Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

May 21 2012

A Return Visit

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So here I am once again, running around the stretch of Lac Leman between Geneva and Lausanne for the week, still suffering from jetlag.  I am here to present at a conference on the history of international organizations at my school on Friday.  As it was in February, it is strange to be back.  At least this time it is not frigidly, unbearably cold.

Events and observations so far, since Friday’s landing:

  • I got myself from a landed airplane through customs and my bag from the belt and onto a train in less than 30 minutes. I love Geneva Cointrin!
  • There are thermal baths in Geneva! Who knew? They were pretty nice!
  • Geneva continues to mess with my mind by changing the whole public transit system and train station around. Gah.
  • Fresh peas! Fresh fava beans!  Asparagus galore! The best tasting strawberries ever! Cheese! I miss these markets!!!
  • I found a coton de tulear wandering outside the thermal baths in Geneva, with a collar but no owner or tags.  She was just like Ruben, and came running over to be pet when I called to her. Then I freaked out and called the ASPCA, then animal control, and was continually re-directed because of the lack of things being open on a Saturday, until I was finally told automatically to “take the lost dog to the local police station.” That would require knowing where the police station was.  Instead, I picked up the Ruben doppelganger (albeit with a terrible haircut) and marched her around the nearby park until I found a bichon-frise owner who thought she recognized the dog and promised to care for her until Monday when things re-opened.
  • I stayed a night at a friend’s parents’ house in Lausanne.  Their kitchen comes equipped with a built-in steamer.  I was like, “What is that?!”  She said, “What, I always assumed all kitchens in America had them! You don’t recognize it?”  Um, nope. I think it is something along these lines.
  • A confiserie/chocolatier in Nyon was selling chocolates that looked like iPhones.  They were remarkably accurate, but brown instead of black and not as shiny.  They had a batch of them created to be children’s party favors, with each child getting an “iPhone” with his/her name on it.

Yep. I am not in Pittsburgh anymore.

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Jan 25 2012

CJL celebrates 10 years!

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Hi!  It’s been awhile.  We’re living in Pittsburgh, USA, now, but I’m still a student in Geneva.  I will be back in Switzerland in a few weeks to defend my dissertation proposal (the proposal, not the actual dissertation) which, if I pass, will mean I am officially all-but-dissertation.

I will also happen to be back for my Swiss choir’s first of many celebrations of its 10 years of existence.  Please consider supporting the choir by attending the banquet on Saturday, February 18th.  See for details about the banquet (“repas de soutien”) and upcoming anniversary concerts.

And, please watch this adorable, joyous little film they made for the occasion on YouTube, Hosanna, CJL a 10 Ans:

If you are wondering, I am not in a choir in Pittsburgh.  I leave it too often for research to commit to a choir’s rehearsals.  However, I am finding activities to do and still singing.  Seth is working really hard as a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University. Here’s us in Pittsburgh:

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May 08 2011

Attention New York Times Magazine

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This is the flag of Switzerland:

This is the Red Cross (it has a simple mnenomic—the cross is red):

Your weekly column called “Diagnosis” is about … Swiss medicine?

(read more about the relationship between the two symbols on Wikipedia)

Update: I guess I’m a little late on this. Apparently the editors at the Times magazine don’t pay attention to facebook comments?

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Apr 15 2011

Before I leave Switzerland

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Don’t worry, folks, I haven’t decided Switzerland is a perfect place because I’m already nostalgic…yesterday was one of those days where I was reminded that I am often dissatisfied:

  • This perfectly wonderful professor gave a guest lecture during the PhD seminar on religion and politics in European history, a subject which interests me greatly.  It would have been really good, had not a middle-aged, communist-obsessed, anti-Semitic conspiracy-theorist managed to find out about it and show up.  His comments and questions seemed to betray an informed, but confusing, alternative world view…until he suddenly started going on about Jews controlling 150% of the intelligentsia and state department of the US before WWII and using that “fact” to explain historical outcomes.  The professors in the room shut it down effectively enough, but it did not feel good to be The American Jew who went to an Ivy League in the room at that moment.
  • On the tram ride back to the station, I watched as Geneva transport officials harassed a black women with two kids in a stroller on the tram for not having the right combination of tickets to be riding on the tram.  They might have done it to anyone, but it was still painful.  Then, once in the train station, a Swiss man yelled at me for “taking up the whole platform with my dog.”  More precisely, Ruben was walking a few feet away and the leash made it more difficult for this man to rush past me.  Nothing like the Swiss to correct your questionably-incorrect behavior in public.
  • I went with Ruben to the dog park to discover it was full of puppies!  Actually, the current class of the same puppy school we attended, and one of the puppies in it is one of Ruben’s new best friends.  I wanted to let Ruben play, since after all, that is why I went to the dog park, but I was sharply reprimanded by the teacher who told me that I am letting Ruben get away with too much and he has lost his obedience since he took the class.  Not true, Seth and I have been continually working with him, we just refuse to scream at him and punish him, but I don’t like to be scolded that I have not been taking proper pains to train my dog or doing it effectively.
  • Seth and I took Ruben back to the park after dinner, where he sniffed around and studiously ignored the big dogs who were ignoring him.  In came another dog, pooped before our and his owner’s eyes, and the owner didn’t even pretend to picking it up.  Well, thank you sir, for leaving that poop for me to step in and then have to figure out how to clean off my shoes in my tiny apartment.  I am just not Swiss enough to tell him off for his offense.

On the other hand, my, has the weather been gorgeous.  And how frightening does a move to Pittsburgh seem, now that is just three months away.  This week, we sent notice to our landlord that we’ll be ending our lease.  In a few weeks, my parents will head to Pittsburgh to check out housing options for us.  There’s so much I want to do before we leave, including:

  1. Go biking in the countryside at least a few times.  Hopefully Seth can work it out so as to take along Ruben in his carrier on his back.
  2. Eat fondue.  I think we might have missed our chance with this winter specialty, but we haven’t had any since Michelle visited in February, I think.
  3. Go swimming with Ruben in the lake.
  4. Go to Cave Ouvertes (open wine tastings) in new villages.
  5. Take the Glacier Express and spend some time in Graubuenden.
  6. Explore something in a surrounding country at least once more…trying to make this happen for spring break in two weeks.  Northern Italy for a long weekend?
  7. Go strawberry picking again.
  8. Buy Seth some last items of good-fitting clothing.

Anything else that should be on that list, readers?  Not that I’ll even manage to complete what I’ve already written, given incredible quantities of school work, moving logistics, wedding logistics, and the like…

Happy Pesakh!

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Apr 11 2011

Foraging for dinner, dog in the river

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This weekend at the market, it was quite clear that the season for bear garlic, a popular local specialty, is upon us. (Incidentally, I checked and don’t seem to have blogged the fact I found out last year, that bear garlic’s North American cousin is the most likely candidate for the supposedly “stinky onions” after which Chicago is named.)

On Sunday, we went for a walk along the Venoges river with Ruben, and came across giant patches of it. We thought about stopping to pick bunches for dinner (or, now that I think about it, to dry and save for later) but instead we decided to continue on our way, assuming we’d have the chance to get some on our way back.

Bear Garlic

Ruben is really quite good off-leash, generally sticking near us as we walk, never running too far off, and responding to come almost all of the time. This was the first time we tried walking with him off-leash on a path affording many opportunities for veering off to the water. As we walked, Ruben tempted fate a few times, scooting himself close to the edge of the river, dipping his toes in, but coming running when we called him, at least sooner or later.


After 10 or 15 minutes of this he made a full speed approach, slightly downhill, towards the river. As we called him, and he continued on his merry way, he reached the edge, a foot or two above the water, and next thing we knew, he was in the river. As Jackie called to him I think he quickly turned around—the river wasn’t very deep there—but then he couldn’t climb out because it was too steep. But he did have solid footing, so when Jackie reached him and bent down to grab him, he extended his paws, and was saved.

Back on land, Ruben was sopping wet but totally unfazed, while we were still trying to figure out if we’d just narrowly averted catastrophe or if we had a natural swimmer on our hands. A few steps away we checked out an opening in the forested area around the river, which revealed stunning open fields:




Ruben and Jackie happily frolicked in the sun. Thanks to my phone’s map we realized we were only a mile or so from EPFL, so made our way through the fields, through a small village near EPFL, and to the metro. Quite a nice tour, except we never made it back to the forest for bear garlic! We do, however, still have 3 big bunches in the refrigerator that we bought at the market. Time to make pesto.

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Feb 16 2011

Evaluating the Swiss-ness of Ski Resorts

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Now that I’ve spent a few days in Zermatt, I feel that I am able to write somewhat knowledgeably about ski resorts in the Swiss alps.  That, of course, doesn’t mean I ski in the resorts.  We’ve been to Villars, Leukerbad, Saas Fee, and Zermatt, but I think I’ve only skied once.  Seth and I are more into the snowshoeing/winter hiking side of winter sports.  So is Ruben!

I always thought the ski resorts must be like Switzerland Disneyland.  I thought they were for tourists only.  Yet, I am always surprised by how authentically Swiss they feel.  First, the same shops are there that are everywhere else, including the obligatory Migros and Coop.  Granted, the supermarkets are open later and there is a glut of expensive sports stores, but there are also dairy shops and butcher shops, lots of bakeries, and lots of restaurants serving Swiss food.  I largely think the resort bakeries and restaurants are far superior to their city counterparts, which seems odd given that that the resorts are not exactly rural villages where one would expect to find authentic, home-style cooking or ingredients.  I have also come to realize that these resorts have some stable population as well, and not everyone who lives in them works in the tourist industry.  The apartment building where we stayed in Zermatt (thanks, Alex!) has full-time residents and a shared laundry room resembling the one in Renens (which, I can’t believe I’m saying, I pine for now).  I’m also always surprised to hear that most people around are speaking the language of the place where the resort is located, and all the signs are in that language.  So if they are tourists, they are local-ish ones.

These resorts basically feature the essential Switzerland packed into a tiny little city in the mountains, where everyone is clomping about in ski boots and eating incredible amounts of cheese, and where everything is slightly more convenient and expensive than in the cities below.  They seem far less fake to me than I would have imagined.  I’ve been in mountain villages and countryside villages, and they are basically quieter, smaller versions with one bakery and one restaurant and a Migros with shorter hours than in the cities.  On the other hand, I imagine coming on a visit to Switzerland and ONLY staying at one of these resorts.  As many people do.  And I just know that despite that surprising resort semi-authenticity, they are barely catching a glimpse of Switzerland, and they have nothing for comparison to determine what was fake and what was Swiss.  They are missing the quiet, the inconvenience, the timely transportation, the vegetable markets, the rolling fields of cows and sunflowers, the vineyards clinging to the foothills, the realization that almost all stores are chains, the lakes, the bureaucracy, the universal tidiness that is not just for the eyes of visitors.  They are missing the small places, where there is nothing in particular to see or do other than observe and have a glass of wine made on the premises.  And if all they are doing is rushing down the slopes, they might be missing even more.

When people back home expect that the slopes are the only Switzerland I’ve seen, and then berate me for never skiing, because that’s all anyone they know who has been to Switzerland has ever seen and done, it makes me sad.  I know I’m missing something by not skiing, but I feel proud of how much I have tried to learn about and see this place and live as part of it.  There is so much more to Switzerland than skiing, cheese, and chocolate.  And the resorts are better seen on foot, anyway.

Here’s Zermatt (note the Matterhorn theme):
Threesome and the Matterhorn

Sisters Dining by the Matterhorn

Ruben and the Matterhorn

Morning in Zermatt

And here’s some recent scenes from regular life:
Adar, Jackie, and Babies

Ruben peeks into pump fountain

Grüsch Station

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