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Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.
Continued from Part 1...
Apart from the children, who were generally great fun, the main reason I headed to Basel was for the Herbstmäss- the autumn market which is one of the traditions of Basel. E-D is friends with the President of the Basel Church History society, (or something like that), and so he was able to get us into the opening ceremony of the Herbstmäss-,which takes place at the top of the belltower of the Martinkirche (St Martin’s Church) in the old town.
The bells of the Martinkirche are rung at midday on the first day of the Herbstmäss and at the end of the market at the end of the week. A local Basel citizen is chosen to be the bell-ringer, and as payment for his duty, he gets a pair of black gloves. BUT. But. He receives one after ringing the opening bells, and then the second one to complete the pair when he rings the bells at the end of the market. He also gets to wear a little horn-shaped trumpet around his neck for the duration of the market.
The Herbstmäss involves lots of fairground rides in the little squares around the Old Town, and the town was full of neatly-dressed Swiss families (3-year olds in Fubu and Armani being pushed around in Audi baby buggies, that sort of thing) all earnestly munching on candyfloss (Zückerwatte/ barbe de papa) and making their way between the various attractions. There are sausage and chocolate stands everywhere, and the main market, where you can buy all sorts of things at Swiss prices. One stall just sold Advent Calendars, and they even had these really small ones, perfect for putting in envelopes (one of them is in this letter, if I remember to put it in).
However, I shouldn’t be too harsh on Switzerland- I really enjoyed the change from the dogpoo and baguettes and Peugeots that you find in my town. AND the drivers in Switzerland are polite and STOP for pedestrians. Everything works, there are no strikes (Switzerland has 1% unemplyment, and those are just the cuckoos for whom a clock has not yet been built), and the place is CLEAN. H dropped a piece of chocolate on the pavement, K picked it up straight away and H ate it without question. In France, a piece of chocolate that was dropped would probably fall into something else that is brown.
I’ve just about run out of things to say for the moment, so until I hear from you, keep safe and have fun whatever you’re doing!
I am imagining that you will have received the letter that I sent care of your parents by now. If you haven’t, then ask whether something from France has arrived for you in C.P. scribbled by a confused kiwi. It explains sort of how I ended up here and a little bit about what I have been up to. The first month has raced by SO fast. I’m still getting used to the idea of teaching kids and still have a couple of things to do to complete all my arrival duties (apparently I have a Social Security number now, but the school hasn’t told me what it is.) No major problems and everyone continues to be very friendly and I have eaten far too much choucroute and raclette. I haven’t been able to weigh myself, but I am convinced that I have put on weight (if you can imagine that...).
I have spent a few days «on holiday» in Basel because it’s les vacances de Toussaint this week.... it was really good to get out of T. for a little while: it’s a small place and there is not a terrible lot to do here when you have holidays. I spent Friday night in Mulhouse with the host family of my NZ friend S, whom I visited in 1999 after my stay in Grenoble... That night I went out with J (S's host sister, who has spent a year in NZ) and her boyfriend and some of their friends to a concert in central Mulhouse: the main band was Strasbourgeois, a group called «Weeper’s Circus»- a mix of medieaval, celtic styles, Brel/Brassens-influenced chanson and little «coups de théâtre» which were very funny. Lyrics went way over my head but it was lots of fun anyway.