Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Regen. Rain. La Pluie. La Ploggia (sorry, I haven't yet found a Romansch dictionary).
Oopsy-daisy, here I come, from four days in style-savvy street-happy lively London with, suprise surprise, sunshine. Off the plane in Zurich, through the empty (is Switzerland really that small??) "modern" airport (concrete, a rustic architect's nightmare), ready to use my entire suitcase and backpacker's backpack, (quiet, you minimalist packers sniggering in the background!) of clothes and sheets (yes, it was necessary). I am ready to present myself afresh to a new culture, a new life, a new skill set, a new living situation, and maybe even a new self.
From Zurich to Bern, the trains are sharp, on time, everything Swiss except the cows and the cheese. One hour and I'm in the station. Waiting, watching as the people walk by-- some conservative, some barcelona-esque in their youthful hair and edgy clothes, most in the grown-up version of college wear-- sniffing the wafting scent of a waffle cookie demonstration to my left, not sure if i can just pick up a piece and try it, not sure what to say for please and may i, even though i know that much German and more. Waiting. then my new roommate and I are off through the streets of my new home, Bern/Berne/Berna, a city with the feel of a town, a capital you find right in your neighbor's backyard. It seems that most of its 130,000-odd people make their way to the train station mall each night, but none of them make it back out. The streets are oddly quiet. no horns, no whizzing cars and revving motoped motors. only swiss/naturalized-Swiss/behaving like Swiss drivers moving with decorum. But the station... chaos!!! bikes cross every which way in hordes; crowds of pedestrians swarm around them like gnats flitted by a hand. Cars edge through, sometimes diverted around the entire station. Bern is getting a facelift and tummy-tuck to come up to the glamour of the Euromeisterschaft 2008 Schweiz-Österreich, the European Cup 2008 Switzerland-Austria. And the glamour will come. I can't wait!
My first day at the ISPM. Dr. Egger and Dr. Low (although I have to stop myself from calling them so and push myself to use their first names) introduce me to my life's labor for the next three months. "Are you sure you don't want something else, because this project is very important." I am overjoyed that I agree with them and promptly start the necessary dive into meta-analysis and its inner-workings. My pile of books grows with Statistics, Meta-Analysis, and Epidemiology primers while my pristine desk (although dusty by Swiss standards, but hey, who's complaining) finds happiness in a bath of research articles, data extraction sheets, literature search summaries, teamugs, pens, my handy swiss Natel/Handy (cell phone) and spoons and spoons of lactose-free yogurt (mmmm, peach...).
It's a long haul from knowledge-base big fat Zero, what is a chi square please?, to ah, yes, make sure you have independent study selection and that you extract follow-up time, population size, and as many raw numbers as possible. My patience grows thin as my confusion grows fatter, but Nicola and Matthias check on me often and Nicola sits through my questions and feeds my growing epidemiology brain.
Weekends are sublime. no work. new place. exploration is a plus. With a Gleis 7 i travel free on the Swiss train system SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahner) from 7pm-5am, and with my "half-days" card i pay half-price on swiss train tickets to anywhere in the country. ANYWHERE. what does that mean? Why am I still sitting here in Bern with only a few Swiss destinations checked of my "to-visit" list? ah, yes, i must work and work well. ah, yes, i must lead a semi-normal life, try to sleep at night, and have some down-time to let my travel-weary body rest.
3 weeks later and here's what I can count:

One amazing hike up the Niederhorn via Beatenberg
Two incredible friends from work
Three stops from Bern and back: Zurich city tour-Zug birthday party-Einsedeln monastery town and proud bakers of a molded bread which looks nice but turns to styrofoam on the palate
Four moves from my first apartment to eventually a colleague's house
Five hours on the road, in St. Gallen, and back for a sunset bbq in a friend's apartment
Six hours to Stuttgart and more to Hamburg for a weekend with my uncle and cousins
Seven days a week to think of my family at home, the friends I haven't seen for such a while, and the amazing time I had in Freiburg with more of my family.
Many moments a day to thank God for keeping me intact through the whirlwind of the last month. craZY! and let's skip ahead in the count...
30 days of unending, put me in a hole and dont forget to wring me out when it's over Regen. La Pluie. La Ploggia...Rain.

1 comment:

Katherine Filip said...

Sorry, but I was curious about this half price card. Did you need a copy of your Residence permit?