Sunday, April 29, 2007

Election weekend

It's election time again in Switzerland... it's the third time they've held elections in the six months that I've been here. I'm not really sure who's running for what--nobody has been able to explain it to me yet. But then, I don't have very many Swiss classmates. All I know is that a certain candidate with a French first name and a German last name needs somebody to help her with her makeup.

The election people have overtaken our school once again. Here's a picture:

No library, computer room, etc. from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon. At least I was forewarned this time.

Yesterday there were a lot of musical groups out and about. This group was playing downtown:

It was a little bit odd to see them winding their way through the Saturday market, playing songs that I would expect to hear out of the British army during the American Revolution! They were very good, though.

I've been good... yesterday I bought bananas, carrots and cherry tomatoes to snack on, and today I'm going on my fourth walk/run of the week. Go me!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I did it!

I've been saying for quite a while now that I want to start running. It's just that every time I've said I would start, something has come up to keep me from doing it.

Not today. I went out in the rain, trusty little map in hand, and went out for a 45-minute-long walk/run. Not even the blister on the bottom of my foot could hold me back (and it's the biggest blister I've had in my life!)

Yay me!

Friday, April 20, 2007


Dixie offered to interview me, and I took her up on it. Here are my answers to her questions:

1. You're talented at learning languages. What do you think it is about you that gives you that talent?

I think the reason I'm good at learning languages is just because I want to learn languages. They fascinate me. The way I learn (through reading and writing rather than speaking and listening) used to drive my teachers up the wall and goes against all the rules and conventions for language learning, but hey... it worked for me. My mother always said I could do anything if only I'd put my mind to it!

I've wanted to learn foreign languages ever since I can remember. I used to beg my mother to let me take lessons. When I was six, we had a Spanish-speaking family move onto our block. Their daughter was my age, but she didn't speak any English. I wanted to tell her about my dog, but I didn't really know how, so I asked my mom. "Draw a picture of your dog," my mom said. And I replied, "But Mommy, what if dogs look different in English than they do in Spanish?" (Yeah, I know, I was a strange child.)

Now that I think about it, I wonder if my desire to learn a foreign language had anything to do with the fact that I couldn't understand my great-aunts and -uncles on my dad's side of the family... they always spoke in French.

2. This is the second time you've come to Europe to study. Is there a difference between your time in France and your time in Switzerland?

I was a lot more prepared for coming to Switzerland... I already knew what to expect in terms of culture shock, dietary shock, cigarette smoke, things being closed on Sundays, etc. The differences that really stand out are that Geneva is much cleaner than France (despite all the cigarette smoke), that Genevans seem more tolerant of foreigners and immigrants than the French (although I don't know what the situation is like in the rest of Switzerland), and that it is a lot easier to accomplish administrative tasks in Switzerland than in France (with the government and with school).

Oh, and also the fact that everybody here is so well-to-do. I feel a lot poorer in Switzerland than I did in France.

3. What would it take to get your to cut your hair in a pixie style?

Hmmm... that's a hard one! A Switzerland-based in-house translation job, the opportunity to bring my Spanish up to par and learn German, and the ability to travel wherever I want. With lots of cheddar cheese and other yummy American foods on the side.

4. Would you consider living in Europe permanently? Where would you like to live?

I'm actually hoping to be able to stay in or near Geneva permanently. The problem is that even with a translation degree, nobody will get me a permit and hire me without experience. And I can't get experience without a permit. If anybody knows any nice, handsome, single Swiss boys, please let me know...

5. What's a coping skill you use when you are feeling overwhelmed?

When I'm overwhelmed, I usually get really cranky. So I lock myself in my room so nobody else will have to put up with my crankiness, curl up in a wad in bed, hold my teddy bear and cry my eyes out. Once I'm done crying, I listen to happy, upbeat music, and then I'm ready to deal with the world again. (Chocolate helps, too.)

Now it's your turn to play if you wish:

Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” I will respond by asking you five questions in the comments here on this post so check back here. I get to pick the questions. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


In case you ever wonder about Swiss people's sex lives, here's the scoop: on average, the Swiss have sex 139 times a year, 19 minutes at a time.

Since it's such important front-page news and all.

It's all about priorities

The front-page headline for Tuesday's issue of "20 Minutes"--"Too Stressed out for Good Sex". The Virginia Tech massacre? Page 10.

On Wednesday, I was asked to present a report on the shootings in the American history class for non-native English speakers that I'm auditing. I explained what happened, the debate about gun control in America, the Second Amendment, etc.

I'm still trying to process it all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Numa Numa

I can't help it. I love the silly video of the guy lipsynching to the Numa Numa song. It wandered into my life at the end of the last year of my BA. We had just found out that Rudy Giuliani was going to be our commencement speaker, senior theses were due at the end of the week, and final exams were going to be the week after. Stress was at an all-time high, drunken students were vandalizing the senior residence halls, and a campus-wide email war had broken out, with Rudy Giuliani cc'd on every message. Then somebody sent us all the Numa Numa video and all of the sudden, it was all over. Joy and silliness and happiness broke out and carried us through the last week to freedom.

So I've been listening to the Numa Numa song in the background all night long while nursing my sunburn and reading excerpts from Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac". Brings back good American memories.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Whether you like McDonald's or not, you gotta admit that they're smart. They've done an excellent job localizing their product to meet the demand of the different markets they serve. I remember the first time I went to a McDonald's outside the US... I was 16 and spending a summer studying in Salamanca, Spain. I was surprised that they served gazpacho and didn't serve honey.

My favourite McDonald's I've come across so far is this one in Rouen, France:

You can't get any more French than that!

Here the McDonald's advertising campaign centers around the fact that all of their food is produced in Switzerland (except for the coffee, which is "Fair Trade").

The next 6 weeks are "Heidi Weeks" at McDonald's:

They're going to be serving three different "Swiss" hamburgers. I don't really see how the McBacon is Swiss, but maybe that's just me.

I'm beginning to think that I spend way too much time thinking about McDonald's!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The road to Hell

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but ours is just paved with asphalt. Yes, that's right--today I found the road to Hell, walked down it, and came out unscathed.

Here's the street sign:

There's a bar along the road:

And a Disney store (it must be a Southern Baptist conspiracy!) :

But believe it or not, the Moulin Rouge is not on the road to Hell.

After my brush with eternal fire, I saw my dream car parked in a lot downtown:

How perfect is that?!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Lazy day

I had a very lazy day today. Woke up late, finished reading "The Kite Runner", and washed and dried two loads of laundry in only three hours. (Okay, I cheated a little... I used two dryers instead of one.)

"The Kite Runner" is an excellent read, if anybody is hunting for a good book. It's about a boy named Amir and his friend growing up in 1970s Afghanistan, a decision that Amir makes that shatters their lives, and the road to redemption.

Nothing else going on today. I promise to be more interesting tomorrow. In the meantime, here's another picture from yesterday's trip to the botanical gardens:

little vs. big:

à demain!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Peeling asparagus

The weather was so lovely today that I quickly tired of doing homework and decided to go for a walk along Lake Geneva. I started off at the Flower Clock, crossed the bridge, and then walked up through all the lakeside parks until I made it to the botanical gardens. And I didn't wear a coat!

The Flower Clock (with the fountain in the middle of the lake in the background):

Flamingoes at the botanical gardens:

A pretty flower:

I have an itch!

The creepy carousel (yes, that's an upside-down lion!) :

After I got back this evening, I decided that I needed to find a way to listen to the Swiss news on the internet (since I don't have TV). After the local news station got through its reports on the British sailors returning home, the French presidential election and the prankster who forged emails in the name of a politician in Jura, they came to the most important story of the day... the giant asparagus-peeling machine at Migros.


I didn't even know you had to peel asparagus...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Screaming peacocks

I visited the UN office in Geneva last week, but I forgot my camera. So I went back today to take pictures. And it's a good thing I waited because they just installed a new fountain in front of the official entrance.

This is the view from the tram stop:

The three-legged chair is a reminder of the destruction caused by land mines. It was installed about a month ago.

This is the official entrance for diplomats... Everyday visitors use a side entrance.

The office in Geneva is the second-largest UN office (the largest being New York). Over 3,000 offices are housed on the grounds, and the main building is larger than the palace of Versailles.

Every state in the world is a member of the UN, with the exception of the Vatican. The newest members are East Timor, Montenegro and (believe it or not) Switzerland. The six official languages of the UN are English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic, with English and French being the two working languages. (My friend and I were the only two people on our tour who knew these facts ahead of time... we managed to impress the guide.)

They keep peacocks on the UN grounds as a matter of tradition... seven currently live at the Geneva office. There were originally fourteen, but they had a fox problem for a while. Apparently these peacocks can scream very loudly. I am told that it is a sound that I would not care to experience. As the story goes, one day a very important meeting was being held in the main conference room (you know, the huge one they show on TV). This conference room has a window that opens on a view of a tree. And in this tree on that particular day, a peacock got stuck. It screamed so loudly that nobody could hear the speaker, so they had to stop the conference to go outside and get it down.

I can just imagine the headlines... "World Peace on hold for Peacock"!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

You know you're in Switzerland when...

Yesterday afternoon, my friend came home to a kitchen ankle-deep in water. Apparently the hot water pipe under the sink had busted, and it was still gushing water. The plumber said it was going to be four hours before he could get there, the building super refused to turn off the water, and the downstairs neighbours all came upstairs to complain. Meanwhile, my friend and her landlady were working frantically to control the water's spread.

Five hours, all the towels and sheets and countless buckets later, the plumber showed up. He took a moment to survey the mess, then exclaimed, "Why didn't you call the fire department?!"

Only in Switzerland.

I was planning to go to the UN yesterday to take pictures, but it rained. But I will be patient and go later on this week. After all, they do say, "Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre." Or, as Longfellow put it, "All things come round to him who will but wait." This little saying is spraypainted on a wall close to my house:

I love that cat! I should probably adopt his attitude more often...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Things I miss from home

Lately I have been missing a lot of things from home. I guess it's normal to miss things when you reach your six-month anniversary of being away.

What I miss most right now are my dogs. I miss them so much that lately I've been dreaming about them! Here's a picture I took for my stepdad as part of a Father's Day present:

That's Lucy on the left and Osker on the right.

They each have some pretty odd talents... Lucy, for example, likes to jump through the window that connects the living room to the kitchen. She can make it from the back of the sofa to the kitchen sink without disturbing a single one of the figurines on the windowsill. Every once in a while, we find her licking the dirty dishes clean.

Osker, on the other hand, likes to watch TV:

Horses and dogs get his attention pretty quickly!

I also miss cheddar cheese. In the US, I could go through a pound or more of cheddar a week. But in Switzerland, cheddar is sorely lacking. One of my professors has promised to try and find some for me, so keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spring has sprung!

We had what will hopefully be our very last snow of the year this past Friday. It was a Texas weather day--first it was cool and drizzly, then it got warm and sunny, then we had a thunder and lightning storm, then it snowed snowflakes two inches in diameter. All in the space of twelve hours.

Now, though, it is warm and sunny. Today I went to the park and took a picture of the statue at the cherry tree:

The blooms were huge!

Other than that, it's been a fairly boring weekend. I worked on five different translations (excerpts from Zola's "J'accuse", the constitution of Burkina Faso, a magazine article on food allergies, a report on the Costa Rican economy, and a passage from "Les bottes des sept lieues"). I also forgot that Tylenol with codeine is over-the-counter in France, which is just a 20-minute tram ride away. I remembered at 8:45 last night, at which time it was too late (French pharmacies are closed on Saturday nights and Sundays).

If anybody can tell me what "Il était quatre heures de décembre" means between now and tomorrow morning, I'd be much obliged...