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Online Diary: Switzerland, Summer 2001

Click here for my Swiss photo albums

Click here for my Swiss photo albums

 

Saturday 25th August 2001

Darui desu... Been hiking with Frances today, did the Eiger trail from bottom to top. Pretty knackering but great to get out in the hot sun and work off that belly of mine. We're into the last three weeks now, the time is flying by. I've just uploaded another load of photos if you're interested, mainly from the Cow Hut Camp Fest as mentioned below (29th July), and our recent Road Trip to Logarno (see below).

Hhhmm, beer and bed getting me through the days once more, oh, and Takeshi's Castle, the best TV program ever made. Japan plans all coming together, although moving to UK plans hit a snag today when Customs and Excise stung me with a bill for £160 import tax on the speakers I mentioned below! Scoudrals...

Scheidegg Hotels (where I currently live and work) now has a website. Picture based, you can check it out at http://www.scheidegg-hotels.ch/e

later... joseph

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Friday 17th August 2001

Much of today has been spent sitting on a bench waiting for UPS to pick up a load of parcels (yes, I'm REALLY leaving now!), but it wasn't too dull as I was equipped with "Live and work in Japan", another great publication by Vacation Work. Did you know that real estate is so expensive in Japan that mortgages are multigenerational - the average term being 75 to 100 years! A small apartment in Tokyo can set you back as much as £400,000, and an average sized family house in the city can set you back £8million! I could buy a whole town in England for that, or a lot of chocolate. I am very much looking forward to my departure for Japan, and thanks to books such as that mentioned above I appreciate how much I am set to learn froma culture which thinks so differently, it could be said that "reality" is percieved to be something completely different from what we think it to be. I'm not too nervous about my arrival in Asia as Kae has very kindly offered that I can stay with her in Tokyo, providing me with a "safe" house from where I can learn to adapt to my new environment.

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Sunday 12th August 2001

Road Trip to Lugano

Having been granted two days off work this week, Dan and I decided to take off south in search of sanity and relaxation. Yearning for freedom, we hired a car from Bruno, a local taxi driver, and took the highway towards the Italian region of Switzerland. For the first few kilometres I struggled to remember how to drive, frequently riding the kerb and attempting to change gear with the door handle on my left. However, by the time we began to climb the first of two mountain passes I felt fairly competant, and even managed to carry out an emergency stop when suddenly out of the thick fog traffic cones appeared across the carriageway in the entrance to a narrow tunnel. I think Dan was a bit freaked out - but not as much as me when earlier I simply couldn't remember which was the brake and which was the accelerator. Thankfully Dan's driving wasn't half as bad as mine - we both then had the opportunity to relax.

Reaching Lugano everything fell into place. A rare space for the car appeared right beside the tourist information office on the lakefront, and not 50 metres from there a cheap hotel where we got their last room which apparantly sported "lake views". Hhhmm, yes, we couldn't deny it - we could see a thin slice of water at the end of the narrow alleyway that lay between the buildings opposite.

Lugano held a great surprise for us in that it was Italian in every way. It was difficult to remember that we were actually in Switzerland when all around people were speaking a language neither of us understood, Pizzas topped every restaurant menu card and the architecture was undeniably Italian with the cobbled squares and arched walkways. The local population were sophisticated in their dress, looking appeallingly sexy in an unmistakingly Meditteranean fashion. Ice cream carts stood on every corner and there was the relaxed disorganised atmosphere that I have not experienced since my February trip around Europe.

Having had a look around town and admired the local sights... (such as the children's circus that had pitched itself just down the street from our hotel) we decided to do a little tour of the local area by car. Our goal was to find a big shop where we could spend lots of money that we didn't have, but all we could find was a tiny Co-op in a petrol station. Loaded up with beer to drink in town we headed back across the lake, getting lost for the 8th time in 10 hours and ending up in the parking lot of a Ferrari Showroom. Realising that neither of us knew how to hotwire a car we soon gave up on the idea of ram-raiding the place, and instead moved on to the nearby Ikea store where we walked around in circles for what seemed liked forever in a bid to escape the notorious 1-way system that they employ to get you to spend more money. Depressingly, neither of us was able to spend a single Swiss Franc in a neighbouring huge electrical store, although on my part that was purely because I knew that whatever I did buy I'd have to cart back to the UK (where I'd only be able to use it for three weeks in any case).

Having discovered that all films were in Italian at the local cinema we ventured back into the main square for a meal. From under the big canvas umbrellas of the Tango bar we scoffed our way through pizzas, downed our beers and admired the torrential thunderstorm around us. Although initially amused by the fact that we were so close to the downpour and yet still dry, we soon found ourselves being laughed at as the splashes of rain on the bricked ground soon ensured that we were pretty much soaked through. Next, it was onto a club which was quite a treat as the most action we'd seen was in Tiffanys in Wengen - those of you who've been there will know what I'm saying... it was 4.00am by the time I staggered home. I can usually tell when it's time for bed - I start making international calls with my cellphone.

200 minites later we were up once more, cruising in the beautiful Italian sun, head out of the sunroof with Fat Boy Slim blasting out. Boy was I happy... it just felt great to be free. Returning home we stopped off in Locarno where my parents had been for their honeymoon over 35 (?) years ago. A spot of bull-riding and a milkshake provided amusement there, but hangovers always win and so home it was over the Gotthard Pass where we witnessed a motorcyclists hopping around in agony having wiped out not far ahead of us on the twisty wet roads. Back in Interlaken I bought a new camera (Canon 300 EOS - 1-year-old model but a bargain at sfr500 and half the weight of the Nikon F50 I've had for the past 5 years and have now sold to Dan), filled up with fuel and fell asleep on the train back up the mountain.

It's so good to get out of this place sometimes. It's vital to remeber that life is about living for the moment and a lot more fun if you refuse to follow routine for the sake of laziness and a lack of imagination.

Lugano August 2001 was sponsered by Fiat.

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Wednesday 8th August 2001

Apologies to the Wengernalpbahn (the local railway company) for bringing four of your trains to a halt - I was only trying to stop those goats from eating our flowers.

The days are just flying by. Just got too much to do! I've been seriously researching into jobs in Japan, there's so many advertised although unfortunately my lack of a degree to prove my worthiness hinders my search somewhat. I thoroughly recommend www.eslworldwide.com and www.anyworkanywhere.com . If you are considering teaching in Japan then do get hold of a copy of the FREE online twice-monthly magazine from www.ohayosensei.com, it;s packed with jobs, links and other useful stuff. Perhaps THE most popular Teaching English as a Foreign Language website is www.eslcafe.com. Due to the sheer volume of hits it recieves it is a great place to check out vacancies.

The exciting plan this week is to hire a car on Thursday and head on down to Lugano. Dan and myself both have a couple of days off and we NEED to get outta here! I've never really been to the Italian part of Switzerland... we intend to just have a great party. Will report back in a few days.

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Monday 30th July 2001

I feel great! Not only have I just hired a Mercedes A-Class for only £9 a day (want to see me whilst I'm in the UK between 15th September 2001 and 6th October 200? - get in touch and I'll come to you!), but I have also just booked my flight from London to Tokyo - only £304! Don't ask which airline it is though...! If you want to travel cheaply check out www.cheapflights.com I was VERY impressed with what they had on offer... and the car was from www.easycar.com , a sister company of www.easyjet.com (still one of the cheapest airlines in Europe). Boy oh boy! I can't believe I'm actually going!

joseph :-)

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Sunday 29th July 2001

news news news... Ok, so a few days ago Cow Hut Camp Fest 2001 took place, a wee little gathering organised by myself and Dan atop the Lauberhorn "mountain" in a deserted cow hut. Copious amounts of beer, wine, vodka and food ensured we were all a little anethitised to the cold of the starry night. It was all quite a laugh (playing "ibble dibble" with a burnt cork) and an early morning swim in the reservoir fought off the hangover. Photos available in my latest online album... Erm, my cracked rib has made a full recovery, although I now have 3 huge scars on my elbow, hip and leg following my latest accident cycling through Grindelwald last week. Oh - and does anyone know who stole my brakes?

My Japanese is coming on nicely with at least an hours study every day. I can hardly believe that I can speak another language. Life is currently very very difficult here with lonliness featuring prominently, and so it is vital that I use my time constructively, in addition to saving about £750 a month. Alas, I have begun a countdown until my departure (something I don't really believe in), for I cannot wait for life to begin again as currently it feels like all is on hold. 46 days and counting until my return to the UK for 3 weeks to obtain my working holiday visa... must buy a ticket tonight for Japan... considering getting a one-way ticket...

Boy oh boy is it a crazy world. I'm really quite annoyed with myself for not being happy and not doing anything about it. The only reason I can stick it is because I know it will all be over in a matter of weeks... and then FREEDOM!

joseph x

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Sunday 15th July 2001

Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Time is flying by. As of today I have less than 9 weeks left in Kleine Scheidegg, this mountain retreat that has been my home for the past 14 months. The idea of moving on is both exciting and scary. Once more my life will see a complete revolution in terms of what I do and how I communicate with those around me. This is a major step for me - leaving Switzerland - for the time I have spent here has been more rewarding in many ways than much of my previous life. The experiences I have had since 17th March 2000 (when I left the UK) have served to give me a rich education and a strong feeling of belief in myself, the like of which I never thought would be possible.

Recent adventures include going to Natalie and Tom's wedding. A lovely ceremony in Wengen Catholic church was followed by a trip down to Interlaken by train. By the time we boarded the boat to cruise the Brienzersee most of us were feeling pretty good really... although my memory is a little hazy for the hours between 12pm and 5pm. Thankfully I haven't seen the photos of me hanging out the window of the train on the way back up to Wengen - they don't tell a pretty story although I'm told I provided much amusement.

Frances and I have discovered the local swimming pool - a big reservoir at the top of the Lauberhorn used for the snow machines in the winter. At the end of a long hot summer's day it's pretty warm, although we're convinced that there's a big scary monster at the bottom. I certainly wouldn't go in alone. Two nights ago a trip to the chocolate machine turned into a mountain climb as Frances and I decided to head for the ridge between the Lauberhorn and Tschuggen. What seemed like a simple climb became a grapple betwen life and death as we hauled ourselves up a cliff face clinging onto any tufts of grass that offered a little security. It was worth it though - the sun had long-gone from Scheidegg yet we were able to once more feel it upon our faces and marvel at how our shadows were being cast upon the Eiger North Face so far away.

My latest money-raising scheme - (I bought 40 bottles of beer in Wengen for 55rp (22p) in order to sell them to my thirsty colleagues for sfr1.00 (40p) ) - can safely be declared a failure. Two weeks on the beers all gone, but I only sold one. Better watch that belly of mine...

Admittedly, this summer is proving to be a great challenge. In the past few weeks a feeling of lonliness that had lain dormant for about two months has been resurrected, causing emotional struggles that take much energy. To combat this, I have embarked upon a mission: to learn Japanese. With the help of several excellent books, 6 cassettes, lots of words written on the walls and the continuous encouragement given by my friend Yuko, I feel I am making good progress. Yesterday I actually managed to have a decent conversation in Japanese with a guest, and I get much support and recognition from the tourguides who frequent our restaurant. I am staggered by my ability to learn another language - I never really believed I'd be able to do it, but the joy I now feel when I can understand someone is just the best - it makes it all worthwhile.

I will be returning to the Uk in mid-september in order to obtain the new Japanese Working Holiday Visa, aiming to fly to Tokyo around the 10th October. All going well, I'll be in Asia until September 2002, before returning to Europe (probably).

Apologies for not having written ANY letters in the past few weeks. I simply don't have time at the moment, and also I still have a nasty case of RSI in my arm resulting from the building of this website.

Take care folks. Till next time,

joseph xxx

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Friday 6th July 2001

Hello everyone. Sorry if links to my photos aren't working, experiencing a few technical difficulties.

I was woken this morning at 6am by the sunrise. Falling out of bed, I staggered across my squeeky floor to admire the view that my window commands of the Grindelwald Valley. The sun was just climbing above the distant mountain ranges, causing extremes of dark and light that really made it a wonderful sight to be woken by. It's strange how experiencing something like that can strip away the layers of rubbish that may be clogging up one's mind and heart. Recently, things have been a little difficult up this mountain with several key people feeling quite negative about life in the Alps. This undoubtably has an effect upon the rest of us as we are very close, and therefore I have found to difficult to appreciate life as a whole - instead the focus has been narrow and dark. When waking to the sight I was greeted with this morning however, I can't help but smile and think of the quote I have upon my door, "It's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world."

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Tuesday 26th June 2001

Hi folks. Fractured rib AOK with the aid of the super big stretchy bandage thing I'm sporting... Silvia has had her baby girl - Lena. All the family are doing well. I'm finding it difficult to believe that I'll be finished here in 3 months, and in Japan for a year not long after that. Special thanks this week to Sarah Garcia for the card, letter and photos - so good to hear from you. Congratulations to Natalie Dawson and Tom whose wedding I'm going to on Saturday, I'm looking forward to having a great day which hopefully I will be able to remember at least a little bit! I wish Kae well with her trip to New York and Emmie Nakamura with her forthcoming trip voyage to Japan. Thanks also to all those who have contacted me over the past week with words of support and happiness - I really appreciate it.

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Saturday 23rd June 2001

Hello everyone. Just got back from attempting to bike up to Eigergletscher with Dan. Got stopped halfway by a couple of donkey-sized wild goat things with big horns - that's our excuse anyway - in actual fact we just freaked out at the incline ahead of us. Dan had a fantastic accident on the way down about one metre from two hikers who were taking a coffee break. He went right over the handlebars... I shouldn't have laughed I know, but all three of us couldn't help but burst into hysterics. He's ok though, doesn't even have a scratch. My rib is mending slowly, the only time it really hurts is at night time but that's ok because I'm asleep then. My best wishes to Fran Morgan and her family following her awful bicycle accident and her son's broken arm incident.

The arrival of Yuko from Nagoya (Japan) has prompted me to really get on with learning Japanese. She'll be working here for the next three months as a member of our Service team. Every morning I will complete another section of the BBC cassette and book course I have, and then irritate Yuko throughout the day by pestering her with questions regarding pronounciation and so on. I don't know why, but I felt that I was too old to learn another language, that it was too late! What rubbish... it seems all you need is a real determination and no fear to try out what you learn. Yesterday I learnt how to say "please keep your fork". oh yes, I know all the good phrases...

Silvia von Almen went into hospital on the 21st June to have her second baby. Rumour has it she's still in labour - ouch!

Anyhow, I must get on. Tomorrow I am going on a BIG BIG adventure, that is, down to the village where there are all those modern things (like cars). It's a bit scary for a mountain monkey such as myself but Dan will accompany me to make sure I don't get lost.

Thanks for all the positive feedback you've sent regarding my website - I really appreciate it.

Take care, and love to all.

Joseph :-)

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Wednesday 20th June 2001.

Hi folks. Well, since I last wrote the main event in my life has been a visit to the doctor in Lauterbrunnen - I've cracked a rib! Hhmm, the bike accident I describe below was a little more serious than I'd hoped, but heah, it makes life more interesting. Pain only comes at night, and I've got a big stretchy bandage thing to wear - bit like a corset. Give it a few weeks and all will be fine. I've found another host for my photos although it may be a while until I upload them - currently too busy drinking copious amounts of wine whilst teaching a couple of Canadian friends how to play Racing Demon and Spit (card games). hhhmmm, life is wonderful, I remain very very happy and hope to hear from you soon. Oh- does anyone know if Billy Salisbury is accessable via email? I'd be most grateful for any details.

Bye for now! Joseph

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Friday 15th June 2001

Well then folks, here we are at last, a finished website. I swear that after spending the last two months on this project I'd be happy if I never saw another website again. I've got RSI in my right hand from using the mouse so much and my back aches from carting my huge computer up and down 72 steps every night in order to access the internet! Still, hopefully it will fulfill its purpose which essentially is to let people know what I'm up to should they become curious.

Unfortunately, as of today I will no longer have regular internet access, but hope to make it to an internet cafe on a weekly basis in order to catch up with what you folks have been doing - email me and let me know!

The highlight this week for me has been an incident that occured yesterday. In order to meet Frances and Dan who were walking up to Scheidegg from Wengen, I chose to race a train - on my mountain bike. I was completely out of control as I managed to overtake it, and knew full-well that just around the corner lay a sharp drop followed by a hard left. However, my mind being elsewhere at the time, I wasn't really concious of just how fast I was going... until I hit the corner, failed to get round it and went slap bang into the the hill that rises sharply to the right of the track. Thankfully some trees shielded me from the train passengers... but I was badly hurt and my bike wasn't feeling too good either. Rather foolishly I got straight back on gritting my teeth, and continued down the mountain... until I skidded to a halt when the front tyre fell of and the inner-tube burst. It was then that I felt the pain: I've got a lovely wound on my back and I swear I've broken a rib but no one here will believe me. My left arm which initially looked quite impressive covered in blood is now just a load of scratches. Breathing deeply does hurt but my gasps of agony are met with cries of "Be quiet! You've already had two months off with a broken bone this year!"

Other stuff going on: I am currently applying for one of the 400 new Japanese Working Holiday visas. This will entitle me to live and work in Japan for up to a year, hopefully beginning in November. Now I've finished my website I intend to get on with learning the basics of the language from a BBC cassette/book course that I recently bought. I must say, it's been a joy to discover that I can actually learn another language, for some crazy reason I was beginning to feel that I was too old for that!

I continue to write my diaries that I began over ten years ago. Together, these 42 books tell the story of an ordainary chap living a very happy life. For those of you who are wondering when I'm going to settle down and get a proper job - forget it! I am learning more about myself and life by doing exactly what I want to. I am only too aware that one of the causes of true happiness is living for the day and making the most of every single second of every single day - not worrying about one's retirement.

The hotel opens tomorrow meaning that I have to find my bow-tie tonight at the bottom of my sock-drawer, in order to serve the ninety or so Japanese guests that are staying. The sleepy atmosphere of this place should lift within the next couple of weeks as two new members of staff join, one from Japan and another from England. Lets just hope that they're cool and have a good sense of humour...

Until next time, take care and be happy.

with love, joseph :-)

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