Week 2 & 3: Almost out of money


Order of business! Check out the last blog! As promised I added pictures! Only two, but they’re there.

Okay, so the title may be a slight exaggeration, but at the same time, things are incredibly expensive in Switzerland! I’ve started buying/cooking all of my own food because even the school cafeteria is too expensive, and it costs $3.80 one-way to take the tram into town. I asked Eléa if there is anything that is cheaper in Switzerland than in France. She told me that nothing is cheaper and that it is even less expensive to buy Swiss chocolate in France than in Switzerland! Since I’m already comparing prices for you, here’s the one that I consider to be the most flagrant offense of unreasonable pricing: espressos from automated espresso machines. Where I studied in Grenoble, there were espresso vending machines in every common area. The cost for an espresso was $0.65. Here, there are also delicious, magical, fatigue-solving, caffeine-dispensing wonder machines; however, the cost for an espresso is $2.01!! That’s hallway robbery I tell ya! Okay, enough complaining. On to something else that is also very Swiss: Chocolate!

Okay, so chocolate isn’t Swiss at all. The Aztec people were believed to be the first to use and cultivate it. However, the Swiss have made many significant contributions to chocolate as we know it today. In fact, the inventor of chocolate with nuts came from Lausanne! (It’s weird to think that that chocolate with nuts needed an inventor) Also, the Swiss invented milk chocolate! On the Tuesday of week two, our class took a field trip to a fancy chocolatier downtown to learn from the best! And here is where I divulge the secret of making a bear out of Swiss chocolate…

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First, take a plastic mold and use white chocolate to paint the inside where you want white to show up on the exterior.

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Next place the mold under the constantly flowing chocolate waterfall. Yep, you read that correctly…a constantly flowing chocolate waterfall! In order to keep the chocolate well mixed, it is continually circulated through a chocolate machine and then comes out as a waterfall. At the chocolatier that we visited, there were two such waterfalls, one of dark chocolate and the other of milk chocolate. Once you fill up the mold, you set the mold on a vibrating plate to make sure the chocolate settles, then you dump the chocolate into the chocolate waterfall pool and chill the chocolate. Repeat once more, pop off the mold, and voilà!

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I am still wrestling with the fact that it is a chocolate and made to be eaten; so far, it’s been sitting on my shelf as a piece of art. Also something that just came to mind while writing about food, I’ve been most impressed by how the vast majority of food products one finds are made in Switzerland. For a country about a sixth the size of Oregon, I am impressed how self-sustaining they seem to be.

On the weekend, I took things pretty easy for the most part. That is until Saturday night when I went to a roller disco with some of my classmates! Before Saturday, I had no idea such things even existed, but they do and they are a marvelous time! Once inside, we rented roller blades and zipped around the floor for quite some time. Later we went outside and tried to roller blade down a small quarter pipe. Surprisingly, I didn’t break anything!

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 On the Tuesday of week 3, our teacher arranged for us to go to a wine tasting! We all had a great time; however, I was not very impressed with the 6 Swiss wines that we sampled. Maybe that could be the reason why the Swiss are known for their chocolate instead.

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Following the wine tasting, we took the metro to the lakeside and had dinner together. I’m not exactly sure why I was so excited in this picture, but it’s guessing it was from rising anticipation about going swimming in Lac Léman for the first time! In Oregon, the lakes and rivers aren’t the coldest in the world, but at the same time, they are generally cold enough to discourage me from jumping in. Not so here! The temperature Lac Léman was easily tolerable, and four of us went for a swim under a beautiful sunset….

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 As I was swimming out in the lake, a surreal feeling passed over me very much akin to Toto being told by Dorothy that they weren’t in Kansas anymore. I was musing about our planet and about where exactly I was on this sphere. It was especially weird to consider how far I am from Portland. Being able to see Switzerland to my right and France to my left certainly added to the sensation. Despite having been here for 3 weeks, it still hasn’t set in that this is actually happening. I am completing a master’s degree in engineering in French-speaking Switzelrand. Weird. As a kid, I never would have guessed that.

I’ll finish with one more exciting adventure before ending this novella of a blog. Last night, the classmates and I went to Electosaunne. It was an electronic music festival that took place downtown in one of the main squares. Entrance to the festival was $22, but free if you came before 8pm! We arrived at about 7:30 and picked one of the stages to hang out at. About halfway though the night, it started to rain a little, then a lot, then the skies were dumping oceans down upon us accompanied with brilliant thunderbolts! My friends, along with the majority of attendants crammed themselves under canopies waiting for the rain to subside. Eventually, the torrential downpour escalated to a ferocity so intense that only 20 people or so were still dancing. Yep, I was definitely one of them! I was absolutely soaked, but on the upside, all of my clothes were saturated with water very quickly, making it impossible to become any more drenched than I already was. The rain kept tripping the circuits to the music and lights every 15 minutes or so, but nothing could stop us dedicated few! Not wanting to stay out too late, I shivered my way home on one of the last metro trams.