Hey everyone (yeah, I mean you Mums),
As a primer: I won’t give a big background on my life here because the purpose of the blog is more to keep a select few up to date on the goings-on whilst I ruin Canada’s reputation abroad, not to seduce a slew of people on the interwebz and get them to procrastinate at work on my blog instead of someone else’s. Aussi, je vais probablement écrire la plupart de mes “posts” en anglais, simplement car j’ai moins d’amis qui ne comprennent pas l’anglais que d’amis qui ne comprennent pas le français. Je vous aime pareil, mais je suis trop paraisseux pour tout faire dans les deux langues officielles. Quelques-uns des membres du labo ici sont francophones par contre (ou Italiens qui parlent mieux la français que l’anglais) alors j’aurai peut-être une bonne blague à transcrire ici à un moment donné.
WHERE I’M AT
So, in case we haven’t spoken in a bit and you’re wondering where I’m at: I’m currently rapping up my master’s in Geography, Planning and Environment at Concordia (submitted my thesis 10 days ago actually! WooHoo, Party TimE! Just need to defend it!… Crap.) and now spending a few months at ETH in Zurich, working in the Institute for Transportation Planning and Systems. Most people here are engineers, so I’m trying hard never to be caught eating glue or doing other things that might tarnish the reputation of people from a social sciences background – I can’t make any promises, but I’m proud to say I made it through a wine and cheese at the department without lighting myself on fire or streaking! Props to me!
I got to do this internship because my graduate supervisor in Montreal unlocked the chains that usually bind me to my desk there and also because I was lucky enough to get some coin through the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement; a bonus study/travel award thingy for people with SSHRC scholarships. Given that my escapades are partially paid for by the tax payers of Canada, I’d like to say thanks to (most of) the people reading this and I’ll try and come up with some really cool analysis and maps to make it worth your while. I’ll even autograph my maps if you print them on recycled FSC paper when I get back to Montreal – which should be end of May by the way.
WHY DOES THIS BLOG EXIST? (trademark, A. Rose)
I spent a good amount of time my first week answering emails and a lot of them had the same content because, as crazy as this may seem, my life doesn’t change much when I tell different people about my trip. The blog was just an idea I thought I would try to keep people up to date on what’s going on in a loose way without writing 10 emails a day to tell everyone that my office is really spacious and my colleagues are cool (which they are) or that the view from my room at the residence is AMAZING because I’m on top of a mountain overlooking the city (because it is and I am). With the blog, I figure I can just throw a couple pics up every once in a while covering the basics and then answer more personal emails the rest of the time… or work, one of the two. We’ll see how that part pans out.
With that background out of the way, onto my thorough and enlightened analysis of the old continent: it’s pretty.
I spent a couple days in Paris before taking the TGV (high speed train) to Zurich. There was a “massive snowstorm” while I was there, which means a couple centimeters of snow, but it made the experience novel to me. The city was paralyzed on account of the flurries because they don’t have any of the infrastructure needed to operate normally when this happens. No one has snow tires, so people slide around on the streets and can’t get up hills, buses and taxis don’t run because they don’t want crazy drivers to smash into them and there are no snow plows or snow removal trucks, so people just walk or take the métro. It was cute arriving from Montreal and seeing 40 year olds throwing snowballs and kids all excited. It’s normal we get blasé about snow when it gets dumped on us and turns to grey, sad-bastard slush 3 months a year, but it was nice to see people acting like they were in a Disney film, giggling because nature was giving them a winter wonderland to play around in.
After walking around St Germain des Prés, along la Seine (really not the same vibe in winter as in summer I have to say) and after having delicious coffee and organic brie and wine (affordable organic products, vive l’Europe!), I boarded a train to Zurich, looked out at the countryside for a few hours and got out in beautiful downtown Zurich.
When I got out of the train, it finally hit me I was going to be living here in this gorgeous, hilly architectural gem and I smiled like a moron as I walked to go get my papers and ID at the university. If you ever are in Zurich and walk out of the main station and walk toward the water, with the buildings dotting the landscape on the other side, rising as they follow the slope of the mountain, you’ll understand why smiling like a moron is necessary.
After that, there was a week of confusion getting data together, freaking out about not knowing what I’m going to be able to accomplish over the next 3.8 months (that’s how they described my stay at the student exchange office, so very Swiss, non?) and other technical glitches of getting a temporary life in order. I’m mellowing out though now and hopefully tomorrow I get tons of mobility and land use data, as well as census tract information for Switzerland and Germany. If I don’t get the data, no big deal, I’ll just go buy a box of wine (tetrapack-style) at Denner for 1.50 CHF and drown the pain… Cheap European mixed country-of-origin wine, my new best friend!
The campus where I work is a satellite campus of ETH, a few kilometers away from the main city, so as I walk to school in the morning I have the sweet aroma of horse manure wafting from the farms to keep me company; the campus itself is Zuper modern and very high tech – I’ll see if I can post a video, but at the cafeteria, there’s a floating conveyor belt to collect your tray at the end of the meal, très cool! There’s also a crazy old dude at the residence I live at, but I’ll save that for another post… Suffice it to say he has hundreds of glass jars put aside because he told me he in broken English that he makes marmalade – he used the word marmalade about 40 times in the span of 5 minutes explaining this to me… he was also in his underwear at the time… yummy.
Yes, that’s it for now. I’m going to post some pics and comment a bit when I have more time. And on that note, data analysis awaits! Yay!
Take care and talk to you soon,