Thursday, July 26, 2007


You've Changed 48% in 10 Years
You've done a good job changing with the times, but deep down, you're still the same person.You're clothes, job, and friends may have changed some - but it hasn't changed you.
How Much Have You Changed in 10 Years?

I have actually been thinking about writing a post about where I was ten years ago for a while, then I stumbled onto this little quiz, thanks to Pepper and all her fun quizzes, which gave me a jump start with this sophisticated determination that I have changed 48% in the last ten years.

Ten years ago to the very day, I was sharing a dorm room with a very odd girl whose name I don't recall in the small town of Neuchatel, Switzerland. I was studying French at the University there with a group from the University of Utah. We spent June touring around Europe and July living in Switzerland, I travelled with a couple of friends in the south of France and Paris before returning home in mid-August. It was idyllic in so many ways, even the hard parts. It was my last quarter of school, although I had walked at graduation a few days prior to my first international adventure. I tearfully left a boyfriend behind knowing (but not wanting to admit) it really would not work out when I returned. I was divorced, having escaped a miserably doomed marriage the previous July but contemplating jumping into another one. I needed the summer abroad to think and play with complete independence.

My days were full. In Switzerland I managed to transform myself into a morning person. Perhaps it was my desire to have the communal bathroom to myself in the early hours that got me out of bed so early. More likely it was the walk to school. Our dorm was up on a hill, and when I say up and hill, I mean straight up a steep mountainside. So steep that the roads and walking paths had to switchback multiple times on themselves to prevent people and cars from tumbling head over heels and landing in the Lake below. The commute to school required two bus rides or a bus ride and a walk. Many mornings that July I opted to rise early before the dorms erupted in chaos and slip out after having a quick bowl of cereal with the strange warm milk from a box that could only be tolerated about once a week.

I vividly recall walking along the side of the road to the gated path that wound the hill through overgrown vineyards and gardens. At one point the path dipped under a road with cold damp stones covered partly in moss bridging overhead. Water was always pooled there regardless of the weather. I continued my journey through the small gardens and onto a larger street until I reached the small train station. Sometimes I arrived at the train station at the same time as the bus with my fellow students and they joined me for the tightly zigzagging walk down to the University and past the pink church. Yes, I said pink church. And believe me it was PINK! At one point some friends and I rode the funicular to the top of the mountain behind our dorm and the pink church was the only way we could locate the building where we attended class a couple of blocks away.

We spent the morning in a small class room with students from around the world with a short cafe break in the middle. After class we rode the bus back to the dorms for lunch, a nap and a bit of studying before afternoon class with the 80+ Dr. Barton who urged us to perfect our verb conjugations and accents with gentle proddings such as "it doesn't take a genius!" He was old and crotchety. On the Tuesdays when we didn't have classes he arranged excursions to other destinations in Switzerland. He often told one group of students to be back at the bus at one time and another group a completely different time and then yelled at whatever group did not arrive when he expected them. We were supposed to tour a chocolate factory. A SWISS CHOCOLATE FACTORY! Ever since we arrived in Neuchatel we had made it a priority to sample as much chocolate as physically possible by dropping by the Super Coop and picking through the vast selection of chocolate bars. Dr. Barton tantalized us with stories about the free samples and the entire process. I envisioned some sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory episode with uumpa luumpas and everything.

Sadly, Dr. Barton's senility and the adjunct professor's failure to check the arrangements, resulted in our bus pulling into an empty parking lot and Dr. Barton explaining that they often shut down this late in July. But he asked us to get out of the bus anyway and smell the chocolate in the air. The free samples were yanked right out from under us. We got back on the bus and went to Gruyere instead to tour the cheese factory. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cheese. I love cheese more than I should. But we arrived a bit late and all we saw was a video of the cheesemaking process as described by a cartoon mouse with a red hat (strangely enough the same video I once saw on PBS) on screens overlooking the plant that for some inexplicable reason was shut down. We did get to peek into the cheese cellar through a small glass window in the door to see the giant wheels of cheese. Then we were each able to take a piece of cheese on a toothpick off a sample tray as we milled around on the lawn wondering when we were heading back to school and if we would arrive early enough to head to the lake.

Lac du Neuchatel was beautiful. There were sandy beaches, volleyball nets, picnic tables and other activities on the shore. We spent sunny afternoons baking in the sun and rainy afternoons playing cards in the dorms and eating chocolate.

Weekends we traveled. I went to Milan one weekend, Bern another and begged for someone to go to Prague with me but that never worked out. I hiked in the Alps and drank from a real Swiss spring only to laugh with my friends that we were going to get Mad Cow's disease from the crazy Swiss cows. Don't ask why but it was funny then and I still remember that hike that looked almost too perfect to be real with the deep green grass growing all on its own and littered with wild flowers of every color. The somehow beautiful black and white cows with their large bells strapped to their neck with thick leather collars. The cabins scattered along the mountainside looked like Heidi's grandfather would soon hobble out with his cane and beard. The fresh pure air we sucked in as we paused to "look at the view" as we stared in disbelief when a little old man with two walking sticks jetted past us without stopping. I'm pretty sure he was wearing lederhosen.

Another Saturday a friend and I went to the Montreux Jazz Festival on the shore of Lake Geneva. We were too poor to buy tickets but we wandered through the festival booths and listened to street performers and admired a statue of Freddy Mercury and a bust of Miles Davis with a trumpet in the stand. I wanted so badly to go in and I could have had my wish if I had been willing to compromise a few things for a couple of guys from Amsterdam who had tickets to share if we shared . . . we figured this all out without a common language. We also visiting the castle at Chillon where Lord Byron was imprisoned.

It was also that month, as I sat writing the pros and cons of my distant boyfriend on a page in my journal that I realized no matter what - whether I married him or didn't - I would be happy. I was sitting further up the lake and away from the activities of the other students on a pile of rocks watching the waves lap against the rocks and occasionally splash up against me. With the realization that I could be happy, even alone, I started the life that led me to where I sit now, still hoping for more but happy nonetheless.

Where were you 10 years ago?


autumn said...

Wow, your ten years ago sounds a lot better than my ten years ago. Let's see, I was at the end of my junior year in high school, already excited to graduate and working at Taco Time. I always smelled like a bean burrito, which I didn't really mind.

Ma said...

You must admit that you have done some pretty amazing things and been to some incredible places in the last 10 years.

I hope the next 10 years will be even better.

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