Saturday, June 28, 2008

Albert visits his relatives

I am so sorry that I have not updated my blog for a few days, but I have quite a good reason. Albert, our new puppet friend, has decided to come to Milwaukee, and he wanted to say goodbye to his relatives in Switzerland before taking his big trip. We traveled to Obersteinberg, where his cousin and aunt and uncle live. we have been staying with them for the past couple of days, and in the mountain inn that they run, there is no electricity or internet. I am now in a neighboring town, and have a chance to write and tell you about all that I have learned.

First of all, Albert's cousin, Julian is in fantastic shape- he hikes up a mountain every day from school. The Swiss are very conscious about keeping fit and active.

Secondly, the more I talked with and spent time with Albert and his cousin, the more I realize what a commitment they feel to the beauty of their country. For example, when we were walking, Julian noticed a cloth that was lying on the ground in a pasture. Without hesitating, he ran to it and picked it up, and later threw it away.

Also, whenever I asked him what cetain flowers were called, he always knew the answer. I was so impressed with his ability to name each of the wildflowers that grew in his region- there were so many! I felt quite inspired to learn the trees and common flowers in Milwaukee when I return home.

One of the neatest things that I saw when I was in Obersteinberg was the process of cheese-making! Albert's Uncle Hansel is an expert cheese maker, and I got to observe the entire process from start to finish!! We started in the morning with milking cows. From there, the milk went into a giant copper kettle over a fire, where it was warmed to a certain temperature. After much stirring and reheating, the milk turned into curds and whey (yes, as in Little Miss Muffet!). Hansel then separated the curds from he whey, and pressed the curds into a giant cheese mold. He flipped this several times throughout the day until most of the whey was gone. (They feed the whey to the pigs.) The next day, Albert's aunt Vicky takes the mold off and puts the whole wheel in a big bucket of salt water, which helps preserve it and give it flavor. Two days later, she removes it from its "salt bath", rubs it down with pepper, and puts it in storage for a a few weeks before it is ready to eat. (If you didn't get that, don't worry- I have video footage!)

There is so much to say about my time with Albert's relatives in the mountains, but I don't want to risk you losing interest, so I will save it for tomorrow!

(Note: I have a boatload of pictures from the past few days, but am unable to load them at this time. I will do so as soon as I can, though!!)


Carolyn Lengh said...

It was enjoyable to read your words about Switzerland and cheese making. On their SW Wis. trip in the spring, the 4th graders visit a Swiss village and see a special building that houses Swiss cheese making items including the big coppper kettles you spoke about in your blog. Your video will be a welcome lesson before they go next year. Our Swiss AFS student gave us a large bell worn by the Swiss cows in the mountains. Did you see or hear any of those bells while you were there? So good to hear you are well.

M. Stratton Norman said...

We hope it's not too late in your trip to ask a question. The summer has barely begun, it seems, and yet it's already flying by. Ellie's question is:

What kind of chapter books do 1st & 2nd graders read in France?

We can't wait to meet Albert!

Safe and happy travels to you from the Normans.