Monday, July 19, 2010

One Month

Last Saturday was exactly a month since I came to Switzerland, and I am shocked about how fast time slipped away. A month ago, the city was exploding with excitement over Zuri Fascht and the World Cup, I was jet lagged and anxious about finding a new apartment, hearing German all the time was a bit weird, and I generally felt "temporary". Now, a month later, many things have happened, and I definitely feel a bit more established.

I would say that the two main factors in determining this newly found feeling have been starting work and finding a permanent home. From the beginning, I immediately liked my new team and the new job. As I mentioned in a prior post, I like to be pushed to reach my limits, and then go beyond, and I can say with certainty that in my current situation I am being challenged every minute of every day. I am trying hard to be the best I can and to exceed expectations: there are great days and difficult days, but my action plan is to be content when things are well, and to never give up when they are rough.

As far as my apartment, well, I just love it. It's my home, and very comfortable, and it just called out my name when I saw it. In a couple of weeks, I will have a housewarming party and will invite my team to come over and have a bite and a glass. I am really looking forward to it, because these are the people I spend most of my days with, and to me it is really important to establish a relationship of confidence and trust which can have a positive impact on our work performance and economic result.

My living room: we took out the ugly painting (soon to be replaced) and I added my silk cushion covers to the pillows on the couch. I have a big glass dining table that sits six people on the other side of the living room. My apartment is loft-like, lots of open spaces, and I love it.

Marilyn - before hanging. I've got a few of those...

Come visit soon!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Perfect Apartment

I am really, really happy today, because I close on the perfect apartment. My dream apartment, and I am moving in a couple of weeks. For the record, I did decide on the one located 6-7 blocks from the Red Light District, because I saw that the actual location is nice, safe, and there are no comings and goings on the street. There are two schools, a church, and a park in the immediate vicinity, grocery stores, the tram, and I will also be a short 10-minute walk from work. Perfect.

The owner is taking out the carpet and replacing it with hardwood floor, plus buying some additional pieces of furniture for me, hence the move postponed to a couple of weeks instead of next weekend. To be sure about the location - safety is very important to me - I even walked there by myself at 11 o'clock at night - of course with the number of the Polizei saved on my cell phone, just in case - but there was no need for any of that.

I am ecstatic, because I think it was very important to find an apartment that I liked, that I could call home. This one gave me great vibes and a good gut feeling, so I decided to go for it. I should mention that I quickly polled friends and coworkers, and even someone from the relocation agency who is helping me settle in Zurich came along to see the place, and they all said that, while the choice was ultimately mine, they all gave the green light and, in their opinion, it was a place that I should not let go.

Also, tomorrow I start work, although I have already met my coworkers and I found them all to be really nice and welcoming. I can't wait to start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Zuri Fascht

This weekend was Zuri Fascht, and I was there all weekend: with my coworkers Friday and Saturday night, and also by myself today (Sunday) for a day stroll. It was an amazing time, I just can't find words to describe how special it was, and I am so glad I was a part of it.

From Wikipedia: "Zürifäscht, a triennial public festival featuring music, fireworks set to music, and other attractions throughout the old town. It is the largest public festival in Switzerland, attended by up to 2 million visitors. The next Zürifäscht is scheduled for 2 July to 4, 2010"

Basically, the whole city turns into a giant club 24/7 from Friday night to the wee hours of Monday morning: there are food stands with special dishes from all over the world, arts & crafts, concert stages with various music being performed as well as street musicians, air shows, fireworks, games, etc. You name it. Oh, also, all the World Cup soccer games shown on giant screens throughout the city. People are so happy and cheerful during the Fascht, they dance in the streets, laugh, have drinks, spend time with friends. I just loved it.

Perhaps, Zurich could not speak to me in German, but it definitely talked directly to my heart. And as I was walking down the street just before taking the tram that would take me home, I stopped and listened to a guy playing "Wish You Were Here" (Pink Floyd) on his guitar, and I smiled, because it seemed like he was reading exactly what was on my mind.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Joys of Apartment Hunting

This week was spent on intense apartment hunting, which was draining on one hand, but at the same time it gave me the chance to go and explore the city. My general impression was that it is a very, very difficult housing market: places are hard to find, there are a lot of qualified applicants for all the good apartments, and finally it is quite expensive.

While I rely on the help of a relocation agency, I also decided to explore opportunities on my own to find more places and maximize success. I visited several apartments, and among many disappointments, so far I really liked two: one is in a nice area of Zurich, very good size, all serviced, and relatively convenient for me to get to work. There was another person visiting the place, but I gave my details and hopefully they will send me the application so I can give it a shot.

The second apartment was my dream place, and as soon as I walked in, I knew I could potentially call this "home". It is a large, loft-type place, with a bedroom, large kitchen space, living room, a big glass table with eight seats, paintings, curtains, wood, marble, and a lot of light coming from giant windows. High ceilings, open spaces, and awesome furniture. The owner, a young and nice guy, owns the building and also lives in it - basically, there are four floors, and each floor has only one apartment occupying the entire space. He also said that, since the place is his, he has all the interest in keeping the place nicely and can work with me to find out what kind of finishing touches I would like in the apartment, such as more closets, curtains (I have always loved thick red curtains), and so forth. A dream come true, it was love at first sight and by far the best apartment I have visited during this whole week. The other thing is, it is just a 10-minute walk from work, and the price is very good, considering that all expenses (utilities, Internet, etc.) are included.

What's wrong with it then? Why am I here talking about it instead of going over the lease documents?

Well...while it is not located in the quarter per se, it is right at the border of the Red Light District of Zurich! Now, the owner said he never had any problems, and neither did his tenants, and keep in mind that, since prostitution is legal in Switzerland, even the Red Light District is all orderly and organized, but I will admit that I have some reservation about being an across-the-street, or next-door neighbour with ladies "in the business". I am not being judgmental, in this country where it is legal and taxes are paid from earnings of "the business", people do whatever they want and I am OK with that, as long as there is no exploitation and it's a free choice. However, I am thinking about coming home alone after a night of clubbing (although Zurich is safe practically everywhere), potential fights between the ladies and their "clients", and watching backs-and-forths of said ladies up and down the street since the apartment is on the ground floor.

What's a girl to do??? The more I think about the apartment and the niceness of the owner, the more I like it. But the neighbourhood and being on the ground floor make it a potential issue, and part of me thinks that I should rather be safe than sorry later. I should mention that I ended up telling the nice owner that I'll call him on Monday with a definite answer, since that day I have a series of appointments set up by the relocation agency and will have more apartment choices. But in all honesty, I am seriously torn - what would you all do?

To be continued...