The mysterious flying rodent insect … who wants your teeth

B Horror MovieOk, so I know the title of this blog post seems like a cheesy B-horror movie title, but the subject matter is really quite cute, so don’t throw yourself into a fright! I want to talk about the tooth fairy and her equivalent in Italy and Switzerland.

the tooth fairySo, in the USA we have the famous tooth fairy who flies into children’s rooms while they sleep to collect their fallen-out baby teeth and leave a bit of money behind. In my family, we had this adorable little tooth pillow that my Mom bought at a charity fair, in which me and my brother would leave our baby teeth for the tooth fairy to take.

I lost my first tooth!  This is me with the tooth pillow.

I lost my first tooth!
This is me with the tooth pillow.

la formichina dei dentiI guess because I don’t have any children of my own and am not really in contact with that many children since I have been living abroad, I just sort of assumed that the tooth fairy visited all little boys and girls around the world. But, I was talking with my boyfriend the other day and he told me that in his family, they didn’t have the tooth fairy. They had the “formichina dei denti” (little tooth ant).

This got me thinking, so I did some research and polled some Italian friends to discover that in Italy, some houses have the little tooth ant while others (perhaps the majority?) have the “topolino dei denti” (little tooth mouse). These characters have the same job description that the tooth fairy does, although they have to have mad skillz to crawl/sneak into the children’s bedrooms, instead of simply flying.il topolino dei denti

I was then curious to know what goes on in Switzerland. It turns out that they have the tooth fairy and the little tooth mouse, depending on which part of Switzerland you’re living in. My thorough research (read: some WhatsApps sent to some Swiss friends) shows that the German cantons tend towards the fairy, while the French and Italian cantons tend towards the mouse. And, oddly enough, the children can only redeem baby teeth that were lost while eating top quality, 100% pure Swiss chocolate. Something about keeping the economy healthy… No, ok. I kid, I kid.

So, while it’s too late for me to personally experience the tooth-takers in Switzerland, I thought it was pretty interesting to know that the tooth fairy, as we know her in the USA, is not the only one out there that’s climbin’ in yo’ windows, snatchin’ yo’ teeth up. Try ‘na steal ’em. So hide yo’ incisors. Hide yo’ canines. An’ hide yo’ molars, ‘cuz they thiefin’ all them teeth out here.missing tooth smile

Switzerland: where water flows like … water

Poland SpringsI’m not a big fan of having to pay for drinking water. If I live in a place where the tap water is perfectly drinkable, it irks me to have to buy a bottle of water to drink, when free stuff is just flowing out of the taps.

In America, we’re much less into bottled water than in Europe. Ok, I mean, maybe if we’re out on the town and buy a hot dog from a street vendor, we might buy a bottle of water to go with it. But in general, America is a big tap water drinking nation. At restaurants in the USA, waiters bring you a big cold glass of tap water without even needing to ask for it (unless, of course, you’re at some fancy-schmancy place where they offer you San Pellegrino… at a price). At home, we just turn on the kitchen sink when we’re thirsty (unless you’re my Mom, who since moving to California from Massachusetts, thinks the local tap water tastes weird … but that’s an exception and a totally different story).

When I lived in Italy, I noticed that they had some ornate water fountains around on the streets and in the piazzas that you could fill a bottle up with or even drink directly from. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what the deal was and was hesitant to drink from these fountains. They looked purely decorational, plus the water is constantly flowing from these European drinking fountains. There is no “on/off” switch that you need to press.  The concept was so foreign to me.

We, of course, have free public fountains in America, but they are usually indoors, located in places like a school, gym, or waiting room. They’re clearly for drinking and are pretty standard.

typical water fountain

typical water fountain – easily seen all over the USA

These fountains in Italy that I’m talking about were decidedly more ornate and were located outside on the street, in the open air. They were part of the ambiance of the city … but you could also get 100% free, completely drinkable water from them. So cool, right? I used them often, and whenever I knew I would be out for the day, I would just toss an empty water bottle in my bag so I could fill it up whenever I was thirsty. Free thirst-quenching win! Here are a few examples of Italian water fountains:

a water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Bologna

water fountain in Bologna

Now that I live in Switzerland, I can enthusiastically report that Zurich has tons of free drinking fountains all over the city, and it’s awesome! There are so many, in fact, that when I have visitors, I make them play the “water fountain game” where the only rule is that you must take a sip from every new fountain you see as we meander around the city. Now, I carefully chose the phrase “make them play” because there are so many fountains that my visitors usually end up water-logged, begging me to quit the game. They can’t. Fun!

These fountains range from very simple to simply astounding. Some even have a separate spigot near the ground for dogs, like this basic Swiss water fountain here:

Simple Fountain

I spent a lovely sunny afternoon strolling around Zurich taking pictures for you of some of my favorite fountains that you can drink from. Just click on any of the below photos to see ’em all nice an’ big!

 Well, that’s all for today. Let’s close with a water seeeeelfie!

Seeeeelfie

 

 

Merry Swissmas!

Swissmas 1This year’s Holiday season post looks back at last Christmas  – better known as Swissmas 2013.

Ever since our first Christmas as a couple (2006), I’ve always gone back to my family for the Holidays and my boyfriend has always gone back to his. We’ve always done our own little Christmas thing before and after my trip to the USA, but we were never actually together on Christmas day.

Well, last year was different.

Last Christmas, both of us stayed in Zurich, and we got to celebrate our first Christmas together! What’s more, both of our families came to Switzerland (from the USA and Italy) so we got to celebrate with them too! My boyfriend and my family for Christmas!

It was also the first time that our families met. We were obviously a bit nervous,  but it all went so well! We were both busy showing our families around the city, finishing shopping, organizing dinners for all of us, and translating so that everybody could actually communicate. It was a fast-paced Christmas, but was something I will never forget!

Swissmas 2

This year, I’m back in the USA and Francesco is heading to his family, in Italy. I guess we’re still not quite ready to renounce seeing our own families at Christmas, but I suppose this is something that many international couples face.  Eventually, we’ll start creating our own Christmas memories and traditions, as a couple, but for now I can say that I’m so happy to have had the experience of last year and happy to be with my family this Christmas too. There’s always next year to flip a coin and see whose family we spend the Holidays with.

Not to bore you with personal photos, but I wanted to share a bit of the magic that is Switzerland at Christmastime and one of the best memories I have.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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Deutsch ist schwer!

German Flag

German is difficult! (This is the truth, and also the translation of this blog post’s title).

I’ve been taking a German class for about two and a half months now and it sure as heck isn’t easy! Actually, me and my boyfriend have been doing it together, which I think is insanely cute. It’s a way that we get to spend some more time together during the busy work week, and we learn a new skill to boot!

I’m at the point where I can say “The cat is on the table” (Die Katze ist auf dem Tisch), so I’m not quite ready to write anything profound about the German language right yet. I just wanted to share this little image with you, here below. It’s the grading system for the bi-weekly tests we have in our German class, and I thought it was pretty cute.

Bellingua School

I have yet to be crushed by the Deutsch boulder…. fingers crossed!

Train Pies!

SBB CakeThis was definitely an “only in Switzerland” moment!

The train station near our place has been undergoing a lot of construction, for a long time. I’m sure it’ll look great when it’s done, but for the moment, it’s a noisy eyesore.

Well, heading to work the other morning, there were two people dressed in SBB uniforms (the Swiss train service), passing things out to commuters. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were handing out at first but my internal “Ooh! Free stuff” alarm went off, so I took one.

Turns out, they are little “please excuse the mess” pies that announce, on the wrapper, that trains which used to depart from track 4 will temporarily depart from track 6, due to construction work. There is even a little number 6 baked right into the pie crust to remind you.

How adorable and distinctly Swiss is this, right?!?! And, it was delicious!

Take a Hike

Swiss Hike

Fresh air, beautiful scenery, the tinkling of cow bells, and panic attacks. Ah, the joys of hiking!

I went on my first real hike in Switzerland a few weeks back. It was much harder, longer, and treacherous than I’d thought it would be. Honestly, it was explained to me as a “fairly easy, two-hour walk where you could even just wear good sneakers, if you didn’t have proper hiking boots.” And honestly, I wouldn’t have agreed to it had I known how hard it was really going to be. But honestly, it was a great experience and I’m proud of myself for having done (and survived) it. Also, it was October (my favorite month) which means we had the added bonus of leaves changing colors!

We were a group of 10 people, all together, and we went up the Appenzell Alps (a part of the Alps located in the gastronomically famous Appenzell region) to the Meglisalp guesthouse, where we spent the night eating local foods like spätzli (little dumplings) and cheese and drinking herb-infused Appenzeller liquor. The next morning, we worked our way back down the mountain to the breathtaking Seealpsee lake before finishing our hike and calling it a weekend.

Me thinking: "Whoa! Some people actually hike HIGHER than this!?!"

Me thinking: “Whoa! Some people actually hike HIGHER than this!?!”

I’m usually the photo guy that people can count on to snap pics of the entire adventure. However, this time I was a bit more concentrated on trying not to die and so couldn’t focus too much on the photos. I was able to take some good pictures from the top, but for photos of the climb and descent themselves, I had to refer to my boyfriend’s camera roll. Some of these photos are unreal beautiful, no?

Will I go hiking again? For sure! Will I affront such a difficult climb again? Meh…

My legs are no longer sore and the fear I felt (especially going back down … so effing steep!) has faded, leaving me with only good memories of my first hike up the Alps.

My much deserved Appenzeller beer. The background of this photo is the label on the bottle. So cool!

My much deserved Appenzeller beer. The background of this photo is the label on the bottle. So cool!

I’m baaaaaack!

working on my blogOk, so it’s been over one year since my last blog post. For shame!

What’s the deal? What’s been going on? Well, dear blog readers, I have two reasons. One more excusable, and one not so much.

  1. The good excuse: Moving to a new country and experiencing a new culture that brings a new language, new people, new customs, new cuisine, new traditions, and new ways of going about life takes a lot! It takes time and it takes energy. Honestly, I’m very excited to bring Change of Underwear back to life, but even now, after almost one and a half years in der Schweiz, I’m still not all that sure on what I’ll be writing about for my posts on Swiss life. It takes a while to be able to get into a culture and discover those interesting pearls that only one who has spent any significant time in another land can find. Also, Switzerland is very multicultural, with influences from all over the globe that can make it harder to pinpoint specifically Swiss things. Not to mention the fact that  my knowledge of the German (or Swiss German) language hasn’t really grown that much, which only adds to my difficulty in getting into the culture to the max.
  2. The inexcusable excuse: I haven’t had time! With moving to a new country, getting situated, and starting and maintaining a new job, it was really hard for me to set aside the time to dedicate to this blog. I didn’t like that I wasn’t blogging, but my job has been keeping me really* (*read: too) busy and the fact that I wasn’t having amazing ideas rain down upon my head didn’t exactly contribute to my motivation.

But, the good news is that I’m back! The tell-tale sign that Change of Underwear is at it again is the new logo that I’ve got which is also on the Facebook and Twitter pages for the blog. Isn’t it fun? It’s me and all the nations of underwear that are relevant for the blog … plus a bird! My friends at DesignLibero did it for me. Thanks guys! The logo really needed a makeover!

Change of Underwear logo

I’m ready to write again and I’m ready to share my experiences, opinions, and ideas with you all.

To those tried and true readers: thanks for sticking with me.

To new underwear changers: thanks for joining, and I hope you’ll like what you see.

To all of you: I’m looking forward to getting back into the blogging world and interacting with you guys here on changeofunderwear.com. Please feel free to leave a comment with any ideas, suggestions, or things you want to know more about.

Now,  *rolls up sleeves* let’s do this thing!