Sunday, November 25, 2001

Diary: 11/25/2001

We realize that some of you are living in Switzerland vicariously through these emails. In the spirit of sharing more of that experience, I would welcome you to reproduce the move-in process we've been going through. It is extremely educational and even amusing (for those watching). Follow these easy steps:

First, obtain one live cranky gorilla.

Now put the gorilla in your house along with several hundred boxes and ask the gorilla to pack all your stuff into the boxes. You might have to entice the gorilla with food, alcohol, etc. (Do not be fooled into thinking that regular moving companies do not work the same way!).

After 2 days, take all the boxes out of your house. Take all the stuff the gorilla forgot to pack and throw it away.

Close off enough rooms in your house so that you now have half the space you did before.

Remove all closets in the remaining rooms.

Remove all cupboards except those in the kitchen.

In the kitchen, remove 1/3 of the cubpboards, block off half your oven, and only use the top 3 shelves in your refrigerator.

Play "slappy face" with the gorilla for 3 minutes. This will simulate the process of forgetting what stuff you packed and what stuff you left in storage.

Send the gorilla back to wherever you found it.

Bring all the boxes back into your "new" house and unpack them.

All joking aside, this was one of the hardest weeks yet for us. Unpacking often meant reminiscing as well, and it was hard not to feel regret for the things we had given up to be here. On top of that was the logistical issue of where to squeeze everything. Things that could not be placed had to be repacked and stored away, which was also a difficult process. And then there was the problem of the items that either came unwanted, did not come, or some parts came and others did not.

On top of that, the dryer is still not working reliably (although repaires are being made and we hope to have it back in order by Tuesday).

And finally we were working as we always do to make a "normal", consistant, stable environment for the kids. This takes time as much as any other task, and that meant time lost from the necessary process of settling the house.

Through it all, the people here - Leon's coworkers and the familes we met at school - have been overwhelmingly supportive. Coming to help move the larger items, helping to set up equipment, and picking up the girls so they had some play time in the midst of all this chaos.

We also spent a lot of time this week cooking - there were thanksgiving celebrations on both Thursday and Saturday, and dishes had to be prepared for each. It took time away from unpacking, but it was also nice to spend that time with other expats and talk, relax, etc.

On Saturday, Leon went out and purchased a satelite TV system. It seems that this is going to be the only way for us to receive English-language TV. Cable is in the area, but it hasn't been run to our house and would cost over 3,000 francs to get it there. It is actually easier and simpler to use a satelite. Go figure.

By the end of the week, we had almost everything out of boxes (and some things back into boxes!), and several rooms were pretty much finished. This week we will spend time getting the last items in place, and hopefully even doing the "little" things like hanging pictures. It's taken a lot of work, but we're getting there!

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Diary: 11/18/2001

Dear friends and family:

Although exhaustion competes with my natural desire to keep talking, Debbie has asked that I try to make the extra effort and get this email out, as we haven't had a chance to communicate with anyone for a few days. So here is the whole sordid affair, starting on Sunday night as we packed for the move:

From the "honey, where'd I put my brain" files: While we moved in on Nov 12, we didn't officially take ownership until Dec 1. This meant that we had to pay the previuos tenents for the balance of November - a sum of about 1800 swiss francs. Added to that was the cost of some of the things we bought from the owners, like the lawnmower, swingset, etc. All together, it came to 2390 swiss francs, or $1466. We had the money ready to go, in an envelope marked with the family's name. We had to give cash because checks are virtually unheard of here.

Debbie gave the envelope to Leon for safekeeping. This, of course, was a mistake.

Picture the scene at 9:30pm Sunday night, Leon and Debbie frantically searching through every concievable location for this envelope full of cash. We unpacked nearly every box Leon had so neatly packed over the last 2 days. We went through the garbage (did we mention there are no dispose-alls here?), we looked under beds and inside drawers.

Sparing you the ugly details, it turns out that the envelope was in the box packed specifically with the things we would need the instant we walked into the house: towels, food for Joram, cleaning supplies, a wad of cash, etc. Right where Leon knew we'd need it. And had no recollection of ever putting it there. It just goes to show you that if Leon says "I am going to put this someplace clever" you should be very very very very worried.

On Monday, we arrived for the "etat de lieu". This is basically the Spanish Inquisition with a white glove test thrown in for spice. And it's less fun for everyone, including the Inquisitor, who probably isn't paid nearly enough to check under someone else's toilet to make sure it has been cleaned to the "Swiss Standard". Every doorknob, every faucet, every switch and plug and receptacle is tested, checked for cleanliness, and any problems, real or imagined, are charged back to the owner (or previous tenant). It is a 2 hour recrimination of everything you have ever done, eaten, or said in the house since the day you moved in. As you might imagine, the Swiss love this sort of thing.

Having survived that, we began to move in and find all the things that the Inquisition missed. Like the washing machine that didn't work (they never actually ran a load, just made sure it was present. They also didn't do a carbon argon date test, because the machine was built somewhere around the pliestoscene era.). In any case, our stuff from the temporary apartment was brought up on Monday, and we had it basically arranged by that night.

Tuesday morning, the truck arrived with our things from the US. The blessed "boat shipment", the boxes we had all been waiting for. We unloaded it and began to organize. Only to have another, bigger truck come. We had lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots and lots of stuff. We began to worry whether the house foundation would hold up.

The deluge ended around 2:00, and we started the first feable attempts at organizing. That's when we realized that the packing company from the U.S. had not done the stellar job we were hoping for. Not much was broken, but we have several items that we really never intended to bring. Like our good glass dinnerware (service for 24), lazy-boy reclining chair, toaster oven, electric grill, and the 3/4 empty jar of peanut butter.

However, we were finally able to sleep the night in our beds, something we hadn't done in over 4 months.

Of course, "sleep" was a euphamism for "lay in our bed listening to the new house sounds, jumping at everything". And there was lots to jump at. A strong windstorm had arrived to welcome us into the house, and we discovered every loose shutter, every drafty window, etc as the winds whipped around us and moved everything that wasn't tied down.

On Wednesday, we spent most of the time just shoving boxes around into the right place to start unpacking. Leon made a run to the hardware store to pick up several items that we either forgot or which didn't make it (it's probably in long-term storage instead of that peanut butter jar. It all works out in the cosmic balance). A friend of ours came over and she and Debbie made a very productive start of organizing the food we had shipped over. Yes food. We were aware that Switzerland had grocery stores (at least one or two), but we also knew there were things we wanted. And finally, what else were we going to do with all the stuff from the old house, put it in storage? Remember, we packed the house in just one week, so there wasn't time to have the Last Big Pot Luck Supper and please-take-our-stuff Raffle we had hoped for.

Thursday morning we really had no time to think about the house. After dropping the girls at school, we had to lock up, clean up, and pack up for our trip to London! We picked up the girls around noon and headed out for the airport. The flight was basically uneventful (although you should never fly an airline named "easyjet" if you are looking for luxury travel!)

Even with an hour difference, we still arrived relatively late in the day. We made it from the airport to the train station near where we were staying, and then the short walk to the actual bed and breakfast. This was a shabby, but servicable place that had a room big enough for all of us to fit comfortably as long as everybody didn't try to walk around at the same time.

There are a couple of things that must be stated about London, which made this trip worthwhile regardless of anything else we experienced: Starbuck's cafe mocha. Bangers and mash. Spotted dick. Fried eggs. Starbuck's cafe mocha. Everyone speaking English. A proper, well-organized subway system. Starbuck's cafe mocha.

The "everyone speaking English" cannot be over-emphasized. Leon was walking down the street asking questions of strangers just because he could (not as bad as "do you have prince albert in a can", but along the lines of "that street over there, is that St. George's Drive?", "how far to Big Ben", etc).

On Friday morning, we set out for Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. The crowds were amazing (in some cases more amazing to watch than the actual guard). Then there was the part where the Royal Band started playing a medley of show tunes (I've got rhythm, someone to watch over me, etc). Not what we had imagined, but fun none the less.

As impressive as it all was, the kids (and some of the adults) were more impressed seeing the Harry Potter advertisement on the entire side of a double-decker bus. It sort of put our reason for being there into perspective.

Speaking of the Harry Potter movie, it was a great experience. In the end, it wasn't so different from the experience everyone had in the U.S. - we went to a cineplex in a mall and watched it with a million screaming schoolkids around us. There were a few minor differences, perhaps. Whenever Snape came on screen, all the kids hissed at him. And there were comments of "I'm going to try that tomorrow" when Harry walked through the wall at King's Cross Station. But otherwise, the movie ran the same everywhere.

As to our opinions of the movie, they are all relatively positive. Leon thought it was a good solid attempt to bring a book to life. Heather and Isabelle thought it was the best movie ever. Joram thought that standing on a squishy chair, being hand-fed popcorn by Mommy, and running up and down a long ramp for 2 hours straight while watching big pictures is a great idea and he's willing to try it again any time. Debbie is just waiting for the movie to come to video so she can actually watch it.

We woke up the next day and went to the Portobello Market, which is a weekly antique fair on (you guessed it) Portobello street, and then took a quick run to Picadilly Circus just to say we were there. Then it was time to get back to the airport.

The home trip was fine, and we were back in our own beds again!

Sunday was very hard for us all. Heather had to wade through a pile of homework, which was never fun. Isabelle had to deal with having nobody really to play with. And Leon and Debbie were coping both with the reality of unpacking a house (again), trying to make a home, and another wave of culture shock. We also discovered that the cloths dryer didn't work (we had replaced the washing machine but we still couldn't get our laundry done - very frustrating!) and we have much much more to deal with this coming week, we are sure. By the end of the day, we had unpacked many boxes, arranged the family room area, and started to get a grip on the items we still need (cabinets for the bathrooms, more light bulbs, etc).

This week we expect to be equally busy, as we are going to be continuing to unpack, build furniture, arranged, unbox, rebox, move, and settle. Oh, and then there is Thanksgiving!

Actually, turkey-day will be a welcome break. Another American family is having us over on Thursday, and then all of the expatriates are invited to a Nestle-organized event on Saturday.

But that's a story for the next letter.

Please take care of yourselves, and have a happy and healthy week.

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Diary: 11/11/2001

Dear friends and family:

While it was a relatively slow week, we cannot express the excitement that we are feeling at this moment. The cars have been packed for a day and a half now, most of our cloths are in suitcases, and we are literally counting down the hours until the movers arrive. Tomorrow we start moving into the new house!

While we won't be able to sleep there Monday night (the boat shipment with all our furniture arrives Tuesday) we will still be in process, and that is much better than just marking time like we have been for 2 months. Wish us luck.

It also means that we might not be as responsive via email as we are normally. Leon is taking the entire week off, so instant email replies will not be happening.

Of course, we've pre-ordered the cablemodem connection, so once everything is in place we will have MORE connectivity and Leon can start updating the web site with pictures, stories, and maybe even some movie clips.

On top of all that excitement, next Friday marks the official opening of the Harry Potter movie. We will be flying to London on Thursday afternoon, we'll catch the changing of the guard (one of Debbie's lifelong dreams to see), and then watch the movie. Saturday we'll find something to do (grin) and fly home in the evening and.... unpack some more, we're sure.

Either it will be a welcome break in the unpacking process and we will return refreshed and invigorated, or else it will send us over the edge and we'll be formally institutionalized by Monday the week after. We'll let you know either way.

For those who missed it, here is our new contact information:

Adato Family
Chemin de l'Orme 14
1054 Morrens

Our new home phone number is 41-21-731-2328

For those who are interested, "Morrens" is pronounced "Mo-ron". Yes, we live in the village of Morons. Somehow it seems all too appropriate to be funny.

The weather here has turned colder, hovering around the freezing point. We had a quick snowfall on Friday, but it passed just as quickly and there is really nothing left to show for it.

The kids are being their usual wonderful selves. They are also very excited to be in a place that has room to play, run around, and get away from Mom and Dad!

Joram has started a growth and development spurt. He is walking much more, much further, and with greater stability than even last week. His babbling has increased, and he shows a lot more signs of understanding what is said to him. Please note that "understanding" and "obeying" are two entirely different words and should not be mixed. Just because Joram understands "come over here" does not stop him from giggling and running away. (ok, perhaps that's an overly athletic description. "dodders and careens from wall to wall" is more accurate). Debbie feels that this is a direct indication of Leon's DNA and bears no resemblance to her genome.

In any case, things are just moving along. Expect a long letter next week as Leon gives a frame-by-frame recount of the HP movie, plus the move highlights, plus whatever other insanity happens to catch us along the way.

As always, we hope this letter finds everyone in good health and spirits.
Take care.
Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Diary: 11/4/2001

Dear friends and family:

We knew that this week would not have a lot of major news in it, so we've taken a moment to being the official "Adato FAQ". "FAQ" stands for "Frequently Asked Questions". Here goes:

Q) Why can't you send or post some pictures?
A) Because we are living in a temporary apartment and the only link we have to the world is one measly laptop. We had figured on being into our permanent place (with all Leon's equipment) much sooner than this. The scanner, digital camera reader, and other technical froo-froo is all locked up in the boat shipment. Nobody is more sorry than we are. But rest assured that, as soon as we are in the house and unpacked, the pictures will start flowing!

Q) When can we email the kids
A) Once we are in the house and the network is set up, the girls will have a computer of their own to work with. At that point we'll set up some easy email access and we'll let everyone know the addresses.

Q) We want to hear from Debbie
A) you do she is right next to leon as we write every note but leon preferrs to do the writing because if he didnt then everything would look like this because debbie doesnt like to be bothered with silly things like punctuation or captial letters or stuff like that so when you get a letter from her it will always be one long sentence so to save everyone a little bit of eyesight leon edits everything and adds the boring stuff also that means that when you read the letter you dont have the urge to yell BREATH at the computer

Q) Swiss jokes
A) Yes, we have a Swiss Army Knife. And we eat Swiss cheese. We would drink Swissmiss cocoa for a joke, but honestly Debbie's doctored-up Nestle cocoa is much better. We have been given or at least considered all those things with "Swiss" in the name. Our deepst thanks to the Rob and family for outfitting us with most of that stuff (and a few things we never thought of, like Little Debbie Swiss Rolls) before we left. The one exception would be liederhosen. At no time will you see the male members of the Adato Tribe dressed up like Peter Pan after his tights were shrunk in the wash. It's just not happening.

Q) Do you get American TV shows
A) yes and no. We get lots of news - mostly CNN and MSNBC. Once we are in the house we could get a satelite dish and pick up regular US programming like ER and that new Star Trek show. But on regular cable, it's not going to happen. As for sports, we never watched much of it to begin with. I know that is blasphemy to the ears of some of you. Please try to find it in your heart to forgive. Aside from that, there are reruns of US shows, dubbed over in French or German. All in all this is not satisfying entertainment fare.

Q) Ok, so what's the big deal with Baking Soda
A) In Leon's very limited understanding, most of the baking Debbie creates (tollhouse cookies, etc) requires it as a key ingredient. Here, people don't use it as much because cakes and pastry is not a big deal. Things tend to be more flat (crepes, pies, etc). So you can only get baking soda (bicarbonate de soda, in French) in small packets that are meant for people with upset tummies, not perfectly good tummies they want to upset by eating the equivalent of an entire Sarah Lee pound cake.

Q) What do you miss most
A) Everything. Especially you. Please ease our emotional pain by coming to visit. Soon.
There you have it, the very first installment of the "Adato FAQ".

In other news, Halloween was a great success. We can't say that we visited a ton of houses, but Isabelle had a birthday party which was extremely festive, and then the girls and several friends went to an apartment block and went door to door for about an hour. Between that and last Sunday's party, we were pretty satisfied with the holiday. The only real shortcoming was the total lack of pumpkins. Normally Leon buys 5 or 6 (or 10) of them and has a fun old time baking the seeds. This year we are seedless. Next year, however, is a chance to make up for lost time.

Aside from that, Thursday and Friday were exciting because Leon had the day off, but the girls were in school. This meant the time could be spent shopping for all those things we needed for the new house but didn't have. Like 7 wardrobes, a microwave, a vacuum cleaner, a toaster oven, and a television. While we were at it, we picked up a new hair dryer, a cordless phone, and an answering machine. Yes, we said 7 (s-e-v-e-n, appears between 6 and 8) wardrobes. It seems that in this country, houses don't come with closets, you have to bring your own.

We spent Saturday cleaning house (for the last time here!!!), and doing some shopping. In the process, we discovered another "quaint quirk" about living in Switzerland. Bank cards are used like debit cards here, with the money directly withdrawn from your account. This is a major means of payment around here, and you can use them to pay for parking, groceries, bus fare, and even use them in some pop machines. This week we discovered that there is a limit - 2,000 per month. Period. When you hit the limit, you are out of luck. You can't even use the card to withdraw money from the bank machine. Leon was out of luck at the grocery store. Of course, at the time we didn't know it, so it just seemed like we were out of money. Talk about panic! It's still not fun, since we have to carry around a boatload of cash for the rest of the month, but at last we aren't out of money.

Today we spent time with some friends, eating pancakes and watching the kids run around.

This coming week, Leon is in a training class during work, and Debbie has about 900 meetings to go to (PTA, Year 2 Moms, American Women's Club, etc). On top of that we are spending a lot of time just getting ready for the move next week.