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Blog Ben

Not an eventful month

February  2022

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I continued working in Zehendermattelli and even learned how to drive the 'bucker' or as we know it in English an excavator. It's pretty easy but takes a lot of concentration and gentle moving of the joysticks and foot pedals, I think with some practice ill only improve at operating it.

I started to settle into my new apartment in February, I must give credit to Hala for finding all the free furniture on 'Tutti.ch'. Even though I was pretty tired most days after work our adventures to collect wardrobes, mattresses, and many other bits and pieces were enjoyed.

I skied loads in February, thanks to Danya who was working in the Schwarzee ski area I got a few free skis to pass so only had to pay 30chf for return tickets Bern-Schwarzee Gypsera. Imagine that 30chf for a day skiing!!

February was the last month for one of my friends on EVS. Claire from Belgium and Valerie from Germany who volunteered together in Geneva came to visit for two nights, we danced the night away, toured Bern, ate sushi for breakfast, and even went to Zurich to visit a mutual friend of ours. Was a nice weekend to say goodbye to Claire she'll be missed :(

That's about all that happened
Ciao for now
Ben

New year, new me and all that jazz

January 2022

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Happy new year guys! I had a very hangover start to mine but on the plus side, I'm off the drink for the month of January 'dry January we call it.

So to continue my story about 'covid at Christmas'
I was due to fly back to Switzerland on the 4th of January (Tuesday) so I went to get my test the Sunday before. The place I went to didn't do antigen tests so I had to get a PCR. At this time I had recovered from my mystery illness and so had my family. I did the test and awaited the results, midnight Monday...the bus leaves in 20 mins to the airport and no result, I took my chances and got on the bus. 4 am tuesday...no result but luckily the same company I did my test within cork is at Dublin airport so I asked them why it took so long and the offered me an antigen test just as a backup. I stood outside the airport doors awaiting results ( usually by email) then badinggggg a text? I read the first line " This number has been provided for....my full name, date of birth, address, etc.  NOOOO it was the HSE or government-run healthcare in Ireland texting to say my PCR was positive. I thought to myself 'how will I get home' 'ill have to wait to ring a friend to drive 3hrs 30 mins to collect me I can't get on the bus that's not fair. So as tears filled my eyes and I sat down to wait for daylight a miracle happened about an hour before my flight departed, badingggg.... an email to say my antigen was negative, I deleted all proof of the positive test off my phone, ran through security and made it to the gate just in time. I landed in Zurich scanned my EU passport at the electronic gate and headed straight for the Bahnhof. How ironic after all that stress my test wasn't even checked in Switzerland.

Upon arrival in Bern, I rang our boss to ask where I would stay and he said......the hostel ughhhh. I walked down at the check-in time and the minute I opened the door I got 'hello Ben nice to see you back again' i could do nothing but laugh, the hostel employees had recognized me from my stays before Christmas and were greeting me with open arms, this was my new "home". After a night in bed, I decided to go visit Hala who had just flown into Basel, then I went for another skiing but this time in Grindelwald...WOWWW what a nice ski area! Then back to bern but this was the weekend so I had work in Selital. I got a room in riffenmatt which is literally just a soccer pitch and a restaurant with rooms above it, the women running it was nice and I had a great stay here. Unfortunately, I got the bad news the place I was meant to live in was gone to someone else so it was back to the barn hostel, again greeted with open arms but the food wasn't very good. However this time Hala was also here and we made the most of our time there. Our organization realized this hostel life was a bit expensive for two of us so they put us in a house in guggisberg for a week before our apartment was ready, the sauna there was nice but I won't miss getting up at 4:30 to go to work.
Finally, we got the best news id heard in months our apartment was ready!! In total I spent 35 days between all my travels, it was a nice experience but I don't know if id repeats it anytime soon.

So now I live in a nice apartment in Lorraine (literally the middle of Bern)
We collected lots of furniture from Tutti.ch or just things we found on the street ( Switzerland and its people are VERY clean so the stuff is like new).
Danya one of the other volunteers started working on the Schwarzer ski slope for the winter so I spent most of my weekends there (free ski pass is the BEST!!) improving my skiing day by day. I also did one last day on the 'föderband' during which I had 2 customers in the space of ten minutes and I sat there for 6 hours!!.

All in all a great month, see ye in February
Ben

Blue rucksack adventure

December 2021

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Here we go. So much, and I really mean SO MUCH has happened since I last wrote a blog, but we'll take it one month at a time.

So the countdown was on till Christmas (i was flying home on the 20th, excited to see friends and family) and I was continuing to work in the cookie factory and also did one or two days supervising the 'föderband' in Sell. Snow was falling thick and fast every day and it was getting increasingly harder to get from the train station in lanzenhausern to my host family's house in steinembrunnen. This journey would usually take 35-40 mins walking or 15 minutes by bike but with the snow, I couldn't cycle so it took more than an hour most days. Until one night with the heaviest snowfall so far, I had gotten the last train home so arrived in lanzenhausern at 00:42 ready for what I thought would be an hour walk home. Ohhh how I was wrong this particular night was a total whiteout(id never experienced this before) and it took me 1hr 45mins or longer to get to the house. I reached for the door handle....it was locked. Now for reference, a 21yr old ADULT, didn't have a key to my house!! I respect other cultures but that is just so strange even after asking many times. So I after texting and ringing got no answer I had no choice but to break into the basement. The funny thing about this was that the following morning they asked me 'hey Ben do you know what happened to the door'....we all knew what happened (i was the only one not home when they LOCKED me out in a blizzard) but I denied it all.....this was the start of the demise in the pitiful relationship i had with my host family. Things escalated pretty quick after this incident and although they offered for me to stay till I left for the holidays i could no longer live in this house they attempt to call a 'home' i had to get out!! So I packed my stuff, rang my boss, and moved to a hostel in Bern.

This was the beginning of a mini journey serious i like to call 'Ben's blue rucksack'. I went from lanzenhausern to Schwarzee ski area (1night) to Geneva (2 nights) to bern (10 nights) to Ireland (two weeks)......the adventure continues in January's blog. So after leaving the house, i went skiing, visit friends but then had to work until I left for Ireland on the 20th of December. I went to a Christmas market in Montreaux which had a flying Santa, got drunk on....literally ON lake geneva (floating on a swim dock), did laundry in a hostel, and then hopped on a plane home.

When I arrived in Cork after god knows how many hours traveling i was greeted by my family at the bus station, oh it was great to see them after the mixed weeks id just had but something i noticed was that the were all pretty sick. So we went about our Christmas celebrations, went to the beach, drank too much wine etc etc. Butttt one day i woke up with the same sickness as the rest of the family,i thought nothing of it and continued seeing friends and family i even went and did two days of work in my old job and got a new tattoo ;). About 4 days after i first got sick i recovered but the family were as much if not more sick than when i first cane. Mam pointed out my quick recovery and i joked 'oh must be the vaccine'( theyre not vaccinated...its complicated). Soooo sneak peak in to januarys blog....i had COVID and i got it from my mother, i recovered, she didnt, the vaccine works.....i rest my case.

See yall in the new year blog
Ciao
Ben

Change of seasons in Switzerland

November 2021

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Soooooo, here we go again back with another of Ben's great blogs! This month I started a new job in the cookie factory. Every morning I go there and cut circle, hearts and stars to be baked in the oven, we can fit 99 shapes on each tray and in my first day I cut 7 trays so my boss has nicknamed me 'cookie machine'. I was lucky for the month of November I only had to work there in the morning and then in the garden or with the animals every afternoon. I think the animals new it was my last day because in the afternoon of 26th November when we went to feed the sheep I got a great surprise. We had two little lambs born that morning and I was the first person to see them, I pointed them out to my boss and he was in shock. It turns out that this mama sheep was not one of the sheep we were waiting on to lamb so it was a surprise for everyone. Now at home in Ireland I live in the city so I have never experienced the process that followed a sheep lambing, we had to dock the tails, put in the ear tags, weight the little lambs and prepare the barn for them with warm water and a heat lamp. My last day had the garden had to be one of the best days I've had since I started work there.

November was a very social month, I had movie nights, partied and traveled a bit around Switzerland. I was never one to get in the Christmas spirit during the month of November but one of my friends convinced me to start watching Christmas movies and my dream of snow cake true, in Ireland it snows for maybe a day or two each year but it rarely stays on the ground so when it started snowing in the last week of the month I thought it was no biggie but I was wrong the snow has stuck for about a week now and I must admit it makes everything like so cliche Christmas I LOVE IT!!! The trees, hills and roofs of house look OK so pretty covered in white powdery snow!!

Over the past few weeks I went to two parties with friends, one was my host brother who through a rave with professional lights in our kitchen upstairs, his friends are crazy and we're really interested in my life at home so I had a very cultural night with his friends. A few weeks later danyas (one of my fellow volunteers) host sisters had a birthday so we all called over to play board games and get to know eachother, I kinda felt bad though because I gifted the birthday girl a bottle of wine and ended up drinking most of it :-/. I also met with some people I found on a Facebook group for expats in Bern, they were looking for someone with English as a first language to interview for a university project they're doing, they invited me for coffee but we ended up going for food and a few drinks after the interview because we got on so well, I thought they would be the first group of Swiss people I had become friends with in Switzerland but they are from Portugal, Uraguay and Germany so the quest for a Swiss friend continues!! 

During the last few weeks it's become very important that I turn the heating on at night as it gets very cold in my room, one day I turned it a bit to hot and it woke me at 8am on a Sunday. A time I would never wake but I decided to check my phone to see a text 'Yalla Yala Ben come to Zurich' soooooo I dragged myself out of bed and cycled to the train station, I didn't even have time for breakfast. Myself and Hala jumped on the train to Zurich, we took a free walking tour and then went to see two of our friends from the trip to St Moritz and then invited us for lunch. We went to a vegetarian buffet which to be honest I thought wouldn't be great but it was lovely fresh food. We met with more friends after lunch for a walk around by the lake and then for a coffee but there was no spaces indoors on the cafe so we went to a bar. You won't believe me but the bar was called 'The Big Ben Irish Bar' no joke, Google it :-). While sitting in the bar Hala told me about this ticket where you can travel for free on public transport from 7pm-7am for one month for only 29chf!! What a great deal I'm gonna save so much money after buying this ticket!!

I'm now counting down the days till I go home to Ireland for the Christmas holidays, only three weeks left!! Stay tuned for a very exciting December blog which will be posted in the new year.
Until then don't forget:
  'Life an adventure, live in the moment and     respect other people'

Tchuss Ciao, 
Ben

Change of seasons in Switzerland

October 2021

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October started on a high, I got a new electric bike from the organisation which was very kind of them. I spent the first weekend with Hala and Selina in her host family house as they were on holidays, we watched movies and chatted all things EVS, the family have grapeswhich they make lovely red and white wine so it was nice to have a glass or two and just chill out after a long week at work. For breakfast we had shakshoka, a middle Eastern dish of chopped tomatoes and fried egg which you eat with flatbread yum yum.

In preparation for a cold dark winter I contacted my friends from the St Moritz trip and we took many trips all over Switzerland during the month of October. First I gave them a tour of Bern which they all really loved, even those who lived near Bern said they learned something that day. So with the positive response to my tour of Bern I suggested the following week we go to Kandersteg and the Oeschinensee. The surrounding peaks of which were covered in snow WOWWWW. I still thought it was the most beautiful place I have been to in Switzerland, that was untill I went to Lucerne. 

During all these trips I have built quite a good friendship with Margot from Russia, as I've said in my previous blogs I had really considered ending my EVS early due to the lack of friendships I had made in my first few weeks here in Switzerland and I can now confidently say that every week I look forward to a text from the group I met in St Moritz as to where we will go on our weekend adventure. Ironically enough I have not become friends with one swiss person in the 4months I have spent here!!  People come from all over the world to experience the culture of Switzerland but I feel the best way to make friends here is to come with a hobby and join a group. Unfortunately for me my hobbies revolve around the thing that surrounds the island I call home, The Ocean. Although Switzerland has many amazing lakes it has now become too cold to do any water sports. 

Speaking of the cold the title of my October blog 'Change of the seasons' couldn't be more true. At the start of the month I was swimming in lakes, wearing shorts (now I'm a freak that wears them in all weather but still) and often regretting bringing a coat with me as I would just have to carry it around all day and not wear it cause it was too alarm outside. But as of 11 am on the 4th November it is officially winter in Schwarzenburg where I live, you wanna know how I figured this out?..... It SNOWED!!!! Now u may be surprised at how excited I am over the snow but I come from Ireland where it snows in February/March for less than a day and it only builds up on the ground once every ten or so years. 
Imagine the scene, your sitting outside the canteen at work with coffee huddled in your coat for warmth during your morning 'pausa' and the Irish dude you work with is standing in the middle of the carpark staring up at the sky as the snow covers his face, I'll tell you one thing the Swiss people at work must think I'm absolutely bonkers but in reality I was just so amazed by snow in November!! 

Now finally to finish, I went to Lucerne last weekend, just to see the lake etc and came across my favourite city in Switzerland so far. The little streets twist and turn around the city by the lake with both moderne and original Swiss architecture. If you plan on travelling there I suggest going to the city wall and Mt Pilatus. The city was surrounded by a defending wall many years ago with 30 turrets, now 9 remain but they are restored to perfect condition and free to enter, the wall has a great view over the lake and town below. On a side note the coop in the train station is open till 10pm on a Sunday!! Shocker for Switzerland but a lifesaver for that late night beer ;) 

Remember 'Lifes an adventure, live in the moment and respect other people' 

Till next month
Tchuss Ciao, 
Ben

The real Swiss experience: Kandersteg and St. Moritz

September 2021

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Dia dhuit (hello in irish) I'm back to tell the story of my adventure weekend and the story of September during EVS.

So as I said last month my host family were stuck in quarentine because of a positive covid test but after ringing the contact tracing we were told we could leave the house. I'm FREEE the planning began, I text my friend Selina from Bern and also one of my fellow volunteers Hala to make a plan for the weekend. Selina suggested we get the true Swiss experience and go to visit her grandparents in Kanderstagg. I woke Saturday morning and hopped on the train to Bern, meeting Selina in Bern bahnhof we got on the train to Gümligen to randevous with Selina parents and Hala. After a 45min car journey we arrived the the town of Kanderstagg nestled between the mountain, it was beautiful. We took the gondali up to the top of one of the mountains and saw the Oeschinensee lake (picture above). I was AMAZING the water is so blue and the mountain is so tall. After taking too many pictures for insta we decided to walk down the mountain back to the grandparents house. When we arrived Selina grandmother had put out a great spread of food with many cheeses, meats and bread for us to enjoy. After we ate, talked and enjoyed a coffee together Selina offered us a tour of the house. It was like a museum, her grandfather had been in the army working with horses and had kept all his equipment hanging on the wall with newspaper clippings to tell a story. It really was the true Swiss experience.
We returned home after a long but great adventure to kanderstagg somewhere I will definitely visit again.

The following morning I went to meet Matan in Bern as I had got word he had to return to Israel. We went to a food market and I got gipfeli mit schokolade. After helping him move hostel we went for a swim and then Oliver was very kind to offer us tickets to a festival in Düdingen. In Ireland at the moment there is no live music or any type of festival so I was delighted with the tickets. We hopped on a 30min train journey and then walked across the fields to the entrance of the festival. A quick covid test and security check and we were in, beer in hand I walked over to the first stage to listen to the first live music I've seen/heard in the last 18month!! We danced the night away at the indoor techno and then got the train back to Bern arriving at Matans hostel near Marzili after a very long day out we were asleep in a matter of minutes. We woke the next day and as it was a short walk to the Aare I suggested a swim. Now imagine the scene it's 9:30 am on a Monday and the crazy Irish dude has just suggested to and Israeli (who loves the heat from at home) to jump in a cold river after a night on the beers. The look he gave me I don't think I will ever forget but he's a mad man too so off we went in to the river. In we jumped, floated for a bit and came out at one of the areas for swimmers to leave the river. Although it's a rather Irish thing to jump in cold water after a night at a festival matan was overjoyed with the wild awakening and even said he would continue to do it when he returned to Israel, a real exchange of culture was had that morning.

I continued my work in bernaville and started on Saturday in ski Selital, there we do maintenance on the ski lift and build a little hut at the top of the village to sell refreshments and Selital merch when people come to ski in the winter. I really enjoy my new job on the mountain as I see great sunrises and the air is so refreshing up there.

This month we had mid term EVS training. Myself danya and hala hoped on our first train at 7:02 am, we had a long journey ahead to St. Moritz in the romansch part of Switzerland to the west. After four trains and nearly five hours travel we finally arrived in the little town nestled in the mountains at 1800m. The first thing I realised when I got off the train was it was coldddd and the air was so dry. We got a quick bus to the hostel to meet the rest then after lunch I went for a covid test which was negative, nowadays to go indoors anywhere public you must have a covid certificate. We played many icebreakers the first day, had a cultural exchange night, enjoyed racleta and fondu and most importantly made friends. On the last day we had a reflection and one person I talked to made a very good point: on the first day I looked around the room scoping out who would possibly have an interest in becoming friends, now I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I really learned a lesson here. Some of the people I thought I would end up spending the weekend with turned out not as chatty as I originally thought and two or three of the girls I thought would think I was too chatty ended up being those I spend the most time with. We swam in the lake, hiked a mountain and had the best time together and I will be enternaly greatful for those three as before the training I was considering moving back home because life had becoming boring and the lack of people to make plandls with was really taking a toll on my mental health.
But all is saor gut again now and I am looking forward to what plans we come up with all over Switzerland in the coming weeks. 
 
'Life's and adventure, Live in the moment and Respect other people' 

Slán Agus go raibh maith agat
Ben

Living the Adventure

August 2021

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So here we are in our second month of EVS and what a month it was. I have really started to settle in to life in Switzerland, remembering everything is closed on Sunday and to close my window at night cause Lanzenhäusern is mosquito central.

August had many ups and downs with some great adventures but also some bad days. I continued to work with my colleagues in Stiftung Bernaville taking care of the animals and cutting tonnes of grass. However I was lucky enough to drive the tractor for a few days (picture attached). I spent most weekends with my fellow volunteers in Bern visiting museums and swimming in the river Aare. My favourite museum was the communications museum, everything there was very interesting and it was also the most interactive museum with things to do for all ages. I would highly recommend visiting it.
The river Aare is super cool yea! The canton of Bern have installed many places for people to jump in and out of the river and you can just float down as far as you want.

Unfortunately the corona virus had a big part in August. A few of my friends from ireland were on exchange for one week in Lausanne and I had planned to meet them on their last day here in Switzerland. I booked my train ticket and a hostel but the night before I was ment to leave I got a call to tell me the group had positive covid results and that they could not see me in Lausanne, I was very disappointed but I decided it would be better to just go for it and visit Lausanne alone so I did just that. I woke up at 7am and hopped on the train to Bern then another three trains to Lausanne one of which was super fast I was only on it for ten minutes but it was so comfortable. While there I swam in Lake Geneva, visited the Olympic museum and also watched a hurling match in an Irish bar. I got chatting to the barman who was from Dublin! (the first Irish person I've met in Switzerland!!) he told me to go to 'les pyramids' where there would possibly be a party and wow did I find one. With some beers I bought in a local shop and a free ice cream (from the party hosts) I partied my night away with some French speaking surfer dudes. It was definitely worth the solo trip to Lausanne!!

Another inconvenience I experienced this month was having to sit in quarentine because my host sister got Corona (for the second time :/) I was far from impressed with this as she told me she had gone to work with 200+ people and didn't wear a mask!! What a bad decision. I made the most of being stuck in my house and read a book about a murder mystery in London which kept me somewhat entertained. After five days in quarentine and no news from contact tracing we made the decision to ring them and ask when we could leave the house to which they replied 'Oh sorry we forgot to contact you if nobody has symptoms of covid you don't need to quarentine' at last I was free after wasting a week of my life sitting at home!! I was overjoyed with the news and planned a big adventure for that weekend but you'll have to come back and read all about that when I post my September blog.

Auf weidersehen for now and don't forget to
'Life is an adventure, Live in the moment, Respect other people'

Tchuss, 
Ben.

Moving to Switzerland and Building/Breaking a Wall

July 2021

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Hallo ich heisse Ben, I started my EVS journey on the 9th of July when I flew from Ireland to Switzerland. I arrived in my new home in lanzenhäusern and was greeted by Yannick my host bro, his family were on holiday in their home country of Germany for one week so I spent my first few days in Bern. Travelling 30 minutes on the S6 train I arrived in Bern on my second day here in Switzerland, I met with Oliver and Matan (one of my fellow volunteers) to get my Swisspass(a half price travel card for all public transport). Matan had already made friends in Bern so I joined them to swim in the river about 15minutes drive from the city of Bern. A few days later I met with Hala to adventure around, unfortunately it was a Sunday so not many things were open but we went to the animal park and also to see the bears. While we walked we saw the famous Bern Fountains, I learnt that if it says 'kein trinkwasser' you should not drink the water but all these fountains were safe to drink.

 

I went for two trips to the Kaiseregg which I thoroughly enjoyed we got the train from Bern to boltigen and then walked up in the rain!! By the time we reached the builders House everyone was very wet but we were happy to finally be up. We ate bread and jam, put on outlr waterproof pants and walked to the wall to start work. That night we slept with the goats which was a first for me, those bells are very loud when they're right by your head but I was so tired that I slept like a log. The next morning we woke and worked in terrible rain until it finally stopped just in time for.... The helicopter to come WOOWWWW super cool yea!  Sitting on the hill above the wall we watched as the helicopter dropped bags of rocks for us to build more wall. It was at this point I thought to myself 'if someone had told me a year ago that in july I'd be sitting at the top of a mountain, soaking wet watching a helicopter in Switzerland' I would never believe them. My true alpine experience had officially began. On Saturday myself and Danya walked down the mountain leaving Hala and Matan to meet the people who funded the wall. After walking down for 1hr 30mins we asked a man if he could bring us to the train in boltigen. He was very kind and offered to bring us to Bern!! We were in his car for nearly one hour and he talked about how he was a nurse and he also helps out with the sheep up at the Wallop, he said he never comes up the way we walked but just this one time he came this way.... It was ment to be. What a kind man!

 

 

We also went to the mountain the week after, the weather was much better so I decided to fly my drone some pictures I have attached it in here . We finished the wall and cleaned up the mess that was made then we walked back down the mountain on Friday. This walk was the hottest and sweatiest walk I have ever done in my life! When we finally reached the taxi to the train I was soaking wet and this time not from rain :/

 

We then had one week off during which I travelled by train to Geneva to see the 'Jet d' eau '. This is a water jet that shoots 500 litre per second of water straight up in the air. While staying in a hostel I was gifted a free public transport card so I travelled by bus, tram and boat all around Geneva. I visited some Irish pubs and bought the most expensive pint of guiness  I have ever drank 10.50 chf!!!!!

 

Most weekends I just chill in my host family home or maybe go for a cycle or swim. Myself and Matan went for a swim in the river as he lives near my house, the road was closed so we had to go through the forest which was quite steep but we finally reached the river to enjoy a beer and a swim. Shortly after we started to walk back to our bike the heavens opened with the worst rainstorm I have seen here in Switzerland. The forest became a river and we had to hide in a cave to stay somewhat dry. When the rain eased we walked up the hill out of the forest and it was sunny and warm once again.

 

Last Tuesday I started work in Stiftung Bernaville in Schwarzenburg. One of my responsibilities is looking after donkeys, cows and sheep. We feed them, clean out their shed and we must also walk the donkeys. We also cut grass which takes a lot of time and unfortunately I am not allowed operate the machinery so I have to follow behind and rake up the grass :(

 

So far I am really enjoying my time in Switzerland however I miss my friends and family at home. I don't speak much German so I find it hard to communicate with people but here are some words I have learnt.

-genau = exactly

- wie gehts = how are you

- wir gehen zum mittagessen = we go for lunch

 

I look forward to the rest of my time in Switzerland and hopefully the month of August will have nicer weather as it is raining nearly every day.