Wednesday, July 23, 2014

101 things in 1001 days

 Self-motivation is hard. Like, super hard. Just in case you were wondering. It's right up there with doing real pullups or finding a unicorn.

In the past 18 months I've tried many approaches - daily to do lists, laying out weekly schedules, weekly to do lists, project breakdowns, monthly to do lists, joining groups. Some of them work well, some worked for a time, some of them simply served to make me feel incompetent. B pointed out that I seem to do better with setting goals to work towards rather than simply saying "I will work on this thing every day" (doesn't everyone?).

Then in the midst of twitter meandering, I found this woman's blog and saw her list of goals to accomplish - 101 things in 1001 days. Apparently this meme has been going around the blogosphere for quite some time and I am several years behind. But I am a total sucker for a 'to do' list, so I made one. And I like the timeline of it - 2.74 years is a nice time frame to work in; short enough to feel motivated, long enough that even some of the bigger goals seem doable.

Of course, it's taken me 3 weeks to come up with 101 things, and during this time I've already started - even finished - a few. Perhaps it's cheating, but I think I'll need the head start.

Disclaimer: In no way do I think I will actually accomplish all of these - some of them are realistic, some of them are pipe dreams. But it's been a fun exercise simply to make the list - I encourage you to give it a try, see what comes up for you (then let me know if any of yours overlap and we can do them together!)

Part of the ongoing #73 - simple photo manipulations for the win!
Start date: 1 July 2014
End date: 28 March 2017

My 101 goals:

Italics indicate a goal in progress
Bold goals have been completed

1.     Visit six new (to me) European countries (3/6: July 2014: the Netherlands, August 2014: Austria, October 2014: Hungary)
2.     Set foot in Asia
3.     Visit Peru
4.     Take a girls’ only vacation
5.     Hike a Swiss Alp (August 8 2014, Mt. Rigi)
6.     Visit 5 new (to me) Swiss towns or cities
7.     Go on a trip with B – minimum 1 week
8.     See a show in London
9.     Go snorkeling
10. Go boating on Lake Zurich
11. Go to a professional sporting event
12. Visit the Basel Zoo (October 2014)
13. Take a solo day trip in Switzerland
14. Watch a sunrise
15. Watch a sunset
16. Visit a chocolate factory
17. Take a chocolate-making class
18. Go ziplining
19. Go to a Zurich museum (Kunsthaus, August 2014)
20. Go berry picking (
21. Eat at a Michelin star restaurant
22.  Visit a farmers market 5 times (3/5)
23.  Try 5 new coffee shops in Zurich (4/5 –My Place, Conditerei Schober, Schwarzenbach, Käfi fur Dich)

24. Host a Thanksgiving in Switzerland
25.  Send five care packages to friends/family in the US (3/5)
26.  Have a 5 minute conversation in German
27. Go to 5 German conversation group meetings
28. Have a picnic
29. Host 5 friends from abroad at our apartment (2/5)
30. Email/write 10 different friends in the US (2/10)
31.  Go to 5 Meetup gatherings (4/5)
32.  Host friends for dinner 5 times (2/5)

33. Learn to sew (on a sewing machine) – complete one piece
34. Learn to embroider
35. Finish a cross-stitch piece
36. Attempt 5 crafts off Pinterest (1/5: December 2014, homemade cards)
37. Get yarn stash up to date (7 July 2014)
38.  Crochet a major project that should ‘fit’ – e.g., jacket, sweater, etc.
39. Learn to knit – finish one piece
40. Attend course at London College of Fashion
41. Beat a computer game (Tomb Raider, 15 July 2014)
42. Crochet a full-size afghan
43. Join a Zurich library (13 August 2014)
44. Complete a >2000 piece puzzle
45. Go to paint your own pottery (13 July 2014)
46.  Read 100 books (20/100 - goodreads list here)
47. Do 30 day photography challenge
48. Make 10 homemade cards (4/10)
49. Make wedding scrapbook
50. Watch 10 movies off my Netflix queue

In the kitchen:
51. Bake a 2-layer cake, decorate using fondant
52. Make macarons
53. Create my own cookie recipe (2 attempts so far)
54. Try recipes out of 5 different cookbooks (1/5: bread)
55. Follow a German recipe (no translating!)
56. Find 5 new one-pot meals
57. Make homemade jam again - or pickles
58. Try 5 new bread recipes (3/5: biovette, brioche, cheese rolls)
60. Make crème brulée (August 2014)
61. Make a 3 course Peruvian meal
62.  Make 5 homemade mixes (1/5: 13 July 2014 - chai masala mix)

Professional/personal development:
63. Finish writing/take pictures for Zurich expat guide book (15/20 chapters complete)
64. Collect 6 interviews for guide book
65. Hit my goal for a NaNoWriMo (or Camp) (November 2014)
66. Learn photography editing software
67. Read a book in German
68. Get a 40 day streak on DuoLingo
69. Finish the draft of a (fiction) book
70. Get professional (quality) photos done (September 2014)
71. Send inquiry letters to publishers/agents
72. Update Managing Editor info for Round Robin magazine (August 2014)
73. Design and plan ESL course curricula (2/4)
74. Take a course on Coursera for certification
75.  Learn how to manipulate pictures for blog (
76. Do a guest blog post
77. Have a guest blogger post
78.  Finish expat blog interview and get it published (You can read it here)
79. Write a blog post 2x/week for one month.

80. Run a 10k
81.  Work out 4x/week for 2 months minimum (8/8 weeks complete)
82. Unplug (no tv/internet/phone) for a weekend
83. Watch no television/movies for a week
84. Go swimming in the lake
85. Get annual swimming pool/Bad pass for Zurich
86. Go to a spa (December 2014)
87. Laugh until it hurts
88. Hang diplomas, pictures, etc. on walls
89. Go paragliding
90. Have a child
91. Learn a new hairdo (13 August 2014: French roll)
92. Get a hair cut in Switzerland
93. Wear a stylin' hat (not because it’s cold)

94. Organize photos on computer and hard copy
95.  Organize spare room and kellar area
96. Put up wall map, note places I’ve been
97. Donate to a Brockihaus (30 July 2014)
98. Get totally gussied up for a date night
99. Repair jackets and coats (2/6)
100.  Perform 5 small acts of kindness (2/5)
101. Volunteer at Tischlein Deck Dich with the Women’s Club

Monday, July 14, 2014

French, German and language adventures

People - both at home and here in Zurich - often like to ask me how my German is coming along. Usually I wince and make "well..." into three syllables, then change the subject.

I did study a foreign language prior to moving here. I spent years in high school and college studying French. I even lived in Strasbourg for eight months as an English teaching assistant back in 2005. The local dialect in Alsace-Lorraine, of which Strasbourg is the capital, is actually a German dialect (historically, the area has been traded back and forth between Germany and France several times) - I like to think of this as the universe giving me a big ol' unsubtle hint that I chose to roundly ignore. I picked up several useful random German words, such as Geschlossen ("closed"), Verboten ("forbidden"), and Flammekuchen (a delicious food). Unfortunately, even 8 months in Strasbourg wasn't enough to catapult me to fluency in French. I can read it comfortably, but I've always needed a 30-second delay while listening and speaking in order to understand - fine when watching television, perhaps, but rather awkward in actual conversation ("Uh, well - just wait, I'll get it, mmhmm, ok, almost - yep, now I understand but I have to craft my reply, gimme a bit more time. Oh, look, you've already switched to English.")

Because of my previous experience, I like to tell people that I'm just not a language person. They all have so many rules and pesky grammar! It's confusing - the genders, the multiple ways to say "you," the prepositions that don't translate. My brain starts to hurt, then throws a tantrum and reaches boiling point rather quickly.

Also helping, of course, is that people in Zurich don't speak standard German - they speak Swiss German, a language with almost as many accents as there are Swiss citizens. So I constantly feel like I'm being asked to traverse a river made of molasses, but the boat's leaking and I was never given any oars.

Over the past month, however, strange things have started to happen:

* Two weeks ago, I received a wrong phone call from someone in Geneva and was able to communicate with them in French that I did not know the person, although the phone number they had was correct. (Phone calls are THE WORST - I don't even like them in English.)

* Last week, the Hausfrau (housekeeper-type person) at the American Women's Club, who doesn't speak English, somehow found out that I (supposedly) speak French, and it turns out that she was born in Suisse Romande (French-speaking Switzerland). After a year of awkwardly greeting her and then crab-walking for the nearest door, I was suddenly able to have a short conversation with her about how she moved to Zurich twenty-odd years ago and doesn't have many opportunities to speak French. Did I screw up some of the grammar? Totally - I used the wrong past tense to say that I lived in Strasbourg nine years ago and possibly answered things with Genau or Ja (both German) instead of French. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could follow her conversation and even respond before a socially-inappropriate amount of time had passed (just barely).

* I went to the train station to buy a yearly pass for Zurich public transport and managed to get through the transaction without the cashier switching into English. I didn't understand everything - I tried to show her my Halb-tax Abonnement, which she didn't need to see - she mentioned it, I just assumed she needed to see it. It helped that she spoke standard German and the pass comes in the form of a Plastikkarte, but I know that the people who work those windows always speak English and are usually willing to switch at the smallest provocation.

* In my English course, I could tell that my Swiss students were talking about a bike that had broken ("bike" in Swiss German is conveniently velo, borrowed from French). Don't misunderstand - I understood none of the details or how the story was resolved, but at least I got the subject area.

* I went shopping last week and understood when the lady told me I needed another card if I wanted to buy the dress (I did).

* I went into another store last week and managed to ask if nine articles of clothing was too many for the fitting rooms (surprisingly, it wasn't - apparently Mango has no problems with customers carrying the entire store into their fitting rooms).

These are all small victories, and I'm leaving out the failures, such as the lady who tried to tell me three times that I could only try on five things before switching to English in exasperation or the man at the grocery store who made a joke about...well, I have no idea what it was about, frankly (but yes, I laughed anyway - and then ran out of there as quickly as possible. The problem with smiling and nodding is that at some point, people realize you don't know what's going on. That's when things get real awkward).

I'd like to think that a magic switch in my brain has been activated and now the heavens will open and I will become magically fluent in both French and German. That would be kick-ass (and also unlikely - my 3 months of German never moved past the simple present and past tenses). Instead, I think the explanation is much simpler - I''m becoming more immune to "language embarrassment" (not an official thing? It should be). Rather than be paralyzed by dative vs. accusative cases, I just throw the words together to the best of my ability and hope I can be understood. My English students make mistakes all the time, but 80% of the time I still understand them (the other 20% is when it gets interesting). So I figure - why not me? I can at least try, and if I go down in flames, well - I can just write about it here :)

I've even been considering the crazy idea that I might be ready to call a restaurant to make dinner reservations auf Deutsch. But I'm pretty sure B promised in our wedding vows - or at least Swiss moving agreement - to make all the phone calls, so no rush on that.

What's the best way you've found to practice a new language or get over fears about speaking one?

Monday, July 7, 2014

1.5 years = more thoughts

As I perhaps knew it would, the longer I stay here, the more quickly time seems to slip by. Unbelievably (at least to me), I'm coming up on my 18-month anniversary of arriving in Switzerland this month.

(From this random lady's blog - she seems very nice. I hope I'm not breaking any rules)

Yeah. It's weird. My thoughts go something like this:

I should've gotten more done over this time period.  
Like what? I've made a home, made friends - I even got a job.
Yeah, but it's just part-time and it's basically teaching glorified English - it doesn't feel like a career.
But it can be - the head of the language school would love for me to develop a science writing/coaching curriculum and market it.
Yeah, but - I have no idea how to do that. Especially the marketing stuff.
Then try.
But is it even what I want to do? I mean, I like teaching, but...  
Ok, then do something else. Finish the expat guide, then FINISH A DAMN STORY and see if I can sell it.
That's a scary thought. I - uh, never can figure out how it's going to end.
I find the end when I write. C'mon, face my fears.
I face my fears every day by living in a place where they have an impenetrable oral-only language!
It wouldn't be impenetrable if I worked on it. How's that German coming along?
Not great. But sometimes I have days where I understand a lot - the days when I run into German people and not Swiss ones.
So go back to class.
I have no rational response to that. I'll go do Duolingo and pretend that's the same thing.
At least find a German conversation group.
Ok, yes. I'll do that. Good idea, self.

From this rando-guy's blog. Maybe I need to learn how to make gifs.
Great. While I'm here, good job on finally working out regularly. Try to keep that up.
Yes, I hope to. I'm excited to be able to do multiple pushups, that's a good thing.

Item image
Yes, seriously, this program is often what I use to work out with. WHATEVER WORKS, PEOPLE. Sometimes I mix it up with Pilates. Also, B drags me on a run once a week. I sulk through it - give me a work out in my own living room or give me death!
And I've traveled, seen things, been to new countries!
Kind of. I'm in Europe, where countries are closer together than states are in the US! I've only been to Italy (three times), Spain, and Germany. Oh and England. Travel's going to get harder when we have kids. And I've barely been around Switzerland, either. No Matterhorn, no Bern, no Geneva - I fail at living here.
So freakin' get up and go! Plus, we're headed to Amsterdam this month, that's new.
It is! And I'm super excited to go.
Just don't forget to work out while you're there.
We'll get bicycles.

 And by that time, I'm usually exhausted and distract myself with food. So yes, still very much a work in progress; a constant battle between feeling amazed/surprised that I've gotten as much done as I have and the feeling that I 'should' be doing more to adjust and struggling to find the motivation to do those things.

 What makes you feel like you've truly "settled" into a home, abroad or otherwise?
Do you ever celebrate your progress or struggle with motivation (or perhaps both - even simultaneously)?