Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Small kindnesses

Waiting for the Bus to take to me Geneva from Ferney I sat on the stone wall. The road divider was filled with pink and purple flowers making a long, long rainbow. Behind me was the little glass house which protected riders when it rained and a grass lot and behind that was a new restaurant L’Entrée.

A car pulled up and a little girl no more than eight hopped out. She was wearing a pink dress that had cowboy fringe in place of a hem.

She and her mother rushed between the glass house and the grass where the child proceeded to retch and retch until she emptied her stomach. Her mother dabbed ineffectually at her sweat-covered face with a small tissue.

One of the restaurant employees had been watching. He came out and gave the woman several napkins, some damp, some not to wipe the child’s face.

An act of kindness made me decide to eat there in the very near future.

On voting in Switzerland

For years I have said my home isn’t my country and my country isn’t my home. Since I received notification I have been accepted for Swiss citizenship (I still have to take the oath and whisper the national anthem—if they hear me sing, they may revoke their earlier opinion) they are melding into each other.

This became even more real to me as I rode on the bus and saw advertisements for the next national election on an immigration issue. As holder of a Permis C I can now vote for the first time in local elections. Voting has always been important, starting with my family and going through adult hood in Boston, when our neighbor Kelly who worked the polls would demand to know why you didn't vote and the reason had better be good.

For years I have seen the issues on billboards for all types of issues that in other countries are left to legislators to decide.

Besides the immigration issue there is also a vote on how to grade school children.

I know I will need to study the issues to make an informed decision.

As I looked at the posters, I know I may actually be able to vote this time at all levels and if not this time, next time. It is a good feeling, a feeling of completeness that I have been missing, a feeling of pride. A feeling that my home and country are becoming one -- at last.

Buying olives

I bought black olive and green olive tapenade along with caviar de tomate as well as two different kinds of olives from Joel at the marché. He is Hollywood-handsome with flashing black eyes and dark curly hair. He put it in a small container side-by-side making what looked like a flag. I am buying local delicacies for a friend that is coming to visit.

Joel also has created three perfumes from local flowers. He is a wheeler-dealer and a flirt.

“What is the grand total?” I asked in French.

“You win a night with me,” he said.

The people waiting in line behind me stepped closer to listen.

I clasped my hands to my breasts. “My lucky day. What have I done to deserve this?”

“I’m not sure, but it must have been wonderful,” he said.

Naturally nothing will happen. Joel will spend tonight with his new twin daughters. I will spend the night trying to learn a new piece of software, but buying olives certainly is much more fun this way than merely picking up a jar in a supermarket. And the taste is superior.

Another train ride

I spend a lot of times on trains. Non-car owners must seek alternate ways of transportation or stay home. I don’t stay home.

Sometimes I meet fascinating people like the woman who was Jewish and was hidden from Nazis as a child, was separated from her sister and had just found her a half of a century plus later. Meanwhile she had been and was a retired trapeze artist from Ringling Brothers Circus.

This time I was with a young Chinese girl who wants to be a journalist and is getting a masters degree. We had a lot to share as she gave me information about her country and I talked about some of my writing experiences. The three hours seemed like minutes. We also were joined in a conversation by another woman who had just returned from Prague, and she and I shared our appreciation for that incredible city encouraging the young Chinese girl to visit if she could get a visa.

The young woman who speaks English and French besides Chinese (I am not sure which dialect) is worried about what will happen to her professionally, but I am sure with everything she has to offer someone will snap her up in a trainee program.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Confessions of a News Junkie

When people say something about the world, my first question should be but isn’t always, what are your news sources? If it is Fox news, CNN, or even BBC or any combination, I know they are only partially informed.

My first job reporting on building projects throughout the US, left me scouring dailies from all over. It was my first toe-dip into the murky river of newspaper junkiedom. With the internet, I have located all types of newspapers on line that I look at regularly. I admit it, I am now a full blown newspaper junkie.

Do I read each daily, cover to cover??? Of course, not. I do have a life, but during the recent Israel War I was looking at Israeli and Lebanese papers daily to see what they were reporting. Likewise I tap into whatever countries’ newspapers when there is a big story to see the local perspective. Sadly, I have to rely mostly on English or French language papers, although from time-to-time I will run another language through an automatic translator, which is less than perfect.

Nor do I take any of them as Gospel, because international papers have bias just as American ones do. And although I try to look at both conservative and liberal to keep myself hones, I do lean to the liberal. One of the more amusing things is to hear my Arab friends swear that Aljazeera is really run by the CIA. And by asking friends from these countries what they think of these papers, I can get a more in-depth feeling of what is going on.

What does this do for me, other than threaten metacarpal syndrome from too much time on the computer? I feel it gives me a more balanced picture of what is going on and somehow a bit of truth may emerge between the spin and lies.

Below is a list of papers that are on my regular reading list depending on the day and issue.






France (liberal) (conservative)








North Korea




Saudi Arabia





Misc. (Socialist News)

Paper when possible
The Economist
Financial Times

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Winning the hearts and minds

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Hizbollah rebuilt Beirut homes faster than New Orleans' homes are being rebuilt? And they started almost a year later.

The party is giving in out $12,000 (a fortune for Lebanese) to everyone who lost their homes for new homes and furniture. Hearts and minds are won. All you have to do is look at the faces of the people getting the money. The smiles throw flowers.l

Their response is certainly better and faster than FEMA’s in New Orleans. As for a comparison to Baghdad, well after billions spent people are still without electricity on a regular basis.

Hizbollah may be considered terrorists and when they get the money is open to debate after debate, but they also have an efficiency in doing something very simple that we seem to have lost the ability to do – helping the people who need it most when they need it.

Life vs. lifestyle Part II

Kirk wrote me about my lifestyle vs. life blog.

Lifestyle to me is a section in the newspapers or a program about the rich and famous. It involves more the exterior life of a person, what drives that person. A life is the interior part.

There are those that are driven by exterior forces and those that are driven by interior factors.

I would say Paris Hilton has a lifestyle. Mary Robinson, Nelson Mandala have lives to look at opposite ends of the scale. However, most of us do not reach either those ends of the spectrum of consumerism gone mad to self-sacrifice for world improvement.

Although it is a marketing tool, VALS (Values and LifeStyles –yup that word) says it better than I can. There is test there that defines people. I have used it as a tool in my writing to try and answer the questions as one of my characters would to more deeply understand that character. As I thought about Kirk’s comment I went back to reread it.

Yes I would buy a fashionable dress because if I liked it. I would buy an unfashionable dress if I liked it. Or I might not buy a dress at all even if I liked it because I already have more clothes than I want or need. The operative is what I like not what others like. And that to me is the difference.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Street was a River

Rain was pelting down creating a bubble-laden river in the street in front of the café. The tables were outside, but a writing friend and I were snug inside discussing short stories and writers’ groups over pots of tea. We could look out onto the street and knew we were happy to order lunch and maybe dinner if the rain didn't let up.

The Benjie wantabe trotted in and plunked himself down in the middle of the door. From the tilt of his head, we could tell he was watching the flowing water which would, had he ventured out, come half way up his body.

Dogs are allowed in restaurants and cafés. However, Frank the owner of this café, wants them accompanied, so when Benjie moved further inside he was shooed back to the doorway.

When the rain lessened he high-tailed it around the corner to his home.

Toby Toes Cried

“Toby-Toes cried,” my friend Barbara said.

In the year since this delightful baby has been born, we’ve seen him sleep, laugh and watch the world go by from his pram and high chair that are as much a part of La Noisette Café as are the tea pots and English breakfasts. But crying? That’s not Toby Toes.

The owners and parents, Frank and Louise take turns caring for him in the afternoons. They feel not only does it socialize the child, it allows both parents to spend more time with him then if he were in the crèche all day.

Thus Toby-Toes expects to be oohed and ahhed over by everyone he meets. I appreciate him because he thinks of me as a delightful comedienne. I produce deep belly laughs, when I cover his face with the cloth attached to his pacifier (or dummy as his English Mom calls it) and then remove it and say “coo coo” using the French greeting. He is being raised bi-lingual with his father speaking French to him. I am part of the English-speaking group except for coo coo games. Sadly, my other friends do not find me as funny as the baby does.

However Toby Toes had a reason for crying. Teeth are popping.

Being in a Community

My friend decided not to open her shop on a Friday afternoon. Business was slow and she had better uses for her time including sitting in a café around the corner and outside her normal stomping grounds. However, when she came home, a very worried Jean-Pierre was ringing her doorbell. Because they expected her to be open, the neighborhood sent him to check to make sure she was all right. Part of it made her feel old, that people would worry after such a minor deviation in plans. The other made her feel lucky to be in a community where people care enough to protect each other.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I Am Protected

My street is safe. It is patrolled by Super Hero Hugo, a three-year old with black curls, who runs back and forth in his bare feet and navy blue shorts. His red cape is an adult T-shirt tied around his shoulders. He guards us all from the dangers of outer space aliens, natural disasters, and other calamities.

I really want to pick him up and hug him, but you don't hug Hero Hugo.

My farm

For years my building was one of the only ones on the street without flowers, but now that I spend more of the summer here, I bought bright blue pots in Spain as well as ceramic window boxes to place against the railing of the flat that has been tied up with inheritors for years (French inheritance laws are worth several blogs in themselves).

This year I planted begonias in all except one of the ceramic window boxes which has basil (I refer to this "farm" as my back forty, inches not acres). However, the begonias in the other ceramic box did not flourish, although they did in the blue pots flanking the blue door. From nowhere a grapevine appeared with miniature grapes. There won’t be enough for a harvest, but half of me wonders if I could produce half a thimble full of wine from the fruit.

Probably not, I would need to make my imaginary farmhouse real with a real vineyard. Afterall I can buy excellent wine within a few minutes walk.


The weather has turned with cool nights and for the first time I slept under a duvet. For me crawling under the penguin-decorated flannel cover was much cozier than spending the night under a light weight sheet. I guess my New England blood is much more winter-prone than heat phone, but I hope if I complain of the cold next winter, someone reminds me that I said it.

Losing a cousin

I told a friend over tea that I had just lost a cousin. It sounds careless. You lose car keys, a sock, but losing a person is more than careless, it is painful. Due to family dynamics I didn’t get to know my cousins until I was an adult, and from listening to their recounts of childhood adventures, I think I missed out on a lot of fun. Despite that I have formed in-depth relationships with some of them and have built adult memories. Others are in more distance contact. The cousin I lost was a twin and it is his twin that I was closest to, close enough that he was the executor of my estate while my daughter was a minor, a decision I rethought once when standing near the edge of a cliff. He put his arm around me, led me closer to the edge and asked my daughter if she wanted a Ferrari or a Porsche. There are a lot of us cousins more in touch today because of the internet then a few years ago.

I suppose we are lucky to have reached our current ages with only losing two cousins. Still there is much greater sense of sadness then mere misplacement of items including the childhood years I never had with people I care for.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

None of us are "innocent Americans"

Albert Gonzales looks at the camera and talks about the foiled terrorist plot in London that could have killed thousands of innocent American lives.

I ask how innocent are we?

In Scotland people went to the airport to discourage US shipment of missiles to Israel, missiles which will kill more Lebanonese. Why aren’t we protesting arming one side that is already better armed?

Why do we say Israel has a right to defend itself while it destroys others? Don’t the others have a right to defend themselves?

Why do we make a big deal about two soldiers, a big enough deal to destroy a country, when the Israelis have hundreds and hundreds of their opposition in their jails?

Why do we expect the Arabs to accept everything the Israelis and or us do against them without fighting back?

Why do we say it is bad for Syria and Iran to arm their allies, whose military strength is far less than Israel’s when we arm ours? Why don’t we ask that?

Why don’t we count the dead we are responsible for and realize that it far out paces the number that died in 9/11?

Why do we expect to find solutions for problems and then impose them on others without consulting others? Diplomacy does not mean not talking with the opposition.

Why do we say Hizbollah (English spelling) is the root cause without asking why Hizbollah came into being? Why don’t we demand that of our leaders? (How many of us have even taken the time to ask?)

Why are we surprised when anyone attacks another that the reaction of the attackee isn’t love but hatred and they will respond with more violence?

Why don’t we take the time to inform ourselves of our part in the world crisis and then fight to make America follow the ideals it was founded on?

Why do we say Lebanon ignored a resolution (we used the same argument againstSaddam did) and that is a reason to create war on another country? Below is a list of resolutions Israel ignored.

  1. Resolution 106: "...‘condemns’ Israel for Gaza raid"
  2. Resolution 111: "...‘condemns’ Israel for raid on Syria that killed fifty-six people"
  3. Resolution 127: "...‘recommends’ Israel suspend its ‘no-man’s zone’ in Jerusalem"
  4. Resolution 162: "...‘urges’ Israel to comply with UN decisions"
  5. Resolution 171: "...determines flagrant violations’ by Israel in its attack on Syria"
  6. Resolution 228: "...‘censures’ Israel for its attack on Samu in the West Bank, then under Jordanian control"
  7. Resolution 237: "...‘urges’ Israel to allow return of new 1967 Palestinian refugees"
  8. Resolution 248: "...‘condemns’ Israel for its massive attack on Karameh in Jordan"
  9. Resolution 250: "...‘calls’ on Israel to refrain from holding military parade in Jerusalem"
  10. Resolution 251: "...‘deeply deplores’ Israeli military parade in Jerusalem in defiance of Resolution 250"
  11. Resolution 252: "...‘declares invalid’ Israel’s acts to unify Jerusalem as Jewish capital"
  12. Resolution 256: "...‘condemns’ Israeli raids on Jordan as ‘flagrant violation"
  13. Resolution 259: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to accept UN mission to probe occupation"
  14. Resolution 262: "...‘condemns’ Israel for attack on Beirut airport"
  15. Resolution 265: "...‘condemns’ Israel for air attacks for Salt in Jordan"
  16. Resolution 267: "...‘censures’ Israel for administrative acts to change the status of Jerusalem"
  17. Resolution 270: "...‘condemns’ Israel for air attacks on villages in southern Lebanon"
  18. Resolution 271: "...‘condemns’ Israel’s failure to obey UN resolutions on Jerusalem"
  19. Resolution 279: "...‘demands’ withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon"
  20. Resolution 280: "....‘condemns’ Israeli’s attacks against Lebanon"
  21. Resolution 285: "...‘demands’ immediate Israeli withdrawal form Lebanon"
  22. Resolution 298: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s changing of the status of Jerusalem"
  23. Resolution 313: "...‘demands’ that Israel stop attacks against Lebanon"
  24. Resolution 316: "...‘condemns’ Israel for repeated attacks on Lebanon"
  25. Resolution 317: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to release Arabs abducted in Lebanon"
  26. Resolution 332: "...‘condemns’ Israel’s repeated attacks against Lebanon"
  27. Resolution 337: "...‘condemns’ Israel for violating Lebanon’s sovereignty"
  28. Resolution 347: "...‘condemns’ Israeli attacks on Lebanon"
  29. Resolution 425: "...‘calls’ on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon"
  30. Resolution 427: "...‘calls’ on Israel to complete its withdrawal from Lebanon
  31. Resolution 444: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s lack of cooperation with UN peacekeeping forces"
  32. Resolution 446: "...‘determines’ that Israeli settlements are a ‘serious obstruction’ to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention"
  33. Resolution 450: "...‘calls’ on Israel to stop attacking Lebanon"
  34. Resolution 452: "...‘calls’ on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories"
  35. Resolution 465: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel’s settlements program"
  36. Resolution 467: "...‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon"
  37. Resolution 468: "...‘calls’ on Israel to rescind illegal expulsions of two Palestinian mayors and a judge and to facilitate their return"
  38. Resolution 469: "...‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s failure to observe the council’s order not to deport Palestinians"
  39. Resolution 471: "...‘expresses deep concern’ at Israel’s failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention"
  40. Resolution 476: "...‘reiterates’ that Israel’s claims to Jerusalem are ‘null and void’
  41. Resolution 478: "...‘censures (Israel) in the strongest terms’ for its claim to Jerusalem in its ‘Basic Law’
  42. Resolution 484: "...‘declares it imperative’ that Israel re-admit two deported Palestinian mayors"
  43. Resolution 487: "...‘strongly condemns’ Israel for its attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility"
  44. Resolution 497: "...‘decides’ that Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights is ‘null and void’ and demands that Israel rescind its decision forthwith"
  45. Resolution 498: "...‘calls’ on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon"
  46. Resolution 501: "...‘calls’ on Israel to stop attacks against Lebanon and withdraw its troops"
  47. Resolution 509: "...‘demands’ that Israel withdraw its forces forthwith and unconditionally from Lebanon"
  48. Resolution 515: "...‘demands’ that Israel lift its siege of Beirut and allow food supplies to be brought in"
  49. Resolution 517: "...‘censures’ Israel for failing to obey UN resolutions and demands that Israel withdraw its forces from Lebanon"
  50. Resolution 518: "...‘demands’ that Israel cooperate fully with UN forces in Lebanon"
  51. Resolution 520: "...‘condemns’ Israel’s attack into West Beirut"
  52. Resolution 573: "...‘condemns’ Israel ‘vigorously’ for bombing Tunisia in attack on PLO headquarters
  53. Resolution 587: "...‘takes note’ of previous calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and urges all parties to withdraw"
  54. Resolution 592: "...‘strongly deplores’ the killing of Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University by Israeli troops"
  55. Resolution 605: "...‘strongly deplores’ Israel’s policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians
  56. Resolution 607: "...‘calls’ on Israel not to deport Palestinians and strongly requests it to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention
  57. Resolution 608: "...‘deeply regrets’ that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians"
  58. Resolution 636: "...‘deeply regrets’ Israeli deportation of Palestinian civilians
  59. Resolution 641: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s continuing deportation of Palestinians
  60. Resolution 672: "...‘condemns’ Israel for violence against Palestinians at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount
  61. Resolution 673: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the United Nations
  62. Resolution 681: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s resumption of the deportation of Palestinians
  63. Resolution 694: "...‘deplores’ Israel’s deportation of Palestinians and calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return
  64. Resolution 726: "...‘strongly condemns’ Israel’s deportation of Palestinians
  65. Resolution 799: "...‘strongly condemns’ Israel’s deportation of 413 Palestinians and calls for their immediate return.

Why? When I ask myself that question, I know I am not innocent. I have not done enough. I have not sent enough emails, called enough congressmen, signed enough petitions, marched in enough demonstrations. I am not innocent and it is not a consolation that others are less innocent by not taking the time to know more than propoganda or even as much as the propoganda. So when I see the faces of those children in shelters, I know that I share in the responsibility for their bombing.

I am not innocent.

I have a life

Several people have commented on what a wonderful lifestyle I have. At the risk of increasing my COW (Cranky Old Woman) status, I don’t have a lifestyle. I have a life.

Yes I may live in Geneva with many trips to Southern France which sounds glamorous. This does not make my torn up bathroom because of a water leak any nicer. It did mean The leak was an opportunity to get closer in a positive sense to my downstairs neighbor who took unwanted showers as I flooded him out. That is life, not a lifestyle.

Yes I may be fulfilling my dream working as a fiction writer (we won’t discuss the slog of getting two novels published because it borders on the masochistic) and journalist which has brought me in contact with some world leaders (few who will remember me as I remember them).

Being able to buy wonderfully fresh vegetables and fruit locally grown is not a lifestyle. Buying mayonaise minutes after it is made or discussing recipes with my fish monger is not a lifestyle. It is called breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Not having a car is not a lifestyle. It is being environmentally conscious (although I did shudder when I borrowed a car yesterday to buy new tiles for the damaged bathroom and got stuck in traffic of doing damage to the environment, but I did choose the closest store to my house rather than driving a few extra kilometers.

So, I take out the garbage, write, wash the floor, write, read books, write, visit with friends, love my friends and family, write, watch television, write, go out to restaurants, write, go to concerts, write, listen to music on the radio and on my CDs, write. There is no style about it. It is my life.

Mimi Mongolian Trip

The rooftop terrace, larger than my studio, was sheltered from the Tramantane by the upper stories of the house. The terrace is large enough to have its own Swiss-styled chalet tool shed covering about 5% of the space. Plants flourished in wooden boxes. The sky was royal blue. We were French, Danish and Swiss (me, me, me, well almost since I still have to take the oath). The common language was French.

Michel, a Frenchman who lives in Miami, had a laptop placed on the white picnic table where wine, olives fresh from the market and other nibblies were stored and he gave us a photographic tour of his recent trip to Mongolia. Some people don’t want to see vacation photos or hear about other’s holidays. I love it because I can take mini vacations from the comfort of my home, ruling out some trips for the future and deciding on others as a must-see in person.

Thus I could be amazed at the shiny black coat of the yak. I smiled that I didn’t have to taste its milk (just the word milk causes a gag reaction), admire the sophisticated decorations inside the Yurt, and learn that Genghis Khan (1162-1227) despite his desire to conquer the world (until he got to Europe and didn’t see enough civilization to pursue it) had a really progressive side to setting up governments.

Meanwhile, although many of us read history, none of could date Attilla the Hun (5th Century) or Clovis in the same century.

Mongolia would definitely come after my long-dreamed of trip to Iceland, but with the craziness today at London airports, I am content to just walk down the street and buy a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A good night

She is working on AIDS educational materials, books and films. He produces documentaries in third world countries in Asia and Africa. Dinner was at a table and house I used to partly own. Although we teased them about removing the 500-year old fireplace that had once been the source of all heating and cooking, the new openness was cheery. The place where the washer once was crammed now is lit and is used for wine racks.

The meal is an annual event that I would travel a good way around the world to join for them for the conversation, food and warmth.

They are part of the Copenhagen South atmosphere and they are really the next to last wave of friends to come before I resume my Geneva life with all its dimensions.

The electricity went out again twice during the meal. We had an outage the night before. They had candles that lit our conversation. Our hearts were already alight with the warmth of sharing food and thoughts with intelligent, creative people.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

this and that

As I write this Yuan is tearing apart my shower. I will need a new shower base and it will need to be retiled. Joy. He is a polite kid. I suppose if I am going to have pipe problems, it is good to have a plumber downstairs.

The jewelry store reopened after its robbery. The neighbors sent the owners an orchid to show their solidarity. One of the worse times for a store to close is during the height of tourist season, although part of the week they were down was when half of the tourists went home and the other half arrived.

From the heat wave the forest is dry and a brush fire raged causing thousands of campers to be evacuated. The smoke did not hang around thanks to the raging Tramantane. At the moment my curtains, although heavy because they are made of quilted fabric are standing almost straight out. The wind brings relief from the heat. However, this morning it was only 12° in Geneva.

I am beginning to think of getting back to Geneva and fall walks along the lake, dermatologist and dentists appointments and reconnecting with friends there: also getting organized for my fall work schedule, sleeping with Munchkin, the cat, etc.

Today is a day for laziness except for feeding Barbara. I think the 18 hour days in Dublin caught up with me. This is not a complaint, because covering this conference is a true pleasure.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Showering together

The young couple downstairs are VERY young, but extremely polite. He apologized after knocking at my door and asked to check if I had a leak. It seems water was pouring out of his ceiling which had given me a second cleansing. We found one under my kitchen sink.

This morning when I took my shower, he did too with my water pouring through his ceiling again.

He is a trainee plumber and identified the problem, with us laughing about the different machinations of trying to find first enough light then find the problem.

Tomorrow I will shower at a neighbors until he can change my pipes so hopefully we will each shower alone.

At no point was there any anger. Only a let’s-find-a-solution attitude.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Je suis presque une suissesse

I was terrified in opening the letter. But the news was FANTASTIC. I have been accepted for Swiss citizenship. The yaHOOOOOOOOOOOOO probably shook the capital of Bern and created a few waves in Lake Geneva.

In one of the many interviews I went through for the nationality, I said that changing nationality is a little like changing religion, you have to really want to and really believe.

I had many reasons, including respect for this country that has given me such a high quality of life in all areas, the way they vote on so many issues, the fact the country works more than it doesn’t and the belief that living in a country requires voting and giving back as a full participant in the society. Living here is my recent past, present and future.

What shocked me was when I woke up the next morning and for the first time in a long time I felt safe as an almost Suissesse (I have still to sing the national anthem when I take the oath), and I don’t feel safe as an American not from terrorists but from the American government who not only attacks other countries but is eating away at the financial well being of its own citizens as well as rapidly reducing civil liberties.

Hopefully sometime next month I will take the oath, get my identity card and passport. Of course there is that national anthem worry. I sing terribly, and thank goodness, my ability to sing was not part of the decision process. However, I will work hard to be a responsible citizen for the rest of my life.

Doing good

One of the highlights for me each year is covering an international conference that is dedicated to the betterment of people. I won’t name the organization, but they know who they are.

Two things struck me. They have a subprogram for people under 35. Each year I can meet young adults who are dedicated to helping others. There are times I almost want to cry when I see how they give back not just to their organizations but their communities.

The other was a visit to a local Irish organization, which is a tradition at this conference. Visit local groups that share the same ideas. However, this group met us with a band of bagpipers and drummers dressed in kilts. In the band were a father, son and grandfather.

The staff of the group was beyond welcoming. A quick review of their work made it apparent that their community would not have been as well developed had they not existed for the last thirty years.

In a time where death and destruction is all around us, even the most cynical could not help but be moved by those that build not tear down, those that care for others as much as themselves and those that think in more terms than their own needs.

The next day at the closing ceremony one of the under-35s spoke to the 1850 delegates that had seen a part Irish president, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a Finance Minister, a Regulator, a TV economist/presenter and a human rights worker. But it was the young woman that brought out the handkerchiefs in the audience when she talked about the evening before at the same event I had attended as a life-changing experience. Her emotion at discovering how others could care for their neighbors cannot be recaptured here.

Her words gave me renewed hope that people can rededicate themselves to helping others.

When I admitted to a friend from other conferences also listening how I had cried, she admitted she had too.


I can’t get Crunchies (an English candy bar) in Switzerland. However, I almost did cartwheels when in my box lunch at the conference I attended in Dublin, had a Crunchie. I hadn’t had one since March 2005. I had received a packet for Christmas 2004 and I took a little nibble every day making them last as long as possible. This time I will take a packet home and hopefully they will last into fall.

Giving directions

My daughter claims she developed a sense of direction because she knew I had none and if she wanted to reach home she would have to remember the way. The realization came to her at four when lost on the way to a girl friend’s house that I had visited often, I followed the bus I knew passed her street pulling up and stopping each time it paused to let people on or off.

Some claim I can get lost in my apartment, which I take as a little cruel with only a small basis in reality.

Taking that into consideration, I do not understand why there is an aura that I know where I am going. No matter where I am people come up to me and ask me directions. It happened three times yesterday in Dublin in less than half a mile. Since I was unsure of where my hotel was and suspected that someone had moved it since I had left two hours before I was looking for someone knowledgeable so I could find myself. Maybe because I was in Dublin with Irish red hair, they might think I was local. In a way, I was able to help, but only because I had a map tucked in my pocket as we worked out not only their direction, but mine.

James Joyce

Usually when I cover a news conference, I am imprisoned within the hotel, running to get this interview, or check out that fact. I miss all the sights of the host city. However, this time after doing all my preliminary work, setting up, I had about three hours free to explore Dublin. The best way with limited time is a bus tour. It was a hop-on-hop-off. I didn’t want to do the Guinness brewery or Trinity college, but aimed for the Writer’s Museum.

A few years back my daughter had found one in Edinburgh. However when I did my hop-off, I discovered the James Joyce Centre was only a 300 meters away.

Now, I loved his Dubliners. And I loved The Artist as a Young Man, but I have never been able to get through Ulysses. Periodically I have picked it up, vowing this time, I won’t give up. Equally periodically I give up. At one time I thought it was a question of maturity, but since I am at a point where I am mature and the next step is senility, I am not sure that will work.

I enjoyed the displays of his books, the photos including him and Sylvia Beach in front of Shakespeare and Company. I had stood in the exact same spot earlier in the month feeling very Hemingwayish. The next time I am in Paris and go there, I will have to feel Joyceish.

Because I was hungry I stopped at the café with its dark dusty rose walls above cream wainscoting. The walls had Wedgewood type circles at regular intervals with circular paintings of couples dressed in late 17th century clothing in the centers.

On each of the 12 circle marble tables stood glasses of waters with carnations in everything from early buds to full blooms, but I also noticed that in each glass one of the flowers had turned brown. I wondered if that was a symbol for all the failed attempts to read Ulysses.

The potato

For years I have tried to travel with only carry-on luggage no matter how long a trip, but when I am required to spend a week at a conference with dress requirements plus lug a laptop, carry on gives way to “I’ll check the d--- thing.” Thus I found myself lining up at the carousel in Dublin waiting for the green bag with the blue ribbon.

Push chairs, blue, red, black, green bags came, but the most interesting piece of luggage that no one claimed despite repeated turns was a fairly large potato. I was so engrossed in the potato and in guessing why someone brought it that I almost missed my bag’s arrival. Although I pulled my bag off, I was tempted to wait to see who claimed the potato, but then it disappeared.

It will remain one of those mysteries of life along with who was behind John Kennedy’s killing and where is Jimmy Hoffa. At least we know who deep throat is.