Sunday, December 09, 2001

Diary: 12/9/2001

Dear friends and family

Generally, this was a better week than we have seen in a while. Things are not what we would call 100% normal yet, but on the way up.

First, this past Monday shall henceforth be remembered as "Debbie is not crazy day". The owner of the house, plus a representative from the management company, plus about 300 contractors all descended on the house at 8:30am to go over the things we've found to be broken, inadequate, or just plain weird. Many of the things we thought were just quirky Swiss issues, but it turns out that they are more than that. Included in the list of items soon to be fixed are:

  • the range top that takes over an hour to boil a pot of water
  • the dryer that needs to run 2 or 3 times to dry the cloths
  • replacing the (butt-ugly) wallpaper in 3 rooms
  • fixing up a banister wobbly banister

Also on Monday, we "arrived" in the village. In parts of Europe, it is necessary to announce your arrival when you move from place to place. You go to the community center and answer a slew of incredibly personal questions, which are copied down by a vaguely disinterested clerk and then sent to Zurich for storage. At least, that's our perception of the process. Why do they need to know Debbie's Mother's maiden name? Beats the heck out of me, but we won't get proper garbage service until we tell them.

Last year, about 30 people from the Neslte-Switzerland research and development center were transferred to Solon. We can only imagine the confusion they encountered when they dutifully showed up at the community center, telling the receptionist "I'm here! I am a protestant. My father's name was Jean-Claud. " etc.

Some of you have asked how French lessons are coming along. The reality is that we haven't had a chance to start them up again since we've arrived here - just too much stress and work until now. However, we are going to begin lessons after the New Year and we hope our survival skills will improve along with that effort.

In the meanwhile, Leon's co-workers have been teaching him important French phrases. They include:
* Tu est vache avec moi ("you is cow with me", meaning you are giving me a hard time)
* C'est y pas beau ca ("It is not there beautiful that", meaning "way cool")
* @+ (used in email, an abbreviation for "a plus", which is in itself an abbreviation for "a plus tard". Meaning "later" or "see you later")

This being a high-stress work environment, they are teaching Leon other words and phrases as well, but they are not reprintable here.

But the high point of the week had to be Nancy's arrival. The anticipation nearly killed the girls, but somehow they made it to Thursday. She arrived around noon, and her bags (Santa would be proud of the amount she had packed into such a small space) were slightly delayed but made it eventually as well. After locking herself in the guest room to sort through the things she brought far from small prying eyes, she emerged with several valuable items: peanut butter, boxed brownie mix, and marshmallow fluff among them.

On Friday, Debbie and Nancy, along with a few school Mom's went over to the Montreaux Christmass Market, and spent way too much money but had a good time.

Saturday, Leon and Heather went out hunting for ski equipment. Here again they learned important French phrases: "moins chere" (less expensive) and "plus chere" (more expensive). 500 francs later they understood the difference. But Heather is now completely outfitted to be a ski-bunny in training.

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright and... oily. The grease was flying as several batches of latkes were made, and then as a round of french toast was made up for the now starving crowd. After wolfing down a fair share of both, everyone sat around expectantly waiting for the festivities to begin. To make a long story short, Chanukah arrived loudly and with great gusto. when the smoke (and the wrapping paper) cleared, many wishes had been fulfilled. We can't imagine what the rest of the week will hold in store. Probably just socks and pencils.

Speaking of the coming week, there is a variety of things in store for us. We found an American family returning home, so we are going on Monday night to pillage their house for useful stuff (freezer, grill, etc). On Tuesday night the school is putting on their winter program. And so on. But that's the subject of another email...

No comments: