Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Samichlaus Day (December 6)

December 6, 2009 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. Before I share with you the activities that took place on this day, I must give you a little history of December 6th in Switzerland

December 6 is known as "Samichlaus" day. St Nicholas (Nicholas of Myra, Patron Saint of children) is popularly called Samichlaus in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. He appears not on Christmas Eve or Day, but on December 6. Samichlaus knocks on the door, frightened but excited kids answer. Samichlaus consults his big book of sins — co-authored by village parents — and does some light-hearted moralizing. Then he asks the kids to earn a little forgiveness by reciting a poem. After this and some assurances that they will reform, Samichlaus allows the children to reach deep into his bag for a smattering of tangerines, nuts, gingerbread, and other treats.

Samichlaus is accompanied by a character called Schmutzli on his visits to children, in particular in the central cantons. In contrast to the Patron Saint, Schmutzli usually is a rather dark and gloomy figure who carries a cane ("Rute") as well as the jute sack filled with presents. Female characters take on a similar role in other parts of the country, such as Befana in the Italian-speaking southern canton of Ticino and Chauche-vieille in French-speaking Western Switzerland. In Ticino, children hang up stockings on night of December 5-6 (the word Befana is derived from Epiphany): "good" children receive sweets, while tradition has it that "bad" children find a lump of coal, or sugar lumps resembling coal, in their stockings.

Another tradition that occurs on December 6th is the Samichlausschwimmen. The "Santa Claus Swim" is annual event for people that are not very bright....or feel no pain (obviously, this guy does not feel much pain).

This is not just any swim. Imagine for a second taking a hot shower....and then all of a sudden someone comes in turns the water to full blown cold....and then drop that temperature by about 20 degrees F....Lastly, imagine sitting in that water for 4 minutes.

Now, hopefully you have a better vision of the Samichlausschwimmen. Can you guess the temperature of the water. Lets just say it is measured in centimeters....not Celsius or Fahrenheit if you know what I mean :)

Water Temperature 7 C / 44 F

The Zurich Dive team getting suited up just in case one of the participants decide to give up. After seeing this group of people, I seriously considered throwing in the towel.

Never underestimate the stupidity of men in large numbers (more than 1). This is 4 of the 6 from our group who took the plunge.

L/R (Nathan, Brian, Jan & Zann)

Here is Zann and I right before the swim. Ladies...don't even think about it, Zann is a happily married man. I am especially greatful that Z successfully completed the swim, considering I was probably the one responsible for peer pressuring him to participate

This year, approximately 325 participated in the Samichlausschwimmen on the Limmat River from Pier 7 to the Frauenbad (Woman's Bath). The distance of the swim was approximately 110 meters (football field from goal post to goal post). Check out the divers in the boats and a couple of red buoys in the distance. I think those bouys connect nets so if anyone drowns, they don't have to search the entire river.

Well I was the first one from our group to take the plunge. If you listen carefully, I am the one screaming like a 6 year old girl.

Halfway through the swim, the pain starts to go away as the body is nearly completely numb. It is interesting how the group naturally drew closer together. Maybe subconsiously we were thinking that togetherness could warm the waters. Not a chance!!!

If you ever a chance to do this it is an incredible "Mind over Matter" experience that I highly recommend. Walking up these stairs was the best part of the entire Swim.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When in Switzerland - One Must Ski the Swiss Alps

This post comes to you by Nate. Today was the first day of ski least for me. Mandy is back in Raleigh and will not be able to conceive her first day on the Swiss slopes until sometime near the end of January when she returns.

I was invited to go skiing at the ELM Ski Resort by my manager, Hakan. This was a pretty big deal as the group that I was joining has had a "Annual First Ski Day" tradition for 9 years.
Elm is a quaint ski slope about an 1:15 hours from Zurich by car. The ski resort was perfect for working out the first day kinks and jitters.
The circle represents the ELM ski slope. For those Swiss that
might be searching for my loss wallet, I am fairly confident
that you can keep your search within this circle (see below for details).
The good thing about participating with these "First Ski Day" advanced skiers is that they love stopping for coffee, sandwiches, beer, soup, cheese plates and fondue (every 30 minutes).

L to R (Andreas, Carl, Hakan & Nathan)

Here is a quick shot of me cutting through the snow. I just noticed that this woman was admiring my form....or maybe...reflecting on how I almost ran over her.

Usually, bad things happen to me when Mandy is away. Well today, was no different. After the first coffee break (at 10:30 am) I lost my cell phone on the slopes (ok...I fall alot). At first, I was somewhat relieved as the phone is quite basic and only works about 60% of the time.

If you haven't read our blog in the past, let me educate you on Swiss people. The Swiss are the most honest people in the world. Within an hour of realizing that I lost my phone, Hakan got a call informing me that my phone was located. By the way, did I tell you that the Swiss are the most honest people in the world. Also, they are quite smart too. Who would of ever thought to call the last number dialed to help locate a cell phones rightful owner? life is good. Lets continue skiing. Actually, I should of quit after the last coffee break. Sometime between the last coffee break and our last ski run, I lost my wallet. WTF!!!! I am a train wreck today. Hopefully the honest & smart Swiss people come through for me, again.

As with all my blog postings, I try to share my experiences and the lessons that I have learned. Hopefully, you will be able to take something from these to apply to your daily life.

So, the lessens learned in today's experience are as follows:
1) If you have a pass code to unlock your cell phone, you might want to consider removing it. It is kind of hard for an "Honest" person to find the rightful owner of a cell phone if it is locked with a top-secret code.
2) If you find someones cell phone, be as honest as the Swiss and try to return it to its rightful owner. If you want to be "Smart" like the Swiss, try to call the last couple of numbers dialed to locate the rightful owner
3) Last but most importantly, always store important items (phones, wallets, ski pass, children, etc.) in safe places while skiing. With all the crap (gloves, goggles, hats, helmets, skis, poles, etc.), it is very easy to misplace important things.

You won't want to miss tomorrow's post, it should be exciting assume that I survive the adventures that have been planned. Mandy...I need you here. All I can say is "Never Underestimate the Stupidity of Men in Large Numbers".
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