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New Years into Skiing

You enter the new year and don't write about it until the end of Feb? Boo!

The new year arrived and everyone had their relaxing new year's sleep in - nice, even if it was on the lounge room floor. You all went for a walk that day around empty, quiet Zurich and enjoyed the cool atmosphere of nothing happening. You realised that since arriving you've not yet been skiing so you and Meike made plans to go.

Flumsiberg is a mountain 50 minutes train ride from Zurich where you can ski. The problem with visiting Flumsiberd on Friday 2nd January 2009, however, was that everyone else from Zurich was there too. It was a squeeze off the train, where the line for ski passes extended into the underground train passage. It was a squeeze up the stairs and into the gondola, where people were pushing from behind to make things move faster (yeah, 'cos that works so well). All the way up until this point the weather had been very shitty and the whole world looked grey. However, as soon the gondola passed through the clouds and rose above the greyness, everything was became surreally clear with a brilliantly bright blue sky above. Come to think of it, maybe this is why the Swiss are the happiest Europeans: anytime the horrible weather gets them down they can just climb a mountain and let the sunshine make them cheery again. It all makes sense now!

Overall it was a great place to ski. The easy runs were shockingly full and very icy but above them all the black runs were really fun. You were able to take a lift up the the highest point where several black runs began, but with a view this nice it was hard concentrate on just how black they were. From the same top point was a highly tempting unpatrolled run around the back of the mountain. This back way was good at first (wide, good snow, steep) but then it flattened out and occasionally went up hill. You had to forgive this run because it was so damn scenic - Meike's comment was that it looked like a cliché postcard image.

After skiing when you went back to work, your guests went waddling with penguins at the zoo and went snow boarding. On another day over the break you managed to sneak a bonus day off (not that anyone cared) and went walking with everyone in the Winter hills of Glarus. Would have been easier if it were a little warmer, or if at least we had brought a sled with us. In place of a sled we tried using a plastic bag which provided no insulation to the ice rubbing under you.

Meike left and went back to Berlin, leaving you sad and all alone. Ok, that's a lie... Harriet was still there for a little while after - long enough to try sledding down Utliberg's icy 3.1 km track, and make light-painting ghosts - but she soon left for Australia, leaving you to your beer-ice filled fridge. Your replacement for this double loss was a little magnetic icebear and your German language course. At first it was rather crap; it had you play childish card games to learn vocab and your classmates were all beginners - waa! You switched into the advanced grammar course in week 2 and since then you look forward to going each tuesday and thursday night. Your new German class is a hoot! A Frenchman, a Polish woman and an Irish bloke... sounds like the start of a bad joke really. But honestly, you all 4 have a hard time fighting off the giggles every lesson - your classmates are all hilarious as they bounce off one another during speaking practice, using the most tragically-hilarious sentences you can think of. The French bloke can't say his h's and so 'I am at home' becomes ich bin zu 'ause.

It has actually been six months that you've been working here in Switzerland - wow, that was easy! Incidentally, every six months your company conducts its formal employee performance reviews, goal setting sessions and bla-bla-bla bore-you-to-tears et-cetra-so-on. It is a chance formally agree on key performance indicators for the year and then to arrange further training. Based on how your performed against the last year's goals, you are evaluated and your salary is reassessed. Luckily for you the salary calculation is 90% based on performance: this is where you've been exceeding expectations and so you were given a promotion to Key 3D User. This means you now train everyone you work with, attend all the Key User meetings in Germany, spend less time in front of your workstation (now: other people's) and maybe go to India in the future. Feels nice to be appreciated... and paid more.

Things are far from perfect in the professional engineering world. The other day an unfortunate miscommunication led our biggest bearing supplier to believe we hated them and that we'd switched to cheaper ones. It was only at the meeting where we were about to place a huge order with them that anyone noticed. The next stuff-up was with the Russian train you were constructing: all your work for several months was being ignored because people in France were linked to old data - no wonder they complained the interfaces didn't match. Finally, there was one assembly you came across that seemed to have a damper tumor. It turned out to be a movements study after all, but looked odd none the less.

Once last thing... Woman's voting rights may not be the only thing behind the times in Switzerland: the other day you saw an amusing picture of a co-worker wearing his uniform for military service. When you noticed the soles of his shoes were made of wood, the slogan Switzerland - Get Natural took on a new meaning.