Sunday, August 31, 2008

Off to Budapest!

Stay tuned next week for pictures!

Friday, August 29, 2008

CERN and the LHC

Pretty much everyone around here is aware of CERN's large hadron collider, which is scheduled to commence operation in early September. Everyone who was able to go to the open house back in the spring got to go on guided tours with explanations of how it all works... but what about the rest of us? Well, some CERN employees have posted their "Large Hadron Rap" on YouTube to help familiarize the public with what the LHC does. I thought it was fun and informative, so here it is:

Friday, August 22, 2008

New job = no time to blog

Not for now, at least -- I'm starting off by working extra hours to make up for my vacation in September.

So far things are going well -- I like everyone and I think everyone likes me. And I got a chance to demonstrate my newly acquired chopstick prowess to some of my coworkers (thanks to a crash course that one of my friends gave me last week!)

I'll be around here more when my life is a little less hectic...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Les feux pyromélodiques

Question for the day: Why, oh why, did my camera decide to break? Yes, it still takes pictures, but it can't take movies anymore. Which means that I couldn't film the fireworks tonight. They were wonderful -- so much better than last year -- and not just because I got a better spot that was closer to the speakers on the lake. The music was so much fun this year -- Moscow was the guest of honor and the theme was "dance". They started off with traditional Russian folk dances, then switched to contemporary Russian pop, then played the Blue Danube Waltz, the waltz from Amélie, some traditional and modern Irish dances, flamenco, Swan Lake (at which point an enormous swan flew right over the crowd, completely by coincidence), a Hungarian dance that everyone knows of but whose title I forget, Twelve Girls' Band, and some techno and techtonik music. So much fun!

Here's a good video I found on YouTube of the Amélie segment:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fêtes de Genève

I felt sort of down in the dumps today, so I decided to head down to the lake tonight to take some pictures of all the rides lit up against the sky and try to feel a little better.

Here's the Ferris wheel, smack in the middle of the Jardin Anglais:

Welcome to Hell (people seemed to be having quite a bit more fun than you're supposed to have down there...) :

Never in a million years would I go on this ride... it swings you back and forth like a pendulum, high up in the sky, and holds you upside down for a while. Ugh.

Today my mom and I had a discussion on whether you could buy happiness. She thought that if I bought myself a little treat, I'd feel better. I countered by saying that there was nothing that I wanted and that spending money indiscriminately only makes me feel worse. But then, on my way through the maze of stands by the lakeside, I saw a Slurpee machine. And even though it was midnight and cool and drizzly outside, I bought one. Tropical flavored. And I do declare, now I just can't wipe the smile off my face.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


It is not often that I come across a word I don't understand in French, but this one sent me to the dictionary. Apparently a machine on the roof of a building right next to the local hospital's maternity ward caught fire... a machine meant to make the roof watertight. Oh, the irony.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I don't get it.

I know that I am really lucky to have been able to learn to speak passable French before coming to live in France and then in Switzerland. I'm lucky to have been able to go to University in both countries and take courses in whatever subject I like, from literature to economics and history to translation theory, entirely in French. I'm lucky to have been able to immigrate to Switzerland by choice and not through necessity.

I believe that it is important to be an active member of society in one's host country. And part of being an active member of society means learning the language and being able to communicate with one's adoptive community. If I speak fluent French now, as opposed to the passable French I had when I got off the train in Poitiers five years ago, it is because I have worked hard to acquire it. In addition to attending school in French, I speak French with all my classmates and all the people who live in my residence hall. I read everything I can get my hands on in French, from the newspaper to novels to gossip magazines. I watch TV in French -- both the evening news and other scripted programming to become more familiar with more formal language and unscripted, reality-type shows to better understand familiar language. I listen to the songs and watch the movies that everyone is talking about in order to better understand the pop culture here -- and I hate watching movies! And one of the reasons that I'm excited about my new job is that French is spoken as much as English in that particular workplace.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've got a great group of English-speaking friends in Switzerland. I read the New York Times every morning and solve the LA Times and USA Today crosswords every evening. I enjoy reading novels in English and listening to music in English, and the next movie I want to see is Wall-E, in English. I go to the American Market to buy my favorite breakfast cereal and I enjoy keeping up with my favorite TV shows in the States. I want peanut butter M&Ms and seasons 1-3 of The Closer on DVD for Christmas. And I got my job because I have stronger skills in written English than most.

So here's what I don't get. There was a Franco-Vietnamese family on a game show the other night on TF1. The mother immigrated to France 33 years ago, and all the children were either born in France or immigrated there at a young age. Obviously, all the woman's children had perfect French. But she couldn't understand the questions the game show host was asking her, even when he tried to speak very simply. Her children had to interpret the questions into Vietnamese for her. And she couldn't answer the game show host in French. Her grammar was so faulty, and she lacked so many of the necessary vocabulary words, that she just could not make herself understood.

I don't get it. Why not learn the language of the country where you have lived for 33 years? The country where you have spent the majority of your life? The only country that your children know? How do you take care of all the day-to-day tasks that require communication with others? What hope is there for economic or educational advancement? How could anyone stand to not be able to speak the only language that their children are educated in and speak on a daily basis?

I know that the language barrier is difficult and frustrating to overcome. I know that it is really embarrassing to make mistakes in front of others. I remember my first trip to France -- I was 16 years old and could barely put two words together correctly in French. Our teacher let us split up into groups to explore wherever we wanted to for the afternoon. The only two rules were that each group had to stay together at all times and we all had to be back at the designated meeting place in time to go to dinner. Well, the girl from my group who had the metro map and the directions on how to get back to the meeting place got lost. The other girl in my group became so frightened that she went into hysterics. I had to figure out a way to call my teacher at the hotel to get directions on where to go, but I had no calling card or spare change for a public phone. So I gathered my nerve and walked into the nearest store, and in French I said something along the lines of, "Friend lost. I use phone?" It took awhile for the salesgirl to figure out what I needed, and I was absolutely mortified. And from that point on, I took advantage of my other classmates' stronger skills in French and got them to help me say words and phrases that could help me work through any other situation I might find myself in during the trip. After we got back to school in the States, I spent extra time studying my French lessons and graduated at the top of my class, despite the fact that many of my classmates had studied French for 3 or 4 years longer than I had.

I just don't see how anybody could choose to live at the margins of society like that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I got the job!

Today I was offered the job I really wanted! Yay! It's only a temporary assignment (7 1/2 months), and I'm still on my student permit rather than a B work permit, but it's work that I'm really interested in and it gets me a foot in the door with the international organizations here. I'm so excited!

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm still here!

I haven't really had much to blog about thanks to my thesis. I've turned in 28 pages over the past 7 days... just 22 more to write! I will be sooooo glad when it's all over with.