Monday, November 27, 2006

Lot's of Pic's - Elaine's Visit & Thanksgiving

Here is Elaine, Susan's mom, in Luzern along the water near one of the old bridges. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed ourselves walking around and seeing the old city wall w/ turrets.
Here is the family in front of one of the stores on the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. If you want to do some shopping, the Bahnhofstrasse is the place to go (and all the side streets around it). There are your high end shops (Gucci, YSL,Tiffany's, Bucherer, etc...) and your regular people shops (H&M, Zara's, Claire's - is there a city in the world that doesn't have a Claire's?, etc...) and restaurants and goodies in between. Something for everyone and people watching is an art form.
OK - Make a guess - Is it a big chicken or a little turkey? It was really good!!! We had Thanksgiving on Sat. night (Elaine & Susan were in Lugano, Switz. on Thurs/Fri) with Matt & Jill (IA) and Randy & Ashlee (CT) - also KPMG transferees. We had the "bird", mashed potatoes & gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, corn, cranberries, pumpkin and apple pies - halfway thru the meal someone commented "I feel so American right now - it feels good." The only "swiss" item on the table was the bread. It was lovely and soooo tasty! I don't know that we have appreciated a Thanksgiving meal like that in a very long time - Thank You Lord!!! And not only that but there was college football on TV (with time changes, games start around 6pm and go 'til the wee hours) and Jill, once again, beat the guys at Texas Hold'em. There is justice in the world. :)
Here is Mom with the girls at the Rhein Falls - largest falls in Europe (approx. 1 hr from the house). It was cold and misty but cool to see. Walked all around and then took the ferry boat back across the river at the base of the falls. Although you can land on the large rocks in the middle of the river/falls by boat, I (Susan) was/am still recovering and put the halt on getting wet in the middle of the river in the cold - just didn't sound like fun. We will have to go back and do it in warmer weather!
Here is Mom with the girls at the Zurich Christmas Mart - I'll have to add more pic's of that later. We went on Fri. night after she & I returned from Lugano and enjoyed looking at everything lit up. We checked out the Swarovski tree with it's thousands of crystal ornaments, checked out all the crafts and goodies, sampled the Gluvein and then headed down the Bahnhofstrasse to see all the Christmas decor there as well.

We really enjoyed Mom's visit and for me, Susan, it was the first time I've spent a lot of alone time with her since before I had kids. While the girls were in school during the day, we would go exploring - Luzern, Zurich, Wadenswil - and then we went on an overnight to Lugano (Italian part of Switz.) and Bart worked from home Fri. so he could do kid duty. We enjoyed our trip and it really felt like we were somewhere else. Once you go thru St. Gottard/San Gottardo you enter the Ticino region and suddenly the architecture/language/landscaping are different. And you are greeted with Buon Giorno instead of Gruezi - and then some speak Italian & English, some speak Italian & German - so at least we were able to do what we needed. I think we left a lot of smudges on the windows of all the shops - some of the loveliest couture/designer things I've ever seen in person - it was fun. And Mom went back with 2 pairs of shoes - she was thrilled! Upon hearing my cough in the cab, the Italian cabbie promptly rattled his recipe off for a cure - we'll see if it works - I have woke up less tired the last couple days so it may be doing the trick - jury is still out.

So Mom had to go back yesterday. I took her to the airport and saw her off - miss her already. It was so nice to have a visitor and especially family. We are off to a busy week already. We put up our tree last night and today I am in search of lights for it so we can decorate. Must make the girls Nutcracker costumes and must catch up on all I've not done since being sick and having Mom to visit. And speaking of Nucracker ballets - if any of you are going to the Sacto. Nutcracker production this year, our dear little friend, Rebecca Hambalek, is one of the Klara's. Give her some applause from us - she is the daughter of Frank & Ruthie whom we stay with in Fresno each year.

Well, I'm off to buy a sewing machine today (I hope). Love and Holiday wishes to all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Update - Mid Nov.

Well - for those of you wanting a pic - I give you the girls on Halloween night. They don't do Trick or Treating here (but the Catholic Cantons observe All Saints Day as a holiday, Nov. 1). The girls did have class Halloween parties at school to dress up for and there was a "trunk or treat" held at school, but, it was on Sat., 11/4 and Mom & Dad had a date (1st one in 5 months!) so - no giant bags of candy to deal with this year. But we did carve pumpkins that night and had a candlelit, candy hunt at home so they had fun.

So - the blog has been a little silent. You will have to use your imagination for images portrayed over the last couple weeks. Our weekly lives revolve around the usual - work, school, etc... and weekends are up for grabs and usu. what I blog about - Hence the silence - not sure what I would say or how pathetic we might sound :) .

2 weeks ago - After 3 months of watching a 20in. screen TV, Bart & Susan, who admittedly like to spoil themselves with a bit larger screen than that, decide to look for a new one and try to buy a desk. While all the little villages have most of what one might need, you have to go into certain other towns if you want anything of variety. So just as someone in a small town in IA might venture an hour or so into Des Moines to hit Best Buy, we ventured into Dietlikon to check out MediaMart. We stop first at Ikea to check on desks - didn't find anything that would fit/we liked - Image 1 - Bart trying to race thru the Rat-Maze of Ikea where every "Ausfahrt" (exit) sign simply leads you thru another section. Took us 30 min. just to get out of there - Bart has declared he will NEVER go in there again. We cross the street to MediaMart - After a good bit of looking, we decide on a TV, find someone to help, are given a good deal and while I get the car, Bart goes to pay for it. Image 2 - I return to find Bart (uhm, perturbed) with the girls and no TV. They only take cash or their own Credit card and he didn't have his B-permit on him to get thier card (B permit is our residence permit - required by foreigners living in Switzerland). So we went home. And had family movie night watching "Empire Strikes Back" on a 20inch screen TV. At the time, it was too pathetic to blog about. But we just figure it's another "American" learning experience for us here.
Image 3 - Susan returns to Dietlikon the next Wed. armed with her B permit to buy the TV only to then be told that we must have resided here for 2 years!!!!! She is somewhat consoled by finding a desk (that Bart will get later) and going home with a basket of cute Christmas decorations.
(I won't mention that gas is about $5.22/gal - sounds like a cheapskate)
Image 4 - Susan calling Bart last Fri. morning to tell him that she does not feel better and in fact has a fever and thinks we need to cancel the weekend plans to Barcelona(with cheepo, nonrefundable, nonchangeable plane tickets - ouch)!! We won't go into images of Susan with a fever for 5 days but good news (sort of ) is that it was not flu but a bact. respiratory infect. (less contagious in this case anyway & antibiotics can be taken) - most likely the result of the allergic reaction to her grooming of the ornamental grasses on the roof. She has been plagued by these grasses since moving to IA - they are here too. Next house will have NONE of them and she's been forbidden to touch them ever, ever again no matter how zealous she feels about getting them cleaned up.
Image 5 - Since Barcelona is canceled, Bart goes to the bank to pull out enough cash and drives back to Dietlikon where he picks up the desk and gets the TV - for a better deal than the weekend before as he found the same saleperson. But surprises the cashier when he pays cash - go figure.
Image 6 - Family movie night again. Rounding it out with "Return of the Jedi" on the new TV (Susan under blankets, quarantined away from family on the other side of the sectional).

Lessons learned: Ever so often, we are reminded that things are not as easy for us as expatriates/foreigners. We are not used to using a lot of cash as Americans - here they don't blink when you pull out a 100 or 200 chf note. Just think on this - we were not able to lease our car or get our credit card here until after our legal residence permit came in: we had to register our arrival into the country within 8 days of entry then wait 8 weeks for the permit.

We have grown so accustomed to swiping a card and having what we want, that we forget it is a privilege (as well as a responsibility). And in Switzerland, we are welcomed guests but guests do not always have the same 'rights' as residents. So don't take what you have at home for granted! Enjoy your conveniences and your choices (though I've found with less choices, I have less "wants").

And - I promise to never, ever, EVER touch the grasses again. I am praying for a peaceful night of sleep tonight!

Next pic's should have Susan's mom, Elaine, in them - YEAH!!!!!!!