Oct 16 2008

What to do if your glasses break in Switzerland

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First, panic in a controlled manner.  Second, call your insurance company and find out what happens if you need to buy new glasses (they will reimburse you for a fraction of the cost as long as you don’t need new ones very often).  Third, walk to the local lunetterie to find out if they can fix your glasses.  Fourth, leave your glasses there and have them say “no receipt necessary, just give us your name when you come to pick them up.”

What happened, you ask?  This morning the metal part that adjoins one of the nosepads to the rest of the frame snapped.  The lunetterie in Renens seems to think they can solder it back together for 30chf, which is not so bad.  I can retreive them on Saturday, perhaps, or if not, Tuesday or whenever I can make it back there next week.  I hope this works.  I don’t want to buy new glasses here.  For now, I’m happy I have contacts so that I don’t spend the next several days feeling my way across town for lack of sight.

Update as of Oct 21: Got my glasses back!  They did a great job–I can’t even see where it was broken. Yay.

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Sep 06 2008

Serendipity

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Last week, despairing about the lack of stores that carry staples of a vegetarian diet like tofu, tempeh, and seitan (not to mention good varieties of rice, edamame, curry paste, etc.), I Googled around. Turns out Switzerland doesn’t just regulate chocolate content in chocolate chips, they regulate tofu and tempeh as well. Here’s Article 24 of the Ordonnance du DFI sur les céréales, les légumineuses, les protéines végétales et leurs dérivés (in German, Italian):

Art. 24 Tofu et tempeh1

1 Le tofu est un produit, égoutté ou non, fabriqué à partir de fèves de soja et d’eau, avec addition d’un agent coagulant.

2 Peuvent être utilisés les agents coagulants répertoriés dans l’annexe.

32

4 Le tempeh est un produit à base de fèves de soja, fermentées au moyen de cultures appropriées (p. ex. Rhizopus oligosporus). Il peut être fabriqué à partir de céréales.

So there’s a law about what constitutes tofu and tempeh. Great! But where could we find it? (Our regular supermarket, Migros, carries one kind of tofu that’s not great.)

So the serendipitous discovery: while wandering near our train station, on the way back from a second-hand furniture store inexplicably closed every Monday (virtually all stores are closed here on Sunday, so closing on Monday just doesn’t seem fair) we found a pan-Asian grocery store (plus some Middle East flavor, but without any hummus). It carried multiple, local kinds of tofu. Lots of varieties of rice. Really weird vegetables. Lots of types of curry pastes, including one without fish oil. Chili oil, soy sauce, sesame oil. But we didn’t see any tempeh.

So I found the clerk, who had been very helpful and excited in explaining the various rices to us (maybe Jackie understood him, but all I got out of his explanation was that each and every one was a “special” variety), and asked him for tempeh. “Oh, tempeh!” he exclaimed and ran off to the meats freezer and began rooting around the bottom of it. After 10 seconds he pulled out what looked like a kilo of tempeh. Overly pleased with himself, and with us for wanting tempeh, he wanted to know where we’d heard of it. Had we tried it at the restaurant next door? “Yes, yes,” we answered, rather than try to explain—well, what exactly would we have explained? I guess we could have told him it was part of our culture?

Discoveries like this have helped us appreciate what Renens, our village (which is working class and immigrant heavy) has to offer. Once we go back and get the address, we’ll be sure to add it to HappyCow (which really needs updating for Switzerland).

HappyCow's Vegetarian Guide

Postscript:

Yesterday, walking through the open air market at Plaine de Plainpalais (English translation) in Geneva, I found seitan. Also, falafel balls and hummus. All in small quantities, and pretty overpriced.

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Aug 28 2008

Bureacracy Day #1

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Today we headed back to Renens, VD, which is a 10 min bus ride from the center of Lausanne, in an attempt to sign a lease for an apartment we have been attempting to get since early July and take care of some other bureacracy.  We packed our letters saying we have a job and a scholarship and an admission to University of Geneva, as well as all the traveler’s checks we had.  We also brought tupperwares of food for Seth, since he can’t seem to find anything vegetarian and lactose free on the road, and of course, a couple ipods full of podcasts for the train.

The good news: we do have an apartment, and we can move in as early as tomorrow night.  I even have one set of the keys.  The apartment itself is really pretty and light inside, and the really nice previous tenants are selling us their almost-new Ikea furniture.  The so-so news: We aren’t thrilled with the neighborhood–it’s kind of urban and residential, but without the benefits of either (not a lot of people our age, not a lot of shops/restaurants, not a lot of trees, not super quiet, not very picturesque).  Also, we haven’t yet signed the lease because for some reason the realtor didn’t bring it.  She also didn’t bring the form for the security deposit.  We spent quite a while with the realtor discussing things, and hardly got anywhere.  It doesn’t help that she thinks that the reason we can’t understand each other is because we aren’t fluent in French rather than that we are talking past one another. But, the previous tenants, as I said, are super super nice and gave us all sorts of advice, helped translate, showed us everything, and even called for us to change the name on the internet, tv, phone, and electric accounts.  If you want our new address, send us an email.

After we dealt with that we went to try to get our residence permit because, as we’re quickly realizing, we can’t do ANYTHING without a residence permit.  We hadn’t thought to bring along any of the 36 ID photos we’d carefully had printed in the US, so we trekked to the Renens shopping center to get more, got terrible and expensive ones, and then went to city hall.  At city hall, we were informed that we couldn’t get a residence permit without our proof of a security deposit on the apartment.  Argh!  So we decided to try to find out about bank accounts, wondering how we were going to pay the security deposit if we couldn’t open an account without a residence permit.  We were praying it was the one thing for which we didn’t need a residence permit.  Fortunately, that was the case; they let us open accounts, hooray!  We decided on Credit Suisse without much research because we desperately need an account to pay the deposit and first month’s rent, and we need to leave a couple of days for money to be wired to us from our wonderful parents in the US.  Next week we’ll have debit cards and be able to access our accounts online, if the internet in our apartment actually continues to work.

We are hoping to move in partially on Saturday after we do some shopping, and then Mary is going to help us get the rest of our stuff from the chalet to the apartment midweek.

Other items of note today:

  • On our way out of the chalet, there was construction on the road, and we had to climb over a pile of dirt in our nice clothes/new shoes.
  • Speaking of shoes, I have new black shoes!  For those of you who heard my black shoe saga: they were pretty comfortable with thin socks and did not fall off my feet.  And I did A LOT of breaking them in today.
  • Underpasses are really common in Switzerland, it seems. And the one that goes under the railway tracks in Renens has a separate super narrow staircase with smooth ramps on each side so that parents can push strollers up or down it. Doesn’t do much for wheelchairs or people with other disabilities that make lots of stairs difficult to handle, though.
  • On our way back to the chalet, there was a really cute white dog (I think it was a bichon) who played fetch with a pinecone and me for about 5 minutes, until I had to walk away mid-game because I was worried if I stayed much longer, she’d think I was her new owner and follow me back to our chalet rather than staying in front of hers.

It was a stressful day.

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