mentioned on some forum. It's in Passage de Terraillet (Geneva). I've forgot the name of the shop XD but if you're looking for masks, wigs, ears, noses, body paint -- or anything even remotely like these -- this is the place to go.
Have fun! ;)

Monday, December 7, 2009

De Sion á Nax

I've always been shocked by the unavailability of data on hikes in the region. I have absolutely no idea what's wrong with all the sites but somehow normal hikes are just overlooked in general. OK, I do get that if you live next to Mont Blanc and can put on your ski shoes an mittens 30 minutes after leaving home, you're not particularla interested in taking a walk in the forest/countryside/mountains. But some people are. I'm one, my BF another.

So we were looking for hikes around Sion like crazy. We'd been invited to a friend's chalet in Nax village for the weekend but we wanted to look around first. Upon finding a small amount of misleading information on the web (if you're for the famous big hikes you'll have plenty of info, though!) we just set out for Sion, the region's capital.

The train took us to Sion (in pic) in like 1h45 minutes, which was reeeeaaaally fast. On arrival we found the tourist office closed (closes at 12.30 on Saturdays, we got there at 12.40) so we just looked through one of their little leaflets. And there it was. La bisse de Clavau.

Actually les bisses are aqueducts used for the irrigation of vineyards in the region. The Valais is a special place and I was amazed by the magic that made this valley a sunny wine growing place in the midst of the huge snowy peaks. In summer this hike is a tour of different vineyards, which offer their products to be tasted, accompanied by a traditional meal. In winter you can gape at the mountain peaks, enjoy the view -- and reach smaller villages, following the aqueduct.


So that's exactly what we did. Sion has a lot to offer so we chose one of the four castles and visited the Chateau de Valere (the pic shows the view from there). Here we saw the magnificent chapel, an old old thing the like of which I'd never seen before. It hosts the world's oldest working organ, an amazing thing to see.

From the Chateau we got to the aqueduct (Rue des Chateau-Rue du Tunnel-Rue de Loeche-Rue du Mont-Chemin du Mont) and began walking and gazing =). Actually, the route is part of Regional Route 36. The waterproof hiking map available in bookstores is a must if you want to hike in Switzerland. Although routes are well signposted in general.

We soon got to St-Léonard (around 2 hours including stops and pictures =D), from where a small yellow marked route leaves for the mountain villages. (It's not hard to find, just cross the Rhone and walk straight towards the mountains till you get to the signposts.) According to the signpost we were supposed to get to Nax in 50 minutes but after like 30-40 minutes the path disappeared. As walking along the motor road would have been a nightmare (and it was getting darker) we hitchhiked the rest of the way up. However, later the guy who picked us up showed us that a couple of minutes later the trail continues upwards. You just have to walk a bit along the road.




As this was the first time I saw mountains like this and the first time since my childhood that I saw so much snow, you can imagine how much I enjoyed the weekend. My love for this country has only deepened and those icy peaks have given me the courage to stay determined and fight my way through whatever I have to. I simply feel at home here. I feel I've finally arrived.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

L'Escalade de Geneve (a MUST DO if you're around!)

I won't go on about the background and the program, both available here.
But I have to say I'm pretty excited! XD
I've already bought our Chocolate Cauldron from Auer (CHF26, yes I know!) an am looking forward to smashing it. I looked around for the best quality and this was the one I liked the best. I bought a really tiny one (size 3 I think) but as it's filled with marzipan thingies and as we're not that into sweets, it's enough for us.

Anyway, if in/around Geneva, don't miss this magnificent festival next weekend (starting Friday!).

I have to go & buy my ticket to Sion for Saturday. Coming back with all the details on the trip & hike! ;)

xxx

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trees and Lights (Festival Arbres et Lumieres) UPDATE

It was marvelous! (It's still going on as far as I know so anyone interested can plunge into this magical world any night till January 3!) It was worth risking my health. I was struggling with a cold and due to this two-hour walk in the icy wind it turned into a full time flu :( But now I'm feeling better -- and ready to share with you the fruits of ... well, my craziness...



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trees and Lights (Festival Arbres et Lumieres)

I'm so looking forward to this!

Enchanted trees... symbolic sparkles... mystical mirrors... I can't wait to get lost in this magical forest of lights!

For some more inspiration check out this photoblog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Other Side

Originally this post was to be about our little trip to the other side of the Lake. But I've just realized it's actually pretty metaphorical.

So we visited some friends on the other side of the lake last weekend. The weather was not so great as it was the foggy-rainy-chilly combination that is so usual in winter. So we didn't get around as much as I would have liked but the Montreux area is definitely one to visit. I'm planning to go back some time during the spring or summer.

Although it's not supposed to be one of the big attractions, I actually loved the fog. It's so magical, spreading over the lake like a sea of clouds. And at night you can see the shores of the lake all lit up by sparkling villages and towns. Like a fairy tale...

***
Being around so many Swiss and talking in French a lot made me think. My attitude towards this language is so different from the feeling I have towards English. The more I think about it the more I feel Dörnyei's (2005) Self theory coming to life. Because a language is of course a social medium but if you think about it it's not really imposed on one by the outside world. Or at least for not long, as people generally don't like outside pressure so they either shrug it off or rebel against it -- or internalize the idea.

So the point is that we always have some kind of internal drive to put effort into something. And while with English I had totally romantic reasons, which made the language a crucial part of my life at the time, in the case of French it's more the instrumental-integrative paradigm that could describe my attitude. By romantic reasons I mean the sort of self identification process that one goes through as a teenager -- and English just happened to be the language of mine. And somehow it all determined my future relation to the language. With French it's been totally different.

First I studied French in high school, like many others, and it was more like a school subject than a language. When I grew up of course I realized that it could also come in handy and gradually I started to think of it as a means of communication.

When I was in France I felt really comfortable being the wealthy educated foreigner. At the Cote d'Azur you can be either that or the looked-down-on immigrant and I chose to belong to the fromer group for obvious reasons. I didn't really feel like integrating into local society as I couldn't really identify with the social values of either the rich or the not so wealthy. It's a strange mixture of classes they have there...

So I was quite happy with my Arrogant-American-Speaks-Highschool-French accent and never really thought on polishing it. Of cours I'm too much of a linguist to not learn a language once given the chance -- but never my accent! Having spent like 6 weeks in Geneva last weekend I had to face the situation. I was totally changing attitudes. I'm in the Canadian context.

Gardner (1985) and his cronies have ruled the language learning world with their theory of integration for 20 years. Then teachers and learners all around the world could sigh with relief that they didn't have to pretend any longer. Because what worked in Canada didn't really work anywhere else. Of course you're pushed to learn a language that you encounter every day and that has high social standing. But in the case of the rest of the world it's often not the case. A great many people learn English in school settings or just far from native speakers -- for reasons very different from those of Canadians in the 1980s.

But the Canadian context still does exist. Especially here in Switzerland. And I so feel like integrating. I must admit I'm stunned. For years I've been reading and writing about the decline of the Gardnerian era. I've spent my years studying how this theory never worked in foreign language settings. I was so convinced it was totally outdated! And here I am, on the other side, shining with integrative motivation, learning a language with all its tones and pitch. It's crazy. But it's true. The integrative motive lives on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hike To Salève (from Geneva)

I'll be quick because I have lots of studies to read still. ^^

But yesterday's hike was awesome -- and as I'd been looking for hikes around Geneva for weeks and could find nothing I think it's worth sharing.

The only information I'd found online is here and there are maps available about the hiking routes here, here and here and about the surroundings here. We had this saved on a Blackberry so that we wouldn't get lost (the middle pic applies to our hike). Also there's an official group that leaves around 10 every Sunday (google it, plenty of information to be found) but we thought we'd rather go the 2 of us.

So about the hike. It was amazing. Using the tpg route planning website (<- see sidebar) it took us around 30 minutes to get to France (Croix-de-Rozon Douane, accessible by bus no. 44 for instance). From there we walked a little to a village called Le Coin through the village of Collanges-sous-Saleve. As soon as we got there a path led into the forest on the left so there was not much opportunity for as to get lost =) (I'm stressing this all the time because usually we're so careful not to get lost that we do. One shouldn't think too much on which way to go when climbing a mountain. Up is up... =]) Then we took path 22 on the map, towards Orjobet. We left the path only once =) but following blue-and-red signs all the time should take you through the walk. Switzerland's hiking routes are nicely marked so you can enjoy the scenery without worrying about which way to go.

And what a scenery to enjoy! People say the hiking season is over with October when the skiing season begins. So not true! The forest was gorgeous and although the clouds and the fact that it was "almost raining" all day should have been discouraging, we had a wonderful time. The fog in the valley made the forest so mythical we were constantly listening for dark clad riders and joking about approaching orks =D (OK, this was when the camera played around with the white balance...)

It's difficult to describe such a marvelous sight. I'm not a writer so I'll let the pix speak for themselves. We were zigzagging upwards till we reached a passage in the rock going steeply up. Later we crossed the small wooden bridge (a plank really, fixed to the surface of the rock over the gorge) and took the steep stairs up through the "hole" in the mountain. We'd been deprived from exercise way too long. So it took us some time but was a hilarious experience!

There are many ways to "climb" the Salève. We didn't stick to route 22 but as soon as we reached the signpost for Grande Gorge/La Croisette, we took number 19 (direction La Croisette) instead. It took us to the mountain top and we could have had coffee at the bar =) but the sign telling us that the téléphérique was 1 hour 30 minutes away was too tempting. ^^ So we followed the motor road that led in that direction through the fields. At one spot we spotted Mont Blanc ^^ and took the appropriate pics with us grinning in the wind and all that.

We got to the téléphérique/cable car/funicular in about an hour (the whole excursion took us 6 hours home to home, we didn't really care about time while there). And then the descent began. It's a MUST to try this thing! It was awesome! Check out the video at the end if you don't believe me! =D

It took us to Veyrier in 6 minutes [so short!:'( ] from where we walked to the Swiss border (I love Shengen! =D) and took bus 8 that took us home in 17 minutes. Had a hot shower and a nice dinner and talked about the wonderfulness of life in Switzerland over a mug of hot Swiss chocolate. ^^



See also on youtube.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Geneva Inside =)

I'm kind of confined to my couch these days. I'm reading research after research after study. I'm quite enjoying it, I'm liking my topic more and more -- but it still means that I miss out a lot on the fun Geneva has to offer.

Yesterday we had our brand new (& gorgeous) washing machine installed. It took around 10 minutes and cost CHF 150. I should get trained for a plumber! =)

But it's been working all day -- and gosh, what a difference! We used to have a very simple washing machine back in Hungary (that belonged to the owner of the apartment) and this is a Whirlpool AWE 7720.

By the way, I ordered it from microspot.ch. They were really nice (and have very low prices) so I can only recommend them.

We're planning a little excursion tomorrow. I hope the weather will clear up... [thunderstorm outside =( ] ... and I can tell you what the Saleve is like! ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just to show you what has kept us so long :)






Moving in: before and after

The Best Fondu ever

OK, I'll make this post really short because I really have to be working on my thesis. But I've just thought of how many things I've done here in Geneva and never written about them. So I'll make up for it.

This place is awesome! We had fondue there a couple of weeks ago. The people who took us there told us it was the best fondue they'd ever had. And they were so right!

I loved the atmosphere, like in a granny's dining room. With the pictures on the wall and the different tables and chairs! None of them matched and neither did the plates and forks =) ... and the gorgeous smell of good Swiss cheese. (Which makes you think of another good point: that your kitchen will be spared of it! =D)

I can't write about the fondue. Words can't explain its excellence.

And the meringue avec sa creme du Gruyere! Guys, don't read the description on the menu. I know it sounds the weirdest thing on Earth -- but it's delicious!

I'm still dreaming about that fondue and wake up wishing I had some occasion coming up soon. Or someone coming to visit just so I could go back to the Café du Soleil. Not that it's expensive or anything. I guess we're just not used to going out without some special reason. But this might be changing soon because the Café du Soleil itself is reson enough.

Monday, November 9, 2009

IKEA Update

So. It was worth it. Or so it seems. Lesson learned.

Lesson #1: It's really worth calling customer service hotlines a lot and chasing them down about any development in your case. (IKEA called me to fix a delivery date for today on Friday.)

Lesson #2: Call stores before you travel there. Stuff might get out of stock really quickly. (Yep, the carpet we wanted to buy did so just that very morning... )

Lesson #3: Never tell them you're gonna be at home all day. Otherwise you're really gonna be at home all day. (I'm still waiting for my bed...)

Lesson #4: (And not just IKEA!) It's really worth calling customer service hotlines a lot and chasing them down about any development in your case. (We had our washing machine delivered this morning! Yippee!)

Friday, November 6, 2009

"IKEA á ... Aubonne"

The fact that I know all the hotline menu options by heart must be a good indication of how efficient it is. But it's a longish story so no spoilers, I'll start at a beginning.

Disclaimer: this is not complaining. (I've been doing that long enough, an I hate doing it, believe me!) It's just to warn those that go on their bedhunt or sofachase tomorrow.

We live in Geneva (surprise, surprise! =]) so after a bit of field research we decided to buy the bigger items of our furniture at IKEA ("á... Aubonne" -- OK, I can't stop that now. If you've ever called the hotline you'll know what I mean). I'm not saying it was a bad idea, I have more time than money so I still think it was worth it, although I could really do without the complications. Actually I quite like the style of IKEA -- and I'm not thinking of plastic tools in all colors of the rainbow. The more expensive stuff they have (e.g. real wood furniture and fine decorating elements) is of rather good quality and looks really stylish. That is, if you put it together right and provided you get what you order.... Well, we had most of our problems with the latter. So, based on my month long experience (never had problems with IKEA back in Hungary...), here are some ground rules:

1) Check for all the stuff here. Prices, availability, etc. Most of the time it's accurate =D

2) If you don't have a car big enough, call them here at least 5 days before your planned excursion to rent a van. Actually it's really not expensive, like CHF 20-35 an hour (I don't remember exactly) and CHF 100 for the night (5 pm. - 11 am.; if you rent one on Saturday the'll take it back on Monday; a good number of kms included, we did it in 100 kms, which was the limit included in the nightly fee). The only thing I didn't like was that we had to take the van back, and return to Geneva by train. But if you can leave your car there, it should be fine.

3) There are other options like home delivery (4-6 weeks, yes, I know!) and so-called furniture taxis -- but the van's jus the cheapest and fastest solution.

4) Take into account that Tuesday is their least busy day and any morning during the week is quite comfortable. Sunday early afternoon is a nightmare (lots of tired kids, lots of tired parents, lots of people) and it only gets worse towards the closing hours. So good luck! =D Don't expect to spend your Saturday shopping away nicely. But if you're determined and keep the browsing to a minimum, you'll be fine. Just try not to take your kids if you're planning a longer visit. I couldn't see any enjoying the experience, although IKEA's tried its best setting up touch screen drawing boards and such distractions.

5) Check the item numbers, etc. Sometimes shop staff can misunderstand you (even in French... or even more so =D) and give you the wrong size/color/item.

6) Don't be surprised if opening the package there's something missing/extra/that doesn't fit/is the wrong color/size/etc. Call them. According to the customer service hotline there are loads of files at IKEA Aubonne. (They record such problems in files.)

7) In such a case go and pick up/exchange stuff at the store. They do it quite willingly and are really friendly, whatever language you speak.

Unfortunately we only realized we'd been given the wrong size when we put together the bed. I guess we could have payed more attention. The problem is it's too big to take back (yess, I disassembled it! =D) in an ordinary car so I'll have to wait for IKEA to come and replace it. They promised to do so in 2 weeks on October 26, so I'm getting a bit edgy... But just a tad. It's not worth worrying about.

Some people have compleined throughout the web about IKEA mattresses. Well, we have the Huglo and although I only chose it because it was the firmest and I hate soft mattresses I just love it. We though of exchanging it because the thought of a spring mattress felt tacky -- but not the thing itself. It hasn't settled or changed a bit these two weeks. Of course we're kind of skinny (he more so), so that could make a difference. But you can try all of then at the shop.

Be careful if you order/buy a MALM bed. Sometimes the person taking your order tells you this, but in many cases they forget to add that the midbeam (support median) is not included in the package but is very important to buy.

So, apart from a couple of small things (stuff missing or screws not working properly) this is all the experience I've had with IKEA Aubonne. We bought loads of stuff so it's not a bad balance. One should only pay a bit more attention to make the shopping experience a better one.

We're going back tomorrow -- and, interestingly enough, not to complain. We need some more stuff. So all this hasn't put us off. =)

See you guys at the lamps! ;)


(If you're looking for more budget furniture stores in Geneva, try Pfister and Interio. Both can be reached by bus 29 from the train station and a host of others. They're a bit more expensive and of course smaller. Fly is the Swiss equivalent of IKEA and a bit farther from the city.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Memoriam

I just have to post this. It has nothing to do with Geneva or my life at the moment but...
this is the first thing I've ever read about anorexia that I actually agree with.

I've read so much about cures and people (involved or not) fighting it -- but I always felt sad because I knew they were worthless efforts.

I've read about people fighting the opposition -- and felt like sicking up, for several reasons.

But I couldn't have put it better than Carrie Sloan. I guess it's all about undertsanding it. Really understanding it. Not like wishing one had the self control to do it. Not like loathing it like an enemy.

Sometimes I really think that there's a whole misconception, a sort of misconceptualization about it. I guess it's a mental condition one's prone to, just like all the others we don't care so much about. Like some people have a tendency to get nervous, etc. And most people get nervous at times, to some extent.

I think this could work the same way. One can like have it, say, in 40 %, without going to extremes. Without being noticed. Still, it's a thinking disorder. And I really hate the fact that it's considered "absolutely normal" for women to be concerned about their weight.

There's nothing normal in that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Bit On Language Learning Motivation

OK, I know this is kind of off topic. But not that much.

I'm working on my thesis and I've just realized how funny this whole thing is. I mean my topic is Language Learning Motivation -- or really, one aspect of it. And suddenly it struck me that I can actually test theory in my own life.

Anyone interested in this type of motivation can soon find out that it all started with Gardner and his colleagues in Canada, who basically said that one's learning a language in order to become part of the group speaking it. And the more you like the group the more effort you put into it, so the more proficient you'll be. Well, I bet it worked in Canada, especially at that less globalized time.

But recently I've been hearing comments from learners such as the wish to learn a language (for instance English) in order to be able to communicate with others from all over the world. Now this isn't really about losing one's cultural and national identity and integrating into the group of native speakers!

I believe other factors can also be very powerful. The prospects of a promotion can easily motivate someone to learn a language to a certain extent, or pass an exam. Kids (and not only kids...) learn in order to please others. These factors are present in the lives of all. But I find it intriguing why the concept of the "world citizen" has been so underresearched.

So I've taken up this topic and have proposed to investigate the Hungarian prospects. I'm still in the data collection period but while questionnaires are flowing in (well... rather trickling...) I'm doing some reading.

I was actually when I realized how close this topic actually was. Amazing. I've been learning French since the age of 14. First at highschool -- for the obvious reasons -- then at various language schools motivated by various goals. Later I went to France for 4 moths and there I had other reasons and a very complex attitude to influence my learning (even if you're not taking classes you never really stop learning in one way or another if you're motivated). And well, now I'm here in Geneva and the situation reminds me a lot of my own readings.

So who's right? Why am I learning now?

I guess I'll go with Dornyei and his colleagues (not literally, that I can't however much I'd love to). They claim that motivation is part of your self image. What really drives you to do something is the image of the person you want to be or who others want you to be. And it's constantly changing. Those outside factors form some reflections in you and this is actually what motivates you.

I've had pretty different ideal selves in my life, which is reflected in the extent of my motivation and what I attributed it to. Also, this has had a huge impact on my achievements. I'm just really (REALLY) curious if Gardner and so many researchers ever since have been right. Does integrative motivation overrule everything?

The other really interesting question is where am I integrating into? In a city where half the population is of foreign origin (google for numbers but they'll be shockig), who do I want to be like? Switzerland is prone to dualisms. If you live in Lausanne you're definitely not like Genevans. French Swiss consider themselves way different from German Swiss (do not ever mix up the two! not even in jokes!). So where do I integrate?

At the moment I'd say I'd like to become a Genevan of vague Hungarian roots. I want to mix and match. I want to be one of the group, definitely. I don't want to be collared "a foreigner". On the other hand, how do you define Genevans? Where are they from? France? China? Libanon? Hungary?

I've always thought of Geneva as the heart of the Switzerland I've fallen in love with. The sophisticated multicultural country where people work hard, eat well, smile a lot and go skiing or hiking at weekends. And speak many languages and cherish traditions but don't shun new ideas.

I've always thought of this Switzerland as the feeling and pulsing heart of the world, where all cultures meet and being Swiss just cannot be defined as being born to one bart of the world.

So I guess Swiss are "world citizens". Which means I also want to be one...

So Gardner was right. In part. He just didn't know what a small world we all live in.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Firs Impressions -- revisited

"You can never have a second chance to make a first impression"

So true. Having spent a month here my views on the city and life in Switzerland have changed a bit. Not a lot, mind you, they've just got a bit more ... thorough... Kinda like dating someone. The more you get to know the person the fonder (and more realistic) your emotions can grow. This is exactly how my initial crush on the place and lifestyle has transformed into real love. Yess, we do have our rows from time to time -- but we always reach some compromise. And the passion's still there to last.

What first caught me and still makes me smile is the general atmosphere. During those first days I kept telling my friends that life in Geneva was as clean and proper as in any German town, as stylish and refined as in the nicest parts of France and as sunny, lively and easygoing as in a small Italian town. And it still amazes me. Trams, trains and buses are all surprisingly punctual. Food is gooooood and folks are so cutely dressed (I'll ravel on that a bit later...). And they're ever so nice and easygoing. Well, certainly you can see a sour face here or there or get a bark from the other side of the counter -- but it's just so much easier to handle in such a friendly atmosphere.

I don't really want to go on about the city. I've been in pretty big cities and lived in one for almost 25 years. I'm definitely a city girl though I do love hiking. But I'd feel completely lost and ill at ease in a smaller town. In fact, Geneva's surprisingly small. Till I got used to public transport lines and their timetables I used to go everywhere (yes I know) on foot. I'd done the same in Nice and Glasgow and had no problem with it in Geneva either. Got anywhere in 30-45 minutes. OK, I didn't go to Bout de Monde (World's End) but still. So it's not a huge city.

What I've always loved about big towns was the fact that everything is within reach, you can fulfill your craziest wishes in an instant and it's never really boring. On the other hand I've always hated huge herdish crowds (think city center malls on a Saturday morning) and the smog.

I've found Geneva perfect. The crowds are easy to avoid (just don't enter that one particular mall) and compared to Budapest, my hometown, the air is crystal clear. And it has all the fun too, only due to its size you don't even have to stretch your arm so far =)

I promised a bite for the fashion minded. Well, here it is.
I don't know how to categorize Genevan style. Its most remarkable feature would be that it's personal. There are masses of people everywhere who just put on a sweatsuit for shopping in the morning. And those who wear the full attire displayed in a shopwindow. I ignore them when I think of style so I'll do the same here.

Genevan style is personal in the way that stylish people all add their own touch to their outfit. You can see women in ballerina pumps and leggings but their dress or tunique or sweater would be one of a kind. The same goes for coats and scarfs. I can always see an item or two that I envy so much but I know I could never find one like it in a high street store.

Again, I won't go on about food. I owe you a post on the Café du Soleil and their inimitable fondu. I'll save the praise. But gosh I love Swiss food!

OK, I think I've written about all my first impressions. In a retrospective way. They can never be the same as they were those first days. But I tried to keep my more particular experiences for later posts. This is just to give you all a hint what it feels like to be here.

Good night. Sleep tight.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All About Flats

So I spent the first 10 days looking for and looking at apartments. I saw a lot and sometimes it was enough to have a look at the surroundings to turn back. But some were quite nice and we finally got the one we were dreaming of.

I've outlined the process in Hungarian here -- so speakers of the language head there.

Let me explain how it all works in Geneva. Switzerland being Switzerland other cantons might handle things a bit differently but the general idea is... well... general =)

The land available in canton (and city) Geneva is pretty restricted and you cannot just build away as long as you have the money. So the number of apartments is practically fixed. No need to worry though, you'll get one if you try hard enough. ;)

So the thing is you don't choose an apartment as much as you're chosen. This means that if you like one you have to apply for it, submit your papers (I'll explain) and wait for the person(s) responsible to choose.

In reality it's not that horrible at all. As far as I know it goes like this in many countries so others won't even be as shocked as I was when I first heard it.

OK, so here's what you have to do:

1) Look around. <<- In the sidebar I've listed a couple of sites where you can sort and list and browse at your leisure. Some work in English as well and there are of course others as well. I tried to act as fast as I could because some apartments get rented quite soon (given the situation).

2) Call them and fix a date (La Visite). Sometimes there's a fixed rendez-vous or a number given especially for "visites". Sometimes English works as well but it helps a lot if you speak one of the "native" languages. (It's not a cliché. Here in Switzerland if you want to ask a favor it's best to do in the native language. However, as I'll relate later in the "IKEA chapter" =D English carries authority in some cases.) Most (99%) of the time you'll not be dealing with the owner of the flat. Apartments are owned in blocks (so I've heard) and the task is given to the régie, the real estate agency. (So when they say they cannot recommend you to the owner they're not actually lying but it's worth excercising your magical powers on them :D)

3) La Visite. Just have a good look at the apartment and the surroundings. I always used googlemaps to get there and sometimes the street view was enough to make me cross out the apartment. :)

4) Apply. Most of the time the régie/concierge/the person who arranges the visite will give you a form of application you have to fill in. This has to be handed in along with the documents required: most of the time a copy of your ID/passport; the details of your residence and work permit; the bank guarantee of the deposit (not always needed at this point but carries weight if you have a nice one), etc. They'll let you know which ones they need exactly.

5) Waiting, hoping, wishing. Of course you can "chase" the regie a bit. Sending in chocolates might be a bit too much though :D

If you have stuff to arrange (as we did) you can still get the keys for an afternoon or a day.

Well, we applied for 4 apartments and got 3 (we were a bit late with the third). Among them the one we really wanted. Some regies might charge you if you don't take the offer -- but mostly they don't bother. :)

So, as you can see, it's not so horrible at all!

One has to work hard if one wants to live in Switzerland but it's not hopeless and totally worth it.

Good luck! Hope this helped.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To set the ground

It all began some months back when my BF got a job in Geneva. So we packed up our little household (in 2 suitcases and a couple of boxes) and came over here.

And now here we are, first week in our new apartment. Some say it's (near) impossible to get an apartment in Geneva. People have always been saying things like that but most of the time I proved them wrong. So it's possible. Anything's possible if you try hard enough.

It's been demanding, this first month, but definitely fruitful. I'll try and make a feast of these "fruits" sharing the details and my tips with you.

Stay tuned.