Personal, Switzerland

Belly Up

Oh yes, the sun is shining here in Schaffhausen. But the weather channel says -1C with a real feel of -7C. It was a speedy and brisk walk by the Rhein on my way home from school yesterday. The sun was setting behind me after another looong Tuesday meeting and I was ready to snuggle up in my writing chair with some chai tea and a skype conversation with ali.

The walk-way was busy, people were out and about, biking, sitting on benches, staring at the icy cold river. The sun does weird things to people and they forget that it is BELOW FREEZING AGAIN. No bother. I looked to my right at the ducks dipping their heads beneath the crystal waters, flowing quickly towards the dam. They seemed happy to have somehow landed in this nice village by the river. They live carefree, floating from one place to the next. Sometimes they get too close to the dam, they get lazy with their waddling in the waters, and the current sucks them in and they paddle for their lives. I see this in the mornings, when I feel like school is sucking me towards it and I need to paddle the other way too.

This fine evening, there were no ducks being whisked into the current. They seemed content. I looked closer. I saw a very white duck just bobbing about. Without a head. No. Wait. It was belly up. It’s head was somewhere beneath the water. No other ducks were swimming with this duck. He was bobbing on his own. He was dead. Sure, I expect these things, especially near the mouth of the dam.


Welcome to my world. First it was SARS in Thailand (remember those white doctors’ masks we had to wear the day before we closed the school an entire week early for Spring Break?!) and now it is Bird Flu in Switzerland. Yes. Switzerland doesn’t make it to the world news often -I’m not sure why, does neutrality make it that invisible?- I mean, we all know that Germany and France have been struck with Bird Flu. But let’s not forget Switzerland. A few weeks ago -yes- we were told Bird Flu had been found in some dead birds a few villages away. But NO ONE had told me it was in SCHAFFHAUSEN.

I couldn’t stop staring at the bright, white belly, framed with shiny black fur. It could have been a penguin. If I was in Antartica. Which I felt like I was. ‘What do I do?’ I thought to myself. ‘Who do I call? Aren’t I supposed to report this to someone? I can’t speak Swiss German. I can’t even read and understand the bright red WARNING signs posted near the river. I mean I understand HN51 or whatever it’s called.’ I decided to go home. And tell the ladies in the office the next morning. And not to eat the eggs in my fridge.* Just in case.

*eating eggs is not a hazard in regards to Bird Flu, but I don’t feel very excited about them. I almost didn’t buy them, but I am baking brownies this week to take to ali this weekend when I visit for St. Patrick’s day -and wedding plans!!!- so I had to purchase them.