Thursday, August 30, 2007


i realized today, in all my blogging, i haven't put up any pictures from my time working at eth. today is my last day here and it seems that the time (5 weeks) has really flown by. we had a biosurfaces conference here during the week that has kept me busy but we've managed to have some fun outside of the meeting and go out for dinner/drinks. tonight a formal dinner for the conference participants is being held at some really nice restaurant at the top of a hill with a great view of zurich (so i'm told). should be a nice way for me to see everyone one last time and say goodbye and thanks.

i've definitely gotten to feeling pretty comfortable here (outside of the bees) and have established a nice routine. it's been a really great experience for me, both professionally and personally. i learned a lot of new things in the lab and also made some new contacts. experienced the swiss work ethic and easily adopted espressos after lunch (see pic at right and others here). i had lots of opportunities to see more of this very pretty country. and i also met some really great and interesting and fun people with whom, hopefully, i'll stay in touch with. all in all, a really fantastic experience.
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signs in zurich

there are several signs around zurich that have caught my attention. the most controversial one, which some of us discussed at length the other day, is an ad published by the Schweizer Volks Party (or Swiss People's Party) which depicts a black sheep being kicked out of switzerland, by white sheep. translation: for more security, dangerous, non-white, foreigners should get out of switzerland. it's really amazing to me that such racism is present here in switzerland. the graduate students that I've been working with have said they are ashamed that such advertisements are appearing all over the place (pretty much every train station) and really detest the SVP party.

on a lighter note, there's a funny sign posted in all the buses and trams here, indicating what you cannot do inside. for example (from the left), you should not blow cigarette smoke in someone's face, you should not have empty pockets (= no money means no ticket), you should not play your guitar (= no soliciting), do not saw seats (= no damaging property), and no skates on the seats (= don't put your feet up). it seems that most people adhere to all of them, stiff penalty if you don't. like, if you board a tram/bus without a ticket/pass, and you're caught, you'll have to pay 80 francs. and if you don't have 80 francs, it's another 20 or 25 franc penalty.

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Monday, August 27, 2007


on sunday, i took an afternoon trip to lucerne. it was a really sunny, hot day and i was able to walk around the town and see the sights. it's yet a nother very pretty city in switzerland. take a look at the pics below...


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football! zurich vs. bern

saturday evening i was super excited to be able to check out a football (soccer for all you americans) game here in zurich. it was fc zurich against the young boys of bern. i'd never been to a match in europe before and was expecting a somewhat different crowd/atmosphere/experience than watching a soccer game in the states. this definitely turned out to be true.

so we went to the match with fabian - who is from bern. consequently, he got us tickets in the bern (guest) section. we had great seats, right behind one of the goals. the fans were absolutely crazy. they have all these cheers, with one guy with a loudspeaker leading everyone (HOPP Y B! GO YOUNG BOYS!). and when their team's playing badly, all the fans turn their backs to the field and jump up and down. every time the ref made a call against bern, or one of their players got fouled, or one of their players made a stupid move, there was whistling and yelling and all kinds of gesturing going on. i can understand getting emotionally involved in the game but this seemed a bit over the top for a routine game in the not so competitive axpo soccer league. but, anyway, who am i to say?

by half time, the score was 2-0 in favor of zurich - things were not looking good for the bernese. i should also mention that, by pure coincidence (i swear), i was wearing a t shirt in zurich colors - blue and white. and sitting in the bern section - colors are black and yellow. i totally got heckled by people because of my shirt! one guy, as i was passing by, pulled at my sleeve and shook his head and said "zuri, zuri, zuri." crazy. luckily, i was never left alone with these crazy bernese people.

as the end of the match approached, the score was 4-0 in favor of bern. zurich is the top team in the league currently, but bern seriously could not even keep the ball in their possession. they played terribly. finally, in the 88th min, bern scored - an honor goal, making it 4-1. the guy smoking a doobie in front of whitney was VERY excited and another fan threw his beer on the field in celebration. but then, 30 seconds later, zurich scored again! after this, we decided to leave and it was 5-1 at the end. needless to say, fabian was pretty irritated, but it was a fun time for me.

football - zurich vs. bern

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on saturday i got the chance to do something very unique to zurich, and participate in the annual limmatschwimmen. every august, if the water is warm enough (at least 21C), there's a swimming event in the limmat river, right through the center of the city. the last two years it's been cancelled, but this year, it was on. in order to participate, you pay 27 francs and you're provided with a yellow floatie thing - yeah, so you're not technically swimming - and you go down the river, 1.3 km (~0.8 mi), from the start (which is near the lake) to end (near the train station).

the whole event was a lot of fun and super organized, as the swiss do things. at the beginning, you're provided with a bag with a number on it. they put a bracelet on you with the same number. you put all your stuff in the bag and they take it from you just before you jump in the water. at the end of the route, when you get out, you're handed hot, peppermint tea. and then you go claim your bag (which they've brought to the end of the river where you get out) with your bracelet. then, there's a big grassy area where you can lounge around and get a bratwurst or veggie sandwich (included with the entrance fee) and also claim your souvenir glass.

the water felt pretty cold initally, but after moving around a bit, it was fine. it was really cool to take in the sights of the city from the river itself. all in all, a great event and very relaxing.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

biking and stupid bees

the other day, i was walking around the main shopping area in zurich - bahnhofstrasse - and noticed that there was a place near one of the big department stores where bikes are "rented" for free. i couldn't really tell much else about the place, since everything was written in german, and so i asked whitney (a phd student in the lab) about it. apparently, from may to october, you can "hire" a zurich city bike for free (just put a deposit of 20 francs and provide your id, you get both back when you return the bike). the company, called zuri rollt, has big sponsors like mcdonald's (which is how they can afford to be free), and basically does this to promote environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

so, last night, whitney and i went to try it out. it was SO much fun. i haven't ridden a bike in a really, really long time...but it is true, ri
ding a bike is like a riding a bike. once you know how, you don't forget. the bikes themselves were very nice (at least from my lay perspective) and equipped with a cute basket and a bell! we got the bikes a bit before sunset and rode around the city center and the lake. it was such a nice evening, cool breeze and just so enjoyable to take in the sights from the bike! definitely something i won't ever forget.

so, ok. this was the nice part of my evening yesterday. when i got back to my room last night, i opened my window since it was a bit stuffy and i figured the ants had all drowned in the downpour we had last week. after a little while, i heard some buzzing and saw that there were 3 or 4 bees in my room!! i absolutely hate bees! i've been scared of them ever since i was little, probably because i witnessed my brother get stung several times when we were kids. so i closed the window, opened my door, hoping they would leave. after awhile, i didn't see any bees except 1 that was sitting on the ceiling light and it wasn't moving at all. i decided it was safe to sleep. around 4:30a, i jerk awake because i feel a sting on my hand. i turn on the light and see that i got freaking stung by the damn bee and my finger is red and swollen! there went my perfect record of never having been stung by a bee. again, i tried to get the bee to leave my room but couldn't see where it went and if it was still around or not. needless to say, i wasn't really able to sleep much after that.

finally, this morning, while i was getting ready for work, i heard some more buzzing near the window! argh. on my list of things to do this evening - buy some bee killer! seriously, i'm so frustrated with this place where i've been staying. being in zurich, and being able to travel around here has been great, but i'm looking forward to being back in my nice, bee and ant-free apartment in chicago. but i'm thinking maybe it would be nice to get a bike when i get back...

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

beatenberg and interlaken

last sunday, i took a trip with whitney and karthik (two phd students in the group here) to beatenberg (pronounced bayAHtenberg), a little town near interlaken. it was a really great day trip.

we left in the morning from zurich, and took a train to thun, a city on lake thun. from there we took a bus, which travelled right along the lake, to beatenberg. one of the main attractions in beatenberg is taking a funiclaire and then a cable car up to the closest peak, which is niederhorn. there were amazing views from the top and also lots of hiking trails. it's apparently also a very popular place for paragliding. in general, it seemed like a place were a lot of locals go for the day, not too many tourists around.

after taking in the view from the niederhorn, we hiked down through a forest trail to vornass. the views of the valleys below, from this trail, were really nice even though it was a bit cloudy. from vornass we took the cable car back down to beatenberg and then decided to take a boat from beatenberg to interlaken (the nice thing about swiss transport passes is that once you have a pass, you can travel using any form of transportation - train, tram, boat; so it was great that we could do all this without having to pay extra). the view of the shoreline from the boat was really beautiful and possible even from the little restaurant in the boat where we had coffee and cake!

finally, in interlaken (which is incidentally WAY tourist ridden), we had dinner at a nice italian place (although they charged us for tap water!), walked around a bit, and then took the train back to zurich. pics below...


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