Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Diary: 2/26/2002

Dear friends and family:

We had a small debate this week on whether to save our biggest news for last, or to put it at the beginning of our note so that people who just scan these quickly wouldn't miss it.

In the end, it is more important for you to know than for you to hear things in chronological order.

To make a long story short, we are coming home.

For those who would prefer a little more detail:
No, it wasn't the dryers. Nor was it the car accident, the trips to the hospital, the weirdo workmen, or the 1000 franc electricity bill for our first month here. In the end, our decision to come back home was based on a multitude of elements, many of them positive and some less-so. It will be a hard journey back, but we know it is worth the effort for the entire family.

So what are the travel plans exactly?
On March 16, everyone will fly back to Cleveland. We will all spend 3 weeks settling in - looking for a house, getting a car for Debbie, etc. We'll also have a great time celebrating Passover among family and friends. There have been too many empty holidays for our comfort of late.

Then, on April 6 Leon will return to Switzerland. At this moment, we are not sure of the details of Leon's work. There are several options that Nestle is deciding upon.

However, what we do know is that Debbie and the kids will be back in the US for good, and settling life there while Leon settles the details in Switzerland.

OK. So how was the week?

As we mentioned last week, this was a week off from school for the kids. This is true of many of the schools in France and Switzerland, and many people take this week to go skiing. Of course, the weather didn't oblige very much, as the snow has all melted (even up high) from the unseasonably warm weather we've had.

We decided to stay close to home, and spent the week visiting friends, going bowling, etc. There was something to do nearly every day, but it was low-impact.

On Wednesday Debbie and Karen Ayres attended their second French class, and were promptly dumped. If you think being dumped on a date is bad, it's nothing compared to the rejection you feel when your French teacher, who speaks nearly no English, tells you that it's not you, it's her, but she still wants to be friends.

Actually, like many dating experiences, it was the children that drove them away. After being painstakingly clear that Debbie and Karen could not take a class unless they had childcare arrangements, and after obtaining vehement assurances that this was not a problem, the ladies arrived only to be asked "You still have the children? I thought you were going to do something with them" (what "something" they were supposed to do with the children is still vague, and has sinister undertones). In any case, they were told that they could not return to class until they had made alternate arrangements for the kids.

Which, given the fact that there are only 20 days until our return, means that Debbie at least will not be returning to class.

On Friday Debbie met up with the Knox's for the afternoon, and then Leon and Pete joined them at their house after work. A lovely fondue dinner followed, and we left far too late in the evening.

We then woke up early on Saturday and met up with our Paul and Rory, and took a road trip up to Fribourg. Fribourg is a larger city, but is distinct for a few reasons. First, the river running through it marks the separation between French-speakign and German-speaking Switzerland. It also is home to the Gutenberg museum.

It must be noted that, on the doors to this building, the words "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" are engraved. We never would have imagined it.

After the late night Friday and the long day Saturday, we were ready for a quiet time on Sunday. Just some laundry, homework, cleaning, and writing this note.

Everyone is in good health and spirits. Well, except perhaps Joram who is cutting 3 teeth at the same time.

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Diary: 2/17/2002

Dear Friends and Family:

Believe it or not, this was an extremely quiet week.

Debbie was still recovering from her illness, but managed to make it through the week without too much strife. By Friday, she was tired, but definitely better than a couple of weeks ago. Let it be said, however, that a 1 1/2 year old is not the best companion while recovering, as they are unimpressed with excuses like "Mommy has to go throw up now". We are working on Joram's compassion and bedside manner, but right now med school is not looking like a good choice.

Wendesday marked the beginning (finally!) of Debbie's French classes. While exciting, it was also a little bit hard to get into the swing of things. There are only so many times a grown person can recite the A-B-C's before becoming embarassed, frustrated, or both. We are hoping for a better (ie: more intellectually stimulating) class this coming week.

On Saturday night we were invited over the neighbors house for dinner. They have children roughly the same ages as ours, so a good time was had by all. Of course, the neighbors do not speak a word of English, so it was a little awkward at times. Until their oldest boy decided to liven things up by putting his hand in his armpit and making farting noises. There are some things that are simply transcend language.

Having made an impression (positive for the kids), the girls invited the neighbors over to play on Sunday too. Happily, it was a fart-free affair.

Friday was the start of a week of vacation for the girls, and there is a full schedule of play dates set up for this coming week. Hopefully that will generate more interesting news than this week.

Talk to you all soon.
Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, February 10, 2002

Diary: 2/10/2002

Dear friends and family

On the one hand, a quiet week. On the other, it was another one of those "We don't want a week like this again" weeks.

Debbie and Joram spend all weekend, and most of the week, getting over their cold/flu/creeping crud/whatever it is. For Debbie it manifested as extreme exhaustion, coughing fits, and headaches. For Joram it was stellar fevers, runny noses, and a light cough.

So it seems that the week Debbie was in the US was a "dress rehearsal" for this week. Through sheerest luck, Leon was able to manage everything in the house and give Debbie the breathing room (no pun intended) she needed to recover. But that was only because Debbie had done such a good job of preparing him from before the US trip.

It was also a good thing that our SKY satelite box (british TV) was installed. That way Debbie had something to watch that didn't require non-stop interpreting. This allowed her to discover "Ready, Steady, Cook" (http://www.qwertyuiop.co.uk/gs/atoz/programmes/r/ready_steady_cook/). "Emeril Live", this ain't. To give a brief overview of the show, you:

Take two normal people from the studio audience, who are asked to purchase 5 British pounds (approximately $7.00) worth of food. It can be anything. One guy bought nothing but a big bar of chocolate. Most people opt for a potatoe or two, some type of vegitative matter, and perhaps meat or something in a can. Then two "celebrity chefs" are invited on and given 20 minutes to come up with something to cook from whatever was brought. The audience member is supposed to help, which is why most chef's require lots of boiled water. The audience member usually gets in the way even doing that. The chef who comes up with the most original and best-presented idea wins. Wins what? It's not terribly clear. Nor does anyone appear to care much. The point of the show seems to be "See, with just 20 minutes and some basic items, you can make this lovely meal". They always forget to mention that you might also need a chef with years of experience. Where can you get one of those for less than 5

Did you know that 104 degrees farenheit is the same as 40 degrees celcius? Why do we mention it? Because that is the temperature at which you should bring your child to a hospital for medical attention. Yes, on Wednesday afternoon Joram decided things were too quiet, and gave us a scare by spiking his fever so high we thought his brain would boil. So Leon rushed him down to the hospital (at least we know where it is now!) to see what to do.

We would like to state, here and now, that the Swiss fascination with sticking things up their rear end is nothing short of a sick twisted compulsion for which the entire medical community ought to be locked up. 3 rectal temperatures and 2 medicinal suppositories later, Joram's temp was certainly down. Personally we think it was because he realized they were going to continue to stick things up there until he got healthy. No wonder nobody in this country get sick! Who would want to go for treatment? Definitely the Marquis de Sade school of medicine. Oh sure, they say that the temperature readings are more accurate and the medicine works faster that way, but a whole world full of people popping pills stands in silent testimony to the contrary. If medicine really worked faster that way, you would be able to identify junkies by their permanently bow-legged walk.

On Saturday, we spent most of our time watching the Olympic opening ceremonies on TV. That same day Leon started coming down with his own version of the creeping crude, so this coming week should be another fun time.

Finally, on Sunday we went over Paul and Rorie's for pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, and an afternoon of good company and conversation. It was a chance to finally get out of the house but not risk pneumonia at the same time.

For those looking for a little dose of Swiss-American humor, here is a list going around the Nestle teams lately. It mentions some fairly standard Swiss practices. We are happy to explain any that don't make sense. OK. So all of them may not make sense, but we're still happy to explain what some of them mean.

You know you've been in Switzerland too long if:
you think getting up early is good.
you throw a party and expect everyone to leave by 11:30 pm.
you clean up during parties.
you expect dinner guests to help with the washing up.
you actually get interested in the local elections.
you become concerned about the colour of your neighbour's curtains.
you expect the shop clerk to say goodbye after you purchase something.
you try to defend cartel based economics to a visitor.
you think that plaid jackets with flowery ties don't look that bad.
you think it's fair that you can only wash clothes once a month.
you wonder why anyone would want to shop outside of working hours.
you think it's OK to drive slow on Sundays.
you feel like you're broke if you have less that SFr. 300 ($184.00) in your pocket.
you dress up to go grocery shopping.
you understand why Chinese food should cost more than normal food.
you prefer Swiss wine.
you wish that your hometown had expensive garbage bags too.
you think it's OK for a Chinese restaurant to be run by a Swiss and staffed by Spaniards and Portugese.
you start thinking, 'Why can't they just speak Schwizerduetsch?'
your German is better than the waiter's.
you think Thursday night shopping is really convenient.
you think that large American cars are 'cool'.
you think it's cool to drink expensive imported American beers.
you prefer fizzy mineral water to tap water.
you begin to understand the subtlety of the Swiss cuisine.
you appreciate the differences between the cantons.
you feel really hungry if you don't start eating lunch by 12:00.
you have breakfast cereal for dinner.
you say Gruezi to everyone, and consider it impolite when they don't say it back.
you don't mind paying SFr.16 ($9.80) for a paperback book.
you think that Swisscom approved telephones are better.
you buy a new one instead of getting it repaired.
you think that 3% unemployment is high.
you believe it was through its own efforts that Switzerland stayed out of World War II.
you consider getting goats and sheep to graze in your backyard.
you only eat fondue in winter.
you complain to your neighbour about the noise when he flushes his toilet after 10 pm.
you become interested in the myriad of insurance offerings.
you volunteer to help organise the village festival.
you expect to be delayed by road works every summer.
you put Aromat on all your food.

Debbie, Leon , Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Diary: 2/3/2002

Dear friends and family

A comparatively quiet week this week.

First, to answer the question upper-most in your minds, the dryer is doing fine.

Monday-Wednesday were fairly uneventful. Work, school, dinner, bed. A pretty straight routine.

Debbie arrived Thursday morning. The flights had been long but without problems. Debbie was just happy to be home. She also wasn't feeling 100%, but it was nothing to worry about.

After getting settled in, and distributing the 1 million things she had bought in the US, we called it a night. But by friday morning, she wasn't feeling too good, nor was Joram. The cold that has been going around (both in the US and Switzerland) seemed to have caught up with her. So she spent the day trying to take it easy. Right.

Around 10:00am, the electricity completely went out. "Not again" we thought. Going next door, we were (slightly) encouraged when we discovered their power was out, too. "Oh yeah," they told us "this happens once or twice a month. It should come back in about an hour." Lovely.

The plumber showed up, which was a complete surprise. During the owner's visit 2 weeks ago, Leon had mentioned that the toilet seat needed to be replaced but he would take care of it. Apparently the owner wanted to seem efficient, so the plumber was sent. He took the seat with him and prepared to leave.

Debbie stopped him at the door - "When are you coming back?" she asked.
"Oh, not today. This is a special order part." (which meant we wouldn't have the seat all weekend, at the least).
"But I need the seat if I want to use the toilet"
"Oh no, it will work fine without this."

At this point, Debbie maintained a vice-like grip on the man's overalls, while dialing the phone with her other hand. After a brief but emphatic conversation in Fren-glish, Leon managed to convince the man that, indeed, his wife and 2 daughters *did* need the seat in order for the toilette to work correctly. True to his word, the plumber returned at 2:00 and said that he'd come back again when the replacement was in stock.

Where do we find these people?!?

The weekend was quiet. The girls spent most of their time finishing homework, rollerblading around outside (it's in the 50's here), and helping around the house. Joram went from high to low and back again as the adults kept him on an Advil/Tylenol yo-yo regimen. Debbie did her best to participate, despite the fact that the people who got trampled during the running of the bulls still felt better than she did.

For his part, Leon tried to keep the house moving and everyone as medicated as they needed to be. When naps co-incided, he managed to sneak up to the PC and get the family web site updated. Check out http://www.angelfire.com/home/adato for new pictures, archived copies of the Adato Diary, and more.

And now, it is time for another installment of the Adato FAQ (frequently asked questions). These are based on your emails to us!

Adato FAQ #2
Question: Can you get Swiss Euros for me? Can you get the starter packs?
Answer: As many of you are aware, beginning January 1 several nations stopped using their national currency in favor of the "Euro" (do NOT call it a "Euro-dollar" if you want to live very long here! People are very sensitive about that). The paper is the same from country to country, but the coins are different on the back - they bear the original coin face of the country where they were minted. So it is possible to get a "French" euro that is different than an Italian one. For more information, you can check out http://europa.eu.int/euro/html/home5.html?lang=5 .

Switzerland, ever the snobbish exclusionists that they are, have not joined the United Nations or the European Union. This means that they will not use the Euro as their currency. So there are no "Swiss" Euros.

The starter packs were sold the week before January 1. They were bundles of bills and coins that sold out within 2 days. No other starter packs will be produced. Basically, you have to shell out the money for one of each kind of bill and coin (for a full set, that would cost 888.88 euros, or $765.41 at today's exchange rate). If you left out the 500, 200, 100, and 50 euro bills, you would spend only 38.88 euros, or $33.48.

Question: Is the snow too much for you? How are you coping with the weather?
Answer: While half of one season doesn't allow for an expert opinion, this season has been very similar to Cleveland's. We had 3 real snowfalls, some sub-zero (celsius) weather, which is in the 20's and 30's farenheit, and rain. And fog. The fog here is much more frequent and thicker than in Cleveland. Otherwise, it's about the same.

The key difference is the hills and the streets. There are a LOT of steep hills everywhere, and the streets are fairly narrow. So even a little snow or ice can mean a problem if you aren't careful. The city services (snowplow and salt) are good, but because it's hard to get around the existing traffic, it can take a little longer to clear the streets.

The other key difference is the tires. No all-weather treads here. You either have summer tires or winter tires. And even for a Clevelander who is used to hard winter driving, trying to get around on summer tires can be harrowing at best, life-threatening at worst.

Question: How far do you have to go to see the mountains?
Answer: Out of bed. Or, as one of our friends answered the comment "just look at the view" - "What do you mean look at it? You can't get away from it around here!". The mountains dominate every look out of every window. Houses are bought and sold based on their view of the lake, the mountains, etc. The landscape is an ever-present part of the mentality and the ongoing conversation here. How low down the mountain did it snow last night? What are the conditions for skiiing and at what altitude? When do the cows go up to the high pastures? When do they come back down? Which train goes up which mountain to view the surrounding countryside at which angle? Etc.

That's about it for now. Hopefully there will be more funs stuff and less weirdness to write about next week. Take care, and please keep your emails, cards, and letters coming.

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram