Jackie is in the U.S. this week, and she says people ask about our life in Switzerland, imagining that we’re on some sort of permanent vacation / honeymoon / fun study abroad experience. They’re clearly not reading our blog, or they’re skipping the posts about laundry. We’ve had some minor victories recently—major in the context of our life in Switzerland—which I thought I’d share.
Books: Jackie is only allowed to check out 15 books total from all of the libraries to which she has access, including the library at her school and the cantonal libraries in Geneva and Vaud. This is a major problem, seeing as she is doing a master’s (now PhD!) in history. So she spends a lot of times shlepping books back and forth to Geneva and strategizing about which books she needs when. Recently, she found out that two books on ancient Egypt had mysteriously appeared as checked out on her account from the cantonal library of Geneva. Needless to say, these were not books she had actually checked out—but how was she going to explain this? And more importantly, since Switzerland is not big on central sources of information, who was she going to explain this to? The short version of the story is that after calling the library, being transferred around a fair amount, finally talking to someone and explaining, she was told that they would look into it. 30 minutes later, she refreshed her account online, et voila! The books had vanished. Jackie 1, Switzerland 0.
Flat tire: I got a nice new (used) bicycle two weeks ago, which I’ve been riding to school on days that it’s not unseasonably cold and windy and rainy (so not this week). After class last week I noticed that my front tire was totally flat. Shoot! I considered taking it on the metro and then walking it back home, or leaving it and returning with tools and supplies (which I would obtain…somewhere?) or taking it on a bus to the bike shop I bought it at. But I vaguely knew that there’s a bike repair place on the EPFL campus (Le Point vélo) . I looked it up, and despite it being past the hours it’s listed as open, I headed over there with my bike. This was a dubious proposition in Switzerland, where I’ve been yelled at for coming into a bakery 5 minutes after closing (after I backed out of it quickly, they locked the door behind me.) But there were a couple very helpful guys working there, who said they’d be happy to help if they could, despite it being closed. Turns out I do not know (m)any bike words in French. It also turns out I do not know how to check for a leak or detach my inner tube and replace it with a totally new one. But I managed, with some help. And twenty minutes later, my hands covered in bike grease, we had determined that the hole was not worth repairing, and we had replaced my inner tube. They only charged me for the inner tube, generously claiming that I was the one who had done the work, not them. Seth 1, Switzerland 0.
Late trains: many months ago Jackie took a train back from Paris which was severely delayed. They gave the passengers claim forms to fill out and hypothetically this was supposed to entitle them to some amount of money. Jackie dutifully filled hers out, sent it off to the French company, and weeks later received a reply that, in fact, this was the responsibility of the Swiss train company, SBB, since the train was going to Switzerland and Jackie had bought her ticket from SBB. Or something. The letter said that her request had been transferred to SBB, and we assumed that was the last we’d hear of it. And then last week a letter arrived with a voucher for 36 CHF from SBB to be used on any train ticket. Wow. Jackie 2, Switzerland 0.
Laundry: Last Monday was our laundry day and after two succsesful loads one of the electronic cards that we use to activate the machines totally stopped working. The other was low on funds. But the one that stopped working was supposed to have a credit of 14 CHF on it. The machine claimed it was broken. So I reinserted it, more gently this time as the super had instructed me. Still broken. More gently, but with a little pressure? Broken. After 20 minutes of this, the machine finally read the card. But there was only 1 franc on it! I tried to transfer this franc to my other card (because combined it would have been enough) and in the process … lost it. Now the card works when inserted into the machine every single time (go figure) but it has 0 francs on it. I called Yuliy, who lives in a house in which there is unlimited (even during lunch?) laundry, told him about my laundry emergency, and biked over to use his laundry machine. Point for Switzerland.
Final score: Us: 3, Switzerland: 1 (+ 10000000000).