Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guten Tag from Switzerland

I am well overdue on a blog entry ... the last 2 weeks have been very hectic with my drill weekend running into my preparation and departure for IJOLD (International Junior Officer Leadership Development) seminar in Zurich, Switzerland; which is where I am now. Yes, I had to leave my little stinker fro a week to take advantage of this opportunity since it could have a postive impact on my promotion opportunity. I am in Dubendorf, on the city limits of Zurich, for 1 week ... I'll be returning Saturday. The trip has been nothing short of amazing thus far and I have truly enjoyed getting to know some of the other officers from Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, Canada and Germany. I could go on and on but I'll cut to a few pictures and stories from the last few days!

My last few minutes with Kelty before leaving! It was very difficult to let him go! He has also cut his first tooth while I was gone!
I was fortunate as the rendevous point for all US students was at MacDill in Tampa. We departed on a KC-135 from MacDill on Friday evening for our 9-hour flight to the Zurich airport. Al introduced me to the flight crew the previous day and I was able to ride jump seat for the departure. Shortly after I hopped to the back to "claim my space" on the floor and lay out my sleeping bag! It's prime real estate on a small plane loaded with passengers! Only a few hours into the flight the one and toilet had overflowed (all the boys used the toilet instead of the pee tube and the tank couldn't hold that much!) Try being on plane for 10 hours and not being able to use the bathroom!! I have some pictures of this little incident that I'll post when I return ... quite funny.
After arriving at the Zurich airport we were loaded onto a bus waiting for us on the airfield ... we were escorted just outside the airfield gates by the Swiss police where we had to wait for transport to the Swiss air base. The police were very friendly and took a few of us to a cafe by the airport to have a kafe (coffee) while we waited ... we wanted it "to go" but he insisted that we sit and enjoy the coffee ... the "to go" thing really is not common in Europe ... why rush! And the coffee was great!

We arrived at Dubendorf Air Base at around 10am, registered and hit our rooms ... we were free for the rest of the day. Oh, and they had Swiss chocolates in our barrack rooms!!! Whoohoo, chocolate! I love the Swiss! But seriously, this is not a false stereotype ... they have wonderful little refreshment areas set up for us during our breaks and the tables are lined with various chocolates, coffee, bubbly water and fruit. We are also allowed to eat only chocolate during class ... no other munchies. They provide chocolate and drinks in our classroom. There is also hot cholocate with breakfast.

After settling in on Saturday a few of us took the train into Zurich. We grabbed lunch and sat in the grass ... which is what was common in this little area we were in. My little lunch from a street vendor was $25 Swiss Franc! Yikes!
A snapshot of where we were in Zurich ... how about this for beautiful scenery!
Sunday was our first real day and they warmed us up with a trip to Luzern. It was a nice start to a rather busy week. As you can see I still look a little jet lagged from the trip. It was about 4am EST (12 noon in Luzern). The city was beautiful and it was probably good that the shops are closed on Sunday because the only money I spent was on a boat ticket, wine and coffee. Even then I spent $30 CHF!

We took a guided tour (set-up by the IJOLD course leaders) but also had a few hours of free time. We chose to take a boat ride so we could sit and enjoy the views. Of course our down time had to involve drinks. Yes ... I was drinking wine .... straight from the bottle. We were able to walk the city with our beverages in hand. You can probably pick out the Italian guys in the photo ... the gentleman in the black shirt on the far right has an 8-month old son as well and we had a lot to talk about. We've already decided that Al, Kelty and I will come visit after we are settled in Germany. He lives in southern Italy. All these folks are a tremendous amount of fun!

We wrapped up the evening with a pre-planned dinner for the entire group of 50+. We were able to enjoy the folk music (instruments like the AlpineHorn, cow bells, accordian, spoons, etc) singing, yodeling, and dancing while we ate. The swiss can turn anything into a musical instruments! Of course fondue was part of the menu!

Monday and Tuesday (today) were full of classroom work and activities ... we have some outdoor PT planned tomorrow. Most everyone wanted to go the bar on the installation for a beer after class on Monday ... well, that turned into a huge party with drinking games ... yeah ... I haven't really played those since college so let's just say that today was pretty rough for everyone and we are ALL going to bed early tonight. That'll wrap things up for today ... I should have time in a few day to post another blog.

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