Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas 1

Today is Christmas Eve.

Crossing the Mont Blanc Quai last night, the city was alive with slivers of three-foot long coloured lights--blues, reds, yellows--hanging from the trees along the lake. The tree in front of the Duke's tomb was hung with giant lighted red snowflakes.

Today we will decorate the tree, open presents, listen to carols and have our Christmas Eve feast.

Don't run for your calendars. You did not miss a month. Although it is not December 24th, it is when my daughter is here and won't be after Monday. International families celebrate when and where they are together.

My biggest present, however, has been this week of having my daughter so close.

Merry Christmas 1...

Notes on Thsnksgiving, holidays, hearts etc.

Despite being in Switzerland for 20+ years, despite getting my Swiss nationality, the one time a year I feel homesick for New England is Thanksgiving...

Not this year...

Part of it is the presence of my daughter, and anytime with her is a time of celebration.

For the past two years my housemate and I have put on a huge Thanksgiving spread, but this year we opted to eat at a restaurant in Hermance. The ambiance is Swiss, but the decorations were typically American.

We were joined by my baked bean/cassoulet friend and her French husband and the meal was typical.

When we chatted with the owner, we found out she had lived both in our native Boston and in a town next to my daughter's outside of D.C. We ran into other friends who were also wanting the Thanksgiving meal without the work. "No dishes," was the byword followed by a sigh, "but no hot turkey sandwiches the next day." (we are talking about buying a turkey leg to remedy that little problem).

There was a bit of gloating when we checked the Boston Globe. My high school Reading beat Stoneham, Llara's high school Boston Latin beat Boston English in their traditional Thanksgiving Day football games.

Tomorrow night is Christmas. This will be a year of mini Christmases since children will be scattered. Llara, J. and I will put up the tree, exchange presents,listen to carols. Dec. 4th will be mini Christmas no 2 with son No.1, Christmas Eve is Son. No. 2.

Plans to go to the North Pole were put on hold with no real regret, but remain on the table for another year.

They say home is where the heart heart is asleep in the other room, Munchkin curled up besides her...or at least it is until Monday when we take my heart to the airport and put her on a plane. Thankfully my heart knows how to split itself, so if part is heading across the Atlantic, another part comes back to the life I so enjoy here and that is something to be thankful for 365 days a year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When I grew up

My daughter and I had just ordered to-die-for hot chocolate in the Geneva tea room...hers was called Kama Sutra and mine Lapone Italianne and came complete with raspberries. Under the whipped cream, it was necessary to eat the thick chocolate with a spoon.

Around us people nibbled on pastries worthy of any gourmet magazine photographer, and from their smiles, the taste must have matched the beauty. People chatted in French, English and other languages.

An elderly man used his umbrella as support to pick up one of the newspapers in a rack that patrons could read. He dropped a paper, and one of the waiters swooped in to hand it to him.

My daughter and I have never been at a loss of topics to discuss, but this discussion turned serious when we reviewed a major problem that had existed between the two of us about four years ago. Because we have had so few disputes in our lives, we are not good at them and this one I handled badly...very badly.

"I missed you during that time," I told her.

She nodded. "I kept hoping you would grow out of it," she told me.

Now that's a role reversal, I am not sure I WANT to admit to, but I WILL.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How do you feel about?

Those words,"how do you feel about..." are uttered often at Chemin du Port. The can be followed by anything from sushi to a trip to Iceland.

Thus when my housemate added "spending a night in a castle," what could a girl answer but, "YES!" Number 1 son had bought her a night for two at an escape of her choice. The reservation was made and we set off.

"How do you feel about lunch at the Co-op Wok in Lausanne?" Another resounding yes and we parked by this statue.

The view climbing to the château was beautiful even if the weather wasn't. It took a little while to locate the Bolivian concierge, who was also minding the baron-owner's children. The little girl informed us "C'est le château de mon père," as her brother jumped from couch to table to couch and she scrambled after him. We never met the father.

The furniture was great. The only other guests were a young couple who went out for the evening leaving us alone in the great hall. Conversations about being princesses, my imaginary husband off to Rome to meet with the pope, seemed appropriate. We played tile rummy in front of the giant fireplace (sans feu). Even though radiators were placed strategically around the room it was cold, but probably not as cold as when the château was built in the 1400s. If you look closely at the bed, you will see each bed post has a man, which we guessed was an apostle.

My housemate had a thick duvet. my bed did not, but fortunately my down coat came to the rescue. In keeping with the environment, I pretended I was sleeping under a bearskin rug.

It worked, and I drifted off to a cozy sleep dreaming of knights in shining armor that resembled George Clooney.

In the morning, despite the rain, we were headed back home, but not without one more look at the château. My imaginary husband, the king, still had not come back from Rome. If he wants to find me, he can look in Geneva.

And the next time someone says, "How do you feel about..." I am game. Just point me to it.

There's a cow on the dashboard

With a road trip to the northern most part of Germany planned for next month my house mate thought it was time to buy a tom tom.

Then came the hard part.

How to use it.

We gave it a test run.

We realised that it had a series of sounds the tom tom could make when her foot became to heavy on the gas pedal. Bells, horns, sirens just didn't cut it.

Until we heard a moo. After all, we are Swiss.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sometims a painting should not be hung

I received the painting of old Damascus for my birthday. Almost every day I have thought, today I should hang it up. Instead I have left it on the corner of my desk.

Not a procrastinator by nature, I wondered why I wasn't going for the hammer and nails.

Today I realised why. As I am writing at the computer, I glance at the picture often. I feel myself there right around from the bakery where the pita bread is shoved into ovens, the store where nuts and seeds are sold, where the fountains plash in courtyards, where green flags hang over the street, where water fountains have a cup for the thirsty.

I feel when I look at that painting I am at Auntie's house drinking matei, waiting for the next round of women to share lives with.

I am sitting in a café near where G. has taken me near the window where St. Paul made his escape. We are having another discussion that will resonate with me for months.

I am listening to a concert of young singers.

I am talking to an artist in his studio.

I cannot go to Damascus as often as I wish, but that painting draws my heart into a city I love with people who have welcomed me with open hearts and have touched my heart and soul as well.


Remember the poem, I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree???? The trees seem extra beautiful to me lately.

This is looking straight up by the garage.

These two photos are from the grassy plage.

The evil red button

My housemate and I have over 36 years of education between us. We are not stupid women. But we were almost defeated by the evil red button.

Our TV/DVD system has an unseen cloven hoof mark all over its set up.

The number of remotes would allow us to open a remote store. We have one for:
The French stations
TheSwiss and misc. stations
the DVD
Number 2 son's games
Volume control.

Wires used to be needed to be changed in the back of the screen until my housemate bought a single feed.

We watch little television, but a lot of DVDs: Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Friends, Boston Legal, movies, etc. Had we vanquished the knight of darkness from our media centre?

No, no, a thousand times no. The underworld was still at work keeping us from our goal.

We pushed all logical spots on all the remotes to get from the TV to the DVD. Our snakcs were waiting. Andy Brown was waiting in Everwood CO.


"Maybe something became disconnected," I suggested.

My housemate was quickly on her knees -- not in homage to any underworld deity and much to the cat's disgust because she had been dislodged from the lap.

All connections were go. The DVD was not.

Then she saw it.

The evil red button.

She pushed it.

The hills of Colorado appeared sent from the DVD machine.

We were in business.

Am I being an old lady curmudgeon when I think fondly of the days when one turned on a TV and that was it???????????????????

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pink snow alerts and other things of beauty or interest

"Pink snow alert." My housemate stood at my bedroom door.

I scrambled out from under the lovely warm duvet and into her room to gaze out her balcony window. The snow on top of the Jura was indeed pink and the moment lasted such a short time I couldn't even grab my camera, but the memory is imprinted in my head.

I knew any day that starts with a pink snow alert has to be good.

It is leaf raking time. That patterns of light, the smell of the leaves almost make it a pleasure.

Rainbows can be found in the strangest places. This was in my ophthalmologist's office.

I just loved this statue near the University of Geneva. Does it have relatives on Easter Island

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Taking a measure

Not everyone takes a tape measure to the airport, but my housemate and I did. Our first stop was for coffee and a chai latté, then we headed not to departures or arrivals, but to the car rental lots to measure vans.

Next month we are driving to the northern most part of Germany to pick up a package.

One car rental employee happily lowered a seat of one model so we could check all possibilities. Another wasn't in the mood to help at a all, while a third juggled many priorities and still made us feel like he really, really cared that we solve our problem.

We still don't have a final solution. All we know at some point in December we'll be on the road.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Signs of fall

Autumn will always be my favourite time of year.

First we get one hour extra when the clocks are changed.

Qt the top of the street today, a tres dressed in sunshine yellow was against the dark blue sky. Leaves will never match new England's, but this was a moment of extreme beauty.

The smell of fallen leaves feels clean and the fallen leaves crunch under my feet.

At night smoke from fireplaces fills the air.

It is the time of fuzzy socks and sweats, snuggies and flankets, while watching DVDs.

Nothing is quite as cozy as after getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom then to jump back under the covers to find the bed still toasty.

Need I go into hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts?

And Fall is the American Library sale. This year as in some other years, I helped set up. My first chore was cookbooks, and I wanted to stop and thumb through so many of them. However, I know if I buy them they will rest on the shelf so I resisted, but I wasn't as good about other books, which I will read and return for the next sale. Giving to the library is just in my best interest because I could never feed my reading habit.

All kinds of volunteers lay out books, stopping only for a mid-morning tea break.

Tomorrow I will go back to see what goodies the bake sale part of the event is offering.

At today's press conference

When he entered the hall where the press conference was held, the flashes and clicks of the cameras were almost blinding and drowned out any attempt to speak.

He is taller than I thought he would be, his skimpy blond hair not quite combed and it is clear he does not spend his organization’s money on clothes. His demeanor is almost shy.

His host, the head of The International Institute for Justice, Peace and Human Rights introduced him, and he humbly thanked them for the kind introduction, although he admitted he didn’t understand a word of the French but assumed it was nice by the reporters’ reactions.

Between coughs for 40 minutes he reeled off facts and figures…

Hundreds of thousands dead.

Thousands tortured.

Countries like the UK and Denmark are launching investigations into the alleged violations of international law. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN have all called for investigation, not of his organization, but the violations of international law and also of US law.

The US is launching an investigation into him.

The Pentagon has refused a Danish request for unredacted documents.

Bradley Manning’s mother's house has been searched by the FBI in WALES

A Free Bradley Manning supporter was detained crossing into the US from Mexico, and although not charged had his computer confiscated.

He quoted Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Rights which states no one shall be the subject of torture. The US and UK are both signers.

He then read of one sentence descriptions from different reports that included beatings, whippings, electricity, water, not for a few hours but days.

He told of a man told to dig up an IED while the US troops counted 1,2,3…

He told of the US Assassination Squad with a list of 2,000 names but no judicial overview. The US press has not covered this story, the international press has. He said the NY Times were going to report it but killed it.

His organization does not just pick on the US, but have reported on corruption in over 100 countries since their founding. They have 100s of other documents they want to verify, but are releasing material in order of their importance and they do not have the research staff to do everything that needs to be done.

When asked about his personal danger, he said that it wasn’t just the US that has threatened him. His camp in Kenya had been attacked when revealing corruption there.
Seventy percent on his budget goes to fighting attacks on his organization such as against his computer system or the companies that allow for on-line donations. His organization is financed by himself and donations. However, they could do much better work if they could concentrate on ferreting out the truth against the wrong doers. He wishes that the media would do more to expose the lies and corruption that exist.

He quoted Daniel Ellsberg's fears the change in the US government will make it a greater crime to reveal the truth when laws are broken than to commit the crimes themselves.

The lack of a free press only leads to abuses. The US, he said, does not have a free press and he compared it to other countries that carry stories that the US press does not.

He said that the type of behavior exhibited in Iraq and Afghanistan is not acceptable to the world community. He does not think it is the best interest of the US to conduct their affairs by committing violations of both their own laws and international laws.

He will next talk to the UN as an expert witness.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The first apero

The first apero in the new kitchen.
Number 2 son was back from the South of France for a week. He is an Erasmus student there. I, too was back from Argèles. This is the first time since August we were all under one roof and the first time we were together in a finished kitchen and not roughing it when it came to anything involving food.
So what was more appropriate than having some champagne and nibblies of cheese, meats and salmon while we caught up on news and also chatted about
An American artist visiting Geneva
The artistic spirit
How we create
How we see things
Cross cultural observations
Upcoming holiday plans (more or less because we still don't know if it will be Geneva, the North Pole or Argelès)
and whatever else popped into our heads
Outside the wind blew. Inside was warm not just in temperature but in sharing.