Finding Family Again

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Liesbeth's House

Flag of Switzerland  , Aargau,
Saturday, June 26, 2010

I wake early in the basement room. The windows are long and sit high to hit the level ground outside. I hear a snoring on the other side of the door, and can only assume it's the dog, Amy doesn’t look like the snoring kind and the rest of the family are situated up upstairs.

I spend an hour or so copying music, until I realise I don’t have the right power adapter for Switzerland. The crazy hexagonal shape in the wall stares back menacingly, almost laughing at the concept of me without power. Perhaps I should be sleeping more.

Movement upstairs is Amy sorting the garbage. The small town in which the family resides has a local tip within driving distance. Everything is sorted before hand, separated from the regular garbage. The rubbish isn’t actually collected here; instead people bring it to a weighing station where they pay for the plastic bags to be taken off their hands. This is a great incentive to recycle, because I can only imagine like much of Switzerland this isn’t the cheapest of things. In Sweden they had similar systems of sorting, but I head with them to see it in action, curious of the differences. A small contingency of elderly men run laps of the space resorting and stacking people’s attempts t making the cardboard fit in the shipping container, yelling at those who put the wrong cans in the massive crates. Bread, not the first recyclable product that comes to mind, is collected inside amongst the electrical goods. Arboga Sweden had a few small crates sitting on an empty space for people to visit, Skåne collected every two weeks and invoiced you for it even if they didn’t show up, Netherlands have you scan an ID card before sending your bits to into an abyss below, counting every bottle, every can. I wonder if Australia has changed at all, and if any infrastructure exists for this to occur.

Coffee and a late breakfast are had outside as the family plans how to pick up their son and at the same time give me a lift to the station. With timetables it appears we will be using the same train – one to arrive, one to leave.

I talk at length with dad about the strategy game played by the UK and Switzerland. Their position within the European Union, while still distancing themselves from the Euro, seems to give them all the good bits and avoid the bad. They are part of a big collective as far as protection is concerned, but when the value of the Euro fails they will not fall into any trouble unlike the other associated countries. I think about the five currencies I have in my wallet, and how it must have been before the Euro came in, changing money at every country border.

The drive to train station is strange. The time here was too short to really feel like I’ve been here, and I don’t want it to be like that, especially when it’s meeting people.

The upstairs of the train has a strange lounge shaped area, with unidirectional seating beginning halfway down. I sit with my back to the window and a small table in front of me, stacking up all my bits in the chairs beside. Staring out the window the houses out of the city all appear the same, the Caroline Springs area of Fribourg closer to the city centre than that of Melbourne. Two girls compare tan lines and sit in the sunshine coming through the right side of the carriage.

I ride side saddle in the strange lounge car, getting to Araau in the early afternoon. Not entirely sure what I’m looking for – a bakery could be under the platform or out on the street my path is crossed by a girl with bright eyes that twinkle, all smiles and freckles. Liesbeth offers her name and a laugh that says this will be absolutely wicked.

The train back to her house is a different system, something between a train and tram, traveling on and off the road to Graenichen, sometimes on sometimes off the road. Apparently this will be changed soon, as when the carriage is on the road the two lanes, one in either direction, quickly change to one, cutting out one direction and causing all manner of traffic issues.

I tell her bits of where I’ve been, much of it lying on the amazing personality of her brother along with the rest of my extended family. I tell her her younger brother is crazy. She already knows. Like many of my family she has been keeping tabs on me in my blog, luckily yet to discover my Fribourg mix up as I’m over a week behind with it. I’m told the details of her parents match perfectly, which just shows the impression they as well everyone else I’ve met along the way have left on me. I don’t want to forget any of it.

It’s a surprisingly short walk to her house, which sits next door to the local church – red clock face and bells and all. Sharing the house with a father and son downstairs, Liesbeth has the top floor, the balcony facing the church and full of plants and candles. Along the windowsill sit a number of snail shells in a row, the largest at one end wit a ladybug chocolate crawling out. No Stress is on a small card in front of it, and I soon learn this is a perfect line for the house. There is no stress, there is no rush. Everything will be fine.

Lunch is out in the garden – wicked home made screens shading our backs and tea on a lovely table between us. There is a small collection of bits and pieces under the cover of the woodshed. The father and son pair from downstairs moved to Switzerland from Croatia a few years ago. The father has a similar habit to many fathers, including my own. Every opportunity to look through a dumpster, or on special occasions where people get rid of considered 'junk’ from their homes like bicycle frames and refrigerators is taken. Sometimes they will happen upon items they believe they can and will find a use for, more often than not with mixed results. The large foldout table and metal frames for the screens are two examples of the former, with other parts hidden from view.

I ask about her amazing house. It has a real character. Situated next to a church, we’re never unsure what the time is. At first conversation stops every fifteen minutes as the bells ring, but eventually this falls into the background.

When she first arrived in Graenichen Liesbeth took it upon herself to discover the area. Every afternoon off she had would be spent walking the streets, until one day she came across the church with the house ever so near. It was here she fell in love with it, and was surprised to never find anyone coming out. Asking about it she eventually got the number of the lady who owned it, whom it turned out was in a retirement village. Her parents had been keeping the house ready for her return, so Liesbeth left them with a note that if they were ever considering selling it or leasing it to please please please give her a call about it. It was three years until she heard a peep out of it, believing it lost or in the back of her mind. It seemed the old lady had passed away, and the parents were wondering if she still felt the same way about the house. So the waiting paid off!

The garden is underway. The cherry tree is apparently on the way out, not giving as much fruit as it has in past years. I can’t tell as I pick the red glorious pieces from the branches, swallowing seeds and not caring. From where we sit in the back yard we have the work behind us. Every time her parents visit they end up helping out, sometimes bringing plants from their own garden to add. Pepo the cat is of no help – he is currently eating the most recently planted seedlings, his odd directional eyes proving no hindrance as he sinks his teeth into the leaves. Something else will need to be planted there. The cat is the result of two parents who turned out to be related, so is a few books short of a library. His back half seems to square out a little, his tail is bent towards the top and creates a strange corner. His face appears a little falter than one would expect, and when looking closely one notices his eyes point in different directions. Liesbeth loves the blessed cat to bits, and it shows when I try to approach and the orange fur balls runs or at other times refuses to be touched with a hiss.

With black hair, purple glasses and odd shoes Angie arrives. She speaks little English, but understands quite a lot. You can see straight away the effect she and Liesbeth have on each other, that their time living together was amazing.

From the car Angie brings traditional Swiss music, a mix CD that in all honesty I’m glad to hear the end of. Liesbeth replaces it with an a Capella group by the name of the Glue, who are absolutely mind-blowing. Made up of five members they create amazing harmonies, one taking up the responsibility of the beat boxer as the other combine. They CD includes a cover of Ring of Fire. I need to get this CD.

As the CD plays we put the pizzas together, Liesbeth having put the finishing touches to dessert earlier this afternoon. Eggplant and Tomato and Cheese and Cheese and More. Glorious. Angie pockets the small container of seasoning called Aromat, which I refuse to try based on the fact it is no real flavour at all, simply a mix of numbers coloured and powdered. Angie has it on everything, from the pizza to the cucumber in the salad.

We move the eating bits outside, Liesbeth and her red hair collecting hat and sunglasses on the way.

It hits an odd hour when all at once the bells start ringing next door. They do go off around 7:30 at night, one long mess of ringing to call the shepherds off the hills and to the dinner table. This however, is not the time for the shepherds to return, they’d already be onto dessert by now. In the car behind us sit Mr. and Mrs. Smeeky, the latter yet to be completed. Angie wanted to always have a passenger when she drove, so made one from fabric and stuffing. Sitting at the same height Mr. Smeeky rides shotgun, complete with wicked patches to his front, a pierced ear and four fingers on each hand. Mrs. Smeeky is in the back, yet to have legs attached, Angie considering a dress. They look so happy together, it’s a shame that Mrs. is made for a friend so the two will no longer see each other.

The conversation is in parts and bursts, as Liesbeth and Angie will talk as I stumble around, waiting for Liesbeth to translate or for a word I may understand catching my ears. Amy did say Swiss German was different to German, which will most likely not help matters. But Angie does understand English, so slowly the pattern gets faster and we can all talk and understand at least a little.

Liesbeth and Angie used to live together, first in an apartment not too far from here then Angie in the downstairs floor of the current house. The adventures they shared here sound magical - the simple things like spending the whole day in the garden wrapped up in blankets and listening to music. Angie is very much a part of the family, getting along well with Eline and Marien, shocking them at first with her comments on tongue with a friendly greeting but forever fitting in.

We’re outside in the sunshine as the glowing ball slowly makes its way behind the church. The pineapple crumble is absolutely wicked. I still get confused with pineapple and banana. In German pineapple is ananas, which is one letter short of bananas. Granted the missing letter is important, but it’s a little like when you see most of a word when you’re speed reading or glancing at street signs, and seeing a certain pattern of letter assume the rest. This has yet to get me into trouble, the risk of pineapple in my beer instead of banana now ever-present in my mind.

Angie heads home a little later, having to work early in the morning. Tomorrow there are a few things we can do, so we move inside to the computer to plan, deciding to make it a slightly early night with an early morning tomorrow. Through the window in the darkness the moon shines through big and yellow. Welcome to Switzerland.
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