Tonight on my last night in Berne, I choose to spend my evening simply enjoying a home-cooked dinner with Fish as always, doing some last-minute packing and sitting down at my desk to reflect upon my last 4 months here.

People tell me that time flies, and before I know it I’m heading back to Singapore. But I feel that the past 4 months here did feel like 4 months.. I did not let life just pass me by but chose to treasure each moment I had here. Every train ride, every trip to Migros, to school, every class, every person I met, every new friend I made.. these memories are meant to be treasured.

I leave this place with a heavy heart, but I know that life goes on and it is time for me to go. I am going back to what life was before, but something has changed within me (*cue Defying Gravity music*). I feel as though I’m still the same, yet different (didn’t think that lame Same Same, But Different t-shirt sold at pasar malams would be so apt for this moment).

Never thought it would be this hard to part with a place away from home that I have grown to be comfortable in. I think coming here on exchange is indisputably the best experience I have ever had in my life. I learned and saw things here I know I never would if I stayed in the Little Red Dot. I bring home with me the best memories anyone could ever ask for, and hopefully a new (yet same old) Jean that will be an even greater blessing to those around her.

I leave you, and this blog, and Switzerland, with words of wisdom and pictures taken on the Gurten. Cheers to a wonderful exchange program for Jean in Berne!

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1 To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
14 I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.
15 That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, NKJV)

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snowy-bumpliz

A fresh round of snow has hit Switzerland. It’s been snowing for 3 days straight – seems like this one’s here to stay for the winter.

Winter really exudes a harsh beauty. Fish and I had a rather miserable time navigating around in the dirty slush on our way to school yesterday, and had she not been holding an umbrella, a large chunk of snow that fell from a tree would have hit her head.

Then again, I am not sure how much I would like the idea of seeing <ACHTUNG!> everywhere telling me to look out. I would feel like it’s scolding me! We’ll just have to be alert as we walk on the streets. No, not walk. Sometimes it’s easier to just glide and drag your feet one after the other.

On a separate note, I embarked on an hour-long journey to Luzern just to see my dear friend Qin.

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我真的是千里迢迢去看你! 😀 But I was really glad to see you, and it was worth every minute and every cent spent going there!

I then tompang-ed their tour coach to Zurich Airport to see them off, since they had to leave Luzern at 6pm, and chatted with Qin on the 1hr+ journey. It felt like half an hour, as we showed each other photos from our camera, and as her mum proceeded to fill my bag with more holiday leftovers for me to take home.

I didn’t think I would come to Zurich Airport again until I leave for Singapore. It brought back many memories of when I first arrived in Switzerland. Alone, afraid, being held up at customs and later not finding my luggage on the conveyor belt..

No amount of “Welcome to Switzerland” signs can assuage the trepidation and psychological strain I encountered that day.

As I walked around the airport this time to locate the train station and it’s schedule, and later take my train back to Bern on my Gleis7 card (free travel!), I felt relaxed, comfortable and confident. Gone was the fear and anxiousness of the uncertain. I knew which way to walk, which platform and sector to board at, where to get off, what to show the conductor.. I’ve even come to understand the German train announcements.

I thought back about that friendly couple I encountered and how they directed me as far as they could, chatted with me on the 1hr journey, helped me find a seat on the train and made me feel truly welcome in a way no lit-up billboard could.. God-willing I’d meet them again.

Many uncertainties await in life and feelings of anxiousness will resurface. But I still believe that the best decision I ever made about this whole trip was that I chose not to back out even though I had to come alone.

I look back and think to myself.. what a long way I’ve come.

the-desk

The Desk – a reflection of who I am; my habits, my lifestyle, my preferences, my hygiene standard, my organizational style, my diet and other things that one may infer.

The Desk is where I spent a significant part of my time in Switzerland. Reading, chatting, getting myself high on Wicked youtube clips.. looking out the window and opening it to feel the cold oustide.

There’s the Migros file containing all the notes I have for all the courses I’m taking here in Bern – a feat I would never be able to accomplish with the amount of notes I take in SMU. Ah, the life of an exchange student.

There’s the cow cow mug from which I drink Swiss tap water. Is the lime-laden liquid harmful to my body, even after installing a cloth filter? I am going to live on Migros bottled water for the rest of my time here.

There’s my eaten lunch, with a crumpled piece of paper in the bowl I had used as a placemat for my breadcrumbs. I had bread with canned corn mixed with chopped onions and curry dressing. Such is the ang-mor diet I take here. I’m not complaining. 🙂

There’s William Easterly’s important book “The White Man’s Burden” that I must remember to return to Robin before I leave Switzerland. Maybe it will become the mantra of my future career.

There’s what remains of the 1kg mandarin oranges I had bought – 2 left.

There’s the window – with the metal blinds which I wind down to block out the beautiful sunny day. Unfortunate indeed, but the sunlight makes it difficult to see my laptop screen.

There’s my desk. How I’ll miss this desk. But I go home to another desk that is also white, rectangular and by the window. No more metal blinds, no more cold, no more sounds of the railway or the Tscharnargut clock chiming music when it rings.

But from that desk I can hear my loved ones. I’ll hear mum talking to her clients from her computer desk, hear my brother typing away as he plays his computer games, hear the television broadcasting shows in languages I understand and hear the sounds of Serangoon again.

Funny how much one can see and hear from a desk.

But the idea of a desk-bound job will still repulse me to no end. Hah! (so much for the romantic ending)

Sprüngli’s Luxemburgerli..

Also check out the marcaron entry to see how the Luxemburgerli differs from the regular French marcaron.

While we’re at that, won’t you take a look at this?

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for-blog

To start off the post, here’s a picture of my yummy picnic lunch with the magnificent Jet d’Eau in the backdrop. Standing at a whooping 140m, the fountain can be considered the city’s symbol.

Geneva is one of those places that you hear much of before you get to see it. While there are people who loathe it for its stuffiness and pride, others who have been there turned out to like it a lot. Fish and I decided to see if for ourselves. 百闻不如一见.

Each time we enter a new city in Switzerland we miss the main train station in Bern. It has a multi-storey mall with shops that stay open longer than anywhere else in the city. So far, excluding Zurich, Geneva’s station comes in second with an underground metro mall, but having said that, it’s still a far second.

The city is another story though. Putting second-hand perceptions at the back of my head, I decided to judge the city on a clean slate for myself. Geneva, it turns out, appears to be incredibly liveable.

Geneva reminds me very much of London – cosmopolitan, grand, comfortably busy, important and possessing many faces. There is a far greater Asian presence, and Singapore accents could be heard once or twice in our brief time there. Although French is the main mode of communication here, English could be heard often. As such, I felt myself easing into the place pretty effortlessly.

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Walking away from the lakefront and entering the old town, we are immediately transported into an entirely different world. The buildings are old and not excessively restored (neither were they painted blue with yellow flowers on them), and the narrow streets contained quaint little shops and cafes nudged in the little nooks and crannies of the buildings. Parks are located throughout the city and offer a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the main commercial areas. The familiarity of Geneva’s modernity, together with the historic charms of its Old Town makes this city on of my favourite destinations.

I really like Geneva. I’d like to go again. 🙂

Fish and I, being typical Singaporeans, often think about food. Now, I must not malign my friend here, but as far as I’m concerned, my brain adheres to the following equation:

[Food for thought < Thoughts of food]

We had intended to make ABC soup for dinner tonight, but out of the “food bank” in my mind, I visualized watching the soup boil down to a dry, thick stew that contained only the 精华 of all the 料 that we had put in. It looked very, very promising in my head. Excited (and hungry), I proposed to modify the dish, and the “ABC stew” 就此诞生.

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Mee, are you looking at this? Look at what your ABC soup has become.

The wonderful ABC stew serves as a nice warm meal on a cold evening, and is every student’s best friend for a healthy, TASTY, chemical-free alternative to all the horrible powder mixes, pasta sauces and instant meals we’ve been ingesting in our laziness. There’s actually only one step:

  1. Throw whatever you perceive to be reasonable ingredients for a stew into a pot of boiling water, and let it boil.

However, in my great magnanimity, I have also compiled a detailed 10-step recipe to guide you through the process:

  1. Boil water in a soup pot
  2. Throw in chopped onions, potatoes, carrots, chicken breasts (with bones still intact, not fillets) and diced tomatoes.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and sugar
  4. Stir occasionally as soup is boiling
  5. Simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, until soup is thick, and tomatoes completely disintegrated
  6. Season with pepper and herbs and serve hot
  7. Taste it and realize how delicious it is
  8. Order Fish to run to her bedroom to get her camera
  9. Take picture and continue eating stew with rice/bread/nothing else
  10. Blog.

Bon appétit. =)

(Click on thumbnails for larger versions)

But cold is good. My room has the perfect conditions for storing chocolates.

:p