Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sixty Days in Suisse - Part VI

Tests, Tickets and Triumph

Week six of Lausanne life rolled around quicker than expected. Having booked my MCTS exam for the Thursday of this week, I spent the days leading up to it frantically trying to make sure I had actually remembered what I had read in the course material, so that I wouldn't make a complete hash of the exam.

To say I was nervous about the exam would be a huge understatement - I was terrified, partly because I hate exams and never feel confident about them, but also because the exam fee is separate to the course cost, meaning every time I sit an exam I have to pay for it (therefore failing and resitting would be quite pricey).

I didn't get much sleep in the days before I was due to take the test, and when the day came I really was not confident that I would pass.

As I made my way to the exam centre (easily accessible thanks to Lausanne's excellent public transport system) I tried some last-minute cramming by looking at MCTS exam tips on the Internet via my iPhone. That didn't help, as all the websites I found kept stating that you had to know the material really well to be able to pass, so my nerves got worse at this point.

I signed in for the exam, and was eventually led into the test room where I was sat in front of a very old looking computer. By this time I had begun to sweat through sheer nerves, and my heart was beating so fast it sounded like a 90's trance tune. I took a deep breathe, cracked my knuckles, said a small prayer and clicked to start the test.

I need not have sweated so much - I passed the test with a good score (getting only one multiple-choice question wrong), and so became a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist in SQL Server 2005. That should look good on my CV.

After all the stress of frantic studying, followed by the sheer joy of passing the exam, I decided I would take it easy on Friday. I took the Metro into Lausanne town centre and had a wander around the shops, not aiming to buy anything but just happy to not be sat staring at my laptop screen. Whilst in the town I noticed that the shop Globus had a "British Christmas" theme, so stepped inside to take a look.

Coming from Britain, I was curious to see what the Swiss idea of a British Christmas would be, but was surprised to find that the shop was selling baubles with Union Flag logos, and tree decorations in the shape of London taxis and telephone boxes. I can honestly say all the Christmas trees I have ever decorated have never been covered with the national flag, so was somewhat disappointed with Globus' British theme.

However, I met up with Pascal for lunch and we headed over to the Holy Cow! for a bite of delicious burgery goodness. I had the Big Cheese again, but this time made it a double, paying an extra 5.- CHF to have a second burger in the bun. It was as scrumptious as the first time I ate there, I really can't recommend this place highly enough. Ronald McDonald eat your heart out.

When I paid for my Metro ticket, which entitles you to ride on the city’s buses and the M2 Metro train, I thought it was a bit more expensive than normal. I was expecting to pay 2.60 CHF, but instead found the machine demanding 5.- CHF as payment. With the bus waiting to leave I didn’t have time to query why it was so expensive, so I pumped the required amount into the slot, grabbed my ticket and jumped onto the bus. I was still puzzled by the price – “Perhaps it’s rush hour?” I thought, although that was unlikely as it was after 10am.

When I had finished my tour of the town centre, I headed to the nearest Metro station and bought another ticket to get back home – this time costing 2.60 CHF. Confused, I made my way back home, and then later showed my ticket to Chris when she finished work – she laughed, saying that I had paid for a First Class ticket. The reason why this is so funny, is because there actually isn’t a First Class section on any of the buses or Metro trains in Lausanne, so I had paid for something that actually didn’t exist.

I still don’t really understand how the machine can sell First Class tickets when that class doesn’t exist… maybe I was entitled to an exclusive, spacious seat at the back of the bus, with a waiter offering me refreshments and a choice of movies to watch while my reclining chair gave me a full body massage? Somehow, I think not.

To round off what was a very happy week for me, having passed my exam, we went to the Lotto in St. Prex. Lotto in Switzerland is basically bingo but with more chances to win and better prizes. We paid 25.- CHF per lotto card (I took two cards – more chance of winning) and sat down to play. An hour and a half later, Chris' aunt Babette, her uncle Marco, and Patricia had all won something, but the young’uns had won nothing.

Then it happened – with all the numbers on one of my cards checked off apart from the number 39, we were all chanting “Trente neuf” to try and get the caller to say my number. The chanting must have worked as the next number out was 39, and we all shouted out “CARTON!” (which means I had all the numbers checked off) to let people know we had one.

My basket of goodies
The guy came and verified my win, and presented me with my prize – a basket full of assorted long-life kitchen foods to the value of 160 CHF.

"Not bad”, I thought, although the other prizes that other people had won for having a CARTON included a weekend in Paris, a week at the Ovronnaz spa, TomTom GPS units, a Wii console, and a voucher for 2,500.- CHF to spend at Migros, a supermarket chain in Switzerland.

When you look at it like that, my basket of sauces, rice and tinned vegetables suddenly loses its value. Oh well, a win is a win – I had now been to a Lotto three times, winning something on two of those occasions. That’s a 66.6% success rate, so I’m happy with that.

FC Bursins lose 0-1
The next day I went to watch Pascal's brother, Olivier, play football for FC Bursins, a team that currently plays in the 5th tier of Swiss football.

Olivier played well, but unfortunately it wasn't the most thrilling match I have ever seen, with Olivier's team losing 1-0 despite have a 1 man advantage after the other team's old-looking defender was sent off.

However, I was happy to have experienced football in Switzerland, especially as we ate at Burger King beforehand so I had a belly full of burger. To be honest, I would probably sit through an opera without complaining if someone said I'd get to eat burgers first...

The story doesn't end there - next up: "Sixty Days in Suisse - Part VII"!


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