In my case, I usually have Wednesdays off, but I worked on Wednesday to have Friday off. Awesome. My friend, Brittany, came to visit. I was recently at her place during my last vacation. This is where she lives:
The picturesque town of Bern, Switzerland. Brittany and I knew each other in Missouri, so it's kind of cool that we are both back in the same area (ish) again. She's married to a Swiss guy and they moved there earlier this year. It's a really, really beautiful country.
I took a bus to get to Bern, thinking I'd be a savvy traveler and save the 30€ by taking the bus instead of the train. Stupid. I was supposed to change buses at Strasbourg, but no one told me. Not the person at the counter in Paris, not the bus driver--and I asked him twice if he was really going to Zurich! There was nothing marked on my ticket, so when we stopped at Strasbourg, I had no idea. He didn't say anything--not even in German. He just went on his way. Six hours later, I'm looking at my predicted arrival time of 8h45 and I'm thinking, man, we should be getting to Zurich soon, but I'm pretty sure we're still in Germany. I asked the replacement bus driver when we were stopped in Stuttgart if we would be arriving soon in Switzerland. He looked at me like I was crazy. "But miss, you're on the wrong bus! You were supposed to switch at Strasbourg at 2am!"
And thus begins a long, long day (preceded by a long, long night).
I continue onward to Munich, assured by the driver that there is a bus that goes to Switzerland from Munich. I review the geography in my head and think, I'm pretty sure Munich is way to the east of Zurich..
No buses. At all. There is no route; it's never existed. The bus driver accompanies me to the ticket office, giving me sympathetic looks and seems to genuinely care. He offers his hotel room if I need a place to stay. He's nice, but haha, no. I scramble German verbs in my head and remember that anrufen is a separable verb and I should say Ich rufe Ihnen an..or something like that. I try to explain to him that I'll call him if I decide to stay in Munich, so he can tell the office to add me to the next night's roster. I'm so frustrated and tired that I resort to French and then English, and he's probably the only German I've ever met that doesn't speak a minimal amount of English. I have two options: stay in Munich for a day and a half, and wait for the next bus to come and take me up to Strasbourg and then go back down to Zurich, or: pay for a 70€ ticket and get myself to Zurich. I don't like either option at all. I don't want to miss a day and a half of my time chez Brittany and I don't want to pay 70€, considering I have like 120€ total for the rest of the week. I had not planned on buying a train ticket.
Meanwhile, it's a beautiful day in Munich:
..but I'm in a pouty, "I hate the world right now" mood, I want to take a shower and not look so scurvy, and I'm lugging around my suitcase and backpack (with 80-lb. 5-year-old laptop in it). I get a coffee and sit in a bookstore and decide that as much as I like Germany, it was not on my itinerary! So I buy the f-ing ticket and curse Eurolines. Don't transfers usually get printed on tickets?!
The trip from Munich to Zurich was beautiful. Southern Germany and and Switzerland remind me a lot of home. Lots of farms, green and yellow fields that stretch over the horizon, cows roaming around..
I get to Zurich and meet Brittany, and then we hop on yet another train to get to Bern. Finally! I wrote a letter to Eurolines a few weeks ago, but have yet to receive a response. I'd be happy with just a ticket voucher instead of cash, but I'm not holding my breath..
I really enjoyed my trip to Switzerland. The only thing I didn't like was how expensive everything is! I lived near Geneva for seven months, so I knew prices would be exorbitant, but still! It's $3 for a bottle of Coke less than the 20-oz. American equivalent. The Swiss' salaries are in general much higher to combat the high cost of living. And the quality of living there is amazing. Even the unemployed get vacation, because job searching is tiring. Everyone needs a break!
Swiss German was really interesting to me. It's German, yes. A dialect of it. And if you listen carefully, you can hear that it's close (approximately 90-95% same vocab). But even native Germans have trouble understanding it. Even if a lot of the vocabulary is the same, the Swiss (and especially the Bernese) have a different accent. They also have a little different grammar. In many ways, Swiss German is more pure than Standard German, because a lot of older words that have fallen out of use in Standard German are still present in Swiss German. It was cool to hear it. The only thing I could really understand were prices, since the numbers are essentially the same. Besides that..not much. The thing I find strangest about Swiss German is that it's not really a written language. Some kids books are in Swiss German, but in general, even though the spoken language is Swiss German, all the signs are in Standard German. Schooling is done in Standard German, and governmental institutions do the same. Strange, but cool. And to top it off, the French-speaking part of Switzerland is only about 20 minutes from Bern. And in the South, they have a tiny Italian-speaking part, and then in the East, up in the mountains, they have an even tinier language called Romansch that says ALLEGRA! for hello. Can I be Swiss?!
We had a barbeque, Brittany and I walked around, we lay in the grass and read books, we stopped at cafes and got espressos and ice cream, saw the famous Bern bears (their mascot, and they actually have a family of bears living on the river bank, in a little zoo area) and stayed up late into the night drinking wine and talking while sitting in the garden. Good time was had by all, despite the initial troubles of getting there.
So back to present day: I've been crazy swamped with grad school stuff. I don't mind being creative and making an aesthetically-pleasing, dual-toned CV, even in French. But writing a cover letter is a different story. I don't even like writing them in English. Too much blah-blah and lots of eloquent phrases to make yourself sound better. The French stick hard to classic polite formulas, so I had to have my letter checked more than once to make sure it sounded legit.
Take this classic formula, put at the end of the letter, before the signature: (I've added the literal translations, although the official translations would be something like "Sincerely," "Yours faithfully," etc.)
Je vous prie, Madame, Monsieur, d'accepter l'expression de mes salutations distinguées
(I pray that you, Madam, Sir, would accept the expression of my most distingued salutations)
Veuillez agréer, Madame, Monsieur, mes sentiments dévoués
(Please agree, Madam, Sir, my devoted sentiments)
And if you want to be rull fancy, you can add a little bit before that long sentence to spice it up even more:
En vous remerciant de la confiance que vous me témoignez...
(Thanking you for the confidance that you witness from me)
En attendant la faveur de votre ordre...
(Waiting the favor of your order)
So you could have something like this:
En vous remerciant de la confiance que vous me témoignez, je vous prie, Madame, Monsieur, d'accepter l'expression de mes salutations distinguées.
Those silly French.
Yesterday was a non-stop day. I couldn't go to work; too much stuff to do. I had to call in. Sorry little French elementary students! I got up early to finish writing my letters (four slightly different versions for the four programs I'm applying for), and 9:00 turned into 11:00 and then noon and then I was rushing to put the PDFs on my flash drive to print off at a copy shop. I got to the copy shops (two next door to each other), and wouldn't you know THEY'RE CLOSED. Both of them. For lunch. For an hour. I got there at, I swear, 1:01pm. Damnit, France, we are in 2010. You cannot close for lunch! I had to rush up to the translator's, write a check (and cry on the inside from the price), and hop on a train up to Saint-Denis, where the main university I'm applying to is located. It's 3pm and I get to campus, and I'm super rushed, trying to finish writing my applications, and I see a copy shop on campus, and I rush in and there's students everywhere and copying and printing and workers shouting and
...and I realize that I want to be part of this. I want to be rushing into the on-campus, 5c copy shop, chatting with classmates, rushing to get to my next class, copying my notes or printing off my project or whatever. I really want to study here, in Paris (region), for a Masters. I really want into (one of) the programs I'm applying to, and I have a lot of ambition. Hopefully that (and my aesthetically-pleasing, dual-toned CV) will be enough.
I sit on some steps and sort all my stuff and before I know it, it's 3:45 and I have to head back to the city for my other job - watching the kids after school. I'm at the university. I'm sitting on its steps, but I don't have time to go in and drop off my dossiers. Arrrghhhhhh what I would've given yesterday to not be a babysitter. I essentially went north of Paris to get cheap copies.
I sent the dossiers by post, missing one document. I really hope that they'll be okay with me giving them my high school diploma (really, France?) next week, when I receive it.
So. Two more due next week, although I haven't figured out how I'm going to physically turn them in since I work all day and evening. I literally have no free time, and I already called in sick yesterday. Let the stress start again..
I'll know in a few weeks' time if I've been accepted for an interview. And then there will be a whole host of things to do, like bilingual interviews, 3-hour tests, all that good stuff. I'll keep you updated.
Interesting sidenote: the entire cost of me applying to grad school, ie translations, postage, copies, etc. cost me about the same as an entire year of grad school. Ask me again why I want in so badly?