Archive for December, 2008

Dec 20 2008

Fêtes and Photos

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Classes are out for the semester!  Yippee!!!!  I still have two papers to write, but that’ll be ok.

We put some new photos on our flickr account, so now some of the updates from last week have illustrations:


At the Montreux Christmas Market, there was a stand roasting chestnuts the old-fashioned way.  It was beautiful at dusk for us spectators, although a rather charcoaly experience for those doing the roasting.

L'Escalade in Geneva

We went to the Cortege of the celebration of the Escalade in Geneva last weekend.  It marks a great military victory for Geneva—which took place in 1602!  It featured lots of people gathered to watch a procession of costumed Genevans, some of whom were riding or toting farm animals, some with bread or wine, some carrying torches, some playing piccolos or drums.  Then a proclamation was read and everyone joined in the Genevan anthem.  The restaurants in the old city were all happily serving up mulled wine, raclette, and vegetable soup to the crowd.

Fountain in Place de la Riponne Holiday Tram in Zurich

Here are two examples of beautiful light decorations in Switzerland.  Lausanne on the the left: a fountain of blue lights with purple-lit pillars of the main museum/library of the city at Place de la Rippone.  Zurich on the right: the bahnhoffstrasse with a Christmas trolley whizzing under lights dangling down from the tram cables above.

Sad Christmas tree at University of Lausanne Unbelievably Awful Christmas Decorations

Here are some examples of less-than-gorgeous decorations.  As I said before, Swiss people do not know how to use string lights.  Neither do they know what snowmen look like, apparently (is one of them a teddy bear?  a scarecrow? dressed in white and Christmas colors?).

As usual, you can see more of/bigger versions of our pictures on the photostream.

In other news, apparently Knut is no longer the only star at the Berlin Zoo.  As of a week ago, they now have a new baby hippo!  This one is for you, Miriam:

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Dec 11 2008

I’m Dreaming of a White Research Paper…

Published by under Uncategorized

Ahem.  Time to get back to blogging.  Sorry for disappearing for a couple weeks.  I can make two excuses:

  1. Seth’s back has been bothering him, so he’s trying to cut down on computer use.  Of course, this hasn’t stopped him from reading a zillion blogs daily and sharing them with you on the lefthand sidebar.  Seth and I have medical conditions of the elderly.  What’s the deal?  Our parents are way healthier than we are.
  2. I’ve had a ton of homework.  No joke.  I know some of you out there have been romanticizing about our life here in Switzerland, as you’ve made clear through emails to me.  I mean, yes, the mountains are beautiful, and the chocolate is great, but that is only true when one has time to go outside and look at mountains/buy chocolate.  I have a lot lot lot of homework here, and thus most of my time is devoted to the computer in our apartment, my school’s ugly library, and my commute.  Most of my work comes in the form of long research papers (by January, I will have written 4 research papers, none shorter than 15 pages, as well as two all-night semi-research take home exams each of 6 pages in length).  Just coming up with that many topics is exhausting.  Also, I can only get 15 books at a time from the not-so-amazing library, and thus, I am like a packmule, shlepping a pile of books to and from Geneva nearly every day.  So much for buying myself a small backpack to save my back—now I just have to carry an extra over-the-shoulder bag every day.  The good news is break is in sight, and even though I will have to do work for the first couple of weeks, it is still a way nicer break than I ever experienced at Harvard.  I’m off until mid February!

With all excuses made, here’s what’s new in Switzerland:

  • It has been snowing for three days straight!  I love snow!  The sad part is that it has not been sticking, AT ALL.  What?  How is that even possible?!
  • 2/3 of our houseplants (mint and basil out of mint, basil, and orchids) got some weird fungus.  We have no idea why or how.  No more fresh pesto or mint tea for us this season.
  • Seth finally got himself some tutoring offers.  Unfortunately, they are not in math or physics, as he’d hoped.  Instead, they’re in chemistry.  Where is Miriam in a country where all of the English-speaking kids appear to have a bad chemistry teacher?  So, looks like Seth is going to have to buff up on his chemistry.
  • Last night, we went to a concert that was a collaboration between the professional orchestra of Lausanne (OCL) and the famous MAD discotheque/nightclub.  I was really psyched.  The idea was that the first hour in the lobby of the orchestra’s concert hall, drinking, smoking, and listening to ambient music DJ’ed by MAD; the next hour was a concert by a subset of OCL that was slightly experimental and featured a crazy piece (Noces) by Stravinsky; and then the audience headed across the street to the MAD building and did the club-thing while musicians from OCL improvised to the beats.  Cool, right?  The last chunk at the MAD was disappointing, though.  The classically-trained OCL violinist and trumpeter did not at all know how to improvise or play anything other than classical music.  Their improvisations essentially were arpeggios played over and over, changing only with chord changes in the background music.  Here’s a photo of us at the club!  It was still a fun and rare night out, though! Also, sidenote: there were two women from my choir who had come, too, with a few of their friends, and since Seth and I, as usual, had no clue what was going on, we followed them around.  And they made lots of mistakes: couldn’t figure out where to get a white bracelet for club admission, tried to walk into the wrong door of the club, didn’t know if the club was open immediately after the concert or at 10:30 as the program listed, etc!  It’s not only us expats who make copious errors due to lack of information!
  • It’s Christmas time in Switzerland.  Seth and I noticed two years ago in Haifa over Christmas that the Santas there looked way more realistically, and thus grotesquely, human than jolly, round Santa does in the United States.  Switzerland’s Santas fall somewhere in between.  In general, Switzerland seems to greatly aspire towards having a “Scandinavian Christmas,” whatever that means, but it is written everywhere.  The lights here are beautiful and ubiquitous, but less on private houses or apartments than on stores and streets in town centers.  They seem to like to drape pre-woven sheets of lights over buildings or above the streets, and when they occasionally do American-style string-light wrapping, the effort is really botched.  Someone needs to come and teach Swiss people how to wind lights evenly around trees.  Also, almost every city has its very own Christmas web site (here is Lausanne‘s), so that we can be sure to have quick information about all of the markets and concerts and hot wine events between now and the big day.  Speaking of markets, every city must have its own little Christmas village of small wooden huts, each selling crafts or distributing mulled wine.  Sadly, these crafts all either seem to imported (most often, from Peru or South Asia), or they consist of French soap.  We are planning to go to the especially famous one in Montreux this weekend.  The best thing about Christmas here is the lack of ubiquitous Christmas music playing obnoxiously over every speaker in the country.  What a relief.  If you want to know more about Christmas in Switzerland, you should definitely check out Jessica’s accounts over at Swisstory.  Her coverage is very thorough and multi-posted.  Also, I am very unsure how to answer people’s curiosity over my non-celebration of Christmas (such shock that I am not going home for the holidays and that I do not want to purchase an Advent crown!!!), as I am still a bit unclear on how open I should be to the average Swiss person about being Jewish…

That was a nice break.  Back to homework!

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Dec 07 2008

Published by under Status updates

Bedtime at 4 am on Saturday/Sunday! Woohoo research paper party! *cries*

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Dec 01 2008

Published by under Status updates

my 24 page paper is hot off the press!

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