18 July 2008

Holiday in the Sun

We are leaving. We're off to Greece and Turkey!

"What?" I can hear you say, "You're going to Greece and Turkey in July? But Global Librarian, you hate the sun! You hate the heat! Have you lost your mind?"

Yes, I hate sun and heat. Greece and Turkey in July will have excessive amounts of both.

But I love my husband.

A few years ago we stopped giving each presents at Christmas and birthdays. Instead, we travel. At Christmas time we decide together where we are going. But it is each person's choice where they wish to go for their birthday trip.

GLH's birthday is the end of September. With the Maybe Baby due the beginning of October, it is too close to be able to take a trip somewhere. So GL gets his birthday trip now and he wants to go on a Mediterranean cruise from Athens, Greece to Istanbul, Turkey (with side trips to Dubrovnik, Croatia and Sarande, Albania).

I'm slightly concerned about the heat (yesterday it was over 100 Fahrenheit in Athens), but I have been assured by a Greek friend that air conditioning is common so I should be able to cool off when I get overheated. I will not go anywhere without my sunscreen, silk fan and parasol and the interior areas of the ship are all air conditioned.

The cruise we are taking seems to have been custom-made for me. Or custom-made for people who love history.

It is an upscale cruise line with smaller ships (only 500 passengers) which has a focus on history and archaeology. We will be visiting sites dating back to Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and medieval times. There are local experts (university professors, archaeologists, anthropologists, etc) who will be provide lectures on the ship and the tour guides for our shore excursions have been carefully screened and selected for their extensive knowledge and presentation skills.

Actually, what I am most concerned about is that it will get very hot in Switzerland while we are gone and the apartment will heat up. Not only will that be bad for the cats, but when we get back it will take a while to get the apartment cooled again. But we'll deal with it if/when it happens.

See you again in August!

16 July 2008

Language or Culture?

Which comes first? The language or the culture?

I've been pondering this question. As my German language skills have improved, I've been having longer discussions in German. Not debating philosophy, of course. They haven't progressed that far!

But I have noticed a couple of things about German which I believe impacts the culture. Or vice versa.

1. It is difficult to form German words and smile at the same time. Just the way you have to shape your lips when speaking makes a smile feel unnatural.

2. Because German sentences tend to be quite long and the action verb generally doesn't appear until the very end, everything you intend to say has to be carefully considered and planned. Compound this with the very structured word order and spontaneity becomes extremely difficult.

So, did the Germanic culture produce a language that encourages formality and discourages smiling? Or did the German language produce the stoic culture? Or do they just build upon one another?


15 July 2008

Too Much?

I spent part of the day reorganizing our books now that we have a new set of shelves to handle our expanding collections.

One of our largest collections is, not surprisingly, travel books. It is growing by leaps and bounds and actually starting to become perhaps even a bit excessive. Yet I don't want to get rid of them in case we travel back there, or someone we know needs to borrow it.

It crossed my mind that perhaps I should put the travel books in Dewey Decimal Classification order.

Is that going too far?

Any other librarians out there cataloging their collections?

13 July 2008


Since we've moved I've been holding on to some shoes.

Strappy, high-heeled sandal style shoes. I have a few different styles in a few different colors.

They are definitely of the "dropped off at the door" style of shoes as opposed to "take the train" and/or "walk on cobblestone" style of shoes. I haven't worn any of them even once since moving to Switzerland.

Now I know that many women here continue to wear these shoes. But I am a big ole klutz. And I tend to fall for no discernible reason while wearing practical shoes on plain pavement. Watching me walk on cobblestone, even in sensible shoes, is not pretty. Me walking on cobblestone in strappy, high-heeled sandals would be the equivalent of watching a train wreck and likely end with a trip (literally!) to the emergency room.

But I have held on to them because they look so nice on my feet and make me feel pretty. Occasionally I have even put them on just to walk around the apartment and look at my feet in the mirror.

However, European living does not leave enough storage space for keeping things you are not actually using.

The shoes are going away.

Still trying to decide whether to throw them away or donate them. On the one hand, donating them would perhaps allow them to be reused and limit what goes in the garbage.

On the other hand, I have larger than normal sized feet for a woman. And I think if I saw a transvestite traipsing about in my shoes, especially if s/he were more graceful in them than I ever was, would likely make me cry.

So what do you think? What would you do with the shoes?

12 July 2008

Return to Ikea

We had hoped that our trips to Ikea were behind us.

But then we decided to adopt a baby. And even though babies are small, they do seem to need a fair number of accoutrements. And we want everything ready to go before baby arrives just in case we find ourselves a bit busy afterwards.

So today we returned to Ikea once again. Not too bad though as we only needed an addition closet and a bookshelf. We already had crib and other sundry items. Just needed a bit more storage. Partially so we can put the vacuum cleaner and so on in a closet so crawling babies do not pull them over on themselves.

Hopefully GLH will not exasperate his Ikea-Elbow Injury* while assembling the furniture. 

Fortunately, our upstairs neighbor was home when we got back from Ikea. In exchange for a couple of margarita's, he helped GLH lug the closet upstairs. Partical board is extremely heavy and I have never had much upper-body strength.

*Similar to Tennis Elbow, Ikea Elbow is a repetitive injury caused by screwing together many pieces of inexpensive furniture. Ikea is the preferred furniture store of college students and expats.

11 July 2008

Cleaning Tip

Since we arrived in Switzerland there is one thing in the house with which I have constantly struggled.

Hard Water Stains

This is the hardest water I have ever had to deal with. It discolors our clothes, dries my skin and hair and leaves a strange scum on surfaces in the kitchen and bathrooms.

I have figured out some ways to overcome it. I use Calgon water softener and a special enzymatic clothing detergent for the clothes. I use Body Shop Shea Body Butter for my skin and Aveda Sap Moss Shampoo and Conditioner for my hair. And I scrub kitchen and bathroom surfaces repeatedly in hope of keeping it under control.

But the glass shower in the bathroom remained cloudy no matter what I did.

GLH is very good about using a squeegee after he showers. That helps. But I have tried every chemical I could find in the store to get rid of the scum and nothing worked to get it really clean.

Until now.

I decided to try something my mother used when she cleaned windows. White vinegar, water and baking soda.

Dontcha know! It actually worked! With a minimum of scrubbing even. Just rub it on then wipe it off with a dry cloth.

I highly recommend it.

10 July 2008

Maybe Baby?

We are matched with a prospective birthmother. We have actually been matched for a while, but it is only now beginning to feel real. I cannot believe it is a few months away!

The mother is in San Antonio, Texas and the baby is due October 3rd. At the end of September we will go to San Antonio to wait for the birth. We do not know whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. S/he keeps hiding from the ultrasound. Either shy or stubborn, I guess.

We are calling the baby our "Maybe Baby." The mother is currently planning to place her child for adoption. But until the baby has been born, she has had time to reconsider her choice and the paperwork is signed, it is not our baby. Hence, s/he is our "Maybe Baby."

Fingers crossed!

08 July 2008

Experiments in Eating

So, I've given up being a vegetarian. It just didn't work out. I slowly started to reintroduce chicken and fish about 2 months ago and expanded to pork and red meat in the last few weeks. As long as I am careful to keep the portions small and avoid fried food like the plague, I haven't been getting sick.

I have a few reasons why I gave up:

1. Traveling as a vegetarian is hard. It's difficult to find good options on non-vegetarian menus, especially in major meat eating areas (i.e. German-speaking countries and Midwest region of the United States). Middle Eastern & Indian restaurants are a good fall-back, but not always available and/or fair to my meat-loving husband. Not to mention the angst which happens when extended family members are trying to figure out where to go or what to serve for dinner.

2. We have an upcoming adoption. I was really, really torn regarding raising a child as a vegetarian. Children need a lot of protein and fat for brain development and animal products are the most efficient way to get it to them. Plus, being a vegetarian as a child can really set you apart, especially when you live in a Germanic culture. As an adopted, biracial foreigner, our child will already be "different." Not to mention that I firmly believe that to raise non-picky eaters you have to have everyone in the family eating the same thing at meals. And only eating that. Making special separate meals is a bad precedent to set. So making meat for my child and vegetarian for me goes against that.

3. My hair was falling out. Even though I very carefully monitored my protein intake, including doing a supplementary protein shake, I simply wasn't getting enough protein. The hands full of hair every time I washed my hair was disturbing. In the last six weeks, hair loss has slowed.

So I am once again eating meat, but I will continue to include vegetarian meals into the mix as well. We'll balance it.

Thus far my stomach is doing alright. Hopefully as long as I am cautious about what I eat it will continue to do so. Fingers crossed.


This morning GLH walked into the room while I was searching through his closet.

GLH: What are you doing?

GL: Looking for dirty clothes. I'm doing laundry today.

GLH: So you just look through for things you've seen me wearing or what?

GL: Mostly things that are crumbled up in a ball.

GLH: How long have you been doing this?

GL: How long have we lived together?

So, here's my question to you. Do men think that clean clothes just magically happen? Or does it ever occur to them that there is someone who makes certain it happens?

Just wondering...

03 July 2008

I'm Free!

Right now it is 68 F (18 C) with an expected high of 72 F (22 C). Hopefully it will get no warmer, but even if it does it is unlikely to be as hot as it has been the last week or two.

Thank you to the Powers that Be!

And something else has happened that I am thankful for...

Zurich has implemented a partial ban of smoking. Just public buildings, not including bars and restaurants. But it is a start and there is a vote on September 28th that if passed would ban smoking in bars and restaurants as well.

I feel like getting on my knees and shouting "Hallelujah!"

Or doing the Pagan Dance of Joy.

Please, please, please let the smoking ban pass! With an expected adoption coming soon, I really don't want to be one of those women who glares at people who dare smoke too close to her child.

But I will if I have to.

02 July 2008

Stink Fest

Today GLH came home from work and saw me just sitting again, portable air conditioner on one side, fan on high on the other.

GLH: "Have you left the house today?"

GL: "Is it still hot out there?"

GLH: "Yes."

GL: "Then I think you have the answer."

He somehow talked me into going in the air conditioned car to Sihl City, the local mall, because he was pretty sure it had air conditioning and he didn't think it was healthy for me to not leave the house for four straight days.

And yes, Sihl City does have air conditioning. Although they could have turned it up a little. It was still too warm.

But the temperature was alright.

It was the people who weren't.

OH MY GOD! You have never in your life smelled the smells I was exposed to today. Disgusting! I wanted to bring along a basket of deodorant samples and give them out to pretty much everyone I came too close to. (Too close = 10 feet)

And by the way, why is it that people feel that just because it is hot, they can walk around in skimpy, essentially see through clothing? Some people should NOT walk around the world that way. I really do not want to see what they have to offer.

Not going out again until it cools down. Hopefully enough to take the stink away and make people put some clothes on!

I keep hearing rumors about rain and cold tomorrow. Fingers crossed. I'll keep y'all posted.

01 July 2008

High Noon in Atlanta


The State of Georgia recently passed a law expanding the ability of citizens to carry concealed weapons. Effective today, individuals with a gun permit may carry a concealed weapon in public parks, restaurants serving alcohol and on public transportation. This is on top of all the other places they were already allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Having lived in Georgia for four years, I really shouldn't be surprised. I personally knew many people who carried guns in their glove compartments and purses. Concealed weapons have always been an "unalienable right" in the State of Georgia. It's part of the culture.

But there is a part that did surprise me.

MARTA (Metro Atlanta Regional Transportation Authority) has trains and buses that go directly to the Hartfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world. Along with millions of other travelers, I transferred through it just this past weekend.

With public safety in mind, officials at the airport announced that the airport would be a "Gun-Free Zone."

This morning a gun rights advocacy group promptly filed a lawsuit against the airport stating they are violating state law by not allowing people to carry concealed weapons into the airport. To show they are being rational, they do state they agree guns should not be allowed past security. But anywhere up to that stage should be acceptable.

As I said. Unbelievable.

No wonder I moved away from Georgia...

Daily Routine

It's hot here.

Damn hot.

Have I mentioned how much I hate hot weather?

It is not just that I dislike hot weather. My body is simply unable to deal with it. When I get too hot, I cease to be able to function. Literally. When I lived in Georgia I was hospitalized twice for heat stroke.

So when it is hot, I feel as if I am being held hostage.

Every night we wait until it cools off to about 70 F (21 C) and then open wide all the windows and place fans in them to bring in as much cool air as possible. The fans are set up to create an extremely windy cross breeze through the entire apartment. We sleep that way all night. (Oh, the danger of it!)

Very early in the morning we get up, before the temperature has gone above 70 F, and close all the windows. This helps to lock the cool air into our apartment and keeps some of the hot air outside. Our shutters are permanently closed, open just a crack to let in a bit of light. Our Klimate Luftung (house fan which brings cool air from the basement into the apartment) is permanently at the highest setting. And we turn on the window air conditioning unit in the living room.

This keeps our apartment bearable. Not cool enough to be comfortable for me, mind you. But cool enough that I don't feel as if I am about to collapse from heat exhaustion. Which means until it cools off again outside there will be no cleaning inside. Cleaning would make me too hot with no good way to cool off. We have clumps of cat fur on the rugs, but they will just have to stay there. Vacuuming is sweaty work.

And the oven and stove will remain off. They create too much heat. Cereal and sandwiches for us until the weather turns.

So our apartment is tolerable. But NO PLACE ELSE IS!

The thought of going out into a world where there is no air conditioning, people are afraid to open windows (because obviously a cross breeze can kill you), showers are not daily activities and deodorant is considered unnecessary is insufferable.

And so I sit in our marginally cooler apartment, waiting for the weather to change.

Yesterday I had my fingers crossed. There was a 40% chance of rain.

But I was disappointed. It remained sunny all day.

The next chance of a cool down is Friday, when a storm front may come through with severe thunderstorms and temperatures in the 60's (18 C or cooler).

Please God, make it so.

If it doesn't happen I may have to leave GLH and go stay with my parents in the "aggressively air conditioned" United States.

I'm joking. Mostly.