Expat diaries: Den Den reports from Heidiland, Part 8

Posted on December 13, 2010


8. Three Swiss, a dog and a hamster, from January 2010

As I fry a sausage and egg for my late breakfast, Shelby looks at me with dog eyes that mimic those of a skeletal model while she gazes longingly at the fat-rich dinner plates beyond her meagre salad. And it would be understandable if indeed, he were a model by profession, but the truth is that despite being a very well-fed dog, he is, like all dogs, constantly hungry. As I proceed to bend down and grab him, he rolls over onto his back, belly up and begging eyes still persistently looking into mine in an attempt of canine hypnosis, but I have seen this far too many times, so I take him in my arms and place him back onto the sofa. Needless to say, a few seconds after I get back to the kitchen, I hear the soft scampering of paws and claws approaching. When I sometimes do give him a scrap of food (against the strict orders of the owners – hey, I am human after all) he gulps it down without even attempting to chew it and then looks at me even more ravenously than before.
When still hung over by too much sleep, I sit down (on my bed, in front of my laptop) to enjoy the product of my morning cooking, Shelby diligently follows and pretends to have lost his understanding of where the door lies when I point towards it, and settles instead under my bed. Michelle, my flatmate, calls him from the living room but he conveniently ignores her. She is playing a Wii game, whiling away the hours of her newly unemployed days. We don’t speak much, not because we don’t like each other, but because she knows very little English and me non-existent German. All in all, we end up smiling an awful lot to each other in the absence of the language skills to say anything else but ‘Can I take one of your eggs?’ and ‘Can you look for Shelby tomorrow because I work?’
I pick up my empty plate and walk to the kitchen. Of course, having rediscovered the presence of the door, Shelby follows. The distinct sound of shuffling straw soon catches my and Shelby’s attention. Brocolli the hamster is awake and has just wobbled to the edge of his cage where he is now sniffing expectantly. I take a bit of my fresh bread and feed it to him through the cage bars. He takes it and nibbles at it for the next 5 minutes. When I open the cage and offer him my hand he also nibbles a bit at my finger. Usually this feels only like a tickle, but sometimes, apparently, he comes across a particularly tasty bit and latches on with all his jaw power. When I feel like life is a bitch and am fed up, I always look for Broccoli, scoop him up in my cupped hands and hold him to my face, longing to feel his delicate whiskers against my skin as he sniffs me. For some reason, that never fails to make me forget whatever had been troubling me a few seconds before.
I know that in a few hours my other flatmate Gino will come back from work. I know for a fact that he will deposit his Swiss bum on the sofa and hardly get up until the end of the day. I know this because that’s what he always does during the week, whether it is sunny, snowing or the apocalypse outside. Every couple of weeks I see him walking in with a trolley carrying about 12 six packs of beer, his regular companion during his sofa marathons. I smile as I chew on my Swiss chocolate bar, my Swiss best friend for my facebook marathons.
The missing member of the household, the other Swiss, my beloved Swiss, is somewhere South-West in the country, serving his three weeks of military service. It never fails to amuse me how a neutral country and one which survived practically unscratched through both world wars still feels the need to spend billions on compulsory military service and then never really considers having a free health care system. During the course of the day we exchange a few messages where we complain about our reciprocal boredom, as we tick off day after day of futile separation, and as the snow keeps falling on and on, now ready to stay for the next couple of months and pile day after day onto my balcony.

– Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com