31 October 2006
Isn't he fabulous? Definitely wins a Great Husband Award.
And all you other husbands out there who continue to fly first class while your wife sits in the back, I have just one question: do you also require she carry all the baggage and walk 10 steps behind you?
And now back to the hiatus. The hotel connection is too slow to attempt much posting. More info next Monday when we get back. And pictures too!
27 October 2006
Some have said it is boring. It is all the same. Those who say this must be blind. Can they not see the subtleties of color? The variety of wild flowers and native grasses? The multitude of creatures who exist in the prairie?
The prairie will always feel like home. The beauty of the land calls to me. Everywhere I look, I frame photographs. I am upset that I failed to bring my camera. Fall is my favorite season and the colors are stunning. It is a missed opportunity.
Kansas View, Summer 2005 (My favorite prairie photograph.)
26 October 2006
V has been cutting my hair since I was about 12 years old. Not only does she do a great cut at a small town price, but she catches me up on the local happenings while she snips away. And today she stayed late because she knew I was going to be in town for only a day and desperately needed a cut.
I would tell you all the gossip, but people from my hometown also read this blog. My lips are sealed.
By the way, I look fabulous. Thanks for asking!
25 October 2006
Because GLH and I will be traveling back and forth to Zuerich over the next couple of months, our cats would be left alone too much. They are very social cats and really want to be around people who will pet them and play with them and give them Greenie Treats. In addition, as Minneapolis is a much larger international hub than Kansas City, it offers better flight options. We will be able to get them to Switzerland with the least amount of flight and airport time and have a better selection of airlines.
Max and Tilly will be a bit disgruntled about the situation, especially due to my parents' cat and dog. But it is for their own good.
However, GLH and I will miss our cuddly kittens...
24 October 2006
Last year I was flipping through the channels and happened across a new VH-1 reality series entitled "Breaking Bonaduce." You may remember Danny Bonaduce, most well known as the child actor who played Danny Partridge. And whose career spiraled down into drugs, alcohol and out of control behavior by the time he was 13.
I decided to watch a few minutes of this show, just to see what it was, and I became hooked. (Alright, I admit it. I love reality tv. So sue me.) On the one hand, you can arguably state that this show is evidence of the complete moral breakdown of television. But on the other hand, it was the most honest portrayal on a reality show that I had ever seen.
Danny puts it all out there for the viewers to see -- the good, the bad and the downright ugly. His insane jealous rants at his wife play side by side with heart-touching scenes with his children, who obviously adore him. As the season progressed, Danny went from doing o.k. with a touch of crazy to full-blown insanity and a suicide attempt.
"Breaking Bonaduce" is now starting a second season on VH-1. My DVR is set. Hold on to your hats, it's bound to be a wild ride...
23 October 2006
How will I deal with the garbage?
I know. It's crazy. But there ya have it.
Switzerland has many rules about garbage. After all, Switzerland is predominantly a Germanic country, especially the area around Zuerich. And Germans are famous (and in some case infamous) for following rules. There are many rules about many aspects of life in Switzerland.
What makes it particularly strange that this is causing me to obsess is that rules do not bother me. Indeed, in many ways I find them very comfortable. I suspect it has much to do with my German Ancestry and the resulting German American upbringing. I was raised in a culture of rules and I understand their importance in creating a functioning society.
In addition, I acknowledge that rules about garbage are quite important. Switzerland is very focused on recycling as much as possible. Of using the smallest amount of natural resources necessary. And on having as close as possible to a zero impact on the environment. I support these goals and am more than willing to do my part.
So what is the issue? If I do not mind rules and I support responsibility to the environment, there should be no problem. Right?
Here is the problem...
I found out that Switzerland has something that many sources out there call the "Garbage Police." And the way the "Garbage Police" know to search your garbage for infractions is that your neighbors turn you in. And from stories I have read, frequently your neighbors report you without first speaking with you or trying to resolve it without the authorities becoming involved.
I was emailing one current expat and she told me a story about when she first arrived in Switzerland. She didn't have any kitchenware for a few weeks until the surface shipment arrived. As a result, she ended up getting many pizzas on her way home from work. Which resulted in many empty cardboard pizza boxes.
She knew enough to know she should not throw away the boxes. But did not know enough to know what to do with them. She ended up storing the pizza boxes in the spare bedroom for at least a month or so until she finally figured it out. She had been warned and was afraid to do the wrong thing.
What if I do something wrong? What if I misunderstand the instructions? What if I accidentally throw away something that should have been taken someplace for disposal? People won't say "Hey, Global, you probably aren't aware, but you should have done X, Y or Z?" Instead, they may just report me to the local Garbage Authorities?
In my efforts to avoid doing the wrong thing, will I become the Crazy Lady with a room full of cardboard?
Now that is scary!
21 October 2006
We brainstorm alternatives. Keep garage as is and plan for another day? Sell as much as possible on eBay? What can we do?
GLH leaves to set-up the signs while Marian Librarian and I do the final preparations with the cash drawer, newspaper print wrapping and small plastic bags. We open the garage door at 7:30.
At 7:45 our first customer arrives. The next two customers arrive immediately after. "How much for the riding lawn mower?" Our first sale is made without any need for negotiation. And it's a big ticket item!
An argument ensues over the telescope. Woman stares down Man. "I was here first." Man backs down, then gets upset and petulantly hides the telescope's instruction manual. After 15 minutes of searching, manual is found on opposite side of garage. Woman triumphantly carries telescope (and manual) to her car with one final sneer of victory towards Man.
A steady stream of people continue to arrive. GLH, Marian Librarian and A Librarian (who needs a much better screen name) and I are running. Question over here! Question over there! There is little negotiation. Must buy before someone else does! All the street parking is full and drivers begin to leave their cars in the middle of the street. Double and triple parking creates chaos on our quiet, residential street.
And still they come.
At 9:oo am literally half of our possessions are sold. Cash and carry. No returns allowed.
By now the steady shower has become a downpour. The temperature drops 20 degrees and there is a cold, bitter wind.
And still they come.
There is finally a break around 10 am. We gratefully sit down and rest. But our rest cannot last long.
And then the second wave begins. The first wave was distinguished by their eagerness and the way they hurriedly grab, grab, grab. They were also distinguished by their overstuffed wallets full of hundreds and twenties.
The second wave include those who sleep in on Saturdays. They are much pickier. They bargain more and turn their noses in the air. Our selection is beneath them.
And still they come.
And still they buy.
"Can I have this two for the price of one?"
"If I buy this, will you include this for free?"
"I borrowed money from all the friends I could find. Is it enough?"
At 1:09, we close the garage door. Most everything is gone now. Just a few pieces of furniture waiting for people who needed to find a pick-up truck. We gratefully go inside to warm up and eat pizza.
Ring, Ring. "Can I pick up the couch?"
Ring, Ring. "Can I pick up the wine rack?"
Ring, Ring. The truck from the charity organization is here to pick up all that remains. We are slightly embarrassed to be giving so little. We had told them it would be more. We didn't imagine so much would sell so quickly.
Ring, Ring. The young student with the thick African accent is back. We had sold him some furniture earlier and loaded his very old, very rusty Toyota Corolla. He is back to pick up the rest. "Do we still have it?" Yes. Yes. I cut him a very deep discount. It is obvious he doesn't have much and could use a break.
Close the garage door one last time. The sale is done.
We are still counting the money. It is in the thousands. Tomorrow we will be happy. For now, we just want to run to the bank to safely deposit the cash. And then take a nap.
Much thanks to A Librarian and Marian Librarian for helping with the sale and set-up and clean-up. Also thanks to DJ Clem, Marian's husband, who helped load boxes into the charity truck. We couldn't have done it without you!
Garage Sale at 8:00 am...
Garage Sale at 2:00 pm...
Hopefully it will be a good turnout. We are concerned because it is supposed to rain all day.
If nobody shows up after all this work, I may burst into tears...
To the Powers That Be -- Please Be Merciful. Let the rain wait until after 1 pm.
I beg of you.
20 October 2006
The previous tenants left last week and in order to hold the apartment, we needed to rent for two months when we won't actually be there. But it is all good!
We tried to order a bed to be delivered so we could stay in the apartment rather than a hotel during our November trip. But alas, we were unsuccessful. So this time we will stay in a hotel. But while there, we will be focused on getting essential items into the apartment so we can stay there in December and when we move in January.
By the way, did I mention how totally awesome our new landlady is? We found her a little intimidating during the interview process, but that was before we knew the interview is standard protocol in Zuerich. Since she said we could have the apartment, she has been fabulous.
Frau M routinely e-mails us tidbits of information about bus/train routes, good furniture stores and so on. She has been been so friendly. And after the turnover of the apartment, she is even going to help us bring things into the apartment from the storage area downstairs. (We purchased a load of stuff from the previous tenants -- i.e. wardrobes, microwave, toaster, kitchen table, etc.)
Frau M is also acquainted with the Director of the local library and may be a way for me to connect with a volunteer opportunity.
Plus, Frau M is arranging a gathering for us to meet the other tenants so we will all be acquainted.
Frau M rocks!
19 October 2006
We have posted an ad in the newspaper, printed up flyers and made large, colorful Garage Sale signs with arrows pointing the way. We have rented long tables to display our wares. Friends are poised and ready to help with the masses that will attend. We even notified our neighbors of the possible inconvenience. We still need to do some price stickers, but we are pretty much ready to go.
I hope we get a good turn-out. Otherwise I will feel like a 15 year old who planned a party and no one came...
18 October 2006
...and that's just what they'll do!
After much searching and trying on of boots, I have finally found a pair to take to Switzerland. After all, you cannot possibly live in the Land of the Alps without a sturdy pair of hiking boots. But I knew going into it that I faced an issue -- my size 12 AAAA feet (size 44 European and extremely narrow).
Hey, my feet match my just shy of 6 feet height! Quit snickering! And don't bother with the jokes. I've heard all of them before. Trust me.
After weeks of research, I learned there are no companies out there that make a woman's hiking boot in that size. For boots with a great fit, I would need to go with custom-made and terribly expensive. That seemed excessive.
Further research showed that there are limited companies that make a men's narrow boot. And discussions with hiking boot salespeople revealed that only one company had a men's boot that tends to run more narrow than the others. What you are seeing is literally the only pair of boots that could possibly work for me.
Therefore, it is little wonder that I am so extremely happy to have finally found them! Yeah!!!
The only thing that makes me a little sad is they do not come in any fun colors. Moss green is the only choice. However, beggars cannot be choosers, now can they?
16 October 2006
Because GLH will also be doing business while we are there, the Company will pay for him to fly first class. However, as my official housing trip was in August we need to pay for my flight ourselves.
Since going into bankruptcy, Delta has made it virtually impossible to use mile points or upgrade classes. And neither of us is inclined to spend $7,000 for my flight. And while we have already started to collect miles on a different airline, we do not have enough saved up quite yet.
So here is a little quiz...
What did GLH do?
A. Purchased seats for both of us in coach so that we can sit together.
B. Purchased a seat for himself in first class and a seat for me in coach.
Yep, you guessed it. The answer is B. We will be separated by a curtain that the FAA mandates cannot be crossed. He will be basking in luxury with plenty of comfort. I will be alone in coach. Actually, unfortunately, not alone as I will likely be next to the screaming baby or the lonely passenger who will not stop talking to me!
13 October 2006
While we do not plan to spend a great deal of time watching t.v., we'd like to have the option of keeping up on our favorite shows such as Sopranos, Weeds, Project Runway and so on. And, of course, GLH would like access to American Football.
So being the librarian that I am, I did some research and came up with a solution. It's called Sling Box. You attach it to any DVR and presto! You are then able to record your favorite shows and watch them via your computer any time you would like. Cool, huh?
We've attached it to our television at home and it does indeed work. It's pretty freaky. GLH will be in the computer room changing channels, and in the living room it will be like a poltergeist has suddenly taken control of the television. (Why do men need to change channels that much?)
We are now interviewing prospective hosts. They must have great cable (with premium channels) and high-speed wireless access in their homes.
Anyone interested? Extra points if you are regularly able to see Cleveland Browns games on your television!
Next Switzerland Preparation Project? Researching Internet Telephone Options...
An x-ray revealed that Max had swallowed something he ought not to have, but we couldn't tell exactly what it was. A few minutes later, I left with Max for the Animal Hospital. He needed emergency surgery.
Several hours later we received a call from the animal surgeon. He told us that he had removed a large rubber cork from Max. At first we thought it was a wine cork or something, but when we arrived to pick him up we realized it was a large rubber door stop. We have no idea how he managed to swallow it. The vet said it was amazing he didn't choke on it.
The technicians brought Max completely wrapped in a large blanket. He was snarling and hissing at them. As soon as he saw us, he calmed down and started purring. The technicians said he wasn't very happy with them. I suspect his displeasure started when they put the thermometer in a place that Max did not appreciate. It escalated from there.
Max is back home and sporting a shaved front arm from the IV. After a 12-hour restriction from food and water, he and Tilly are now happily eating. (Poor Tilly also ended up with the restriction as there was no way to leave it out for her and prevent Max from eating and drinking as well.)
Max had a very, very bad day. Unfortunately, I suspect he learned nothing from his adventure and would cheerfully eat the door stop again if given a chance.
As mentioned before, he is not the smartest cat on the block. But he is probably the most stubborn and persistent one...
11 October 2006
I received a telephone call from the friend that flew early on Friday. There were delays in Philadelphia due to bad weather and she might miss her connecting flight. A few hours later I received a second call stating that she was now in Cleveland, but had missed the connecting flight. She was trying to catch a later flight, but might be stranded overnight. Later she called to report that she was on a flight arriving in Kansas City only 8 hours later than originally scheduled.
We picked her up at the airport late on Friday night and a good time was had for the weekend.
Sunday morning we dropped her off. The weather was perfect and all indications were that it would be a great flight.
She was waiting for her flight and the previous flight arrived on time. Then an ambulance crew arrived and quickly took one the flight attendants to the hospital. Apparently she had an adverse allergic reaction to something. Now the flight was delayed while they waited for a replacement flight attendant. My friend knew that she had missed the connecting flight, but on the way back she was flying to Washington Dulles, so she could take the train back home.
A few hours later it became obvious that a replacement could not be had. So they cancelled the flight. Mad scramble by all passengers to get on a flight. Any flight. My friend was desperately trying to get to any major city on the East Coast and planning to take a train back. But there were so many people trying to do the same thing and she stood in line for several hours.
Eventually she was able to get on a direct flight on a different airline to Philadelphia which arrived only two hours past the originally scheduled flight. But it was a harrowing weekend.
Perhaps it is best to stay away from my friend when she is flying...
08 October 2006
Thanks to L.C. in Muenchen for this tip!
06 October 2006
She had a woman on her show who was a medium and claimed to be able to see dead people. Apparently the ghosts of our dead family members stand beside us as we go through life. All of these people in the audience had mothers or fathers or grandmothers or cousins or what have you standing right behind them. The medium could see them and told them what they were saying. Apparently they were clamoring for attention, because they sure had a lot to say! Although, what they had to say didn't seem very detailed or relevant.
Oddly, many of the people in the audience found this thought very comforting.
I found it enormously disturbing. Are there ghostly rules that determine when the ghost is allowed to be there? Is there a Ghost Rules of Conduct book to which I could refer? What are the clauses? Are there loopholes? Can you ask the ghosts to leave you alone for a little while?
Don't know about you, but there are times when I most definitely do not want my dead grandmother standing over my shoulder. What I choose to do behind closed doors is nobody's business. Not even a ghost's!
After watching for a few minutes, I turned off the television and read a book. That seemed safer.
We contacted both companies, who are based in Zurich, to request quotes. They sent their American business partners who surveyed the house and provided us with an estimate for both types of shipments.
On the sea/surface shipment they were within 100 CHF (Swiss francs) of each other. But one company was nearly three times as expensive as the other for the air shipment.
Yesterday I notified the more expensive company that we would be going with a different relocation company. The representative e-mailed me back to inquire as to why.
Thinking this was simply a sign that he sincerely wished to know the answer so as to either improve their service or adjust their rates to be competitive, I wrote him a message back explaining the reason.
I received a rather nasty e-mail in which he very indignantly questioned my honesty. He did not believe that another company could possibly offer a quote that low and I must be lying to him.
Is this a true example of Swiss Customer Service? Or is he an anomaly? I am hoping that the latter is the case.
Regardless, we are definitely going with the other company!
05 October 2006
Yes, it is true that traveling between Europe and the United States is relatively easy. Multiple flight options make it very possible. GL Hubby will need to travel back and forth frequently for business trips, and I can certainly join him on some of them. In addition, e-mailing, blogging, telephone calls and the like will keep us in touch. The Internet Age has made the world seem smaller than it has ever been.
All the same, it is starting to become real that we will be moving very far away. And regardless of all the wonderful people we are likely to meet and the fabulous experiences we will have, there is still the acknowledgement that with that will come some homesickness tinged with the inevitable culture shock.
03 October 2006
In my recent travels in Germany and Switzerland I have carried with me a small book by Berlitz that includes all the handy phrases necessary to communicate basic information. Plus a bit extra if you care to try to converse with people. Of course, if they answer you, they had better only answer one of the stock phrases in the book. And very slowly, one word at a time. Otherwise the conversation is over.
GL Hubby laughed at me when I purchased it in the airport in London. But when he saw how useful it was, he started calling it "our book."
Of course I knew what that meant. It was just a matter of time before he claimed it as "his book."
So I took action. I got him a German Phrase Book of his very own. The bookstore on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich had three different phrase books. Librarian that I am, I spent nearly 30 minutes studying each before finally selecting the Lonely Planet edition as the most complete version, but still pocket sized. I soon discovered that it is, perhaps, a tad too complete.
He was very pleased when I handed it to him and he immediately started to flip through it. Within moments he had discovered a section that I had not seen before I made the purchase -- the Romance Section. With subheadings such as "Asking Someone Out," "Pick-up Lines," "Getting Closer" and more! Trust a man to find that section first.
Here is a small sampling of the translations. My apologies for the lack of appropriate umlauts. Haven't figured out how to make them in the blog quite yet...
Was fur ein Sternzeichen bist du? What is your sign?
Ohne Kondom mache ich es nicht. I won't do it without protection.
Sie ist nur eine Freundin. She's just a friend.
And the always classic:
Ich rufe dich morgen an. I'll call you in the morning.
I can only assume the last one is a lie in any language.
And I didn't even include the "dirty" ones.
At first we just laughed at it. But after the guys at work stated that I had given him "permission," I took it away. He can use the Berlitz.
02 October 2006
I actually signed up for German because I heard that a very cute boy that I had an enormous crush on also signed up for German. In addition, I knew that Frau Z, the German teacher, seated the students in alphabetical order. And due to this method I would end up sitting right next to him. Not the purest of motives. But in my defense, I was only 13 years old.
Fortunately, my close exposure to the cute boy showed that he was not the nicest of people. Even at 13 I showed good sense when it came to boys. The crush did not last long. But as my reason for taking German had nothing to do with actually learning German, I was not the most focused of students. Indeed, what I remember most is Frau Z repeatedly saying "Ruhig!" in a rather threatening way. "Ruhig", of course, means "calm" or "quiet." A word that must be frequently repeated to teens who are bored out of their minds during the last class of the school day.
Regardless, I took 4 years of high school German and 2 years of college German. I even passed the written and oral exams to verify that I had reached the minimum requirement of Intermediate level to get my college degree. Therefore, you might think that I am in a good standing with the language. Right?
Yes and no. I graduated from college a while ago and haven't spoken German on a regular basis for more years than I care to mention. However, on a trip to Munich last year I started to regain the skills faster than I would have thought possible. Therefore, I was still feeling rather confident. Then I went to Switzerland and could understand next to nothing of what was being said.
Yes, German is the primary language spoken in the area around Zurich. However, although everything is written in Hoch Deutsch, the language learned in school, that is not what the people speak. Rather they speak Schweizerdeutsch. Which doesn't even sound like German to the untrained ear. To my ears it is much more sing-songy and rather Scandinavian-esque.
I have already started to spend a minimum of 1 hour per day studying Hoch Deutsch. I am using both books and language cd's. When I arrive in Zurich, I will sign up for a class that will hopefully make me comfortable with German rather quickly. My theory is that I once I am comfortable with German, I will then take a Swiss German class. (Those already living in Switzerland, please feel free to make comments on this theory! I would appreciate any advice you may have to offer.)
So what is GL Hubby's plan? I painstakingly taught him the phrase "Entschuldigung Sie? Verstehen Sie Englisch bitte?" That is the polite way of saying "Excuse me? Do you understand English please?"
Fortunately, his Company is very international and uses English as their primary language. He thought he would likely pick up some German once he gets there. He hasn't yet thought through how this process will work.
I will be very upset if he learns the language faster than I.