The Swiss Abyss
by Paula Harman
About me: It’s hard to sum up someone in just ...
Escalators, doggy hitching posts, and doors that close really, really fast.
End of day 3.
Before I left the US for this study abroad trip, everyone told me the days would go by really fast- and I assumed they were correct. Time flies when you’re having fun right? Wrong. At least not this time. Things might begin to speed up soon, but perhaps because of the jetlag, or the hours I lost, or for some other unknown reason, I feel like I have been here for weeks! And I know it’s not because the days are extra long- cause they’re not. Stores and restaurants close at 7 during the week and even earlier on the weekends. Public transportation stops running at around midnight (I don’t even know why it runs that late, because there is no reason to be out if everything is closed). It’s going to take a lot of adjustment for a late riser and night owl like myself.
So far I feel like I have gotten a lot accomplished. I have spent these first couple of days running around the city with Amber and Chelsey (the two other girls here from A&M) and our "buddy" Alain. The university exchange program set us up with Alain to show us around and help us become acquainted with the city. He has been a life saver. I do feel bad for him though- little did he know when he signed up for this, that he would have not one, not two, but THREE giddy, excitable American girls to handle. But, unprepared as he may have been, he has handled it very well- though he did admit, very politely, that it was a surprise. So, Alain, if you happen to read this, thank you. I owe you big time.
One of the first things I noticed when arriving in Switzerland was a huge Great Dane inside the Geneva airport. I was slightly surprised to see that they allowed this great big dog inside, but I attributed it to the much more relaxed security and friendly atmosphere of the airport. However, I began to notice more and more dogs every new place we went. Dogs on the sidewalks, dogs on the metro, dogs in the post office, dogs at the mall, dogs outside the grocery store, dogs inside the grocery store....they are everywhere. There are even little doggy hitching posts outside the grocery stores. Long poles about 6 inches off the ground where you will see little Fido and Spot sitting patiently, loyally waiting for their owners to finish shopping. The downside to this abundance of pooches is the equally abundant amount of doggy poo :(
The city of Lausanne is beautiful. The rolling landscape was not flattened when the city was built, and as a result, there are hills, stairs, elevators, and escalators everywhere to maneuver the many, many levels and layers of the city. If you know me very well, you may be aware of my aversion to escalators. Or might I say, my previous aversion to escalators. I think it's pretty safe to say that I have been cured. When you have been walking for a couple of hours up and down stairs and hills, an escalator is extremely inviting.
My first couple of encounters with the public transportation here in Switzerland had a lasting impression. We had to take the train from the Geneva airport to Lausanne. Dragging our luggage through the airport and down what seemed like 100 flights of stairs we finally made it to the train station. After standing around, wandering aimlessly and then asking a few people, we eventually figured out which train to get on. I noticed that there was a pretty big gap between the platform and the train, one big enough for a leg to fit into, and took note. Of course, I must have noted wrong, because as soon as began boarding the train, my foot went right into the hole. Fortunately, I have lightening reflexes and managed to come away without injury, but it definitely made an impression.
After arriving in Lausanne, we had to take the metro. I learned rather quickly that the doors are not operated by a person. Nor do they care if there is a person walking through before they decide it is time to close. There is a warning sound immediately preceding the whooshing sound of the doors closing rapidly with deadly force. We also learned that if there is a crowd of people attempting to board the metro, and the warning sound is heard, the result is a stampede of frantic people who do not wish to be crushed by the merciless sliding doors. It is quite unnerving at first, but since the public transportation is the best way to get around town, and the metro is the fastest way by far, it is best to simply learn to heed the warning sound, and stay clear of the doors.
I also take the above-ground metro and the buses. I like these a lot better, because they move slower and you can see the person driving. I did learn however, that if you do not push the button on the door, it will not open. And the metro will leave you. Even if you are banging on the door. And it wont stop. Even if you run after it.
Tomorrow: Residence permits, UniL orientation, and the beginning of my first weekend in Switzerland!