Archive for October, 2009

Oct 11 2009

Published by under Status updates

We might get to dog-sit a maltese in a couple weeks!!!!

No responses yet

Oct 08 2009

On lunchboxes and laundry

Published by under Uncategorized

As everyone who knows me knows, I generally appear in public as a packmule, carrying at least two bags at all times. Last year I desperately tried to shove my lunch into my backpack, which I had purposely gotten in tinier size so I couldn’t physically carry more. But as I was already regularly carrying a tote of library books and purse almost every day as well, it did not work out so well. Floating apples = dirty apples, floating yogurt = exploded yogurt + yogurt-covered coursepacks, floating sandwich = squashed sandwich, etc. I think also that there is something distasteful about sticking food into a plastic bag and then reusing it (not to mention I always refuse these at stores so we don’t have a huge collection).  Anyway, the point of all this is to say, Switzerland does not have lunchboxes.

To fill this hole in my life, last spring, I asked my parents to bring me a lunchbag.  It was an improvement, but its shape did not fit well into my backpack and it was not so great for organizing the items that generally go in my lunch, so I got one of these nifty LL Bean soft lunchboxes during August to bring back. And it has been great. My lunch stays cool and organized, plus it is squishable into by backpack if it’s not too full or easily carried outside with its own handle.  Today, when my yogurt exploded, it remained contained in the lunchbox.

I suppose the lack of Swiss lunchboxes seems not all the remarkable, but it does beg the question, how does everyone else carry their lunches? No one else seems to be enduring the exploded yogurt, the squished sandwich, or the plastic bag carrying. This is a mystery quite related to the whole enigmatic issue of when people here eat and what they eat and how they afford it.  I am always the only person eating at school.  Everyone else just seems to smoke.  Only my fellow choristers seem to eat like normal humans.  Plus the way things are scheduled in Switzerland, there is never an allowance for dinner.

Anyway, my new lunchbox has been garnering lots of attention! The president of my choir said to me yesterday, “Oh, wow, that’s a super cool American lunch box!” (the term in French she used? boite de lunch, I guess because that concept doesn’t exist here and thus there is no real word for it.) And my professor remarked on it, too, wondering why I would carry a special item for the purpose of carrying my lunch. And to that I respond (not to the professor), I don’t know, it’s not all that special, but how do YOU carry your lunch? Do you just always buy lunch so you don’t have to carry it? The answer is vague…the choir president said it just goes floating in whatever other small bag a Swiss person is carrying (how does everything they need fit into the small bags they carry???) or doesn’t come along at all or I don’t know. This is a very confusing question for Swiss people, who have somehow never thought about the problem of carrying lunch.

You might also notice the word “laundry” in the title of this post. Lunch and laundry are related, as you learned last week, .  Plus we also love talking about laundry since it is such a huge issue in our Swiss lives (every other Monday, 2:30 to 9 pm with one washer and one dryer).  On Tuesday, the two of us went to a students’ dinner in the Lausanne sukkah and met some nice, young Jews. Another American who goes to school with Seth was complaining that his laundry machine ALSO takes a lunch break. Who knew this was such a widespread phenomenon? Anyway, the Swiss-Jews at our table listened to this and felt the need to add a word of explanation. One agreed with us that this was a problem of a peak energy usage around 11 am and that all washing machines go off automatically to save energy at this expensive hour. The other reasoned that the explanation for why there was a peak around 11 am was because everyone in Switzerland cooks their lunch then. ???  Right. Ok, fine, energy is in high demand at that time for some reason, probably unrelated to lunch-cooking since no one eats lunch anyway, but tell me this, Switzerland. If you are so energy conscious, WHY CAN’T WE DO OUR LAUNDRY AT NIGHT OR ON SUNDAYS?! And why can’t other energy-intensive operations also happen then? Boo.

4 responses so far

Oct 02 2009

Harvest warmth (or is that just the wine?)

Published by under Uncategorized

Tonight is erev Sukkes, the harvest holiday! The apples and squash and grapes are filling the market, alongside late tomatoes and raspberries.  It’s definitely autumn harvest time, even if day after day has been filled with warm sunshine.  We’ve been trying to take advantage of the wonderful autumn weather the best we can before the gray season of doom (ie winter) resumes.  Hopefully this year we will even figure out how we can make eating in the Lausanne Jewish community’s sukkah a reality.  There is a new Jewish student group emerging in Lausanne, which we are hoping to be part of, and the first event is eating in the sukkah.

Last weekend, we went to Bex and Martigny with the group of federal scholars from EPFL.  We got ourselves on this trip when I explained that it was very difficult for me to make the really awesome trips organized for the federal scholars associated with the University of Geneva, because, well, we don’t live in Geneva, and I was invited to go with the EPFL group instead.  It was a much tinier enterprise than the UniGe outings, but just as well-planned and nice.  We were taken first on a tour of the salt mines at Bex, then to lunch in the hills overlooking Martigny at a place known for its unlimited roasted chestnuts, and then to the Fondation Pierre Ganada art museum in Martigny.  The salt mines were hilarious, mostly because they were so incredibly proud of having kept their mines open for hundreds of years, despite little economic advantage and great geological difficulties.  We heard a lot about how hard it was to find salt in the salt mines, but happily, they said, since they have a monopoly on salt in Vaud, they don’t have to compete with the easier-to-mine salt near Basel, so they can continue to operate.  The art museum was also quite nice–it was a great mix of different kinds of art, from really old cars to outdoor sculpture to oil paintings, and the perfect size for a leisurely 2 hours without feeling tired, bored, or overwhelmed.  I would say, not necessarily a destination, but if you happen to be near Martigny one day, you should go.  We met a couple of nice Americans who somehow already seem to have their own thing going, and didn’t connect with much of the rest of the group, but still, it was a worthwhile day.

Yom Kippur this year was much better than last.  Our break fast went successfully, and we had guests Hilary and Yakir in town!  They’re touring Germany and Switzerland before they move to Israel for a year+, so we got them for a couple nights.  They helped Seth on his math homework and vigorously cleaned our dishes, while we provided food and took them on tours of our area of Switzerland.  The highlight of their stay with us was our trip the Lavaux, the third time for me.  We took a ferry boat from Lausanne-Ouchy to Rivaz, walked to St Saphorin along the autoroute and then walked up through the vineyards to Chexbres.  It was warm and sunny, and really, the view of the Lavaux from the boat is the most spectacular of all.  Beware though, while CGN (the boating company) accepts AGs and demi-tarif cards, they do NOT abide by the zone system and thus do not respect, for example, Lausanne transport day cards.  And they were so nasty about telling that to us, too.  Anyway, the grape harvest was markedly underway, and men were out in the fields gathering kilos of chasselas grapes.  One guy handed us each a bunch to taste–they are so sweet this year!  Winemakers and wine enthusiasts are predicting an excellent 2009 vintage, available early summer 2010.  Once we made it to Chexbres, we started hunting for a place to sample some wine, and came across a “cave ouvert.”  Pierre-Luc Leyvraz himself took us on a brief tour of his wine-making machinery which were currently pressing the waiting grapes, gave us a taste of the resulting freshly-pressed grape juice, and also a taste of last year’s light, dry, and slightly bubbly wine.  All the while, he was working with his employees on processing the day’s harvest.  His neighbors, who are also clients of his, were also there tasting and talking to us.  They were really all quite friendly and nice, which I must say is fairly unusual here.  Anyway, if you were thinking of making a trip to the Lavaux at some point, now is really the time to go.  Don’t forget to bring bags/boxes for carrying bottles of wine home with you!

Next up: farmstand touring by bike or on foot in the Vaud countryside tomorrow?

No responses yet

Oct 01 2009

Roundup of Swiss News

Published by under Uncategorized

Some of these stories have made the news in the U.S., but here’s some on-the-ground coverage. The last two are SwissWatching exclusives!

  • U.S./Iran talks in Geneva: “US and Iranians discuss nuclear, human rights issues, while sun shines at Genthod villa
  • EPFL built Switzerland’s  first satellite. It was launched successfully last week. It’s currently recovering from a cold.
  • I should probably have been receiving subsidies last year for my Swiss health care, which has no public option but is quite good? See NYTimes story. (Probably not for people on temporary visas.)
  • Switzerland is not part of the G20 and is not happy about it: “Bern attacks legitimacy of G20 group
  • The International Olympic Committee, headquartered in Lausanne, will decide the fate of the Olympics tomorrow, although I guess it’s all going down in Copenhagen. Chicago 2016? Follow it on Twitter.
  • Jackie’s school IHEID and the US Mission to the UN in Geneva organized a last-minute talk with Michael Posner, the new Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on Day 8 of his new job.  It was his first public appearance.  Jackie went, and apparently he’s really awesome, comes from the human rights/NGO world, and the event seemed more like a really productive brainstorming session with academics and activists than a polished speech. Of note: he and Hillary Clinton have decided they’re going to push for the Senate to ratify CEDAW (UN Convention on Women) and CRPD (UN Convention on People with Disabilities).
  • We switched our laundry day and time for Yom Kippur so our slot was 6:30am-2:30pm last Friday (rather than 2:30pm-9pm). I woke up at 6:30am and started the laundry, then went back to sleep. I did the same at 7:30am and 8:30am. At 11:15am I went down to check on the dryer and found it off. When I tried to put a new load in the washer and turn the dryer back on I found out that neither would turn on! Dismayed I ran upstairs, Jackie and I tried calling the super (no luck—he was on vacation and his replacement was at work), I ran back downstairs to try it again. Finally, I ran into the woman whose slot we had taken and told her it wasn’t working. Unfazed, she informed me that the laundry machines go off around lunch time. At this point it was 11:45am—not lunch time—but she was not particularly concerned. They’ll go back on in awhile, she explained calmly. At noon I went back downstairs to try them again and she was right. The laundry machines in our building take an hour-long early lunch break. What?!

6 responses so far

« Prev