Archive for March, 2009

Mar 31 2009

Published by under Status updates

I passed the IHEID “passive knowledge” of French exam.  *phew.*  It would have been pretty sad if I hadn’t at this point…

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Mar 29 2009

Chocolate heaven in Versoix

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Heaven was relocated to the small Swiss village of Versoix on Saturday.  Well, not heaven, exactly.  One might more precisely say the annual chocolate festival was held in Versoix, just outside Geneva, on Saturday.

Seth and I met up with Aviva and another Swiss friend from IHEID who conveniently lives in Versoix.  There was a giant tent, packed with people.  There were about 30 artisanal chocolatiers from around the cantons of Geneva and Vaud.  For those of you familiar with Cambridge, MA, think 30 stands of variations on Burdick‘s.  The chocolate was not cheap, but there was a fair bit for the tasting.  Not all of them let us taste, but a few enthusiastically gave away bits of chocolate and explained their delicious properties to us.  Trying all that chocolate at once really demonstrates how very different chocolates can be.

Seth the Chocolataster

Which Macaron?

In addition to all of the chocolate stands, there was an exhibit was astronomy-inspired chocolate sculptures, a little choco-train thing that was always too crowded to ride, and the town’s small resident chocolate factory, Favarger, which produces high-end factory made chocolates (think >Lindt), opened up its courtyard to feed visitors with chocolate fondue poured over fruit and sell chocolate bars at factory prices—a steal at 1 bar/1 swiss franc.

Chocolate-topped fruit With IHEID Friends

What we purchased:

  • bottle of chocolate liqueur (milk-free!)
  • artisanal hot chocolate to make at home (milk-free!)
  • 5 bars of Favarger chocolate

Chocolate Tidbits


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Mar 28 2009

Published by under Status updates

Congratulations to Aviva for getting accepted to do a Sciences-Po semester in Paris in the fall! But that means number of close friends in CH will be back at 0. *sigh*

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Mar 24 2009

Yes, we are awake at 11 pm.

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After that delightful parade on Saturday, we heard our doorbell ring.  Uh oh–this was not mail delivery time.  Our downstairs neighbor saw us hanging out the window of our apartment, snapping photos, and he ran up to catch us while we were home.  Next time a parade passes by, I am peeking through the blinds instead.

This elderly gentleman asked us if we did a lot of walking around our apartment at 11 pm.  Well, we said, we didn’t particularly do a lot of walking at that hour, but if he meant, are you awake at 11 pm, the answer was yes.  And if we are awake, we move around our apartment, that is true, yes.  Then he told us that he is sick and needs sleep, and even though he actually goes to sleep at 9 pm, could we please make an effort by 11 pm to stop stomping around our apartment?

We don’t wear shoes in the apartment.  We don’t have dance parties or kick-boxing sessions at night.  And our floors produce very dull thudding, hardly any creaking and without any resonance.  The people who walk around above us either are highly-trained whisper walkers, or the floors in this building are really pretty good at muffling walking sounds.  But we are nevertheless keeping awake a sick old man!  So now we are reduced to guiltily tip-toeing around our apartment post 11 pm.

This kind of apartment to-do seems particularly Swiss to me.  These type of incidents appear all too frequently on other explat blogs, see as examples recent late night walking complaints and laundry complaints.  At least our complaining neighbors, unlike theirs, have the decency to talk to us politely, face-to-face.  Then again, the Pumpernickel has been having neighbor problems of her own in Washington, DC.  So tell me, readers, are we doomed to cranky neighbors telling us our already calm lifestyle is irritating them for as long as we live in apartment buildings, anywhere in the world?  Nothing has made me feel more like I want to be a homeowner one day, not even the thought of having my own laundry machine and garden.

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Mar 22 2009

Miniature horse on parade

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I’ll keep this one short. Yesterday afternoon, a parade caught us by surprise on our block. We captured it with camera and video from our window. Here’s the miniature horse (click on all videos and pictures for larger versions):

Since it’s on parade, it has a man with an important job trailing behind, scooper in tow:

This parade featured not one, but two marching bands:

The parade participants appeared to be all kids and their parents. And of course, a miniature horse. When we shouted out the window, “C’est quoi ça?” (what is this?) to the police officer escorting the parade, he responded “Le cortège!” (the parade!) Go figure.

That’s all. Maybe some of our new visitors who found us courtesy of Jessica at Swisstory (hi! thanks!) know why a random parade went past our window yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.

Postscript: Later that day I saw the horse and horse entourage trying to figure out the best way to cross a busy street. Problem was, there was no crosswalk. Just an underpass with stairs and a steep ramp.

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Mar 19 2009

Can I call you you?

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Today I was on the phone with a graphic designer I had not spoken to before. We were speaking a mix of English and French, planning our meeting tomorrow, and talking about the project. Near the end of the conversation we had this exchange:

Him (hesitantly): ehh… est-ce que je peux tutoyer?
Me: excusez-moi… ?
Him (apologetically): je peux tutoyer?
Me: I’m sorry, I’m not understanding you…
Him: It is … okay… if I call you by “tu”?
Me (laughing, trying to reassure him): Yes! Oui ! bien sûr! No problem!

The explanation: he was, it seems, quite politely inquiring as to my pronoun.  Not in striking a blow against the gender binary sense, alas, but because he wanted to make sure he could address me with the informal pronoun tu rather than having to stick with the formal vous. French even has two verbs for this—tutoyer and vouvoyer.

In retrospect, I had probably been calling him vous because that’s what I was mostly taught to do in high school and that threw him off. But I’m a generation younger than him—maybe I should be calling him vous! According to this article from a few years back the use of tu vs. vous has been something of a political issue since the French revolution. Woah. Way longer than non-gender normative pronouns have existed (I think)!

In other news, there’s apparently a major outbreak of measles on campus. Yuck. Don’t worry, I’ve been vaccinated (twice).

P.S. Did you know English has an informal version of you? It’s thou.

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