April 14, 2009

In Zurich

Here is where I'm staying in Zurich.  I'm on the top, top floor visible on the very right hand side of the photo closest to the sky.  The view of the city is wonderful and it's very quiet with everyone away.  Since I have much work to do for the upcoming retreats, I'm glad of the time to finish the materials.

My camera was damaged in travels and it's an old Olympus 3X about six years old and probably not worth repairing.  I'll have to think about a new one while here or borrow other people's photos to attach to the blog.  I'm working off old photo files and I haven't any shots at the moment of the real city before me.  It's a quite wonderful view of the hillside with church spires and castle-like structures clustered in the trees.  The apartment building is on a tram line so I have only to walk downstairs and grab a lift to downtown.  I could also walk.  It's only about four stops.

Spring is far more advanced here than in Olympia.  Weather is warm and a bit sultry with the feel of rain coming, but still the sun shines.  A fellow who is a friend of the man who lives next door to my sister in Olympia lives downstairs.  It's a very small world.  I do at least have someone I can call on should I need help.  Bob speaks German so he can negotiate for me if need be.  Mostly, though I'm quite able to get along as almost everyone speaks English.

Monday was a national holiday and I walked along the lake where it was teeming with people strolling in the gorgeous sun.  All kinds of people were out.  Zurich is deeply international and you might hear five or six languages within a few feet of walking.  At the children's playground you are likely to run into at least five different languages in any visit.  When people engage with one another you simply fall into the language that someone speaks.  Mostly it's English when it's a group of non-Swiss.  But, the Swiss are very accommodating and will simply find the common language in any group and fall into it as easily as silk.  How I envy their facility with an array of languages.   I'm so happy that my grandchildren are trilingual now as it trul
y makes them global citizens.  They will add one more language this year. 

I have no real sense if there is any economic turndown in Switzerland because I just don't go shopping here nor do I eat out.  The prices at restaurants are breathtaking and that makes it not so much fun.  Nicolas, my son-in-law, did Chinese take out for the family a few weeks ago and it was 86CH (Swiss francs).  With the dollar as it is, that's about $86 dollars for one take out meal.  When the family first moved, Nicolas and Ellen, my daughter, got a hankering for burritos since they had lived very close to the Mission in SF where they ate regularly.  Nicolas went out hunting for them in Zurich and returned with two burritos for $48.  You just don't do that very often.  I suppose with the salaries it's all relative, but this has to be one of the most expensive cities in the world.  The family has learned to eat most of their meals at home.

On Thursday I'm going to Luzern where I'll travel by boat to Vitznau then switch to the funicular to the Rigi mountain.  It's the top of the world with a straight on view of the Alps and the Eiger and Jungfrau in the second row of mountains.  The retreat center is built by Vanya Palmers, a Soto Zen transmitted priest of Kobun Roshi lineage.  Some of Kobun Roshi's ashes are there on a lovely, quiet hillside meadow overlooking the lake.  There's a very special atmosphere around his stupa which is not easy to find unless you know or are shown the way.  The zendo was designed by 
Paul Discoe of Berkeley then piece by piece was helicoptered to the top of the mountain since there's no other way to get there.  The funicular could not haul such gear and lumber.  It's an exquisite zendo with a dormitory on the lower floor.  There's a dokusan room on the third floor.

I'll fill you in more as I go along and when I return to Zurich, I'll borrow my daughter's camera and give you more photos of the city.   I'll try to write again tomorrow as I don't believe there is wireless coverage at Felsentor.  You can check out the retreat center at www.felsentor.ch
By the way, I said to some of you that Kobun Roshi said:  "The mountains belong to those who love them."  But, actually it was a quote from Dogen Zenji in Shobogenzo, "On the Spiritual Discourses of the Mountains and Water."