Hello All.

While I write this, you guys are (hopefully) sleeping as it’s about two in the morning in WA. Its really weird when you think about it, because the evening is when you have the time to really sit down and talk to people on the phone, but I realise that you probably don’t want a phone call from me (or anyone else for that matter, except possibly the lotteries commission) at 2am. So here I am, writing you an e-mail instead, which, I know, is long (long long long) overdue, but it’s been stressful moving to a new place, working with new people, and especially working with disabled people, which is a new experience for me.

The farm I now work on is called Gut Rheinau, which means Good Rheinau (Rheinau being the town in which I now live)*. It’s 140 hectares big, which is huge for Switzerland. Its got all these separate parts to it, like Sativa, which sells seeds, then there’s the vineyard, which has both red and white grapes, the vegetable section, the hothouses, the cow stall, the pig pens, sheep, chickens, horses, bees and orchards. Every Monday morning we have this big gathering of all the people who work on the farm. Last time there were around 60 people there. Now, you guys know of my brilliant memory, so you know how hard it is for me to get to know these people. Luckily, lots of the names are the same, and remind me of people I know, namely my family. There are, I think, two Regulas, one Daniel, two Michaels, fives Thomases, and two Andreases (men, but the name is similar), then there are two Lukases, two Patricks, two Marriannes, two Martins and two Hanses. Then you get to the tricky ones. Hansurs, Friedemann and Aninia. After 4 weeks here however, I’m pretty sure I know most people.

Then there’s the fact that I’m going to die of lung cancer through passive smoking, because everyone here smokes like volcanoes, and I can feel my lungs being coated with tar. You should see me once I’ve wheeled my bike up the grape hill, I almost need a respirator, but that’s probably just because I’m so unfit. The disabled people (DP) are so sweet though. Take Hansurs for example. He spent the whole afternoon break talking about how he was going to get the new ‘Globi the Fireman’ CD. He already has the tape, but he doesn’t want to take the tape to and from the clinic to his mum’s. And he can listen to the cd in the car.

For those not in the know, Globi is a little blue penguin man, that is a really famous kids icon in CH. Hansurs is around 30 years old. He and another DP called Joel are now trading Globi tapes. When not talking about Globi, Hansurs’s favourite topic is smoking cigars and drinking schnapps. It gets a daily mention – “and when I get home, I’m going to smoke a Cigar! Yes. And drink a Schnapps! Yes. Together, like this” and then he shows us how he’s going to take a large drag of the cigar, then throw back the schnapps, then take another drag. Almost all of the disabled men smoke cigars.

The physical work here is much easier, but the mental strain is more. Its strange though, that I now have bad back pain, and so I went to see my aunt up in Engelberg about it. She is the one who’s into all that bush flower medicine, Laine, you remember her don’t you? Anyway, she tell me its all psychological and that through mental stress my back pain reappears. I think she’s right. So now I’m doing breathing exercises and mental energy cleansing. Cool, eh?

May I mention something else about pain while we’re on the subject? On Thursday the 18th of May, at about 2 in the afternoon, just after I’d finished talking to mum, I had a bike accident. It had been raining hard all day and the roads where very wet. I attempted to get on the sidewalk, and slipped and somehow scraped my knee, my shoulder and bumped my head. I walked my bike back home and went to bed. At 4:30 I walked to the stall and worked there till 6:30, had dinner and came back and slept. On Friday they took me to the doctor, and he said it wasn’t anything bad, and that I should feel better over the weekend. I slept all day Friday, all Friday night and now I feel positively rested (only a little headache, bad backache, scraped knee and shoulder, oh yes, and a bad cough/cold, but you get these things don’t you.)

The only problem now is that my bike is broken. To make things worse, my godmother came to pick me up on Saturday morning, and about five minutes before she came, I torched the curtain in my room. Luckily it was very long and it only had a big hole at the bottom, so I cut it off and it looks…um, as good as new…   Last Wednesday I had the highly enjoyable task of preparing escargot. (note: that enjoyable part is pure sarcasm.) Can you imagine spending the entire afternoon cutting away snail guts, and placing the good part (the foot) in a cup, and going to the next one. This might not be so bad, had they been real escargot snails, in German ‘Rapberg Schneken’, no, they were little garden snails. (The real ones are protected). When I wasn’t gutting the little snails, I was removing them from their houses. To do this, you get a needle, then you try and hook the snail and pull it out. Then we would throw the houses away, or if they were nice ones, we gave them to Christina, because she wanted to collect them (for some strange and obscure reason). I was sort of beginning to feel like the snail Nazis, first kill the poor things, then steal their real estate. I told them snails is where I stop. No way am I going near frogs.

I am being tutored in German by Larissa, the daughter of one of my bosses. In return I am teaching her English. I am not making that much progress, because I still don’t get the concept of è, ä, à and ö.

I am now in the Stall full time, so I am learning all sorts of stuff there. I can milk a cow now by hand or with the machine. Marianne took on one of the nastier cows the other day and got a black eye for her troubles. I know I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ve also discovered a whole other side to guys in the Stall. I’ve found out that some guys really do look good in a skirt (which is something I’ve never considered before), and that some guys are real monkeys/cave men. What kind of idiot decides that he doesn’t need a ladder to tie up the tail strings, he’ll just pull himself up (the bars being 2.5 metres off the ground), wrap his legs around the bar and tie the string to the bar? Bloody idiot. Anyway, enough of that.

Last weekend I went to Basel to go to my mum’s cousin’s Fiftieth. Her husband had also turned 50 and so they were celebrating their 100th birthday. It was pretty cool, except that towards the middle of the whole thing (and it went from about 4pm till 3am) Everyone starts singing (this is after several glasses of wine each) “Min Vater isch an Appinzellor” (Mein Vater ist ein Appenzellor) (My Father is from the state of Appenzell). You would sing the verse, then you would start yodelling. It was so funny! What was also funny was how my Aunt Beatrice always kept losing her keys. Everytime she needed a key, she had all of them except the one she needed. By literally the 10th time of losing the keys (in one weekend) I decided I should probably get her a special bag just for keys. This decision was reinforced when she later lost them several times more.

A lot of people keep asking me, am I going to the DJ Bobo concert in Engelberg. Let me explain the situation for you. DJ Bobo is for CH like Guy Sebastian is for Australia. Hardly anyone likes him, but he manages to sell CDs all the same. Oh, yes, and I’m not into either singer’s music, sorry.

I can’t wait for mum’s visit. I had the idea that if she wanted to, she could ‘work’ one day on the farm to see what it’s like. This would be the agenda:

4:45 Alarm goes off

5:30 Be at the Stall. Help herd in cows to be milked, tie up tails, clean cow bums, feed calves, milk cows, do milk kitchen.

7:30 Breakfast

8:15 (if Monday; morning circle). Clean out food area. Give in more grass. Give more straw. Do some fencing.

12:15 Lunch

13:05 Break

15:00 Stall. Feed cows.

16:00 Afternoon tea

16:30 Milk cows. Feed calves. Do milk kitchen. Put cows onto night paddock.

19:00 Dinner

20:15 Bed.

Are you interested mum? Anyone else? You want to travel to CH for the ultimate farming experience? Well, anyway. You guys can call me during my lunch break if you want, from around 1:15 – 2:45 (pm). WA is 6 hours ahead so, well, you guys can figure it out. Happy birthday to Michael (Hagrid) – Yay, 16! To Meagan – Yippie, 18! Sorry I can’t make it to your party (I love you but three thousand dollars in airplane tickets?). I will send your pressie over with Mum.

Love to all of you. Sorry if some (or most) of this email doesn’t make sense, because I have some major stress being put on me to actually send this bloody thing off, plus some guilt trips laid on me by mum (Sarah, really you have to send something, you’ve been there so long and no email), and I’m like “Mum, its this laptop. It just sits there on my desk and… well… it just sits there. But it makes me feel guilty for not writing earlier and then I get upset and have to listen to heavy metal music to erase the stress.

By the way, I have soothing really important to tell you guy. I have scored big time. I innocently asked Samuel (who happens to be German and was mention previously in this email) if I could borrow the TV for a while. This was 2 weeks ago and I refuse to give it back, ha ha. This is because Monk comes on Monday, as well as CSI Miami. Then, on Thursday!!!! Law and Order SVU!!! I am in heaven!!!! The reception is absolutely horrific and if I were watching cricket (or any other similar sport) I wouldn’t be able to see the ball, but I can endure it for the sake of Monk and SVU.

Ok I have to go. I’m ten minutes late and yes…

Love you all, You little Australians!!!!


*This is false. See June edition for update.