By Laura Németh
Another eventful week has passed here in Manchester and – believe it or not – it was incredibly dry most of the time and sometimes even sunny for half an hour or so! (My already tremendous joy about this has been further enhanced by having heard that it has been rather rainy in Zurich lately) Unfortunately, I am aware that this will hardly impress those among you who are currently on their Erasmus exchange in Italy or Southern France and who have this rather annoying habit of posting weekly bikini pictures on Facebook! Well, I for one am perfectly happy about this – by Mancunian standards – miraculous weather improvement because it means that I will no longer have to walk around with wet feet all day, and my constant handkerchief and Ricola (yes, they are everywhere!) consumption has already decreased massively over the last couple of days. The change of weather also has a positive effect on our studies because the seminar discussions are no longer interrupted every 5 minutes by the majority of us deafeningly coughing in unison or by someone desperately running to the bathroom to get some water due to a particularly bad coughing fit – both of which rather gives one the impression of being in a sanatorium for terminally lung-damaged people rather than in an actual university.
So thanks to the weather, most of us have finally managed to recover from what is officially called “The Fresher’s Flu” (and it being almost week 4 now, this is a rather tedious illness indeed) and for myself, this meant that I was fortunately able to participate in what was definitely my highlight of the week – a wedding! As a new member of the university’s gospel choir – officially the best university gospel choir in the UK that has just recently defeated Oxford and Cambridge in a national competition, I must mention, having been infected by the spirit of competitiveness of the universities over here – I already got the chance of singing at the wedding of a friend of our amazing conductor – a black & beautiful, inspiring, soulful and funny woman not unlike Whoppi Goldberg in “Sister Act” at all – only more beautiful and with a very, very pronounced Mancunian accent. We practiced a lot this past week (almost 9 hours!) but it was great fun and everyone was soo excited about “The Wedding”. The clou about this wedding was that it took place in Victoria Baths – a newly restored and historically protected, beautiful 100-year-old bath that is described by my handy guide book as “that fragile old dame of splashing and swimming”. Long story short: the wedding and the singing took place in a swimming pool! It admittedly sounds a bit weird, but it is a very nice swimming pool indeed with blue and green mosaic tiles and it is placed within this impressive Victorian building that is flooded with light from the top and there were a lot of flowers and it was all very, very romantic and beautiful and the acoustics where great too! The only drawback, I should think, was that the building is unheated (it was actually colder in the building than outside) and it being October and Manchester I would have frozen to death if I had been the bride but fortunately she was British and so didn’t seem to have any problem with the piercing cold at all.
Our singing was a surprise from the bride to all the guests including her husband and I think everyone loved it although it is sometimes hard to tell with British people because only a few of them were dancing or indeed moving at all even though our performance was, without exaggeration, like in “Sister Act” (we even sung “Oh Happy Day” with all the clapping and clicking and dancing!) but I guess their being British must be taken into account as mitigating circumstances – and most of them were smiling and taking pictures, so I guess they did like it after all. And fortunately there were a few Indian people as well plus the odd lovely old lady and some younger women with these funny feathers on their head who really seemed to enjoy it; danced and sung along and bravely (if, however, futilely) attempted to encourage their husbands to join in as well. And of course, there was no stopping the kids – which goes to prove that the British stiffness is nothing genetically inherited but a cultural thing, really. Anyway, our choir certainly had fun and every rehearsal I am amazed afresh what an incredible lively and energetic group of people I have found here in the cold, cold north where I would least have expected it. Well, I am all the more happier for it!
Apart from the wedding, it has been a good week as well and I finally got back my energy that has been kept at bay by my prolonged fresher’s flu. I finally went to a proper dancing class (modern) which was fun even though there are some aspects about it which I daresay will take me some time to get used to and which remind me that there are some Swiss luxuries which I really miss here (and which I didn’t realise were luxuries in the first place before coming here, really…). For example, such simple things as the floor, which I have never really given any thought to in all my eight years of dancing in Zurich except for noticing that some floors (linoleum) were stickier than others (parquet). Well, here the dancing venue is in a club and it has – without joking – a stone floor that is not only ice cold but also covered with dozens of trampled down chewing gums. So you can imagine that I was slightly irritated – dancing barefoot as you normally do in modern is out of the question (at least for me, not for the dancing teacher!) not only because it’s really rather dirty but also because I believe you are bound to catch the next cold when you spend over an hour with naked feet on it . “No problem at all!” I thought, “luckily I brought my dancing shoes with me!” Dancing shoes unfortunately do not really help if half of the class is spent on the floor with “warm-up” exercises; which is a rather ironic way of describing what they actually do to your body so that you are shivering by the time you actually start dancing. But there you go; what does not kill you makes you stronger and I guess that also applies to surviving 30 minutes of stretching sparingly clothed on an icy, dirty and chewing gum covered stone floor. Although I must admit that I am already considering to go to ballet next week simply because of the fact that it is a more upright dance. Or else I could always try the notoriously famous “Bikram Yoga” as a counter cure; which means practicising Hatha yoga in a 40 degree room which apparently every Mancunian must try at least once (but for most it’s really a one-off experience and not one of the most pleasant kind either). It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted (also considering the fact the sweltering heat is combined with the floor of the studio being covered by a carpet. Uuugh!).
So. That was a very brief account of just some of the rather interesting sporting facilities that the city boasts. I think I am unfortunately running out of words and time by now but I do plan to tell you more about my crazy flatmates and maybe even about the academic sex obsession that obviously does not only exist in Zurich next week. So come back soon!
Goodbye now, luv! (as they say here…)
Hugs from Manchester,