Friday, December 14, 2007

Still Waiting...

No news on the hard drive yet. But I find myself quite relaxed and unperturbed about it. Possibly because Rachel has been home sick all week and the "mother" side of my brain took over. I've more concerned with whether we will travel as a family this weekend or split up again as we did last year.

For this reason we have a traveler's insurance policy. A policy to help you recover the cost of trips you are unable to take due to illness, etc... A policy that would have been nice to have when we cancelled Barcelona last fall due to my respiratory infection. No refund on those plane tickets - ouch! We got the policy right after that.

But God answers prayer and it appears the fever is gone and her throat is clearing up. Some people seem to have this virus for only a day or so, some for a whole week. And as it was only fever, sore throat and she has stayed well hydrated and eating, I am confident we can all get on the plane tomorrow. Not that I was worried or anything.

Since moving to IA, now Switz., and traveling further distances for holidays, we have often had this situation over the past 5 years - children sick prior to a winter holiday trip - strep, stomach flu - the easy answer would have been strep. 24 hrs on antibiotics and she's good to go. But such was not the case. And I haven't been out of the house for 4 days except to and from school for Kendra. Two quick runs into the post office don't really count. So I am ready to get on that plane and get out of here.

We will have a computer with us so feel free to email. If anyone needs to call, Bart will have his cell phone. I'm not taking mine. I can't find the euro/usa adapter. And I figure I'll be with Bart most of the time. If not, I'll be shopping or reading by the pool or maybe (fingers crossed) getting a massage to relieve the tight and burning muscles around the shoulder blade region (having to carry Rachel into the Dr.'s office was not easy). And if I am doing any of those things, I probably wouldn't answer the phone anyway.

Yeah - I get to go to the States tomorrow. Feel like singin' "I want to be in Amereeca" from West Side Story - have to sing it with the Latin accent though or it's just not right. No German accent for that one! And we'll have little chocolate donuts and grilled cheese sandwiches and root beer! Ah - the simple things in life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Pictures for You!

Hello - sometimes I post without a picture. And it's usually because I have a need to impart deep thoughts or complain about something.

No deep thoughts today.

And I'm not going to complain. Because it's not that big of a deal. We hope.

I am typing this from another computer. For which I am thankful. Because I have access to a computer. And a Yahoo mail account. And most of my pic's since we moved here are all downloaded to Shutterfly. And I had the foresight to turn off our home computer when I heard it making the loud "clank" clank" clank" noise. It could have been "clink"clink" clink" but I don't want to split hairs over small things like that.

So we are hoping that the nice Swiss technicians can make a backup of the hard drive even if the tower can't be saved. We are waiting for the call.

And I realize that I will be writing out all the Christmas card addresses by hand. Which is more personal. And you can revel in the handwriting mistakes I make. As I did not schedule time for this activity before we leave (VERY early Sat. morning). And had planned on putting on the address labels again. Of which file is on the hard drive as I wasn't finished updating a few address changes.

But I'm not worried. We'll probably wake up at 3am Sunday morning anyway and it'll give me something to do. Right? There might be room in the carry-on so I could do some on the plane. When I am not catching up on all the movies we've not seen. It will be a 27.5 hr travel day for us - from first departure to arrival. Not counting time to airport or to the hotel when we arrive. Please pray for us - health and safety and rest. Girls are feeling a little anxious to be taking such a long trip.

Rachel is home today in fact with a sore throat the school nurse said we should watch. But it gives me more time to get things ready before we go. Maybe even get some addresses written out!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Funny Conversations

It was recital week -
And we had an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day. I like to ski at a place to the right of that mountain range. This is on the 'weg' behind our place.
These are the kind of photo's you can get at 4pm - it was cold. Bulbs are priced at 1/4 but the ground is frozen so no point in that!
I looked up and saw this stash of nuts and red berries in this bird's nest - it was literally overflowing! Is it a community nest or will a single bird be defending it all winter. Maybe I'll find out.

We've had a week where we have actually sat down 3 nights in a row for dinner together. So Bart is either getting home earlier or I am feeding our children dinner at 7pm. Pretty much the 7pm thing - which is pretty normal anyway - some of the countries here don't start dinner 'til 8 or later but that's another topic. There were a few memorable conversations I thought I would share. And that way I can print this out to keep for memories sake.

Conversation #1
Rachel started talking about how "I'm going to go to college and when I'm done, after like, 3 or 4 years, I'll have a good job.." I interrupt to have her clarify when she was getting the good job - right after college or 3 or 4 years after college? (very important issue) She says "Weeeelll, I'll go to college and when I am finished, I will get a really good job :) and work for, like, 3 or 4 years, and then maybe I'll get a husband and then wait a couple years more and then maybe I'll have a couple kids."
It was all Bart and I could do to not start high-fiving each other all over the place. Instead we looked at each other, smiled, and Bart says to Rachel "So can we write all of this down and you could sign it?" I added "in blood." And Rachel said "Yes, that's a great idea - like a committment thing." Bart "Yeah - it's a contract" Susan "And you can't break a contract without penalty" Rachel "Yeah - that would be cool. We'll do a contract."
Don't think we won't.
Then we asked what she was going to do for her really good job someday. And she says "Hey Dad, maybe I could come work at KPMG with you!" Oh, how we laughed. But he has a good job. And she shows signs of inheriting our little accountant quirks - scary!!!

Conversation #2
We have this little box of cards that have questions on them - like family conversation starters - a Christmas gift from a friend. The girls enjoy pulling out a card and all of us answering the questions ever so often.

So the other night, Kendra pulls a card which asks us to rank the 4 following in order of importance: money, love, freedom and happiness. We agreed as a family that our ranking was 1. Love 2. Freedom 3. Happiness and 4. Money.

We started to discuss and our reasoning went as follows: Without Freedom, we couldn't really feel happy; but without Love, the freedom wouldn't mean as much and that Money couldn't buy you Happiness or Love - at which point Susan opened her big mouth to say "but, Money could buy you more Freedom depending..." Kendra "Yeah, Freedom to go Shopping!"

Oh - we laughed hard. Mom likes to shop but these days I rarely buy - I do a lot of window shopping. Should we be concerned about Kendra? :)

Conversation #3 - at Bible Study (ladies on Thurs. am's)
We're in the middle of our Beth Moore video when someone says "Uh, K, the Polizei are coming to your door" "S, (not Susan) why don't you go with K 'cause you can speak Swiss German" S comes back to tell us that anyone parked with their wheels on the sidewalk needs to repark so their tires are only on the street.

So half our group goes to repark cars while we sit and contemplate who could have called the Polizei. We narrowed it down to the neighbor walking on the sidewalk watching us all go into K's and sighed deeply at the compassion of the Swiss people for those who apparently don't know all the rules. Make that, lack of compassion. S returned and said the Polizei explained that "on the residential streets the cars could not be parked on any part of the sidewalk but that cars could drive up onto the sidewalk in order to avoid the cars parked on the street itself." They were very kind to not give anyone tickets and S thanked them generously for it.

And then S shares the following with us: They (Polizei) asked what the occasion of our gathering was? "we actually meet every Thurs. to study the Bible. Maybe if more people in Switzerland studied the Bible, they would have more compassion and be nicer to others." The Polizei laughed and said "Yes, but then we would be out of a job." S can be very bold.

Understand - S is American born of Swiss parents. She has lived here for 15 yrs and would really like to go back to the States (when her husbands job allows it). She speaks and understands Swiss German, but because she is American by birth and raising, she is still considered an outsider. She hears and understands what they say around her when they think she is 'just' American. They are not always very friendly. Not all, but some. And they have noooo problem calling the Polizei to report if your music is too loud, your car is parked wrong, your party has gone past 11pm and is too loud, you threw something wrong in the garbage, scold your kids if they are too loud, scold you if you have a shared laundry and you are washing clothes not according to the schedule! Shall I stop now? I know, I'm starting to rant.

Even my Swiss neighbor, M, yesterday was saying how some of her friends wonder why she looks to spend time with 'English' people (playdates with us and with a UK family). It is a small country desperately trying to keep certain ways of life afloat. And although technology and innovation are highly respected, they demand a certain quality and maintenance of life (based on generations) which is starting to change as their population changes. If you are not planning on living here long term, they do not invest time in a relationship with you (my friend M is an exception and has said so). They don't necessarily like change - and for a "neutral" country they have pretty strong views politically.

So it makes for interesting conversations and interactions. It also makes me very aware of how I treat others and do I discriminate because they don't speak the same way I do/look the same way? Do I treat others the way I want to be treated? I would say that most of the Americans here agree "we didn't feel quite so American until we moved out of America." It makes you appreciate where you come from. And while you can still enjoy the experience of living in foreign lands - you have the comfort of knowing where 'home' is.

BUT - someday - when it comes time to moving back 'home', we know that will be an adjustment once again. They say it's more often harder to re-integrate to the home country than integrate with the foreign. I can see that - no kalbbratwurst, gluehwein, roesti, local backerei with fun little goodies, efficient train system and the cheese! Oh the cheese!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fun Bavaria

Yes - the 'Lederhosen' is alive and well in Bavaria. And actually, while there was a lot of lederhosen and dirdl's to be viewed and purchased - and we have seen them worn here and there. And what we have here is a fairly traditional winter outfit for the Bavarian male. Long wool socks with wool knickers, a cotton embroidered shirt with wool fitted jacket, hat and leather shoes. Bart can't wait to open his Christmas presents! Black forest squirrel - complete with pointy ears if you can click-on and get bigger photo. Where is my telephoto lens when I need it? - safely stored in the hotel safe - how smart is that?
Ah - the Christmas look everyone is going for. In Bavaria. If you are working at the hotel or attending a local function. Not what I wore to the company "Holiday" event. But would be kind of fun to play dress up in. Maybe....? Our 'horse-power' up to Neuschwanstein. Fun for the girls. Kendra giggled exceptionally hard when the pferde (Horse) to our right turned out to be a little 'gassy.'
And now I must stop as I appear to be having an allergic reaction to the pepperocini (red pepper) I put into tonight's pasta sauce. I know I can eat it without issue - have done it often enough. But cut it up fresh for the first time. Not fun - might have to break out the steroids again. After my hands and face quit itching. At least there is no rash - Yet!

and yes, I've already taken Benadryl.

Whew! We made it!

To Germany. Fussen to be specific. The romantic heart of Bavaria.

A month ago we were supposed to make this trip. But Kendra came down with a stomach virus. Funny how she ended up getting sick exactly two weeks later - same outcome, different cause.

So you can imagine how I was less than thrilled to pick the girls up from school on Friday with Rachel complaining of a stomach ache. But she often has a 'nervous' stomach and therefore I plied her with children's Pepto and continued to load the car. And she's telling me how three is a lucky number and I'm thinking that if she is #3 on the vomiting cycle then 3 is definitely NOT my lucky number.
We managed to get in the car, picked up McDonald's and met Bart at the Bahnhof. Rachel opted to not eat McD's and never did get sick. Yippee!!!
It was nice to get away from the business of home and we really lucked out with the weather. It has gotten progressively worse since we returned to Zurich and as we spent most of our trip outside, we were really glad to not be cold and wet. Just cold. But prepared.
Bart's bro-in-law is from Fussen and we had been there in '96. It was fun to return and experience it as a family. The girls enjoyed some of the local treats and looking in all the shops at the local dress, souvenirs, etc... It is a medieval city and very charming. Plus it has a couple castles to check out besides their Basilica and Kloster.
You do come to a point where a castle is a castle and a cathedral looks like the last cathedral you looked at. Can't be helped. But it is always fascinating to walk on streets and in buildings where people have lived for many hundreds of years. And this part of Bavaria is home to a couple of special castles. Neuschwanstein is the most famous - Disney supposedly modeled the Sleeping Beauty castle after it.

A small country church near Schwangau. Bart had to drop me off and drive around to pick me back up - it was on a one lane road and we didn't trust the tour buses to stop or watch for pedestrians! Bell tower of the Kloster with colorful village buildings. Love the little curvy streets.This is the lesser known, but no less immpresive Konigschloss, Hohenschwangau. The getaway residence of the Bavarian Kings and boyhood home of King Ludwig who went on to design and start the construction of Neuschwanstein. Very cozy - Not huge and grand (compared to some)- but with incredible views of the lakes and Austrian Alps.Neuschwanstein - a fairytale castle built as a tribute to the German composer, Richard Wagner. All of the paintings and themes within are from the opera's of Wagner of whom King Ludwig was obviously a huge fan. It is an amazing place but a little sad - never completed and so costly that the Bavarian government deposed Ludwig of his 'throne'. He died of a mysterious drowning 3 days after losing his title and it has been a museum owned by the Bavarian government ever since - yet his remaining family still had to clear his debts - it took 40 years. So it is beautiful but at what cost?

Boy - the Bavarian government is dying to hire me for its Tourist Board. Bart would say I'm overanalyzing - I say it's 'deep thinking.' All said - would I go see it again? Yes. It is a beautiful spot and makes your imagination go wild. Black forest, black squirrels w/ pointy ears, wild mountains, alpen lakes, etc... - it is a fairytale place.

So, we made it. And want to go back in the summer. As long as no one gets sick :).