Thursday, June 4, 2009

Settled down in Switzerland

Looks like I am the first to post. I have been in Switzerland for two weeks now which is amazing how fast time goes! It feels fantastic to be finally settled down after finishing my finals in Tempe, AZ then leaving for Baltimore two days later, followed by Zürich a few days later.

It was the first time I flew directly from the States to Zürich so I was surprised the trip only took about 7 hours. Going through the airport there is a tram which is like a ride in Disney World, you enter the tram, it starts, and the next thing you know you hear birds chirping, the authentic sound of Swiss cow bells, yodeling, and as you look out the window, Heidi blows you a kiss. It’s pretty awesome when a country can make fun of themselvesJ.

I am staying with the same family I lived with when I was here five years ago. Our village is called Freidorf which is located in Kanton Thurgau which is right on Lake Constance (Bodensee). I get great views of the lake from the train, my bedroom, and from higher places in my village. There are many farms in my village and after walking around you can see cows, llamas, chickens, horses, donkeys (who sound their alarm system when anyone gets near them, any time day or night heehaw!), sheep, cats, dogs, and of course the rabbits that are kept outside in their cages (we have three rabbits). It’s cool living close to these animals and convenient because we get our milk and eggs directly from the farmer. The house is only five minutes from the train station by foot and across the street from the post office and the Volg, which is a little convenient store. My Swiss family consists of Doris and Christian, my Swiss parents, and their son Bernhard who is a year older than me, 22. Not much has changed since I have been gone except the solar panels have been upgraded and some of the rooms have been reinsulated (totally energy efficient!). As for the village, there are many new houses including a row of houses next store which is the home of a day care center in the end init.

Monday through Friday I go to Zürich to do my research. The ride is an hour and a half: ten minutes to St. Gallen where I wait about 15 min. for my next train to Zürich which is an hour train ride. Some people think this is a crazy commute but I love it. Of course my first purchase in Switzerland was my halb-tax and later an abonnement that lets me travel from my village to Zürich for 237 CHF (Swiss Franks) a month, opposed to 31CHF round trip with my halb tax and 62 CHF if I paid full price round trip. The trains are so peaceful as I travel through the Swiss hills, with great views of little villages, larger towns, sheep with their newborn lambs, and the classic Swiss cows. In the morning I either take a cat nap with my cell phone alarm waking me before we get to Zürich or I read or I work on my laptop. On the way back I usually do the same except for the sleeping part. One of my favorite things about taking the train is that you never know who you are going to meet. Doris often asks me who I am going to meet on the train today since I used to have a knack for bumping into people I knew. So far, I have bumped into three people I know just by accident. Boy, were they shocked to see me!

The University is a five minute walk from the train station, well at least the Political Institute is. There I share an office with Sofia who is the only native Swiss student on the floor except the tutors who pop in a few times a week. Sofia is from Schaffhausen and is working on her doctorate research on the topic of poverty eradication. Sofia was quite shocked and impressed to see I spoke High German (Hochdeutsch) and Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch). To practice we agreed that we would speak in Swiss German and if I don’t understand switch to High German and if all else fails switch to English (which happens when I am explaining things to her about my research, since I haven’t the slightest idea how to say things like “cap and trade”).

My research is going well now but in the beginning I was a bit lost in the language since the new bill is fairly complicated. I remember it took me all last summer to understand all the rules and amendments to RGGI, the cap and trade initiative that ten northeastern states are apart of. I worked for Maryland Department of the Environment on the Climate Change Initiative. Since last year much has changed and now there is a bill in the House which I am now currently researching. My research consists of investigating what groups are lobbying to push for more or less international offsets, which ties into the international carbon market so I am also doing background research on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is a part of the Kyoto Protocol. On Monday, I get to go to Bonn where the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in meeting to witness how climate change talks go down, and to hopefully get some insiders information about who is lobbying for more international offsets and who is calling for less. I am excited because I will get to participate as an unofficial US youth delegate with SustainUS, a group that I have been involved with in the past that sends their youth delegation to UN conferences involving sustainability. When I told them I was going to Bonn they invited me to join their delegation as well. Exciting!

I guess that is it for now, I will certainly post again after the Bonn experience! Until then Enjoy the pictures! My House, a calf, Zurich at dusk, and the llamas

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