Dear friends and family
Before we return to your regularly scheduled diary entry, we wanted you to know that Debbie and Joram are coming to Cleveland from January 23 through January 30 (yes, that's 2002). There is an ophthalmic seminar being given, and Debbie decided it was a good opportunity to combine continuing education with pleasure. The seminar is on Sunday, January 27. All other days are open. Please mark your calendars now and start making plans. As always, email should be sent to Leon (firstname.lastname@example.org) for prompt service.
OK. Back to real life....
Appologies are due as I cut short my description of last week, leaving out some of Sunday's events. That was a grave error, as I missed some excellent moments.
In the late afternoon, we traveled to the house of some friends, about half an hour away. They are from Solon, too, and with their greater experience, they have been helping us out with our adjustments to Swiss life. There we were treated to two very Swiss dishes - fondue and "raclette". Fondue should be familiar to everyone, except that there are special mixes here that are used, and the taste is very different from the "beer and cheddar" that we are used to having in the US.
Raclette is hard to describe. It is made on a small grill, where you melt squares of cheese and then pour it over small boiled potatoes. You also grill different meats (sausage, chicken, etc) and vegetables to eat along with cheese-potatoe mix.
In all, it was a very filling evening, and between the food, the wine, and the company we had a hard time forcing ourselves to leave.
On Monday we made another round of acquisitions, courtesy of an expat family leaving for the US. Beneffiting from their departure, we picked up a freezer, raclette grill (yes, we are hooked), gas grill (for when warmer weather returns), and a few swiss-to-us power converters.
On Tuesday night Heather and Isabelle had their winter program at school. The performance was wonderful, and you could tell all the kids had worked extremely hard to put the show together. Of course, none of the teachers or parents did anything at all. (grin). But evening was a lot of fun, both for the folks on stage and the family in the audience.
Thursday came and Debbie and Nancy made a foray into the wilds of France again. There are limits on the amount of stuff you can bring back across the border (1 lb of fresh meat per person, 2 bottles of wine per adult, 2 liters of milk per person, etc) so it was important to use Nancy to our full advantage while she was here! This also gave us the chance to bring back stuff to fill up that new freezer!
We had our first snow on Thursday night - driving was an interesting adventure. It wasn't enough to make a Clevelander worry, but we didn't know how the city services would hold up. It turns out that there was a small delay in the salt trucks, but by morning everything was clear. It's just bitter cold right now (-13 celsius, or +9 farenheit).
Saturday we met up with some friends and went up a funicular - a kind of train that can handle 45+ degree angles. It was a foggy day, so the view was less than spectacular, but the company was great and the kids had an exciting time.
On Sunday evening we went down to the synagogue in Lausanne. Leon had met up with another gentleman at Nestle, and there is apparently a deep and thriving Jewish community in Lausanne that we weren't able to find up until now. We were introduced to families that more closely match our level of observance, and we also found out about programs like after-school Hebrew lessons, weekend programs, etc.
This week we also discovered another quaint little Swiss custom - speeding tickets by mail. Remember, the key here is efficiency. It is inefficient to have police tied up watching cars all day. Much better to have cameras placed everywhere - at each stoplight, on highway lamp posts, etc. All set with motion detection equipment and other technical paraphenalia. When you are going too fast, or moving through a red light - click! We received a ticket for 40 swiss francs (roughly $25.00). Our crime? Going 57 kilometers in a 50km zone. That's about 4 miles per hour over the limit. Needless to say, we are watching our speed VERY closely now.
We wanted to let everyone know that Debbie hasn't had a chance to check her personal email since we moved into the house - we are getting to bed around 11:00pm and getting up at 5:45am, with lots to do in-between. We are still waiting for the full internet connection, and then she will be able to fill her quieter moments checking stuff out online. For the moment, Leon is printing out emails and she is avidly reading them, she's just not finding a chance to reply like she had a month ago. Be patient and things will calm down, we are sure.
Some people have asked for more details on how the kids are doing, so here goes:
Heather has been improving her math skills by leaps and bounds. We have to work very hard on our math facts to keep those skills sharp. But when she is able to focus and think clearly, the new skills like division, fractions, and decimal math are all coming quickly. It's those moments when she can't focus or doesn't take the time to think clearly that still trip her up. With so much to do, Heather's French is coming slowly. There is also the fact that, in her grade, French class is divided between "beginners" (kids like Heather who have just arrived) and "advanced" (kids with one French-speaking parent, or those who have been here a while). So she is less exposed to her peers speaking French than we had hoped. Socially, Heather is in the thick of things as she always has been. Her circle of friends is as big as her class, and she runs out of days in the week before she runs out of people who want to come over or have her over their house.
Isabelle is has hit a growth spurt, and is now suffering a bit from the fact that you can't find "Winnie the Pooh" cloths in her size. Her solution is to keep wearing the old stuff, even if there are holes in the elbows and knees and seat and the legs stop 3 inches above her ankle. Debbie's solution was to buy some fabric and sew Pooh onto some new pants, which were presented to her this week for Chanukah. School for her has been a constant adventure. She is reading with a vigor that only comes from watching her big sister and wanting to be just like her. No concept seems to baffle her for very long. Being younger, French is coming easily and she is acquiring a nice accent as well as the words. Her grade is also taught together, regardless of level, so she has more role models to work from. Like Heather, she is also having a great time socially. There are birthday parties almost every week, and the tendency is for all the kids from the class to be invited. So she has a very
active social calendar.
Joram is no longer a baby, and is every inch a toddler on the move. Being in Switzerland, he understands that mountainclimbing is a way of life and so he attempts to scale any handy obstacle - the steps to the basement, the kitchen table, the highchair, the bookshelves, etc. He is a very animated speaker, using his hands and gesturing wildly. It's a pity nobody has a clue what he is saying. He is using sign language consistantly for the important things - more, finish, drink - but everything else is a guessing game. He has a great time shaking his head "no" when we guess wrong, and nodding vigorously when we finally figure out what it is he's trying to ask for. Knowing what happens when children begin to talk, we are happy to keep him doing his Harpo act for a little longer.
For the coming week, we will have some tear-filled farewells on Monday when Nancy returns to the US (she probably needs a vacation from this vacation after all the running around we did!). Then we have to clean up the house and get ready for our friends Alison and Michael, who arrive on Wednesday. The girls have only half a day of school that day also, so the rest of the week is going to be filled with sights, activities, and everything we can do to avoid the work in the house.
Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram