Jason got back from his school trip to Nepal (a subset of 12th Graders) this morning, safe and healthy. Thanks be to God. Here are a few of his pictures, from the school his group volunteered at in Nagarkot, and the sights he took in in Kathmandu and the mountains. He did a great job letting us in on the feel of his trip though his photos.
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Differences I noticed between USA and Switzerland, the weekend before last (based on visit to Chicago O'Hare and Wisconsin, May 2011)
Good Things About the USA
- Massive parking lots, easy to find parking, and easy physically to get the car in and out of the spot
- Super-wide highways, less stressful to drive on due to wider lanes and more of of them to share
- No speed cameras
- A/C in summer to stay cool
- English radio in the car! (also, Christian radio in the car - better yet, English Christian radio in the car: K-Love
- 24-hour drug stores with every imaginable necessity (cereal, milk included)
- Grocery stores & casual restaurant chains that cater for parties at reasonable prices
- Malls all over the place, open weekends and holidays
- Less expensive, sturdier, machine-washable and -dryable clothes in a wider selection that don't shrink immediately
- Much bigger washers and dryers
- Garbage disposals
- Breakfast restaurants!
- Whole grain bagels with honey-walnut cream cheese!
- 100% fruit Smoothies!
- Free water automatically served
- Real Lemonade!!! Strawberry/raspberry lemonade. (NOT Sprite, which is the sort of thing you get if you ask for lemonade here)
- Cranberry juice at restaurants
- Free salads often included with meals
- Inexpensive meat ($8 burrito vs $30)
- Raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels
- Lots of friendly, open people
Good Things About Switzerland
- Highway speed limit 120kph instead of the American 90-105kph
- Better tasting tap water
- No standard ice in glasses of water (not too cold)
- Better-tasting milk
- Tastier fruit in the average hotel
- Better breakfast in the average hotel (not all pasty white stuff with high fructose corn syrup and no nutrients)
- Standardly unsalted butter
- Restaurant portions not consistently too big
- Fewer grossly overweight people
- No freezing A/C in summer
- Not TVs in every public place, constantly on
- Thicker toilet paper in public restrooms
- More (or total) privacy in public toilet stall door design
- Toilet design that never needs plunging
- Fewer very chatty phone trees
- Not as overwhelming in choice overkill
- People rest on Sundays (stores closed)
Neutral differences about the U.S.
- Water towers
- Front lawns with no hedge or fence
- Blinker sound of Ford cars - distinctly American
- Lower toilet seats
- You find out the name of your waitstaff
- People eat earlier (full restaurant at 6:30pm, people steadily leaving already)
- Birthday singers in restaurants
Other interesting things we saw
- A freight train with 116 train cars!!!! Hugest freight train ever.
- "Crash Investigation Site" is the name of exit 347 on Wisconsin's I-94. (???)
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Let's see, since my last post:
- Jason finished with classes for the year, but since this was 12th grade, he finished with high school, too! (*shaking head in amazement*)
- I watched Jason's last Ultimate Frisbee game in high school, against the teachers (teachers won, but game was called due to time restraints of players)
- We enjoyed viewing Emily's visual artwork at the Middle School Spring Arts Festival - some beautiful drawings!
- We led our sixth 19th Century Dance Evening at our church here in Switzerland (some 42 dancers came and it was lots of fun, but it always takes a lot out of me, too, teaching/calling in the spotlight like that)
- The next morning, we flew to Wisconsin
- Next day: the most amazing wedding (of David's cousin, on his dad's side, about 40 relatives we hadn't seen in 6-10 years) at a catholic church, during the Sunday morning mass, in which the whole congregation was invited to get up and waltz in the aisles in the middle of the service, before the vows, to Could I Have This Dance, For the Rest of My Life
!!! Talk about surreally wonderful. The priest had tied it in to the mass with the idea that God was asking this question to every person - He wants to dance with us for our whole lives, to have a relationship that close and harmonic, with Him leading and us following His every step and guiding hands... so very cool. This whole thing was a surprise even to the bride and groom, but they were perfectly happy to dance together!
- Next day: some U.S. clothes shopping for the kids and then lunch in Milwaukee with my aunt and uncle whom we hadn't seen in some 11 years (on my dad's side) - fun people! Then fly home again already - only three nights in the U.S., and Emily missed two days of school. We didn't have enough U.S. coins to pay the toll arriving at the Chicago airport, so we had to use the cool Illinois Tollway Website to pay later
. It features a Google map showing the numbered toll plazas so you can find which one you didn't pay at and pay online within 7 days. So gracious and helpful.
- Next day, back in CH: government appointment to give biometric data (= index fingerprints, photo, and signature; not as invasive nor mysterious as it sounds) to Swiss immigration, so they could renew our B permit residence cards (which arrived in the mail one week later, thanks be to God - we get to live here for a fourth year!)
- SAME day: one of David's cousins on his mom's side arrived with his wife and son and daughter for a 6-day visit. We visited ruined Gräpplang Castle, an hour from our home:
The cousins climbed on the walls, with the Alps as a backdrop...
The next day, we did a high ropes course, then took the cable car to the summit of Mt. Pilatus:
The next day, lunch by Lake Zug after church:
The next day, Emily's 2nd cousin about her age joined her at school for lunch, and then the next day, their last with us, we went into Zürich, and saw these sweet cygnets:
Then they left, and the same day, we received another 7 house guests for two nights, on their way from Bosnia to the Jura, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Saturday David, Emily and I will all collapse in a heap for a welcome 3-day weekend with nothing planned. Except missing Jason, who is still in Nepal until Monday morning. Then it's the last week of school for Emily, Jason has prom Wednesday, and graduation ceremony the following Saturday, June 18th!!! Phew.
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