Day 8 finds us traveling to Switzerland, from Gatwick to Milan and then in a car to Lugano, and Zulay’s aunt is actually driving on the correct side! It felt weird—because I was starting to get used to the English driving—but also refreshing to be back to normal. Everything else was back to normal as well: regular shower; the hot and cold tap being on the left and right, respectively; one faucet in the sink (in my aunt’s downstairs bathroom, there were two. But now we did have new customs to get used to: a triple cheeked kiss instead of double, and the alcohol!
I’ve heard stories and read many a a blog about the UK drinking culture, but Zu and I didn’t experience any of it with my aunt (she’s all Christiany and stuff). At one point, she did start telling me about a wine that was 5% alcohol… but she never got around to giving us some. But in Switzerland…
After getting the grand tour, we were offered white wine. Then, at dinner, we had red. We tried a shot of grappa, a pear brandy. And finally, we topped the night off with a shot of espresso. I’m not sure if those cups actually have a name, but they’re small, almost teacup like glasses that Europeans seem to like their coffee in.
The next day, day 9, Zulay’s cousins took us out to the city center. We had ice cream (it tasted like gelato), waded a few steps into a lake for pictures (coming later), walked around some more, and then ended up at a bar. There, Zu and I had strawberries caipirinhas, Zu had two while I had one and two shots of an unidentified drink. Somewhere in there, I wanted water and Zu’s cousins remarked that she must’ve gotten the alcohol gene in their family. The night before, when we had the pre-dinner wine, her aunt thought that I didn’t drink much because I was taking it slow. After Zu explained that I hadn’t eaten in a while her aunt’s response was: “she doesn’t want to get drunk?”
While that was part of it, it’s my first day with new people, why would I want to get drunk?, responsible drinking rules have been drilled in my head and while you can take the girl out of America, unfortunately, you can’t always get the American out of the girl. (Disclaimer: I actually really like my country, even with our delightfully juvenile commander-in-chief, but I’m also aware of our stereotypes.)
**TANGENT ALERT! REPEAT: TANGENT ALERT**
You may have noticed that, throughout this piece, I’ve been placing Zulay as the go-between for conversation. She was the one who told her aunt I hadn’t eaten much, not me. That’s because they only speak Spanish and Italian. And I only speak English. (I used to speak Spanish but then I had an Argentinian professor whom I loved, but who’s accent completely messed me up.)
The time here seems to have been the immersion I need though, as, the more days I listen to them speak, the more things are coming back to me. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m not under pressure to respond. I’m just taking it all in.
With that said, her family has been practicing there English. They’re all pretty good, but no one seems confident in their speaking abilities so it doesn’t last long. Or they forget I don’t speak Spanish, and so sometimes I understand and respond in English while others I’m so lost, and then they remember.
But anyway, back to the main story. After the bar, Zu’s aunt and uncle took us out to a restaurant where we had pizza… and it was scrumptious. I had seafood pizza while Zu had four cheese. We paired that with white wine (that I enjoyed, tia; I was just focusing all of my energy on the pizza and occasional water sip), followed by strawberry tea. Yum.
The next day was supposed to be our trip to the chocolate museum, but after a pizza breakfast (the day before it was tiramisu), then a lunch of spaghetti, Zu and I decided to tap into the lazy American stereotype and just chill inside. We never even went swimming like we were supposed to. That night, we had pasta salad… guys, I swear, when I get back, I’m just going to be a bowling ball with arms and legs.
In addition to all of the great food, I’ve also been taught some Italian: formagio = cheese, fragola strawberry, and cazzo voui (who needs “grazie” or “prego” when I can say “what the fuck”?).
My choice of major has been a source of confusion to the Swiss. In England, studying English, perfectly normal. In Switzerland, Zulay’s cousin was outraged: “why you study English when you speak English?”
I’m going to end my rambles here, I just wanted to catch you up on the things. And while you’re reading, I’ll be working on my final catch-up post: the chocolate museum.
Till next time