Monday, November 30, 2009

WHY WHY WHY

The Boston Globe has reported that Harvard lost over $1.8 billion from its endowment funds because of investments. Staff had warned Larry Summers then President of the university of the dangers and he refused to listen.

So why, why, why does Obama have him on his team?

The Minaret Vote

As a Swiss who voted to allow the minarets, I am deeply disappointed in my chosen country. Saying that, I know the vote breakdown that people in cities who have more contact with foreigners voted as I did. They have less fear than those who live in villages with less foreign-contact who voted against. This division has long existed in the country. Swiss French are overall (not totally) more progressive than Swiss Germans (not totally). This has given rise to the phrase roesti curtain, which marks the number time of different votes depending on language.

At least we have a right to vote.

I was also unhappy that my fellow citizens voted to continue to export arms, but I am proud of their approving a new train connection and a tunnel.

I don't always agree with the way my fellow countrymen vote, but I approve that we vote on things that the citizens of other countries have to stand by and let the government decide.

Lastly, the UDC politically loves to play on fears and whip un Xenophobia and the Swiss like all other places sometimes fall for the ploy, making us no smarter than those in other countries.

Switzerland is made up of flawed humans as are all countries.

Still, I want to let all my Muslim friends know, we aren't all that narrow minded.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Thanksgiving to Christmas via the Lake in Reverse Order

Okay, it's early but with the comings and goings, we thought we'd get the tree up early. Originally we wanted a dusty rose tree but the lack of dusty rose ornaments made apricot the next logical choice. And with Christmas carols playing on the CD-Player, a scented candle burning and sipping vin chaud, we crossed over from Thanksgiving to the pre-Christmas spirit with just the right amount of seasonal spirit. And to top it all off, my housemate decided to make brownies, making the house smell even more wonderful.

The sun sets early as we approach the longest night. In Hermance, despite the cold a boat full of fishemen tried their luck against the backdrop of grey clouds, Jura with just a touch of snow on the top.

Another Thanksgiving. Another cow? Actually this is a cow in front of a boulangerie where I had wanted to stop for a long time, so when we were picking up bread for Thanksgiving dinner we stopped. What a wonderful place. There is nothing like the yeasty smell of baking bread on a cold rainy November day.


Blog Challenge No. 4

My housemate has challenged me to write what I observe when I am out and about at least two times a week for four weeks. Here is number 4.

Place: Caveau des Dix Vins
Hermance


“Tu est belle, belle, ma petite,” the waitress cooed at the dog, who was anything but petite. This is an Irish wolfhound that stands above my hips. However, the dog was well known in the restaurant and was immediately ushered to “Sa Place” near the grey-brick fireplace.

The waitress, dressed in riding pants and boots, had blonde spiked hair and a face that could not stop smiling, didn’t bother with menus as my lunch companion ordered: assiette chacuterie, salade, fondue and wine from the vineyard owned by the restaurant.

The bearded chef came out to greet the dog then us.

Orange gourds decorated the window sills. The tables were wooden, not numerous.

Over the course of the meal, several other people came over to greet the dog: a man wore a red torque with the Swiss white cross on each side, a patriotic attempt against the cold.

Another couple, called and asked in English “What brand is the dog?”

Whenever we take Cordelia (the dog) into a restaurant there is one of two reactions: horror at the size or intrigue.

This time it was intrigue and a welcome back for an old four-footed friend, that just happened to bring with her two clients.

Blog Challenge No. 3

My housemate has challenged me to write what I observe when I am out and about at least two times a week for four weeks. Here is number 3.

Place: Starbucks at Rive
Reason for being there: killing time until the movie Capitalism, a Love Story

I had grabbed the only two free seats in the place as my housemate went to search for my chai latte and her coffee (one does not come between her and her coffee).

Outside the window the buses E, G, 1, 33 and 53 were coming and going at the stop. A few people huddled in the cold. One young couple cuddled.

Inside, two teenage girls no more than 15 were hunched over half a sheet of A4 paper taking turns writing on it. Both had long, what we used to call dirty blond hair, but it was shiny. One wore a Scandavian-style sweater, the other the new fashionable short-sleeve coat sweaters.

Whatever they were writing did not have to be done in straight lines because each in turn twisted the paper. One wrote along the edge. She rested her head on her upper arm as she wrote. Her hair trailed over on the table as the other girl strained to see what she was writing. Triumphant the writer turned the sheet over to the non writer who added whatever she had to say, but made no attempt to hide it.

What were they writing? I don’t know. I wanted to ask, but without saying a thing they stood up simultaneously, threw on their jackets, pocketing the paper and left just as my housemate brought the chai and coffee.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, Geneva Style




Thanksgiving is the only time I have ever felt deep-down painfully homesick, unless I can celebrate it here. For too many years it was just another work day. This year, unlike last when we filled the Corsier house with people, my housemate and I are not putting an extravaganza but keeping it more family oriented. And we will do it on Friday because of kids working on Thursday. It makes the homesickness disappear.

(I can still catch some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the Internet and later will find out the results of the Boston Latin/Boston English and the Reading/Stoneham football games).

Today the butcher called to make sure we didn’t want the turkey today. And today, I made my apple pie and my green bean dish for tomorrow as I listened to Garou and Il Divo (the rest of the cooking will be done tomorrow) and thought again of all the ways I have been blessed.

This has not been the best year: too many friends have lost parents, too many cancers and other illnesses, too many life-wrenching decisions to be made by those I care about. I was grateful I could listen and help and saddened by their pain.

Support was given back with my own family crisis. I can never thank my friends enough for all the phone calls when I was in Florida, probably the reason I was able to cope at all.

Despite all the rough spots, I am reminded again of how lucky I am with my support systems in Switzerland and France and the friends and family in the States.

I am thankful to have two books in production for publication next year, one almost ready to be submitted and one half written. It was a slow start to writing.

My client list has grown, as well as the warmth of the contacts, which reminds me again that meaningful work is one of the ingredients of happiness.

I am thankful for the fun of my travels, be it my sheep herding lessons in the UK, renewing friendships in Damascus, or getaway weekends with cousins or housemates to misc. European cities.

I am thankful for my daughter, our Skypes and especially her support on many levels with my Mom. I am thankful, that a side benefit of the problems with my Mom is becoming closer to my nephew.

I am thankful that I can live alone in my nest in Argelès and with my housemate et.al. in Corsier. Someone once called me a cake-eater (wanting to have it and eat it too). I think I succeeded with my two homes.

Every time I vote I am thankful for my Swiss nationality. I nver look at the lake, the mountains, the vineyards, without thinking with great joy, this is my country.

And as a gift here’s my green bean recipe. Quantities are proportional for the number of servings.

Fresh green beans
1 garlic clove per four servings
Mushrooms
Tomatoes (fresh if flavourful otherwise canned crushed) chopped finely
Olive oil

Boil the green beans al dente.
Saute the mushrooms in olive oil and when almost done add the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft
Mix with drained green beans.

Can be made a day in advance and nuked. Crumbled bacon can also be added.

Ashamed once again

The glow of not being ashamed of being American last November and January has vanished. With our refusal to sign the Anti Land Mine Treaty, because we need it to protect ourselves and allies. 150 countries have signed it. China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia are hold outs and Russia has indicated it would sign it.
Once again we are in the minority when peace iniatives are approved by the rest of the world.http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2000.htm Further research shows that when it came to a full vote usually there were only one to three countries voting with us.
Talking with a young man here who is German and American he confessed he was ashamed of both his heritages.
When will we stop being killers?

Blog Challenge No 2

Place : Japanese Restaurant at Stand

The cafeteria style Japanese restaurant bears little resemblance to its predecessor, La Truffe. The elegant linen table cloths are gone, replaced by black lattice-work trays picked up at the counter.

I had been planning to eat at Mikado, but since I walked by this restaurant, I popped in and sat at a table for four. All the two-persons tables were occupied.

A woman in her early thirties asked if the other places were free.

She was quickly accompanied by a man probably no more than 30 but vastly overweight, something I expect in the US, but not here. He wore a crisp maroon shirt, and if he stood next to my bedroom drapes he would have been perfect match. His tray had double orders of everything.

He wore a wedding ring, she did not. At first I wondered if they were lovers, but they quickly launched into a discussion of office problems. Jean was causing all kinds of problems because he was out so much and they weren’t sure who could pick up the slack.

If they were as adept at solving problems as they were at using chopsticks, I am sure they would solve the problem without much trouble.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blog Challenge No. 1

My housemate has issued a challenge. Two times a week for the next four weeks, I am to describe something I see while I am out and about. Here goes...

Place: Eaux Vives bus stop

The teenage girl was fascinated by the article about Finn, the bear in 20 Minutes, the local freebe paper. Finn was hovering between life and death, after being shot in the chest by police trying to rescue the mentally handicapped man who had ventured into his Bern enclosure. She turned back to the article two times.


She was dressed like most teens, jeans, jacket, a jersey. Her hands were half covered with the sleeves of her jersey pulled to where the fingers joined the main part of her hand. Her right hand held her natel, making turning the pages a bit more difficult. The only thing that made her stand out from other teens was that her sneakers were white, and unbranded. Having looked for unbranded sneakers for a while. I wanted to ask her where she got them, but my bus arrived.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Xenophobic Nightmares


The UDC, the right wing party is pushing for the banning of minarets in Switzerland. Afterall there are four in the whole country. None have the call to prayers. We will know if they are successful after the votation Sunday. I have already mailed in my vote and of course, I do not want them banned. Afterall we would be the only country in the world to ban them. As usual you need to read the wording careful. If you vote non you are voting to allow them... Click on the photo to see it better.
What I love is this poster. The Xenophobe is having nightmares, but the more tolerant person is dreaming of multi-coloured sheep.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sanity weekend

With much too much work, family problems, made worse by covering a conference for a week my housemate and I took advantage of a gift coupon at a Lausanne Hotel. Fog that hid the lake from view did nothing to destroy the sense of escape from the ratrace we've both been living with. Travelling with her is soooooo easy. When Capitalism a Love Story wasn't showing at the movie theatre we switched to Tresor, a French comedy about what a bulldog puppy does to a marriage. If one bus didn't show up, we hopped on another. A bit of sight seeing, a bit of Christmas shopping and some good meals and an antique fair where we added to my imaginary farm house and played the Sugar Daddy Game. We would look at a group of whatevers and pretend a sugar daddy had agreed to buy one thing. Then we had to explain why. Even if we liked nothing, we still had to select an item, although that was seldom the case. And as proud nouvelle Suisses, we had to admire William Tell.
Book stalls and fall flowers brightened the government building.

Nothing is so bad that tea time overlooking Lausanne's roofs can't make it better.


This is the first time I saw a baby cow and the form was different than the many plastic cows that dot Switzerland.



Walking the old route




While covering the ICA Conference I stayed with my former neighbours, a homecoming in many ways. Time with them is always a pleasure.
The conference was two buildings away from where I used to work and I what a pleasure to walk the old route to work AND WALK BY MY OLD office to the conference centre. My favourite tree was in full autumn colours one day, yet another was much more typical. Fog.
How I love Geneva.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mouse safari

Both my housemate and I talk to ourselves, mostly of the "Now, where did I leave (fill in the blank)" variety. Thus Sunday night when her voice took on not actually hysteria, but an unsual tense tone, I went downstairs to investigate.

Munchkin was chasing a mouse around the living room. In an effort to be humane (mousemane) we grabbed the cat and put her outside the living room and tried to rescue said mouse. Having lived for many years with my daughter's cat who regularly presented living mice to me, including once dropping one into my cereal, I considered myself a fairly good mouse rescurer. It is nice to know I can still be humbled by things beyond my control.

My housemate and I were the Tom(asinas) in a Tom and Jerry cartoon with the mouse out-smarting us at every turn. First behind the shrank, behind the television, behind the CD holder, behind the sectional couch and back again. We would swear he went left and find him right. We turned over all the pieces of sofa onto the rug (not a recommended decorating scheme). Once we had a chance, but he nestled himself in electric cords making the towel we threw over him ineffective. We would bend down (not our most picturesque moments) to stare where we thought he might have gone...Nothing, Nada, Niet...

Well past bedtime, we gave up, let the cat back in and went to bed behind closed doors.

The story does not have a happy ending for the mouse. My housemate cleaned up a small amount of mouse intestines the next morning.

Sigh... We tried.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blessings

1. The opportunity to share my Geneva with two exceptionally intelligent women, one of whom I met in Barcelona, one of whom I interviewed. Their pleasure expanded mine.

2. A fondue with seven people all involved in the co-operative movement at the Cafe du Soleil all with many interests and lively conversational skills.

3. Staying with my Indian friends in my old apartment complex during the ICA conference. It is like coming home, extended family.

4. Sharing photos of an Indian wedding with many people in the photos that I know.

5. Walking my old route to the conference centre and NOT having to go into my old company but to the conference doing what I love--reporting.

6. Drop dead beautiful weather.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Lake

A cloud slept on the lake this morning. the snow capped Jura were above it and the yellow autumn trees between the lake and the house were bright and free of any mist. Almost each leaf was visible.

I ran to get my camera. By the time I got back, the cloud had begun to stretch slowly growing above the mountains. Inch by inch the Jura disappeared.

Too late for the shot, not too late to appreciate the beautiful way to start the day.

I claim this sweatshirt


In the name of Princess Munchkin of Chemin du Port

Friday, November 13, 2009

Video night in Corsier Port

The cold November drizzle outside made a perfect video night. My housemate built a fire in the fireplace and we selected our goodies, this time salmon on toast and grapes with the last of the wine from Sunday’s dinner.

Goodies are a big part of video nights going everywhere from shrimp and champagne to hummus with carrot and fennel sticks. Needless to say Munchkin, the cat, has a preference for the fishier side of the snacks. She does get one shrimp or a bite of salmon, which considering respective sizes is fair. When food is not to her liking she curls up in a lap or next to us breaking into purrs regularly as if to comment on the program.

We’ve just started on Everwood, a series we’d never heard of. I found season one at the Library Book Sale. The video nights ritual started first with Grey’s Anatomy, moved on to Brothers and Sisters (the latest season is on order), Monk and Boston Legal.

Everwood reminds me of Northern Exposure:
City doctor moves to western small town: check
Town full of characters: check
Town full of natural beauty: check
Eccentric nurse: check check Edna or Marilyn
Excellent writing: check

Maybe Everwood goes a little deeper into relationships already
Life is good.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I speak Djembe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjkWaMJjVOM

When my housemate asked if I wanted to do something crazy, I first said yes then asked what. It turned out not to be all that crazy, but a concert that combined classical, jazz, pop with African drums...and each member of the audience had his or her own drum. The master of ceremonies taught us how to play with the perfectionism of a French mime. The video is from an earlier show.

My hands are still tingling.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If you only have love

As I was making the apple pie today, I had Jaques Brel playing on the CD-player. He sang If you only have love, or the French version and I started to laugh.

I had to tell my housemate the story behind the song.

I was about to marry a second time, and I asked my housemate to learn the song to sing at the wedding. "It's the last song on the album," I said. She had a great voice.

A couple of days later she asked, "Are you sure you want me to sing that song?" When I said yes,
she shrugged. She asked again a few days later adding, "But your mother will be there?" I knew my mother was prudish, but there was nothing sexual in the English translation of the song.

The third time she asked I understood. There were two disks in the album and she had mistakenly taken the second one. The song had lyrics like: "The hotel where we played games,"
You bayed the moon just like a hound," and "You see, I've forgotten your name."

The lyrics turned out to be prophetic for the short lived marriage. I gave up getting married, she did not give up singing.

Relish making





My first day at a grown up job after graduation from university, one of my co-workers brought in home-made relish. I loved it. Years passed, she became my baby-sitter, I eventually shared a house with her daughter (and others) and our relish supply was always unlimited.



Then one day, the woman had a heart attack and as we waited in the room for relatives with loved ones in intensive care we realised that the recipe existed only in her head. Of course, we couldn't go in and ask.



Fortunately she recovered and relish-making became a fall femine tradition. First the daughter, the mother and myself. When my daughter was older she joined us, a right of passage. The routine was the same, always followed by a special home made tomato soup.


I have an English friend. Twice now we've carried on the tradition of making THE RELISH, albeit nine years apart. Cheerfully we peeled the cucumbers, cut the onions on the balcony where the smell was less, blended the flour, vinegar and tumeric, placed it all in sterilized glasses and violà we have relish for ourselves and a few beloved friends.


No tomato soup. I can't get one of the essential ingredients, but I can live with that.



You can take the lazy, hazy days of summer

It is autumn that I love with its red leaves. This year the leaves are ALMOST as beautiful as New England's.

And it is making applie pie with apples from a friend's tree.



And after years of living in an apartment building, even raking the leaves are a pleasure, especially if there is wood burning stove scenting the air in the neighbourhood.



And it is seeing the cat on my housemate's legs. Munchkin always finds the coziest spot in the house. But then, I understand. I love after getting up in the middle of the night to find the spot under the duvet still warm (unless of course Munchkin got there first)



Rainbow scramble



Normally August is rainbow season, but driving home after seeing This is It, the sky burst forth with a rainbow. Between traffic and trying to dig out the camera, we almost missed capturing this beauty. As it was we didn't get the best angle, but nevertheless this an accident-free rainbow and the accident-free part is almost as miraculous as the rainbow itself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visual lullaby

I didn't lower the rolladen last night and through the sheer curtain I could see the tree with the street light swaying in the wind. There are still many leaves to dance. The colours were muted Soothing.

Today is SUSHI. YAHOO. I've been sushi deprived since going to Argelès in mid September. Followed by the Michael Jackson movie and going to an exhibition from my housemate's Norway photo trip (not just her photos, and although I haven't seen them, I think her photos would be worthy of an exhibition. The lady is good...

Rain is pelting down as more leaves fall from the trees leaving pretty colours on the ground. I'll be less enthusastic as I'm raking them on a better weather day..

Something about a rainy November Monday with a morning to work on the newsletter, cozy in my room/office that causes rolls of contentment to sweep through me.

The internet is working well. We've discovered the secret. If I log on in my room the connection is weak. If I carry the laptop downstairs to the basement office, I log on, there's a strong wifi signal that does not fade when I walk two flights upstairs to my desk with the laptop on. As I run around with my laptop I remember when I had to take my first Mac to the repairman. I carried it gingerly, much more so than I ever did my daughter (sorry Llara), After taking baby steps into the store, hugging the precious computer to my bosom, he took it in one hand and took it up stairs two steps at a time. Arghhhhhhhhh.

The only thing that is missing at this moment is a cup of tea, and that I will remedy immediately.