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.

February 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 31, 2013

21st Edition of my Christmas Stamp Collage - 2013

For the background on this annual stamp collage project of mine that has been in progress for the 21 years (minus 9 days) we have been married, see the previous editions: 1993-1997199819992000-20022003-20042005, 20062007, 2008, 200920102011, 2012. Those posts have links to close-ups of all the other years' collages. 
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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:

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December 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 August 2013

Flowers on Flumserberg August 2013

And to redeem the blog photo situation just a tiny bit, here are two non-broken photos, from a lovely mountain excursion to 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.

 



September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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 (post@posterous.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 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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...

June 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 13, 2013

A really fresh baguette story from Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our three-hour ramble up hill and down touring the three abandoned, ruined medieval castles in around-freezing fog, some of us were hungry and some were thirsty, and all chilly, so we looked for a place to eat. Problem: the time was almost 4pm. Not a meal-time in France. We stopped at an auberge with lights on. The bartender was standing outside in his apron, smoking. I asked him doubtfully whether we could eat. He wasn't scornful at all, only discouraging: he flatly stated that it was a "ville morte" (a dead town) and we weren't likely to find anything to eat, especially at this hour. He said it had been very busy at noon, but as of 3pm it had been empty, and wouldn't serve again until 6:30pm. He suggested perhaps we might find a boulangerie or somesuch back in Colmar.

 

We kept our eyes open as we headed that way, and spotted a boulangerie not two minutes down the road, still in Ribeauvillé: La Renommé, a boulangerie at 3, route de Colmar, sister to this one elsewhere in the village. The branch we chose is too small (and new) to have bothered to make a website for itself. David turned around to go back, as we had passed it in our zero-expectations for the town. I hopped out and ran in to check what they had. A very friendly redhead with a tattoo on her lower back where the baker's apron had scrunched up her shirt greeted me and assured me she could make fresh sandwiches for us on their baguette bread. There were other assorted pastries in the glass cases. The family agreed to come in for chicken or ham and cheese on fresh bread. Once inside, however, we decided on sharing around merely some warmed-up curried chicken quiche (to which our hostess happily added tasty salad), an family-sized traditional Alsatian brioche with raisins inside and almonds & powered sugar on top (called a Kugelhopf), a pain au chocolat, an éclair au chocolat, a slice of blueberry tart, an apricot juice, three hot chocolates, an espresso, and two bottles of still water. We thought that would do it.

 

There were exactly two two-seater tables, i.e. four chairs, perfect for our family. Our happy redhead quickly wiped off the two little tables for us, which were on the edge of the kitchen. Two of us were really sitting in the baker's area, and two in the store front. The right number of chairs notwithstanding, there were only one little spoon and one hot chocolate mug in the whole establishment, so the kids received their hot chocolate in bowls with large soup spoons. David lucked out in that they did have an espresso cup, but the lady couldn't find a second small spoon, so she was going to take my hot chocolate spoon and wash it for him, until I explained we'd been married for 20 years now and he wouldn't mind re-using my spoon :-) Indeed.

 

As we were delighting in the fresh fare, the baker lady went about her business and laid 20 baguette dough lengths on a special contraption that then deposited them into an enormous oven near our tables. We overheard her inform another customer that they would be coming out in 20 minutes. Light bulbs went on in our heads. We came up rather easily with the determination to stretch out our visit for another little bit, and when the loaves exited the oven, our new friend picked one up off the conveyor, dropped it into a bag, and handed it to us, all warm, fragrant, crispy and soft at the same time, and we were on our way (but not without an emergency fresh chocolate chip cookie in another little bag; you never know, the bread might not be enough). By the time we got home 2 hours later (having passed from France, through Germany, back into Switzerland), there were 2 centimetres of bread left. We forgot all about the cookie until we reached our garage.

 

Here you see the conveyor-to-oven-and-back. Ingenious. The 19 other loaves ended up in the lady's wicker baguette basket for sale for locals' dinner tables (last bread baked at 5pm daily). Ours bypassed the basket completely. And the dinner table.
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Vive la France! And thanks be to God for a wonderful overnight in Alsace; for special, unexpected treats; and for fun family memories created.

January 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 12, 2013

Castle #3: Haut-Ribeaupierre (closed for safety reasons). Alsace, France

The final castle, at the top of the hill, had danger & closure signs.

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It was really very Brigadoon-ish on this foggy day:

But with some impressive moss:

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Posted via email from K's Café

January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ruined Castle #2: Château Saint-Ulrich (Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France)

Next up: Château Saint-Ulrich, just a little farther along the path. There's a legend about two brothers lived in these two castles, an arrow's shot away from each other on the same hill (for those who speak French). It has to do with hunting, arrows, crossbows, window shutters, and getting up in the morning at the wrong time.

 

Anyway, in the fog, this castle looked remarkably like the previous one, at first glance:

 

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But it was actually much bigger, with more to explore and see. Though the kids disdained the modern additions of some rough wooden stairs and metal railings for safety. They determined not to touch anything but rock/stone. The fog was particularly impressive here. We couldn't see from one side of the castle to the other. Emily was calling to us from across the way, and we asked her to wave her arms so we'd spot her location, and she replied that she was practically doing jumping jacks already. Thick fog, I tell you.

 

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Again, a very white view from the top of the tower, over the lovely valley and farmland below (I suppose):
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Emily found a nice perch:
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Jason found some ancient floor supports to conquer:
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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our morning pastries in Colmar and a look around the town, we drove 20 minutes north to Ribeauvillé (I wish I knew if it is pronounced the way it looks or has some special local pronunciation-rule-bending, but I forgot to ask while we were there), because it features a hill with three ruined medieval castles: Petit-Ribeaupierre (or Giersberg or Girsbourg); Saint Ulric (or Saint Ulrich); and Haut-Ribeaupierre (which is officially closed to tourists because it's unsafe in some way, but you can apparently go in a little way without repercussions).

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: 

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The view from the castle, over the beautiful Alsatian valley & countryside:

 

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(well, not quite visible today; maybe next time)

The only way into the castle:

 

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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).

January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colmar, Alsace, France

Our first visit to Colmar in Alsace, northeastern France. Nice place. I would go back. So many things we skipped entirely. We did wander the charming streets a little, first night and then day, peeked in a calming medieval church from 1250AD, ate some excellent morilles (morel "not all mushrooms are created equal" mushrooms as the link says; in this case I had them with filet de sole in a fantastic sauce), enjoyed speaking & hearing French, and poked around a few interesting shops.

 

Here's the Église des Dominicaines, which is "closed in winter" - hmmm. The outside was still nice.
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Fortunately, the Collégiale Saint Martin (below) was open, and we had a few nice moments touring the inside. 

 

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In the middle of one of the roundabouts in Colmar (opposite the little airport), there is a 12-metre high replica of the Statue of Liberty, because the sculptor of the NYC statue was born in Colmar. For his 100th birthday, another sculptor erected this one:

 

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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013

20th Edition of my Annual Christmas Stamp Collage

For the background on this project of mine that has been in progress for the 20 years we have been married, see the previous editions: 1993-1997199819992000-20022003-20042005, 20062007, 2008, 20092010, 2011.Those posts have links to close-ups of all the other years' collages. 
This year, it's the letter T, and I had so many nice stamps I had to make the crossbar rather thick. Still clearly a T. The completion of the sentence is becoming imaginable. It is amazing to look back at the first letter, J, that I made in 1993, and to think that my son Jason is now only two years younger than I was when I made that collage!!! Crazy stuff. I was 20. Wow. Thankful for experience and time passed with love, grace, mercy, health and hope. Praise be to my Maker, Sustainer, Rescuer, and Purpose-Giver.
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And the whole collage:

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

20 Years Married to David and unspeakably thankful

All credit to God for bringing us this far together, and we walk forward holding our relationship as a precious gift never to be considered lightly. David and his love for me are treasures to be cherished and nourished daily. 

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!
Complimentary appetizer: Pulpo (octopus) with a vegetable medley and fresh dill 

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...

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2012

Beatenberg, Bern, Switzerland this weekend

Amazing place, this, that the Creator produced out of nothing, and lets us marvel at. He's mighty, inventive, generous, and patient.

The lake is the Thunersee (between Interlaken and Thun). The biggest mountains are the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The last photo is the Eiger. The best photos in the set are courtesy of my husband David. The red geraniums are courtesy of the Seminäre für Biblische Theologie, where we stayed this weekend with our church's first family retreat weekend (about 80 people).

 

 

Posted via email from K's Café

September 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2012

Two idyllic scenes from a hike yesterday

Yesterday I took a hike with exactly 30 moms from our school (well, one was an alum daughter, one was a grandmother, and one was the wife of a coworker, with no children, so I guess that makes 27 moms). Anyway, it was a perfect day and we saw these gorgeous scenes (when we weren't deep in lively conversation, getting to know new friends). I drove 7 minutes from my house to the top of our local hill, the Albis, to meet everyone else, then we walked in a brisk two-hour loop before finding ourselves back at our cars in front of a café for a nice drink together.

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August 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 27, 2012

Arosa, Graubünden, Switzerland, August 2012

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From the front of our hotel here, you can see our hiking trajectory - from the building at the very top left to the one at the very top right of this photo, along the horizon of sky and rock. It took a while.

 


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On the way up in the cable car

 


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The village of Arosa down below (from the top of the Hörnli cable car) - yes, our hotel is down there (where the first photo was taken from)

 


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We started our hike from the top of one cable car, aiming for the top of the other

 


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Big, tall, steep mountains (see the village in the far distance down there across the valley?)

 


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Alpine Lake (the two little white specks to the right of the lake are houses; the dark area of the lake is where it goes suddenly deep)

 


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Tiny blue flower

 


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That's Jason up there on the right - big rocks

 


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Emily on the side of steepness

 


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Jason atop a precarious perch on the right

 


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The wildflowers praise their Maker

 


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In German, affixed to a rock at the top of the mountain: 
"Come and see the works of God, Who is so wonderful. 
Psalm 66:5 
Praise and fame be brought to You, God; You have brought about an awesome and beautiful work of creation."

Posted via email from K's Café

August 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ropes Course & Bear-Viewing

While Jason was here for his two-week visit, besides a weekend in the mountains and quick day road trips to France/Germany and Italy, we did the high ropes course on Pilatus, and took a walk in our local Wildpark - with a huge score on seeing the bears, all three, feasting on meat and whole apples floating in the water. You never know whether they will show themselves or not.

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August 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The itinerary

To follow up on the previous post: I ended up doing things in this order last Wednesday (I think - it's getting fuzzy, but some details were of possible interest):

1. Post Office before it closed for lunch at 12, to mail Swiss tax documents and Jason's U.S. voter registration form - he turns 18 this Autumn and can vote in his first presidential election two weeks later! Cool timing.

2. U.S. Consulate in Zurich before it closed for the day at 1pm, to pick up Emily's and my renewed passports. There, I briefly met former Mrs. Texas 1995 (2nd runner-up to Mrs. America; her 2nd husband was the former Swiss ambassador to Germany), entering the consulate at the same time as I was. She pressed the doorbell to ask to be let into the building, we entered together, then she took the elevator, and I ran up the stairs for the exercise and solitude. I had no idea who she was. She was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, with hair pulled back due to the heat, as was I. She casually remarked to me that she should have taken the stairs too. The consulate guard (the same one who is half-Polish and half-Congolese and last time told us our 14-year-old daughter would fetch 100 cows "minimum" to be taken off our hands in Africa) greeted Shawne Rae Fielding enthusiastically and gave her special treatment as an old friend. She was very warm and friendly with him, too. After he processed her entry, I was left alone with the guard, and he whispered to me that she was a "movie star", did I know? I didn't. Of course I looked her up when I got home. Now it makes sense why she called Richard Gere by his first name when she saw him in the guard's newspaper (Gere is coming to Zurich in September to accept an award of some kind). She apparently played one of Richard Gere's character's gynecological patients in a 2000 movie. Well, life is interesting. She was also in Walker, Texas Ranger alongside Chuck Norris at some point. She is now a dual Swiss-American citizen and "plans to spend the rest of her life in Switzerland." Then I discovered that we are more closely involved than I thought - she currently has two kids at our school! But much younger, in the lower school (younger one is 5).

I guess 17 years ago she looked like this in a professional photo shoot:
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3. Filled up the car with gas

4. Picked up the dry cleaning (closed from 12-2pm)

5. Mowed the lawn (not an option 12-2 due to peace and quiet laws)

6. Recycling Center (opened at 1:15pm) Dropped the old clothes & cardboard & bottles & cans (but not plastic bottles, which are returned to the grocery store)

7. Was back home for the roofer's visit at 3:30pm

8. Picked up Emily after her call-back audition for A Doll's House, in which she got the part of Nora Helmer, the protagonist. She has a LOT of lines to memorize, but is ecstatic to do so.

Posted via email from K's Café

August 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2012

Open/Closed

It's now 11:05am. The Consulate (to pick up renewed passports) is only open until 1pm.

The Post Office is closed from 12 to 1:30pm.

I can't mow the lawn between 12 and 2pm. And it might rain later.

The recycling center is only open from 1:15pm onwards.

The roofing guy comes at 3:30pm to have a look at our marten nest in the roof.

Emily was called back to more serious audtions after school for Ibsen's play A Doll's House, directed by a 12th grader at her new high school. So she would have gotten out at 2:40pm but now I don't know when she'll need picking up.

And I have other urgent-ish things to take care of at home at my desk, which have to be done today as well.

Too complicated!

I think I'm off to the passport pick-up & post office, then I'll deal with everything else later!

See you! (if you have a recommended timeline for my day, let me know)

Posted via email from K's Café

August 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 07, 2012

Interesting Contrasts Between Switzerland and the U.S.

My friend Kelly posted an extensive list of differences between the ways things work in Switzerland vs. the U.S.
Here are some excerpts:
In Switzerland...
  • 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.

 

Posted via email from K's Café

June 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2012

Thankfulness in the face of a bunch of interesting simultaneous phenomena

- Thankful for our electric kettle - because we have no hot water coming out of the pipes, and the kettle makes it a lot easier to wash the dinner dishes properly.

- Thankful for my kind husband - because though I let our oil tanks run completely out of oil, he didn't get mad at me.

- Thankful for a big sink in my laundry room - because my washing machine broke (an hour before we found out we had no oil left either). The sink means I don't have to go find a river with a big rock by it.

- Thankful for my dryer which IS working - because washing a whole load of laundry by hand in the sink leaves the clothes super-duper wet.

- Thankful for a nice dry cleaner's lady 2 minutes from my house, who can get red wine stains out of a beige carpet.

- Thankful for sleep - because my daughter wasn't feeling well and went to sleep before dinner and that means her head & stomach aren't hurting anymore.

- Thankful for bug bites - because they aren't a contagious skin virus and will go away on their own.

- Thankful for a mild sore throat and headache - because they went away after a day and were not the beginnings of Scarlet Fever.

- Thankful for empty heating oil tanks - because it means we have a house in which to live (and thankful we can afford to fill them again when the company opens their office again on Monday).

- Thankful my son is across the ocean for all but 6 weeks of a consecutive 12-month period - because I have a son, and we love each other, and he's healthy and learning and growing.

Though the washing machine refuses to turn 
   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.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 à la Katherine today

That's all. Good night.

Posted via email from K's Café

April 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)