The crazies are in charge of the asylum. I watched Bush say how far the Iraqi army had progressed and we would stay until we win. Yet it was only weeks ago that an Army general told Congress only one battalion was trained. Yesterday I read an article that stated that news staff in
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
The crazies are in charge of the asylum. I watched Bush say how far the Iraqi army had progressed and we would stay until we win. Yet it was only weeks ago that an Army general told Congress only one battalion was trained. Yesterday I read an article that stated that news staff in
There are similarities. Friends exist in both places, although there is more of a drop-in environment in Argelès. I bump into May in a store where I am picking up a present for Marina and invite May for a cup of tea Friday afternoon. I want to hear about her South African vacation. In Geneva events are more preplanned sometimes weeks in advance because of peoples’ schedules. Then it is something to look forward to.
I spend hours writing in both places, though I watch TV in Argelès where I also go to more movies because they’re cheaper.
It is more than going from a four-story five bedroom house to my studio on the fourth floor.
The ease in Argelès to walk down the street for all the choices of food to having to take a bus or buses is a major change. I can walk to Franck’s café for a hot chocolate. I have to take buses for the Café Auer, although the hot chocolate is better at Café Auer, but not a huge amount.
And when I go out in Geneva I dress up in at least a skirt in a sweater rather than run out in sweats. I like both styles.
I eat in more in Argelès but I scoff down sushi and Tex Mex, filet des perches in Geneva in restaurants.
I adjust my schedule to others more in Geneva and savour the company. I savour living alone in Argelès.
I smile in both places. I have two lives in one. A friend called me a cake eater. This is cake eating and licking the frosting too while two cakes stay on plates marked Geneva and Argelès.
“Ah bon?” He asked. Ah bon, is one of those all purpose phrases in French that can be thrown into all most any conversation along with ça va, et puis, alors and qua.
He moved on but a little later I heard him say to the other conductor that the red-headed woman said he looked a like John Kerry although he pronounced is Jeahn Kah ree.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Overwhelming they voted to continue the moratorium against genetic food and to keep shops closed on Sunday with the exception of airports and train stations. The idea of having a day NOT the like the other won out. I can buy safe food six days a week. I can live with that.
I am looking forward to the time I can vote here, although in this case the will of the electorate is what I would have done.
Friday, November 25, 2005
When it snows at 500 meters or above, it usually rains in Geneva. The few times it does snow the city filled with drivers from warm countries becomes a massive parking lot as those unaccustomed to manoeuvring their cars slip and slide.
I do remember a few Sundays during an eleven year stay sitting at my kitchen table looking at the château across the street as snow coated the grass and trees: coated, nothing substantial. I could count the few on one hand and have fingers left over. Hot chocolate tastes better when it is snowing outside.
Last year there was snow a good part of the winter compounded by ice storms. The last storm happened April 17th, a time of year when flowers are in bloom.
This morning I woke to about five inches of snow. It stopped early, although I had lunch with a friend who is in the middle of a move from Gstaad. The moving men are taking double the time to get to her place because it is still snowing in that region. The news is reporting 250 accidents.
Lunch in an auberge in this little Swiss village overlooking fields and mountains was a little bit like those jigsaw puzzles I did as a kid. Outside workmen were putting up tents for the Christmas marché tomorrow. It was postcard perfect in the snow.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
One of the things I never understood was the saying, "What a shame he only won the silver." Even being in the Olympics struck me as an incredible feat, and to take second place still a mark of success.
Pound talks about Nike who had a campaign "He didn't win the Silver, he lost the Gold." Pound said that so was against the spirit of the Olympics that when Nike, an Olympic sponsor, refused to pull the campaign, Pound threatened to call a press conference with all the silver medalists denouncing the campaign. Nike caved.
I knew there is a reason that no one will ever see me with the words Nike anywhere on my person but then everyone knows I don't wear clothes with brand names unless I am paid to do so.
Eavesdropping – there were ten people at the table next to me, all speaking English. They were all IT workers from different organizations. One was a Swiss German who spoke American English – the give away was that he used the term “you guys”. I could tell they were from both non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Somehow they got onto the Americans, not the war, not Bush, but how all of them had problems with the American companies and the American NGOs that they worked with honouring their commitments. Some were owed money. Others were owed products. Some found promised services didn’t arrive. “You just can’t trust them,” they agreed. Scary.
A former French boyfriend who had negotiate with a lot of American companies had observed the same things. But in Switzerland your word is considered the same as signed contract. Anthropologists have a term for societies that rely on spoken vs. written agreements. It isn't a value judgement, but necessary to understand the differences.
Least you think it was only a dump-on-America, the Swiss German, when the conversation turned to casual Fridays commented how one of his clients was a bank with a strict dress code. There was flood in the IT room. The technician removed his tie, jacket, rolled up his sleeves and was kneeling in water trying to retrieve some cable. The CEO came down to determine why the system had been shut down. His first question wasn’t about the system. “Where is your tie?” he asked the man. The Swiss German didn’t say what the answer was and I thought it would look I was eavesdropping if I asked.
After my fondue I decided to have profiteroles. This is Thanksgiving right? It ain’t pumpkin pie, but they will do for a substitute.
As far as Thankgivings go, it wasn’t one of the best, but it certainly wasn’t one of the worst.
It’s only money, I consoled myself. I remember the time I found a 100 CHF note blowing on an empty street. It’s evened out. I even imagined the person finding my money going to a nice restaurant. No use crying over spilt money.
Today is Thanksgiving, one of the few times I am truly homesick. I’ve found no celebrations this year, not even ones costing the same as my first born child. I decided to console myself with a fondue at the Café du Soleil, but first I was going through all my Swiss paperwork before I go to Argelès for two weeks. I didn’t want to return so close to Christmas to have to deal with it.
I opened my bank statements (considering I have so many accounts I should be richer). There was a letter from UBS saying they had redeposited the 100 CHF I had left on the counter of the ATM machine.
Who ever found it could have as easily pocketed it. It could have been left by anyone. They didn’t. They went into the bank and explained how the previous customer had run out fast. It was easy to check the transaction.
If honesty of people isn’t a reason to give thanks in today’s cynical world, I don’t know what is. Okay maybe because the Bise has stopped blowing ...
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
I remember singing a song in our seventh grade music class where the entire grade was in the auditorium. The lyrics included the phrase “tender breezes blow”. There is nothing tender about The Bise that is roaring outside. Roaring to a point that I have raised the volume on the CD to drown it out. Isabelle Boulay is too gentle a singer. I need someone like Garou with his raspy voice or the entire Berlin Symphony. The house has a fault and when the Bise is at its worst it sounds as if a siren is going off over the toilet.
The sky is brilliant blue as the trees jump in the air.
The cat considers the only sensible place to be is on my bed, and if I want to share, she might, notice might, be willing to negotiate a small space for me.
I need to go out in this weather to get the mail. Although I usually walk, it strikes me as smarter to use the car, although I picture flapping my arms at the top of the hill and being lifted across the lake into France.
I do understand why people go mad in winds. The noise after a while STOPS being interesting and has moved into irritating.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A disadvantage is that technically people can not work two jobs in this country, although some employers have given consent. A forty-hour work week is considered enough here. However when I compare prices here to other places I find where once they were much higher they are now on a level for some things such as housing. Geneva housing, when you can find, it, seems lower than say Boston or New York.
Then I saw it near the Noga Hilton, a full-length leather coat. On sale. I negotiated the price lower (I used the difference to buy hat, gloves and scarf since it didn’t have a hood).
The only question was – would it be warm enough?
Today was the test. The bise had been blowing all night, making the house creak. The temperature was at 3° centigrade, a little above freezing, BUT the wind chill factor put it into the I-don’t-want-to-know category.
Munchkin, the cat who has her out-routine asked five times at the door, but each time, when the bise blew leaves into the hall backed up. Each time I reminded her that the temperature had not improved in the last five minutes. She walked to her litter box, but then gave it one more try. This time she didn’t get a choice. I threw her out, but let her back in about 90% earlier than normal.
Now it was my time. I had several stops (three bus changes, a walk to my old office, across a street to eat with a friend, a walk to the supermarket, two more bus changes, a walk to the library and three bus changes home all with misc. waits.)
The verdict: ta ta, drum roll, a trumpet. The coat held its own.
Monday, November 21, 2005
“Do you know Geechi Wiley?” http://www.thedevilsmusic.net/lyrics/geechie_wiley.html and http://www.wirz.de/music/wileyfrm.htm he asked me.
I didn’t. I am used to Anil telling me things about my own country be it history or music that go deeper than my knowledge. He brought up the song on his computer. Despite the scratchiness of the old recording, the voice was moving. The guest bed is in the computer room and I sipped the tea as we listened.
“There’s debate about the lyrics,” he said. The words bolted meal came up or so we thought.
We listened and re-listened. Neither us knew what bolted meal was. We looked that up too.
I wondered what the blues singer would have thought if she had only known that almost seventy years later another American and an Indian would be listening to her music in far away Europe.
The festival was a tribute to the actress of Jaya Bachchan
Although I hadn’t heard of her, I quickly realised that she has status of a Meryl Steep or a Susan Sarandon by the way the audience held her in awe. She was there, gracious, elegant, giving. She answered questions from the audience between films and during the dinner break my hostess and daughter were able to eat with her, which left them both thrilled.
The first film was plotted similar to A Star is Born and made when she was young with her soon-to-be husband who came to be according to some surveys the best known actor in the world http://imdb.com/name/nm0000821 although I hadn’t heard of him. He was named Actor of the Millennium in a BBC News Poll ahead of such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and Marlon Brando. He is currently hosting the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. (Learning about things I don’t know when I consider myself a well informed-international is good for keeping me humble.)
The second was done more recently, and called The Mother of 1084. An upper middle-class woman learns her son was killed a revolution. His toe tag is 1084. Painful to watch – a film that can be appreciated on levels from political to artistic.
I expected to enjoy the weekend. I expected to enjoy the festival. The only surprise was how much
Along the lake there are many of these trees. Today as I was catching the bus home to Corsier, I saw that each tree had decorated small Christmas trees about the size of a table top tree suspended from the knobs some with as many as ten trees from a single tree.
It’s an interesting holiday decoration.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
When he did call, I was on another floor and galloped up the stairs too late. The call-back produced no answer.
Then I checked my email. Message: “I’m getting in at 18:39.”
It was 17:55, the bus leaves at 18:01 and it is a good five minutes up the hill. Whirlwind activity of coat, keys, bag, phone, etc. Race up the hill. Arrive as bus is closing doors pant pant pant pant pant pant...
Connect with number 6 bus at the lake. This is rush hour. In most areas the bus has its own lane but crossing the Mont Blanc Quai we were trapped in traffic. 18:29.
18:32 Inched ahead
18:34 Inched ahead
18:36 Inched ahead
The station was in sight. “I’m so late could you possibly let me out?” I asked the driver when I realised it would be at least eight more minutes before we came to the bus stop.
He said he couldn’t. I said I understood.
The light changed. A car pulled in front of the bus. We got to the next light and it turned red. We STOPPED.
“Merde,” I said under my breath.
The driver opened the door for me without me asking. There has to be a special place in heaven for those who bend the rules wisely. “Vous êtes formidable. Je vous aime,” I said over my shoulder as I dashed out and made the station at 18:40.
Rb2's train arrived at 18:36. It is not a big station but full of people and even if the Swiss aren’t as tall as some other nationalities, my head was below most of theirs. His head wasn’t visible and of course the rest of him being missing.
Plan B was to do a tour of the station if my phone didn’t ring.
Plan C was to do a tour of the restaurants I knew he might frequent.
Plan D was to bump into him almost literally.
Plan D worked.
I asked why his phone wasn't working. He is the lover of phones. I hate them. He said he'd forgotten it.
An attempt to get a reservation at the Café du Soleil produced only a time after his train left. Tex Mex it was. Although we had seen each other just last month and although we’ve been in email contact there was much news to get caught up about.
Heading back to the station, less hungry than a couple of hours before and at a pace that is normal, we spied a gadget shop. Rb2 should have a bumper sticker reading “I break for gadgets” We watched a cartoon with Scat trying to keep his acorns together, checked out the Chris Rea Farewell Concert dates, and said good bye.
I WALKED to my bus.
Friday, November 18, 2005
My writing mate is moving to Vienna. We ate together today, a kinda farewell, although I intend to visit her there. She will read over Triple Deckers when it is finished. Over the years we’ve developed the confidence to not need each other to check every word, but will still ask to check this or that as a final look-see. My writing progressed a lot faster because of her and my editing skills even faster. It has been a good relationship. And there’s the security she is only and email away.
Flash – I was waiting for the bus and a flash hit my eyes. I wondered if I were having a brain incidence except I didn’t feel dizzy. Then another flash. I looked across the intersection and realised the radar cameras were taking speeders. After that it was fun guessing which cars would be bagged: no, no, no, bagged, bagged, bagged, no, no, bagged. I was getting about an 80% score. Speeding tickets are expensive. However, it wasn’t so much fun that I let the next bus go by.
Decorations: Christmas decorations are beginning to go up. It always amazes me that many decorations can be left outside without being stolen. Some are beautiful. One pine tree is covered with clear balls almost a foot in diameter. A leafless tree has streamers and toys. I don’t understand a cluster of leafless trees wrapped in blue plastic (like the garbage bags) with blue plastic streams entwining their branches.
Agenda – I never gave into a palm pilot for two reasons, I didn’t want to program it and I knew if I lost it I would be even more furious at the time spent programming it. This isn’t a technophobe thing because I’ve used a calendar on line but often I am someplace (it is harder to lose a complete computer) and unless there’s a computer handy I can’t check dates. Today I chose a mini agenda with a pretty blue cover that will easily slip into my bag. Like my journals it is important how it looks. I also am getting close to getting a new journal. I prefer the French notebooks with squares rather than lines. It makes my handwriting easier to keep neat.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
She objected to the term expat. It was one of those “clicks” that Ms magazine used to talk about. Ex-pat, ex-wife, ex-husband, ex-employee. Pat for patriot. No longer a patriot. Negative feeling really.
Many in the expat community never integrate any more than some of the poor refuges, don’t learn the language and never associate with the locals. Others spend their time putting down their hosts. “You know you’ve been in Switzerland too long when you think it is normal to only have one brand in a supermarket of each type of product” remarks abound. If it is said with humour it is one thing. If it is a put down it is another.
As anyone who knows me, understands that I no longer feel at home in the country of my birth while wanting the country to be preserved. I despair for the current politics that is seeing us turn into an international bully, run up a deficit that could sink the world economy, cut what little social safety net the people have to smithereens and destroy the environment as we run around like little pac men eating up the planet. What we are doing has little to do with democracy and a lot of to do with out-of-control capitalism. This does not mean that I do not want America to survive and preferably with the values that it has claimed for years to avow. Because of an accident of the timing of my birth the country gave me a strong base and opportunities that aren't available today.
I do feel at home both in Switzerland and in France, neither place which is perfect. I prefer to think of myself as a repat. I have been repatriated into another culture and lifestyle. Naturally the Swiss and the French have their own national myths. Many of the French national myths at the moment are burning along with the cars.
National myths usually are a goal worth aiming for they talk about the better part of their societies.
Meanwhile I will rename myself as a repat, however, I won’t change the title of this blog.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The grass is the same color, the cows look the same, the houses don’t vary that much. Farm communities on both sides have beet-filled train cars waiting to be taken to market. The two areas just feel different even if it is the same country. No value judgement should be applied. The Swiss talk about the Roesti curtain, because the German and French often vote opposite on issues. Roesti is the German potato dish which in reality is eaten on both sides of the language frontier.
In Bern I met a former colleague and housemate. We both started at the same company in 1990 and shared the company flat although I was in my forties and she was just out of university. We don’t see each often, but it is pleasant when we do. In 15 years you can build up a lot of memories of trips to Ikea, buying McDonald’s, missed airplane flights, and more backgammon games than can be counted, etc.
She chose a restaurant that overlooked the city with the mountains behind. The service was good, the food even better.
My German at best is rusty. My Schwyzedeutsche is worse. As I said to CB, whenever I change languages I feel as if I am on a mini-holiday even if it is only an hour and a half away.
We’ve decided I’ll visit her for a longer time in Zurich where she lives in March, and I’ve talked about dog sitting for her in the future. She is doing well. She is happy. Seeing an old friend and a mini-vacation of three hours all in a day, is a good way to spend a Sunday.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Tomorrow I go to Bern to meet a former colleague and former apartment-mate. Next week I have three lunches, the Geneva Fair (to get ideas for the flat if it comes through) and see the flower show, and a Democratic potluck and strategy session.
None of the above is a complaint. It is why I continue in Geneva; friends, writers, activities and the beauty of the place.
But today, today folks, I do not intend to leave the house. I have poked my nose out the door only to let Munchkin go out. The day is grey. It is perfect to write, listen to music and savour being alone.
Alone is good to recharge. I am into mega recharging.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
There’s something about eating an egg salad sandwich in a roll, with a cup of tea under stained glassed windows as people around you browse for books that makes me feel warm and cosy, even if the wind is blowing off the lake outside. However, I won’t get to do that until Friday.
Today was a work day. This year for the first time I was able to volunteer to help set up. Two years ago my daughter did it. Boxes of books were under the tables in categories: history, self-help, cooking, novels, gardening and classics. I took the classics.
Some of the books were old leather-bound editions, the kind my grandfather treated reverently. Others were modern paperbacks. The hard part of putting them out is that I wanted to read so many of them. I did give in to thumbing for some of my favourite parts of East of Eden, glancing at a Roman myth or two, and reading three Emily Dickinson poems.
More and more people showed up to help. The sounds of “I’m history, I’ve got a novel,” and “Save the shallow boxes for the extras” mingled with the thumping of boxes and books onto the tables. At 10:30 we were given a tea and cake (marble) break and one of the teas was my much loved and sometimes hard to find Bengali Spice. That alone was worth the lifting and bending.
Sadly I will miss the thank-you tea party next month, but I won’t miss the egg salad sandwiches when I go to buy on Friday. Of course the books go back to the library for next year’s sale. They do more good that way, raising money to keep the library open and having people read them rather than having me have to dust them.
One girl studyied her histoire notes probably for an exam. Obviously neatness counts for every word was legible, the drawings and charts could have been plucked off a computer, but were drawn.
By contrast the adults wedged between the kids looked put upon. Nary a smile could be found. The kids got off. Quiet descended, but none of the adults seemed to relax. I wonder what and when these happy kids will be turned into sour-faced adults. I hope never.
Monday, November 07, 2005
A few sail boats bobbed on the lake below the fields their white sales matching the ribbon of clouds resting on top of the Saleve and hiding the Alps. Above the sky was brilliant blue. Only a twinge of cold air touched my cheeks as I said bonjour to the people also out on walks. Their dogs, frisky and happy to be free, raced up and down the paths between the fields.
The walk was a writing break on a stay-at-home-and-write-and-catch-up-on-paperwork weekend and a reminder of why I love being in Switzerland.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
No matter that I eat 90% vegetarian being careful to make sure I have 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day. Nor have I had a longing for Whooper this strong since I was a pregnant with Llara. Then Whoppers dominated my thoughts daily, but the doctor warned my weight was spiralling towards 100 pounds.
Whoppers bring up memories. Susie, Llara and I went to Burger King in Waltham the night I bought my cute maroon Spitfire. There was a shelf in the back just right of my two-year old daughter, in the non-car-seat-for-tots era. We seated ourselves. Money was tight even before the car purchase and I watched Susan open a sugar packet and sprinkle it all over the French fries.
Whoppers bring up memories of Paddington Station as I travelled to Glamorgan where I was studying for my creative writing degree. I had just enough time to grab one and get on the train. Likewise at Luton airport when I fly Easy Jet, the Burger King is outside the waiting area. Since easy Jet doesn’t process you through in advance, you can’t go in and use one of the restaurants there.
Leaving Burger King. I had another craving. Pop Tarts. I went to the American store and paid $9 for a box of chocolate Pop Tarts.
Tomorrow I will go back to healthy eating without a pang of regret for giving in to a craving. I will never be on my death bed wishing on a rainy November day I had a Whopper or a Pop Tart.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Then there was the news that she now had a big bed much better then a baby crib although it wasn’t as big as mommy's and daddy’s and she wanted to know if I had a bed. I told her I did.
We were taking a walk through farm land. The fields have been turned over waiting for next year’s seeds. The flower fields have been stripped for the marches, The Jura were on one side of us, the Alps on the other. Although the sky was bright blue, Mt. Blanc was no where to be seen. I will never understand how a mountain that big can come and go.
Along the way there were rocks to pick up and wildflowers to pick.
The nearby school was using the paths between fields for a race and we clapped as young teens galloped and panted their way by. Two teen girls shouted encouragement. Stephan seemed to be a favourite.
It was short, it was simple, and it was it wonderful.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The waiting area for the number 5 bus has been rebuilt and the bus now stops automatically, but other than that I saw the same people. There is a woman who I never saw smile in a decade. She works at the UN, is single and has a handicapped son. I would guess he is autistic, but it is only a guess. The woman who I used to meet when I walked my chins and she walked her chows as well on the bus was there. At the next stop, the older man with magazine-model perfect hair got on in his blue suit and with the black briefcase with the scratch.
The feeling of déjà view evaporated as we approached the UN. The three-legged chair symbolizing the damage of land mines that was supposed to stand until all nations signed the anti-mine treaty is gone. (Over 100 nations have signed but not the US). The area is being rebuilt. Some old houses have disappeared as a new WIPO building is being constructed. And the one remaining park in front of the ITU is being dug up for heaven knows what.
At the Varembé stop, my old stop I almost snuggled in my seat.
I’ve watched Nandita mature as a performer, but she always had great stage presence from the time she terrified an audience as a jaw-snapping crocodile although she was much smaller than any self-respecting frightening crocodile would be.
This is her last year with the group. As she goes into her teens her life is filling up with other things. I will probably go to next year’s play, but it won’t be quite the same without her.
A Turkish song played in the background. I mentioned it.
“It is that instrument.” He pointed to something that looked liked a cut off guitar with three strings. “Come, I’ll play for you.” I followed him where he accompanied the CD-ROM until it was over, a concert for one.
Back at the table he deposited a plate of grape leaves a gift.