Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sickness Leads to Homesickness

I thought this post would be about our glamorous weekend trip to Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. I would've posted pictures of Mickey and I soaking up the sun, posing in front of Lake Lugano, devouring plates of seafood pasta and would've described the subtle differences between the German-speaking and Italian-speaking Swiss. Unfortunately, this post will have to wait because just days before we were scheduled to leave, my body was overtaken by a vicious virus and we had to cancel our plans. Sure, I was mildly disappointed that I wouldn't experience the region that boasts about its Italian charm AND Swiss efficiency, but when you feel as ill as I did, folks, you don't even care. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and never come out.

But to my utter dismay, I just couldn't get comfortable. Sitting now in our house in San Jose is a sofa that Mickey bought in his pre-Alane life that I always complained about because of its greenish hue or lack thereof. Let me declare to the world that I will never utter an unkind word about this couch again. You see, the two sofas in our flat here in Switzerland are both leather, very modern and not at all comfortable. While awkwardly trying to prop myself up on the Swiss couch, I longed for the once disputed San Jose sofa and the way it allows one to sink in and forget about the world. Perhaps we Americans are a nation of couch potatoes simply because our couches are that appealing.

So the sofa wasn't my favorite place to binge-watch old episodes of The Office, but what about the bed? Sadly, the bed wasn't the ideal location for sick-central either. I believe the Swiss have a more practical attitude toward sleep and interior design in general than do Americans. They have no need for fancy headboards or decorative pillows; Swiss beds are simple and low to the ground. Because Swiss beds don't come with top sheets, making one only involves folding the duvet at the foot of the bed and straightening the pillow. I can see the efficiency in this manner of sleeping and making the bed, but when I was sick I started fantasizing about the ideal American bed. I decided it was California king sized and conjured the image of sleeping in a palace on a cloud. It is a work of art with a satiny quilt and mountains of pillows. It is so ridiculously inviting that when you climb in and curl up, it almost hugs you back.

The real life bed that inspired my fantasy is my mom's bed and I wished desperately for the ability to teleport myself directly there. This is not only because it belongs to my mother, the woman who has always taken care of me with great love and tenderness, but also because she has a high quality mattress, familiar blankets, soft pillows and a TV with digital cable that faces the bed. I really don't know how I would have recovered without iTunes and the freedom it gave us to download old television shows. Our Swiss TV has one and a half English language channels; one of them is CNN and the half is MTV (half of the programs are dubbed over in German). Can you imagine trying to get well while watching CNN? I think it would have made me feel worse. :)

I spent part of my illness on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet and, as you can imagine, that got old really fast. The strange thing is, I developed cravings for foods that I never dreamed I would miss. One of them, I am ashamed to admit, is the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit from the McDonalds breakfast menu. I loved McDonalds as a kid, but as I grew older, read Fast Food Nation and watched Super Size Me, the Nuggies and Big Macs seemed less tantalizing and eventually, less like real food at all. I haven't eaten there in years and then last week I got sick and all I could think about were those delicious, fatty, salty, fluffy little dreams wrapped in wax paper. Guiltily, I visited three of Zurich's McDonalds, but none of them sold BE&CBs so I'll have to wait until I return to the US of A to satisfy this unusual and unhealthy craving.

It was also while ailing that I realized that Switzerland doesn't have sandwiches. I know, you're thinking that's impossible, right? If you have all the ingredients for your favorite sandwich, you put them together and voila, a sandwich. No, I am much too lazy for that. I want to be able to walk into a cafe or deli at lunchtime and order a sandwich on my choice of roll with my choice of sliced meat and cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, mustard, mayonnaise, the works. Swiss eateries don't sell sandwiches like this. You may find a roll with either meat or cheese in a bakery, but you'll never find an over the top chicken club, cheese steak or meatball sandwich. Lunch is the main meal of the day here in Switzerland and sandwiches are just snacks at best, so most people eat pasta and other hot dishes as a midday meal. I bet I'm not the only expat in town who grew up on sandwiches and perhaps opening a fantastic deli in Zurich is a million dollar idea waiting to happen.

Until then, I am envisioning the joyous day I will return to the US. I will cry when I give little Giugiu a farewell hug and say goodbye to our amazing friends here, but when I walk down the jet way at JFK International I will kiss the ground, salute Old Glory and drive my Hummer straight to the closest McDonalds serving breakfast. Okay, maybe not, but I will never fail to appreciate a comfy couch or a decent sandwich.


AllisonDacia said...

This post makes me worry that I am going to starve to death while I'm there! I am going to bring with me a lot of food. Baby needs to eat :)

Nan said...

I treasure your loving remarks about me and my bed. There is just something wonderful about one's favorite blankets, snuggling down with clean sheets, 7-up and great non-thinking TV. Price is Right is my favorite get well card.

Lee said...

Being a sick is a bummer, more so when traveling or living abroad. Both Heather & I got sick in S. Korea and let me tell you what a struggle it was to try to find the functional equivalent to Pepto :)