Archive for April, 2011

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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