Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Watching America Fall from Afar

This morning when I came into work, a German employee greeted me with,

“Well, America’s really fallen apart now."

He is right. While I love my country and often try to stand up for my country, I can’t today. I am not proud to be an American right now.

It is a very sad thing, to not be excited about moving back to your country. But now, even though we miss family and friends terribly, we are looking at an opportunity to stay in Europe until 2011. And we really, how can we say no?

If we move back now, we won’t have time to recoup the money we were saving for a house. If we move back now, we’ll be subject to possibly another Republican White House. If we move back now, we’ll only be paid in dollars. The horror. At this point, airline miles might be better payment.

To depress me further, I watched the Couric/Palin interviews and compared them with the Saturday Night Live skit. It was hard to tell them apart. But the worst part was, to watch them online via the Huffington Post, I had to sit through a commercial.

This commercial was for the Discover Card. The voice-over said, “America is a country of consumerism. And that’s ok. Because there are so many great things to buy.” (Or something to that effect).

Wow. I mean really.

It’s time to take that commercial off the air, the internet or wherever else it runs. America’s in financial crisis and all we get preached to is to buy more on credit? America’s debt, country and individual is embarrassing and we don’t need commercials like this trying to make it worse. I have to say, I think credit card commercials should be as illegal as smoking commercials. They’re both killing us in different ways.

Sorry to be pessimistic right now, more happy things to come about our weekend in Paris. Perfect weather. Smoke free cafes. And Monet’s garden that was still overflowing with flowers even in late September. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the gloom, even from afar, but luckily there are still beautiful things in life. One of them being the ballot I have in my hand right now. It’s definitely time to vote from abroad.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The European Anti-Smoking Trend. Now in Paris and Zurich.

Paris is smoke-free now. Almost. There is no smoking allowed in cafes and restaurants and none allowed in our hotel either.

But now there are no sidewalks. All the smokers stand or sit outside at the cafes, so Paris just got ten times harder to stroll in. I guess there's no way for things to be perfect, and I'm not complaining, but boy, I don't know how many times I had to resort to stepping into the constantly wet and trashy gutters not to mention who knows how much gas is now wasted powering space heaters for all the additional cramped seating outside.

On the bright side, there was not as much dog poop around either, although the city still tends to smell like pee. But one thing at a time I guess.

There seemed to be less trash as well, although I noticed that very Parisian trend of people eating a snack and then throwing the wrappers on the ground is still alive and well.

Last night, while eating dinner in the Gare Est in Paris and waiting for our delayed (retard and not so vitesse after all) TGV train, there were announcements in French, English, and German that no smoking was allowed in the train station. This must have recently been decided, as there were signs on the tracks as well.

It was so wonderful. I could actually eat my sandwich without ingesting smoke at the same time. The air was so, so clear.

As anyone used to the main station in Zurich knows, this is something to relish.

And what do you know, I come home to find out that the Swiss voted to ban smoking in Zurich restaurants and cafes! I am overjoyed. I didn't think it would pass yesterday, so I even wrote that it didn't in my travel writing assignment that was due on Friday.

But the Swiss have surprised me for the better. Amazingly better. In Zurich, there were 168,780 total votes for the smoking ban, and 129,534 voted to stop the madness!

Now if they could just ban it in the main station life would be about perfect for the non-smoker.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I've Had Enough

One thing I’ve learned by living in Switzerland over the last two years, is that it’s good to have a line already prepared when people ask you about your language progress. Not only does a fancy one-liner make you sound practically fluent, but it also demonstrates a great interest for trying to understand the culture (even if your only real purpose in doing it is so people can’t talk behind your back at work).

Anyhow, mine is, “Ich lerne jeden Tag ein bisschen.” (I learn a little every day). Try it sometime and watch how impressed people are.

But I think this phrase really is true if one works in a German speaking office. You just start picking up little sayings you hear over and over again or that you read in e-mail.

A lot of what I’ve learned is marketing speak, which, while it’s helping my German, it’s not doing much good for my English. German phrases like “photo shooting” instead of the English “photo shoot” are really too close for comfort.

“Keep on rocking” is another great German phrase that appears in between other long indistinguishable collections of 15-letter words. And “one night stand” is also German, apparently.

But yesterday I learned my favorite office terminology yet. It is, “Es scheisst mich an.” Literally, it means, “It is shitting on me.” But the correct translation is, “I’ve had enough.”

Wow. This is one of the most useful, versatile phrases I’ve learned yet. And sadly, they just don’t teach these kind of things in German class, as they’re too concerned with how offensive it was that you referred to your computer as a girl instead of a boy to really teach anything useful.

But I digress. “Es scheisst mich an” is not just perfect for office use, but also for everyday expat life as well. For that scary letter from the Rathaus that you just can’t quite read. For that collection of people that have to light up even though they’re tightly surrounded by others on an escalator. And for that now molding food you just bought two hours ago.

Instead of ranting and raving in English, try your new German phrase to feel better fast. Or better yet, when the 10th person of the day asks you about your language progress, look them in the eye and give them a nice “Es scheisst mich an.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Switzerland. Going to Pot?

My 73-year-old Swiss neighbor loves to rant about how Baden used to be a nice town but how, in the last few years, it’s become trashy, dangerous, and filled with foreigners.

Now all of this is relative, mind you. Yes, there is some trash on our front steps. But we live in the center of a town of 16,000. And I confirmed my suspicions about her: No, our neighborly Frau has never witnessed New York City.

Danger. Well, we did have a backpack stolen at the Baden swimming pool, and while I’d definitely consider that crime, dangerous it was not.

Foreigners. Yes, that’s me. And while I’m sorry to contribute to my neighbor’s lack of satisfaction with her country, I’d hardly consider myself a threat to the detriment of Swiss society.

But today I got a new perspective on things from a very different Swiss demographic—an 18-year old black Swiss kid from St. Gallen. According to him, St. Gallen used to be a nice town, but in the last five years, the entire train station is now filled with junkies, sometimes up to 20 of them.

Wow. I mean, I never knew Switzerland was on such a downward spiral. Trash. Danger. And now, Junkies. I may be innocent, but all I see are clean streets, expensive prices, and people dressed like a non-stop funeral procession. Maybe all this black fashion is also a new trend, a silent mourning for the good old days when people like me weren’t prowling the dangerous, trash-ridden streets. I don’t know. But if all you readers in Switzerland wouldn’t mind taking a look around you to double check and confirm that I’m not going completely mad in my observations, I’d appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The User Manual, A Must Read

I share an office space with a Swiss colleague and in the middle of working today he had to call his landlord to report that his apartment building's washing machine was broken. The landlord wanted to know what kind of machine it was. My colleague said, “Just a moment,” and proceeded to go through a pile of papers on one of the bookshelves in the office, where he finally pulled out the washing machine and dryer instructions and reported that it was a Sunrise 5050.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t store a copy of my apartment’s washing machine’s user manual at my office. Maybe the Swiss ones are different and make for a great read, but somehow I doubt it since I’ve never had even the slightest desire to read one despite that fact that my building’s booklet sits on top of the washer and so we encounter each other at least once a week.

Even if one of the language choices were English, which is not the case, I wouldn’t read a user manual. But this very phenomenon is very upsetting to my Swiss colleague. When I asked him why he had the instruction booklets at work, he said it was to make copies of it for all the people in his building and personally deliver them.

“They don’t read it, even though it sits on top of the washer,” he said angrily. “Then they put powder where the liquid should go and vice versa.”

I didn’t know what to say, only to tell him that I had done that exact misdemeanor. But luckily my Swiss neighbor had corrected me right away with my very own laundry lesson in two languages not including English.

All I can say is, I’m impressed. The Swiss love rules and regulations so much they read entire user manuals to make sure they use something properly. This is really an accomplishment that perhaps no other culture embraces so wholeheartedly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Swiss Transport. Catch it if you can.

As most people know, the Swiss transportation network is very efficient. But it wasn’t until my father-in-law visited a few weeks ago that I realized sometimes, it’s almost too efficient.

For example, trains, buses, boats, and some cable cars are scheduled so that you hardly have to wait to connect from one to the next. This is fine for healthy people with no luggage. But add some luggage, a health problem, a baby, or all three, and you have problems.

For example, coming back from Rigiklum to Baden involved a train, a cable car, a boat, and two more trains. From the cable car to the boat, it was marked as a 10 minute walk. Well yes, without luggage and a health problem, it is a brisk 10 minute walk. But for some of our guests, it was a 15 minute walk. And so we missed our connecting boat.

Luckily there was another boat in an hour, it was a nice day, and there was a café nearby. So it was an enjoyable wait. But for example, this could have been the last boat of the day or we could have been in a rush, and then we really would have been in trouble.

The thing is, the way the transport system is built, it allows for no imperfections, transport or human. And realistically this is flawed because in the scheme of things, something is bound to break down, be it mechanical or in an older American’s situation, physical.

But if you look at most older Swiss people, they are really in shape. They climb mountains, eat 10 pounds of cheese without putting on weight, and beat young Americans in races (but then again, it’s no wonder—they’ve been running after Swiss trains since they were toddlers). Perhaps a friend put it best (a 38-year-old American tri-athlete), “I beat a 60-year old Swiss guy in the last 10k, it was a real accomplishment.”

For those who aspire to lesser goals, just keeping up with the Swiss transportation connections will usually involve enough athleticism for the day. Especially with anything other than yourself and an optimal level of fitness.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Say "Ja" to to the Rauchverbot

I love this ad that ran today in Blick am Abend, the local freebie paper that all the commuters in Switzerland read. The headline reads, "Criminalizing the Smoker?" The copy says something to the effect of, "The Canton of Zurich wants to create a total smoke free city. We believe banning things doesn't help. We rely on common sense. It's absurd that the government wants to control all our rights."

It pictures lots of things being banned--cars, drinking, dogs, bikes, smoke, and the best--questions. You get an idea for how regulated and rule-driven Swiss life is from this one little ad.

But what's really absurd is that most of the rules in Switzerland are petty. Things like, don't flush your toilet after 10pm. Don't do your laundry on Sunday. No shopping on Sunday, etc. etc.

Anyhow, this ad wants to get people to vote "no" on banning smoking in Zurich. The vote is on September 28. The last vote on this issue, held last year, failed to ban smoking.

So what I find absurd about all of this is that when it comes to things that effect health--proven, scientific research that second-hand smoke kills--this is the one rule that the Swiss just can't seem to pass. My dog must attend mandatory obedience class. Trash is strictly regulated. But my health is not.

It's absurd that I have no choice but to have smoke blown in my face every morning at the train station. It's absurd that my clothes have gotten little holes in them from cigarette ashes blowing on me as I try to board a train. It's absurd that a country so in love with rules can't pass the one that matters more than almost all of them.

If smokers keep their "rights," then what about non-smokers rights? I already gave up on eating out, think twice about going for a drink because that will also involve a shower, and hold my breath for as long as possible at the smokestack that is the main train station.

So while I wouldn't say we should criminalize smokers, as this ad claims, we non-smokers should have the right to breath something other than someone else's habit. I have nothing against designated smoking areas, I just want to step off a train and be able to breathe. Is that so much to ask? Come on Switzerland, if Italy can do it, anyone can.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Visit for the Names

Some people come to Switzerland for the Alps. Some come for the chocolate. But I am recommending coming for the strange names.

After all, there's not much more pleasure to be found in travel than coming across the name of a city and thinking, ha, can you believe it? Imagine entire zip codes and not to mention mountain ranges with a word you can't stop laughing about.

In Switzerland, you could take your photo at the train station in "Buttikon". Or proudly at the top of the "Titlis" mountain. The options are endless.

Think how much more highly you'll think of your own hometown when you find out you could have grown up in Bubikon instead.

And if you've had your fill of places, you could always shop for some Schmuck.

A few posts back, I talked about avoiding Lucerne when touring Switzerland. But there is one exception and that is if you go for the Gutsch Hotel. It's just another one of those Swiss names that means something special to all those English speakers out there not to mention the many more that are just waiting for you to make them famous in America.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Bread Oven Room

As we are planning a short trip to Paris with possibly a to visit Monet's Garden (my idea of course), I have been looking for places to stay in the Vernon area, which is 45 minutes outside of Paris. This email is one of the best I've ever received from a B&B. It helps if you have a small knowledge of French. Here is is the reply I received last night:

Dear XXX

Thank you for your message,
I have the bread oven room available for the 2 nights.
The price is 80 euros per night for 2 persons included breakfast.
I wait for your confirmation.

Mrs Pain

In case you're still wondering what the heck is so funny, it's the name, Mrs Pain (which means "bread" in French), commenting about her bread oven room. I almost feel like I'm part of a fairy tale here, maybe a French version of Hansel and Gretel would be most appropriate.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cleaning up after the Visitors

Whenever my mother-in law visits, she always freaks out about the amount of light in our apartment and what, more importantly, that light is doing to our living room furniture. So a few hours into her visit, our fine living room will look like a bunch of two-year olds have built forts, with mismatched blankets covering everything to prevent it from fading.

Unfortunately, she's been gone for a week, and thus the blankets have all been put away. So wouldn't you know it, I open the door just a crack for a few minutes to get some fresh air in here and we get another, less welcome visitor. This visitor has no shame and poops on both chairs and the carpet before trying to commit suicide by flying into glass. I finally trick him into leaving by throwing bread crumbs out the door. But he has done his damage to naturally everything but the easy-to-clean tile floor.

Since my husband is never around when shit happens, I decide what cleaning approach to go with this time as you long-time readers know, I am no stranger to poop in my living room. Since the Swiss are really fond of home cleaning treatments, and vinegar especially, I decide to try it, because who really knows clean better than the Swiss Hausfrau who cleans on average for 53 hours a week.

So I wipe some vinegar around with some paper towels and call it a day. After another day in Switzerland, I'm pooped. Literally.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Sixty Dollar McDonald's Dinner

The last night our visitors were here, we were all tired and weary from the Swiss Transportation Breakdown (see previous post) and my husband and I, now having been hosts for 10 nights, were in no mood to cook. So my mother-in-law offered to treat everyone to McDonald's. Little did she know exactly how nice her offer really was going to be.

Granted, it was dinner for six. And even from a grocery store, sixty dollars might not cover any kind of home-cooked meal in Switzerland involving meat. But still. How many Americans have spent sixty dollars at a McDonald's for a few Big Macs, a Happy Meal, and some sodas? Granted the ketchup packets added a dollar or two.

But at these prices, the paper napkins felt a bit silly. For an $11 Big Mac Meal, shouldn't we break out the cloth napkins and wear our Sunday best? I mean come on, McDonalds. Have a little class. A chandelier and some mood lighting might be in order too.

Needless to say, we were celebrated in another way. All the locals really got their fill of the "real" experience that night, surrounded by us loud Americans. And what else could they want (besides real a crystal glass to put their $5 soda in)? They wanted Americana and they got it. At a really nice price too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

God Bless America

I don't know if any of you have had time to watch the interviews with Charles Gibson and Sarah Palin, but I am so, so scared. By the way, the interviews are on YouTube if you haven't seen them. I think these articles in the NYT's best summed up my feelings:

The New York Times Piece: Gov. Palin's Worldview

The New York Times Piece: She's Not Ready

Please help convince other Americans to save us from this stupidity. I fear our complete demise in world respect happening after watching these interviews. "You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska" is no way to give an answer about international policy. "Not blinking at all" when making a decision to invade a foreign country? Are you kidding me? You better blink 1,000,000 times before starting a war. This woman is Bush in another form. I also loved "We need to give women more options" by undoing Roe vs. Wade. How exactly does that give us more options???

Oh yeah, and John McCain, Internet dunce. He "doesn't have a need for the Internet". In the 21st century you want to be a leader and don't care about technology? Sorry. Not to mention, you picked a woman like Palin to be the runner-up to the Presidency? What does this say about your judgement? Who else will you end up appointing when you're in office?

As you know, I usually don't get so involved in politics like this, but I just can't quite believe this. This is the Republican's answer to change? Ha. I want a woman in office as bad as any other woman out there, but to wave this kind of chance so irresponsibly in our faces is just awful. I hate the Republicans even more for playing this card. I hope other Americans see through this too, it seems the rest of the world can. I want to come back to the U.S. sometime soon. But I don't know if I can bring myself back if they are in office.

I'm interested in your reactions as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Ultimate Swiss Souvenir

After being a tourist two times in Switzerland and then living here myself, I've seen my share of souvenir offerings. Swiss army knives. Cow bells. Fondue pots. And hundreds of various forms of chocolate.

I've watched visitors stock up on Heidi and Peter Christmas market ornaments, gingerbreads in the shape of santa and cheese plates in the shape of Switzerland. But the ultimate Swiss souvenir, as was bought a week ago by a recent visitor, has to be the Swiss toilet paper holder.

"I'll never be able to go back to the inferior American design after this," the happy purchaser of a shiny new chrome Swiss toilet paper holder exclaimed.

"And the best part is, you'll be reminded of your travels abroad at least three times a day," chimed in an approving family member.

Clearly, there are great benefits to this product, including the fact that it makes ripping your desired amount of toilet paper easy not to mention prevents the embarassment of unrolling an entire roll of TP without meaning to. And think of the envy that having this amazing souvenir will create.

If Swiss tourism rises in the next few years, I'm sure they'll credit the new marketing campaign. But I, I'll just laugh, and start my own line of TP holders featuring the Swiss cross and sell them directly to the souvenir stores.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When in Switzerland, Skip Lucerne

Don’t get me wrong, Lucerne (or Luzern) is a beautiful Swiss city, but every time I go there, I can’t wait to leave. It’s just so overrun with tourists in the summers that it has lost all its charm. Buses full of Americans, Germans, Japanese and Italians take over the city. And let’s be honest, people walking around holding metal poles topped with colored tassels to herd groups of tourists is just not a Swiss tradition (but you can bet the making money part of it is). One of my visitors asked if this was my favorite Swiss city, but the real truth is, with all the camera-toting, tassel-waving humanity there, it will never make the top ten (except to maybe take a photo of the Gutsch Hotel). No, my list of The Top 10 Swiss Cities No One Visits will come soon in what I’m learning in my travel writing class, is called a Round-Up article.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I am Repair Man. Do what I say!

I am really getting fed up with Serivcetechnikers (repairmen). They barely give us any notice (or maybe our Wincasa apartment managers are to blame—which wouldn’t surprise me) before not asking, but demanding entrance to our apartment to do things like play with our radiators for hours at a time.

Last night our neighbor informed us (they never talk to us directly...) that they would like to work on our apartment on Friday at 10. Well, this wasn’t going to work, as both my husband and I work. (Imagine that, no housefrau at home!)

So I called up, after plotting my conversation ahead of time in German, and politely told them Friday wouldn’t work, and could they come on Monday instead, when I could clear my schedule to be home.

“No,” was the curt German reply, “we have to do it this afternoon or Friday.” Well too bad for you, I thought, maybe next time you should plan ahead.

I told him I worked in Zurich and couldn’t be there this afternoon. And my husband had meetings all day and couldn’t just leave at their demand to open a door. Then he said I had to leave my key with the neighbor so he could have entrance for tomorrow.

The thing is, since we were victims of theft a month ago, we’re a little cautious right now, especially since we found out the police aren’t open when you need them, nor are they at any way helpful in dealing with crime.

The other factor is that house keys are so expensive (imagine that, something expensive in Switzerland) to replace that insurance companies won’t even cover them.

But alas, apparently we have no choice in the matter. The customer (or renter) is never right in Switzerland, so I know there’s no hope in changing things. Which only means, sometimes I really just want to go home. But when you live in an overpriced, terribly managed apartment building, where is that?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surviving the Schwietzerdütsch Meeting

Before he began, the CEO looked at me as if for approval to start speaking to the office in German. And who am I to stop him from speaking his own language? So I nod and say it’s ok. Then he looks at another German employee for approval and says, “Schweizerdütsch?” She too says ok, even though she probably meant, “heaven help me”. Needless to say, with this unfortunate development of not just German, but Swiss German, I understood only about 30% (as opposed to my high German understanding of about 70%). When it comes to trying to learn languages in Switzerland, I've come to one conclusion: you just can't win.

So my version of the meeting was limited to things like, “we’re going to have one main receptionist for both Zurich and Geneva”, “my door is always open”, “this person, this person, this person, and this person all quit this month”, and “we’re getting a new creative director in October. And he’s a German.” Needless to say, I was very proud of this much comprehension, as I thought I’d come away with only a few ands, buts, and bads.

Luckily, here and there, during other times like lunch, random employees fill me in by complaining—“can you believe he wants us to tell him what we did to grow our client’s business every Monday from now on?”

So little by little, I guess I’ll find out what really happened at the meeting and what I’m supposed to be doing through the old-fashioned method of discovering I didn’t do it. But after over two years of these kinds of experiences, while it still doesn’t get any easier to feel like a 2-year-old, at least I have an answer when asked how the meeting was. I smile and break out my very excellent Swiss German with a hearty, “Eschgutzee.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Gandria, a little piece of Italy in Switzerland

Gandria is a fishing village that hangs on a cliff over Lake Lugano an easy 30-minute boat ride away from Lugano. It's winding, narrow streets are charming and the food at Ristorante Antico even more so. A bonus is you can walk from Gandria back to Lugano via an "Olive Path", a beautiful, easy trial that winds along the lake and offers great views and history of olives as you walk.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Swiss Transportation Disaster

Swiss transportation has a reputation for being perfect. And usually it is, or very close to it. But Sunday was a complete disaster. In one way, this was very satisfying, to see the perfect Swiss in such a mess. In another, standing in the rain while Swiss-German speaking people pushed in front of all the polite English and laid back Italian people to get on a single bus was not. We stood in the rain while other train loads of people from trains that arrived after ours cut in front of us as different buses pulled up to take us on the section the train could not, delaying our entire journey a total of two hours.

But let me explain the day. We took the 12.09 train from Lugano to Zurich because it was direct and my husband and I were traveling with (they dubbed it themselves) the "Medicare Mecca". (In other words, four people over the age of 60). These people couldn't walk fast on a regular day, not to mention they had luggage. So we tried the easiest possible route to Baden which would involve one change only in Zurich.

We got all comfortable and then the train stopped in Biasca. We were all told to get off the train to go meet buses because the trains couldn't get through. But they didn't tell us ahead of time, so there was no time to use the bathroom or eat a sandwich in the comfort of the train. Instead, we all stood outside in the cold rain while one bus took the people fast enough to get on it away to the town of Aiorlo (sp?), a half hour ride away.

As we stood, six people, the Medicare Mecca, trying to stay together and drag luggage (not to mention find bathrooms), people pushed and barged in front of us even though their train arrived later as bus after bus pulled up leaving us in the rain for at least 45 minutes. We met a nice Italian girl from Verona, also amazed by the pushy Swiss people and lack of transport. There was no line. There was no organization. It was awful. I thought we'd be standing there all day. I was ready to give out numbers to these people.

I started to shiver because I had worn my train outfit (shorts and t-shirt) since trains have a reputation for being hot. Finally I told my Medicare Mecca that they had to be mean and pushy and charge towards the next bus or we'd be there all day. And they did! I was very proud. They pushed and shoved the Swiss people like they'd been doing it for two years like me. It was very brave of them as this was completely out of character not to mention physical prowess.

So we took the half hour bus to Airolo, tried to figure out which train was going to Zurich (no signs, no conductors helping). We dragged all the luggage onto one train and hoped for the best. It turned out to be right, but we had to change again in Arth Goldau to meet the connecting train.

When we arrived in Arth Goldau, there were hundreds of people already waiting for the train, and we had no choice but to get on in first class, where the train stopped where we were standing. There was no way to get to any part of the train except where we were there were so many people and luggage, so we sat in first class. My husband yelled at a Swiss man who said a seat was reserved even though it clearly wasn't. A Medicare Mecca member clubbed someone with her umbrella who wouldn't move out of the way. It was all in good Swiss fun. Luckily no conductor could make it through to find out us second class citizens were in first class and charge us all 80 francs each. Blah.

In Zurich we changed again to Baden and got home about 5.30. What a day. So we drank champagne and ate Big Macs and finally went to bed happy.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A new global leader needed

I don’t really like to write about politics, but since my in-laws are here and like watching TV, we have had some American TV on through our connection with the Slingbox. They’ve got some of the Republican convention on, mainly stupid discussions about everything except the real issues. The last point that was brought up before we turned it off was about the fact that the Republican VP nominee, Sarah Palin, doesn’t have a passport. (And it was reported that only 27% of Americans have one.) Wow. But still. This may seem like another small picky thing, but to me, after living abroad, I think it’s huge.

This is a global world. You don’t understand your own country or know what it means to be an American until you go elsewhere. You can’t understand how the rest of the world sees Americans or America until you hear it from them personally and read their newspapers. Just today, we heard from a German woman living in Switzerland (who lived in the US for 10 years) about how she couldn’t believe one man (W. Bush) could do so much damage. When asked if she’d ever go back to live in the US, she said, “no, it’s really gone downhill.”

To be fair, Palin’s got five kids not to mention a big job, so maybe she didn’t have time in the last ten years to travel abroad. But if you are training to be a global leader, you should have an interest in the rest of the world.

To me it feels like McCain picked her to get all the people wanting a woman in the White House in order to stick it to the dems. But that makes me not like him all the more. Don’t get me wrong, I want a woman in the White House as much as any other American woman. But it’s got to be the right one for the right reasons. I guess I’m a little tired of a campaign that’s all about if we’re black or white, woman or man. What happened to picking the right person based on their credentials and what they believe?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Next Stop, Bubikon

In my travels in Switzerland, I have found at least three names of Swiss cities that are humorous to Americans (and I am not making them up). Here they are:

1. Bubikon
2. Buttikon
3. Weggis

And there you have it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Reliving Switzerland

So the in-laws and two other family members came to visit on Friday, two of them hadn't ever been to Switzerland before. So it's been fun seeing Switzerland through their eyes. On Saturday we enjoyed Baden--visited the farmer's market, the flea market, the beer garden and then we made fondue. On Sunday we headed to Lucerne, took the boat to Vitznau, the train up to Rigi Klum and then a cable car down to Weggis. It was a great taste of Switzerland for people that have never seen it and I'd recommend the trip for visitors. The picture above is of the cable car ride down to Weggis.


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