Tuesday, May 22, 2018


What would make anyone start a pig collection until they had 48,000 examples of pig art, antiques, skeletons, paintings, information on pig types, pigs' place in different cultures, pig ceremonies, etc.?

Red-headed Erika Wilhelmer did and then opened a private museum devoted to her treasures in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Rick had finished with his conference and we had the afternoon to explore together but all the ordinary type of museums didn't hit our fancy. Then he discovered the Schweinmuseum on line.

"Let's!" I said.

A couple of false starts to get to the right Strassenbahn station didn't dampen our desire to see what a pig museum would be like. Getting off at the correct stop and looking down the street we saw the world's biggest piggy bank, an entire bus.

The museum was in the building that once served as the admin building for the city slaughterhouse. I am not sure if that's good or bad from the point of view of pigs thinking they were about to meet their maker.

For the next two hours we saw every type of pig possible.

There were jokes such as this pearls before swine.

There were pigs in obscene poses, which I won't post.

A pig orchestra.

Even the curtains at the windows held the pig theme

All this without an oink to be heard.

We went to the café and resisted checking the menu for bacon opting for strawberries and cream and chocolate cake.

We also made a decision that when we visit a city we will look for museums that are unique. We probably won't go looking for one of the other five pig museums in the world. We've already been at the largest. What more could we hope for?

Rick has a dueling blog at http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.de/


For me it was the second most worst job I ever had, although compared to working in a cold mine or at slave labor it was fine. Part of the problem was I hated sales, although once I opened an account I loved working it.

My boss was the best and worst I ever had. Best because he was ethical and drew clear lines of expectation. Worse because of his demands. When I interviewed he had me talk to a previous employee who could warn me about him. That's ethics

I was living in Boston and desperate to move to Europe. I'd fly to Europe to get want ads. I used directories to send CVs (resumes). I would handwrite the cover letter where required. There were nibbles, but slightly after my 800th there was an ad in the IHT for a sales post in Switzerland, the land where working permits were next to impossible to get..."Someone who is familiar with Digital Equipment Corporation and speaks French and German. We'll get working permits."

Ok my French was barely at French-restaurant ordering level. My German was rusty. I sent a fax and within an hour I had a phone call.

A long phone interview followed. Then a reference check. One of my references became a company joke. The reference was glowing but when my referee was asked if he could say anything bad about me, he said, "She's not very tall."

The deal was the company would pay my expenses to fly me to Switzerland. If they turned me down or I turned down an offer, I would reimburse them.

I was on a plane as fast as I could book and after two days of intensive interviewing, I was offered the job and spent three years hating my job despite living where I loved and meeting people that I liked.

Last weekend, there was a 30th reunion of the company bringing together staff. Some of the people I worked closely with were going. Of the staff, I'd stayed in touch with only a couple.

I didn't want to miss it.

So glad I did. There was a lunch at the Grand Pin, which had been a gourmet restaurant next door to the office, which we toured. I almost felt if I should be on the phone arranging meetings as I stood by the desk in the place of my old desk and looked out the window. The kitchen where I brewed cups and cups of tea for the staff, for no one was exempt from these chores, had a more modern sink and fresh white paint.

The afternoon was on our own. We chose to go to Môtiers, where I'd lived in the company flat.

Changing from a city, Boston. to a village of 600 people and 6000 cows was a greater change than changing countries. But I loved village life and unlike threats I'd heard about the unfriendly Swiss, the owner of the building were I lived took me to village fêtes and invited me to dinner with other locals.

One of our stops in Môtiers was the cave in an old monastery that produced a local champagne although they could only call it method champagne. When I had dinner guests, we would go to the cave, sample and select the champagne to drink with dinner. It was also my duty to take champagne into the office for celebrations coming under the other duties as signed category.

If the cows were country, the villagers did not lack sophistication in their own right. Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived there for three years and was visited by Voltaire, an event acted out in a locally-produced play with the audience walking from place to place where they'd been.

The fabled absinthe that had been created there which had been illegal when I lived there was now legal. A distillery took the place of the former mini market.

I had been intrigued with the mystique of the blue fairy and the posters marking its end. The Swiss one was severe, but across the border, when absinthe was outlawed, the blue fairy was dainty and walked behind her coffin gracefully in the posters marking the end of absinthe (officially--it was made illegally constantly).

Our room at La Maison de Prussien, where dinner was to be held was in the 19th century former brewery, a combination of old and modern among trees and waterfalls.

The meal was a degustation, a few mouthfuls of delight after delight. 

The real delight was having the time to talk with those that I had once been so professionally close to.

It was also a chance to offer my condolences to the wife of the financial head who died much too young at 63. Even when he was behind a glass door I could tell if he was speaking French or English by the movements of his face.

My former co-workers looked like their older brothers and sisters. The most common phrase was "Do you remember...?"

Some of those memories were funny, some sad. Different people had information about other employees or contractors:
  • She has five sons now
  • She lives in Fiji
  • He is now working in the US
  • The time you checked his passport with his luggage and was he mad
My old boss, who I dreaded seeing, had mellowed in his old age. Life had been both bad and good to him. His voice no longer startled me. He has a few health problems, but his attitude is positive. 

I had always respected his ethics and his clear demarcation of how to handle any problem.
  1. The contractor
  2. The client company
  3. Our company
Say you followed the rules, and all would be forgiven, although why you didn't know a problem would occur required a secondary conversation. 

Even though I was midway through my working career, I learned things that I will use to this day in alleged retirement.

And when I had another job, they kept my working permit, allowing me six months of employment until my new company could get me a new permit.

And if because I was an immigrant at the mercy of my employer, I have sympathy for those immigrants with similar problems, although what bothered me, scared me was nothing like a Mexican tomato picker in Florida.

Because of this company, I am Swiss leading a wonderful life. Whatever bad there was, the good overrode it.

One of my memories of the reunion night was how many times I heard, "And then he said, 'she's not very tall.'" 

Is five one really that short? Yes if so many of your co-employees are all tall. But when I walked through the door for that interview so long ago, expectations were set--another thing that was stressed those three years of my life. Set realistic expectations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


In 1967 driving from Boston to visit friends in Syracuse I listened to reports of the Israeli War. I  routed for the poor Israelis.

Two weeks later while student teaching I met a Palestinian woman and heard another side. When I researched what she said, it opened a whole new world of understanding. I also researched the history of the Zionist movement.

Years later, living in Geneva, I've made many Palestinian acquaintances and my sympathy is with them. I should add I have Jewish friends as well (not the I have a black-friend syndrome),

I continue to look at sources other than the U.S.'s and often they portray a totally different perspective on the conflict.

If I discredit the violence, I can see both sides.

Michelle Goldberg on the front page of the International New York Times (I still think of it as the IHT) called the events at the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem "spectacle of arrogance" and "grotesque." I assume by her name she is Jewish. I did a scan on the internet, but nothing allied her with any religion. Not that it is important. The words she chose were accurate in my opinion.

It wasn't just the carnage going on a few miles away but the concept of an anti-Jewish pastor being there.

I understand the way Israel is supported in the US why people side with it. Most are too busy to look at the other side. I do wonder when Israeli kills a thousand plus in a battle and only lose a couple of dozen people think that Israel has the right to protect itself but not those in Gaza.

I wonder that if say all NH residents were herded suddenly into concentration-camp like places and their property were given to the Indians, if they might look a little more generously on the plight of the Palestinians. Especially if the Indians continued to pour into the little land left were being settled by the Indians despite the UN and international community declaring them illegal. What if the Indians continued their raids on the homes and land with the concentration camp? How many times can

I wish everyone who supports the Israeli side without ever hearing the Palestinian side would find a Palestinian refugee or several to talk to--bring faces to the issue.

Then decide.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hotel breakfasts

An unusual timer where the sand went up. Three minutes for a good cup of tea.

I love, love, love hotel breakfasts, especially those in Germany. This morning's Frühstück lived up to my expectations. Because we'll be here three more mornings, I could concentrate on somethings and plan for the tomorrows.

Because Rick had left early for his conference, I was alone, which left me people watching. There was a black woman who spoke neither German or English, but was still able to get coffee. I couldn't determine the language, but I was jealous of her almost perfect body.

A German businessman with his glasses pushed to the tip of his nose planned a meeting. I could understand some of what he was saying, but not enough to take a quiz.

A middle-aged couple, seemingly on holiday because of their casual clothes,  were chatting and smiling at one another.

A group of four Americans, also in casual clothes, were in the back corner of the room. Their voices carried throughout the dining room.

I had brought a book to read as I sipped my tea after I scoffed down salmon, chesse, fruit, fresh-baked rolls. The timer to determine when my tea was brewed was unlike any I'd ever seen with the sane going up in liquid.

A truly pleasurable start to the day.

And off to enjoy a city where I loved living a lifetime ago.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day

Because we are an international family, I once suggested to my daughter we celebrate Mother's Day in Germany, France and Switzerland where we were living and she could throw in America as well. It isn't always celebrated the same day all over the world.

She didn't go for it.

I was kidding. My daughter treats me well every day and I don't need special recognition. She gives it to me often enough. I don't do well on forced holidays.

I think of my own mothers, yes plural.

My birth mother was both my good mother and my enemy. When I was growing up she was there for me, we did things together because we wanted to. There was the downside where she was a helicopter mother before the term was invented and over protection included not being allowed out of our yard (even it was 14 acres) until I was a teen. On the other hand she paid for driver education so I didn't have to wait a year.

When I was little we told double stories with each of us taking part. Like me, she was a writer.

On the other hand she tried to annul my marriage after having me arrested at 20 as a stubborn child for trying to elope. That the marriage failed had nothing to do with her. She tried to get custody of my daughter although social services found that I was an excellent mother. As the social worker said, "I wish all cases turned out like yours."

It took me many years to see beyond the later years to remember the good. A friend once said to me when I was whining about my mother, "She didn't ruin your life and you are stronger either in spite or because of her." It was then I began to let the good in. There were even some things I copied in raising my daughter, the good ones, not the bad.

On the other hand, my stepmom and I only had one cross word and that was when I put away a hot iron which was a no-no in her home. She never used "my children and yours" to my dad. They were "ours."  I loved being with her, although playing cards turned her into a shark. After my Dad died and before I moved to Europe she spend summers with me.

She visited me in Europe and left a hole when she went home.

Her dementia was extremely hard. Between her grandson and myself we were able to make sure she was taken care of. Her death was a relief combined with my sadness at the way she lost herself.

Despite her dementia she was always sweet. A few weeks before her death she was voted Queen of the Nursing Home.

Motherhood is a funny thing, a strange bond. I've seen it from both sides.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Romance and a surprise

My husband is a romantic. When we walked to the lake today, we sat on a white stone bench.

"Give me some space, please," he said.

I slid over and he pulled out a split of champagne and chocolate-frosted, heart-shaped cookies.

We were celebrating his two-year Permis B taking him up to the five years for the Permis C.

We were also celebrating my successful appointment with my adorable oncologist who gave me a clean bill of health.

As we sat in the sun, nibbling and sipping, we also looked at the lake, clouds and Jura. A group of men, women and one boy had three dogs playing in the water. One broke away and ran out onto the dock. He didn't respond to calls. The woman raced behind him.

Because I have Sherlock dog biscuits in my pocket, I thought that might help capture him and I went after him too.

She retrieved the pooch. "He just flew in from Turkey today," she said.

In an international area like Geneva this is not quite as abnormal as it might sound some place else, but there was more to the story.

A local woman rescues Turkish dogs, brings them to Europe and finds them homes. The woman I was talking to him was fostering the dog until a home could be found.

I went back to my champagne, cookie and husband feeling so very, very lucky.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Cancer check up

I am always nervous before my routine cancer check ups. It has been three years now and they see me every three months.

I am in love with HUG, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genéve. Their treatment during both my cancers was exceptional. Chemo sessions were fun, a coven of women sharing.

Because it is a teaching hospital, I've had many doctors still in the residency stage. The most serious cases go to faculty. Had someone referred me to faculty, I would have been even more frightened. Despite changes, one of my oncologists and I still email and she will probably be visiting at some time in the future.

This was the second time I'd seen Dr. F. He remembered so many things about our visit three months before that wasn't in the record. Of Italian origin, he often sails by our house. He gave me the choice of French or English and because 98% of my treatment has been in French, I took the lazy way and we spoke in English/Franglais.

The best part of the exam? All is good. I was nervous for no reason and that is a very good thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What to think

We are in Switzerland and Germany for the next 12 days. Sherlock is being taken care of by an Australian couple whom we chose from 33 applications thru Trusted Housesitters.

I wonder what they will think about us from our home. When we've house sat or house swapped whether or not we meet the owners, we can tell somethings about them and not judgmentally. It is more like learning about new friends only without words.

When you walk into our house you go directly to the clothes drying area. Certainly not pretty.

But then you come to a long galley way leading through to the next street. It covers Rick's office area, the living and dining area, kitchen, hall and bathroom.

There would be a good guess that we like art. Our walls are filled with paintings, most by local artists.

That we are readers are no doubt by the books. These are eclectic from a special edition with every document from the early American Massachusetts settlers to detective stories with a few political thrown in.

DVDs are often older US TV serials.

Hmm...anglophones live here.

Both the books and DVDs are more based on what is available in English in a francophone country. It is a see it, grab it mentality we have although we order books from other countries for our Kindles. Since mail delivery in France seems to be more a suggestion than anything else, we often are surprised when our order is delivered, but anyone house sitting wouldn't know that.

Our furniture is eclectic too, mostly bought from depot ventes, used furniture stores. A handmade desk, carved with a medieval craftsman workshop is certainly different.

There are many quilts. There were handmade by Rick's mom and my grandmother, but again a house sitter wouldn't know that.

They may be glad there's a washer and dishwasher but wish there was a dryer.

They may imagine a glass of wine on the patio.

The age of the house is only partially apparent in the stone walls and old beams.

Our bathroom lacks a bidet but it has a hose next to the toilet much like those used in Syria and other countries for hygeine.

They will learn about our friends and acquaintances when they walk down the street because Sherlock is talked to by almost everyone. I've even warned them about a teenage boy who will run up to Sherlock and pick him up an much face washing will go on.

Before we left we shared lunch and village tour with our house sitters to make sure they felt at home.

Our house sitters immediately developed a rapport with Sherlock, which is the most important thing. When we left Sherlock was on the man's lap.

Sherlock does care about possessions which he stores in the horde. After all an empty Coke bottle, several scraggly tennis balls, tug toys, a black stuffed animal and a rawhide bone. What can I tell about his character from it?

He's playful.