The Crying Virgin

The Crying Virgin

Statues and portraits of the Virgin Mary crying are common throughout España. I grew up Catholic but had never seen a crying Virgin Mary before. Our friend from Madrid said that the Crying Virgin goes back to the Spanish Inquisition, justifying the Inquisition’s actions.

I think it went like this: “See how the Virgin is crying because you’re not Catholic? Let’s get out the torture instruments!”

Sevilla, España

View from the roof top of the Catedral de Sevilla.  The sign said one had only to walk up 14 ramps to the top, but it was 34 ramps! One courageous woman walked to the top using a walker.

A Little Side Trip To Germany

When you rent an apartment in Zurich, Switzerland, there is a very real likelihood that it won’t have closets or light fixtures.  This means that one of the first things you have to do, once you sign the lease and pick up the keys, is buy lights and wardrobes to put your clothes in, unless you like tossing them on the floor in the dark.  Shows like Downton Abbey (which I am currently watching on the British channel, sorry, American fans) have grand ornate wardrobes.  No relatives on either side left us a title or furniture, so we bought three white laminate IKEA wardrobes from the current tenants of the apartment. Still not enough closet space for an average American couple and then someone said Go to Germany!

Saturday morning, our new friends Enrico and Tatiana drove us to Dogern, Germany home of Mobel Markt.  We could buy furniture made by different German makers at Euro prices, with free delivery AND they would figure out the sales tax for you.  For once, it was cheaper to pay Swiss tax than German tax.

Our finds:Our wardrobe won’t have the mirror.

To store groceries in because there isn’t enough space in the kitchen.

Canoe turned into a wine cabinet.  Very German according to my friend.  And no, I didn’t buy it.  Wasn’t even tempted.

On the way home, Enrico stopped at a flower farm by the Swiss border.
Tatiana and I got out to pick flowers.

Honor system coin box. 1chf a flower.

Oh, did I mention that we also stopped at a grocery store in Germany and hubby was feeling a little homesick for the Cubs and couldn’t resist:

Is that crazy or what? What is the weirdest “American” thing you’ve found in your travels?

Puerto Ricans Arrive in Zurich

Air shipment

When my air shipment arrived, I got two years of my life back.  Two years that I’d spent researching the Puerto Rican migration to Hawaii circa 1900 which is the subject of my new novel.  As soon as I got the boxes, I opened the first one and a huge bug crawled out.  First, I screamed, then, I tried to kill it with my soft ballet type slipper which was the only thing I had handy.  You know how insects are, if you don’t kill them right away, you dream that you metamorphosed into a huge, ugly bug.  And that book has already been written.

The content in the boxes is not necessary to enjoying the beautiful city of Zurich, but it is essential to the writing of my novel. Copies of documents and personal histories in both English and Spanish that have educated this novelist filled two large boxes.  Included in the priceless stash is the unpublished thesis from the 1980s by anthropologist Norma Carr on Puerto Ricans in Hawaii.  Mrs. Carr was one of the first to research the subject and interview descendents of the first Puerto Rican migrants.

Jibaros and other necessary things.

The shipment also included copies of articles published in 1900 by newspapers like the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle which reported on the anemic and sorry looking Puerto Rican “natives” recruited to work in the sugar cane plantations.

One volume that would have been practically impossible to replace is a coveted copy of the history of the San Ciriaco Hurricane from the University of Puerto Rico which is in my possession only through the grace and effort of a kind anthropologist friend and her enterprising student.

Now I’ve got everything I need: my research, pen and paper, a balcony overlooking the busy Hoschgasse, and unlimited cups of espresso. It’s a gorgeous sunny day in Zurich but I feel like writing a hurricane.

A Latina Writer in Zurich

I’ve always wanted to live in Europe, of course, I was thinking Paris, but Zurich is only a four hour train ride to Paris.  And Zurich is very clean and it has the lake.  I can’t say that it reminds me of my own Lake Michigan because on the other side of the lake is another district of Zurich. When I stood on the beach in Chicago and looked out into the water it was blue for eternity  From the tip of Lake Zurich to the north I can see the Swiss Alps as a backdrop.  It’s as different as could be from my beloved Chicago and the flatness of Illinois, my home state, but that’s what I like most about it.

I was thrilled to make a change, to start a new adventure,  eager to live amongst people wholly different from myself (as Jane Austen might have said), pleased to be challenged to live a new life style in a country thousands of miles from my comfortable American life.  We sold our cars, packed up our furniture–moved some, stored some–, kissed our mothers, children, family, and friends. And here we are, hubby and me, living in temporary housing until we move into our two bedroom apartment which will be our home as long as we’re in Zurich.  Our furniture is making its slow way to us by sea. My small air shipment is held up in customs because of my stash of vitamins.  Maybe the Swiss don’t take vitamins?  Or maybe they don’t take as many as I do.

I don’t speak Swiss German or German and I can’t understand the simple questions the cashiers at the grocery stores or the chocolate shops ask me.  But, I’m beginning to recognize the many different Swiss coins and I know the route to the only health food store in town. I know I’ll get the hang of living in Zurich Read more