Archive for August, 2010

Let’s start with the obligatory apology for our missing Toes. Then let’s follow it up by these words: seven days of Spain; one international move; 5,000 miles; 9-hour time zone change; hello California.

In just three short days (or three very long days, depending on what ungodly hour our extremely screwed up circadian rhythms have woken us at), we’ve experienced more culture shock than so-called “foreign” Switzerland offered us in an entire week.

In one hand, we delight at things like fantastic customer service (I’m pretty sure there’s no Swiss translation for this because well, it just doesn’t seem to exist) and the amazing produce and health food that rings in cheaper than the no-name foods in CH. And hey, the same mascara that cost me $17 in Basel cost me a whopping $2.50 yesterday in Target. But then we drive down the six-lane concrete jungle (otherwise known as the 101) and I feel a little sick to my stomach. I think “what have we done!?!” and I want to fly right back to my European life of trams, trains and pedestrian districts. We stop in for a muffin and tea at a local cafe (one of the few non-franchised we could find) and laugh to each other at the sheer monstrosity that is an American bagel (I think it had the circumference of a Frisbee). We grimaced at the sight of a man zipping by us, paper coffee cup in hand, talking on his Bluetooth ear piece. We realized that in our entire year of living in Europe, we never once saw a Bluetooth ear piece. And the only people toting “to go” coffee were tourists. Because Europeans know how to stop for a few minutes to have a coffee and make a phone call. Possibly not even at the same time! {gasp!}

But I digress. The point of this post was to giggle at the fact that I’m feeling 16 again as I study for my Learner’s permit to drive a car in California. My BC license expired while in Switzerland and when your out-of-country license expires here, you have to go through the testing process to be licensed in CA. This should be fun! (not).

We all woke up at 2:30am this morning (hey body clock, you fail) and so I figured it would be a good idea to study for the written test I’m taking today. I’ve driven for 15 years and have two classes of license (regular + motorcycle) but I’m still nervous about passing the stupid thing. Unfortunately, they like to put questions about ridiculous one-off scenarios that have a 1:549130819574 chance of happening just to put you in your place. For a 16-year-old who thinks they know everything, this isn’t such a bad thing. For a non-resident soccer mom who just wants to drive her kids around in the minivan, this is a major inconvenience.

But as I read through the manual, I caught myself saying “wow, good thing I read that!” and perhaps it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. For instance, this little excerpt from the U-Turn section:

Never make a U-turn:
• At or on a railroad crossing.
• Where a “No U-Turn” sign is posted.
• When other vehicles may hit you.
• On a one-way street.

Wow, thank you Department of Motor Vehicles California.  That could have been embarrassing.


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Seems like the last thing for me to sell is my annual membership at the local fitness club and it will be one of the first things I find in California. Nothing beats putting the kids in a (fun) daycare for a few hours while Mommy pumps some iron and then relaxes in the Cafe with a post-workout latte.

Exercising in a European gym has definitely had it’s interesting moments.  Although my bicep curls and squat thrusts are the same no matter what part of the world I’m in, pretty much every other aspect of the gym has produced it’s own type of culture shock.

Gym Speak Canada Switzerland
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Cost $50/month is pretty average. If you included the $6/hour it cost having my kids in the daycare, my membership soared to over $100 per month. Not cool. No monthly payment plan here! In Switzerland, they expect you to have your financial crap together so you pay for the year up front. CHF 70/month includes a better quality facility AND unlimited daycare access.
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Attire Pretty much a guarantee that when you walk into a west-coast Canadian gym, you’ll find 8 out of 10 women wearing Lulu Lemon (much to the delight of the male gym-goers). Do you know what it feels like to be the only woman in the entire building (heck, this entire city!) wearing the coveted Lulu magic?! If you’ve never seen your rear in a pair of Lulu’s, you have no idea what I’m talking about. And that’s what’s so glorious about it.
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Amenities For my aforementioned $100, I got a crappy little daycare where the chick talked on her cell phone the entire time she was with my kids (darn you stupid contract!) and some decent equipment around 5-10 years old. Let’s do it up Swiss-style. Gleaming hardwood floors, a plethora of shiny new equipment and weights, a pool and a ton of other amenities that I haven’t even bothered to use. Like, the co-ed sauna. Sorry, the mandatory nude co-ed sauna. (Because honestly, bathing suits are such a hassle). And plus, this photo on the gym’s homepage really brings out the dudes.
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Members Women Only gyms are easy to find in NA. Perhaps impossible here. My last gym had a ladies’ floor so you could do those bent-over rows without worrying about some juice monkey checking out your Lulu-Hotness (although, they were distracted by the other 20 Lulu-clad women in the place, anyway). Other than the über-hairy Eastern Europeans that keep me from ever stepping foot into the whirlpool, it’s mainly old people working out when I do. Well, them and the Spandex Guy.

Every day. Same spandex.

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Oy! In my experience, the most shocking thing you’ll find in a Canadian gym is a woman exercising sans t-shirt and just a sports bra.

That amount of skin attracts a lot of stares and most self-respecting women just don’t want to be bothered, no matter how rockin’ their six-pack is.

It’s been five months and I think I’m finally desensitized to the most shocking part of working out here. The pool is in the basement level and the change rooms are on the main floor above it. The stairs and (glass) elevator wind their way up through the middle of the main entrance and weight machine areas.

If I had a nickel for every hairy, old guy I’ve witnessed walk up in nothing but a towel casually wrapped around their waist, I’d be building my own gym.

Focusing on the last set of killer tricep extensions is hard enough without some old guys’ butt crack getting in the way.

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