Thursday, 29 April 2010

German lessons again

Since I started working in a more international role my bad German has got worse. Carol reckoned her's has also got worse, but she has no excuse :-)

Given this we thought we would take a few lessons to catch up a bit so we we signed up for a course at the local Volkhochschule ("Adult Education Centre" but literally "Peoples high school"). The course was titled "Deutsch für leicht Fortgeschrittene", a bit of a weird name "German for the lightly advanced" but it seemed to fit our advanced but poor German.

As we approached the start of the course we both got a bit worried about what we were letting ourselves in for. Even after 20 years in Switzerland we don't consider our German advanced (and neither do our kids)

Anyway the fateful day of the first lesson (last Tuesday) came and we entered the classroom to find that

First: we had been the course saviours, that is, we had made up the numbers to allow this particular course to continue and
Secondly: that "leicht Fortgeschrittene" really meant "early advanced" Whew!

We were hoping to have a lot of more advanced conversations, but the other students are not at the level we had hoped. Oh well, they are a nice bunch of ladies (I'm the only guy, and unusually I am the tallest in the group!) I guess that we will finish the course (and do the homework), its all good revision.

Solidarity Event "Unterwegs Gegen Krebs"

On 29th May the Swiss Cancer League (Krebsliga Schweiz) hold their 2010 solidarity event in their centennial year

"Unterwegs gegen Krebs" - ("on the way against cancer", sounds better in German) is a 2 part event. The first, morning, stage is walking from various locations (e.g. - Dietikon) in to 14 major towns (e.g. - Zurich) where there is a regional solidarity event. The walks vary from 2 to 4 hours (the Dietikon-Zurich route is 3.25 hours)

The second stage is a train into Bern at around 14:00 for the big afternoon event.

Carol and I will be donning our T-Shirts and walking boots for the first stage of the event from Dietikon to Zurich

Unfortunately will not be doing the Bern trip because to the AGM of the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) Swiss branch expects my attendance in the afternoon (not to mention the AGM dinner later).

If anybody is interested in walking with us (or without us) register at (German, French and Italian only) and drop a comment on this posting. If you should go on to Bern you get a chance to stick a solidarity note on a big pin board ....

And, of course, if you prefer to attend any of all of the IET events (except the AGM unless you are a member) on that day instead of living it up in Bern; Carol, me and the rest of the IET people would love to see you there.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Coming in threes: Phones, Tickets and Volcanoes

No excuses, I know it has been a long time again, but I got presented with some unexpected time on my hands today, all a bit strange really

I'm writing this sitting on a train from Paris to Zurich. Why is that odd?

Well normally I fly because the 5-7 hours on the train (even when it is much more comfortable) doesn't compare to the 1.5 hour flight (I know I should be more green), but today flying was not an option and it all has do do with an Icelandic Volcano.

This was the finale (I hope) to an eventful business trip to Paris.
On Wednesday afternoon I flew to Paris from Zurich. Carol dropped me at the railway station and I immediately realised I had forgotten my phone (Handy / Natel / Mobile or whatever your local cultural pet name for a GSM phone is) and it was too late to go back. In the ensuing culture panic, where all my usual phone based business trip management went out of the window (or rather got left on the shelf in the home office), I forgot to punch my train ticket on the only day this century there was a guard on the airport train. After trying to do a cat from shrek eyes expression to the guard and consequently making people throw up all around me, he forgave me because I think he realised I had become severely disabled without a handy (the favourite Swiss culture nickname), or was it just severely disabled for no reason at all?

This covered two of a set of magic "three things" and after getting to the airport and flying safely with all luggage intact I tried to convince myself that the incident with the Taxi driver almost taking the life of a motorcyclist by pulling out about three inches (75cm) in front of him was number three.

Of course this was a very stupid thought because this is actually an hourly occurrence for any Paris Taxi driver and an almost every 10 minute occurrence for every Parisen motorcyclist (you can draw your own conclusions on the statistical accuracy).

Thankfully I arrived at the Paris office without further incident and after a couple of hours work (its apparently called business when you are not a resident of the state in which you are er...doing stuff, but it feels like work to me) I left with a good friend and colleague to a restaurant and on to his home concluding very pleasant evening with him and his wife.

Before going to bed my friend lent me a spare phone he had (we all seem to have spares nowadays) and therefore enabling a good good nights sleep to be had. Perhaps I should change the pet name to "Teddy".

When Thursday's travel and business went by without any events, except for those that were planned, I thought I had escaped the dreaded 3, but then the I rang up Carol (no, that wasn't the 3, tut - silly) and after exchanging all of the really exciting events of our respective days Carol happened to mention some problems at Zurich airport she had just heard on the radio but she hadn't quite caught the cause.

So I quickly googled (thank goodness you can Google without teddy otherwise I would have a had a nervous breakdown), and discovered that all of northern Europe's airports were gradually closing down, and why, A VOLCANIC ERUPTION IN ICELAND....

Of course Charles de Gaulle was closing, the airport not the man (well actually he is already closed) so I quickly phoned the emergency number of our corporate travel service to organise something. Interestingly, but quite obviously, the emergency service was on hold. Well what do you expect, there was actually an emergency going on.

OK supreme being I got it, but did you have to make it quite so bizarre. No 3 really must have arrived! Combining a double whammy as stopping me going home as planned and stopping me from being home for Joss's birthday tomorrow.


So hear I am sitting on a train traveling across France on my way to Switzerland in, perhaps, one of the last seats available today and writing this bizarre little story thanks to Jose and his deft manipulation the SNCF web site last night.

One plus is that given this rather pleasant rail experience, despite the packed train and those incessant teddy ring tones, I might take the Green option more often (First class of course)

So there go the three horseman of the apocalypse... Something funny with that somehow.

And the moral of the story?
Er... don't forget your phone when there is Volcanic activity in Iceland?...

Or maybe ..."When there is an emergency all you need are friends"...
a bit soppy, but better I think.

p.s 18th April : Maybe 3 was the godawful cold I caught.