Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

May 29 2012

Just One Week in CH

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How does Switzerland manage to be a place simultaneously serene/boring and where crazy things happen such that I have so much to blog about? I don’t understand it. More mini-stories:

  • I went on a hunt for a mushroom brush.  My friend Quinnie knows what I’m talking about! They are these cute little brushes that look like a mushroom to be used for scrubbing mushrooms clean.  They also come in potato, and I think carrot, form. I have regretted since we left that we gave away our mushroom brush instead of taking it back to the States. Switzerland apparently takes seasonality to a new level—when I finally found someone in Migros (amazing! friendly!) to ask about mushroom brushes, I was informed that she knew exactly what I was talking about, but that they were not in season. But…doesn’t mushroom season happen in spring and fall? Anyone?
  • Ran into one of of my favorite professors at the Nyon train station that I thought I wouldn’t have time to see!  This place is so small!
  • On Monday night, I had dinner at Natalie’s in Renens, our old haunt. We talked late, and I was deciding whether or not I should take the train to Nyon for the night in Alex’s empty apartment, or sleep at Natalie’s. Good thing I chose to sleep at Natalie’s, because at the exact same time I would have gone to the station, there was a big fire there! When I went in the morning, however, I didn’t even notice that a big section of the station was charred…
  • Hm. Everyone is still white in all advertisements. But, whoa, so few advertisements, mostly for cultural activities or political referendums. Refreshing. Speaking of political ads, there is a vote coming up on childcare in Geneva, so there are lots of posters of babies, or, in one case, of a couple in bed working on baby production (it says, “Make love…we’ll take care of the rest. YES to the initiative on babyhood, NO to the counter project.”).  Then there is another ad floating around for milk, with a mama cow on a bike with several bike trailers carrying baby cows…that’s the kind of product ads that exist in this country.
  • For the first time when I was visiting archives at the UN, I was apprehended by UN Security.  They said (in French), “excuse me, but why are you in this staircase?”  I answered, “Well, because if I took a different way to the library I’d have to go down a big hill and then climb all the way back up to the top of the building where the League of Nations archives are.” They said, “True,” looked at me hard, and then walked away.
  • Apparently, if you have a car in the countryside, you can buy insurance against these small, cute martens who chew the wires in the hood.  This has actually happened to someone I know TWICE in just a few years!

My conference went well.  I flew back through Dublin, which, as it turns out, has a full US Customs on site, meaning I did the whole agriculture and passport inspection thing in Dublin and landed in domestic arrivals upon reaching Boston Logan.  How convenient, given the wedding I was rushing toward.

Now, we’re in New York (mostly) for the summer!


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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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