Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There's a lady...

who lives two bus stops up the line from me. She's quite elderly. Her back is so hunched that she walks facing the pavement, and her feet and ankles are so swollen that she wears bootie-like slippers instead of shoes.

I see her fairly often on my way home from the grocery store. She uses a cane and can barely walk. The bus driver helps her in and out of the bus, but she never sits down because it's too hard for her to stand back up. People ask her if they can help her carry her groceries, and she always says no.

I wonder if she has any family. I suppose she doesn't, because if she did, they wouldn't let her go out alone to get her groceries, right?

I wish she'd let someone help her.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I grew up listening to two different kinds of music: classical (my mother's influence) and country (my father's influence). It makes sense if you think about it... I was, after all, a music teacher's daughter growing up in Texas.

When we moved down to the Hill Country the summer I turned twelve, I fell out of touch with country music. We never did manage to tune in to any radio stations at home because the hills made the reception so spotty. Then I moved to Vermont for college, and against all the odds, my teeny New England town had a good country station. But the music on the air at the time just didn't do anything for me, and I fell out of touch with country again when I moved to France.

I moved back home to Texas for the summer of 2004. Late one night I was flipping channels on the TV, looking for some background noise to scrapbook to, and what I found blew my mind. CMT was playing "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" by a group I'd never seen before called Big & Rich. Then Gretchen Wilson came on, and then Little Big Town after that. In the span of 15 minutes, I'd found 3 very good reasons to be excited about country music again.

"Boondocks" was the Little Big Town song playing that night, and it really struck a chord with me. It brings back a lot of good memories... from running off during recess to eat from the honeysuckle bush growing over the fence of my 4th-grade school, to falling asleep to the sound of rain on the tin roof at my grandmother's house (you could hear it particularly well in my room because of the rattly drain pipe on the roof over the bathroom across the hall, which leaked and had to be replaced the same week that a scorpion crawled up out of the bathtub drain, nearly stinging my feet during my shower). When I was three or four, before my parents divorced, I used to wake up before dawn and sneak into their room (I must say that I'm proud of myself, I never once woke them) to listen to the train whistle in the distance. I still dream about that train to this day. And the summer we moved even farther south, I split my time between watching the Summer Olympics in Atlanta on my grandmother's television and swimming in the Guadeloupe River, staring through the murky brown water at the fish nibbling on my toes, and making the terrifying (exhilarating!) slide down the dam over and over, relying on the nice, handsome young men there to help me back up to the top, as I wasn't strong enough to pull myself up the slippery, mossy rope.

I have a professor here who had never heard a country song in her life until I emailed her Alabama's "Song of the South" last year (she was teaching a lesson on the stock market crash in '29, Roosevelt's New Deal, the Dust Bowl and the alphabet agencies, and I thought the song might come in handy to demonstrate to her European students that these things are still referenced in pop culture today). It has been quite interesting to discover her perceptions of what America is because they're so different from my own. She grew up in the North, and I grew up in the South. We have different socioeconomic backgrounds, grew up in families with different political views, and came of age 30 years apart. So you can see how we see things from a different point of view.

At any rate, in class last week she shared some of her memories associated with the song "Teen Angel" (which none of us had ever heard before), so I reciprocated by sending her "Boondocks" and sharing some of my memories. I have no idea what her reaction to the song will be, but I sure would like to be a fly on the wall when she listens to it, just to see the look on her face.

(About that scorpion, by the way... I was 20 years old and living in the back bedroom of my grandmother's house. It was 11:30 at night and my grandmother and her 3.1 pound white (not albino!) chihuahua had already been asleep for quite some time. I started running the water for my shower and noticed that the drain was a little clogged. I figured that it was because of my waist-length hair, some of which my stepfather had fished out of my mother's bathtub drain the week before. Suddenly, wavy auburn tendrils began floating up out of the drain. I watched them, fascinated, thinking how odd it was that the bathtub drain would burp up my hair. As they slowly emerged, I began to realize that something was very wrong--these tendrils seemed to be alive, and they were attached to a... scorpion!!! I jumped out of the bathtub, screaming bloody murder, waking the dog, who proceeded to bark his dang fool head off and wake my grandmother. "What is going on?!" I heard her exclaim from across the house. I ran to her bedroom, stark raving naked, and screamed, "Mee-Maw! Come quick! There's a scorpion in my bathtub!" "Hold on," she said, slipping on her houseshoes, straightening her nightcap, scooping up the dog under her left arm and yanking the flimsy, yellow plastic flyswatter off the top of the refrigerator with her right hand. I ran back into my bedroom, shutting the door, waiting for the all-clear. Then I heard, THWACK! whacksplashpowcrunch THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! Then silence. Then, "Get in here and help me! Lift up the toilet seat so I can flush it down." And she dumped the thoroughly flattened scorpion in the toilet and flushed. And flushed again. And again. It took three tries to flush it away, and it wasn't until many weeks had passed that I finally felt safe enough to sit down on that toilet without worrying about getting stung in the behind.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My first voting experience

The very first Presidential election I remember was the 1992 campaign opposing Clinton, Bush and Perot. I grew up in a very Republican household, so of course I supported Bush.

I was in the 3rd grade that year. We studied the election in school, where I learned that Perot was called the "dark horse" because he was not expected to win. I changed my loyalties then and there... not because I felt sorry for him because he was behind, but rather because I liked horses.

One day we held a mock election. Two voting booths surrounded by curtains were set up in the 4th/5th grade hall. The entire 3rd grade (about 90 students) lined up to vote. I was near the back of the line. We were each given a small slip of white paper and told to go cast our vote.

One by one, my classmates walked into the little booths with their pieces of paper, pulled the curtains shut behind them, and then reemerged some 30 seconds later sans paper slip. Then it was my turn.

I walked into the voting booth and closed the curtains behind me. There was a large cardboard box inside, covered in red, white and blue construction paper. All of the sudden, I froze: nobody had told me what to do! So I counted to 30, hid my slip of paper by stuffing it as far down into my pocket as it would go, then left the booth to rejoin the end of the line outside.

I spent the rest of the day deathly afraid that one of the teachers would discover that I hadn't done whatever I was supposed to do with that little white piece of paper.

This cracked me up

Yesterday as I was standing out in the cold, waiting for the bus, this is what I saw:

A little yellow truck with a sprayer mechanism in front was washing down the sidewalk, spraying all the leaves into the street.

Right behind it was driving a very large white truck, kicking the leaves up into the air, where they swirled around for awhile before floating down to land...

Back on the sidewalk.

At least the concrete got a drink of water. I'm sure it was thirsty.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Happy Swiss-aversary to me

One year ago today I landed in Switzerland. I didn't know a single person in this country, and I cried myself to sleep every night for the first two weeks I lived here.

I suppose it is fitting that I am in a foul mood today. Such a foul mood, in fact, that I will not even express how I feel here, since my mother hears about everything that is written here and would be dismayed to find that I have certain choice words in my vocabulary. Don't get me wrong... I like it here. I am planning on doing whatever it takes to be able to stay here after I graduate. And my current mood has nothing to do with Switzerland itself. It just makes sense that today I'm feeling much the way I felt a year ago to the day.

As an aside, I accompanied a friend to the American consular office in Geneva today... we could not take any of our belongings in the office, and we were searched and wanded before we could go in. I have been to several consular offices before (although never an American one), and have never had to go through that. I was quite shocked.

I should go catch up on my German homework before class tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Comme par hasard, indeed.

Two days after I went to the Office Cantonal de la Population to ask about my residence permit, guess what showed up in my mailbox???

At least it's one thing less to worry about.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Me and my Kleenex box

Ich bin krank. Still. My nose is really good at running, so my Kleenex box has been my faithful companion this week. He sleeps with me at night, sits at the breakfast table with me in the morning, and tags along to my classes and the computer lab with me. I'm being made fun of rather a lot, but my nose is clean and dry (if very congested).

I spent Thursday afternoon at the natural history museum with a friend. We were touring the amphibian/reptile/fish floor, looking at a diorama of Komodo dragons and other such animals, all labeled with their scientific names, when a little green dragon in the corner of the display caught our eye. Somebody must have a good sense of humor, because there was Puff the Magic Dragon, sitting there pretty as you please, grinning at the passers-by. And a little further down the way, we came across a diorama of the ocean, and a toy Nemo was hanging alongside all the other fish. It cracked us up.

I am marvellously behind on all of my work for this week. I need to learn to apply myself. (And I need to get well.)

Off to blow my nose again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Well, at least I'm not illegal...

I woke up sick this morning. I picked a bad day to get sick, because I had to go to the Office Cantonal de la Population today to find out why I haven't received my new residence permit. I don't really enjoy going there... it's hard to get to from where I live, the lines are long, the wait is boring, etc, etc.

So I spent three hours in line, waiting to ask why I haven't gotten my new permit yet even though I turned in all my paperwork 2 months ago. Only to find out that they did indeed mail me my new permit and that I should have received it already. On the one hand, this is good, because it means that I haven't been an illegal immigrant for the past two weeks. On the other hand, this is bad, because I have to give my employers a copy of my new permit this week and I don't have my permit yet.

The OCP says that they can't do anything for me if I don't get my permit... their responsibility ended with putting it in the mail. So if it doesn't show up in my mailbox, all I can do is report it stolen and apply for a new one. But it takes a month to get a duplicate (and it costs money!), so I still wouldn't have it in time for my employers.

I think I should have just stayed in bed...

Rugby virgin no more

Saturday night a friend of mine invited a bunch of us over to her house for dinner, and afterwards we went to the local pub to watch the quarterfinal match between New Zealand and France.

I had never been in a pub before, so the atmosphere was new to me. This was a surprisingly large establishment for downtown Geneva, and it was still packed to the gills. We barely managed to squeeze our way downstairs in front of one of the screens... it was standing room only. People kept pushing past us with their food and beer, and I don't see how they managed to get through the crowd without dropping it all.

Before the match, right after the national anthems were played, the All Blacks performed their haka (a Maori posture dance).

I was told that the French didn't have a chance at winning--that the best they could hope to do was tie up the score. And by the end of the first half, that appeared to be true, as the score was 13-3. The crowd at the pub was dominated by French fans, and they hadn't had much to get excited about yet. But early in the second half, New Zealand got a penalty and was down a man, and all of the sudden the French fans had a lot to yell and cheer about. Chants of "Allez les Bleus!" thundered through the establishment, making everything shake. The final score was 18-20 for France, and motorcycles were zooming up and down the streets, honking their horns and generally being celebratory.

By that point my knees were very sore from having stood in one place on a concrete floor for an hour and a half, and I was relieved to get outside and take a breath of smoke-free air, but I definitely enjoyed watching my first rugby match.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Alarm bells ring

One of my friends and I decided to go to the museum today to see a Gaza exhibit before it left town. We walked through the first few exhibit rooms with no problem, but as we entered the next room (which was empty except for us) and started wandering around... the alarm went off! We froze, and several docents came running as quickly as they could. It turns out that there's a line on the left side of the room that you can't cross. The trouble is that it's painted on the floor and there are no signs, so we didn't see it because we weren't looking at the floor. Oops.

At least they didn't kick us out...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

If you find my right arm on the side of the road...

...please return it to the nearest hospital so I can have it reattached.

Last night two friends and I waddled through the streets of Geneva carrying a large, heavy plastic bin full of: eight boxes of orange juice, six boxes of pineapple juice, eight energy drinks, six liters of Coke, four liters of iced tea, two liters of Sprite, two bottles of tequila, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of grenadine. And some peanuts.

The aforementioned assortment of drinks was for a party that the student association held for our new students and exchange students. It was well publicized, and all of the delegates (myself included) made sure to personally invite all the new/exchange students in their respective departments. So imagine our surprise when only two new students came to the party. Usually our parties are well-attended, so we were rather disappointed with the turnout. I was particularly disappointed because I'm looking to expand my circle of French-speaking friends...

On a happier note, I found a good German-English dictionary at the English bookstore this morning. I realize that I have an abnormal level of affection for reference books in general, but I suppose that if you have to feel unusually affectionate towards something, stores of knowledge are a good thing to love.

I am finally caught up on sleep, thank goodness. Tomorrow I'm back to work and classes...