Sunday, April 21, 2002
Today was Sunday and we were excited for the church experience in Switzerland. Jason and Diana belong to a small ward that meets in an office build here in Zurich. Church started at nine o’clock in the morning. As we entered the office building there seemed to be a strange fishy smell. Fortunately the smell disappeared as we reached the top floor where the church services were held. There were about 75-100 people in Sacrament meeting. The people seemed to be from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. It was definitely not a group of German looking people. About seven or eight people were wearing headphones. Kacie and I joined the group as German was the language being spoken from the pulpit. Bishop Krahnbuhl was conducting the meeting and President and Sister Hall were the speakers. The Hall’s were in charge of the Zurich mission. They were originally from Cincinnati. It was fun listening to their talks being translated. Several times during my mission I was asked to translate for a group of people in Sacrament meeting. It is a very difficult task as you never know where the speaker might go. The translator here was exceptional. He was a man about my age who had excellent command of both languages.
During Sunday school we went to the English class. There were about twenty people in the class with several of the participants visitors as well. Jamie and Lindsi met with their youth group which mostly consisted of the Bishop’s children. Jerome was about seventeen he was responsible for helping Lindsi and Jamie around. I think he believed they were older than fourteen and twelve. Anyway, I think they had a good time talking and finding out about youth in Switzerland. Although he did have some negative opinions to express about the United States. Somehow I was able to coerce Kacie to attend Primary by herself. She resisted at first but I was firm and finally she gave in when the teacher, Rachel, came by and took her away. There were five boys and three girls in her class. They spoke German the entire time and Kacie did not understand a word but somehow she survived. She was a good sport about going and participating. Our Sunday school class was very good as well. Our lesson was a review of the Old Testament lessons they had taught so far this year. Here Jason and Diana introduced us to several of their friends. I met Jamiu (not sure about the spelling). He is a young black boy that was recently baptized. He attends young men with Jason. He was very friendly and inspiring. I also met Sybil who works with Jason at Citibank. She is about twenty years old and recently baptized as well.
After church we had decided we were going to travel down to the southern part of Switzerland and get a quick peak of Italy. We brought some rolls and peanut butter and jelly. Diana was just like mom of old in the back seat making sandwiches while Jason and I navigated up front. We brought some Rivella as well to wash down the sandwiches. We are going to miss Rivella when we head back to the states. The drive was beautiful. We passed some beautiful lakes. The Alps were still capped with snow as well and they were amazing. It should be noted that we also traveled through the second longest tunnel in the world (at least according to Jason). The Gottard tunnel is about eight miles long. We honked the horn the whole way. Not really; but that’s what dad would have done when we were young.
Our first taste of Italy was the city of Lugano which is culturally an Italian city but geographically still on the Switzerland side. It looked like a fun place to visit but we pressed forward as our time was limited and we wanted to see the real Italia. We finally crossed the border and reached the city of Como just after three in the afternoon. It was about seventy five degrees outside and the scenery and setting was absolutely stunning. The city sits on beautiful Lake Como. The lake is in the middle of several descending hillsides. The water was very blue and there were sailboats and people everywhere enjoying the day. We parked about a half mile from the lake and had a nice little walk through the city to get there. The walk was fun except for a little foot cramp that hit Kacie about half way there. All of a sudden she could not walk anymore. She had not complained about anything the entire trip and so we knew something was really bothering her. She had a few very difficult moments and shed a few tears. She had never had a cramp before so she mostly startled and frustrated. It wasn’t long though and Kacie was back and ready to go. I had to carry her on my back for a few minutes. Fortunately, this little rest helped get her foot was back in business.
Our first exciting introduction to the city of Como was walking through the huge Catholic Church located just a few blocks from the lake. The building was very old, intricate, and amazing. It was full of beautiful woods, stained glass, and old marble. It was Sunday so there were many people in and out of the building. The girls were most fascinated by the six confessionals on the left side of the church. They were six booth like structures made of old mahogany. The girls were most mesmerized by the confessional curtains. Five of them were empty but one of them was occupied by an elderly priest. A lady was actively confessing something and the girls were curiously observing from a distance. Diana started teasing Kacie about stealing her pop earlier and about cheating in the “squares game” they were playing in the car on the way. She suggested that Kacie needed to visit the confessional. Kacie thought about it for a moment but not much more. The very thought of it did give her a quick smile.
After the experience in the Catholic Church we went outside and enjoyed the weather and Lake Como for an hour or so. There were people everywhere and it was entertaining just walking around and observing. Italy was very different that Switzerland in several ways. First, it was very hard to find and English speaker here. I was trying to get restaurant recommendations from some of the locals here. I stopped about ten different couples before I found someone who spoke a little English. Even then, they were very difficult to understand. We were starting to get frustrated. We had been anticipating the experience of an authentic Italian meal since we left this morning. Growing impatient due to hunger we decided to just eat in this open air restaurant in the middle what looked like town square. They had large menus on display outdoors with pictures of the different meals available. They looked good. We grabbed an outdoor table and soon were making our orders. The place was called AL’s 2000. We ordered lasagna, ravioli, linguini, etc. We were excited for some real Italian food. Moments later the waiter was bringing our meals two at a time. We were quickly disappointed. The outdoor menus were a huge façade. These meals were coming straight from the Microwave. They were even being served in the original microwave dishes. You could turn the bowl over and read the microwave instructions right on the back. So much for our authentic Italian meal! This was so ridiculous though that we couldn’t help laughing. We did not give up here though. We ate quickly but only enough to just subside our hunger. We still wanted some real Italian food. We started asking around again and were finally let to a pizzeria called Taverna Messicana. We grabbed an outdoor table again. We were more confident this time though as the place was bustling with business both inside and outside. We ordered two large pizzas and some calamari. The pizzas were huge and very different in shape (long and skinny as opposed to round). The kid’s favorite was the Quattro Formaggi pizza (four cheese pizza). Kacie and Jamie even liked the calamari until they learned it was really squid. The most memorable part of the meal was paying the bill. There was like a $15 charge on the bill for coperno. We did not order any coperno so I was confused. When I asked the waiter about coperno, he held up the cloth napkin on our table and frustratingly shook it in our face. Jamie and Lindsi were stunned. When the waiter left, they adamantly insisted we take the napkins with us. It was just another lesson for in customer service here in Europe.
Finally, we were ready to head home. It took us awhile to get out of the city because we needed gas and most gas stations don’t stay open very late around here. Finally, we found some gas just as we crossed the border and we were back in business. The ride back home was interesting but also tiring. Jason decided to take us back the long way so we could pass through the small country of Liechtenstein. He is having a contest with my mom for most countries visited and he wanted to add this patch to his backpack. We took a quick drive through the capital city of Vaduz. There were some amazing castles. It was dark but there were many lights surrounding the castle and they looked quite spectacular. We did not get home until two in the morning. We arrived home to an apartment full of ants. Someone must have left some food around and Diana was not happy. She pulled out the vacuum and was in full cleaning mode in the middle of the night. She was not going to bed until she had evacuated every last ant. Fifteen minutes later she had accomplished her goal and everyone was settling down and finally getting to bed. It was a long but very enjoyable day.