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The real Swiss experience: Kandersteg and St. Moritz

September 2021

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

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.