Archive for June, 2010

An OCP sort of day

June 30, 2010

I just can’t get used to calling it the SEC.  To me, the SEC is the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Anyway, it was my last ever day to have to spend in the OCP.  Which is sort of bittersweet… I hate having to waste all day there, but I hate leaving Switzerland even more.

At least they let me keep my B permit…


It’s official — we’re moving back to the US

June 29, 2010

I finally got a health insurance policy in the States — I’m not terribly thrilled about it, as the monthly premium is 7 times my Swiss premium, the deductible is 12 times my Swiss deductible, and I get about 20% less coverage than what’s provided by my Swiss plan — but I don’t really have a choice about going back because the family needs the income my mom could earn, and she can’t work legally in Switzerland.

Mom is very happy to be going back… I’m not sure whether she’s happiest about seeing her husband, seeing her dogs, having a clean kitchen or having a bathroom to herself.  Or not having to pay to do laundry at a certain time each week.

I, on the other hand, am much less happy about going back.  I’m sad about giving up my job.  I’m sad about moving far from my friends.  I’m nervous about giving up the great network of doctors that I’ve built up here.  Plus I just plain like the Geneva way of life… in my heart, I feel like I’m Genevan.  I love it here.

I’ll be defending my thesis and getting my MA on July 19th.  I finished all the preparations for that today, so now I’m just waiting for the days to go by so the presentation can hurry up and be over with.

I’m not planning on sitting on my butt and doing nothing once I get back Stateside, though.  I’ve found a local synagogue that looks great on paper — Conservative, slightly larger than my current synagogue, lots of adult education classes, a conversion class that starts in October, and a large Jewish library.  I haven’t seen photos of the congregation, but I’m hoping they’ll have a nice selection of young men in attendance — and it wouldn’t hurt if they were cute.

The state of my health doesn’t really let me hold down a steady desk job, but I’ll be looking for flexible freelance work that will allow me to take off time for health problems when I need to.  I’m looking to take the American Translators Association’s certification exams in French and Spanish, and I’ll be registering with the local school district to substitute teach French and Spanish.  I’m also thinking about volunteering to guest lecture on Swiss history/culture/civics and organizing private tutoring sessions, conversation classes, and classes for SAT II/AP test prep.

I’m also going to be taking some test drives around the neighborhood to see whether or not the heart in the middle of my right eye messes up my vision too much.  If it doesn’t, I might be in the market to buy a used car — let’s face it, three working adults sharing one car just doesn’t work well.

I think I’ve pretty much given my mom the all-around Geneva experience this past year… she’s eaten fondue, raclette and fried Lake Geneva perch (and sampled Swiss wine).  She’s been in the hospital (both as a patient and as a visitor), dealt with Swisscom and had a run-in with the little green TPG men.  We’ve been on a boat ride in the lake, eaten a picnic dinner at Bains des Pâquis, and watched the musical fireworks over the lake during the Fêtes de Genève.  She’s been all over Old Town, seen the Reformation Monument, and visited the cathedral and the Reformation museum.  She’s been to concerts in Victoria Hall and the cathedral, and outdoors during the Fête de la Musique.  She’s seen the Jet d’Eau, the Horloge Fleurie and the rose gardens on the rive gauche.  She even got to pet the organ grinder’s cat.  The only things she hasn’t done yet are the UN and the Escalade historical reenactments… there’s nothing I can do about Escalade (she did get to have a marmite with marzipan candies — and she loved the marzipan), but she will be visiting the UN before we leave.

As for me, I’m making a list of all the things I want to eat when we get back… I have to remember to space things out and not gorge myself all at once!  First stop: Dunkin’ Donuts at Newark airport…


June 28, 2010

I saw myself in the mirror for the first time in a long time in our hotel in Lausanne during our road trip — and for the first time in my life, I did not like what I saw.  I knew I had gained weight — 13 pounds in May alone — but I didn’t realize that my naked body looked quite that bad.

I’ve started walking a minimum of half an hour every day — I’m not sure how effective it will be, since I walk fairly slowly and am probably not burning many calories, but it has to be better than nothing, right?

I’ll get weighed again at the doctor’s office on Thursday, and I will be content if it shows that my weight is unchanged…

El alfabeto

June 27, 2010

My mom has some students back in the States who don’t speak English, so she asked me to start teaching her Spanish.  We’ve just started with the alphabet:

Organ concert

June 26, 2010

While Mom and I were at the library this week, we found a pamphlet advertising summer organ concerts at the cathedral… so tonight, we went to one.

I’ve never really been a huge fan of Geneva’s cathedral — it was pretty much stripped bare during the Reformation (thank you, Calvin) and I just love all the beautiful art in Catholic churches — but I noticed some pretty details this time around that I hadn’t noticed before.

The cathedral exterior:

The façade, redone in the 18th century:

The organ we came to hear:

Stained-glass window (does anyone know what IHS stands for?  It’s all over Reformation-related stuff here):

Details from the 15th-century choir stalls:

Late 19th century stained glass at the altar:

One of the rose windows:

The capitals:

It’s interesting what you find when you start looking around for it!

I feel so naughty

June 25, 2010

I accidentally uploaded a graphic picture taken in the latrines exhibit at Chillon to my photobucket account.  As I was browsing through my album today, I noticed that it had been removed for “violation of the terms of use”.


Road trip: the way home

June 24, 2010

On the way home from Chillon, we drove along the northern shores of Lake Geneva, which is home to wine country:

All in all, it was a good trip… hindsight being 20/20, I probably would have skipped Nyon and built in more time for Fribourg (although we would have had time to see the cathedral if we hadn’t gotten so lost).  If I weren’t on chemo and short on energy, I’d have added the caves of Vallorbe to the itinerary.  And if I’d had an extra day, I’d have added Bern (although it’s not part of French-speaking Switzerland, it would be nice to visit the nation’s capital).

Road trip: Chillon

June 23, 2010

Chillon Castle is situated on a rocky island on the eastern tip of Lake Geneva, just south of Montreux (think Montreux Jazz Festival).  Started in the 9th century AD, it came under Savoyard control in 1150 before falling to the Bernese in 1536.  Its current appearance dates from the 13th century.

We saw a pretty pit stop on the way from Gruyères to Chillon, so we pulled over and took some pictures:

When we got to the castle, we were really surprised by how extensively it had been restored.  The guidebook recommended an hour and a half for the visit, but it took us 3 hours to get through the castle because of how often I had to rest and how many photos I took.

The entrance to the castle (and my new desktop background):

a detail on the towers:

The cellar, originally constructed in the 11th century and extended in the 13th century:

the storehouse, which held the goods that merchants passing through Savoyard territory had to pay as tax:

the prison:

the pillar on which Lord Byron carved his name during his 1816 visit, which inspired him to write The Prisoner of Chillon:

prisoner graffiti:

the ring where Bonivard, the castle’s most famous prisoner, was chained on order of the Duke of Savoy from 1532 until he was liberated by the Bernese in 1536:

charcoal drawing of the Crucifixion on the prison wall:

a staircase in the second courtyard:

the constable’s dining room

the fireplace, dating from the 15th century:

the wall paintings are copies of medieval tapestries:

the oak columns (13th century) and ceiling (15th century):

a very uncomfortable-looking dining chair:

a view of Lake Geneva out of a first-floor window:

the fireplace in the aula nova (ceremonial hall):

some of the trunks used as storage in the castle:

the ceiling of the antechamber to the Bernese bedroom:

the Bernese bedroom

the bed (only 5′ 6″ long!  People were shorter back then, plus they slept propped up on pillows, not flat on their backs):

wall decorations dating from the beginning of the 17th century:

the stove:

the Coat-of-Arms Hall

the coat-of-arms of Bern:

little dancing Bernese bears:

some of the coats-of-arms of the Bernese bailiffs:

the coat-of-arms of Vaud, into whose possession the castle passed in 1798:

the Camera Domini (lord’s bedroom)

paintings from the 14th century:

a detail from the window:

The 13th-century latrines were by far Greg’s favorite part of the tour.  This shouldn’t be surprising, since the latrine exhibit was definitely created with middle-school-aged boys in mind.  There was a series of little windows for tourists to open one by one… the first told about how people weren’t very fancy about naming latrines once upon a time, so they had names that invariably contained the word “merde” and would translate to something along the lines of “the shitter” or “the crapper” in modern-day English.  Then there was a description of what the latrine was used for — both human refuse and household trash — and how it got emptied (by being dumped out the window).  Then there were some jokes about bodily functions and some graphic drawings of what one does on a latrine.  (I took a picture of one of them.  It’s too graphic to post here, though!)

a 13th-century latrine:

(Mom took a picture of Greg sitting on it, but he wouldn’t let me post it.)

the fireplace from the wooden room:

the view from the wooden room:

14th-century paintings on the chapel ceiling (I didn’t take pictures of the paintings on the walls because the audioguide said that a lot was left to the imagination during the restoration process):

the aula magna (banquet hall):

the ceiling in the Allinges’ room:

another set of 13th-century latrines:

the stove in the camera nova:

a view of the inner ramparts (the fortifications were Greg’s other favorite part of the castle):

an opening for firing arrows:

a cannon:

what the sentries saw:

pictures from the top of the keep, the highest place in the castle (taken by Mom — I couldn’t climb up the stairway):

Don’t these guys look a little like modern-day militia bandits?

look at how high up the highway we drove on is — it makes me dizzy just thinking about it!

Before going home, we went to a restaurant on the lakeside (the leafiest restaurant I’ve ever been in!) and had fried Lake Geneva perch fillets — so good.  My only regret was not buying a bottle of Chillon wine…

Road trip: Gruyères

June 22, 2010

The third day of our trip was much more leisurely than the first two.  We only had two stops on our itinerary… the demonstration dairy at Gruyères and Chillon Castle.

On the way to the dairy

Gruyères Castle:

some scenery:

When you get to the dairy, they give you a sample of 6-, 8-, and 10-month Gruyère cheese and an audioguide for the tour.

At the dairy

making cheese:

storing cheese:

the cow who narrated the audioguide:

Cows eat about 100 kilos of grass and drink 85 liters of water per day to make about 25 liters of milk.  Each mixer holds 4800 liters of milk, which will make 12 35-kilo wheels of cheese.  4000-7000 wheels of cheese mature in the cellar at a time, depending on the season.  They’re turned and brushed with salt water every day for the first 10 days, then 3 times a week for the next two weeks, then twice a week for the next three months, then once a week until they’re sold.  The cheeses have different appellations depending on how long they’ve matured: 5-6 months is mild, 7-8 is semi-salted, 9-10 is salted, 11-14 is reserve and 15 is mature.

After the tour we stopped by the gift shop and bought confiture de lait (I’m not even going to try to translate that into English) and ate meringues and strawberries with Gruyère double cream in the restaurant (so good!  Although we were surprised that the cream wasn’t sweet.)

Then we hit the road for Chillon…

Road trip: Fribourg

June 21, 2010

On the road to Fribourg:

In Fribourg, we got more lost than I’ve ever been in my life.  Instead of getting to our hotel, we ended up at a Jumbo store on a highway leading out of town and far away into infinity.  We asked directions of several people and managed to meld all those directions into one moderately coherent set.  Thanks to Mom’s eagle eyes, we finally found the hotel when we got back downtown.

The Jean Tinguely fountain behind our hotel:

Once we got to the hotel, nobody felt like sightseeing — all we wanted to do was eat and sleep.  Mom and Greg got a drink at a supposedly Irish bar (they played all American music, including Elvis’ “All Shook Up” — first time I’ve ever heard it) and then we went to a little Italian restaurant around the corner to have some fresh pasta (Mom’s new favorite meal).  Then we went back to the hotel and crashed in anticipation of what turned out to be everyone’s favorite day: Gruyères and Chillon.