Mittwoch, 3. Dezember 2008

Dear John.. I mean Chon's

Dear Chron's,
I won't be contrived and say that this is the hardest letter that I have ever had to write, but I will risk cliche by reminding you, that breaking up is hard to do.
We've been together a long time and as you know, ours is not the only unhealthy relationship that I have had. Like those relationships, I have found a comfort in the momentum of our relationship and as a result have ignored it's more abusive tendencies. Also like those other relationships, I've reached a point of maturity at which I can no longer ignore that this relationship is too destructive for me to maintain. I'm sorry. I have to break it off.
There are always moments that crop up after a relationship, where you find yourself wondering "what if we were still together?" We'll think on the good times, like the care and attention you gained me, even in the days when we were just beginning and the whisper of irritable bowel wasn't even sure enough to call a full-blown chronic illness. I know there will be times when I miss the comfort that I had being in your embrace, defining myself by our relationship. Defining oneself by one's unhealthy relationship is never a good idea, and so I feel certain that when I am wondering and when I am missing you, choosing to be without you will be best for both of us. We'll both have to coexist in this big ol' crazy world, but I think that it's best if we don't contact one another for a while. You'll see, in time, that it's for the best.
You'll see me with other medicines, healthier alternatives. You may wonder why I don't dabble in the western medicines you and I used to. You may feel betrayed that I cut out our old friends (6MP, Humira, Prednisone, Pentasa, Asacol), you know as well as I do that they were all really your friends and not "ours".
I need to see what else is out there. I need to go out on my own and see what the world is like beyond our relationship.
I'll always be thankful for our time together. Not just because of the care, but also from all of the lessons I've learned from you. I'll keep them in a special place in my heart.
Goodbye Chron's.

Good Luck,

Sonntag, 30. November 2008

I want a new kiss (or's on my list)

The many subtleties of relationships are a language unto themselves. I have found that these subtleties differ from country to country, from experience. I have also found that I love discovering them or practising them.
In America, I got a charge from the subtle developments in relationships. The first time you can venture an "it's me" on the telephone. The first time the person answering the telephone knows who it is when you say "it's me". The first time you feel inclined to embrace a friend on a regular basis. The first time it seems appropriate to "pop-in" or "stop by" or any other number of cute terms use to describe disturbing someones peace and quiet.
In Switzerland I've learned there is a bit more formality to some of these developments, in some cases, even a ceremony of sorts. When inviting someone to call you "du" and use your first name only when communicating, it is sometimes required to invite this person for a drink or a coffee to discuss this new intimacy. As an American, there have been times when I have inadvertently injured a friend or acquaintance by using the wrong form. (I sometimes forget if we are already "du" and will say my full name on the telephone or say "Sie" by mistake. Sometimes I have seriously noticed offense. Other times I will accidentally "du" someone thinking that they are laid back and young and that I am the same. In Starbucks or at the hairdressers, it's always "du" at the bakery where I am a regular, I can show respect only by saying "Sie".)

In a land where I have kissed strangers three times on the cheek, merely because they are good friends of my husband or a friend of mine, there is a strange subtlety to kissing and a large intimacy in the hug. My best girlfriend and I embrace when we see one another, possibly with a kiss on the cheek, if it has been a long time. My closest male friends and I have a one-cheek-kiss agreement. Somehow this is more intimate than three. I can't explain why. At work, we greet one another with a smile or a wave on a daily basis, but after any absence or holiday, there are three-kisses to be expected. With children that I know well, and who are not my students, I typically offer one-cheek kiss, or a kiss on the top of the head or forehead.

But now, I want a new kiss. I kiss my in-laws three times. I kissed my in-laws three times back when we first met and they were simply the parents of a man I was seeing (and though I was ga-ga about him, the relationship was new and insecure). It's been years that we've kissed one another three times. When we stay together somewhere and I go to bed, I kiss them three times. When they give me a gift or I give them one, it is three kisses. When I go to dinner at their house or they come to mine, it's three kisses. I want something more intimate.

Now I need to decide, what sort of a special kiss do I want with them? They kiss their children quickly on the lips, but I don't want that. That seems more for blood-relations. I could give them a one-cheek kiss, but that is for my friends and children. Perhaps simultaneous nose and chin kisses (I've always loved kissing my sister that way). Also, does their need to be a ceremony? Do I need to invite them to drinks or coffee to propose this new greeting? So many questions.
On the plus side, I don't feel like this is a cultural difference or assimilation problem. The excitement of the prospect of the new kiss feels equal to the excitement of the ringing phone when you intend to say "it's me!" Nevertheless, I know that deciding that, the way I kiss my in-laws, too greatly resembles the way in which I kiss strangers who know the same people I do, seems uniquely European.

Donnerstag, 20. November 2008

können wir?

In an article in a Swiss magazine, the author asked "can we?" He wondered if the election in America, with all of the excitement, optimism, movement and emotion, would be possible in Switzerland. Of course, the Swiss don't elect a president, so it'd have to be a variation of what we had in the US.
I was thinking of the words "Yes We Can". I was thinking about the possibilities of translation, and instantly, Bob the Builder and not Cesar Chavez, popped into mind. I'd known the Bob the Builder song from my half-brother. "Bob the builder, can we build it? Bob the builder, yes can!" In the Kindergarten, one of our students from Berlin, would often sing the German Bob der Baumeister song. It is terribly awkward, the extra-long German words crammed into the American melody. Though, when literally translated, it is closer to Chavez and Huerta's motto, than Obama's. "That we can achieve/create"
When Ivo and I were in Petersburgh, we actually speculated about what the Bob the builder song would be in Russian. This was not simple wild wondering, the cartoon was playing on the TV in the kitchen, and while waiting for the song to come on, we guessed at what the literal translation of the song would be. "It must be done", was my guess. Ivo's Russian teacher answers "it must go" when asked "how's it going?". Ivo purely translated "yes we can" in Russian. That seemed too optimistic for Russians, in my stereotyping mind.
The answer was revealed when the strangely animated-Russian speaking crew of builders and building machines began to sing. In answer to the question "can we do it?" he answer is piz problem. Without problem.
Just like the various translations of a big-headed builder's optimistic melody, I think that the excitement and emotion of this American presidential election can never be copied exactly. It makes me proud. I know that part of it is semantics, like the varying parliamentary and governmental organizations stand in the way of repetition. Ivo points out that our situation is limited to colonizing or other former slave-owning nations.
Let's face it, the Beatles were talented, but it was the right time and the right place. For all Obama's charisma, intellect, and fairness, we were ready for change. It isn't only the awkwardness of the language that stands in the way of stimulating the masses.
"Können sie es schaffen?" wahrscheinlich nicht.

Donnerstag, 13. November 2008


If I sat and took the time, right now, I'd remember if it was or wasn't in 2005. I know that it was spring, the weekend of Mother's Day, that Ivo and I drove to Philadelphia to visit a potential apartment. I would begin my master's program in the fall.
On our way, Ivo began to droop and sag in the heat and humidity. We played a Prince mixed cd for the umpteenth time and cursed the choice of whether or not to use the air conditioner. Underneath all of the discomfort was that we were visiting a city 8 hours from Providence. We were preparing for me to leave him. We had no idea what this move would mean for our very new relationship, but it was easier to focus on the weather.
At the apartment, we met an Egyptian man who was doing the painting. The place looked a mess and in need of a good deal more than just paint, but the man made huge promises of how he would set the place in order. He said that he was a friend of the building manager. He said that my dog would be welcome there (this proved later to be untrue) and he said that I would really love it there. He then went on to say that his day job was actually in a seurity company. Then he began to expound on the buisness oppurtunities in Iraq. That's it: it was 2004.
When I moved in to my first apartment in Philadelphia, none of the promises from the painter were true and I arrived to confront the fact that I knew exactly noone. I tried to make the best of it and set my bed up in the kitchen. This was my optimism at work. I was promised new carpeting in the bedroom in a few short days, and I didn't want to hamper the building manager's best efforts.
New tenants moved into the first floor. Far more than there was space for. They were artists and sculptors, which meant that they worked in grocery stores and cafes. They were all from Jersey.
While my apartment was not nearly the Utopia that the painter had described, at least it had a working shower. The 6 kids on the first floor had none. They admitted this to me after a week of living there, when we chatted as I took out my garbage.
"You're welcome to mine." I said. I was secretly excited about the company. Indeed, each one sat and chatted (thankfully after having showered) when they came up to use my facilities. When the last was clean, they said that they would like to repay my kindness and invited me down to dinner. This was a huge blessing as I was job-hunting and eating very little at the time.
When I came down, we ate on the porch. They' made all sorts of things that they'd found at the Ethiopian store up the street. The real thank you, they insisted, was to share some opium with me. It smelled lovely, like jasmine. Like everything else, since I'd arrived it was unexpected and unusual.
The short time in this apartment, which ended when I came home from work and found that all of my doorknobs had been removed by the building manager's partner, was a mixture of oddity and anxiety. At some point, the building manager took me out for a burrito. We'd just been fighting about my lease agreement which he had lost and begun defying. I told him that three people had been by and told me three different amounts of rent to be paid at three different times. We were also arguing about whether or not it was my responsibility to find flat mates for the other two bedrooms. I had been told that the building manager would be doing this, and while I wasn't thrilled at the idea, it made me surprised to sudenly be threatened with the whole of the rent for not having found tenants yet. In the middle of this fight he said, "let us discuss this over dinner." and we did.
I'm amazed at how well everything turned out in Philadelphia as I ignored my better judgement on an almost daily basis. Smoking opium in return for letting strangers use my shower. Letting the cuilding manger pay for my burrito and being so taken by stories of his life in Iraq, that I joined him for a drink in a bar which had a Russian brothel on the second floor. Riding on the bike handles of a stranger I met at a David Sedaris reading, and asking him if he knew of anyone with an apartment for rent.

I think that when I moved out of my first flat is when I decided to start trusting my gut again. After all, I was the "totally uncool" housemate who said that she didn't feel comfortable with the fact that one of the houses keys was given to a couple who, although they had chosen to live in their van were camping out in our living room and entertaining guests. (These people were strangers whom one of my housemate had me the day before they began inhabitting our home free of charge.)
When I think back to that first apartment, I can barely comprehend who it was that was making the decisions that I did. I'm glad that Lucas came to visit and played Jimmeny Crickett. Come to that, I think that I may owe my guardian angel some opium.

Dienstag, 4. November 2008

daisycutters at dinner

I was listening to some music today and heard something that sounded like "IED", but I wasn't sure. It made me start thinking about changing vernaculars and what words are being introduced to the young generation of today.
I then instantly was reminded of an office Christmas party. It was a moment that will always be the beginning of what made it easy to relocate to another country. We were at a lovely restaurant enjoying an exquisite meal and one of my colleagues started talking about daisy-cutters and the bombing of Afghanistan. I was disgusted by the conversation and the glibness and the disregard for human-life, while in the same breath they would describe the lives lost in the twin towers with such a worth that they would apparently sell their common-sense for them.
At the same time, in a ethics course I was being lambasted for admitting that no one knows what is in someone's heart and one should probably not attempt to know the inner workings of someone's heart or mind. This was terribly unpopular among the blood lust at that time.

I am so ready for the meanness that seems to surround elections to end. I am ready for coded and non-coded hate-speech to recede from the forefront of most media. I am hopeful that I will be able to see the more attractive side of my country instead of the ugliness that I have seen now and again.
I wish that I were stronger and better able to stay in America and make it a better place. I wish that whatever children I may raise with multiple citizenship could learn from me by example to believe in the best in America and Americans. I wish that I could show them grass-roots power first-hand. Nevertheless, I thought that I would be able to protect them more in Switzerland, these future children who do not yet exist. I thought that while they were learning multiple languages I could filter out hateful language or angrier language or ignorant language or words that no little children need know. That they could be raised thinking that daisy cutters are a tool for a florist.

I am so proud of both of my siblings for the work that they are doing for one of the countries, of which any children I have, will be citizens. I'm glad that they have more patience and courage than I.

Sonntag, 2. November 2008

language what-not continues

I know that it's been a long time in Switzerland and that language differences should probably no longer amuse me, but that is sadly not so.

The use of English words, in ways that no English speaker would them, makes many foreign speakers confused. This seems unfair to me. It isn't like those times when English speakers and German speakers fudge, by hoping that a word is the same in both languages and say the word with a strong accent hoping that they won't be found out for not knowing the actual word.


German mother: "My son broke 8 times last night" (the verb for "vomitting" is erbrechen.)

American girl being raised in Switzerland: "Bobby is stirring me" (the verb for "disturb" is stören)

What I mean, on the other hand makes far less sense. It is not as if the word is merely being hoped for or implied, an actual english word is being used where it doesn't belong, giving people the idea that it is, in fact, english.


"will you go make wellness?" (the verb "to make" is often used by German speakers. "Wellness" is believed here to mean "spa")

"do you use peeling?" ("peeling" is used for "exfoliant")

"will you wear your wind stopper?" ("wind stopper" is a "wind breaker" this example is less dramatic, thus it's listed last.)

Freitag, 24. Oktober 2008

"I have made a decision!"

Ivo began a conversation with this line the other night as I lay in bed reading and he readied himself to do the same. The conversation was a good one, but the beginning was startling and caused me unease. Since Sunday night, to joke with Ivo, I have prefaced ideas which I've had with the statement "I have made a decision!" and have found it, actually, to be quite satisfying. It doesn't even matter the size of the declaration, it just feels good. "I have made a decision! I am going to eat a sandwich!" Such a thing could be a given, at midday, but the act of declaring makes a day seem more full.

In reality I've made a rather important decision and it is one that will be quite permanent. This makes the title of this blog slightly more appropriate, then say, announcing a decision to check my e-mail. Before I write what the decision, I shall write how I came to it.

We are not so far from the High Holy Days and during them, I have thought alot about Judaism (*spoiler* I am not converting to Judaism). I taught the kids in my kindergarten, to the best of my ability, about Roshashana (Yom Kippur took place during our vacation, so I was spared explaining what "Atonement" means to children who need a "Peace Rose" to tell someone that they're hurt), I read "The Yiddish Policeman's Union (soon to be a film by the Coehn brothers), I heard a few Podcasts on Public radio's "Speaking of Faith with Krista Tipett", and I found myself really loving the ideas of the whole tradition of the High Holy Days.

I am not jewish, and yet it became my responsibility at my Kindergarten, to teach the children about Jewish Holidays. Why? you may ask. Well, I began at the school last fall and as advent rolled around the teachers got all excited about it and Christmas and fun activities to do with the children. Mangers appeared, Marys and Joseph's too. Songs were song about stars over Bethlehem and I couldn't help worrying about the one-sidedness of it all. Part of my worries were the questions of one child in the school, who wears a Yarmulke. The other teachers seemed startled by the questions. He was a bright boy and not our youngest, and even our 3 year old children could answer his Christmas queries. This boy is half-american and I'm whole american and I remember, in my American childhood, a destinct awareness of Jewish traditions, I went to the Jewish Community Center after school for a while, I also had a boyfriend for three years who is jewish, and last of all, a child for whom I babysat in Philadelphia for two years has just become a man in the Jewish faith and his little sister will soon prepare to become a woman in the same faith. All of these things combined to make me the instigator of our Menorah lighting, our Passach lunch last spring, and our honeycake this Roshashana. (We didn't do anything for Purim. I forget why, but suspect that it is because I am the only teacher who celebrates halloween and was worried about the two being confused in the children's minds.)

Taking on this ill-fitting role has struck me in a number of ways. Many of the parents had assumed that I was Jewish before I began teaching their children about the holidays, and I suppose that this cemented it. (I have often been mistaken as Jewish, ever since I was about 18.) Also, I am not an expert. I try my best and have gotten help from the two Jewish mothers. When they brought jelly doughnuts for Haunnuka, I remembered having them in Preschool too.) I don't talk so much about Moses and God and the like. I talk about the stories, the beliefs and the food. I ask as many questions of the children, as they ask me, and I don't make any big scary statements.
The hardest part in this non-religious education has been during the time between holidays. One of our kids went to Bethlehem Children's Hospital with his mother, where she works for three weeks a month. When he came back he said loudly in front of the student who wears a Ki pa "If he saw the crosses, like I did, he would believe in Jesus."
I merely said "______ has flown to Israel too, haven't you _______?" He answered yes. I asked if he had seen the crosses.
"I saw a bear. But I don't believe in Jesus."
Lucily that was the end of the conversation. I feel comfortable in the fact that I don't need to tell any of the children any "truths" about religion as well as none of my "truths."

This morning I was reading a book a called "My Jesus Year" about an Orthodox son of a Rabbi who takes a year visiting churches in his home area, the bible belt, and sees what he's been missing. I heard the author on the show "Talk of the Nation" on NPR just before the high holidays (Luckily it aired when he was still allowed to use electricity) and thought it'd be a good read.
I've read a couple of chapters and am just up to the point where he's received Rabbinical permission to go into Churches, so long as he wears his Yarmulke and his press pass. The chapters mostly include his difficulty in life following religious doctrine, with the disappointment of no feeling of spiritual payoff. He's married a woman who was in the process of converting to Judaism when they met and she reacts poorly to his decision to visit Christian churches.

I closed the book and was struck with a memory. Ivo once described himself as being "Almost American anyway" and I flipped-out. Just freaked. It was a matter of poor timing and I had recently been given crap by a stereo-typing, generalizing nincompoop who was not worth my breathe, about Americans. I rounded on Ivo and said that he was not allowed to consider himself in such a way. That he was just doing it at this point to suit himself in regards to the more positive opinions of America (a.k.a music and movies). I grumbled that it was not fair for him to be able to pick and choose when he wanted to identify with a certain nationality, that an American has to be an American in good times and bad. It is to Ivo's credit that he did not point out that I am intending to have dual citizenship when my opportunity for Swiss citizenship finally comes. I like to think, however, that I won't be a fair-weather citizen to either nation.
Anyhow, it's the chapters that I read in this book that lead me to the decision that I have made, and it is this:
I'm going to change my tattoo.

Some may see this as a sign of maturity, some may think that I'll just be disappointed with that ink in another 7 years like this ink. Maybe some have expected this. I still stand by the decision to have the tattoo that I have and to have gotten it when I did. I just feel now, that I need to make it more respectful.
You see, my tattoo is not a lovers name or a band that I really used to love, but Hebrew characters which mean "indestructible". Whenever I was questioned on the choice, I always explained that I suffer from an Uhrsprünglich Jewish disease and that I am showing respect to it's origins. That is all still true. What is different is this: while before I thought that it was fine that someone may assume that I was Jewish due to my tattoo (these people may think that I do not follow the Jewish law that one should not be tattooed), after all enough people thought that without my tattoo. I have realized, however, that it is not about me (is that maturity?) and that having a tattoo in Hebrew that a passerby may glean there own information from, is like Ivo saying that he is "almost american". Like my (albiet over-) reaction to Ivo, I sorta have to say to myself "self, how dare you?" I don't get to be a fair-weather supporter of Jewish things. I mean, I'm still comfortable opening a dialog with my kids about the way Jews may celebrate a certain holiday, but it's kind of ludicrous to allow other people to assume the mantel of such a rich and important history, community and culture (also importantly, a community with which I do not always agree) is mine.
So, my plan is to eliminate the opportunity of a cursory glance from spreading misinformation. I still want the characters there in some way or another, I just want to try and join them (in a respectful way) and possibly cover parts of them, with symbols of strength which I also think are present in my body. Maybe a symbol of Portuguese strength, of American strength, of female strength, maybe an anchor (haha). I'm not sure on the details as of yet, but, on the whole: I have made a decision.

Samstag, 18. Oktober 2008

On the border of Switzerland and German, lies the town of Stein am Rhein (stone on the river Rhein). Last year they celebrated the anniversary of No E Willi.
This phrase, I understood, in it's historical context, when I first heard it. Due to it's precarious position, the walled in and gated city had a system of security during the second World War. (Or was it the first?) Anyway, in the night, when a towns person on guard would see another they would ask a question, to which the code answer was "No E Willi". (As you can see, I don't remember the particulars of the story. I do remember that the town was bombed by the Allies.

Last week, I read Der Letzte Weynfeld. I didn't need my dictionary as much as I thought I would, but I needed to ask Ivo about weird phrases. "She was the width of his collar", for example. I heard a podcast with a linguist who was talking about politicians and public officials affecting accents and dialects to help people feel included when they are addressed. Meanwhile, I experience, more regularly, exclusion due to accents and dialects. In the mountains, with Reta-Romansh, from canton to canton with different dialects and idioms.

I have no idea why, but the phrase "No E Willi" popped into my head, today at the gym. I totally got it. "No E Willi": a little while more. What better way to figure out who does not belong, then to use a phrase that someone who does not belong in German-Switzerland, would never know.

Mittwoch, 1. Oktober 2008

doctor heal thyself

Ivo and I have discovered that we're jaded. It's sad but true. When Dani went in for surgery for her wrist, it was astonishing to me. The very idea that someone would have a definable, identifiable problem that would be operated upon and solved was astonishing to me. However, there it was, she was repaired. All better. No problem. Done.
Today Remo had an operation on his shoulder. He injured it on y boat a few years ago. He was stoned and wanted Ivo to take an action shot of him jumping on the wet deck of a ferry. He slipped and injured himself and then headed off to Amsterdam to medicate himself and thought nothing of it. Turns out the injury was worse than he understood, and that this was the result of a genetic weirdy thing that affects his back and shoulders just like his dad and grand-dad.
So today he had surgery. They operated on his shoulder and now it should be alright. He's requested the dvd of the surgery. The little med-student wants to see how it went down. We know this, because he told us when we went to visit him. Before visiting him, we had to give a bit of care to Dani, who was a wreck. I get it. It's like the parents at the kindergarten. Her baby is the center of her universe and she can't understand why the medical staff treats him like one patent in a sea of patients. I get it. This is her baby and a big surgery and she is upset.
Meanwhile, I looked at Ivo's face and he was fine. His baby brother had surgery and he was fine. He admitted that after waiting so often for his lover to come out of surgery had made him a bit relaxed about loved ones going under the knife. When he's awaited my being to be deposited in post-op it was after an operation that may or may not have good results in a line of surgeries and treatments that may or may not help an illness that may or may not get better. Like me, the idea of awaiting a loved one's surgical recovery which entails fixing a fixable problem is a bit of a wonder, more than a stress. This big strong healthy man was being treated helped and healed. What a miracle.
Poor moms.
Remo is healing well and I think that the biggest of his problems will be boredom and whatever morbid fascination he has.

Samstag, 20. September 2008

guilt and sloth and all that my catholic upbringing expects of me

I'm a bit miffed. I am going to have to wait to start French. My course was meant to begin on Monday but was canceled due to lack of interest. I'll have to wait about two weeks now.
My big fear: Sloth. I'm afraid that not working a bajillion hours a week is going to make me soft and lazy. My plan: I'm a-gonna go to the library and bone-up on human rights whatnots and be extra prepared for my next adventure beginning this summer.
Meanwhile, I have to find something piddly to do after the holidays, before the next job and while learning french to make money. Damn these hard economic times. Guess I'll fluff up my resume, put on my smiley face and be sell able with my English skills (which fail a little more each day) and get some meaningless job that will develop the thirst in me that will egg me on to drink big from the cup of slightly-less-meaningless work.

Meanwhile I feel guilty starting part-time at the school. I suppose it's less inconvenient than if I'd stopped working at the end of my contract last week. I figure that working at the school part-time will be a good way to ween me off the myself off the little ones before I am done there. It's gonna be hard. During summer vacation I realized that it had been too long since someone played with my dangling necklace as I bent to help with a shoe or nap mat. This past week I got a big twinge, too. One of the kids (who has recently begun speaking to me exclusively in English - and HOW?!) said "Jessy mine hands are cold" stretching them out. I went to take them in my hands to feel and she said "No! Come here" and placed them on my cheeks to feel. The girl next to her quickly put her hands on my face and asked if hers were colder. Then, each of the girls who had been playing together put their hands on my face to ask who's were colder.
Then on Friday, it was one of our more rambunctious kids had his first visit to my sports class. Not only was he able to follow the rules, play with others and come up with his own games he fell on on me with a big ol' hug and said that sports are "the most fun ever!"

So, I won't be missing working in a germ-factory while taking an immunosuppresant. I won't miss being paid for 40 hours of work when, in fact, I'm putting more time and effort. I won't be missing being too tired for a social life. I will miss the kids and my colleagues, though.

Donnerstag, 11. September 2008


One can tell from the changing leaves on the balcony and rooftop Cannabis in Zürich, that Fall is approaching. That's right, they are a regular sight in Zürich on many buildings.
A less than usual vision is what I encountered in my neighbor's dining room this afternoon. I popped on down, all neighborly to borrow a couple of eggs to make birthday brownies and there they were, doing what I suppose is done with these popular plants when it's harvest time. Strange that I felt so uneasy, when they are so normal, right?

It doesn't smell like autumn though. Well, here in my house it just smells like brownies and pot.

Mittwoch, 3. September 2008

Mark Twain once said "When the world ends, I want to be in Mississippi, because it'd be 20 years before anybody realized."
I find it strange, as a man who'd visited Switzerland, that he would choose Mississippi, instead of this good ol' monument to the passe.
The teens who follow footballer styles all look like snapshots of old high school boyfriends of my older cousins. I imagine that someone is just dieing to call them "Baffo". Perhaps even "Baffo Mondo".
I get all sad when I listen to the NPR movies podcast. I sigh deepl knowing that, unless it is a special about the Cannes film festival, I will not be able to see any of the movies which they are discussing for another 6 moths to a year!
Perhaps the most clear example, though, is "Crocs". I was listening to the NPR pop-culture podcast and had to laugh. They were discussing the financial repercussions of the dieing of this fad. The death of the Crocs fad. They discussed it as if it was already up there with slap bracelets and jellies. Meanwhile Crocs have just hit it big here in Switzerland. It is only 6 months, or so, since they are everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean shoe shops that are far too good for them, specialty shops that sell only Crocs and Crocs accessories (those weird things that you stick in the holes) and, since this August, in the cloak room of my Kindergarten.
Being a Swiss Kindergarten, outside shoes are not allowed inside. If you are like me, you are wondering if Crocs would work better as outside shoes or "Finken" (or house shoes, which in our school range from out-right slippers to high-heel clikkety-clakkety shoes for a few). The answer is: BOTH! Over the past few weeks, more and more children have been bringing Crocs. This means that many mothers had bought new school shoes and finken for their children and were then pressured to buy yet another pair, so that that child could have Crocs.
As of this week more than %75 of our kids have at least one set of Crocs for indoor or outdoor use. Most of those children have two parirs for both uses.

I realize that as I write this, I have a hair cut that I would never wear in the US in this decade. I'm not necessarily a hypocrite, though. Try as I might, every hairdresser gives me and every third other woman, this layered 80's style. Plus, when in Rome.......

Freitag, 29. August 2008

*shivers as 75,000 people chant "Yes We Can"

*"He had a childhood like any other" Is that so? I don't remember living in Indonesia.

*I already saw most of this pre-film I've already seen on "Obama Revealed" on CNN International. Most of this I've already read in "Dreams of My Father".

*all ready a bit of tears and his only just said "I accept your nomination".

*dude, the whole 'they want you to pull you up by your bootstraps even if you don't have any boots' line was killer

*fantastic soundbites are just rolling in

*whenever he says "you" he's looking right at me! He means me! He's calling me a patriot! He thinks that this election is about me!

*I dislike it when he whistles his s's

*I like when his voice gets all trembly.

*COUNTRY?!?!?!?! panderer

Freitag, 22. August 2008

overheard in my classroom or Is George Bush smarter than a Kindergartener?

Simeon: Jessy, look at my funny picture!!
Jessy: I like it! Are these good guys or bad guys?
Simeon: These are all just like-to-shoot-files.with bows-guys!
Jessy:How do you know?
Simeon: Cuz I'm the decider guy!!

no lie
by the way, Simeon thinks that "files" means "arrows" in English.

Mittwoch, 20. August 2008

And the loser is ...

I was listening to my Bugle podcast and John Oliver said how strange it was to watch the Olympics in America. Ivo found this to be true as well, but that was because of all of the advertisements. For John Oliver, the strangeness is because all of the medals the Americans win. This week, I found it crazy uncomfortable to watch the interviews with the Swiss atheletes who have lost. It's so depressing. They're on the verge of tears and trying their best to speak High German in the emotionally-charged environment (let's face it, most Swiss atheletes are Romand).

Dienstag, 15. Juli 2008

from the mouths of babes

Working at a Montessori kindergarten, I write down LOTS of observations. I record trends that are troubling (like a certain child's sudden pliability and tendency to do whatever another child suggests) or spates of bullying and what-not. We also have language booklets. We record full sentences or sentence fragments that the children accomplish in one of the three foreign languages. I, however, like to record some sentences in the children's mother tongues, as well. A rant of one of our students that is quite clearly the parroting of a parent ("weisch, Ich will nüüt zu der neue Schule geh, ich ha'zu viel zu tun, und s'wäre noch eiz umfahrt.": "'ya know, I don't even wanna go to the new school, I've got so much to do and it'll only be another detour to take."), or something so damn cute I don't wanna forget it ("America is like cookies, it's the best, but you can't have it every day.")
My colleague and I have argued about which things the children have come up with themselves. The only ones we can agree on are when the children are role-playing and imitating the teachers. This is never a proud moment for us. I cringe when one of the girls announces that she is Jessy. "Alright. That's enough!" "I don't like that kinda talk" "Calm down!" They are pitch-perfect and simplify my role in their lives to an embarassing degree.

Ivo came hiking yesterday with the kids, and I found myself parroting my parent. "We're almost there! Just a little further!" That is parroting a parent. We had he best time. I was a little cheerleader when those with shorter legs complained. Ivo was a pedestrian rickshaw when he heard their complaining. He came up with the "let's throw stones in the river!" idea when one of our more frequent criers fell down and got a boo-boo. He spoke in everyone's own language, which raised the question "Why do you speak Italian?" in Italian from Arianna, our Italian students.

Arianna's rather forthright blathering in English and German is often quite priceless. A few examples:
"A man came to visit. He doesn't have pretty teeth like ours."
"When you go to Rome you can eat anything you want and sleep all morning." (This in response to our asking for advice for our trip to Rome this weekend.)
"St. Nicholas is old and ugly and smells and I don't like him. I think he eats children."
"Ich liebe Ivo, ganz einfach."

This is interesting, as St. Nicholas, this year, was played by Ivo. She doesn't know this. Her mother tried to explain that her opinion of St. Nick may be because she has a beard phobia. This, Arianna has not parotted.
In her ever-honest way, Arianna's new found love, Ivo was honored in her art work today. She wanted to make a thank you card for Ivo and drew big hearts and "Ivo" and "love" all over the place.

Feelin' pretty good about my man. Because, let's face it, I do say "Alright! That's enough!" quite a lot.

Samstag, 12. Juli 2008


Above the door to my toilet hangs a sign:
"Ivo Gets More Ass Than Toilet Paper"
A testament to bros.
The other sign that was traded for this one on the evening of Ivo's bachelor party is less useful in the home. "Pleitch mich. Ich brüch's hart"

At Upenn, I gave an assignment to help warn students of the siren song of projected statistics. Anthropologist must not make the mistakes of sociologists. We know that one needs time and patience to truly understand human behavior and that a certain behavior can not be called "norm" without both time and patience. The students understood my point quite quickly. I asked them to write their findings for a normal year in a place that they had only visited once, for a short time. A student who had recently and unexpectedly transferred from Toulane University, wrote about his findings in Philadelphia. "Typical Philadelphians spend evenings sleeping in doorways". His classmate, who'd only been at Toulane two days before being transferred due to Katrina used a typical Statistical formula to declare that Louisianna's Gulf Coast region received an average annual rainfall of 37 feet.

If I were to use projecting statistics after tonight, I would question the theory that "bros come before hos". I would note bros hanging one another from trees in superman costumes, bros dressing up another of their bros in pink tu-tus and blond wigs, while wearing t-shirts saying "RIP Lukas".
While siting for a long while at a tram connection, one bro was holding his bro's hood as the latter vomited. I can only assume the former bro was going the extra measure, eating a bratwurst. This seemed, to me, to say "Don't worry bro, I don't mind. In fact, I mind so little I still have an appetite. I have so much appetite in fact, that I can eat while you yak."
So, which is the control group? Which is the exception? Are bros uncommonly cruel or super there for each other?
The two solid conclusions I can find at least, are that a lot of weddings are happening this month in Zürich and this leads to conclusion 2 being that this results in insanely heavy drinking.

Sonntag, 6. Juli 2008

by a nose

I often joke that Ivo as the sense of smell of a pregnant woman. Last fall he came home with a story of olfactory dejavu which is typical of him. Someone at the university had attempted to mask some heavy drinking with peppermint's and the au de alcoholism had tapped into an old association from years past.

I heard somewhere that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. I wish I had understood that earlier in life. I wish that I had a way of bottling those smells which most comforted me as a child. On second thought, I seem to remember my favorite smells, as a child, being gasoline and fresh cigarette smoke. As it is, I delight in finding an old familiar smell and procuring it somehow. Like when my sister kissed me the first day I tried using Pond's face cream and she was struck with a memory of our dead grandmother. This same grandmother is evoked, for me, when I smell that kind of Listerine that is yellow and burns worse than bourbon.

I wish I knew the name of my father's old cologne. I don't know if he only wore it at work or not, but I remember him smelling of it strongly in his dress whites. I have a memory of meeting him at the airport, his clothes miraculously still appeared fresh-pressed. He grinned and from beyond the airport arrivals barrier, stretched his arms out and wiggled his fingers. When he'd passed the small gates and placed his large bag on the floor, I'd taken his big white navy hat with it's black patent-leather brim and gold band. I drank in his smell.

Years later, after doing some obligatory service time with the navy, though he'd moved on to another career, I was staying with his wife and small son. We didn't meet him at the airport. Nevertheless, as he came in, he had the same arrival smile sans far away stretched out arms. I smelled his cologne and in a Pavlovian way, awaited his hat on my now larger head. The cologne deceived me, however and the hat tipped and wobbled over the fat cheeks of my half-brother who took it and ran away clumsily.

Years later, I was invited for a weekend with my father and a woman he was seeing, to Cape Cod. I was older and living with a boyfriend. My father was separated and no longer had a navy hat to give. I drank a glass of wine and felt very old and very strange. I was an adult child, a new role with my father. I felt confident, but something else was different, which made me uneasy. I couldn't name this change, nor could I adjust to it's newness. On our second night, all of us freshly showered and preparing for dinner, my father emerged from the bathroom.
"Your cologne!!!" I nearly shouted.
"Do you like it?" asked the woman he was seeing. She smiled brightly. "I bought it for him."
"very clever." I thought. Is there any better was to eliminate any immediate remembrance
of a life before you, than to eliminate the smell of that life?

I don't often wear perfume nowadays. After quitting smoking, I was less self-conscious of my smell. The smell of smokers in trams give me no pining or reminiscence of my old life as a smoker. For that matter, the smell of folks in Zürich trams in general is something to which I've become accustomsed. I like the smell of Zürich and hope that someday it will smell like home.

People ask if I get homesick and I list small things that I miss before concluding that, no, I am not. That's not to say never. When I smell someone grilling and think on my Philly neighbors and their competing marinades for baby back ribs. When I smell the Swiss version of Mexican restaurants. The worst, however, is when I've been swimming in the Zürich lake. A navy kid from the Ocean State, I take my freshly-dried hair before my face and smell - - nothing. That is when I miss "home".

Donnerstag, 26. Juni 2008

morning cat

I don't like to chat in the morning. I find the question "how did you sleep" immeasurably offensive. I have a routine of meditation stretching and coffee drinking which I must follow before introducing myself slowly to the world. Not so, for my husband.
There was a time when I believed that intruders were in our home, or that my husband was cultivating some gam radio hobby only in the early hours of the morning. I later realized my husband's voice, in all it's conversational tones, was being addressed to our Cat, Deliah. To hear him properly may give one a migraine. At least at those times when he appears to be trying to reason with her. He'll even ask her what it is that he has done, pressing more times than is polite for someone with the understanding that she can and will not be answering back. Sometimes, I begin to feel a bit guilty about this. The pleading anthropomorphising seems to be really saying "Where is my proper consersation partner? Wher is she? Come here?"
This said I was astonished to hear that he had pushed our cat's nose into her urine when it lay outside the box. I was surprised because he normally seems so keen on talking it out with the poor cat (in the background I mock his ideas of feline dicipline). She'll be batting pens, notes and computers off of his computer or any surface that may support them and Ivo will say in a playful tone "Deliah! Mach das bitte nüüt." Seeming to plead with this animal, who I always thought must understand only English.
The real proböem with the nose-to-urine shove was the location. The cat had trotted into the shower (located conveniently next to her litter box) and, instead of drinking from the tap or puddles as per usual, took a piss. For my liking, an easily washable surface like a tub is much better than, say, a carpet or the corner of a closet. I mean, I get the message of "hey! don't pee outside the box" and all, but this was no such commentary. This was Deliah's favorite gossip-partner, the man who sings songs about breakfast time and explains in three paragraphs why we don't play with pens, grabbing the creature and directing her head.
Ivo seemed annoyed by my lack of outrage that the cat had "made" in the shower. Between bites of cereal I asked "had you just peed in the shower?"

Mittwoch, 11. Juni 2008

am I a slouch?

I always thought that I was no slouch. That I was aware and empathetic. Not so, I have come to discover. I read my paper and hear my podcasts and consider myself informed. I know what the gas prices are in middle America and what the milk costs in New York and DC. I know that the nations of the world met over pasta with cream of pumpkin and shrimps. Yet, things still don't touch me in the same way as when it's more obvious.
Naple's trash slash mafia issues recently came to the fore-front of my social-life. At a family-function, my brother-in-law's girlfriend wasn't there because she was working with German trash-removers to figure out how they could get involved there.
Disgustingly more personalized was the petrol-strikes in Europe. I bike, I buy local and heat is included here, so I am not too often aware of gas problems here. Like most other nations, Swiss government taxes upwards of the equivalent of 5 dollars American, to every gallon of gas. (Of course, we buy it by the liter, here, though.) I knew that trucks were blocking ports and highways on the continent, but I wasn't directly effected until my morning grapefruit. I like a grapefruit. I enjoy a grapefruit. I buy grapefruits from either Italy or Spain. Israeli grapefruits don't interest me. Nor so those from South Africa. The world is suffering for hunger and I realize that when I refuse a grapefruit from another continent, my morning is not empty. I was, however keenly aware of the petrol-problems of Europe the other day when I read the produce sign "Grapefruit U.S.A" USA?! This is not my Switzerland! What the hell are they doing shipping grapefruits from the states?
Every morning that I am without a grapefruit I feel like a small and selfish woman. I miss that grapefruit, I do. What the hell? I drink my coffee and eat an apple and think "you lucky bastard. You comfortable weich Ei."
I want to do something. What should I do? How should I mobilize? How do I help. I've never felt more guilty, than I do without my sour puss.

Sonntag, 8. Juni 2008

Euro cup

Today I went for a lovely little walk around a lovely little lake in a lovely little nearby outskirt of Zürich. I went to the train station to do some food shopping and realized that, thanks to the Euro-Cup and our plethora of visitors, the small supermarket on the way home is open on Sundays this month.
Last night we needed to get to the Kulturmart really early in order to get places for the free public-viewing. As I was walking to the Theater, I realised that the people that I was seeing through restaurant and bar windows were probably settled where they would remain for the first Swiss games. Anyone strolling in the street was pretty much guaranteed not to be watching the game that night, unless it was in the comfort of their own home.
This afternoon, I was walking in my neighborhood and saw, and heard, that most Swiss sports fans were yet again cloistered away. This time it was far earlier and this time it had nothing to do with the ill-fated Frei or his teammates. The shouts issuing from my neighbors windows were too early to have anything to do with the soccer match tonight in Austria. It was Roger Federer's loss in the French Open that left these typically nature-loving natives indoors this afternoon.
Will sporting events this summer lead to ill health in Switzerland?
Stay tuned to find out.

Samstag, 31. Mai 2008

ja! kinder und kultur

Today, while running errands, stymied by Bodum's rennovation and, in general slowed by tourists, I noticed that throughout the city were pockets of teens and young ones, playing music.
It is not as if music is never played in the streets of Zürich. Indeed, visiting fans of the Euro will be greeted by busking accordian and guitar players (though, if these musicians are in the "Fan Zone" their earnings will probably only be spendable on Coke and Carlsburg products) What surprised me was how many they were and how young they were. Finally, I stopped to get a closer look. A young group were just beginning a beautiful piece, all of them playing violin, in various levels of ability. They each had a sign on their music stand that said "JA!"
At first I thought that these sweet young musicians were just positive people. It was actually in that exact square when my path crossed the laughing day parade a few weeks ago. (I believe that I have already blogged about this unsettling group that march through the city forcing themselves to laugh the whole way.) A moment later my question was answered as two women approached me with clipboards and pamphlets and information on how I can vote in order to help these children recieve more funding for music instruction in their schools.
I shall now admit a guilty secret. Typically, when I am approached by anyone in the street with a clipboard and pamphlets I respond in my best Southern American accent "Ah'm sorry. Ah'm not from around here." his time, however, I took the information and thanked them for their efforts. The rest of my boring Saturday tasks had a lovely soundtrack and I was pleased.
Later, when speaking to my mother and describing it, I said "They were playing to stop the government taking away funding for music programs." I then needed to correct myself. That wasn't right. Their music stands had told us to vote "ja" on the proposition, afterall. I realized that in my american mind, I had instantly and automatically rebuilt the situation to fit what is now normal in the states. This idea of the arts as being irrelevant, when funding is concerned.

Montag, 12. Mai 2008

buttons and bells

My paternal grandfather once said that a woman could not be president because at a certain time of the month, she would push the button. I believed, at the time that "the button" had something to do with....some sort of irreversible military decision that is enacted by means of button-pushing. I can't be sure, however. Had I been a bit more aware as a child, I would have probably asked about the button. But then, I would have also probably pointed out that any woman old enough or accomplished enough to reach the race for the precedence, would probably be post-menopausal.

This morning I was listening to my podcast of NBC's Meet the Press and I am fairly sure that Clinton's Campaign Chairman was about to make the "tired" excuse for her again. This whole gross sound-bite in which Clinton seems to use "hard-working Americans" and "white Americans" interchangeably, was distressing. Terry McAuliffe merely said "It's been a long campaign."

Between McCain senility causing him to mistakenly referring to the wrong group in Iraq and Clinton being so tired that she wells-up, miss remembers a girl giving her a flower for sniper-fire and interchangeably referring to "hard-working Americans" and "white Americans", I think that I'll vote for the youthful and coherent Barack Obama.

Donnerstag, 8. Mai 2008

The Doctor is Out

It's spring time. The weather is warm and lovely
and children are happy to replace donning Rain trousers for sun cream. This afternoon I was out in the Kindergarten's garden with the little ones and was taxed. Terribly taxed. Every single
child had a good cry today. A few were crying because of exclusion, misunderstanding or sleepiness. Most, however, were first aid situations. They were so orderly about it. One accident after another.
Girl with broken arm, falls on other arm.
Push - Fall - mouth-whack. Most asked if, after the bleeding or tears had stopped, they may sit by me a moment. This means that almost the entire afternoon I was accompanied by a child breathing heavily: post-sobbing-sighing. I like to be a giver of comfort, but all of that suffering, however minor, is tiring.

Sonntag, 4. Mai 2008

Sitting in Idealneyachashna cafe

-No anymore, but I shall write about the experience.
It appears that traffic cops are some of the least trustworthy people in all of Russia. I can believe this even more after my experience in the Idealneyachshna cafe.

A tow truck appears on the corner of a busy street. He takes photos of one of two parked cars. One from each corner of the car. He passes from passenger to driver's side. Then he knocks on the driver's window of the car in front of that which he is photographing. He gestures further down the road. He looks pessimistic and then gives the driver a last warning shrug. I interpret this to mean "your funeral, buddy".

I attend to my tea.

I look up. A happy police officer watches as the first car, the photographed car, is pulled upon the tow truck. The warned driver of the other car looks disappointed, and then drives away.

I attend to my carrot cake.

I look up. A woman holds a video camera. A man sits in the would-be-towed car. It is being lowered back onto the street. The woman is recording this experience.
The car is now safely on the street. The waitress takes my crumb-covered plate. The driver mops his brow. Mops his eyes. Shouts a few select words. Mops his mouth. The truck and car both depart, both lighter and heavier than before.
We leave the cafe and look. The rest of the curb, that which was not visible from the cafe window. The curb is full with parked cars.

Donnerstag, 24. April 2008

testing, testing, one, two.....

My mother in law had surgery on her wrist last month.
Before and after, we were discussing surgery. She said that I would know best. I don't. I don't know best. I don't know anything at all about wrist surgery on a broken wrist.
Here she was with a definite problem, that was totally finite. This very definite problem. There was a surgical solution. The surgery happened. The problem was solved. That is it. Never in my life have I had a problem with my person that was quickly and easily understood and repaired. Until now.

I had a hearing test today. In two weeks, I'll pick up a trial hearing aid that will help me to hear voices a bit (only in front of me) with my right ear. The biggest benefit is that it will keep my left ear from being strained. Apparently it's having to pick up a bit to much slack these days.
Problem - Solution - No Problem. Whole new concept for me. Kind of weird.

Mittwoch, 23. April 2008

guest at home

Ivo and I went with my friend Terry to an FCZ and GZ match. It's called a derby, but it is the Zürich soccer rivalry equivalent of Sox and Yanks.

Ivo has never been nervous as a result of my football attendance before. He was a bit, however, this time. It may have had something to do with the waiting vans of police, the water canon or the scary fans.
The two teams share the same stadium. This is, of course, imperfect, but has to do with renovation and rebuilding of Swiss soccer stadiums in preparation for our hosting the EUFA cup this summer. Previously, the "away" team would walk to the "home team's" stadium. They shut down a nearby bridge for the marching fans. Are you getting the fact that this is a big deal?

Terry was using his work-place's season tickets, which means that we were sat securely in the family section. (This means that I was engaged by a number of papas with daughters with the request "könnt ihr schnell lüege, dass sie ok gönnt?") Looking to our right, GZ was seated in what I have always considered the "away team seating". To my left, the "SüdKurve", where we normally sit, was full of the three groups of rabble-rowsers who are always there, if not, at times, in less of a force.
The two teams were announced and although I am no hard-core fan (I sing along with the songs, cuz it's fun, but I don't live and die for the wins and losses) I was a bit injured when FCZ was announced as the guest, or visiting team. I'm sure that there is some understanding and that this decision makes complete sense to the more regular attendees. I only know that somewhere inside me, I felt pained. A guest at home. I know that feeling. As I fought with the foreigner's police on the telephone and they couldn't find my records and said that I was not listed as a resident, that is how I felt. Guest at home.

The game was lively and exciting. The GZ fans sang a song about a hockey stadium, which slightly confused me. In the all-or-nothing rite of fandom we needed to, of course, mock everything about the fans. From the bread rolls that they threw toward the field in anger, to the fact that they had absolutely no flags. The FCZ fans were practically canopied with flags and banners. Beautifully drawn, cleverly writen and placed here and there to show the three sorts of fans and their diverse levels of crazy. Now and again, they would light a flare and a fire would begin and Ivo and I tried to keep track of how much of a fine they were chalking up and if it would be bigger than last year's derby.
Yesterday, having asked Steff, we discovered that the GZ fans had flags and banners. The fires that we'd seen in the FCZ fan section was the FCZ fans burning the flags that they had stolen off of the GZ fans. He wanted to try and explain the history of tit-for-tat and how this all made sense, but I needn't hear it really. It was pretty much all explained in the action itself and I was still feeling oddly empathetic for the guests at home.

Dienstag, 22. April 2008

Sunday stroll

I visit a new church as often as possible. I like those which are across town the best. This means that I get to take a quiet walk through the city. The whole town is closed up and only the tourists are out blinking in the early light, scanning the street for an IHOP or something, as it would seem. They often seem hungry and confused.
This week, I was headed across town to a baptist church. The city seemed quiet enough. Then I saw barriers. Then I heard cow bells. Then I saw that I was not the only one who was taking advantage of a lovely Sunday morning.

As I passed by tourists shouting things like "HOW IS THAT RÖSTI FEELING NOW?!?!", and an Oschner float with Swiss people dressed in Brazilian costumes I began to realize what I may need to expect this summer when the European Cup rolls in. Ugh.

Freitag, 18. April 2008

silly anicdote.

It's a terrible thing. Whenever I see the word "Haiti" I think of an amusing story that my friend told me. This is unfortunate, as most times, reading the word "Haiti", is no time for amusement.

My friend was saying goodbye to her father and wishing him a good trip. I asked where he was going.
"To Haiti. It's my parent's anniversary."
"Oh...That's nice."
For some reason, I didn't think of Haiti as a lover's destination.
"Yeah, that's where they went on their honeymoon."
Again I was confused.Haiti for a honeymoon?
"You see, my father wanted to surprise my mother with their honeymoon trip. He took her to a place where she had once said that she had always wanted to go. They board the plane and the flight attendant is giving information and says the destination: Haiti. My mom is all freaked. She asks my dad 'Haiti? Really?' He says 'Yeah. You said you always wanted to go tah Haiti.' 'Nooooo. Ta-hiti. Tahiti, not tah' Haiti.' Anyway they had a blast and they go back every 5 years since to volunteer."

So silly.


I chuckled inappropriately at a child yesterday. I didn't mean to.

It was after lunch, and the child was telling a story. He continued to use the word "gesein" for the past tense of sein (to be). Another child corrected him (quite politely, actually) each time. At some point, the incidental instructor tired of repeating "GEWESEN!" and said it quite sharply with a rather large sigh. That is when I chuckled.

At times, the progress that I hear in the school is something extraordinary. It's an external sound of the opposite of what is happening in my brain. As I begin to make sense of Swiss German from my small store of German, it is the inversion of what is going on with the little ones.

In the language vein: I am a large fan of 10 and 5 minute warnings for children. I don't like to stop a child at work or play without fair warning that the fun will, if not all together stop, need to change. Unlike when my mother said "guys, five more minutes, kay?", my warnings are always followed by the general chatter of one child explaining to another, what it is that I have said. "Die Jessy hat seid, dass mir nur 5 Minute mehr han. Schnell!"
Yesterday, one of the children who had always needed the translation was doing the translating and I was just so cheered.
Now if I only had better hearing. It's so damn frustrating when a kid tries their first turn at speaking English with me and I ask "what" and they repeat what they've said in German. Opportunity missed, dagnabit.

Sonntag, 13. April 2008


When I first arrived in Zürich, I noticed many men buying flowers. My husband is a flower-buyer and I've always found that to be quite special. I would see these men and think "someone thinks that this flower buying man is special. Chances are, he thinks that someone is special too." All of this specialness would result in my smiling, quite broadly. Very very broadly. Freakishly broadly, in fact. If the men noticed they didn't show, and I went of glowing, with aching cheeks and the thought "there goes a special guy."

Not special.

He is not special. They are not special. It is not special to buy flowers for others in Zürich. It is a given. A totally beautiful given. It is such a given, that in order to make flower-giving the kind of special occasion that it is in other places in which I have lived, one must somehow make their flowers stand out. It is so typical, on any given Friday or Saturday, to see every third person in the street with a beautifully wrapped bouquet, that the only ones to stand out must be truly extraordinary.
The flower purchases which get my attention now, are the person climbing in a tram with, what appears to be, a large potted plant wrapped in paper. The pot, however, must be at least twice as wide as the middle of the person carrying it, in order to make any impression on a passerby at all. Also on the list is any long tropical plant. Indeed, any flower or plant which is awkward to carry or lift, now takes the place of the act of flower giving, as being "thoughtful". To give a bouquet, it seems, is simply expected. To give an arrangement which could cause injury: that is special.

Flowers are simply currency. One brings flowers when invited to dinner as a show of even-stevens. Last night, for example I brought flowers to a birthday apero, although I had already given the birthday celebrant a gift. This was, truthfully, in lieu of actually helping the others to prepare the apero (something that may or may not have been expected.)

Donnerstag, 10. April 2008

bugs or men

I have decided that one can never truly know a person, or even oneself, without an infestation. The Kindergarten where I work has been bothered by ants for a few weeks now, and what it has taught me about myself and my colleagues has been priceless. Theories that I had about myself and my co-workers have been tested. Some have proved to be way off.
An example of this would be the fact that I previously had believed that I was not actually a typical American. I'm all, ya know, livin' in another country....learnin' a new language....learnin' that the Cold War is over. (That you George Bush, for the breaking news this week.)UNTRUE!!! I am more American than I ever knew?! And not only because my idea of America has recently been skewed by the release of a book that says that there are more Chinese food restaurants in America than McDonalds and Burger King combined.
Here have been the reactions to our unwanted squatters.
Katrin: "We had ants at my vacation home. They came in and went right out the other way. Never strayed. Never touched a thing.
-I think that they'll just come and go.
-If we kill a few and leave them, the others will take the hint. "
Monika: Bought traps and showed valid disappointment when I attempted to gas them with ammonia.
Barbara: Bowls of beer or wine will trap them.
- I think that they'll just come and go.
(not so, Barbara. Not so.)
Salome: "Don't they only come and go in two weeks?"
(no Salome. Its been longer than 2 weeks and I DON'T THINK THAT THESE ARE THE COME-AND-GO KIND)
My enlightened colleagues are attempting to teach the children the nature and science of ants as they freak and stamp and alert us to each creature. (doing exactly what I secretly want to.)
I do.
I am this peaceful Quaker chick who loves my pacifist husband and was told that I don't belong in America if I don't like the war (not sayin' "I told you so"). Nevertheless, I seriously dream about a weekend long bug-bomb, that'll eliminate every last one.

Guess we'll have to just watch that the floor isn't so sticky. I'll have to suppress my killer-instinct.

Dienstag, 8. April 2008

Not Cock Fight. "Gaggi" fight

Our cat is becoming bored. This was to be expected, as she is meant to be an idoor/outdoor cat. Yet, she couldn't make it below the 2nd floor in the stairwell. Now, her boredom has set her about wandering the neighborhood. In fact, she wanders over to our neighbors home, pops inside and visits the folks who normally cat-sit her. Then she pees on their doorstep.
She's a teeny cat, but she is friends with a massive Maine Coon cat (Ivo's folks)and they go about the neighborhood together. I try not to worry about her, but she came home the other day with a scratch on her side and then.....
...Well see, I was laying in bed, reading. It was late and Ivo was working on his paper. Though we were at opposite sides of the apartment and both had closed windows in our rooms, we both heard a cat scream out and jumped into action. Ivo said that he'd go have a look, and I finished the paragraph I was reading before taking my nervous-pet-owner pose.
The two came in and were a sight for sore eyes. Ivo was holding the cat at arms length. Something dark was smeared across her fur on one side.
"Oh no!" I said.
"Oh yes!" Ivo said in a most insensitive ticked-off sounding voice.
"What did you see? was she fighting? Was it a big black cat?"
"She hissed at me and then I picked her up, and she's got gaggi on her!" He said, obviously breathing through his mouth.
"ja! Gaggi!"
"How did she get poopy on her in a fight?!"
Ivo gave me a look that suggested that he had already put enough effort into this rescue that he need not take the time to imagine how a cat fight could come to involve excrement.
The conversation dissolved predictable into me making low-brow jokes about our S&M cat, as she cleaned herself with her tongue and began to stink less. Politely refusing to sit upon our bed until she was properly clean. Guess that's all part of life as a cat owner.

Mittwoch, 26. März 2008

The EU is killing my husband

In this globalized world, where the world has not yet caught cold, but is asking for an extra blanket and I am avoiding friends who work in money house's evil eye, the EU will be the death of my husband.

Here in Switzerland, we are not, of course, members of the EU. We love our Swiss Frank and our "safely gaurded borders". (Yes, those cows by the border in Önningen count.) We do have a friendly relationship with the EU, however. Not so much because we are a friendly country all-around. More for the same reasons that Hitler reffered to us as "a hedgehog". We are stuck smack dab in the middle of western europe with are pointy bits sticking into many an EU member nation. Thus, we're "friendly" and have fun immigration laws for people with the blue flag with the yellow stars.

The problem with being friendly and, tightly packed among the Empi- I mean Union, has been discussed in Switzerland for a year now. They don't exactly sit around saying "What's to be done about that Union?". They more, have an article at least once a week, begging the question "HOW CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT OUR CERVELA!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?"The panic is what just might kill my husband.

A cervela is a small red sausage that Swiss people love and, apparently, live for. The Swiss, being sticklers for tradition have only one way in which they believe that this sausage can be made. That would be a casing made from Brazilian cow intestines. Here's the pickle. Brazilian cow intestines are not friendly to the European Union and thus can no longer be imported to our landlocked Union-friendly nation.

My husband's plan: Eat at least one cervela per week because "you never know how long they'll be around". I understand this. Like, 10 years ago I was so flippin' thrilled to see Bob Dylan in concert because I didn't know how long he's be around. Answer: A long freakin' time. Seeing that concert, unlike eating a cervely a week, did nothing to my arteries.

Is the second wedding anniversary the angioplasty anniversary?

Montag, 24. März 2008

The eternal babysister

I lament the fact that everyone in town has a bigger bathroom than me.
Even those with the.....shall we say view?

This Easter Sunday was the first time that I was all alone on an Easter. It was noticeable. In the streets, I was the only one who was alone without flowers. There were some folks who were alone, but they all had flowers. They were en route, either to or from, a loved one's house.
At one point, I was walking up the street to the video shop. The constant flurries of yesterday were in one of their heavy trends, and a family was crossing the street. The mother muttered some encouragements in Italian to cross the street quikly. The two prepubescent boys were crossing the street with their mouths gaping open, trying to catch snowflakes. "These ones must be overly ripe", I thought, reminded of a peanuts cartoon. Then I grinned. Grinned with a sharp exhalation through my nose. The exhalation led to a jerk in the throat.
"hhm - hu-hmm - ha-hum - hm-hm-hm... The mother had caught my eye as I'd begun the suppressed laugh. Her breathing patter mimicked mine and within moments we were both in absolute guffahs. The elderly woman ahead of her turned to question her in Italian. "What is so funny?"
Truly nothing. But that was the most community that I had on this Easter Sunday.

Mittwoch, 19. März 2008

My Beautiful Mind

Music swells in the living room and I hear the tack-tack of keys. There is a path into the room littered with typed pages, X-ed out, paragraph by paragraph. It's cold and sunny outside and blossoms are blowing from trees in a compost-able confetti through the wind onto the side-walk as birds sing a happier more full song. In the living room. Ivo is hunched over the blond-wood desk, squinting.
I love an academic. I don't mean this in the sense that "I love a parade", or "I love a good Margarita on a hot day". I mean that I love a particular academic. Sometimes this particular academic wonders if he truly wants to be an academic or not. Then spring rolls round and Ivo joyfully sticks himself at his desk reading, writing and editing. He seems to enjoy the pain of holing up as others go blinking into the new spring sun. In some sort of tantric-delayed-gratification-thing Ivo seems to delve deeper into his work in the spring only to then truly enjoy the reward of a summer vacation.
Ivo and I began to date in the spring time. We spent an odd amount of time together for his methods of working. We took long afternoon walks in the lengthened afternoon sun and he came to Loui's to lunch even though, I am sure, that his conscience tried to tell him to stay in his room and work, work, work.
After a couple of weeks, I saw a different side of this lovely young student. "I've got to get down to business and write my project." he told me. And thus, I learned this new side of the man that I would come to love in a wife and husband kind of way. (Back then I just thought that he was the most.)
"I don't know the order yet and I have far too much information for just one paper. I've done so much preparation. I don't know how it should fit or which parts are necessary."
He then papered the walls with notes. The walls of his dorm room were seriously covered floor-to-ceiling with notes and sources. This is Academic-man. Without a cape and with glasses as part of his costume he arrives in Spring to make sense of moths of work. He hums along to Schubert. He ignores all idea of schedule that his alter-ego "athletic fun smart guy" and finds a strong large cup of coffee at 9 pm an appropriate idea. He shall go again soon. He may even take a small holiday when we are in Russia. However, for now, he is here in my living room, reminding me of the first notion of a different side of this man who I thought was swell 4 springs ago.

Montag, 10. März 2008

Change you can find in the couch

I changed a mind.
This weekend I was easing up my German with a glass of wine or two and my friend (and possible future boss) was asking what the hell Obama means talking about change?
I explained and he seriously at the end he said "Oh, I get it".
This has no bearing on the election, as he is Swiss, but it did me well somehow. Ivo was impressed. Maybe it was just the language thing.

Someone who is not willing to change, was an old lady on the bus today.
It was clear that she is a woman who always takes the first seat on the bus. Today, the seat next to it was occupied by a young man.
The old lady was asking the young man a question of no consequence. He pointed to his hearing aid as a way of saying "I can't hear you."
"Oh!" She said in a way that would make anyone think that she understood. Two minutes later, however, she was trying again. Going on about some-such nonsense. The young man nodded sweetly. As he was looking at her attentively he view swung my way and I began to sign to him.
"What is she, crazy? Doesn't she understand?"
The kid signed back to me. "She probably talks to lots of people who don't understand her all the time. Also, things change a lot. She probably thinks that my hearing aids are a new headphone for a new i-whatever. Things change."

Donnerstag, 6. März 2008

oh hate speech

My father-in-law and I recently had a really molten-hot fight, provoked by his use of terms that I found both inappropriate and offensive. We've not yet fully recovered. A colleague of mine said "It's been a long while since I was in the States. I imagine that I would be confused about what is inappropriate or offensive."
This may be. I have at times used terms that I'd not known to be offensive. Having been corrected, I excuse myself and make a mental note for the future. This can happen, but I don't see how it can happen with the expression "zu der vergassung".
Swiss people who are otherwise loving and respectful, will apparently use the phrase "to the gassing" with no thought on the origin of the term. Ivo and I heard it last night at dinner and whipped ourselves into a froth on the walk home.
"What would you say if someone used that expression in conversation with you." Commence whipping into froth.
"'Wait. What sort of gas?' I would ask. No, no, no. I'd say 'don't you mean zu der Zyklon B verbrauch?'" One must understand, there is the expression "zum kotzen langweilig". This means so boring one must vomit. "Zum Kotzen" "to the vomiting". This is how this expression is used as well. Interchangeable-like. "to the gassing boring".
Having a full tummy is the wrong tome to discuss this topic, as the moment you stop thinking how you can stick it to the ignorant people who use this phrase, you become totally pained by the truth that people ignorantly use this phrase.

Samstag, 1. März 2008

All is fair in International Affairs

I had more questions to answer for my Russian visa than Ivo did.
Supplement to the questionnaire-form No 95

Question 7
List all countries You have visited in the last ten years (give the name of each visited city)

Question 11
List all professional, social and charitable organizations to which You belong (belonged) or contribue (contributed) or with which You work (have worked)

Question 12
Do you have any specialized skills or training, including firearms, explosives, nuclear, biological or chemical experience?
If Yes, explain_______

Question 13
Have You ever performed military service?
If Yes, give name of country, branch of service, rank/position, military speciality and the dates of service)

Question 14
Have you ever been in armed conflict, either as a participant or victim? Please explain.

Quesion 15
List all educational institutions You attend or have attended. Include vocational institutions

It's really not so bad. When I hear the horror stories of folks trying to get into the US, it's a pittance, really.
I've taken Psych exams for work that were worse.

Question 3
Have you ever tried coffee... or PCP?

Mittwoch, 20. Februar 2008

My adult slap bracelet.

It is almost back to school time. The "Sport Holiday" is almost over and my children will soon be back from ski-vacations, tanned and ready for our spring-time learning.
To prepare myself, I went out to get some new house-shoes.
Upon entering our school, one must change out of their out-side shoes and into their house-shoes or "finken" if you like. "Finken" means slippers, so when I first began my employment and was told to get "finken" I went out and got some cheap comfy slippers.
Since then I have become recognizable from across the room by my shuffling step. When I change into my slippers each morning my feet and knees seem to cry out "no! no! please don't! What have we done to deserve this?!"
Therefore, the decision was made to get a stable healthy shoe that I will wear in my 40 hours pacing in our little school-house, running after children, walking from table to table to lunch to kitchen to..... you get the idea. I went out shopping for those sneakers today, armed with respect for my body and knowledge that my mother and sister suffer heel-problems (which I have only now and again after strenuous fitness or wearing heels too long). I got me some MBTs.
MBT's are all the rage among health-conscious, non-appearance-conscious baby-boomers in Switzerland. The websites and ads say that models like Kate Moss and actresses like Julia Roberts wear them when walking in the city, but I don't know if I believe that. I've only seen them being worn by the same old-folks who buy those weird neon bracelets and necklaces that are supposed to help your ions or something.
There is an actual course that is recommended when you buy these shoes. There is a dvd as well. One must learn how to do stairs and hills and what-not in these shoes. Luckily, I shall be wearing them only inside on a level surface and shall not screw it up, though the sales girl did have to show me how to stand in them. One rocks back and forth in them so that one is in constant motion.
They are not exactly "Jimmy can jump" shoes from Seinfeld but they are....well they're funnier to look at than orthopedic shoes and the gait resembles that of a girl that I knew in high school who was mocked for her stride.
I shall letcha know how it goes and if they are recommendable. My "hip" shoes. My one piece of fad apparel. My MBTs.

Samstag, 9. Februar 2008

who is to blame?

I am not shot to the heart, but I am being moved by 80's music.
Ivo's birthday is Tuesday and the celebration thereof shall take place on Saturday. The theme is "the 20th anniversary of Ivo's 6th birthday."
I am having a bit too much fun planning a day to commemorate Ivo's 6th birthday. I have bought him a pilot's hat and RC plane (he most wanted to be a pilot when he was 6), got us set up to go to the Dinosaur museum (he spent his 6th birthday at a dinosaur museum) got him a stuffed koala, like the one that he recieved then.
What I am most thrilled about, however, is the cd that I have made him. I was listening to it as a playlist on my ipod and I got so excited it's nuts. I knew all of the words and inflections to all of these songs, which were, apparently, hits in 1988.
I need you tonight
Heaven is a place on earth
I think we're alone now
Shake your love
I was listening to the list as I went for my evening walk. I wound up laughing, grinning madly and fighting the urge to sing along. Suddenly I worried. What if this particular gift is more for me than for him? Uh oh.
Good Lord, what was up with all of the synthetic music back then?!