Monday, February 26, 2007

Bloggin' about Boots

Well, I was thinking I had nothing really blog-worthy today. And then I remembered the boots. I have always enjoyed taking pictures and when the whole "scrapbooking" phase hit me, I took many pic's with the scrapbooks in mind. Now I sometimes take pic's with the blog in mind.
This fall, our first in this lovely country, I noticed a footwear phenomenon - everyone switched from flip flops to boots. And might I add, for anyone who does NOT know me, I kinda like the boot. Especially my 'avocado' green suede cowboy pair. The boot in Europe is not to be hidden beneath a long jean - No, No. They are worn with skirts, culottes, cuffed jeans, jeans tucked in and the oft spotted "knicker." Let's just say I'm not a fan of the knicker (a pant that pleats & buttons just below the knee - looks like old fashioned golf pants), it's a look I believe fashion should have forgot, but they do show off the boot.
So here you have some examples of the "boot" taken for the most part on the sly in Zurich and Barcelona. The exception is, of course, that of my little models. I have excercised much restraint although had to buy the tall black boots mentioned in a previous blog and then HAD to buy another practical pair as I had nothing to wear on the ICE here except actual snow boots (not a nice look heading out to dinner, the Dr., etc....). And, I quit wearing my jeans tucked into boots in College. I haven't succumbed to that temptation and probably won't as my goal in life is to make my legs look longer - not chop them up to pieces.
But then again, I thought I was done wearing ESPRIT clothes. A friend and I were laughing as we shopped at ESPRIT last Friday thinking "we should be too old for this." But, ESPRIT here is like a GAP in the States - or as close as I can get anyway.
So, if you've come this far, thanks for putting up with a little frivolous fashion and may I just say - the UK coverage of the Red Carpet at the Oscars was hugely dissapointing and I will have to scan the cable network to see if I can find an E! repeat of their show! Is that a sad admission or what? What I won't admit is how late I stayed up!
So our week begins, Bart will wonder why I bothered putting this on the Blog but maybe, someday, he will add one of his own.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It only took 7 months!

To meet and have a real conversation with a local Swiss family! And they would like our children to play together if they get along.

What you quickly find out about Switzerland is that the country is beautiful, efficient and the native population interacts with "Auslanders" only when necessary. Don't get me wrong! We have met almost all our neighbors and they are very polite and we may speak for a moment on the stairs/by the post boxes BUT we may spend 3-5 years here and never step foot within their door. They know we are here temporarily. The Swiss are very focused on maintaining relationships and it is not the norm here to pursue a relationship with someone who is here for a short time. For a country where approx. 30% of the population never leave the Village they grew up in, 3 - 5 years is a blink of an eye. They tend to dislike the American phrase "How are you?" as they feel it is insincere in most cases. They take pride in their attention to detail in many things - including relationships.

So while we have had an active social life and enjoyed getting to know the International community, it has all been with other Expats or Foreign Nationals (best way I can describe non-Swiss living here permanently). I rely heavily on my Deutsch teacher for much local information and questions.

So while I was weeding yesterday and the girls were playing, a family stopped on the walking path and asked if we spoke English and were we living here or on holiday. Turns out their 5 year old heard the girls and told their Mom that they were speaking English. They are Swiss but the Mom did quite a bit of traveling thru Engl. speaking countries & South America before settling down. She wants her kids to learn English outside of the school atmosphere at this age (5 & 2) and was intrigued by the idea that if ours all get along, it would be a great opportunity for them to work on Engl., us to work on Deutsch. She was very engaging and quickly said she was the 'abnormal' Swiss to invite herself into our garden and propose playdates. Too Funny. They live right next to our bus stop - we can see their apartment from ours. So we shall see.

Interesting Note: You should never have a "private" conversation in a country like Switzerland on a train, tram etc... thinking that they won't understand your English. I am realizing more and more, that while many in our town do not speak English much, it is not because they don't understand any of it. They are unwilling to speak it because they feel they speak it poorly with improper grammar. Same reason they will listen to me speak High German, then respond in Swiss German (which I do NOT understand) unless specifically asked to switch. They are very proud and do not like to do things poorly. I am soooo unproud and mutilate the German language daily but I charge on. I know it will get better, someday. Like when I need to give the moving crew direction on how I need things packed into the container going back to the States. Hee Hee

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ski Week

We ended our "Ski Week" with an actual day of skiing. The girls took a lesson while I skied with some ladies from church. We all had a great time. We went to Hoch-Ybrig in order to get up high enough for snow. A gondola takes you up over the mountain to the ski resort. From the top chairlift, you can look over the Alp ranges and lakes below. The lift lines were something to experience as well - not really lines, you shuffle together until you reach what appears to be your starting gate (think horse races) and when the little gate opens, you can proceed to catch your chair. It's a "you snooze, you lose" process - there is no room to be hesitant or "American polite" in this process. It only means you will have to wait longer to get on the chair. Here, crowding into trains, trams, lines, elevators, etc..., is just a way of life. Personal space is not a consideration. So, if you ever find yourself annoyed in the States with "foreigners" who appear to be "pushy" in your American eyes - it is a cultural difference, not rudeness. A matter of survival really :) . Swiss Wildlife! You will have to click on this pic to see it better. There in the middle is an Ibex - kind of like a mountain goat with huge curved horns. Over to it's left is it's friend but it's harder to see. Caught this at the top of the lift looking over the other side of the ski "pistes" (runs). Too bad I can't carry my zoom lens when skiing!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Paradeplatz - Zurich

Rachel & Kendra in front of Credit Suisse

The Savoy Hotel and Paradeplatz Tram Central - be very careful crossing the street!
Restaurants, stores and private banking (you aren't walking thru the security doors with a mere $500 to deposit - they like 6 digit numbers best)
UBS and my own personal favorite 'Bancomat' spot when I need a few Swiss Franc's
Very nice little street off the Paradeplatz leading to restaurants and exclusive (read $$$$$) little boutiques in old Zurich. Restaurant to the right is an old Armory building and the place to go if you would like a variety of sausage/brats with potatoes & bread for lunch.
I realize I have been remiss in my Blog - I rarely put pic's or Info. about Zurich in it. So today, you get Paradeplatz. A prominent place along the Bahnhofstrasse not only for the majority of trams which stop through here but also for the restaurants, high-end shopping (Gucci, Tods, YSL, Cartier, etc... - I shop at the Claire's & Body Shop end :)) and the ever present large and powerful Banking institutions which call this part of town home. There's gold in them thar vaults - I'm not kidding! Can you imagine having to audit the gold inventory? It would be cool just to tour the structure of the vaults themselves. Oh well - probably off to a Dinosaur museum or Planeta Magic (kind of like Chuckee Cheese without the pizza) instead.

I have Updated!

I have finally updated my Blogger account. To many of you this means NOTHING. But the girls are busy watching a DVD and I have finally figured out how to link my sister(s) websites to mine. So you may check out the work Kris & J are doing Down Under or the cutest new baby girl born in the Islands. Cheers!

Our Home Sweet Home

View of our front walkway from the stairs leading up to the backyard and onto roof.
Our very functional and efficient Swiss kitchen. Not considered a gathering place in this part of Europe. I'm getting rather used to the idea: entertain in living area, all sorts of mess going on in the kitchen and no one has to look at it until guests go home and it's time to clean up. It's a small space; cleanup takes less time than it used to. But what I wouldn't give for a good, "old fashioned" garbage disposal.
Living area w/ dining hiding behind big American sectional. You cannot find furniture like this here. The style tends to be modern, Ikea looking, very close to the ground. As many tall people as they have here, I would like to see them crawling out of their beds which all seem to be 1 1/2 feet off the ground. You should have seen the movers looking at our bed asking me if it was "OK", "there is something wrong - it is too high." I was thrilled to have my bed that I have to climb into - they didn't quite get it.
Our "funky fireplace" that we need to find a grate & screen for. Where I do not know? I am still looking. So we have cool glowing candles instead. And our "office" is hiding behind.
So here is our office. We enjoy the view - it was a nice day when I took this pic. Today is high clouds, grey and for Ski Week (winter holiday). Weather here will be rainy & warmer this week - not real conducive to skiing.

So, it wasn't a week full of new adventures. Unless you call many hours on the computer trying to replace the vacation rental for Spring Break that fell thru an adventure. We did get a replacement - Whew! We had reserved a place, bought tickets, etc... and then received an email stating that construction not due to begin 'til Fall had started last week unbeknownst to the owners. And so they had to pull the rental for the season. It is not easy to find a replacement apartment in certain parts of the world for a family of 4 at Spring Break. But we did - Yeah!
Went to a lovely dinner party Friday night hosted by a couple from our church. They are from Zimbabwe but are now 'permanent' residents of Switzerland and it has been such an education as we get to know them. And another lesson in thankfulness that we hold US passports and have lived without civil war in our front yards - literally. There is true evil out there in the world and people who have few or little means of escape. I know this part is a little heavy but for you who would - Pray for the farmers from Zimbabwe who are either starting life anew in the countries they have found to take them in or have found themselves imprisoned for not leaving their farms by Febr. 4th - gov't set deadline.
Anyway - on to dinner. Lynn made a wonderful curry dinner - kind of a mix of Indian and South African - was absolutely delicious. And the conversation was fun - US, UK and Sth African. Bart and I had a great time using some of the new lingo we've learned from UK acquaintances (and TV) last night during "24" commercial breaks - I think I hit him with the pillow laughing when he commented on the "lovely knickers" - it was an underwear ad! We record appointments in our "diaries", Bart wears a "jumper" (sweatshirt) with jeans - though pants here are trousers - it is all so proper sounding to our American ears. Not to mention the "Cheers" "Rubbish" "Bloody" "Right then"(think Brit. accent) that could creep into daily language if one is not careful.
Enough of all this - we are on holiday. At home. Bart is working hard (too bad winter break and one of his busiest times come together :( ), so the girls and I will putz around and I'm sure I'll have better pic's next Blog.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Skiing & Superbowl

Rachel working on her "pizza" in ski school.

Look what kids will do with some little toys and snow piles on the terrace! Hours of entertainment.

The girls are greeting the sheep in the field behind our "backyard."
Kendra is having a lot of fun learning to ski.
More fun with Polly Pockets.

Skiing in Switzerland is different. Although Bart & I have only been up once, we can now say that we have skied through cow pastures, next to stables with cows and horses (they eye the strange two leg creatures with interest) wait to cross through the t-bar riders going uphill as we are going down and, of course, were laughing at the car crossing sign on the ski run - just as a car actually came across so they could park in their barn! I must say I was feeling elated last weekend. It's been 9 years since I've skied (Rachel is 8 1/2 - you do the math! - not that I'm blaming my kids, or Iowa) and I was reminded once again that God created snow so I could ski on it! I know He has lots of other reasons but for 2 hrs while the girls were in lessons - it was a small slice of Heaven. But, there's not been much snow this year - weather is crazy all over I think - and I did not bother skiing this past weekend during their lessons. Bart stayed home and worked - contrary to my previous blog comments, the man works alot (and he helps me out with the dishes which I really don't like to do).

SUPERBOWL XXXVIWXYZ????? Many American expat discussions this weekend centered around who was staying up to watch the SuperBowl, where they would watch it and for many, the sadness over lack of cool commercials. The game started at about 12:30am here. Bart & I entertained ourselves pre-game with a lovely Anniversary dinner at a local restaurant (sans kinder) and 2 hrs of '24.' After watching the initial 92 yd run, I headed off to bed. Bart was a bit disgusted with his "Sky" newscast group - their 'guest' commentator was Don Johnson. And of course, there were no good commercials - unless you are interested in some great travel deals from the UK, lowering your car insurance rates in the UK OR finding some fantastic quick foods from Sainsbury (oops! that's in the UK too). Should we ever find ourselves taking a rotation in London (as expensive as Zurich but without the beautiful scenery or fantasticly on-time train system), we will find ourselves already adapted to much of the British culture.
Anyway, Bart apparently stayed up 'til game over, woke before ten and was into the office by 11:20 - not bad. He had indicated there would be no 'start time' at work this morning - sticking up for his US staff and of course, his hard-core sports watching self.
A good weekend. And the week has started off well - I just purchased 20 books at the school's Book & Bake Sale. 20 books for 20chf!!!!!! About .80 cents apiece - all English! Just one of them new would be equiv. $15 - 24 at the English bookstore in Zurich. Happy Day.