Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hello from Sunny & Hot California

Well - we made it to CA safe and sound. The girls are great travellers and are about completely over the jet lag - I'm almost there. :) It's nice and HOT here but this year we don't have the fires this summer to spoil the atmosphere so far.

Feeling quite fat & happy as we have indulged in a few things: root beer, Round Table Pizza, Cheez-its, Lucky Charms and In 'n Out Burger.

Did you know you can use a credit card at In 'n Out Burger? At the drive-thru window? Apparently you can do this at most fast food restaurants now. Who knew? Not us!

My girlfriend laughed at me and said we'd been out of the country too long.

On the same day I was trying to figure out how to give $.20 in change to the coffee lady. Since there is NOT a .20 coin in the US but I handle one in Switzerland on a daily basis. Then I spilled out all my Swiss & US coins on the floor - I'm sooooo embarrassing! But the Peet's coffee was GOOD!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whew! I made it....

I have survived the week and had my first good night of sleep. It is now Friday and the rain is coming down. No swimming on the first day of Summer break for us. Now, yesterday, yesterday would have been a great day to go swimming in the land of no air conditioning considering the 90 degree temps. But yesterday was full to the brim with events, dropping off and picking up, cleaning up behind everyone and finally deciding that I didn't have time to make dinner and would pick up McD's on the way back from the last kid pick-up.

It started to rain at 7pm - right as I picked Rachel & friend up from the Strandbad (like a local swimming pool only on the lake) and it's been raining since. I'm sure if we look at last June's posts, I would have been talking about the rain then too. One of the rainiest months of the year for us. They we fly out to CA where it's hot, dry and brown - vs - cool, wet and green.

But CA is full of family and friends that we just can't wait to see. I'm starting to pack, lightly, and get things organized. It's actually easier to do as it's raining and I'm not tempted to be outside. I can tell I need to pause in writing though as, due to rain, I have two bored 8 year olds needing assistance. I'll be back...

I'm back. It's Saturday now. Furiously trying to get all the emails I've had to ignore attended to. And my dear, sweet, loving husband just killed the fly that's been irritating me all morning. On my head. I'm just not sure what to say about that - besides gross and I'm glad I hadn't taken a shower yet so I can clean up!

This week has been a blur and we've had to say goodbye to school friends, work friends, Bible study friends and then there will be others. There are a lot of people moving "back" to various places. Some due to the economic times and some as it is the time of life to move on. Hard either way. It hasn't quite hit me yet. For once, we're not the ones doing the leaving.

So - I woke up to this note yesterday morning. Rachel had a friend sleep over and they were up bright and early. I love that we live in a place where they can just go out and walk and I don't worry about it (not too much anyway). Especially as these same children will be taking the city buses and train to school next year. Yikes! We organized an nice party for Kendra's 2nd grade class. Here is the Swiss game "Schoggi-essen". Each child rolls a die and when they land on 6, they must put on hat, gloves (we skipped this), scarf and glasses and then use a knife & fork to unwrapped a well-wrapped piece of chocolate and eat it. The die is rolling all the time so it can be a long game if they are having to switch costume all the time. Knives and chocolate - perfect for a Swiss game. It was hilarious!
Rachel's 5th Grade Celebration - they all head to the Middle School in Kilchberg next year. She and her violin are way in the back. This is the largest 5th grade class to finish - 100 students. I thought this particular pic was funny with the parents in the foreground - all the little camera's and video. They (orchestra, band and choir) did a great job playing together on "We're all in this together" - first time they've done a full program together as they usually stick to "their own kind" in the music realm.
This was one view out our window this week. It seems like all of Switzerland is under construction this year and very often you will find your very nice view obscured by these cranes. We're lucky, this one was gone the next day.
What do a field mouse, frog, salamander, giant slug, bees and spiders have in common?
Our pool filter basket. Eeewwww!
Of course Bart is at work while I play "pool girl" so I have to find creative dumping grounds. Yuck!
What is this guy doing on my Sweet Williams?! I love the Sweet Williams as they remind me of my Gma Vel. Hi Gma Vel!!!! I think about you while I garden. You wouldn't like this guy in your garden either.
The weather has been generous in the beautiful sunset department - even as it brings huge thunderstorms.
The mist was pink right above the Lake.
Words cannot describe. Thank you God.
I will probably not have time to post again before we head to the States on Monday. Such a full week. I have a hard time sorting it all. Will do it over time and some of it may make it onto these "pages" and some not.
What I do know is there are so many wonderful people all over the world. Some will be moving here shortly. Some are leaving as of today. We are so fortunate to have crossed paths. And then it will be our turn again.
Looking forward to seeing my Dad, and S/family and the extended family next week. I'll try to find a quiet minute here and there to post. It's been a YEAR since we've been in the States so I'm prepared to be overwhelmed and just enjoy some great visits with everyone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And the Migration Office....

Update - it was suggested as I've been throwing "chf" around to let readers know that the Swiss Franc is approx. 1 chf to $0.93 in USD - not much difference, the amount of average state sales tax.

My feet still hurt from standing in the Migration office for 2 hours today. But we have Visa's -Rueckreisevisum - so we can legally return to our home (home in Switz.) after our States visit this summer. Now we know why none of the US Expats seem to bother with this process and take their chances with copies of the renewal applications, etc... when they go home for the summer on expired B permits.

It takes a while, it's expensive and we were highly encouraged to do it this year. So we did.

And guess what we saw in the waiting area - a paper describing the proper type of photo they need for processing identification. You know - a no smiling picture! How does this help when people have to bring their photos with them? We were lucky we had to re-do our yesterday in our own village vs finding out at the Migration office located on the other side of Zurich.

Can you tell I'm tired of this process?

And there was almost a moment of "I give up!" when the lady saw that we had just submitted our permit renewals yesterday and we were already at their office for Visa's. "Well, that's the point of the Visa, isn't it? Because our permit will expire while we're gone?" She acknowledged this and said her problem was their system didn't show the info. yet - we were too quick. So she makes 2 phone calls and then says "Well, the cost is 92 chf per Visa, are you going to pay?" To which we reply "Why yes, yes we are."

We now have Visa's and a bunch of extra, unusable passport photo's.

On the tram , Bart looks over at my Visa and says "That is one ugly picture." To which I can only laugh and say "Yes it is."

No - it's not available for viewing except to encourage US Customs and Migration officers to let me out of the country to sleep in my own bed.

Re: no smiling in photos. OK, I knew there was a technical reason for the straight faced photos (you can check out momE's comment in previous post). Digital scanning and all that jazz - I was mostly irritated as it's a new requirement and there's no literature/instructions. Until you go to apply for something and find out you can't accomplish your task.

It just really fit with the stereotype we've encountered since moving here - if the person's smiling, they must not be Swiss. I know plenty of Swiss people who have wonderful smiles and some who don't seem to smile much at all but are very nice.

It's kind of like the stereotype of the loud Americans - it doesn't fit all but..... I have to say, after several years of listening to tourists in Europe, I think the Italians and English are the only ones who give Americans a good run in the noise department. Have to admit it - Americans are loud and don't care. I could make another post out of that. Loud Americans who make fun/complain of things on public transportation unaware that half the people around them understand what they're saying. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Smiling Allowed - You're in Switzerland

First of all - don't fall out of your chair at the fact this makes my 3rd post in 3 days. I still have no time but there are moments of peace and I just feel like writing things down. I wish I wasn't writing about this but as Bart said this afternoon "This is total Blog material."

Today was our day to head straight to the Waedenswil Gemeinde (similar to a City Hall) after school to re-register our B permits (residence permits). We have to do this annually and must supply new passport photos each year with our renewal - Cha Ching says the City$$$ Love those Expats! So we arrive armed with our photos, paperwork, approved Work Permit, passports and $$$.

The very nice lady starts processing the papers, we are signing, handing over photo's, she's done with Bart's and gets to mine - my photo that is. She takes it over to another lady at a desk who's shaking her head. I'm thinking - I lined up my head with the little line as instructed and that pic looks a heck of a lot better than last year's. She comes back and says the picture is not good. Then looks at Bart's pic again and shakes her head and says "the mouth cannot have teeth."

"No Smiling in the picture."

Hello??? We wanted to laugh but on the other hand were greatly confused. She asked if all the pictures were with smiles. I said, in German, "Yes, we are all smiling. That is normal when taking a photo." She nodded her head and proceeded to explain the rules have changed. The B permit is now issued via electronic card - what they want is a mug shot. This information is not on the paperwork.

So down to the train station we go to spend another 24chf on passport photos (we've now invested 48chf in passport photos - aackkk) and back to the Gemeinde. Where it was all processed and allows us to go to the Canton Zurich Migration office tomorrow for our Visa's. We need return Visa's as we are coming back as resident's but will have expired B permits. Ah - because the new permits may not come for 2 -3 months. Are you confused? I am. No wonder that Switzerland is still financially afloat.

Our pic's look like mug shots. I have bug eyes and a pinhead, Bart is somewhat awake (and irritated at this point) after a flight in from the States and hadn't shaved, the girls have "end of the school day" hair and look, well, not themselves. Because trying to take a picture and purposely NOT smile, gives a person almost a frown.

Why would we laugh about this? No offense to my Swiss friends but, this is classic. Stereotypical of what one might experience in the prettiest place on earth that contains the largest population of people who look like they just had dill pickles for lunch. Actually - they do eat a lot of dill pickles . Maybe that's the problem.

I've discussed this with my neighbor Y, my friend M - they all admit that the Swiss do not smile enough (they are Swiss). They laugh at my "Swiss" face. And tell me I should keep smiling and laughing because others need to see it. Now, it's a requirement in order to get your residence permit - prove you can take a picture without smiling. I bet my other neighbor, the one I finally got to say "Guten Morgen" to me after 2 years!!! of living here, could take a really good Permit picture. It's in her blood.

OK - I have to stop now or it'll get out of hand. If you've visited Switzerland, you've probably been in primarily larger communities or areas that are tourist/resort oriented. In those areas, people are predominately friendly and multi-lingual. That's how they make their living and they should - they're good at it and it's a beautiful country. They should smile.

Then, there's the little man in the little green car down the street who growls at me, waves his arms and yells nearly every time I pass him. Because my car is on the road? He doesn't like the color? I'm a lady driver? ?????? I've never seen him smile. Sad. Ooo - there I go again.

So now you know. No smiling allowed if you want permission to live in Switzerland.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ironing and it's place in my life.

As I was ironing Bart's shirts tonight and bemoaning my lot in that task, I realized there is hope for the future. Because I would rather clean our toilets than stand around and iron.

A little history: When we got married, Bart would be ironing his shirt for work and occasionally say "I thought the wife gets to iron the shirts?" Hahahahahahahaha I would reply. We were both working full time at different CPA firms and I wasn't about to spend what little free time I had ironing shirts. It was bad enough I had to iron my own.

I would also say "The day I quit working is the day I'll start ironing your shirts."

After Baby #2, I wasn't officially "working" anymore and he'd joke about me started to iron his shirts. I didn't even laugh anymore - a sideways death-stare was enough.

Then we moved to Switzerland and although he doesn't travel as often, the man sure works a lot. And I started taking on more of " his " chores - including ironing his shirts. Granted, sometimes he has asked if he could have a shirt because apparently most were hanging on the "to be ironed" rack. I do it but it doesn't rate high on my priority list - like I said, I'd rather clean the toilets.

No, I don't want to take them to the dry cleaners. I would have to remember to take them and pick them up and I don't like the dry cleaning smell at all - ick. Plus, it's about 4 chf per shirt and that's highway robbery.

Update: Iron only is 4chf - per the flyer I received today, a wash & iron for a shirt is only 9.50 chf on sale, 12chf normal price.

Back to my hope for the future.

I was standing there ironing, thinking about how I dislike the dry cleaners and try to avoid them and how people used to hire laundresses or get their ironing done as part of their housekeeping service. I started wondering if anyone ever hires out ironing anymore and when I move back, could I hire someone?

And then Kendra walked into the room. I remembered what children were for. To help me iron! Kidding. Sort-of.

I involve the girls in a lot of household chores - some for pay, some because they are part of the family and need to chip in. Someday they will be big enough to iron for me. And I will pay them big bucks!

I started thinking I wished my dad had needed shirts ironed so I could have made some $$$ in high school (yeah, it's still ironing, I would have still hated it). Then I remembered: I did make money doing stuff for my dad.

He was an electrician and welder. Hence the lack of pressed dress shirts as he took off for work at 5am. But - the man could burn holes through his coveralls like you wouldn't believe. Unless you have a family member who welds. Or he'd tear his jeans on something. So I was paid for patching up his work clothes. One year I was paid to sew up 'deer bags.' Deer bags were canvas and used for carrying the meat on the horses on hunting trips.

So while my girls won't need to patch up Bart's suits or sew up hunting supplies, my hope is - that at least one of them would like to iron their dad's shirts!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

2 weeks left

Two weeks from now, I'll be waking up around 4:30am or so at my dad's house in CA. I can't wait. Except for the 4:30am part. Pretty normal for a 9 hr time adjustment.

So the woman who tries to be Supermom (although here I guess I should refer to my goal as Uber-mom or Ubermutter) has allowed another birthday party and 2 playdates to slip into the schedule. Reminds me - we need to buy B-day presents. Sigh.... I'm not trying to be Super anything - just trying to keep up.

And the "Uber" up there should have umlaud dots on top of the "U" but I don't know how to do that in blogger and I don't have a German keyboard. I'm just neurotic enough to be bothered by this.

Rachel & Kendra at school for the 2nd grade concert - last of the evening school events! They really enjoy these and I am glad they are in a place where musical arts are an integral part of their school life. The 4th & 5th grade orchestra & bands were outstanding this year. Rachel plays violin and loved playing the score from Chronicles of Narnia in orchestra. Kendra's grade sang songs related to their unit on Healthy living - Body Boogie was one of her favorites. The kids have assemblies throughout the year where various performances/talks are done and the children themselves have a chance to share talents/traditions. I was distracted in spite of all the things I needed to do last Friday morning when I heard assembly forming. So I stayed to watch a bit.

This is the 4th/5th grade assembly and the Middle School 8th gr. Ballroom Dancing (a PE elective) class had come to perform. As they were introduced, it sounded like the UN had come to visit: UK, South Africa, Sweden, USA, China, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Hungary, Mexico - I can't remember them all. Sometimes I forget how International our community is. Wish I could dance.
I'll share a little treat with you. And yes, they are little. We have little, wild stawberries all over the place right now. They are small and usually sweet with a light flavor - not like a large strawberry flavor. It's almost as much of a smell as it is the taste in your mouth.
There is a big patch of them in the back garden and then they grow willy nilly whereever they see fit and I haven't pulled them out. Better than the weeds and just as prolific and wild.
They need to be eaten within hours of picking. They usually don't make it out of our hands - they're so small that we eat them as we pick. No - we don't wash them much. Washing them seems to make them instantly soggy. Since the farmer in back doesn't spray his fields and I don't spray these and it rains enough - they're good.
We actually picked enough one day to fill up the small glass. They were gone soon.
I wish you all a good day. Off to find some grout..........

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Why we will be ready to go "home"

There is a nice little slideshow at Kris & Jason (link to your left - Hawaii 09 post) that pretty much summarizes why we will be/are ready to go back home. There was a family missing in those pictures. Ours.

Halfway around the world from one sister (12 time zones) and a 14 hr direct flight from the other (9 time zones).


Saturday, June 06, 2009

It's a week into June but I'll revisit May :)

Well - all I can say about my absence on the blog is: busy, busy, busy.

There is only one of 6 recitals left at school, 2 end of year parties, 2 birthday parties, a house party, several school meetings, a luncheon, a 5th grade celebration (not called graduation here), 3 Sundays to lead worship, a trip to the Gemeinde (like city hall) for B permit renewals (residence permits) and a trip to Immigration for return Visa's - that's all that's left to do the next 2 weeks before we go to the States. Oh, and pack. But we're travelling light.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm re-doing the silicon grout where needed in our shower since Bart left this morning for 5 days to the States. One wouldn't think we'd need our grout re-freshed as the bathrooms were completely remodeled before we moved in 3 years ago. We thought the little vents high on the wall were doing what they were supposed to. There are no fan switches in the bathrooms. But after Rachel created a little electrical disturbance on her side of the house (not going to write out that stupid incident - yes, it was s-t-u-p-i-d!), I was at the electrical box in the storage room to flip the breaker switch when I find a strange knob (there are several) in the off position. I thought, hmmm, wonder what's that's for - and flipped it to on (I'd appreciate no comments as to where Rachel gets her curiousity from).

Lo and behold, a fan started running. In both bathrooms. Because the logical place for an off/on switch for a bathroom fan is on an electric box placed 7 feet high in the back storage room. I need a stool to reach it. So after 2 1/2 years we found the fan switch - too late for the bits of mildew that found a home during the fan-less years. We only occasionally use the fan - you know, because it's so conveniently placed.

But before this week started and I began this project while the man is away, we went on our last holiday trip of May. Whew! Get me off the train. Literally.

We finally took the Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt - 7 1/2 hours on a train. Hello! Still felt like I was moving when we had dinner that night. This trip is something we've talked about since we moved here and when we thought we might be moving back, made sure we got tickets.

Pause - Just realized for those who were not emailed - Bart's Work Permit (Swiss) was approved!!! Hallelujah!! The other permit appointments are just normal course of business at this point. It has been a roller coaster for us and sometimes daily drama but not things I really wanted to share in detail in this forum. Needless to say, God is faithful, we have some great friends and are pleased to have resolution. One more year, one more ski season, the countdown will begin. Mixed feelings.

Back to our semi-regularly scheduled program:

So we hopped the train to St. Moritz on Friday - packed a sandwich dinner and had a great time. It was a long week for Bart and I could tell he was so happy to get out of town and on our way. I've had some foot pain and worried about walking much. My hiking boots hurt and tennis shoes were all I could wear at the time - it's much better now for which I'm thankful. I'd like to wear something besides tennis shoes this summer! Probably not so many flip flops......

BTW - lot's of pictures today.

St. Moritz had THE BEST playground EVER! A big zip line, this thing below, a log roll barrel, a ground trampoline, set on about an acre + and the best long slide. Bart and I both went down the long slide the second day in our hiking pants and picked up a bit of speed. I managed to stay on my feet when I landed but Bart ended up rolling - he almost made it but landed with too much momentum going forward. We were OK but didn't try it again. Oh yeah, the girls had fun too.

We enjoyed our Saturday exploring St. Moritz/hiking trail. Oh, and the place was dead. Our neighbors weren't kidding when they said " Oh, but no one goes to St. Moritz now. It is empty. The 'season' doesn't start until later June." It was a ghost town - shops, gondola's, restaurants, hotels - closed. Of course there is a little open for the Glacier Express tourists and locals but NOT MUCH. Fine by me!

Sunday morning we caught our train! (pic taken via timer so excuse the angle)
Some of the things you see from the train -
Painted buildings:
TeePee's - the Swiss are still fascinated by the Wild West culture and you find TP's here and there:
Wildflower fields with poppies (speaking of poppies, I seriously think my staid, older, organic farming Swiss neighbors are growing Cannabis in their garden with the herbs - the plants are small though and might morph into something else but looks like it to me - go figure):
Men moving mules down the road:
Little white, mountain chapels:
Dams - 60% of Switzerland's electricity is generated by hydro-electric facilities (just a fun fact for today) - the remainder is mostly nuclear fueled.
The Oberalp Pass - highest point of our journey and a very good reason for the St. Gotthard Tunnel's existence. This picture was taken May 31st. Many of the passes had to be plowed out in May because of heavy snowfall this year.
A small airfield - I would consider the Glacier Express a sort of 'back country' tour of Switzerland. It was beautiful and quaint and sometimes made you wonder "What do people do out here?"
Hey - Look at that, How'd that get in here?
Well, the journey ended in Zermatt and although it was cloudy, I was able to get some clear pic's of the Matterhorn Monday morning. It is hard to see because of the glare in the pic below:
So went our Pentecost Weekend - we had good weather, a good time together and are looking forward to seeing some family/friends in just 2 1/2 weeks!!!!

A quick verse for this season we've had and our thankfulness to a Faithful God:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 6-7