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July 31, 2008

Close to France, Germany, Italy...

Summer rain
Green grass in July in the fields
Fresh air
Blue skies

Clean desk (because I moved the clutter to the floor, heh)

David and the kids did all the dishes after dinner last night, a wonderful thing. I took a shower instead.

There are no bran flakes that I can find in stores here, but they do have "Bio Dinkel Pops" cereal. Try saying that out loud with a straight face. We have not tried this cereal. As it turns out, "dinkel" means the grain spelt. The things I learn every day...And of course "bio" means it's organic.

We are one hour and a quarter's drive from Alsace, France. Never been there before. Sounds worth a visit for sure (once we have our residence permit).

We are also just under one hour from southern Germany, and just over one hour to the edge of the Black Forest (Which contains the rise of the Danube River).

And two and a half hours to Lake Como in Italy. I hadn't quite realized all these wonders before moving here. Many exciting prospects to explore.

But for today, I am participating in a user study at my husband's company, then we go together to the American consulate to get our (non) criminal records check, then later in the evening we have a company party the kids get to come to. An eventful day ahead. Onwards!

July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

German Vocabulary Lesson - Migros Loyalty Card Application

In filling out the Migros loyalty card application yesterday, I had to look up a lot of new vocabulary, some of which I hope will stick with me...maybe better so if I type it here and share it with you:

Antrag - application
Anmeldung - sign-up, registration
Mitgliedschaft - membership
Verzichten - decline, abdicate
Deswegen - that's why
Erhalten - receive
Benötigen - need/want
Noch - still
Beachten - pay attention to / note / heed
Gewünschte - desired
Bevorzugte - preferred

And to finish off:

Einfach - simply
Ablösen - to detach
Anfeuchten - to dampen / to wet
Zukleben - to seal

From the village website, I also learned, with the help of my online German-English dictionary:
Stützmauer - retaining wall (someone wants a permit for one)
Anlässe - events
Abteilung - department

We'll see if I remember any of them tomorrow. I have good hopes for noch, beachten and anmeldung, at least.

July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

One of the Differences Between Migros and Coop

Migros and Coop (pronounced CO-op)are the two main grocery store chains in Switzerland. They are the very same two chains that we shopped at when I was growing up in Geneva, and now I shop at them in Zurich.

Here is a difference that I don't think existed back then...to do with the loyalty cards (which is a newer phenomenon). Of course every time you check out at the store, they ask if you have a loyalty card. At Coop, they say, "Superkarte?" (where the S sounds like a Z). At Migros they ask, "Karte Cumulus?"

Until yesterday, I had just been replying with, "Nein" (no). But then at the Coop I came up with the much more brilliant and descriptive, "Noch nicht...Ich warte" (not yet...I'm waiting for it). To get the card at the Coop, one must get a form at the Kiosk (customer service desk), fill it out and mail it in, and wait about a month. Then presumably one receives the card and can start using it. And no, they don't credit your receipts for any shopping before you receive the card. In the meantime, in exchange for your shopping, they give you miles of little stickers with a shower graphic on them, pretending that you will get airline miles and bathtime gifts with these stickers, if you take the time to stick each one individually onto a little piece of provided paper in rows of five, and bring them in later. However, once you have done this, they inform you that actually if you've stuck 120 stickers on with the help of your kids, and just want to trade them in for the miles, you have to pay 139 Francs to get the 4000 miles. I had understood about the bath products costing money (you have the honor of paying them 20, 25, 50, or 60 Francs if for some reason you want towels and bathrobes and such with a company logo on them), but I had thought the miles were actually free. Nothing is free. I took those shower stickers back so fast...and felt like it was all a royal waste of time and the stickers are worthless. If anyone wants them they can have them.

By contrast, at Migros, you go to the customer service desk, they immediately hand you a plastic card with a bar code on it, they credit you already your purchases from that day, and ask you to fill in the form later and send it in, but in the meantime you can use your new card right away. Instead of deceptive and labor-intensive shower stickers, they give you Migros coins, which you can distribute amongst your kids, who put them into a machine much like a gumball machine, except it emits big marbles! They roll down around the spiral and pop out, and if you're lucky, they give you a cloth bag at the check-out to keep the marbles in! Now there's something free and fun.

Guess which store's loyalty program I am more impressed with? However, I have yet to see what the Migros or Coop card actually does for you, if anything other than that the cashier will no longer scare you with the question of whether you have one every time.

July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2008

Minor Setbacks

1. The house smells like manure. Some neighbours or other seem to be fertilizing their garden to within an inch of its life.

2. Yesterday I stalled the car in the middle of the street while a red sports car waited behind me. I couldn't get it to start again for a few embarrassing moments.

3. Today we got letters from the Swiss government, out of which I could only understand that we had to do SOMETHING by August 20th. Such an odd feeling, really having no idea what they were trying to tell me. I read the whole thing, word for word, and that's pretty much all I understood of the German legalese.

4. It turns out they want a criminal records check (Strafregisterauszug) on the two of us before they will continue processing our residence permit. David's company and the US Consulate in Zurich told us this would be likely, but the relocation company and all the ex-pat websites disagreed. Well now we know who was right. We actually had an appointment at the consulate but then cancelled it when the town hall did not ask for this piece of evidence upon our newly-arrived registration. Too bad. I have to make another one. Thankfully, all we have to bring is our passports and 33 Swiss Francs each. As far as I know (which is not very far).

5. I tried the 2nd of two bakeries in our village this morning and brought some goodies home for the kids for breakfast - there were only two problems with this. One is that I tried to begin the ordering process in German, but blanked out on anything to say after the opening greeting. I ended up stupidly pointing at a strawberry tartlet, having no recollection of how to say strawberry (Erdbeere). The lady said something I didn't understand, and I just raised my eyebrows, instead of explaining my limited German or something educated like that. It became clear she was naming the strawberry tart (I never did get what it was called), and then she said something else, and we ended up speaking English, which she understood. I could feel the lady behind me watching the interaction, and wished I had just started in English. Oh well. I'm going to be doing this a lot. Feeling foolish and ignorant. But I plan to take some German lessons soon to complement the computer learning I've been doing. There is hope for improvement, says logic, if not my heart. The second "problem" is that I keep looking for a French-style bakery, and haven't found one here yet. I don't know how to describe really what it is I am seeking, but the German culture is just very different from the French side of Switzerland. The pastries and baked goods are different, and not as many, or maybe that's just because I am living in a small village. But then again, the small village in Geneva where I lived had a fantastic bakery. I guess I am looking for that one. 3 hours is a bit far to go for breakfast. But maybe in a closer French-speaking part of CH...for a special treat...memories are powerful.

By the way, if you put the misspelling "eerdbeer" as a German word into the built-in Mac OS German-English translator, it says that in English that would be "more eerdbeer." Then if you try to translate that back into German, it renders it "mehr eerdbeer." This information will come in handy some day, I know it.

July 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dizzying Library Hours

I was hoping to visit our village library. So I looked up the opening hours. Good thing I didn't just try to stop by:

Monday 3-6pm
Tuesday & Friday 6-8pm
Wednesday 2-4pm
Thursday 9-11am
Saturday 9am-12pm
Sunday Closed

However, during the holidays (whenever those are; perhaps when school is not in session, like now?):

Monday 4-7pm
Thursday 5-8pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Presumably Closed

I feel a bit dizzy (but speaking of remembering rules and times/days, I did remember to put the garden waste out yesterday for the first time, with the special orange tag which I had to wet and stick together around the bin handle, and the trash today in the special bags at the end of the street - I forgot to bring the yard waste bin in last night, but someone else forgot until this morning too, so I felt better that I wasn't the last to collect it).

Back to books/movies, I have discovered that there is a DVD shop in downtown Zurich that is called ELM (English Language Media) - we had a similar store in Geneva when I was growing up, and we used to rent videos from it. But it's 23 minutes from our house here (or so Google Maps says), so I don't know if we would use that much. I am trying to choose a replacement for Netflix (USA) / Glowria.fr (France) / Amazon.co.uk (UK) DVD Rentals by mail. There are also a couple of companies in Switzerland that specialize in ordering English-language books, so I am trying out one of those for more books for the kids.

July 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2008

First Alpine Hike - Flumserberg

After our first two Saturdays of IKEA overwhelm, we were most excited to turn to other pursuits yesterday. With the house under enough control, we took the opportunity to explore farther afield by driving an hour into the Alps for a mountainous picnic lunch. What fun! What beauty! Cow bells! Goat bells! Mini-golf at altitude, fresh bread & cheese on rocks in a steep meadow surrounded by wildflowers. Enough to make this Swiss Mrs' heart sing with joy.

Along the drive, I spotted license plates from 22 of the 26 Swiss cantons (like states). In the order of their joining the Swiss Confederation, from 1351 to 1815:
ZH Zurich (1351)
BE Berne
LU Lucerne
UR Uri
SZ Schwyz
OW Obwalden (Obwald)
NW Nidwalden (Nidwald)
GL Glarus
ZG Zug
FR Fribourg
SO Solothurn
BS Basel-Stadt (Basel-City)
BL Basel-Land (Basel-Country)
SH Schaffhausen
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Outer Rhodes)
SG St. Gallen (St. Gall)
GR Graubünden (Grisons)
AG Aargau (Argovia)
TG Thurgau (Thurgovia)
TI Ticino
VD Vaud
GE Geneva (1815)

We were only missing
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden (Inner Rhodes) (1513)
VS Valais
NE Neuchâtel
JU Jura (1979 - previously part of Bern)

On the other hand, we were listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, downloaded from the Apple Store in audiobook form, so they may have passed by unnoticed.

I was of course especially excited when I saw GE and VD, because those were the ones I saw all the time growing up in Geneva. Vaud is right next to Geneva, along one side of Lake Geneva.

I also saw license plates from eight other countries: Germany (lots), France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and the Czech Republic. One license plate stumped me: FL (and it was NOT Florida). David suggested Florin (from the Princess Bride). I just looked it up, and it is rather surprisingly not a country that starts with F: Fürstentum Liechtenstein, which means the Principality of Liechtenstein. I was very pleased to learn this, as I am sure I shall see more - Liechtenstein is right next to us here, only 1.5 hours away. It's on our list as soon as we get our proper residence permit here (supposed to stay in-country until then).

Before we got to the hiking spot, we stopped to look around a small, ruined castle from 1249 or so. The Bergruine Gräpplang.
GrpplangcastleflumsafarKegrpplangcastleflums

After driving up the mountain from the town of Flums, we took a gondola from Tannenheim partway up the Flumserberg, then an 8-person, wind-shielded chairlift (never seen an 8-seater, never seen one with a windshield), then hiked up a bit. Each of us had our own little knapsack, carrying our own drinks, and the picnic load was shared around as needed. The real hiking came on the way down, through meadows and forest and cow pasture, and along a stream.

Our picnic spot:
OurpicnicspotdjeWalenseeridgeflumserberg

FlumshikeFlumshike2

FlumsflowerswithtoothyridgeFuchsiacoloredflumsflowersPinkbunchesflumsPurplepinkyellowmixPurplepuffballflums

The whole hike I kept thinking to myself, "I can't believe we're only one hour from our house! This is unreal! Look at those peaks!" God is very creative...and generous and gracious. We saw a slew of different animals on the drive and hike: cows with very large udders, horses, goats, chickens, rabbit, long-necked geese (like Jemima Puddleduck), birds, dog, cat. We went through a bunch of tunnels and saw several lakes and a ton of paragliders who had jumped off the various peaks to land in the valley below. On the hike we picked wild blueberries and Emily even liked them (she hasn't historically, but couldn't resist trying some cute little ones she had picked fresh off the mountainside herself).

It was an awesome day! We live in an awesome world created by an awesome God!
(can you tell I felt enthusiastic?)

July 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Blessed at "Lift Zug"

This morning we visited a third church here in northern Switzerland, this time in the canton of Zug. We live halfway between the cities of Zurich and Zug, so we can go either direction. David's office is in Zurich, the kids' schools are in Zug, so our centre is not clear. I guess that would be our house.

LIFT = Living in Forever Today, which is a catchy idea...

It is a small church (there were maybe 40-50 people there this morning, including kids), but this is also summertime, with people gone. However, it meets in a very small room on one of the main streets in Zug, right on the lake, and it didn't seem that there were any spare seats, so I'm not sure how it works during the school year... Beautiful flowers adorned a little park on the lakefront across the street.

We really enjoyed the worship in song (mostly songs we knew, with guitars, keyboard, drums, words on the screen), just our style, and the message was full of Jesus and His Love and Life given for us. Emily, of her own accord went upstairs to the kids' class, without us even going with her (she did not go at either of the other two churches, so it was nice to see her feel so comfortable). The view over Lake Zug from upstairs was breathtaking.

Afterwards, we spent a long time chatting and getting to know several families:

- the pastor is from Colorado, and his wife is of Swiss and German descent. The whole family of four have both U.S. and Swiss passports and have lived in Colorado. Talk about a connection for us! We love Colorado. The daughter in this family is 11 and she welcomed Emily like an old friend. Emily is really hoping to go back again next week. "Would anyone mind?" as she put it surreptitiously.

- the worship leader (this week anyway) and his wife are from London (so that was another connection for us)

- another guitar player and his wife are from South Africa (a good friend and prayer partner of mine in the UK was South African - it was nice to hear the accent again)

- the couple who were sitting in front of us are from Canada, and BOTH teach at Emily's new school!!! That was fantastic to hear. Not only that - the gentleman teaches Emily's Grade!!!!!! She has a quarter chance of having him, since there are 4 5th grades next year.

- another couple we met are from the U.S. but lived in two other countries before landing here, the most recent being England, just like us. They have two boys and a girl - the eldest boy is about Jason's height and plays guitar and piano (I can imagine Jason playing drums with him...), and the next is Emily's age and will be in her grade at her new school as well (but not with the teacher we met) - so now she has 50/50 chance of being in a class with someone she's already met! Wow. The grace of God is so deep and lavish.

We found out that the pastor's wife knows the science teacher at Jason's school, and that she is a Christian! Very exciting to hear as well. What wonderful connections this morning. Thank You! Thank You!

After the chatting tapered, we went out for a local pizza lunch with the South Africans, the Canadians, and the American family with the two older boys (most of the kids at this church are on the younger side - a huge number of strollers parked in the hallway...). More good chat time - all the adults at one long table, all the kids at another, outside in the perfect temperature on a lovely day.

So is this where You want us, Lord? Thank You in any case for a very blessed morning. Please provide friends for Jason and bring some more God-seeking teenagers to this church if You are planting us here!

July 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2008

License, German-English Translation, Fruit, Junkmail, Power, Sun

I think the Zurich DMV used Google Translate for their email to me. Here are some excerpts:

...The visual test you can finish with every optician(glasses business)

...They must wait, to you the foreign identity card have

...The American leader's drive card we need for the paraphrase. You get back this after the occurred paraphrase (approx. one week). Nevertheless, in the interim you may go in Switzerland.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen
Strassenverkehrsamt Zürich
Backoffice

* * *

Yesterday I hung our wedding vows by our bed - David's to me on his side, and mine to him on my side. This means we are truly home once again. I also hung the iris painting that my mom gave to us as a housewarming present three houses/countries ago. It is in the dining room, beautiful! And David's mom's special and lovely river painting is hanging in Jason's room - she painted it for him.

And I organized all the extra toiletries...what a mess that was. Our bathroom looks a whole lot better.

Also the kids and I got to have lunch with David at work for the first time, and see where he sits. FUN office... (not mentioning on the blog the name of where he works, but it's somewhere really fun :-) ).

* * *

We've been delighting in God's fresh summer peaches (so ripe the skin just peels right off with my fingers), nectarines, and blueberries...yum! This morning I baked my first banana bread in this house. The kids liked it a lot.

* * *

In reading Psalm 89:13, I came across an unusual verb: "endue:"

Provide with a talent, ability, power, etc. (godonthe.net)

To take on, to take the form of... To clothe; to endow or invest (with a thing). (wiktionary)

Endow, indue, gift, empower, invest, give qualities or abilities to (wordnet.princeton.edu

So anyway, God is endued with power. All of it.

Earlier this week I was clueless as to where I might find a shower curtain rod around here (that was not 45 minutes away of yucky city/highway driving at Ikea). I sort of kind of asked God for help (didn't feel it was important enough? Have other matters I'd rather He work on? Didn't think He knew? Didn't think He cared that much? Ha!), having looked in the phone books and found that no help with my limited German (what would you look under?), and having tried Google maps business locating...again I don't think I put in the right words.

I left the house for some other errands, hoping I would just see someplace likely on the way...but stopped at the mailbox to check if there was anything in there. For the first time since we moved in two weeks ago, there was some "junkmail" in the bottom half of the mailbox. Some flyers from stores. Hmmm, thought I. Leafing through, three of the stores looked like likely candidates for my search! So I went back inside and looked them up online. The closest one was 20 minutes away through absolutely stunning countryside. Hills, forests, lush verdant fields, Christmas tree farm, cornfields, distant horizons...Anyway, I got to a Co-op "Bau + Hobby" which turned out to be Home Depot meets Office Depot meets Michael's Arts & Crafts meets Garden Center meets Kitchen Store meets Outdoor Store. And upstairs, a full-blown Co-op grocery store and attached mall. I had a great time exploring, got the shower curtains and rods and several other things we needed, and had to leave to come home before I was done with the adventure. I will have to go back and take David too sometime. Looked like a nice town to visit for other reasons too (Affoltern am Albis).

So anyway, it wasn't junkmail, it was God-mail, I guess. Thanks!

* * *

The sun has returned as of yesterday, and we're supposed to have real summer temperatures here all next week. Nice. We may take our first trip into the mountains this Saturday for a hike. I hope we see lots of wildflowers, especially centaurea montana...

July 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 23, 2008

Starting to Look Into the Swiss Driver's License

Here is a helpful (?) translation from the German of what happens to our original driver's license when we swap it for a Swiss one:

6th ERFOLGTER BY DEFINITION

6.1. What happens with the foreign driving licence after euphemism?
Lead passes from EU / EFTA member states are sent to the exhibitors State returned. Lead passes from non-EU
EFTA states will be marked "Not valid in Switzerland" and will be the designated candidates in return. Leadership
rerausweise of people with permits foreigners F, N or S will be sent to the competent authority.

For those of you who understand German, here's the original:

6. NACH ERFOLGTER UMSCHREIBUNG

6.1. Was passiert mit dem ausländischen Führerausweis nach erfolgter Umschreibung?
Führerausweise aus EU-/EFTA-Staaten werden an den Ausstellerstaat zurückgesandt. Führerausweise aus Nicht EU-
/EFTA-Staaten erhalten den Vermerk "Not valid in Switzerland" und werden dem/der Bewerber/in zurückgegeben. Füh-
rerausweise von Personen mit Ausländer-Bewilligungen F, N oder S werden an die zuständige Behörde weitergeleitet.

Do you see what I am dealing with, with the "help" of Google Translate? Oh boy. I generally get the gist of what it is trying to say, but often I have to take individual words and stick them into my favorite online German-English dictionary (sometimes requiring splitting them into the parts of the compound words the German language so strongly embraces).

I think the mysterious
"NACH ERFOLGTER UMSCHREIBUNG" means something like "After the Procedure has Taken Place."
What is translated as "euphemism" really means something like "the procedure" I think.
And of course "Lead passes" are simply driver's licenses. Automatic translation is so hopeless because so much is determined by context. I'm sure faithful reader Randall who lived in Germany, and is married to a wonderful German lady, will enlighten us about this stuff.

What's awesome is that unlike the UK, where we had to pass a theory test AND a road test (which I failed the first time and passed the second time), here in lovely Switzerland we can exchange either our U.S. OR our U.K. license for a Swiss one, and our only test will be an EYE test - that kind I can handle! Especially after my 2004 lasik surgery... (thanks again, my dear husband David for that incredible birthday present!).

So now we have to fill out two forms in German, find out where to get the eye test, get one (D too), and bring our passport, residence permit, foreign license, photos, forms and ourselves to the appropriate office (only 16 minutes away, hurray! It was 45 minutes in the UK). We also have to decide which license to exchange. It looks like, from the paragraph I quoted above, we would not get our UK licenses back, whereas our U.S. licenses they would deface slightly and give back. Hmmm. Probably our UK licenses are no longer valid anyway since we don't live there anymore? Not sure about that. We sure went through a lot of trouble to get those!

July 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2008

July 22nd High of 60

Jeans and sweatshirt today. High of 60 F (16 C, low of 53/12).

The postman really does ring twice here, by the way. (That was a non sequitur, and sounds like a nasty book from the summary I just found.)

Made a Granny Smith apple tart last night with Emily (she did at least half the work). Glad to note that in Switzerland the prepared pie crust dough is once again round. In England it was rectangular, which meant a lot of trimming and wasted dough if I was making a round pie (like all my pies). In France it was round I believe, like in the U.S.

Remember yesterday I wrote about ordering salmon at the fish counter in the grocery store? You may be amused to know that the word for salmon here is "lachs" (it sounds similar to "lax") - as in bagels and lox (only it's not smoked unless you have the word Räucher before it (as in "Rauchen verboten" - no smoking!).

Here you have
a) the hibiscus tree as viewed from our bedroom window
b) an example of beflowered balconies very common in Switzerland (usually a lot of geraniums)
c) a forested streamside path we can take to walk from our house to our village, e.g. to the bakery
d) a sleeping swan by the lake in downtown Zürich (we explored a little after trying a downtown church on Sunday)
HibiscustreefrombedroomBalconyflowerslangnau
LangnaustreamforestSleepingswan

July 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack