February 02, 2014
Momentous Week: Swiss Naturalization Interview, and more
It's been such a significant week that I am driven back to my poor old blog. Hello, there. (It's just too much to write on Facebook.)
To keep a record for posterity, here are some of the wonderful and exciting events that have taken place in our family, all within a few days' time:
- Wednesday, January 29th: Einbürgerungsgespräch!
David and I finally went in to our local Gemeindehaus to have the much-dreaded Gespräch (Interview/Conversation) with the local authorities about whether we are suitable candidates to receive the Swiss nationality and passport. We had sent in our application back in July 2013, when we finally qualified due to having lived in our village for 5 years (plus my having lived in the country for over 20 years total, due to my many years in Geneva as a child; David and Emily qualify as members of my family who have also lived here 5 years in this village). Then we waited. In August they wanted to know a few more details from us, and to have our sworn statement that we really are married and have no intentions of changing that in the next few years. If the cantonal officials only knew us. Married 21 years and blessed out of our socks by each other. At least, I am, and David tells me it's true for him, too (there's no accounting for taste). Then on January 14th, we got the long-awaited letter telling us to come in 15 days later for The Conversation in German and Swiss-German about Swiss politics and our integration into Swiss society.
- Thursday, January 30th: Jason's residence permit extended and Emily's post-cancer theatrical début!
We had been waiting for a while to hear about the status of our son's residence permit, because although he is our dependent and he is studying, and has no other home, the location of his studies is abroad, so there was some question of what kind of permit they would allow him to have, if any. We had been waiting since last July on this issue as well. But Thursday we received word that his permit has been issued and is on the way to us, arriving within a week. Fantastic! So pleased. It remains to be seen which kind of permit they are giving him, but that's in God's hands.
Later that day, we had the pleasure of seeing Emily perform in the opening night of a classic play at her high school, her post-thyroid-cancer re-début! Hallelujah! She had had to bow out of her role at the beginning of rehearsals for another play in September due to being in and out of the hospital three times and in a long recovery period which kept her away from school for a total of almost 8 weeks of 10th Grade. So this is a victory indeed and a joyous occasion. We thank God profusely that she is 100% back to health (just relying on daily thyroid hormone supplements since she has no more thyroid gland of her own).
- Friday, January 31st: Visit from a dear old friend. My most constant friend from the first day of Kindergarten all the way through 12th Grade came to visit for the weekend to see Emily's play (of which there were three shows)
- Saturday, Feburary 1st: Summer Internship News. We Skyped with our son Jason for the first time since he went back to college for the 2nd half of his Junior Year. It was so good to catch up with two weeks of his news. He shared with us that he was just offered a prestigious internship for next summer. Yay! Thank You, God, all over again, for how you provide so wonderfully and keep blessing us. It's all Your grace!
And Next Up:
- Tomorrow: our very first pastor family ever arrives in Zug! Wow! Our church has been completely run by volunteers for the past 9 years, with a team of elders and "servant leaders" taking turns teaching and leading. This is historic, to have someone taking full-time responsibility for shepherding our ever-growing church family (we need it at this point of growth). Have I mentioned that I'm really thankful to God for His provision?
- In six days we're off to Colorado for Emily's school break, and meeting up with my mom, still skiing at 69! It's just a very exciting two weeks. Glory to God, our Rock, our Shelter, our Provider and Shield, and Lover of our souls.
December 31, 2013
21st Edition of my Christmas Stamp Collage - 2013
And the whole collage to date; always amazing to see such a collection of pages each representing an entire year of marriage - David just keeps on getting better, as we both keep our hope centred on Jesus our Good King:
September 21, 2013
Blog & Life Chaos
So my 15-year-old daughter gets papillary thyroid cancer, has a hemi-thyroidectomy under general anaesthesia 12 days after the first visit to a doctor, another hemi-thyroidectomy 11 days later, and radioactive iodine therapy on the way, and THEN I discover that all the photos on my blog from the past three years are reduced to ugly broken links because they were posted via Posterous, which shut down earlier this year and didn't really send the actual photos to Typepad as it had appeared? What a blow!
I have a zip file with the posts saved from posterous before it shut down, but how to take that and fix the Typepad blog with it... would take some research, time and work and I might not bother. As any K's Café erstwhile reader knows, I don't blog anymore anyway. (This is an exception. :-) )
Interesting, though, to see how Typepad has evolved since I've been away the past three years. Kind of cool how it can now automatically add links for you (all the links in this post [except the soccer one] were automatically suggested to me... and approved manually by me).
To add value to this post, here is a fun-looking new way to play football/soccer encased in big plastic bubbles.Flumserberg (about an hour from home) with my 18-year-old son last month before he left for a semester in Paris at La Sorbonne.
June 27, 2013
Testing out posting on my blog by sending an email
I used to use Posterous to blog before they shut down. I liked just being able to send an email to a memorable address (email@example.com was pretty easy to remember -- see, I still remember it).
Typepad also now has a feature to be able to post by email, but each person has their own "secret" address they have to send to -- NOT memorable in the least. It's 16 random characters before the @, a mixture of numbers and letters. Oh well, I'm thankful for my address book which will remember it for me.
Anyway, I'm just checking out this feature with this post.
I think it said it doesn't keep the formatting, sadly. So that means this will not turn out bold, italic, red, blue, green, yellow, pink and purple like I am seeing it now in my email application, more's the pity.
However, you are supposed to be able to send photos, like this flower in my garden two days ago, and this cake I made last week (I never get tired of looking at purple flowers and chocolate cake, I don't know about you, but they seemed like ideal test photos):
June 26, 2013
Thoughts during Swiss-German Zumba dance exercise class today (my fourth one ever):
1. Can I make this water bottle last to the end of class?
2. A Swiss cultural thing: we open the doors between each song to let in cool air from outside, and close them during the songs so as not to disturb anyone outside with the loud dance music. Even though we're between a forested river and a busy road & train track and open field. I see how I grew up not wanting to bother anyone. It has stuck with me.
3. I can see the trees at the top of the Albis mountain from the window. Lovely.
4. Sort of a shame in this situation that I understand Spanish and German. I'd rather not know what the Zumba song lyrics are saying, since the Spanish-language ones seem to be mostly about lust & and the German-language one today sounded to be mostly about bribery. I'd rather hear about faithfulness and honor and honesty, personally.
5. Was that left hand, right leg, or right arm, right leg, wait she's already three steps farther on... just give me eight more classes to pick up some of this stuff...
January 13, 2013
A really fresh baguette story from Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France
January 12, 2013
Castle #3: Haut-Ribeaupierre (closed for safety reasons). Alsace, France
It was really very Brigadoon-ish on this foggy day:
But with some impressive moss:
Ruined Castle #2: Château Saint-Ulrich (Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France)
Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France
The day started with clear blue sky and 1 degree C (33°F). However, by the time we got to the castle village, we were in THICK fog. We parked and hiked up the hill on a muddy trail through the woods, not really sure we were heading the right direction, because there was poor signage, and we couldn't see anything for the fog. I kept thinking I saw the start of a castle, only to discover it was merely more trees or rocks emerging from the mist.
We did eventually get to the first castle, however: Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre:
The view from the castle, over the beautiful Alsatian valley & countryside:
(well, not quite visible today; maybe next time)
The only way into the castle:
A fun place to scramble around (though I prayed hard for safety climbing up and down (narrow ledges on a steep rock face in the fog), and was thankful for safe passage granted, by the Designer of gravity, hands, feet, and rock - thanks again).
Colmar, Alsace, France
Fortunately, the Collégiale Saint Martin (below) was open, and we had a few nice moments touring the inside.
January 10, 2013
20th Edition of my Annual Christmas Stamp Collage
And the whole collage:
20 Years Married to David and unspeakably thankful
For our 20th Anniversary dinner, we went for the first time to Smolinsky's Sihlhalde Restaurant in Gattikon, which has a Michelin star, and is only 5 minutes from our house (somehow we overlooked it until now, as it is tucked away at the end of a dead end street between cow fields. http://www.smoly.ch/ No more to be overlooked! The perfect place to celebrate something special like this!
D: Scallops with caviar & spinach in a lemon butter sauce
K: Fresh sautéed Entenleber (duck liver or foie gras) with a balsamic reduction and wild figs
D: Veal with polenta
K: Filet de sole in a saffron sauce with fettucine, spinach and carrots
D: Crêpes Suzette with fresh citrus slices
K: Flourless chocolate cake with garnish of passionfruit, physalis, chocolate arcs, and a tiny meringue
Complimentary final friandises: mini lemon cupcake (so cute), chocolate truffle, walnut cookie, strawberry jam sandwich cookie, and some kind of layer cake
We had lots of fun getting fancied up for this milestone occasion. 21 items held my hair together, one for each year and one to grow on...
September 03, 2012
Beatenberg, Bern, Switzerland this weekend
August 29, 2012
Two idyllic scenes from a hike yesterday
August 27, 2012
Arosa, Graubünden, Switzerland, August 2012
Ropes Course & Bear-Viewing
August 22, 2012
June 07, 2012
Interesting Contrasts Between Switzerland and the U.S.
- almost everyone has the same type of mailbox (two part: top has a slot for letters, bottom section has a door for packages) with an engraved nameplate.
- curbs are assembled from individual pieces of stone (granite) approx. 1m in length. The surfaces are rough and can cause tire ruptures if you drive against them. In the US, curbs are poured concrete.
- when you leave (quit a job, move away) it is customary that you, yourself, organize a going away party (une verree or apero). In the US, your friends/coworkers do this.
- almost all doors have handles, not knobs. This makes it easier to open the door (if it's unlocked of course) while carrying things (i.e., just use your elbow).
- a child's name must be on an approved list. Swiss parents do not have the freedom to name a kid "Moonunit". Resident foreigners can be exempted from this rule, but you must obtain an official statement from an embassy that attests that the name is acceptable in the other country.
- there are approximately the same number of gas stations and post offices.
- if you want to buy groceries on Sunday (or after working hours), go to a gas station.
- gas stations sell great bread (freshly baked on the premises).
- you can buy UHT milk, which keeps for months unrefrigerated.
- almost all milk comes in 1 liter Tetra-Pak boxes.
- you cannot turn right on red.
- fuel economy is measured as "quantity per distance" (liters per 100km). In the US, it is measured as "distance per quantity" (miles per gallon).
- there are no smoke detectors in apartments.
- many stores are closed for two hours at lunchtime (including pharmacies and the post office)
- banks do not charge ATM fees.
- when you get a package gift wrapped, they put a little address label on the package with the name of the store (this does not help preserve the surprise).
- you have to weigh fruits and vegetables yourself at grocery stores. Scales are located in the produce section and usually just have a large set of numbered buttons. Once you have selected your produce, you need to look for the sign that says what number to enter on the scale. Then, you take the produce to the scale, press the corresponding button and the scale will print a label. Of course, if you mis-read or forget the number, you may end up mis-labeling your produce.
- shopping cart wheels are omnidirectional. In order to use one in a supermarket, you have to deposit a CHF 2 coin in slot on top of the cart, which releases the chain by which the cart is attached to the next one. When you return the cart to its place (once done shopping), you get your "deposit" back (i.e., the coin is released from the slot).
- shopping carts are often for the entire shopping center or mall, not just a single store. So, people walk around with the same cart, going into and out of stores. It's not unusual to see a cart full of groceries inside a clothing store.
- you have to bag your own groceries at grocery stores. If you want a "good" bag (paper or plastic), you have to pay for it. You can, however, get a small plastic bag (which will rip at the slightest touch) if you ask.
- on many buses, you buy tickets and get change from the driver (yes, the driver does carry change!!!)
- apartment buildings rules specify quiet time (usually after 10 pm). If you make too much noise during this time, neighbors may call the police.
- although gas stations do have some automats for paying at the pump (not at every pump), you can only use them when the station is closed (i.e., at night). Normally you pump your gas BEFORE giving any form of payment, and then go inside to pay after your tank is full. Regulated by security cameras at every pump.
- there are photo radars on the higways and in many towns. If you're captured on film (and your license plate is readable), the police mail you a ticket (but not the photo!). If you protest and demand the photo, you have to pay a bigger fine (if it turns out to be you in the photo). Fines can be quite hefty (several thousand Swiss francs, depending how much over the limit you were going). If caught speeding in a residential area, you can actually spend the night in jail! A less serious offence (but still punishable by a fine) is making a right turn not exactly at the intersection, but by getting into the right lane (usually reserved for buses and taxis) a couple of meters before the actual turn.
- if you own any radios or tvs capable of receiving broadcasts (over the air, via cable, via satellite, etc.) you have to pay a monthly tax (tv/radio license).
- no window screens in Switzerland.
- most windows which open are hinged on two sides: one of the vertical sides (open all the way) and the top or bottom (to crack it open a few centimeters).
- Easter is a BIG thing: Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays and nothing (except gas stations) are open. Stores close early the Thursday before and are open with reduced hours on Saturday. Some stores are not even open on Tuesday. As a result, many people go away on vacation.
- everything shuts down in August. Most people in Switzerland have 4 to 5 weeks of vacation per year and take a few of these in August.
- movies have intermissions. Yes, all of them. Really. This is to buy ice cream or candy.
- traffic lights turn green to yellow before red and red to yellow before green (the yellow light almost never appears by itself).
- parking spaces are small: just enough (barely) space to park and to exit the space.
- lingerie is advertised on sidewalk billboards so as to easily catch the eye of pedestrians and drivers.
- it is hard to find a drinking fountain...but easy to find a fountain.
- you sometimes have to pay to get tap water in restaurants. It does not come with ice. But it tastes good!
- the number "1" is often written like a "7" in the US (a "7" is written in Switzerland with a horizontal cross).
- an "unfurnished" apartment is *really* unfurnished: there are usually no light fixtures (just bare wires), curtain rods, kitchen appliances etc.
- mustard comes in squeeze tubes (looks just like toothpaste). So does mayonnaise.
- it is not unusual (nor a problem) to use large amounts of cash at stores. For example, the cashier won't even blink an eye if you use a 100 CHF bill to buy a stick of gum or a croissant.
- personal checks are obsolete.
- debit cards are widely used to pay for everything.
- drivers are required to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, and this is taken very seriously. Old people shake their fists at those who ignore this rule.
- offices usually have funny looking "Swiss" keys (no notches, just a bunch of circular indentations).
- binders have 2 or 4 rings (not 3). Many binders have a lever to open the rings (unlike American binder rings, which you just pull apart).
- printers use A4 paper, not "US letter". Actually, the Ax series of papers is very logical (being based on fractions of a square meter), but the dimensions are impossible to remember.
- paper clips do not have rounded ends. Instead, one side is straight (lines up on the paper edge) and the other is pointed (to make it easier to put on).
- people take their dogs everywhere: into restaurants (you'll see them sitting under the table), on buses/trains, etc.
- cell phones work almost everywhere, even in the mountains and on top of the Matterhorn.
- very few places have air conditioning. Luckily, it's not hot very often in the summer (at least, not for more than 3-4 weeks!).
- ATMs insist you take your card, then your receipt, before you get your cash.
- newspapers are printed on small sheets: about 1/2 the size of American or British papers.
- you can read a newspaper and not once see the name of the president.
- most cars are manual transmission (stick shift)
- when you check in at most hotels, you have to show your passport
- the common way to pay bills is to pay everything at once. The bills are standardized red or orange forms. When you are ready to pay, you can either pay all at once at the post office or pay online using specific template for color of your bill.
- most glasses at restaurants have the volume marked on them and a line so you know exactly how much liquid is in the glass.
- elevators are usually very small and cramped. Four-people (but no luggage!) elevators are very common.
- ground level is floor "zero" and the floor above is "one".
- a cardboard "parking disc" (which you set to show your arrival time and place on the dashboard) is used for parking in marked, colored zones.
- malls are "anchored" by big grocery stores (Coop or Migros) instead of department stores.
- almost all houses and apartment buildings have bomb shelters, which often cannot be used (because most people use them as storage spaces).
- Chinese and Mexican restaurants are considered exotic and generally quite expensive. It is very difficult to find "reasonnably" priced restaurants (even though there are many chinese restaurants).
- tips in restaurants are usually nominal, just enough for the server/waiter to go get a coffee. They are paid enough with their salary that they are not dependent on the tips.
- recycling is a way of life! There are special areas in neighbourhoods where you can deposit bottles (color and white glass separately), aluminium, paper, batteries etc. in specially marked containers. Of course, there is usually a warning sign telling you not to do it between the hours of 7 pm - 7 am...
- the post office is also a bank.
- snow tires are required during the winter months
- all cars are required to have a "danger" triangle, which is to be placed some distance (10m or so) behind the car to signal an accident or breakdown. It has to be stored in an easily accessible place in the car.
- some cantons require training classes for new owners of pet dogs.
- there is no mail pick-up at home (to mail a letter, you have to drop it in a mail box or take it to the post office).
- Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch
- Postal addresses often do not include the apartment number, just the street address. Thus, it's important that the last name be clearly printed on the incoming mail and also on the postal letter box.
- Traffic fines for egregious offenses (speeding significantly faster than the limit, as an example) are based on a percentage of your income.
- Just about every apartment building has a "clothes dryer room" for larger items (or lots of smaller items) which is a closed room in the cellar with a heated fan and lots of clothes lines.
- SMS Text messaging in Switzerland (and most of Europe) is free for received texts, only the sender pays.
April 20, 2012
Thankfulness in the face of a bunch of interesting simultaneous phenomena
and there is no oil in the heating tank,
though the hot water fails
and my son is across the ocean,
though there are bug bites that itch
and minor illnesses,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.