Miniature Toilets, Pregnancy Tests, and Bellwald Switzerland by Ami Gates 7/11/14
Switzerland, and especially the Alps, is one of our favorite locations to visit. In the mountain towns like Interlaken and Bellwald, the spring and summer months are beyond beautiful. There are very few cars, incredibly fresh air, beautiful and endless fields of wild flowers, and quaint villages dotted with houses nestled on the sides of the mountains.
When we first traveled to Bellwald, we were coming from Livigno, Italy. The drive (normally) is about 4 hours and traverses over the Alps, which is magnificent and often surreal, with ice lakes and giant walls of ice and snow. On a cool day in June, we set off from Livigno about noon and expected to arrive around 4 or 5 pm in Bellwald Swizerland. We had a bit of food and water for the drive, and all of our luggage. We then learned that June is not summer in the mountains, and travel is not as expected.
After driving for 3.5 hours, we were nearly there and looking forward to a meal and a shower. As we continued, we started to notice that in the opposite direction was the largest traffic jam I have ever witnessed (and I have driven in LA and Orlando). At first, we were surprised, then we were amazed, then be were befuddled. I noted to Jeremy that I was so glad we were not going in “that” direction because the one road was fully blocked up for over 50 miles with nowhere else to go. People had begun playing sports outside their cars, several people abandoned their cars to have coffee at a nearby café, and the Frenchies were smoking and looking very put out.
No sooner had we thanked the universe that we were not on that road, the road that we were on suddenly ended. A very large metal bar was locked over the road, and even though I tried, I could not move it. There were also warning signs – something about death and snow – hard to read in German. OK, let’s not panic. Clearly we cannot go back and we cannot drive around the barricade due to the large cliffs and death warnings.
Of course, and with his usual calmness, Jeremy checked the phone map and determined that if we drive “around” for an extra 3 hours, we can get to our destination. This was not the best news, but we agreed. But again, after 3.5 hours of driving, our road stopped suddenly and was blocked. “You have got to be @^*#^&# kidding!!” I insisted. As we had pulled over to face our nemesis, I then tried to shake and move the metal bar with vigor. During my tantrum, Jeremy calmly looked at his phone map and requested that I return to the car. Then, while I debated eating a 3 day old cookie that I found in the glove box, Jeremy then gave me two choices.
Choice 1 was to go back to Italy, drive through Lake Como, and around to Switzerland from the other side. Choice 2 was to get a hotel and hope that the cluster jam that we passed was cleared up – which was not likely. We decided to drive back to Italy, all the way through North Italy, and then into Switzerland from the other side. After 12 hours of driving, we arrived in Switzerland and got a hotel to sleep.
The next day, we returned our car to the rental place and took the train to our mountain (Bellwald). There, we intended to take the Funicular up the mountain. However, upon arriving, we discovered that the funicular was not running. So there we were, two days of travel, no food, no car, lots of luggage, freezing weather, and no way to get up the mountain. To make matters worse, Jeremy’s leg had frozen up due to driving a 5-speed up the Alps (three times) with winter hiking boots on for 12 hours.
At this point I thought it best to do the “Oh Crap” dance. This dance involves saying the word crap over and over again while leaping around like a baboon. This dance continued for some time until it attracted the attention of a girl who happened to be driving up the mountain in her car. I ran toward her car, which alarmed her greatly as I had just been leaping around and yelling crap, and I begged for her to allow two strangers and their luggage into her car. Shockingly, she did, and finally, we arrived.
Our “homeaway” in Bellwald could not have been more perfect. It was down a steep path, surrounded by mountains and wild flowers, and offered mountain views in three directions. The next morning we got some eggs and bacon from the local tiny market but quickly realized that our mountain had no other food shops.
As it turns out, living on top of a mountain limits the availability of food and complicates shopping. As such, to go food shopping, we must first walk to the “funicular”. By the way, a funicular is a large, dangling, pod of sorts that hangs from a loose metal rope about 50-100 feet from the ground, and travels up and down mountains. When the wind blows, the funicular rocks and shakes from side to side.
Once we exit the funicular, we then board the train and sit for an hour listening to loud German. We then exit the train, walk a mile to the store, shop, hang all the bags from Jeremy, and return to the train and then the funicular. Shopping takes 4-6 hours and the cost of the trip is over $100.
During one of our shopping trip train rides, I was not feeling tip top, no doubt due to the up and down, side to side, and rocking of the train. I determined that I had to urinate. Now normally, this is just something I do outside in the woods when no one is looking (ideally). But sadly, I was forced to do this in a train bathroom.
I took a deep breath, gave myself a pep-talk, and entered the train bathroom. The door opened in, but to close the door, I had to mount the tiny metal toilet. Once in, I needed another pep talk. I cannot hover as many females can, as if I hover, there will be no release. As such, I must first cover the seat with a combination of paper and self-deception. Luckily, I found both.
I began the process. I pre-flushed, which refilled the toilet with a liquid of concerning color. I then lined the seat with paper. Just as my rear was an inch from the seat, there was a bump and shake. I was thrust into the door (which was 4 inches from me) and all the paper fell into the toilet. “It’s OK”, I told myself. “Just try again – you can do this”. At first, I looked around. Perhaps I can just pee out a window or into a trash can, but alas, neither was available. I repeated the process. This time, the paper remained on the seat. Then, with paper towels in each hand, and balanced between the two walls on each side, I descended and began. Tragically, in mid-process, there was another shift and large bump which caused a splashing incident.
Every muscle in my body froze, the process stopped, and I was overcome by a mental struggle to ignore what had just happened. I quickly snapped my fingers above my head to make it all disappear. Never again, I swore, never again. If I can’t pee outside, I won’t pee at all!!
Finally, and given the lack of soap, there was nothing left to do but curse loudly and escape the bathroom. But the door opened in. In!! In where?? The bathroom is 2.5ft by 2.5 ft, contains a toilet, and now a very upset Ami. To get the door open, I remounted the toilet and escaped.
By this time, Jeremy, and several other train passengers were very alarmed. Apparently the bathroom is not sound-proof. Upon exiting the bathroom, I was met with a number of judgmental looks. I simply scowled back.
Finally, we arrived in our shopping town (Brig), exited the train, and walked the mile to the store only to discover that all shopping (but not dining) areas are closed on Sunday. Apparently, God is OK with eating, but not shopping or cooking. We returned home empty-handed.
On the following day, we decided to get ourselves to the top of one of the mountains to see a huge glacier that flows between several of the peaks. The name of the glacier is Aletschgletscher. To do this, we traveled over and up for about 2 hours via a train ride and three funiculars. It was truly breath taking. There is such a difference between seeing a picture and really being there and seeing the glacier. This was my first close-up glacier and it was a clear day. The air was crisp and very cool and there was snow on the ground (even in July) due to our altitude. We walked around the area and took hundreds of pictures.
However, once we were ready to depart, we learned that the funicular that brought us up this very high and steep mountain had stopped running and the entire area of deserted. The prospect was ominous. Jeremy also noted that we had a time limit to get down this mountain to the next funicular. In addition, the sun had begun to set behind the mountains and the temperature dropped by more than 20 degrees. We put on all of our extra clothes and began. It took almost 3 hours of steep down-climbing to get to the other funicular. Half way there, my knees were shot, but I had to continue. As such, I became very unpleasant. But oddly, much more unpleasant than normal.
Once we arrived home, we took several days off to recover and to determine why I was so unpleasant. Suddenly, we realized that I was 3 weeks late on my period. So, I quickly got on the Internet to look up symptoms or pregnancy. However, as it turns out, pregnancy is not a disease and the best method for determining infestation is a pregnancy test.
We quickly went to the tiny store on our mountain to find such a test. We looked and looked, but there was nothing but cheese. I thought it best to ask the cashier, who speaks only German. So, I said to her “Excuse me, do you have a pregnancy test?” She looked blankly at me. I repeated the question. She did not smile.
After a few minutes of what appeared to be a non-verbal stare-off, I decided to enact my question with limited German and charades. I leaned back a bit, enacted having a large belly, and said, “mit bebe”, “mit bebe”. She then came out from behind the register, hugged me, and returned. Hmmm, I thought, hugged by a Swiss person.
I tried again. “Nein, I need a test for mit bebe”, “mit bebe test”??
She made a face at me, left for a moment, and returned with condoms. “Well”, I said, “it’s too late for that isn’t it.” She did not answer.
The next day, we decided to hike down to the nearest larger town (Fiesch). It’s a great hike that we have done several times now. It takes about 3.5 hours round trip – down the mountain into the valley town and back up the mountain again.
So on the way down, we had about 1.5 hours to chat, to think, and to reflect on our current situation. While normally I either think about math or being a General and leading a great army, today my thoughts were otherwise occupied. I have never been very maternal and it was not our intention to have a child. However, I am sure that all the mind numbing chemicals produced during the event will convince me that my child is the best in the world.
I thought on.
I really only have two possibilities here, as I am now nearly 4 weeks late. Either I am fat and old and starting premenopause, or I have a parasite growing in my abdomen that I will later have to eject through a very small crevasse. After 10 more minutes of reflection, I was horrified with a sudden and daunting realization. I will not be able to color or blow dry my hair for 9 months!! In an alarmed state, I thought it best to warn Jeremy of this horrible revelation.
I called to him as he was a few feet ahead, and informed him that if it turns out that I am pregnant, I will become fat, round, and overly emotional. I will have ugly hair and will likely be very angry with him during the birth. Finally, I will refuse to let any doctor touch me, so we will need a plastic drop cloth, and he will have to practice reaching into things. In response to this, Jeremy thought for a moment and then asked if my “utters” would get larger.
Now we are back at home, bellies filled with lamb, lentils, and Swiss chard, pregnancy test by the bedside. Tomorrow morning, I will get to pee on a stick, which is better than in a train, and I will discover whether I am just old and fat, or pregnant.
Well??? What happened, you ask?
Let me tell you.
The following morning, I awoke in my semi-conscious state to pee. Having left the pregnancy test near the bed side, I was able to remember to bring it. I opened the test and all the instructions were in German. Luckily, there seemed to be an area that I should pee on.
Peeing on a 2 inch by ½ inch stick, while simultaneously not peeing on the rest of the test, one’s self, or surrounding areas is not an easy task, especially during pre-coffee early morning hours. My first try was a failure that I will not detail. Suffice it to say that I missed the stick completely. After a few tries, I succeeded, set the test down, dried off all the newly moist areas of my person, and waited.
Only one line appeared and therefore I am nicht schwanger. However, just to be on the safe side, Jeremy peed on the stick as well.