FC: A Mr. & Mrs. Trying to Live with the Swisses | 2011-2013
1: John and I moved to Geneva, Switzerland in August 2011 for a two year assignment. Moving to Europe (temporarily) was something that I had always wanted to do. After I cried on the bathroom floor, John finally caved and agreed. We packed up our things in Issaquah, WA, sent some to storage, some to Switzerland, some to suitcases, and some in boxes to our parents' houses, and headed overseas. These two years have been more wonderful, difficult, happy, sad, fast, slow, and interesting than I could have imagined. We have grown as individuals, strengthened our marriage, and, most importantly, we survived. As the end of the two years approaches, we are ready to move back to Issaquah. We miss our family, friends, shampoo, chilies, and home. Still, I know we will also miss Switzerland. mostly snowboarding, traveling, cheese, and Oreo Milka bars. On to the next adventure. Santa!
2: It's official. I used up the last of my Starbucks card today, so there is nothing left for me here in the US. Between that, the downgrade of the federal debt, and the impending tolls on 520 (maybe someday?), it's time to move on. I am waiting at the gate for my flight to London, and it feels very weird not to have my phone, keys, or any liquids in my purse. I would definitely lose the bridal shower purse game. I would win the suitcase game, however. The lady at the counter where I checked in confirmed that I was actually moving and this wasn’t a weekend trip. She was also trying to be really helpful with the extra baggage costs, although I’m not sure what exactly I could have done at the airport to reduce the number of bags I had or the weight. After she got over the fact that I was checking four bags (I also have two carry-ons), she then had to break the news that some of them exceeded the weight limit. I carried them up in to the airport from the car – trust me, I already knew that. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes when I have to carry all of them by myself in Geneva since I had John’s help to the counter today. Maybe it is good that I’m going alone and don’t know anyone over there since that will definitely be funny and awkward. Although John might disagree, I think I did quite well today. I only used five tissues and only two people at the airport asked me if I was okay. For the record, I answered affirmatively and honestly.
3: "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are made for." | I bought some airplane snacks at Target, and when I got home I realized that all of them are mostly made up of chocolate. I think this will be a good warm up, however, in addition to the Swiss cheese I had at lunch today. I’m already engrained in the culture. In a speech I listened to the other day, the CEO of the company I work for briefly mentioned his experience moving abroad. He said it took a lot of courage to even get on the plane. I wasn’t sure if I would feel that way since I felt like I was mentally prepared to leave, but I agree with him. I think it’s one of those things where you just take baby steps until you get there. I made it to the gate, next I’ll make it on the plane, then I’ll get my stuff and make it to the airport. Then I guess I better make it to work on Monday. :) | August 28, 2011 | I have a lot of mixed emotions today which is exhausting but will hopefully help me sleep on the plane. I’m anxious, nervous, excited, sad, and many other things. I think it will be very weird to be alone for so long (John is coming at the beginning of November). Considering I don’t like spending the night alone in my own house, I’m not sure how this is going to go. I know there are some benefits - like you can eat whatever you want whenever you want, go to bed whenever you want, etc, but I feel like the thing I like most, which is to talk whenever I want, isn’t going to be available. So I’m substituting blogging whenever I want. like you can eat whatever you want whenever you want, go to bed whenever you want, etc, but I feel like the thing I like most, which is to talk whenever I want, isn’t going to be available. So I’m substituting blogging whenever I want.
4: Today was my first day of work in the Geneva office. I consider it successful for the following reasons: - I made it to the office on time. - I looked presentable and had showered twice since my flight (twice was probably necessary). - I logged in to my computer and checked email (see unsuccessful reasons below). - I didn’t start smoking (stay tuned for further posts to see if I actually do start, just to fit in) - The office manager I’m working with is the nicest lady who has ever lived. And hilarious. She is super excited to go to the Britney Spears concert next month (she’s almost 40), and has the Britney CD playing in her car. She even came with me to the Office Cantonal de la Population which is a horrible government office where you take a number, get in line, and finally get to the counter only for them to give you another number so you can wait in the next waiting area, to get my paperwork with me this afternoon. This fact alone proves that she is the nicest lady who has ever lived. She and John can compete for the nicest person of humanity award. - I still have a job to go to tomorrow. - There is no denying that Switzerland is beautiful. | "The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." | August 29, 2011
5: Some reasons today could be considered unsuccessful: - My inbox is called “posteingang”. Seriously. Everything else is set to English, but inbox apparently doesn’t translate from German. Check out my facebook home page too. - I am terrified to answer my office phone since I don’t know the proper office greeting. I know how to say “hello” and the name of my company, but I don’t know the formal office way of putting it all together. I also didn’t set my voicemail greeting for the same reason. I’ll have to ask office manager Britney tomorrow. - Speaking of phones and German, I got an iPhone from work today. I do consider it successful that I entered in the SIM password myself, however I think it is overall not a success since my voicemail greeting is something in German that I don’t understand, and I can’t figure out how to change it. I also have several German texts on the phone that I don’t understand. Hope they aren’t anything important. - I met a lady who is an office building neighbor, and she leaned in to kiss me on the cheek, like most people here do. I was caught off guard, almost kissed her on her lips, and then stopped at only two kisses until she corrected me that it’s supposed to be three times. - I looked for apartments with my helpful apartment hunter girl today, and I found a temporary, one-month apartment. Honestly, the apartments here suck. They are small, old – like 60’s old, not cool charmy old - , and the ones I’ve looked at are not in the best areas. The area might have something to do with my budget and there aren’t any really bad areas in Geneva, but the apartment style is going to be something to get used to. I’ve never seen a House Hunters International in Geneva, and I know why. But, since I’m not going for ratings on this blog, I’m going to do my own little blog House Hunters game in the next few weeks and post some pictures. - The “z” and “y” are transposed on the keyboards here along with all of the symbols and the return key. All day I’ve been typing “zou$” instead of you / the enter key. I figure since things could have gone much worse and all of my non-successes can be fixed, I’m going to stay positive and take my wins where I can. Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Zurich just for the day to meet with a manager there about an engagement I’m taking over from him. I already have my ticket, so I’m ready to go. I went for the day last time John and I were here, so I’m not too nervous. Still, you can’t get too cocky around here. I’m going to keep the quote from above in mind since I feel like embarrassing things always happen when you least expect it. They can sneak up on you. *kiss* *kiss* *kiss* | P.S. Jenn and Whit, this is for zou: These crisps were at the London airport and made me laugh. They were also talking about the Notting Hill Festival. Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away :)
6: "In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language." - Mark Twain August 30, 2011 | The five words no traveller wants to hear, especially in a language they don’t understand: Your ticket is not valid. The ticket people on the trains always make me nervous. After the train leaves the station they go person to person to make sure you have a valid ticket. I don’t know why they make me so nauseous since they wear little striped ties and all of them carry purses. Both accessories for both genders. I was riding the train back to Geneva from Zurich this evening, and the lady took my ticket and looked at it. She said something in German, which I’m assuming wasn’t “Are you American because if you are I’m going to play a mean trick on you” but “Your ticket is not valid”. When I replied in English, she explained that my ticket was a roundtrip from Zurich to Geneva and back, not Geneva to Zurich and back. I’m not sure why this matters, but apparently it does. I wanted to tell her that I actually didn’t buy the ticket, it was Britney Spears from my office who is French. But she was nice, punched the ticket, and moved on to the next person. I’ll let you know the day when I can finally confidently present my ticket knowing for sure that I’m on the right train with the right ticket in the right section heading in the right direction. Right now there are too many iffy factors. Speaking of languages you don’t understand, I made an unfortunate discovery today. My phone not only displays the day of the week in German on the front, which I can figure out, the lady who helps me on my voicemail by telling me what number to press to delete, save, or replay a message also only speaks German. I received a voicemail today from someone in German (which hopefully isn’t the same person who has been texting me about something important), so I tried to delete it. The automated lady voice was very friendly as she repeated the instructions about five times, but after trying every number (it must be a combination to delete a message), I gave up. And for all of the times I took for granted “to delete this message, press 7” Despite all of these setbacks, one of the highlights of my day was when a lady on the train said “geshundheit” when I sneezed. A real German one. I actually got some work done today and logged some chargeable hours. It felt strangely nice to be working since it’s an environment where I’m comfortable and know what I’m doing. Tomorrow I’m going out to my first client, though, so I'm nervous about that. With my luck, they’ll only speak German. Maybe then they can help me with my phone.
7: From every solution come ten more problens. August 31, 2011 | Update on the answering work phone issue: problem solved. I say, "Company name, Danielle, Bonjour". My new top three problem priorities, ranked in order of importance: 1. Figure out how to get into the bathroom at the office. It has a lock, but I'm pretty sure I don't have the key. Sometimes this is number 1 on my list and sometimes not. Right now it is, and there is no one here to ask. Shoot. 2. Figure out how to manage my voicemail on my cell phone. See previous post for more information. 3. Understand why one would wear a sheer shirt over just a bra. As someone who is currently wearing three shirts, none of which are see through and all of which are tanks or short sleeves, I may never come to understand this popular trend here. I'm hoping John can help with this when he gets here. I'm moving into my temporary apartment tomorrow for one month. I'm trading this... | ... for a kitchen. I'll post some pictures of my new place tomorrow night. I do know that a decorative pillow is not included.
8: "Food is an important part of a balanced diet." - Fran Lebowitz September 4, 2011 | I moved into my apartment yesterday! I lugged all of my oversized, overweight luggage with me to the apartment and got the keys after work. It is furnished, so it has furniture, kitchen stuff, etc. I got to put my own sheets on the bed and hung my towels in the bathroom. If any of you have ever stayed at the Dolin B&B, some of the bedding might look familiar. :) I’m pretty excited about that. The first thing I did when I got to the apartment is go to the grocery store. Tonight is their “late night”, which means they close at 7:30. And this is no Safeway. On my shopping list was soap (hand, dish, etc), paper products, and some food to last until the weekend. Yes, for you eagle eyes, I purchased Weight Watchers milk. It was the only one with less than about 5% fat. I found everything I was looking for, even my number one priority item which tried to hide from me at the store: disinfecting wipes. And when I wiped everything off, I was pleasantly surprised at how clean this place is. Yay! After I put some things away, I decided to make dinner. I haven’t had a kitchen or anywhere to cook since I left home, so I was pretty excited about the greek spaghetti I was going to make. I put it all together, tried one bite (see picture of ignorant bliss just before my first bite below), and it was disgusting. I wasn’t sure what the culprit was at first since it could have been one of four ingredients, so I conducted a small experiment. I eliminated the cinnamon since I had brought it from home, and I was pretty sure that was okay. I also decided the noodles couldn’t possibly taste like that. So, rather than eating a spoonful of butter first, I decided I would isolate the cheese and try a bite. It was definitely the cheese. This surprises me because I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like. So I introduced myself to the nasty cheese and threw him back in the fridge. And now looking back through the pictures he sat so smugly front and center in my grocery store products picture. I’m on the hunt for a replacement parmesan. Most shocking at the grocery store was that it costs over $12 for a small quart of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And other ice cream is really expensive too. Since the bakery right underneath my apartment has pain au chocolat, I will cut the complaining short and will just have to eat ridiculous amounts of chocolaty croissant. Life is rough. Here are some pictures of my apartment. It has a little bathroom, a little kitchen, and a family/ bedroom. It’s actually pretty nice, but to put my complaining from earlier posts in perspective, it’s about 350 square feet and costs over $2500/ month. Hopefully the furniture is worth about $700/ month yikes. My first client visit yesterday went well. At least I think it did. Tomorrow I have an appointment to get a real Swiss bank account.
9: This is how my dinner looked before and after I ate it. | Also, update on the office bathroom, there is no key. I just wasn’t pushing the door hard enough. I’m a little disappointed that I had to use one of my stupid questions on the bathroom situation, but, needless to say, I’m pretty glad I got that one figured out.
10: "I was on a date with this really hot model. Well, it wasn't really a date date. We just ate dinner and saw a movie. Then the plane landed." - Dave Attell September 4, 2011 | Question: What is the difference, other than the color, of these two plugs? | Answer: One of them is Swiss, and one of them is for the rest of Europe. No, they don’t both fit into the same outlet. This means I do not currently have a hair dryer. For me, this means the difference between | Despite the hair, I had a great day yesterday with Britney. She picked me up, and we went to a little town in France called Divan. We walked around the lake there, through the town, and stopped for coffee and a cigarette for her and an iced tea and pain au chocolat for me. I’m so hard core. After that we stopped an amazing, real grocery store where I bought two recommended cheeses from a French woman. Cheese and I are now back on good terms. | and
11: Britney brought me back to her house where I met her two teenaged sons and husband. We watched some TV and hung out and she made dinner. Since I can’t count the greek spaghetti, it was my first home made meal since I’ve been here. Delicious. And then we ate a raspberry tarte for dessert. No wonder things are looking up. She offered to hang out again next Saturday and take me to another little town in France and show me around. I kind of feel like I got asked on a second date, and I’m super excited about it. Hopefully I’ll have a hair dryer by then. She hasn’t even seen me at my best! A few notes about the apartment: | This is my elevator. My elbows can touch every single side at the same time. I literally laugh out loud everytime I get in it. Except for when I had to use it to bring my luggage up to my apartment. That was not funny. | My apartment has a TV. Cool. I don’t like any of the channels. Not cool. Here is my lineup: 1: BBC news 2-8: Fuzz 9: French drama things 10: French news 11: Italian soccer (yes, every single time I turn it on) 12: Music videos. This is the only channel I have watched, but there is only so many times I can watch Lady Gaga “On the Edge” and Britney Spears “I Wanna Go”. French rap is one of my favorite things of life, however. That doesn’t get old. 13: Fuzz 14: CNN. This is the other thing I’ve watched since I’ve been here. Really entertaining for more than half an hour 15-20: More fuzz 21-24: German 25-27: Fuzz So much for that. Finally, the elusive microwave. It has four buttons on the top, which John nicely reminded me are in English, but no numbers. I’m waiting to try that out until I’m really in the mood for something fun and crazy to do around here. Geneva doesn’t even know what has hit it yet.
12: What goes around, comes around. September 8, 2011 | I am familiar with karma. Or I should say karma is familiar with me. I knew it would get back at me for laughing. But I couldn’t help it. As I stood in line for a bus/ tram pass on Tuesday, for over an hour, rather than keeping track of the ticket numbers as they were being called, I decided to count the number of people who tripped on the stair walking into the office. Final count: 32. I also brainstormed some ways for this to be fixed, since clearly yellow and black striped tape isn’t enough. My ideas all involve some sort of wild animal or privacy invasion, however, which clearly have some kinks that need to be worked out themselves. | I was curious about what was going to happen to me, but luckly I didn’t wait for long (ironic word choice, indeed, as you will see). I found out on Wednesday at work that I would have to purchase an “abonnement” where you pay a certain amount annually and get half price on all train tickets within Switzerland. I went back to the train station that night and pulled a number from the train office, which just so happens to sit right across the hall from the bus/ tram place and the stair. I pulled number B1746. When I got there, they were at B1436. I was hoping that the numbers went by the hundreds, fiftys, a random number generator... but I couldn’t have been more wrong. They went one-by-one, and I found out there were also some unrelated A numbers mixed in. I waited for almost an hour (the number was still in the 1500s), then remembered that I needed to buy a first class train ticket to the town I’m going to on Friday for work as well. I changed my selection for what I needed at the little number dispenser, got a new “A” ticket, and my number came up 5 minutes later. The person who helped me was nice but noted I needed a passport picture for my abonnement thing, which obviously I didn’t have. After getting all of the paperwork done, trying to find somewhere in the train station to get my picture taken, bringing it back to the office, and waiting in line again, this was a two hour process. Total payback as anyone who has had to wait at a government office would understand. When I finally left, the ticket numbers were still in the 1500s. Seriously.
13: "Both young children and old people have a lot of time on their hands. That's probably why they get along so well." -Jonathan Carroll September 8, 2011 | Due to my lively social calendar, I have to reschedule my date with Britney for Saturday. Can you believe I am double booked?? The partner, John (not life partner John, accounting firm partner John two very different people), invited me to dinner at his house on Saturday night. Hopefully Britney is flexible and we can hang out during the day or next weekend at least. Luckily I don’t have anything else on the calendar, so I should be able to fit her in. Sunday is family day here, so that won’t work. You also can’t mow your lawn on Sundays since it’s too loud. Or do any grocery shopping since all of the stores are closed. I went apartment hunting yesterday during lunch and saw two apartments with the agency girl. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. One had two bedrooms and was actually pretty big, although the kitchen was not “fully equipped” which means we would have to buy a fridge and oven. It was also a little above our price range. The second one was actually in our price range, has a separate bedroom, and is fully equipped! It also has a parking spot. It’s not in a prime location, but since it has the rest of what we want, I applied for it. Along with over 50 other people. As they say in Geneva, “you don’t pick the apartment, the apartment picks you.” Hopefully the feeling was mutual and this one has a little crush on me too.
14: "Life is full of beauty. Notice it. " - Ashley Smith September 9, 2011 | This was my view from lunch today with a client in Neuchatel.
15: "It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one's present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason." | When partner John asked me to dinner at his house this weekend, I asked if there was anything I could bring. I was hoping he would say something like bread, napkins, or dessert. Unfortunately for me, he let me know that when invited to someone’s house for dinner in Switzerland, it is polite to bring a bottle of wine. I would have rather brought the entire meal. Perhaps it has something to do with my fondness for Sutter Home, but for some reason I feel like I am not what one would call a wine connoisseur. And this is even more daunting when bringing wine for my boss who enjoys wine and lives near the best wine country in the world. I was going to hang out with Britney on Saturday, so I decided that I would have her help me pick the bottle. She was just as not excited as I was about choosing, but she went with me anyway. We decided on red in order to narrow down the choices and then decided to only select from the bottles that had been given awards. I picked up a few pretending like I was intently reading the bottle and consulting the extensive wine knowledge database in my head to determine whether that was the one I wanted to choose. At about the fourth bottle, I picked one up and noticed the story about the vineyard on the back listed the owners, one of whom had Britney’s real name and one of whom had my name. It was a sign. Sold. We didn’t drink the wine at dinner, which I was happy about since now I can just pretend it never happened and not get all embarrassed in person. I had a great time at dinner, however, and we sat outside until late eating and chatting. He has a very cute country Swiss house, and dinner was delicious. In other news, I found a plug for my hairdryer and US laptop. Yay!
16: "Opportunities always look bigger going than coming." September 12, 2011 | I found out today that my feelings for the apartment I applied for are unrequited. The reasons, I’ll never know. I can only gather the pieces I have left and move on from here. Which is what I will be doing tomorrow and Wednesday as I look at more places. Hopefully with better bathroom tile. I had a feeling we wouldn’t get this place. I first learned of this opportunity in Geneva in February. My boss had asked me if I was really serious about wanting to work abroad, and he said he would “get the ball rolling”. That week I had a phone call with another lady at the firm who told me about the current international opportunities, and the minute she said “Geneva”, I knew that’s where we were going to go. Everything became really clear that this was our chance, and it was going to work out. John said he felt it too when I told him over the phone at work, but he wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was. :) It was very strange, but I walked around the rest of that day letting it all settle in that we were moving here. That is not to say that making the decision to come here was easy, because it was the hardest one we’ve had to make. That sounds silly when I write it out because it doesn’t really seem like a problem. It was harder than I thought to make the decision to come here, and it’s harder than I thought to be here. I miss John like crazy, I miss family and friends, I miss the food, I miss the routine, I miss pumpkin chai from Starbucks, and I miss knowing how everything works, among many other things. The first week I was here was the longest week that has ever been. Thankfully last week went by much faster, otherwise I might have felt like I had already been here two years by the time this next weekend rolls around. I’ve teared up at least half of the days I’ve been here, which I know doesn’t help anything, but it’s how I am. Still, I have a funny feeling it will be harder than I think to come home too.
17: Although overall I’m doing fine, one could say that I’m currently in a fragile state. This was made obvious this week when sorting through the five packages sent to me by my new Swiss bank. I received several letters and one larger package. I set all of the bank mail aside until a time when I felt like sorting through it. Since this feeling never came, I decided I should do it today anyway. Some of the letters had credit/ debit cards in them, others contained pin numbers and welcome messages. Then there was the package. I opened it and found a small black item with numbers on it. They have some weird technology items here in Switzerland, so I assumed it was something to go with one of the cards I received. And I was annoyed I had to figure something else out. My brain hurts. I was Skyping with John earlier today and complained about all of the bank stuff I have to go through, especially this foreign (literally) object. I showed it to him on the video, and he started laughing. He confirmed it was a calculator. Just a regular old calculator. Not only do I get welcome love letters from my bank, I get welcome presents. Way to go, accountant. | "Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers." -Janis Joplin September 13, 2011
18: Good things come in small packages. September 14, 2011 | In Geneva, all things come in small packages. Just as I was starting to get the hang of this apartment (meaning I’ve used all of the appliances, including the menacing microwave, and figured out where to point the shower head so the floor doesn’t get soaked), I have to move out. This is my episode of House Hunters International: Apartment 1: This one is located in Grand Saconnex, which is close to the UN and my office but farther from downtown and the lake. Pros: Large family room open to the kitchen. Separate bedroom. Closet included. Close to work. Cons: Pink bathroom tile. Oven and stove not included. | Living room | Kitchen. The fridge is that little thing in the middle of the cupboards to the right. | Bedroom... I think a queen will fit. | View from the balcony. The balcony is very enjoyable... if you only want to stand and peer over the railing next to the window.
19: Apartment 2: Located central to town and two rooms. Two rooms means actually two rooms – one kitchen and one everything else room. Pros: Centrally located. A nice old man lives there. Cons: Smaller than what I’m living in right now. | Apartment 3: Located on the other side of town but in a nice area with lots of character. And not weird character, charmy character. Pros: Very cute and would fit our furniture perfectly. Floors and bathroom being remodeled which means we’d get a brand new bidet! Cons: Was already rented by the time we called, which was on our way out of the building. | I chose Apartment 3, but when that one was already rented, I applied for Apartment 1. Stay tuned – I am too – to find out if I get it. | Family room, bedroom, office, guest bedroom, etc | That bathroom flooring must be popular. See Apartment 2.
20: Isn’t she a beauty? The sixth floor of this building is where John and I will be spending the next two years of our lives. We got accepted for House Hunters apartment #1! For any potential visitors, the guest room (aka family room) overlooks a spectacular Swiss mountainscape beyond the other apartment buildings. Our spacious room features hardwood floors, blankets, and a two person bath elegantly set in soft pink tile. Upgrades available for cable television (German channels complimentary), internet access, mini bar featuring local wine and cheese, and a hair dryer and straightener with Swiss friendly plugs. I wouldn't exactly call it a "Swiss chalet", but we can take you to see some during the day if you're interested in seeing one. I move in October 1st and hopefully, I really hope, our furniture moves in shortly after that. | "Being right too soon is socially unacceptable." - Robert Heinlein September 20, 2011 | Home Sweet Home September 18, 2011 | Update on the “calculator”: after reading one of my banking booklets, it is, in fact, not a calculator. It’s something for online bank access where you swipe your card in the back and enter in the authorization number or something like that. I am just a little happy that I wasn’t overreacting and was right that this is a technology contraption, but this feeling is far overshadowed by the annoyance of reading another booklet.
21: Do not ask questions to which you do not want to know the answer. September 20, 2011 | Since I was so nervous to find out the answer, I wanted to wait until the end of this month to ask the question. But, after some convincing from Britney, I emailed our mover coordinator lady today to find out where exactly our stuff is en route and when it is scheduled to arrive. Since I’m scheduled to move into a place at the end of this month, I was hoping our things would move in soon after. I was pleasantly surprised that our shipment is scheduled to arrive “at port” on October 3rd! Then I realized that I’m not sure which port that is since there aren’t any “ports” in Geneva, and I’m assuming our stuff isn’t coming on jet ski, which is all that really ports on Lake Geneva. I’m really hoping she meant Port of London or somewhere in Belgium or please this side of the Earth. I’m really hoping not Port of Seattle. I need to clarify. | On another topic, I am doing alright in my French language skills. So far, I have understood all but two conversations. One was between the partner and a client about a partial liquidation tax issue, which, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have understood in English. The other was Desperate Housewives that I watched tonight. In my defense, I’m pretty sure most of the housewives’ vocabulary wasn’t on my high school weekly quiz list.
22: Today I signed the lease for the apartment. Yay! Below are some reasons why this is a monumental victory for me: - I will be out of town in Zurich from today until Sept 30th, which meant everything had to be done before I left. That gave me yesterday and today to get everything organized. It’s especially difficult to organize things when you aren’t quite sure what all you need to do. - In order to sign a lease in Switzerland, you have to have three months of rent blocked in your bank account. Since they pay employees once per month here, I did not have any money in my new Swiss account. I found this out yesterday morning. Unfortunately, I found this out at 2am Seattle time, and to initiate a wire online the bank sends you an authorization code to your cell phone. Since I no longer have my cell phone, that wouldn’t work. To make a long story short, I ended up borrowing $5000 in cash from Britney. - I then made an appointment with my bank for this morning to get the letter. This took over an hour to get everything together. Then I went straight to the rental agency to sign all of the paperwork. I’m pretty sure I wrote less signatures when applying for our mortgage. - I had to move out of my temporary apartment today and clean everything last night. I had to wash the dishtowels I had been using, so I reluctantly headed downstairs to the washing machine. Other than answering the phone at work, laundry makes me the most nervous. I put in a load of towels, loaded the soap, closed the door, and then couldn’t get anything to work. I pressed every single button on the machine, including the “open door” button several times, and nothing happened. My towels were hostage. I was down there for a while by myself, but since someone else had clothes in the dryer, I figured they would have to come down eventually to help me. After about 20 minutes, however, I decided to wait up by the front door, since there had to be someone coming home. The first guy who walked in was about my age and looked terrified when I tried to talk to him. He was wearing a nice little sweater and glasses and was clearly an introvert. When I asked him in French if he lived in the building, he said in a small English voice that he doesn’t speak French. Lucky for him, I’m pretty good at English! He came downstairs with me, and apparently you need a special key to start or unlock the washer. He told me this then started walking out the door. I begged him to please get his key so I could get my stuff out. I was about 50/50 that he wouldn’t actually come back, but he did, and I grabbed my dirty towels and ran back upstairs. I hand washed all of them at about 11pm last night. | "A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough." - Christian Bovee September 22, 2011
23: - I also had to get renters insurance before signing the lease. The agency I’m working with gave me a name of someone, so I got everything I needed from him yesterday too. He asked me if the building caught fire and everything inside was completely destroyed how much the replacement cost would be. As I was adding everything up in my head, he mentioned that the minimum coverage policy is for $20k. I laughed and told him that would be plenty. - Then the TV broke in the apartment. I had turned it on for 10 minutes to listen to one last music video as I got ready for bed, heard a ‘pop’, and it died. I’m really excited to replace a TV in an apartment I barely lived in that I will never see again. - I also had to move all of my stuff back to the office. This was a three day long process as I brought bags each time I went into work this week. Sweating on my way to work is one of my favorite things. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm going to call this overall a success. I get the keys next Friday, and then my air mattress and I will have a home.
24: Friday was the Switzerland firm “office day” which was planned by the Zurich office manager and kept a complete surprise until the day of. Our only instructions were to meet at the train station in Zurich at 7:45am and wear comfortable shoes. I was super excited and figured I would love anything we did since it would all be new to me. I would totally be that dork who thought everything was cool with the big stupid grin on my face all day long. And I was. :) We took the train to Basel, which is about an hour train ride from Zurich. Then we took a tour of the soccer stadium there. The tour was all in German, so I really was the dork with the smile plastered on her face since I had no idea what anyone was talking about. After that we went to lunch at one of the coolest restaurants I have even been to. It was set into the ground, and all of the walls were rock. There were candles and chandeliers everywhere. And I had salmon and wine. I was definitely smiling after that. | "If it's not fun, you're not doing it right." - Bob Basso September 26, 2011 | The bus' name is "Extrafahrt"... how could you not laugh at that?! | Zurich
25: Then we broke into four teams for a city scavenger hunt, which was also in German. So I just followed my team around, but I happened to be on the same team as Britney, so we just laughed the entire time. We got back to Zurich at around 9pm, and then we went out with a bunch of the Zurich people. I accidentally bar hopped until 4am. I was still smiling. I recovered on Saturday and Sunday by wandering around the city, reading a book by the lake, and exploring the churches and old town. The weather was absolutely perfect. Zurich jumped up to one of my favorite cities in no time. It is AWESOME. And, for the first time since I’ve been here, this weekend I didn’t feel homesick at all. I’m sure some of the homesickness will come back, but it felt really good to be really happy to be here for a while. Happy enough to just smile while walking around town by myself. Good thing I’m not trying to look too cool. | Zurich | Basel
26: I came back to my hotel room last night to find that housekeeping had set an iron on my suitcase below my shirts that were hanging up and propped the ironing board next to it. Was that a hint? I decided it wasn't and happily put on my wrinkled shirts this morning. | "My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint." - Erma Bombeck September 29, 2011
27: After I wrote this, I realized that I seem really pathetic and sad. I’m not. I haven’t cried in probably three weeks, I’m just having a homesicky / Johnsicky night. It is harder than I thought it would be to be here by myself. The time drags by waiting for John to get here. Our apartment just doesn’t feel like home without him (and the lack of furniture might have something to do with it). I am still in a fragile state, and he’s not here to tell me to stop crying about things like a washing machine. I welled up with tears today when I found the laundry room in the apartment building with a sign up sheet on the door. Each person has to sign up for a weekly three hour window to do their laundry. The current open times are Wednesdays 10am-1pm and Fridays 4pm-7pm. I guess I’ll sign up for Friday since I’m not likely to come home for lunch on Wednesdays to wash my clothes. And there are no dryers. Just washers. With all of the money this country has (ie: Mercedes Benz public buses), you would think one could afford a dryer and maybe even throw in a dishwasher. I’m missing cozy Sundays of football, baking, and laundry (there are no laundry slots on Sundays). And I wish John was here to tell me that I’m leaking again and wipe away my tears. And give me a warm chocolate chip cookie. | "The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears." - John Vance Cheney October 2, 2011
28: “Great dancers aren't great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion.” October 2, 2011 | I had a very eventful weekend. Friday evening I got back to Geneva from Zurich. I picked up the apartment keys and as much luggage as I could carry from the office and brought a load to the apartment. Then I had trouble figuring out which floor my apartment was on, which is extra fun when you have a suitcase, duffel bag, laptop bag, and a purse. I made another trip to the office that night, threw all of my stuff on the floor, blew up my air mattress, and went to bed. I woke up about half an hour later freezing and laying on the hardwood floor. Apparently our air mattress has a leak, and the apartment building hasn’t turned on the heat for winter yet. These are two very fun things to find out at 1am when you are trying to sleep. Saturday I got ready for the day and headed out to my local home furnishing store, Ikea (pronounced E-kay-uh here). I found two lamps (which I successfully bought the correct lightbulbs for and put together last night), a shower curtain and rod, a candle for hominess, toilet and kitchen brushes (notably not the same one), and various other items. I also bought a large Ikea bag to carry it all home in. Note for the future, taking public transportation to Ikea is not ideal. I dropped off my Ikea purchases at home and then took a bus to France to buy some groceries. I first bought just a few items for lunch and decided to brave the self check-out. Like using a telephone, I feel confident about using self check-out in the US, but I was pretty nervous as I inched closer to the front of the line. Sure enough, I had trouble paying, which I swear wasn’t my fault, and I was the slow person who had to have the checker help me out. Then this older lady comes up, sets her stuff on my checkout stand and says, “What are you doing? You know you’re taking half an hour for two items” in a mean tone. That moment is when I knew I’m going to have to improve my French because some of the words I really wanted to say I couldn’t think of in French (ie: jerk, self check-out, and shove it lady I’m trying). I finally paid for my items and then went and ate my baguette and Nutella in a corner by myself in the mall while perusing Google Translate so I’ll be better prepared next time.
29: I returned to the store to purchase my groceries for the week and found that it’s easier and more difficult at the same time to shop when you have no way of heating food. I bought sandwich and salad makings, cereal, and I found a new air mattress which has been downgraded to a twin but better than nothing. Today I decided to go for a walk in my new ‘hood and explore the park across the street as well as the bus stops. Yes, I lead an exciting life. On my walk, however, I stumbled upon the “Expat Expo” geared, obviously, for English speaking expats. That’s me! I looked around the booths and picked up information on voting, English radio stations, soccer and jobs for John, and then like a beacon of light, I came upon the massage table. I got in line for my free tester massage, and the lady in front of me said she had been waiting a long time since they were giving at least 20 minute massages. Perfect! I don’t have anything to do anyway! And since the line was so long, the weak ones in front of me were dropping like flies. Since I don’t have any furniture, my apartment is empty and perfect as a huge dance floor. It’s possible I have been doing some dancing by myself. Maybe, maybe not. | After sleeping on the hardwood floor and carrying all of my possessions around town, my shoulders felt like heaven. Easily some of the best 20 minutes of my life. Then I moved on to the “American food” display. When the guy told me it would cost $3 for a cream soda, I almost punched him, grabbed the soda, and ran. But since I’m still trying to make friends, I thanked the American food gatekeeper and perused some more. I’m now back in my apartment and unpacking my suitcases for the first time in over 2 months. I forgot to mention in my House Hunters episode that if the pink bathroom and 1960s kitchen isn’t enough to make you want to come visit, I have statues of naked people at the entrance to the complex. Just throwing that out there in case it changes anyone’s mind.
30: "Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will." - Zig Ziglar October 5, 2011 | I knew the naked statues would work. Sure enough, only two days after I posted them, I receive news that I’m going to have a visitor! My mom is coming to visit from next Thursday through the 25th. Our to-do list includes an oven, drapes, microwave, laundry, sight seeing, a fun weekend trip, games, and some mother-daughter bonding. This weekend I’ll have to buy her a plate and a bowl to use while she’s here (each person here gets one until the furniture comes). Speaking of which, the day I spoke to the customs person to get the paperwork sorted out for our things, I got an email that our shipment has been delayed by one week. So now it’s arriving at the port in England on Oct 10. I also found out that the delivery people here in Switzerland won’t deliver items above the second floor of an apartment building. Considering I’m on the sixth floor, we’re going to have to figure something out. Not a chance I can carry a dresser up four flights of stairs by myself. I’m curious how this one will turn out. Also, I have another new friend! That makes two so far. I’m going to have lunch with her next week. I had emailed her a while ago and hadn’t received a response, but on a whim I emailed her again yesterday to invite her to lunch or coffee. She replied that she was sorry she didn’t respond the first time but she had been having a really hard time adjusting and had not been in a happy place. I told her I understood and that I cried about a washing machine the other day. I think we’ll get along just fine. AND John figured out a way to get American TV online (we bought a box thing that hooks up to a Comcast box so you can watch live TV online), so I got to watch Say Yes to the Dress tonight. I know I’m supposed to be immersing myself in the culture here, but sometimes a girl just needs a little trashy TV. Considering I haven’t watched any TV in over a month, I’m not even going to feel guilty about the episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians I’m going to watch this weekend. So things are looking up.
31: “What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile.” - William Sokolin October 8, 2011 | The basement of my building holds many exciting treasures, four of which I am privy to. 1. The parking garage. So far I’ve located my assigned space and identified the key that opens the door to my spot, but I haven’t actually been able to get the door open. Something to work on before we buy a car. 2. The garbage area. This is important because I didn’t know where it was in my last apartment and had to bring small baggies of trash outside to discreetly throw away in various bins on the street. 3. The laundry room. I did four loads of laundry on Friday night at my assigned time and only screwed up once costing me an extra $2. Apparently I can survive six weeks on the clothes I have with only repeating socks for 4 days. This means I own way too much underwear and also clears up any confusion regarding why my suitcases cost an extra $40 for being too heavy on the plane. 4. The wine cellar. Seriously. I pay a mandatory extra $5/ month for my spot in the wine cellar. I’m on the far right in the corner. Sometimes Europe is just awesome.
32: My kitchen smells like farts. Considering my apartment is “open concept” with the kitchen open to the family room, this is disturbing. The first night I was here I thought I smelled natural gas coming from under the sink. I skyped John and made him look under the sink where he confirmed there are no actual gas lines. Still, I was a little worried that night that I would fall asleep on the air mattress and never wake up. I have since determined that the smell is a leaky pipe under the kitchen sink that overflows when I run the water too much. The landlord sent me the phone number of a plumbing company to call last week, but I kept putting it off since I was so nervous to call. I finally decided no one should have to live with the smell of stale farts, at least when their husband is half way across the world. I called the plumber today while Britney and my boss were on their cigarette break so they wouldn’t hear me. And I have an appointment on Friday morning for them to come fix it! It was one of my proudest moments so far. I understood everything they said to me, I think they understood everything I said to them, and now I’ll just have to wait and see who shows up with what kinds of tools on Friday. I also had an electrician come over yesterday to put in some light fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen. I’m down to only one lightbulb hanging from the ceiling naked with no cover. In other news, I received an email from the shipping company today that our furniture has arrived in England, but it was selected for random search so will be delayed an extra 2-3 business days. Attached to the email was an invoice for the extra charges for the search. Apparently I have to pay for those. If they had a lottery here I would have bought a ticket because today is my lucky day. “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb” - Thomas Edison October 11, 2011
33: John and I each have our responsibilities while we’re apart. He is supposed to sell the cars, cancel our phones and internet, wrap up at work, and bring everything I couldn’t fit over to Geneva. I am supposed to find an apartment, get everything set up in the apartment, figure out how everything works around here so he doesn’t have to be an idiot when he gets here too, and make us some friends. I have been working on the friends since I got here, and I’m up to three and three quarters. That’s 1.6 per week! My three are Britney from work, Meghan who was having a hard time adjusting, and Laura who I met at a Brits in Business event. Britney has brought me to government offices, IKEA, and her house, so we are definitely friends. I went to happy hour with Meghan after work this week, and we’ve been emailing since, so I think that’s a good sign. I went to coffee with Laura yesterday, and we talked about going skiing together this winter. Also, Laura and Meghan are both married, so I’m making John friends too. I’m pretty much an awesome wife. Tricia is a half-friend right now. She’s the one I spent a Sunday with a few weeks ago. I emailed her again two weeks ago to see if she wanted go on a second date (not that exact wording), but no response. I know she was going back to the US to visit family in October, so I’m hoping that she is just away at the moment and will contact me when she gets back so we can become full friends. I also met another girl from the UK at the Brits in Business event who I emailed for coffee on Monday. She’s a potential friend, so I’m counting her as one quarter for now. I’m hoping that by making a few friends, they can introduce us to more friends, and then we’ll just be little social butterflies. Hope your calendar is clear, John, because we are on our way to epic popularity in Switzerland. "Your friend is the man who knows all about you and still likes you." -Elbert Hubard October 14, 2011
34: "If you miss a bus, you might not have been meant to take it." -All About Steve October 18, 2011 My mom and I had a great weekend. The sun was out, and we didn’t waste one minute of the beautiful weather. On Thursday night, the day she got here, I dragged her to a mall to find the internet and phone store so I could get internet at my apartment. The mall is actually really nice, really big, and will be a place I will come back to in the future (but not on Sundays because it is closed). We didn’t buy anything that night, but I got the information I needed. This mall was a stark contrast with our experience on Friday night when we went on the hunt for a microwave in France. My mom was feeling very at home when I took her to a strip mall that looks and feels exactly like Southcenter. We bought the microwave and groceries for the week, carried them out to the bus stop, and then realized we had missed the bus by three minutes. Unfortunately the bus only runs every hour. We sat in the cold, dark, Tukwila-like bus stop for 57 minutes. We finally got on the next bus and carried our things home, getting back at about 10pm. For the record, microwaves are pretty heavy to carry for long periods of time. Once again, public transportation was not ideal. Welcome to Europe, Mom. | The next morning we decided to hop on a Swiss version of a Greyhound bus and visit a cute little French town called Annecy. Our bus luck from the night before was still with us, and we missed the train to catch the bus by about 5 seconds. I literally was touching it as it drove away. We had two hours to kill until the next bus, so we decided to eat our salami/ cheese/ baguette lunch down by the main fountain in the city. It turned out to be an excellent lunch spot, and we got on the next bus to Annecy.
35: Annecy is called the “Venice of France”, and it is beautiful. It sits right on a lake with the Alps surrounding it and has an awesome old town section. We wandered the streets, had the best ice cream ever made, perused the churches and chateau, and moseyed through the cute shops.
36: We then missed the bus again. By two seconds. For the third time in 24 hours. We were running towards it just as it was pulling away. Rather than stare at a McDonalds and shiver while we waited like we did on Friday, we instead walked back down to the old town and had crepes and beers for dinner. It was delicious. | We then walked up the path to the medival castle and town. It’s a pedestrian only town sitting on top of a hill with cutesy shops and restaurants. We toured the castle then had a delicious fondue lunch. Once again you’ll just have to come try the fondue. Incredible. | On Sunday we got up early and hopped on the train to Gruyeres, the quintessential Swiss alpine town complete with Alps, cheese, and cows. We first went on a cheese factory tour which featured a “5 senses” tour. My favorite sense was “taste” when we got to try three different ages of the cheese. No description would do it justice. You will just have to come try it.
37: Since we hadn’t eaten enough already during the day, we headed out to the Nestle chocolate factory next. All of the rumors are true – Swiss chocolate is the best in the world. It is creamier, milkier, softer, and more delicious than any other chocolate. The factory was in an adjacent town to Gruyeres, and google maps said it was about an hour and fifteen minute walk. When we asked a guy at the castle for directions, he asked inquired whether we were going by car or train. He had the best look on his face when we told him we were walking. | We added about 15 minutes to our walk when we mistakenly walked towards the wrong big white building, but we eventually made it to the factory and signed up for the tour. The tour actually has some pretty cool effects, and then at the end you get to sample the chocolate. We were fooled because mid way through the tour you get to try fresh off the press wrapped chocolates. I had heard that you got samples, so we assumed that was it and scarfed down several of those. Little did we know that we hadn’t even gotten to the tasting room. For all future visitors, put the wrapped chocolates in your purse for later and just wait 10 more minutes for this Again, you’ll just have to come try it for yourself. I had the best stomach ache of my life. We walked back to Gruyeres, took our trains back to Geneva, and skipped dinner. | This was only part of the sampling display. It is possible I tried all of the varieties.
38: This week I finally received my official change of address notice from the Geneva official office (along with an invoice for changing my address ugh). I also received my little mailbox name plate (with another invoice). After trying to jam the plate in the slot for about 15 minutes downstairs, I got reinforcements. My mom and I tried to get it in to no avail. It took some small scissors and a nail file, but we finally got it in. To prove that the system works, I also received my first package notice on Friday and picked it up at the post office. My package was the internet accessories that I ordered last week, and my internet should be up and running on the 28th. Thank you to “default” for not securing your internet. You have literally saved my life for the past month. | I also have a new name plate by my door. Lucky for me the screws on the plate were broken, so I had to call the landlord to fix them in order to put my name in there. Conversations with him are always interesting. American girl trying to use new French words like “screw” + Portuguese man with a very thick accent who makes mistakes in French that even the American girl can recognize + being on the phone = two people very unsure of what is going on. | "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw October 23, 2011
39: The total package. October 26, 2011 | I’m not sure if this story is the had-to-be-there kind, but I’m going to try it anyway because I have laughed at it in my head again and again this week. Jenn and I have a weekly Skype date night / morning on Fridays. Last Friday she told me that she was running late to our date since she had to go to the doctor (she was sicky) and run some errands. While waiting for her to get home, I received a quick email from her confirming my postal code. I did, and subsequently I received three more emails consisting of “nevermind”, “argggg”, and “I’m so annoyed”. She told me later that she was trying to mail me a package, and the lady at the UPS store was useless. The UPS lady was laughing the whole time, saying things like “welp, sure hope it gets there!”, and insisting that she needed a zip code (zip codes are only in the US, in all of Europe the code comes before the city – which you would think would be something that somebody who ships packages for a living would know). While at the store, Jenn received an email confirmation to an address for BOLIN, and the lady said something like, “well, for f-s sake ahahahahahaha”. Jenn didn’t think it was funny, particularly being sick, wanting the package to be a surprise in the first place, and wanting to go home since she had a hot date. She thought the total amount due for the postage seemed a little low, but the package was on its way. I told her I would let it know when it arrived. Monday morning I receive an email from Jenn that she answered a ring at the door that morning only to find my package nicely delivered to her house. In Idaho. We now know it costs less to overnight a package to Idaho from Spokane than it does to ship something to Switzerland. Thanks for trying Dude. :) I’ll let you know when I receive the package for real this time.
40: Music is what feelings sound liike. October 26, 2011 The restaurant was almost perfect. There were intricate candles with red and blue wax dripping down the sides, red plaid tablecloths, a very French chef with an apron and friendly “bonjour”, and it was all in a cute little French town. We ordered their specialty – moules et frites (mussels and French fries), my mom with a white wine sauce and mine delicately basted in a mustard sauce. We ordered white wine and ate and chatted over a long dinner. All to really loud French techo and rap music. Hilarious. | "There are not enough days in the weekend." - Rod Schmidt October 27, 2011 | Our options for the weekend included Milan, Paris, and a variety of overnight Swiss destinations. After a lot of thought and realizing that I won’t be able to do laundry next week due to a class I’m taking in Bern, we decided to stay in on Friday. But this got us ready for our exciting weekend, and it was much better than the Southcenter trip the previous Friday night. Everything is relative. Saturday morning we found my local bakery, which is now vetted and approved. We then went into France and stumbled upon the most wonderful market. There was cheese, meat, veggies, fruit, clothes, soap, everything one could want in a French market. And it was huge. John and I have a new Saturday routine. Hope he likes it.
41: We finished our grocery shopping and went to dinner that night (see post below). Sunday we headed to Montreux, a castle about an hour train ride away on the same lake as Geneva. This was not a fancy “chateau”, it is a medieval castle, some of which dates from the 1100s. We took the tour through the dungeon, up in the bedrooms and living areas, and up to the tower. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my bow and arrow with me that particular day to shoot through the little lookouts. Next time. I took Monday off of work, and we stuck close to home. We stopped by my office and then took a boat tour on Lake Geneva in the afternoon. It turned out to be a really nice day, and the fall colors are really pretty around these parts. We also accidentally stopped and went shopping on our way home from downtown, and I got my birthday presents. Oops! | The town has a beautiful “promenade” along the lake where you can walk from the train station to the castle. It was lined with flowers and palm trees and reminded us of Mexico or Hawaii. Next time I’ll also have to remember to bring my sunblock and sarong.
42: "Whatever you are, be a good one." - Abraham Lincoln October 31, 2011 Some recent updates: | I made the unfortunate discovery this weekend that my shoe size is just above the normal size carried in normal stores here. Dang. I wear a normal size in the US (on the larger side but always carried standard in stores), but the boots of my dreams will just have to wait until I can find a bigfoot store here. Happy Halloween! Needless to say, I didn’t have any big Halloween plans this year. And no Halloween cookies. Julie, I showed Britney your cookie website, and we would like to order one box of mummies please. :) I am still working on getting the internet set up. The actual network connection still doesn't work. I think all of the wires are put together correctly, and color coding is very much appreciated for French internet manuals. And English for that matter. I’ll just be honest. | Fun fact: Geneva “fell back” to daylight savings time this weekend, so I’m only eight hours ahead of Seattle for this week. Talk about confusion about what time it really is upon waking up when one is living by themselves P.S. GO HUSKIES!!! This is one of my neighbors’ houses. Isn’t it cute? I love the tree in the front.
43: “There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night's sleep”- Edgar Watson Howe November 4, 2011 The last two days I attended a Swiss law training course in Bern, about a two hour train ride away in the German part of Switzerland and also the capital. The course covered a variety of topics including oversight of auditors, contract law, VAT, Swiss & international corporate taxation, and the Swiss social security system. It was interesting, but the two days were pretty long just listening and taking notes. The Swiss social security system was my favorite part I think since it was interesting to learn about their pensions, medical care, etc, especially since I have to contribute as well. It is pretty much completely opposite of the US. But their social programs are in the tank too, so clearly no one has it quite right if that makes anyone feel better. Actually, my favorite part was that I got to sleep on a real mattress at the hotel last night. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping up into bed rather than getting down on the floor. Ah, the luxury. John boy, fly safe!!! Can’t wait to see you!!! xoxo | I live on an island. I wouldn’t say it’s a tropical island, but I do live on a raft. I am still sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the floor. I really should have negotiated chiropractic treatment with my employment contract. This weekend, though, my island is getting a foreign invader John is finally coming!!! He gets in Sunday evening, so I’m going to try not to go crazy waiting this weekend. It’s finally time to clear out a spot in the closet, buy groceries for two, and dump all of my Swiss boyfriends. I CAN’T WAIT!
44: "Are you stalking me? Because that would be super." - Ryan Reynolds November 5, 2011 Just a hypothetical question... do you ever facebook stalk random people on your phone and flip through their pictures aimlessly while waiting for the bus, for example? Then when you go to use your phone again a while later you ask yourself, why the heck do I have a picture of them as the background of my phone?! "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh." -Kurt Vonnegut November 5, 2011 What I dislike most about Switzerland : business hours. These people know when they work, when they don’t, and if you work too, you are out of luck. I went back to the mall today to pick up John’s cell phone as the guy I ordered it from on Wednesday told me to (I’m an awesome wife, but that is for another post), and for some reason the phone or plan or something was rejected. The guy told me to call their customer support center (I’m still not sure why I can’t get customer support while I’m standing in the store), so I walked out of the store and proceeded to call. I wondered why the guy couldn’t just do it for me. Then I remembered as the recorded voice on the other end reminded me that their phone hours are only Mon-Fri 7am-7pm. So I bought myself a cute jacket to cut the sting of frustration. The retail therapy plan is not sustainable, however, and I’m looking forward to my call to the cell phone company on Monday. And to go back to the store again next week. All during business hours.
45: "Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family." -Homer Simpson November 10, 2011 | This week I have been taking a full immersion French class where I have group classes in the morning, lunch with a professor where we speak French, and individual classes in the afternoon. I absolutely love French class, but I forgot that I don’t like homework. Ugh. Yesterday my afternoon French teacher took John and I for a tour of Geneva since he is from this area. He drove us around town and told us stories and history about the area. Our favorite story was about a prince from Saudi Arabia who had a palace built just outside of Geneva as well as several guest houses for his 300 servants (then expanded it to 600 when he became king, naturally). The palace cost an unbelievable amount of money, and each time the king flew over Europe, the servants would clean the entire place just in case he decided he wanted to stop over. In 32 years, he has only used it once. So, speaking of people who don’t use public transportation, yesterday my purse got stuck in the tram door. I had to stand next to the doorway holding on to half of my purse. Very uncool. Con: I was really hoping my phone wasn’t in that part of the purse. Pro: I knew I wouldn’t be pickpocketed. | John finally made it to Geneva ! The poor guy was sick the whole way on the plane, exhausted, and sweaty from carrying all of the bags. It wasn’t the most romantic reunion, so good thing we didn’t call TLC to film it, but it was so fun to finally have him here. I got my best friend back. About 5 minutes after getting to the apartment. I was going to take a picture of the big reunion, but this was the best I could get. I got an email today that our things are going to be delivered on November 19th! Wahoo! Not a moment too soon after our “incident” tonight. We decided to have a glass of wine with dinner, but we don’t have a corkscrew. John got out his Swiss army knife (appropriate, we thought) to try and open the bottle. This was the result. Note the real knife in the bottle and wine everywhere. It was splattered ALL over the kitchen and everything else room. We earned every last drop in the plastic cup of wine we drank.
46: “Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.” -Lou Erickson | November 13, 2011 | I arrived in Amsterdam this evening to work on an audit, and I’m coming home on Wednesday. The bus drivers in Geneva drive articulated buses like they are Smart cars, but my taxi driver from the airport to hotel in Amsterdam made them all seem like snails. He was going 150 kilometers per hour, which, per google, is about 93 mph. I feared for my life. As I prayed to God that I would survive from the back seat, I wondered how many other people had prayed from that same place. God was probably like, “Ah, you again. No worries, I already have a file on this guy. You’ll be fine.” Another small note about Amsterdam, I’m pretty excited about the hotel shampoo and soap. It is all a nice, mainstream brand that smells good. If you know me at all, you will know how happy this makes me. You never can trust hotel shampoo. Jenn and I also know this from experience from a certain orange spice shampoo incident in Vegas John and I spent this weekend exploring our area. We went to the local French market Saturday morning and made our first market purchases of cheese, salami, olives, and caramel. We then went to the grocery store and ran several other errands. Today we went on a death march around the countryside in our area. These always start off so innocently, ie: today we went to go to the bakery to get a snack and end so much longer afterwards. At least I was wearing comfortable shoes this time rather than, say, flip flops in Hawaii or boots in Bellingham, for example. On our “walk” we found several interesting doors that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. Very strange. We could just imagine the mom in this family telling the kids to look both ways when opening the back door. We also got the great news that our furniture is supposed to arrive next Saturday! Wahoo! I am most excited to get my gloves. Although the weather report says it’s in the 50s, John and I are sure that it isn’t. My hands are sure too.
47: Amsterdam is a funny city. I smelled non-cigarette smoke on my way to work today (before 8am seriously ?), there are several women in the windows, and bikes are five times more prevalent than cars. Perhaps the most bizarre thing here, however, is that at lunch at the cafeteria milk is free, but you have to pay for water. And you can either drink regular milk, which looks like whole milk to me – milk mustaches for sure, or buttermilk. To your heart’s content. Completely for free. My water, on the other hand, cost a couple of euros. The French people I’m working with keep saying that that’s the reason the people here are so tall. I think the people here happened to be nicely proportioned myself, speaking as half-Dutch person whose body type is clearly full Dutch. But I’d rather pay for water than drink free buttermilk. | Milk, it does a body good. | November 15, 2011
48: "A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?" - Albert Einstein November 17, 2011 | Tonight I am in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. On my way to dinner I happened upon a large crowd and made my coworker ask what was going on. We stayed to watch a really cool light show projected onto the capital building. The pictures really don’t do it justice. I almost don't even want to put them up because it was so much more awesome in person. Use your imagination and add music. | We also stopped by Einstein’s house. The second floor here is where the theory of relativity was founded.
49: On the home front, I am really craving noodles. Bad. I just wish we had a stove to cook them on our kitchen appliances are still limited to a microwave and a fridge with a burned out light bulb. Last week we finally ordered an oven / stove. After the first fiasco when we were at the stove place and they told me the stoves don’t come with the proper cables, and they didn’t know where to get them, I was happy to have finally placed the order and have a delivery date. Homemade spaghetti, here I come. I am out of town all this week and all next week, and, in our desperation, we decided that John had to buck up and be the one home when it was delivered. We couldn’t wait another three weeks until I could be home for the big event. I received a call from the delivery man at about 8:23am asking for the code to the front entry of the apartment. So far, so good. Then I got another call at about 8:26am from the same guy saying that our outlet was too old for the stove and that the stove he had in the truck was broken. He said he was leaving but didn’t want John to wonder why he left leaving no stove behind. Long story short – we have about five more steps before we can get the stove installed, including contacting the agency to get them to send someone to fix it and then re-calling the stove guy. And we ate quesadillas last night, straight from the microwave. The other hassle of life at the moment is getting John a phone. After having visited our local Swisscom store more often than my own office in the last few weeks, I think we almost have a phone for him. It is a long, complicated story but involves an over $1000 deposit since my work visa isn’t valid for the entire two year contract. We’re supposed to pick up the phone on Saturday. John also had to go to the Swisscom shop by himself today and to the post office to pay for the deposit. He even went to the grocery store by himself. I’m not sure what he needs me for here. Oh, and a Wednesday night slot opened up for laundry. We have some good things on the horizon.
50: “If men are God's gift to women, then God must really love gag gifts.” November 22, 2011 | Like a beacon of light, the moving truck finally arrived in our neighborhood. It only took about an hour to unload and unpack everything, which is much less time than it took to pack it. It was like a strange version of Christmas where everything feels new but so familiar. Surprisingly, absolutely nothing was broken. We spent the afternoon unpacking and “nesting” and found that everything we shipped fits in our apartment, with the exception of our clothes. There is something about going through every item of clothing you have that makes one realize just how ridiculous their wardrobe is. I have lived for four months without most of my clothes, which I’m pretty sure means most aren’t necessary. Except for my gray boots. Those are necessary, and it was a mistake to pack them away.
51: About an hour into our unpacking, we were discussing where to put the bookshelf, and then we realized we were missing John’s books. Then we realized we were missing my GAMES. Noooooooo!!!!! Sure enough, box #19 didn’t make it. And it was the one with Traverse and Apples to Apples!! I may or may not have cried just a little as I tried to decide whether the insurance deductible was worth the principle of losing my games. I called the driver who delivered our things, and he said he didn’t have any more of our boxes on the truck. Since the office is closed on weekends, I had to wait until Monday to officially contact them. Monday morning, however, I received a call from the driver that our box was accidentally left on the truck and was now in Zurich. Yay! We will get it back eventually. Saturday afternoon we also got John his very own Swiss cell phone. This has been the most frustrating experience since I’ve been here, and I’m so relieved it’s over. He was very happy. And as I hugged our bed that night, I was too.
52: "Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There's no looking at a building after seeing Italy." - Fanny Burney November 23, 2011 | I flew to Lugano, the Italian part of Switzerland, for the early part of this week for work. Switzerland is a very interesting country because each different part feels like you’re actually in another country. You could have told me this was Italy, and I wouldn’t have even questioned it. I stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast where the owner called me “honey” (which usually I hate from strangers, but it was okay with an Italian accent). | Unfortunately this was a sunrise, not sunset, meaning I was up early. But it is beautiful.
53: This was the little village I stayed in. | My B&B | And when I came home, John had turned into a European. He was wearing a sweater over a collared shirt. At least the shirt wasn't purple, and I don't think he has started smoking yet.
54: "Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants." - Kevin James November 27, 2011 As a welcome-to-Europe-John, it’s-almost-winter-and-I’m-cold, we-live-in-Europe-let’s-travel, and they-don’t-celebrate-Thanksgiving-here-so-we-don’t-get-vacation celebration, we spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Barcelona. The weather was PERFECT. Not a cloud in the sky, and we didn’t have to wear a jacket. Which was almost too bad since they are all sitting on our couch right now as we try to think of a place to put them in our apartment, but we didn’t miss them at all. It felt great. We flew out very early on Thursday morning... and then promptly started on a death-march in true Dolin vacation style. We saw the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous church that is still being built. It was really, really cool. We went to the parks, walked along the beach, and strolled on Las Ramblas, the main street in the city. Last weekend John and I thought about everyone at home and talked about Thanksgiving food for way too long. We discussed what everyone was eating, the year we tried to cook a turkey, Thanksgiving traditions, pilgrims, ranked Thanksgiving food from favorite to least favorite, then ranked leftovers, and then after discussing it for about 2 hours decided we were hungry and sad so stopped. To celebrate Thanksgiving day, we reflected on what we are thankful for, spent quality time with family (each other), and ate a feast that our forefathers would have been proud of: Pizza and wine. We were full of thanks. And cheese.
56: "Does my shirt look stupid?" - Danielle "No, it’s just you." - John, in one of the most romantic cities in the world November 27, 2011 The next day we continued the death march up the mountain in the city where the 1992 summer Olympics were held. We walked around the stadium, park, and pools. This is the view from the Olympic diving boards and swimming pools. Not too shabby. The Dolins' childhood neighbor, Michael Marsh, won the gold medal for the 200 meter and 4x100 in this stadium. Go Woodinville!
57: Then we walked up the mountain on the other side of the city to the most beautiful view of the city. We had tapas and accidentally ordered margaritas that made us forget the walk home to our hotel. This was the view from the first hill we walked up... the wrong one without a bar at the top. Shoot.
58: We had dinner at Limbo that night, a restaurant in the Gothic quarter. We had to wait until it opened at 8:30 for dinner, one of the early restaurants, but it was deeeelicious. On Saturday we decided to get out of the city a little bit and headed out to Tarragona, a site of Roman ruins on the coast of Spain. We got on the local train and headed out of the city. We found our stop, started walking up the hill, and found the amphitheatre dating from the 2nd century. | We walked through the old town, stopped for tapas again, and then headed out of town to try and find the aqueduct. Yes, I am a great wife. John was really excited to see the aqueduct. I asked if he had ever seen one in real life, and he replied, totally seriously, “Yeahhh, Nathan (his best friend) and I used to build them all the time at school.”
59: The book said it was about 2 miles away from the city, but about half an hour into our walk we found ourselves walking along a freeway and decided to turn back. We got gelato to make both of us feel better. It worked.
60: That night we went out to a restaurant on the beach we had spotted back in Barcelona. The food in Barcelona did not disappoint. We are now back home, and I write this sitting next to the big pile of jackets on the sofa. Reality bites, as they say. | This was our appetizer, warm mozzarella and tomato salad. We almost got two more for our entrees, it was that good.
61: “I play the harmonica. The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast, and stick it out the window.” - Stephen Wright On Sunday night John and I were sleeping soundly in our bed until I woke up to him breathing loud. As usual. This was louder than normal, however, and I told him to turn over. He woke up, looked at me, and said, “I was breathing loud, wasn’t I? Ohhhh I was playing the harmonica.” And then he fell back asleep. I laughed about it all day yesterday. By myself. On public transportation. I came home yesterday evening, opened the elevator door in front of our apartment, and smelled good food cooking. Our neighbors frequently cook good smelling food, so I wasn’t surprised. But then I opened our door, and the smell got stronger. The yummy smells were coming from our apartment!!! We finally got our stove! Wahoo! Two of my favorite things together again... John and warm food. I have been waiting for this day for a long time! Dinner was everything we had hoped it would be. | November 29, 2011 | “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” - Harriet van Horne
62: Oui oui... hohn hohn December 2, 2011 At work I speak English with my boss and French with Britney. Our clients are mixed – some English, some French, and German in Zurich (with whom I speak English). I’m totally comfortable speaking French with Britney because I know she likes me anyway, but I used to be scared to speak to others. I am now also over my fear of speaking to strangers. After many days and nights at SwissCom, speaking to the plumber, electrician, health insurance lady, apartment agency, and deadbolt people, among others, I’m totally over the nervousness of speaking to people I will never see again. And now, I have officially communicated solely in French with three of our clients. And not just a quick email, this is full on audit French. Chargeable hours. And I have understood most of it. Go me! This morning I was on my way to a client on the other side of Geneva. I took the bus, got off, and walked down towards where Google Maps said I should go. I walked around for a bit carrying my little laptop and files in a weird industrial part of town with a highway through the middle. Eventually I called the client because I was late and had already gone in two circles. I didn’t understand all of his French directions (combination of being on the phone, next to a highway, and he probably used a key word I didn’t know), but I started walking in the direction I thought I was supposed to go. I was getting frustrated and had a why-am-I-here moment (not to say I’ve never had those in, say, Tacoma at a client). About 20 minutes later the CFO at the client calls my cell phone and says he’s going to come pick me up. For the same reasons mentioned above, I couldn’t understand all of what he said when he described where to meet him. And, sure enough, I had been walking in the opposite direction. He had to call me two more times to figure out where I was. Anyway, it was pretty not cool to have to be picked up by the client to go to his office this morning. And I’m usually not directionally challenged. Dang. And then tonight, as it was pouring rain, I couldn’t find my connecting bus stop. I waited on the corner for my bus hoping I would see where it would stop only to see it whoosh by me at full speed. I still couldn’t find the stop, so I ended up walking to the next one. In the rain, in flats, and carrying three bags of stuff. My hair is now frizzy, to say the least. Total loser. Last week I received my report card from my French class, however, and now I’m a “beginning advanced”. Wouldn’t know it today, but yay!
63: “Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy and vain. To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid.” - Carlos Castaneda December 5, 2011 John and I were perusing the Swiss souvenirs section of a store yesterday looking at tee-shirts, ash trays, etc. I wandered to another section, and, all of a sudden, I hear a loud dinging noise followed by a CRASH and glass breaking. John had accidentally knocked over a glass and toothpick holder on display while trying to put down a cow bell. So loud and embarrassing. Only in Switzerland. "Fore-warned is fore-armed." - Batman December 5, 2011 This morning, while getting ready for work, I mentioned to John that I had weird dreams last night. He said he did too and that we should turn down the heat in the room. He then looked at me and said shyly, “I’m assuming you weren’t Batman last night too?” I love my roommate.
64: "So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness." - Sidney Poitier December 10, 2011 | We have been busy bees around our new home turf... This is the “Occupy Geneva” campout. You might notice something funny about the picture. One of these things is not like the other. We thought teepees were Native American? Hot red wine is a traditional Christmas drink here, so, not reluctantly at the Christmas market, we partook. It’s a hot spiced red wine and sooo good. We also became officially European with our purchase of a grocery cart bag. We are now like the little old ladies that roll these things along the sidewalk on their way to their morning grocery shopping. I really really wanted to get the one with the cow on it, but John said no. Party pooper. The Christmas decorations in Geneva are very geometric. Like fluorescent lights hanging from trees. I found out this week that Zurich (where the Christmas lights are very cozy and beautiful) tried out these “modern” decorations about two years ago. Everyone hated them, and I know where they sent them.
65: So, in order to get into the Christmas spirit, we bought Tommy Tree. He came to us from the exotic retail store of Ikea. He is small but homey. Not too many presents will fit under him, but they do say good things come in small packages ahem, John... | This is the statue across the street from our local mall. We have a few questions. First, why are two adult men flying a kite? Second, why is one on the ground? Third, does their kite work? It doesn't look like it will fly very well with all of the holes. Lastly, and most importantly, why are they naked? Are statues in this city not allowed to have clothes?
66: Oh when the saints... go marching in... December 13, 2011 John and I went on a little field trip this weekend to Montreux, a little town on the other side of Lake Geneva, home to the most visited castle in Switzerland and a huge Christmas market. We were searching for better Christmas decorations. My mom and I also went here when she was visiting, but this time it was A LOT more crowded. We walked along the lake through the very busy market | Visited the castle prison
67: Admired the views from the castle towers Admired the views of the castle from the ground And it was beautiful. The highlight of the day was the carolers on stage in the large pavilion in the middle of the market. Their opening number was the not-Christmas classic, “When the Saints Go Marching In”. It went like this: Singers: Oh when the saints Audience: Oh when the saints Singers: Go marching in Audience: Go marching in All together: Oh when the saints go marching in la LA la la la la la LA LA oh when the saints go marching in. For three verses. But all of the “LA”s were the same, so the entire song was one sentence. And not a Christmas song. Happy holidays! | And then got more hot wine
68: “And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln December 19, 2011 I had a great birthday weekend. It started off with a huge storm with sheets of rain and strong gusts of wind. The dark fog made me feel almost claustrophobic in the office. We couldn’t even see the buildings across the street. I was warm and snug in a sweater that Britney bought me for my birthday. We also went to lunch with another girl in the building. When I got home, John and I went birthday shopping together for me since he still doesn’t like to go by himself. I got PJ pants, a French CD that John promised he would listen to with me, and gloves. He tried to buy me a card, but he couldn’t figure out what they said, so he left sticky notes all over the apartment for me instead. Saturday night we took the trip out to the bustling metropolis of Gex, France where Britney lives to go out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays (hers is on the 19th). We had a great time at dinner, and we got invited to a New Year’s Eve party. Wahoo! Sunday I wore the PJ pants we bought on Friday all day, and we made cookies and banana bread. We watched a really cheesy ABC Family Christmas movie, I beat John three times in a row in Traverse, and the Seahawks won. It was a great day. And this morning we woke up to this! And I found out the hard way that my work boots aren’t waterproof. Good to know.
69: “A well-run restaurant is like a winning baseball team. It makes the most of every crew member's talent and takes advantage of every split-second opportunity to speed up service.” -David Ogilvy December 20, 2011 “I stayed in a really old hotel last night. They sent me a wake-up letter.” - Steven Wright December 25, 2011 | The restaurant in the hotel I'm staying in is very cute, and the food is good. It is decorated with Christmas lights and seems like a quaint little restaurant where one could have a nice, long romantic dinner. I usually like these types of restaurants where the dinner is the event of the evening and you can chat for a couple of hours. The slow service in Switzerland is supposed to give the customers time to enjoy the food and the company. Unfortunately, however, I am here by myself, and as much fun as I am, over an hour and a half for dinner alone is a little much for me. Let's just say I have looked at everyone's facebook page recently. | This was my hotel room while in Fribourg, Switzerland where I worked this week. If any of you remember my bedroom in the Linden house, this might look very familiar. I wonder how much you have to pay in order to be able to stand up in the entire room.
70: “What’s the point of going out? We’re just going to wind up back here anyway.” – Homer Simpson December 25, 2011 | Bon Nol from the Dolins! Danielle and I did our weekly shopping trip to our local French grocery store with a not so normal weekly shopping list. Our irregular items consisted of Half ‘n Half, powdered sugar, and bacon. Good news : We found sour cream. Bad news: We thought it was Half n’ Half and didn’t find out it was sour cream until we stirred it into our alfredo sauce last night. For a country that prides itself with its many cow pastures, there is a surprising lack of varying milk based products in the stores. Good news: We found powdered sugar. Bad news: It comes in a creepy container. Good news: We found bacon. Bad news: It has bones in it. Weird. Good news: We found Duff beer from The Simpsons! Bad news: No bad news. We even found a good English ale as well! It is indeed a merry Christmas for John. We’re still searching for the elusive baking soda, alias "Bicarbonate du soude"You can run, but you can’t hide
71: "I unfortunately still crave bacon which is the meat candy of the world." - Katy Perry December 25, 2011 Update: We have not found bacon. We bought "pork roast breast trench", which is not bacon at all. When cooked, it looks and tastes more like a pork chop. "Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home." - Carol Nelson December 28, 2011 We had a couple of vouchers for a free game of bowling, so we decided to go on Christmas this weekend. The bowling place is all the way on the other side of town, so we hopped on the bus, switched buses, and finally made it there almost an hour later. When we got there, however, we realized that our vouchers didn’t work for Sunday afternoons. Like everything in Switzerland, it took us two tries to figure it out. We had an air hockey tournament on Sunday instead (John won), and then went back for bowling on Monday (Danielle won by a lot). | On Monday evening, we headed to Ikea to purchase a bookcase for the big empty wall we had in our apartment. We accidentally also bought several other items, which made for a heavy bag plus the bookcase, all to carry home on the bus. And our bus driver was the speediest, jerkiest driver we have had to date, which is saying a lot in Geneva. The bookshelf and us went flying all over the bus. We then carried it the rest of the way home on our shoulders. That was fun. | On Tuesday, the last day of our Christmas vacation, we went snowboarding! We didn’t bring a camera since we were nervous we would fall on it, but it was absolutely beautiful. We went to a resort in France called Flaine and boarded right next to Mont Blanc in sunshiny, 38 degree Fahrenheit weather on decent snow. We had lunch outside at the top of the world with a view of the Alps. That really was fun.
72: "I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life." -Rita Rudner December 30, 2011 Well, it finally happened. After about 1344 hours of being together all of the time, in basically one room, having no other friends, with only one of us speaking the language, John and I finally got sick of each other. He came with me on my work trip to Fribourg this week (a town in the middle of Switzerland – half German, half French) and explored the city while I worked at the client’s office. Last night we went to dinner, got annoyed with each other about nothing, and then he went to sleep in the hotel before 10pm. I know he was annoyed with me because that’s what he does when he doesn’t want to talk to me – he “goes to sleep” even though we both know he’s not tired and usually stays up much later than me. I watched an episode of Saved by the Bell, per my usual work trip routine, and then went to sleep too. I figure 1344 hours isn’t too bad, though. I mean, when we’re old, we won’t even remember that we’ve already spent 1343 hours together. And hopefully we will have friends. I, for one, am planning on joining a Canasta group asap. Hopefully he’s not so annoyed with me that he doesn’t do my laundry during our laundry time slot tonight though. :) "Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to. " -Bill Vaughn January 1, 2012 Happy New Year! We rang in the new year at a party with Britney, her family, and some of their motocross friends. It was held in one of the motocross garages with fun napkin decorations. We ate fondue bourguignon (meat fondue cooked in oil), salad, and various drinks. We also had fresh oysters and dancing. Today we went to a small gathering in the lobby of our building and met some of our neighbors. Some have lived in this building for 40 years! We met a very nice Scottish woman, and John is going to fix her computer. We are right at home. Our party calendar is hopping lately!
73: John and Mr. Spears with the fondue. | Britney Spears! | John almost wore the same thing last night.
74: Geneva is the Hawaii of Switzerland, except it's cold and they speak French. Okay, it's not. January 3, 2012 | The view from my office tonight. | In each galette, there is a fve, a little trinket, hidden. The person who gets the fve in their slice of cake is the king or queen for the day. Unfortunately, yesterday, John found the fve and was king for the day. He wore the crown for the rest of the night. In fact, I think it’s still on his pillow this morning. I haven’t decided if we’re going to celebrate this holiday again next year. | "It's good to be the king." - John, about a million times last night January 8, 2012 King’s Day is celebrated in France on January 6th, and the French traditionally eat a galette des rois , a king’s cake of puff pastry and almond paste, to celebrate. John and I bought one this weekend to make sure we were experiencing all of the culture here. We like culture that involves desserts.
75: "A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works." - Bill Vaughan January 8, 2012 | Unfortunately our local French grocery store’s website is not up to date on its store hours. We were pretty excited to find that it is open on Sunday mornings until noon, and when we forgot something at the checkout yesterday (don’t ask how you forget a clothes rack that is bigger than you are), we decided just to run down to get it this morning. Things didn’t look good when we got to the parking lot. Sure enough, they are closed all day on Sundays. We thoroughly enjoyed the bus ride to the store and pleasant Sunday morning walk. | "Any colour - so long as it's black." - Henry Ford January 12, 2012 | I am working in Zurich for two weeks, and this is the parking lot of the building I am in. Now I know where all of the hatchbacks go. Also, apparently you need a badge to enter and leave the building. This was fun to find out when I left late yesterday evening without a badge and had to wait for someone to open the door for me. I finally got out, walked to the exit on the right, and realized there is another gate that requires a badge. Like a gate with barbed wire on the top. They are serious. I had to wait for another person to open the gate for me. And people don't leave the building often at that time of night.
76: "Zurich. ... is zu reich and zu ruhig – which is a play on German words for "too rich" and "too quiet."." - Rick Steves January 15, 2012 | I am in Zurich for work right now, so over the weekend John packed up our Switzerland guide books, a warm jacket, and came over on the train to spend the weekend here with me. Friday night we did a world tour through old town Zurich where we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, then a Swiss bar, then an Irish bar. We both got the beef fajitas at the Mexican place and had a liter of tropical margaritas. I have had Mexican food twice since I have been here, and it really just isn’t the same. Although the margaritas were definitely trans-continental. We then stopped at a Swiss bar looking for some good beer on tap for John. True to Swiss culture, they only had three bottled beers, and a wide selection of expensive wine, so we left. I am not even going to tell you how much drinks are in Zurich. It is depressing, and you’ll just want to drink away your sorrows, which is counterproductive.
77: We stopped at an Irish bar on the way home, John got a good beer, and we were both happy. Saturday we took Rick Steves’ walking tour through Zurich. We walked on top of ancient Roman baths, strolled along the famous shopping street and didn’t buy anything, and hiked up the spiral staircase in the largest church in the city for a great view.
78: We then continued the walking tour along the lake, and John tried roasted chestnuts for the first time. He was excited because now he knows what they're talking about in "Let It Snow". Clearly the naked statue law is federal and applies to all of Switzerland. I always feed birds naked.
79: This morning we got up bright and early to go to Mt. Rigi, a mountain in the Swiss Alps about an hour away. We took a tram, train, bus, bus, cable car, cogwheel train, and then another cogwheel train to get there, which we think is pretty impressive in a German speaking land. On our way someone noticed John’s Seahawks hat (go Hawks!) and said hello and that he was from the Bay Area. John congratulated him on the big win yesterday, and then he told us that he had recorded the game and hadn’t watched it yet. Oops! Our goals for the day had been to make it back to Zurich and not to have any bloodshed, so we left quickly. We made it to the top of the summit, and it was absolutely beautiful. We walked around the area at the top, had bratwurst and beer for lunch of course, and then searched for the ice caves that I thought were there. We then found out that those were at a different mountain that we had been looking at going to. We are also buying a sled for next time. | The first cogwheel train in Switzerland. One of us thought this was REALLY cool. | The Matterhorn is out there somewhere. And The Bachelor was there a few months ago! One of us thought this was REALLY cool.
82: "I can't stand people that do not take food seriously." - Oscar Wilde January 21, 2012 | I always wondered how people knew when they had just eaten the best meal of their life. There are so many factors how hungry you are, type of cuisine, the atmosphere, etc. Now I know. When you know, you just know. And it happened to me. I ate at Casa Ferlin, an Italian restaurant in the same family for over 100 years in Zurich, for dinner last night, and every single part of dinner was the best food I have ever tasted. I went with three of my coworkers, and we ordered the menu of the day. I like Europe because we ate three appetizer courses (including raviolis that are worth the flight from the US), then had a Prosecco sorbet float to cleanse our palates, then had the actual main course and dessert. The most talented poets have not written words eloquent enough to describe this eating experience, so I am not even going to try. It was soooooooo good. The only part that wasn’t the best of my life was the dessert, so I’m still on the hunt. I will just have to keep trying
83: We have good news, really good news, and bad news. Good news: We found baking soda!! Sure enough, it was in the pharmacy section of the grocery store. Now we’re on the hunt for baking powder. I have a craving for some muffins, and I’m not sure I can wait until we visit home to get some. Really good news: We are getting visitors!! Jenn and Michael are coming to visit this spring, and we are SO excited! This should be interesting with a mini-fridge, one sink, and a family room. Slumber party!!! Bad news: We found the baking soda while looking for something to freeze a wart off of John’s hand and couldn’t find any wart removers. Kind of makes me not care about the baking soda since I’m no longer hungry. Eww. Geneva has a new invention!!! This is REVOLUTIONARY. Something we will definitely have to bring back to the US. Oh wait, I may have seen something like this before... meat, bun, cheese... alias cheeseburger. | "First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me." - Steve Martin January 26, 2012 "Oh, loneliness and cheeseburgers are a dangerous mix." - Matt Groening January 27, 2012
84: “I like buying snacks from a vending machine because food is better when it falls. Sometimes at the grocery, I'll drop a candy bar so that it will achieve its maximum flavor potential.” January 31, 2012 | I have never been more proud of John in my life. Graduation, our wedding day... nothing surpasses the overwhelming feelings of joy and pride I felt yesterday when I got home from work. John had to do all of the grocery shopping for the week by himself yesterday since we didn't have a chance to go on Saturday, and he came home with every single thing on the list... plus an avocado as a bonus. This is impressive because he took the bus by himself, paid for everything (I'm assuming...), bagged it, and carried it all home. He found ground beef (have to watch those French labels to make sure there is no horse mixed in), worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, AND baking powder!!! My hero!!! The only thing he didn't buy was yellow mustard that we are going to use in a homemade BBQ sauce. He found it, but it was $10 since it was in the "American section". So he is going to make his own mustard. If there is such thing as a soul mate, he is it.
85: "Snowboarding is an activity that is very popular with people who do not feel that regular skiing is lethal enough." - Dave Berry January 31, 2012 | Even when cloudy in Geneva, the rumor is that the slopes in the Alps are usually above the clouds, so it can be sunny and beautiful in the mountains when foggy and rainy here. We tested that theory on Saturday and headed up to La Clusaz, a resort in the French Alps for a day of snowboarding. Unfortunately, the rumor is not true and it was cloudy, but we had a good time anyway and found some really fun blue runs, some not so fun red runs, and a very scary green run to get back to the village at the end of the day (narrow, flat, icy, cliff on one side, an old couple, and a ski school- I think the combination of all of those factors makes it at least a red). | I love lunch stops here! The crepes beat chili fries any day.
86: “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” - Oscar Wilde February 1, 2012 The weather forecast for this weekend is sunny and VERY cold. Ahhh! I can't even process the single digit numbers. Switzerland is currently inhabitable. This is in Fahrenheit. | Ice ice baby...Too cold too cold... February 5, 2012 It is bitterly cold here in Geneva, and we have learned some things this weekend. - It is very important to plan bus and tram connections carefully when hypothermia within five minutes is a real risk - Our apartment isn’t totally sealed since when the wind kicks up our door from the bedroom to the patio sings to us - Even though the actual temperature is a balmy 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind chill makes it feel like zero. - It is bright and sunny outside today and looks like a nice day for a walk. It isn’t. Mother Nature can be very tricky. - When you run out of room in a little fridge, the balcony also works as a freezer. - Going to the grocery store requires full snowboard gear. Yesterday we had on three pairs of pants, too many shirts to count, scarves, hats, gloves, and hand / toe warmers. We might do helmets and goggles next time too. - The Dolins don’t like living in the arctic circle. Our next international assignment will be somewhere that starts with “Carib” and ends with “bean”.
87: “I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three.” - Elayne Booster February 10, 2012 | When I arrived in Switzerland, I made a little list of things I had to do that didn’t seem like fun. This list included getting a microwave, health insurance, and filling out my direct deposit information for my paycheck, among other things. One of those other things was getting a deadbolt on our apartment door. The door to our apartment, the external door to the hall, had a hole in it from where the last tenant appeared to have removed the old deadbolt. So we had a hole and a sticker. Anyone with a pen could have poked through our “security sticker” to see all the way inside our apartment. When I briefly met our next door neighbor in October, one of the three sentences he said to me was that we should really get that lock fixed. In an ominous tone. I really appreciated that while living by myself on the floor at the time. I started the process of trying to get the hole fixed and lock replaced in October. There was a lot of going back and forth about who would be paying for what, and at one time John and I looked into what would be involved to fix it ourselves (I hope everyone knows that by “ourselves” here, I mean by John’s self). After some more research, it also appeared as though our apartment has been broken into before since the wood on the inside of the door was cracked. This made me feel really good inside. So, finally, after several letters, phone calls, and learning a lot of French words including deadbolt and varnish, we got it fixed! We had no idea when we woke up yesterday that it would be such a special day. And we didn’t have to pay for any of it. I think this is fair since I’m pretty sure we’ll leave this baby with the apartment when we move out. They have to come back to varnish the door, but isn’t she a beauty?!
88: You can sleep when you're dead. February 13, 2012 | Last week, the weekend was looking like another regular weekend in the land of ice. We had my office Christmas party dinner on Friday night (I realize it is no longer December or even January, but it’s a long story), and then we planned on grocery shopping on Saturday and relaxing inside the rest of the weekend. THEN we found out on Wednesday that John’s best friend of life, Nathan, made a last minute trip to Madrid for work last week and had Saturday free. So we booked a flight to Madrid leaving verrrryyyy early Saturday morning and coming back Sunday night. The Christmas dinner was held at a restaurant at a chateau in France. It was very elegant with an “amuse bouche” at the beginning of the meal to get your taste buds ready. My taste buds never need prep time, I’m always ready for food It ended up being a five hour dinner (which I think is ironic because sometimes that’s the amount of time I go between meals), and it was fun to try new foods and listen to French. The French part probably wasn’t as fun for John, but he had a good time anyway. Then we headed out to Madrid on Saturday morning for a weekend with a friend. This was our first "kind-of friend" visit since we got to see a friend in Europe, but he didn’t quite make it to Geneva. Yes, Mom, you are a friend too. :) We found the hotel, and Nathan looked very European in a navy sport jacket with gold buttons, jeans, and loafers. The poor guy had to come to Madrid directly from Peru unexpectedly, so that means he packed for 100 degree weather for summer in South America and then came to winter and the worst cold spell in Europe in recent history. The nice Peruvians got him a black Alpaca scarf to help him stay warm here, which really just completed his European outfit.
89: We headed out to explore the city and having no idea where we wanted to go, we started out at the most popular square in the middle of town, Plaza Mayor. Then we walked for about 2 minutes, found a really cool market, and stopped for beer round #1. Traveling with John and Nathan is different than traveling with, say, other people. It was still before 10am when we made our first beer stop. Then we went to a church and the royal palace. The royal palace was SO cool. Each room was decorated completely differently, over the top, and unique. We took the tour and saw the throne room, royal pharmacy, and the armory. John now wants a throne room in our house. With red velvet walls like the king of Spain. Seriously.
90: We all got hungry, so we decided to stop for some lunch. We went to a place called The Ham Museum. Nathan and I both ordered daily specials, and, after I told John he couldn’t copy my order, he got the seafood platter. It was a huge platter of unidentifiable seafood. Meet John’s new friend Roberto, the shrimp. The shrimp had eyes. | The other food wasn’t much better and included a baby crab with no meat, just weirdness inside, and a pig back (we think) with some funny ball things on it. Unfortunately, we left lunch still hungry but mostly nauseous. We tried to fix that with some ice cream. Then we went on a bus tour to see the rest of the city since it was too cold for walking long periods of time.
91: We stopped at an Egyptian temple built in 2BC that was donated to Spain by Egypt where John sang the song “Walk Like an Egyptian” the whole time. I made him eat his words and pose for a picture. | To make up for lunch, we had an awesome dinner. We went to a bar / cafeteria kind of place that we had heard was pretty good and had lots and lots of beer and lots and lots of tapas. We ordered beers in the double digits, plus wine, plus enough tapas to keep all of us full, and the total bill for all three of us was less than $50, including tip. The guy behind the counter was very friendly, so even though we meant just to stop for a beer on our way to dinner, we ended up leaving after many more beers and stuffed.
92: We stopped at a karaoke bar on the walk home. We hadn’t had enough beers to sing, but we watched everyone else sing Spanish songs. Then we all slept in Nathan’s huge bed. With plenty of room. John and I said goodbye to Nathan on Sunday morning, ate a very long breakfast at the hotel, and then walked around the city for a bit before our flight home. Our lessons learned from the trip: you can sleep when you’re dead, going to Madrid for the weekend might actually be cheaper than staying in Geneva, and don’t order fish platters when you don’t speak the language.
93: "Without Valentine's Day, February would be... well, January." - Jim Gaffigan Correction! | February 14, 2012 February 15, 2012 | One of the things John really likes about living in Europe is that they don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day. I still made him be nice to me, however, so he agreed to watch The Bachelor with me last night and be a fun person to watch it with (rather than playing on his phone or repeatedly saying how stupid it is, as is usual). He lived up to his promise. I even had to tell him to be quiet a few times because he kept talking while the show was on, analyzing why the bachelor liked some women more than others. We ended up reserving the commercials for “debriefing time”, so watching the show with him took longer than when I watch it by myself and fast forward through the commercials. I also got this nice rose, which I thought was really sweet of him to get until he told me they were giving them out at the grocery store. I still give him credit for carrying it home, but he really should have just lied to me. He also said he got free Lifesavers, but he ate those. Happy Valentine's Day! Apparently John and I are an old couple who no longer communicate effectively. We are going to be this couple: Me in 50 years: “I had a great day with you, dear.” John in 50 years: “Don’t take away my beer!” There were no Lifesavers at the grocery store. John would like everyone to know that I received everything that was given out for free that day. And, like The Bachelor, the rose means that I get to stick around for one more week. We’ll see what happens next week.
94: "My body is a temple where junk food goes to worship." February 19, 2012 | We have been enjoying the food here and filling up on baguettes, cheese, and wine. We have been trying to immerse ourselves in the local culture. But, sometimes, you just have to fork over the 300% markup at the American store and get the cream soda and root beer you are craving. It was so worth it. | “Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.” - Dave Barry February 26, 2012 | We are making our rounds at the ski resorts around the area. We tried a new one on Saturday called Le Grand Bornand. We took the gondola up to the ski lifts, another lift up to the top, and admired the view. Then we made our way down on the WORST SLOPE EVER. It was icy, crowded, and long. I fell twice at the top, was miserable, and decided that we were going in for lunch as soon as I got to the bottom (it was before 10am). The bottom of the slope was much better, however, so we stuck to the lift that went on that part of the mountain for the rest of the day. Fun fact: John’s jacket and pants are from 8th grade. | Another fun fact: John’s fly was down when we got back to the bus at the end of the day and we didn’t make any stops during the day so it had been like that since he put on his pants that morning.
95: “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” - Winston Churchill February 26, 2012 | Did you know that it doesn’t rain every single day from October through June everywhere in the world?? After living in Seattle for so long, I didn’t realize that so much rain really is not normal. It was bright and sunny out today, and, unlike the mean tricks Mother Nature played when it was sunny but actually 0 degrees Fahrenheit here, it was pretty warm. However, no one warned us that we moved into a hurricane zone where the winds never stop. We still decided to go on a walk by the lake today. We took the train down to Geneva, walked around, and then took our first ride on the lake ferry. | John was excited that we could take so many methods of transportation in one day, so we took the tram and the bus home. That makes train, boat, tram, bus, and foot. And we have officially decided not to buy a car as we rented our parking spot this week. | Do I look cold??
96: “Abandon the search for truth; settle for a good fantasy.” February 28, 2012 | Today marks my six month anniversary of living in Switzerland. This week was also the week where I finally completed my Pain-In-The-Butt-Never-Moving-Out-Of-The-Country again list. This is a huge accomplishment! I guess this means we are finally "settled". Yes, I carried around this post-it note in my purse for six months. Reading books about being an expat, this time period is known as the "second settle" where you are used to your new surroundings and can get around, but now you have to thrive and grow as a person. Before it was just survival. Now is when things that used to seem overwhelming (see post about opening the bathroom door in the office, for example) are boring. We are supposed to make friends, plan adventures, and really integrate ourselves into the local culture (good thing we squeezed in the cream soda last weekend...). I do feel very settled. Actually my boss told me I was the quickest person he'd seen get settled in a foreign country. John says he feels settled too, so we're settling together. But now I have to carry around new a post-it to-do list with "personal growth" on it. This sounds much more difficult. | Bigger isn't always better. March 4, 2012 | Even though they are the exact same brand, John and I each have our own tube of toothpaste. One was purchased in France, and one was purchased in the US. At least Americans go overboard in dental hygiene along with the food.
97: Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh. We live in the French part (Geneva is completely surrounded by France other than a small part that goes along the lake and then opens up to the rest of Switzerland), the majority of Switzerland speaks German (65%), there is an Italian part in the south, and then a little Romansh in the east. I really wanted John to learn Romansh when we got here, but for some reason he wasn’t too enthusiastic. SBB CFF FFS - Even the trains have three names He is interested in learning some French. Right now he knows pretty much all of the numbers, polite words (good evening, please, thank you), and some bad words (the French drop the F bomb like crazy, so you hear that on the tram more than anything else). We thought about ordering Rosetta Stone, but so far this has been our experience. To sum it up, we wasted a lot of time on their website, and John still doesn’t know any French, but he practiced his bad words several times. When you try to go to the Rosetta Stone website from Switzerland, it automatically directs you to the German website. I find this ironic considering we live in the French part of Switzerland where people don’t speak German. They just lost 35% of the Swiss population as potential customers. There is no possible way to access the US or UK site from here. We sent them an email highlighting the very strange fact that, on a website of a language learning software company, there is only one language available per country. We can’t be the first people to move to a country and try to learn the language from there. They responded to our email with a link to their site saying it would work in English. It doesn’t. Back to the German site we go. John can get to the shipping information on the US website on his phone, but then it says that it doesn’t ship to our area and redirects back to the German site. So I guess Romansh is out now too. | SBB CFF FFS - Even the trains have three names | “There is the fear, common to all English-only speakers, that the chief purpose of foreign languages is to make fun of us. Otherwise, you know, why not just come out and say it?” - Barbara Ehrenreich March 7, 2012
98: "Haste la vista, baby." - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator March 9, 2012 "Belgium thinks that however great the peril which a country might have to undergo under the system which we seek to establish here, that country ought to do its duty." - Henri La Fontaine March 14, 2012 | Yesterday I had lunch with The Terminator. I attended a luncheon event where the featured speaker was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was there to speak about the R20, a non-profit organization founded to promote environmental issues. His speech was okay, and he’s actually pretty funny. His voice really does sound like it does in the movies. I don’t know why I wasn’t sure it would. I learned some interesting facts about the environment, the state of California, and Arnold’s career. I didn’t like when he talked about his $30 million movie deals, but I suspect that has more to do with my own jealousy than his speaking abilities. I did get slightly distracted during the speech as I thought about all of the people he has met, wondering if this qualifies as the “six degrees of separation” because I just got many degrees closer to a lot of famous people, and speculating as to how tall he actually is (very controversial topic – which seems to me to be easy to figure out). Now I can say that I have actually heard The Terminator say “I’ll be back.” Check that off of the bucket list. I was in Brussels for the first part of this week for work. It was a last minute trip, so we didn’t get to come the weekend before to eat fries and drink Belgian beer. I did get to eat one french fry that my coworker gave me, and I will admit it was pretty good. Otherwise I was disappointed that the hotel didn’t serve waffles for breakfast. This trip did bring back several memories of when Jenn, Whitney, and I came to Europe in 2005. This was the city where some guys wanted to take us to their cabin in the woods (creepy, we said no), we walked to the laundromat in our pajamas because we had no more clean clothes, and the rash I had on my arm was in full force. The rash is only funny to the three of us, although maybe not so funny to them since I couldn't wear deodorant for the rest of the trip. I’m sure John and I will make a trip to Brussels soon when he can’t take another day of no dark beer. And then I’ll get my waffle.
99: Last weekend we went to the International Car Show in Geneva. Apparently this is a huge deal (surprisingly, as a car fanatic myself, I had never heard of it), and they had been setting up for it for weeks. It happens to be held at Palexpo, a huge exhibition center right next to our apartment. This is where I catch my bus to work everyday, so I had been keeping track of the set up progress. Other than one unfortunate incident one evening when I tripped over the forks of a forklift in the dark parking lot on my way home, everything appeared to be running smoothly. One of us was really excited to go, and one of us was kind of excited to go. I got more excited about it when John said I could look around for the car I want to purchase when we get back. We went in, and there were halls of cars on display. Each maker had their own section where they had their newest models displayed. You could get in the cars (most of them - for some reason the Ferraris weren’t open for touching, only looking), and they had some information about all of them. Some of the cars we would consider buying when we get back, and some we will probably never have enough net worth to buy if we sold everything we own. Twice. John found his dream car. Okay, a couple. | "Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead." - Mac McCleary March 17, 2012 | So did I.
100: Open sesame. March 20, 2012 I am in Biel/Bienne this week for work. It's a town in the middle of Switzerland, and it's known as the rough part of Switzerland. If there even is one. John came with me on Sunday to walk around and protect me from the hooligans. On our way back from dinner, we saw this building with a bright OPEN sign on the front. Does it look open to you? "Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground." - Unknown March 23, 2012 Pro of living in Switzerland: Fondue. Con of living in Switzerland: Realizing last night that the meat that came with the fondue was horse. After I had started eating. Dang German.
101: “There's something wrong with someone who washes out a measuring cup with soap and water after they have only measured water in it.” - Emma Bombeck March 25, 2012 When I first arrived in Switzerland, I purchased some laundry soap to wash my clothes. I didn't smell the soap beforehand and found out later that it smelled weird. John and I were thrilled when we finally used all of it up. We spent several minutes choosing our next detergent at the store. In fact, someone at the store with a little girl said that we must not have children in order to be able to spend that much time smelling laundry soap. He was correct. We purchased one we both liked and have been very happy with the results. The combination of the soap and the fabric softener sheets my mom brought over was almost like home. Yesterday we went to buy a new bottle, and I read more closely what the bottle said. Apparently for the past few months, we have been using fabric softener (twice). The fabric softener section is bigger than the detergent section, which seems counterintuitive to me. But, with a quick search on Google Translate, it was confirmed. We were tempted just to keep using it since our clothes smelled so much better, but, in the end, we decided soap is important. This is the newest member of our family: We reconsidered our decision when we later got to the produce section of the store and someone smelled horrible. We call it the "Europe smell". We have decided it has three causes, which in the trifecta combination create something nasty. - Less frequent showers - No deodorant - Less frequent clothes washing (or maybe they only use fabric softener....)
102: Say no to drugs. March 27, 2012 With all of the horrible things going on in the world, it is good to know that some boundaries still stand. Some people are still making an effort to do things right. In a time where drugs are rampant and all too readily available, including prescription drugs, it becomes even more important to prohibit access. For example, you can no longer purchase Sudafed at Target without signing a sheet in order for them to track your total Sudafed purchases. Switzerland has taken this to a whole other level. You are required to purchase all of your baking soda at the pharmacy. Even though the pharmacy is in the grocery store, you still must check out at the pharmacy cash register. I, for one, am glad that someone is putting a stop to the baking soda abuse. From cookies to toothpaste to refrigerator deodorizer, one can only imagine what is next. | "To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay, right or justice." - Magna Carta 1215 March 30, 2012 I was in Neuchtel this week for work. Any town that has a cheese named after it is a good town in my book. Neuchtel is in the French speaking part of Switzerland and is on a lake northeast of Geneva. John came with me on Sunday to see the sights, and it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, a breeze was blowing, and the town was bustling. This is a stark contrast from shady Biel / Bienne the Sunday before when it was pouring and there was no one outside, except for the two of us of course.
103: The town is built on a hill up from the lake, so we got plenty of exercise on the stairs. Kind of like a middle ages Stair Master. | Walking around the old town and castle literally feels like you stepped back about 500 years and are heading across town to get Ma some water from the well. | But this was John’s favorite building.
104: "Jet lag is your soul trying to catch up after flying." - Ryan Ross March 31, 2012 | We have visitors! Jenn and Michael arrived yesterday to gorgeous mountains, a bright sun, and two very excited dorks with a sign waiting at the airport for them. We went to the French market this morning and bought cheese, meat, veggies, caramels, olives, fruit, and fresh pasta for dinner tomorrow night. We have big plans for this week while they are here that include Rome, Barcelona, and a Canasta tournament, all equally exciting for me. Right now, however, our jet-lagged friends are taking a nap. And so is John. And no, he is not jet-lagged. We are excited for this week!!! | “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” - Jon Hammond April 9, 2012 | Saturday night after the market and a nap, we went to Britney’s house for a real French dinner with real French people. We had raclette which consisted of gooey cheese, fresh deli meats, and boiled potatoes. My general rule is that I don’t love food that I have to work for to eat (ie: shrimp that still has its shell), but melting cheese is an exception. We also drank white wine, green tea, and ate ice cream for dessert “to help digestion”. I can really get behind the French way of eating. The next day we explored Geneva. We strolled through old town, scaled the church tower, walked along the water, and checked the time at the Flower Clock (one of Geneva’s largest attractions – good news is that it is free to look at, bad news is that it takes about a minute to see). We also took a water taxi ride across the lake. We especially loved the sign that reminded us to let the boat driver know if the boat stopped working. And then we ate our market pasta for dinner. We tried the spinach / mozzarella tortellini and the beef ravioli. I am finding a theme where my highlights of life revolve around delicious meals
106: Taxi! | These trees are everywhere. John swears they will bloom, but I'm not sold. They have huge bunion things on the ends of them. Stay tuned for the final verdict as the weather gets warmer.
107: These trees are everywhere. John swears they will bloom, but I'm not sold. They have huge bunion things on the ends of them. Stay tuned for the final verdict as the weather gets warmer. | One night in Barcelona April 9, 2012 | Monday morning we were off to Barcelona ! Our flight was early in the morning, but we still managed to fit in a little exercise beforehand. Hearing “last call for flight xxx to Barcelona at Gate xx” when you are NOT at the gate will do that to you. We arrived in Barcelona bright and early and ready to explore. We took a walk to Sagrada Familia, one of the favorite Dolin Europe sites. We had gone back in November and had no idea that the 15 minute line that we debated waiting in was a steal of a deal, since on this day the line stretched all the way around the church. We admired the outside and then showed Jenn and Michael our pictures of the inside from our last trip.
108: Then we took a detour in a cab to somewhere I am pretty sure no tourists have ever gone before. I had cut out part of an article I read that mentioned a restaurant in Barcelona that served the best grilled meat in Spain. And it was rated one of the top 10 secret places in Europe. So we hopped in a cab and gave the driver the address. There is a reason it is a secret. It was outside of town, up a hill, around some corners, and down a driveway. And it is closed on Mondays. So our faithful driver turned around and drove us to another restaurant sort of in the area that John and I had gone to before. We had margaritas, beers, and tapas, and decided we liked Barcelona again. That evening we headed to the W Hotel, which is right on the beach. I had heard that there was a bar on the top floor with a beautiful view of the whole city with drinks made from fresh fruit. We all like the beach, bars, and fruit, so we thought it would be a winner. As we pulled up in the taxi, we noticed that we couldn’t actually see the top of the hotel due to all of the fog. We took this as a bad sign for the view, and this was confirmed when we made it to the top.
109: We had a fun drink anyway and then some more on our walk along the beach. We stopped for dinner in the Gothic Quarter. The food was good, except for Jenn’s rice dish that ended up being Michael’s rice dish. It consisted of some rice, a few shrimp with eyes, and a lot of oil.
110: The next day we woke up to rain. We took a walk up to the Olympic stadium, bought some umbrellas, and then went to the Olympic museum. And then we took off for Rome.
112: All Roads Lead to Rome... April 9, 2012 We were welcomed to Rome with a welcome drink on the patio at our B&B. And we all immediately fell in love with Rome. Our Bed & Breakfast was very cute with an old Victorian style. We settled in and then went to dinner at “the best restaurant in Rome” per our hotel shuttle driver. It was delizioso! We all ordered pizza and were not disappointed although the boys were eyeing the huge sizzling steaks that passed by. Meat is always a little dicey to order off of a menu in a foreign language (see horse incident post).
113: On Wednesday we were off to the Coliseum and Roman Forum. John was really excited to see all of the Roman ruins. We rented audio guides so we would know what we were looking at but found them to be confusing and really long winded. And John knew most of the information from watching the History Channel anyway. We also noted that John got an audio guide tan line on the back of his neck to show for his crazy escapades in Rome. We all loved the Coliseum though and liked hearing the stories about how they would bring out animals, nature scenes, and the gladiators.Our favorite Coliseum fact was that the Senators had special seats with their names engraved in the stone (no Lazy Boys at that time...). When a new Senator took over, they would chisel out the new name.
115: We hit the other big sites on a walk up one of the main streets in the city that afternoon. We made a wish at the Trevi fountain, ate gelato by the Pantheon, and walked by the Spanish steps. We were on a roll to fulfilling our Rome goal of eating gelato every day. Lofty goal, yes, but we were determined.
116: We made it back to the hotel and decided to meet back out on the welcome drink terrace in 15 minutes. Jenn and John were the only ones to make it back out of the room. Michael and I felt sick and ended up staying in the room for the rest of the night, so Jenn and John went out to dinner to the same restaurant as the night before. After staring at the menus for a minute they realized they were in English, and John got to order the fantasy steak. All 2.2 pounds of it. Minimum order. | Perhaps not surprisingly, when we woke up on Thursday John also felt sick. We had tickets to the Vatican that day, so Jenn, John, and I went while Michael was too sick to move. It was a very slow day since neither John nor I felt good either, so we saw the big square, beelined it to the Sistine chapel, and then got back to the hotel as soon as possible. Needless to say, all of our gelato dreams were crushed that day. And one of the four of us now knows how to use a bidet. Jenn and I went out to dinner and had the best nettle pesto gnocchi and big spaghetti noodles with olive oil and tomatoes ever prepared. The men guarded the hotel that night. We were a sad group. Friday morning we flew back to Geneva...
117: "True friends leave footprints in your heart." - Eleanor Roosevelt April 9, 2012 On Saturday we took a day trip to Gruyeres, the cheese town. Cherry, the wise audio guide cow, guided us on a tour of the cheese factory where we got to taste different ages of the Gruyeres cheese. I generally don’t love museums, but when samples and a friendly cow are involved, I am in. | Which of these is not like the others?
118: The Swiss eat almost 60% of the total Gruyere cheese produced. This has to be an incredible statistic per capita. My kind of country. The town of Gruyeres is on top of a hill, so we hiked up and decided that we had definitely burned all of the calories that we would later consume at our fondue lunch. There is a medieval castle at the top as well. Then we fondued. For dessert we tried to take the chocolate factory tour, but the wait was extra long, so we just hit the gift shop and then ate the chocolate on the train home. I liked our group’s focus on the important things. Sunday we had a game tournament day and played Sequence, Canasta, and Farkle. It was a wonderful day. I shed a couple of tears when they left today. We love our Boehm friends!!! Jenn & Michael - Don't forget: Just MBB. :)
119: "Babies are always more trouble than you thought -- and more wonderful." Charles Osgood April 12, 2012 “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy." - Chinese proverb April 16, 2012 I flew to Lugano, a city in the Italian part of Switzerland, last night. Part of my normal airport routine at home would be to check in, go through security, buy something at Starbucks, and buy a magazine for the plane. This is the breakdown of costs at Sea-Tac: Starbucks tall creme frappucino: $3.50 People (or an equivalent gossip magazine): $3.99 Total for Sea-Tac airport fun: $7.49 This is the breakdown of costs at Geneva Cointrin: Starbucks tall creme frappucino: CHF 7.50 Trashy magazine: CHF 11.20 Total for Geneva airport fun: CHF 18.70... or $20.32. Total paid for Geneva airport fun last night: CHF 0 or $0. Thirsty people watching is free. | John and I have big news!!! We are going to be an auntie and uncle! Our NIECE is due in August because all Dolins are born in the summer. Her name is Claire, and we already love her to pieces. We can’t wait to meet this little girl.
120: “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to to dance better than myself.” - Mikhail Baryshnikov April 19, 2012 | There are three awesome things about the hotel I’m staying in this week. In no particular order 1. John got to join me for part of the week! 2. The breakfasts here are soooo good. They have a huge spread of food to choose from including fresh squeezed orange juice, hot chocolate made from real chocolate chunks, and fresh fruit (including strawberries!). I would eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if it didn’t stop at 11am. 3. Our room has its own dance club. It might look like a bathroom, but it has all of the dance club necessities: a bar on the left, disco lighting, and two people who know how to bust a move. I can't take all of the credit for this move. Some of you know who I can thank.
121: “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” - Jawaharlal Nehru April 24, 2012 | I am currently dealing with a situation at work that I thought was a normal problem. Then I realized today that it isn’t just any regular problem. It is a culture clash. I don’t love the term “culture clash” because it automatically pins the cultures against each other and seems somewhat helpless. I prefer something like “culture issue”, but considering this problem hasn’t been resolved and now it’s bigger than I wanted it to be, I guess it’s a clash. And I’m not sure what the right answer is. To me, of course my solution is right. But I have been conditioned to think a certain way my entire life, so it’s obvious for me. And when I look back to my experience and what I would normally do at home, I am reminded that there wouldn’t even be a problem in the first place in the US. The other person would have thought the same thing, since they too have been conditioned to act the same way, and we would have all been on the same page from the beginning. I think culture is more engrained in us than I may have thought. It seems to be something that comes up in strange places, where you might not normally expect. Shoe styles, religion, and diet are easy culture targets. But problem solving, work expectations, and fairness are not. And they are very different. Personality traits that I would not necessarily use to describe me in the US since they are so common are things that differentiate me here. Good or bad. And not necessarily positive and negative in the same way that they are viewed at home. That makes it confusing. This time the solution will be what the other culture decides, and I will have to go along with it. I know I am growing and learning, etc, but I have to admit that sometimes it’s easier to work with people who think like you, at least as a starting point. Update: We are going with the Swiss way of doing things. So I’m going to suck it up like an American and just do what needs to get done.
122: “Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There's no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” - Fanny Burney April 24, 2012 | We spent the weekend on Lake Como, Italy, and it was beautiful. It really is one of those places that looks just like the movies. Old buildings, windy streets, and green mountains surrounded us. We totally lucked out with the weather since it was supposed to be rainy, but we ended up getting sunshine all day Saturday with the exception of a thunderstorm while we sat on a deck by the lake for happy hour. We had absolutely no complaints. We ate pizza the first night and then lasagna the second (Mr. Clooney ended up having to cancel on us). We made the mistake of ordering the half liter of wine on Friday, so we went for the full one on Saturday. We are fast learners. Our hotel was in Menaggio, and on Saturday we took the ferry across the lake to Bellagio (not to be confused with Vegas). We both loved the whole weekend. | The Lake Como ferry system. A little different than the Seattle - Bainbridge line.
123: The flowers were in full bloom. | We had a delicious lunch in a wine cave and tried a wine from a "very rare grape" in Tuscany.The owner wanted to make sure we knew the grape was VERY rare.
124: "We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is." - Leroy Allison April 27, 2012 Most everyone we talk to asks us what all we have been up to, where we have been, and if we are taking advantage of all of the opportunities of living here. Sometimes it seems like we have to remind people that we are still living a real life. This was my dream, but we still have laundry to do, bills to pay, work full time, and we don’t have a dishwasher. We can’t take advantage of everything to do around here all of the time because we also need to go grocery shopping (which is only possible on Saturdays), I am tired on Fridays from work just like I was at home, and sometimes it’s nice just to stay home. At least while we watch our American TV, we can still see France out the window. This got me wondering, though, why don’t we turn the question around on them? Just like this is two years of our lives, this is also two years of theirs. They are living where they choose to live and doing what they choose to do. It’s easy to think of our time here as temporary and something we should really soak up, but isn’t that true for everyone? Are you really taking advantage of where you are right now? "Gray hair is God's graffiti." - Bill Cosby April 29, 2012 | John and I have a couple crush on our new friends Tricia and David. Yesterday we went to the French town, Annecy, with them and had a really fun day. We got strawberries at the market, shopped around the old downtown, strolled along the lake, and had a delicious lunch outside. And we ate gelato in the afternoon. It was perfect. Now, on to a more serious topic. Switzerland is generally known as a safe place to live, but John and I are concerned about the recent increase in probable gang activity in our neighborhood. We have recently seen some new graffiti in the area, and then this weekend we found the most menacing message yet. Yes, they spray painted the name of our bus stop on the wall. That is hard core.
125: "We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is." - Leroy Allison May 3, 2012 This is one reason why the Boehms are going to be great parents... that’s right... they are having a BABY!!! Jenn is due on October 24 which just so happens to be her birthday. We couldn’t be happier for them, and that is going to be one lucky Boehm baby! Love you ba-bo! And love you best friend!!! | There is a difference between regular friends and best friends. Best friends send you TWO jars of peanut butter in your thank you care package, one for you and one for your significant other. While Jenn and Michael were here, I asked John if I could have some of his peanut butter that he got for Christmas. Jenn and Michael thought it was very strange that I had to ask since apparently at the Boehm household ‘what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours’. They really took those vows seriously. At the Dolin household, we generally don’t share (although John did let me have some of his peanut butter).
126: Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts” - Jim Morrison May 6, 2012 Yesterday was a milestone in our time in Europe. Something that would usually seem mundane at home was making me very nervous. But it was time. I prepared earlier this week by asking Britney for some key words: “layers”, “part”, and “please cut this much in length”. I had also used a ruler to convert inches to centimeters. I had had my eye on the salon next to the grocery store we frequent. I walked in yesterday morning and took a seat by the door to wait. Getting a hair cut always makes me a little nervous (the AGD girls who lived with me senior year of college know why), and when people cut layers differently than you’re used to, it can be very unsettling to watch in the mirror. "A functioning police state needs no police." - William S. Burroughs May 7, 2012 What happens when they have to put someone in the back? | At the end of the cut it was a little shorter than I had imagined (going to have to recheck the ruler and my centimeter / inch conversions), but I liked it. I went out to pay when I found out that the price posted on the window was only for short hair. I didn’t have enough cash with me and had to practice my French again saying my husband with the money was doing some grocery shopping, you can keep my jacket, I promise I will be back, etc. All in all it went okay, but I’m pretty sure experience didn’t help my high blood pressure. I have calculated it out, however, and I will only need one more haircut while we are here. Don’t worry Great Clips, I'll be back.
127: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." - Mark Twain May 9, 2012 Check out John’s new summer outfit. Can’t wait to see him on the beach in this sexy European getup.
128: “The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” - Oscar Wilde May 13, 2012 | John is working again, so my house husband is now back to a regular husband. He is working as a contractor back with old company in the US. He is really happy to be back at work, and we got him some new office furniture this week. This is his new home office... on our balcony. I am so proud of you JB!!! | John's view from his office. Six months ago his view was of a gravel quarry, now it's a view of France.
129: “Never pride yourself on knowledge. Remember; even a head of iceberg lettuce knows more than you do. It knows whether or not that light really does go out when the refrigerator door shuts.” May 14, 2012 | One thing John and I have a new appreciation for (right behind owning a dishwasher) is the American size refrigerator. Everything is bigger in the US, and kitchen appliances are no different. Fitting everything in the fridge has become a sport at our house. We play every Saturday around noon when we get home from the market and grocery store. John always wins. We realized last night that our fridge was made in West Germany. Not regular Germany, West Germany, which means it’s really old. Please also note the size of our freezer about the size of one Eggo waffle box. And it gets continually smaller as the frost builds up around it until John defrosts it. I can’t wait to buy condiments recklessly without even considering whether we have enough fridge space when we get home. It’s going to be crazy.
130: “The best vitamin for making friends: B1” May 20, 2012 John and I had friends over to our apartment for the first time this weekend. We have a “couple crush” on David and Tricia, so we were excited to have them over. It was a little embarrassing to have to mention in our email inviting people to dinner that we don’t actually own a dining table, but Tricia admitted that they don’t either, and they have been here longer than we have. Match made in heaven. We decided to have a fiesta, so we had chips (a delicacy that is hard to find around here), salsa (called fajita sauce), and mojitos for appetizers. We then had enchiladas with John’s homemade enchilada sauce and salad with my new homemade dressing. And for our Mexican dessert, we had M&M cookies. Ole! We both thought the food was really good, went through a few bottles of wine, and had a really fun time, so hopefully they did too. Or at least we hope they had enough wine so they think they had a good time. Making new friends is a little like dating, which doesn’t bode well for the Dolins considering, needless to say, we don’t have a lot of dating experience between the two of us. I’m pretty sure awkward dances at 15 years old don’t count. For example, we talked about a Christmas festival up in France that both of us want to go to this year. I suggested that we go together. Then as soon as the suggestion came out of my mouth I wondered if that was too much. Are things moving too fast for them? I feel ready for the next level, but what if they don’t? Can I email them today to see if they want to hang out again soon? Is that too soon? Should we kiss them goodnight? Okay, not the last one, but you get the idea. Although in France you never know who you should be kissing, who you shouldn’t be kissing, and how many times, but that’s for another post.
131: “Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad.” -Anne Geddes May 21, 2012 Tonight I received a sign that it is time to visit home. I called my parents, and this was the conversation: (ring) (ring) Dad: Hello? Danielle: Hi Dad! How are you? Dad: (after a short pause) Who is this? "Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved." -Erich Fromm May 21, 2012 My mom's response to the last post: "I do believe he (my Dad) will recognize you at the airport! Just in case, why don’t you and John wear name tags!" I think we will.
132: “If we're not supposed to eat animals, how come they're made out of meat?” - Tom Snyder May 24, 2012 The client where I have been working this week is a private school in the Geneva area. It is an international school and teaches grades K-12. It has been a little strange to hear English, American English, in the hallways since it makes me forget that I am not at home. When I go to eat lunch in the cafeteria, however, I am reminded. There are two main dish options at every lunch, a meat item and a pasta item. I have been here three days this week, and the meat selections so far – keep in mind this is for a school of 2500 kids from 5-18, have been beef (normal enough), lamb, and rabbit. No chicken nuggets here. Can’t think of a segue between these two topics, you’ll see why in a moment I am working with two people from the Zurich office right now, and today I said the word “dork”, referring to myself of course. I had to explain the word, and one of the people decided to look it up on google. I had a really hard time explaining that the word is actually not that mean and not a swear word when she found the real definition. Words become very strange when you have to explain them to someone else “no, it’s really okay that I just called myself a whale male member”. Now I’m sure you understand why I had trouble with that transition.
133: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Ernest Hemingway May 30, 2012 Paris by the Numbers... | 10.5 – the time of night when the sun sets in Paris 8 – crepes we ate in four days 50 – percent of the Tiramisu that John was supposed to eat, this was after trying to sneak an extra 2 percent | 4 – days we spent in Paris this weekend 5 – electric cars that John was excited about 1.5 – litres of water we drank at a time to avoid heat stroke 1000 – people waiting in line to get in Notre Dame
134: 3 – people that asked if we would take a picture of them, so we got one of us 1 million – times we smelled urine walking down the street 6 – times we took this picture because the angle was weird 29 – euros for our three course dinner we loved as we ate outside | 26 – day of May with beautiful flowers 5 – fingers on John’s head when expressing how he feels about moving to Europe :) 50 – meters is the height of the Arc de Triomphe
135: 7 – funny pictures I made John take this weekend 14, 15, 16 – Louis that lived in the Palace of Versailles | 2 – thumbs up for Paris at night 210,000 – flowers planted annually in the Versailles gardens
136: 80 – kilometers of D-day beaches 600 - tons of bombs dropped on this area by the Allies | 30 - minutes the American soldiers had to climb from the shore to the top of the cliffs 1945 - year on my new imaginary Marshall College sweatshirt we bought since it was cold in Normandy 1985 - year on John's new sweatshirt 9,387 - American soldiers buried in the American cemetery in Normandy, and this did not include everyone who died since the soldiers' families could decide whether to bury them in Normandy or the US
137: 1000 - hours John has spent watching The History Channel which made him extra excited to tour the beaches 15 - kilometers of the Mulberry B temporary harbor built in Arromanches by the Allies 608 - D-day landing craft that John posed with | 51 - Directive that Hitler ordered to build the Atlantic Wall. which stretched from Belgium to Spain. The Germans had the entire wall fortified with pill boxes, artillery, machine gun positions and barbed wire as well as laying hundreds of thousands of mines to deter landing craft.
138: 81 - stories of the Eiffel Tower 1 - guy who told me I was beautiful while John was in the bathroom and I was taking this picture
139: 10 - police cars we saw driving around the Eiffel Tower at night 1 - illegal peddler we saw get arrested 15 - minutes per hour when the Eiffel Tower sparkles at night, even though we missed it this time | 5,000 - times we almost died crossing the street 3 - approximate number of cars that run the red light... every time 50 - euros EasyJet was going to charge me to check my bag since it didn't "comfortably" fit in the carry-on size checker 0 - amount I paid to check my bag since I snuck on the plane with it anyway hehe 1 - number of stars of our hotel which is the best deal in Paris since it's right in the center and serves breakfast 2 – my legs that apparently get heat rash now 100 - on a scale of 1 to 100, how much I love John and pictures of us with the Eiffel Tower
140: “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” - Harry S Truman June 4, 2012 | Sign us up for a Discovery Channel special, because our apartment is a mystery of science. The weather here has been very variable lately with some days in the 80s and then the next in the 60s. It will be hot and sunny and then cloudy and rainy. And sometimes in the same day. After all of these years living in Seattle I had no idea weather could change during the day. What it looks like when you get up in the morning isn’t necessarily what it will be in the afternoon. Who would have thought?? | Anyway, our apartment has a mysterious ability to get really hot when it is hot outside. As the temperature rises outside, it also rises inside, generally exponentially. This is mystery number one. This is not just me making things up since first, that never happens, and second, we have an indoor / outdoor thermometer, so it is fact. Mystery number two: How does the apartment not cool down just as fast as it heats up? It hasn’t been over 63 degrees outside in the last two days, yet our apartment is still a balmy 75. Fact: When I left the house this morning it was 60 degrees outside and 78 degrees in our bedroom. With a fan on since we always have the fan on at night. That thing has saved our marriage since I now live with a loud breather. But I digress. 75 degrees inside is totally fine with me, but make that 85 in the middle of the night on Friday next to a husband who sweats at 68 degrees, not so comfortable. I'm no scientist, but how is this phenomenon possible? | “There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.” June 10, 2012 | This weekend we went to Munich! This was on my list of places to go while we are here, so I was really excited about the trip. And I was extra excited because we got to meet up with a couple of real friends, Jacquie and Ivan, while we were there! Normally we meet up with friends at one of our houses, but this time we met them at Hitler’s house on the top of a mountain in Germany. The weather cleared, and the views from the top were awesome. As Jacquie said, we might have the same Christmas card pictures this year.
141: The house is called the Eagle’s Nest and was one of Hitler’s retreats. We had to ride a bus since the roads are closed to the public and then take an elevator the last 120 meters up to the top. Who doesn’t have to take an elevator to get to their house? | We had our second sausage meal and some number of beers at the top.
142: That night we went to the Hofbrauhaus, which was worth the eight hour train ride in itself. We had a pretzel appetizer, more sausages, some liters of beer, and John was the happiest he has been since we have arrived in Europe. | We stayed until they closed down that night and then accidentally went to another bar. It was one of those nights when none of us could remember why we needed to go to another bar. Those are the best nights.
143: "Grease is the only cure for a hangover." Cameron Diaz June 10, 2012 | The next day we did the first half of Rick Steves’ walking tour of the city. Some highlights: The main church in town. It was totally destroyed during WWII and was rebuilt afterwards. | A maypole! So cool! This is how you know the direction of the different types of vendors at the market. Local breweries rotate as the beer garden host of the day at the market. We have to bring this to Seattle. | This church was very cool... gaudy and droopy. An idea we can really use for our own interior decorating. | It started raining after lunch, so we ducked in to a palace for a tour. Not surprisingly, after walking around there for 2 hours, the rain had stopped. We had a low key dinner where I got to order a club sandwich with real chunks of cheddar cheese. I was a happy girl.
144: “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” - Adolf Hitler June 10, 2012 "Work sets you free" Dachau was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in 1933. Dachau wasn’t one of the death camps, so there were significantly less people killed there than at other places (30,000 people at Dachau versus 1 million in Auschwitz). However, Dachau was where most of the leaders of the other camps were trained. Looking at pictures of Dachau in the brochure the night before made my stomach turn, so I knew it would be a really intense experience. We saw the gas chamber, the crematorium, the bunkers, and shower rooms, amongst many other places that you read about in history books. They even still have the execution wall. | The Gatehouse | The square where the prisoners lined up every morning and evening for roll call... sometimes for hours on end... in a one layer uniform... in Germany... in the winter. The baracks are in the background.
145: Each of these framed gravel areas was a barrack. They fit 200 people in each barrack at first. 2000 by the end. | Reconstructed barracks. We were wondering how they fit in that many bunks. It's because they aren't really bunks, just slats where everyone slept side by side. | A section of the prison. I am pretty sure it couldn't be worse than the regular barracks. | The crematorium and gas chamber building. Disgusting.
146: The word above the door is German for "shower". By that they mean gas chamber. This was the waiting room where everyone would undress. | The word above the door is German for "shower". By that they mean gas chamber. This was the waiting room where everyone would undress. | The shower room with fake shower heads above and gas vents in the walls. | The execution wall. | It was really interesting to see, but I felt like throwing up the entire time we were there.
147: We balanced that experience out by eating another bratwurst for lunch and finishing our Mr. Steves walking tour in the afternoon. | The largest beer stein in the world! For only 1,950 euros! What a steal! | Then we found our spot to watch the Germany vs. Portugal Euro Cup soccer match. And Germany won! | We love our friends, beer, bratwurst, and Munich... in no particular order!
148: If you are not barefoot, you are overdressed. June 17, 2012 | Summer is finally here! The sun is out, the naked statue fountain is running, and the days are realllly long. I love it! We went on a walk down by the lake yesterday afternoon. Some Geneva summer pros: - the sun sets at 10pm - the air is fresh and there is a breeze by the lake - there were a lot of people laying out down by the water, including a Vegas style beach party - it beats the negative temperatures of winter Geneva summer con: - the speedos are out | I promise it was windy, and I didn't walk out of the house with my hair like this. Pro of living in a foreign country: no one knows me, so I don't care :)
149: “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” - Jawaharlal Nehru June 19, 2012 I have been running out of blog topics lately, which I think could mean one of two things. Either I’ve become less observant and sarcastic (not likely) or I am getting sort of used to things around here. Yes, it seems that the Mrs. is actually living harmoniously with the Swisses. I’ve noticed myself doing a few things a little more “European” lately. Yesterday I was annoyed that someone didn’t wait until all of the departing passengers were off the bus for the new passengers to get on. Earlier this week I nodded my head and sympathized with my coworker who grumbled about only having six weeks of vacation. And I recently discovered that I like coffee flavored chocolate (gateway drug to espressos I hear). I don’t think I’m fully embedded, however, because today I had a homemade chicken burrito for lunch, complete with normal salsa and a tortilla. It was delicious and so non-Swiss. And I plan on watching The Bachelorette tonight instead of the Euro Cup, which John couldn’t be happier about (see, I still have the sarcasm). If John puts on a speedo, though, we’re on the next flight back.
150: “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane...” June 23, 2012 Going home for vacation is a total oxymoron, but we are so ready. I am sitting comfortably in my long distance travel outfit (favorite jeans and a special zip up hoodie) full of airplane meal #1, post three TV shows and one movie. John is happy since he gets to watch the Frozen Planet on TV and look outside at the real life icebergs. He is looking forward to watching a show on the construction of the aquatics center for the London Olympics next. Having individual TVs for home use might not be such a bad idea. So far the worst part of the trip for me has been getting excited about the afternoon tea served on board (airplane meal #2) then finding out that it's only served in business class. I think the worst part for John was the security line at Heathrow when you wait in line to get into another line. That was a mean trick. | We are really excited for our trip. We can't wait to see family, drink beer, have a game night, go to a store on a Sunday, attend Jackie and CK's wedding, and drink some Jensen daiquiries... all of this ranked in no particular order. Flying into Seattle is one of my favorite things because it is so beautiful as you come in. This almost makes having a window seat worth it when the guy in the aisle keeps sleeping and you have to use the restroom. Giving him dirty looks hasn't helped. John and I gave him 30 more minutes about 16 minutes ago. So far I'm not too tired, but we're getting to the time where it's bedtime in Geneva, so hopefully I'll hold up. I think the adrenaline from knowing that John is cornered into sitting next to me for the next 4 hours meaning I can probably convince him to play a couple of rounds of Canasta is counteracting any sleepiness. I love my airplane buddy.
151: “Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning.” July 5, 2012 | Needless to say, the 4th of July in Switzerland was pretty uneventful. I had my own American party in my head, however, which is just fine with me. Party for one (not the first time). Go USA! Many people ask what people abroad think of Americans. To be honest I don’t usually ask them since I don’t want to know the answer. The main stereotypes, however, seem to be “fat and loud”. I have thought about how John and I can change those labels (both of which are negative – loud is not considered a compliment if you weren’t sure), and I haven’t gotten very far. Those are two things that are difficult to publicize without being either. Nobody notices the quiet, normal-sized American on the train because you are being quiet and blend in to the crowd. Vicious cycle. Short of walking down the street whispering that I’m American and not fat, I haven’t come up with anything. I think that in general my feeling is that the US is like the most popular person in school. We’re mysterious, admired, judged, envied, criticized, copied, loved, and hated all at the same time. In thinking about all of this, the thing I have learned most is that I just dislike stereotypes in general. I always knew they were wrong, but it is really frustrating to be grouped into a pool of 313 million people, some of whom you totally disagree with. To me, it is glaringly clear that I have grown up in the American culture, which has no doubt played a role in shaping me into who I am today. But I also grew up with my own brain, values, personality, and beliefs. And so did everyone else in the world. If ever the US needs to prove that we are a valuable asset to the world, however, you need to look no further than Reese’s peanut butter cups. The bag I brought into the office to share yesterday is half gone, and there are only three people eating them, none of whom are American. Talk about a world superpower. | “You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” July 6, 2012 | Life in Europe is nothing short of glamorous. It's Friday night, and this is my party partner. | And he just started snoring... from under the pillow.
152: “A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” July 8, 2012 | On Sunday I got to go to Tara’s baby shower. This shower was awesome for many reasons including the fact that it was a beautiful day outside, Claire got lots of adorable presents, and there was more alcohol consumed at this baby shower than at some happy hours. Tara looks beautiful, and I can’t wait to meet my little niece munchkin. I keep getting excited for us to hang out a lot, and then the thought occurred to me the other day what if she doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to hang out with me?? Then I remembered, that’s too bad for her because that is what family is for. | You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl. We had a great trip home. Funny enough we still call Seattle, the house we own, our parents’ houses, and our apartment in Geneva home. Guess you can’t have too many places where you feel comfortable lounging around in your underwear. Just kidding, parents, we don’t do that at your house. | On Monday I got to have two wonderful meals... sushi and tater tot casserole. I stopped by my old office and had lunch with a coworker, a sushi buffet. It was great! I then had dinner with my sorority friends since have a tradition of getting together for Monday Night Dinner. This is how we make sure our pillow fighting skills don’t get rusty. Steph hosted, and we had an American theme dinner with caesar salad, corn on the BBQ, tater tot casserole, and funfetti cupcakes. The food, decorations, company, and chit chat were awesome. I felt so special! I should leave and then come back to the country more often.
153: John got to go to Mongolian Grill for dinner with some friends that night too. He was ecstatic. He got food he missed dearly, he caught up with friends he misses dearly, and he didn’t have to hang out with his dear wife for once. :) | On Tuesday we got a special treat. We got to hang out with Nathan, Katy, and Joelle, some of our best friends and our current favorite niece under the age of 3 (she has some competition coming later this year). We all went up to Camano Island to their beach house and had the best time. We had a kick off lunch at Diamond Knot Brewery where John and Nathan ordered the sampler, and I ordered a sandwich with chunky slices of cheddar cheese and deli turkey. We took a walk on the beach, ate the Dolin / Rich nacho cheese Doritos with sour cream special, and had a campfire on the patio. Joelle is adorable, especially when she says, seriously, “We have a real situation here!” just like Jersey Shore. I think it’s totally cute, Katy does not. And for some good news, Joelle has decided she likes John! She used to cry her eyes out when he would hold her, but for some reason she likes him now. I guess buying her a present (a Swiss flag of course) was a good idea since she's easy to buy off.
155: We celebrated our third wedding anniversary on Wednesday by kayaking with Nathan, going to a fun Mexican lunch with him, and then munching on ribs and playing Mexican Train with the parents. Romantic wasn’t the word of the day, but friends and family were, which is something we don’t get enough of here. My boss asked if John and I were going to spend any time together alone on our trip. I burst out laughing and said nope! Thursday I went to sushi for lunch again since I’m a really lucky girl, John and I went grocery shopping (more on that later), and we had a family BBQ where we got to eat with all of the Dolins, my parents, and more. I think we played Mexican Train again too. I’m sure we did. Friday was a very happy day for me as I got to go shopping with my mom and even got a token Auntie Anne’s pretzel. There is still something to be said for shopping with mom. And she is a great shopping buddy because she doesn’t back down from a challenge. The two main items on my list were black boots for work and a jacket that was as warm as possible. June seemed like the ideal time to shop for such items. Or not. At least I still got a pretzel out of the deal. BUT, as I said, we were dedicated, and in the end we won. I threw away my old boots and have worn the new ones once without complaint and my winter jackets (we did a combo of two – one warm and one a rain shell) are waiting in the closet for their debut. Hopefully they are extra warm! I will find out in a few months I guess. Friday night we had Dolin sibling night at John’s sister’s house where we ordered in Thai food, played Mexican Train, and had a Just Dance dance off. One of my favorite things about John is that he will play Just Dance on the Wii. He danced to every song. He is a keeper! And good thing since we're married and all. Speaking of marriage...
156: "I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance, A church filled with family and friends. I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for, He said one that would make me his wife." July 8, 2012 Saturday was the wedding day of two of our favorite friends, Jackie and CK. I love Jackie because she is spunky, kind, thoughtful, and always fun. And her wedding day was no exception. She looked absolutely beautiful and so very happy, which made me very happy. They got married at a church on Beacon Hill, and the reception was at Sodo Park, which is a wedding venue I have always wanted to go to, so thanks, Jack! It was a beautiful wedding and reception complete with salmon, dancing, and dragons. Why didn’t we think of dragons at our reception?! I feel so lucky we got to celebrate with them, and I couldn’t be happier for them. Congratulations!!!
157: Not to be outdone on the partying, on Sunday my mom and I hosted a mini surprise baby shower for my best friend Jenn. We have a tradition of game night with myself, my mom, Jenn’s mom, and margaritas, so we decided to make it a special baby shower themed game night for Jenn as I won’t be there for her actual shower. We played baby shower games (did you know a baby rooster is called a cockarelle??), opened presents, and had a pink dessert. The men also got roped in to some of the games, which later John said was “fine” with a stern look on his face. But he got a growler of beer from Mick, so I don’t feel too bad for him. It was so good to see my friend, and next game night we’ll have a new little teammate!!! | The mens' faces when we told them they had to play our shower games too. This was Jenn's ribbon... apparently she was going for what she will be in a few months.
158: We left on Monday on our long flight back to our other home. Not surprisingly, TSA left a nice note letting us know our food suitcase was searched. I can’t imagine what the bag scanner guy thought when it came up on the x-ray. We got a Starbucks to go at the airport until next time, Seattle home. | “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.” - John F. Kennedy July 9, 2012 This weekend we got to hang out with our couple crush friends (I hope they never read this blog) at a 4th of July party. It was hosted by our friend’s parents at their house in France. One of the coolest things about Europe is that people actually live in real castles. This one was built in the 1500s and actually had a cement spiral staircase and everything. While we were taking the tour of the house, I was thinking that they should have really charged admission.
159: It was an old guard’s house for the chateau that was a few houses down. Right from what is now the master bedroom balcony is also where several people were hanged. I’m pretty sure the most action our house has seen was being built in the 90’s and then the siding that was replaced two years ago. We had a BBQ complete with hamburgers, potato salad, and other salads that were all delicious but with a little French touch. We also had wine and an apple tart for dessert. Very French American. The highlight of the day was the watermelon game kind of like water polo but with a watermelon. There were two teams, and the object of the game was for each team to get the watermelon up on the ledge of the other side of the pool. There were no rules. Then we ate the watermelon. | John took inventory of the scratches on his chest yesterday. Lots of little ones but nothing serious. I think he will pull through.
160: “I had left home (like all Jewish girls) in order to eat pork and take birth control pills. When I first shared an intimate evening with my husband, I was swept away by the passion (so dormant inside myself) of a long and tortured existence. The physical cravings I had tried so hard to deny finally and ultimately sated... but enough about the pork.” - Roseanne Barr July 12, 2012 | It was a normal day. We had done our normal grocery shopping just over the French border. We took our normal bus route home. We went through the normal border crossing, which most of the time doesn't even have anyone there, on the way back. Except this time the bus was stopped. Two very tall men got aboard and said “Passports!” John and I got ours out and waited until they got to us. They looked at our passports. They looked at us. They looked at our grocery bags. They asked what was in them. All of a sudden I forgot everything we just bought. I mumbled something about cereal, veggies, chicken, and pork. PORK?! Officer: “How much do you have?” D: “Ummm I don’t know a couple of kilogramsbut that includes the chicken” Officer: “The pork. How much do you have exactly?” D: long pause as I try to remember how much pork we bought, the conversion from pounds to kilos, and how to speak French “Uhhh, maybe one and a half kilograms?” Officer: “Come with us.” We headed into the search room that consisted of four white walls and one metal table in the middle. Something like where you would envision people are strip searched before they are admitted into prison. Which is what I started imagining. “What are you in here for?” “I killed someone. They deserved it. What are you in here for?” “I had too much pork.” And then I would die in jail.
161: They had us unload some of our groceries and kept asking for the pork. They asked if we understood French, and I couldn’t decide if I should say yes or play dumb and say no. In the interest of honesty, since it’s always easier to keep your story straight that way, I said yes. I figured if this really did get escalated to the Supreme Court like I imagined, I should be honest from the beginning. They started telling us about the pork regulations and how all pork over kilogram per person must be declared at the border. I knew there were limits to what you could bring over the border, but I didn’t realize the pork limit was so low and that it’s such a touchy subject. Must be some kind of French pig lobbying scheme. The tall men decided to let us go without a fine this time. I decided not to ask if I could get a picture with them for the blog before we left. Under my breath I told John to pack our stuff, very quickly... FASTER, and we got on the next bus home. Good thing they didn’t check for bus tickets, because there is a small possibility that we might not have been totally legal there either. My heart was racing all the way home. It was my first real run-in with the law. I'm sorry Mom and Dad. I know you're disappointed. But I will never smuggle pork again. Maybe drugs. But not pork. That was scary. | “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” - Joe Girard July 16, 2012 | This warning sign indicating that our elevator is going through preventative maintenance has been up an awful lot lately. It makes me worried that either: 1. we have a lot of preventative maintenance work to catch up on or 2. the preventative maintenance isn't actually preventative. Considering the sign has been up three separate times in the last three weeks, including on Sundays when I'm pretty sure preventative maintenance is illegal, I'm assuming the elevator is totally unsafe for use... with or without the sign. But it's a whole seven flights of stairs to climb every time we come home. I think our trusty 50's elevator is worth the risk. And I hear it's had a lot of preventative maintenance lately.
162: “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” - Helen Keller July 18, 2012 | We had visitors this weekend! Bryan (Jenn's brother) and his wife, Leslie, are on a world tour for a year, and we got to be one of their stops! They left Seattle in April and started their journey in Europe. They are moving soon to Eastern Europe, India, Asia, South America, then up through Mexico, and back to Seattle. It was so great to see them, and we did both European and American things. The first European thing we did was drink German beer that tasted like bacon. John has never been happier to do European things. Bryan and Leslie brought it straight from the source in Germany, and they weren't lying when they said it tasted like meat. Like dinner in a bottle. | We had enchiladas for dinner that night, which was the first American thing we did. To balance out the 'ladas, we drank some French wine, and it was at that point that I decided I should take Friday off from work. The three of us went to Yvoire, a little medieval French town, on Friday. I liked this field trip because we got to go on a boat ride to get there, and I got a crepe for lunch. We also stopped at a cafe (called The Pirate, how cool can you get??) for a glass of wine.
163: We drank lots more wine that night and celebrated Friday night pizza night. We also had a special guest since Jenn skyped in for our weekly date night. We ended up skyping for almost four hours. A few times she told us she had to get going to go to the bathroom, etc, but we assured her we would be right there waiting for her when she got back. It was like she was hanging out with us all night. Hope she didn't have any plans on Friday. Saturday we went to our favorite French market (French), ate bread, salami, and cheese for lunch (very French), and then headed to downtown Geneva where there was a Rave like parade going on (definitely not Swiss, not really French, so maybe American?). There was a parade of trucks going down the road with people dancing, etc (I'm leaving the etc general on purpose). Apparently this is an annual techno parade in Geneva. Who'da thunk the Swiss had it in them?
164: Bryan and Leslie got scared off by the $15 mojitos, so we came back to the apartment for some more wine (French) and Bryan's homemade mac n cheese (deliciously American). I can't think of anything European we did on Sunday because we declared it an American lazy day. Bryan and Leslie needed one after being on the road for almost three months already, and John and I deserved one because, well, it was our apartment. So we watched Friends, Family Guy (some of us watched Family Guy), Leslie straightened her hair, we played card games, and we ate pulled pork for dinner. Yes, we ate all of the illegal pork. Meat never tasted so good, like rebellion. They headed out on the train Monday morning. They were off to Zurich for the day and then on a night train headed to Amsterdam. They do a monthly recap on their blog of that month's "best and worst", and we're hoping to make month three. Luckily Amsterdam is in month four, because even though we're fun, I'm not sure we're that fun. The Dolin B&B is happy to have you back anytime, Bryan and Leslie! Bon voyage! | “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” - James Dent July 22, 2012 John and I had dinner on our balcony last night. The weather was beautiful, the air was fresh, and our mojitos were delicious. No need to be jealous of our patio furniture.
165: “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.” July 26, 2012 It’s been pretty quiet around the office here lately. Everyone is on vacation, so I’m holding down the chateau. And when I say on vacation, I mean off for three weeks don’t call me unless it’s life or death vacation. These people really know how to party. Since I’m by myself in the office, I get to crank up the country music radio I like to listen to. The time difference actually works out great because I get to listen to the radio during the middle of the night in the US (I stream it online) which means less talking and less commercials. My current favorite stations are one in Tennessee and one in Texas. Diane Black is running for Congress in Tennessee, and it’s going to be a cooker in Cookeville this weekend. I usually switch to a Swiss station in the afternoon since the morning shows start on my country stations. I prefer French pop with a mix of some Call Me Maybe and Domino to get me through the rest of the day. My favorite is when Britney is here and dances with me. That woman has some moves, and I will definitely be bringing some of those back home. Although I’ll have to practice my splits. | We also have a new member of our family. I would like to introduce you to Molly Mint. She was an integral part of the deliciousness of the mojitos, and we are looking forward to many happy times together, mostly on mojito nights.
166: “If you don't try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody's back yard.” - Jesse Owens July 29, 2012 “When I was going through my transition of being famous, I tried to ask God why was I here? what was my purpose? Surely, it wasn't just to win three gold medals. There has to be more to this life than that.” - Wilma Rudolph July 29, 2012 | The 2012 Summer Olympics have started, and we are all set up to cheer on the USA! We had a campout in the family room last night, and today we have spent four hours on our cheering air mattress so far. We are definitely doing our part as athletic supporters. Go team! | We just tied 1-1 in our Canasta tournament tonight, and John won't play a tiebreaker with me. At first he tried to tell me it was for the health of our marriage (hooey), but then I finally got it out of him that he is disqualified due to his use of performance enhancing cards. He said the Olympics just got him riled up, and he used them before our card tournament tonight. I am partly ashamed but mostly happy to take home the gold medal. I'm going to try and convince him to sing me the National Anthem tonight before bed.
167: "I bet not even all of the fireworks in the world could light up my world like you do." August 2, 2012 August 1st was the Switzerland "4th of July". There were several Swiss flags out (only for a few hours... the Swiss aren't really flag people), and the town was bustling. John and I went down to the lakefront to catch the action. There are all sorts of rides set up all along the lake as well as food stands and other fair type things. I miss Puyallup! Unfortunately, there were no farm animals. We decided that we're going back next week with money to do the bumper cars. Later that night we stood on our balcony to watch a fireworks show right from our house! Cool! The chateau in our little part of town (weird that we have a chateau, I know) had a fireworks show, and we didn't even have to get out of our PJs to see it. We couldn't see the shorter ones, but the seating couldn't have been more comfortable... well, I guess it would be if we actually bought some outdoor furniture.
168: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.” August 6, 2012 This weekend we checked off a Switzerland bucket list item and went to Lyon, the second largest city in France. We just did a quick weekend getaway from Saturday to Sunday but managed to fit in two stops at the best ice cream store in Lyon and a crepe. Not bad. We did Rick Steves' walking tour on Saturday starting with the Notre Dame Basillica. We then headed to the Roman Forum built in 50AD. I asked John to do an impression of a Roman audience member and a Roman car (he nicely pointed out that they didn't have cars), and this is what I got from him.
169: We then took a beer break because churches and ruins are tiring. This is John's biggest smile of the trip. | Then we made ice cream stop #1. | Then the craziest thunderstorm of 2012 made its stop #1, and we got soaked. | We made it back out that night to a restaurant we had scouted earlier for dinner. Lyon is supposed to have some of the best food in the world, so when in Lyon... We got a free appetizer for sitting outside and enjoyed watching craziest thunderstorm of 2012 make its stop #2 from under the canvas overhang. There was torrential rain, loud thunder, and streaking lightening. We got moved inside for dessert and had a molten chocolate cake. It was so delicious that I forgot to take pictures.
170: The next morning we accidentally hiked up to the top of the hill on the other side of the city. We were trying to find the metro that could take us up the hill, but we ended up at the top and then found the metro, which we took down. This made room for more ice cream coming up in a bit. Then we made ice cream stop #2. This time we ordered milkshakes and seriously considered getting a second for the road. They were delicious. John's second biggest smile of the trip. | There are two rivers that run through the city, so we decided to walk back and forth along the bridges. I asked John to do a suspension bridge impression, and this was it. We're going to work on our inadimate object impressions. We then headed to the train station to go home. The train was very busy, and there weren't enough seats for everyone, so quite a few people had to stand for the entire 2 hour trip back. Fortunately I got a seat. Unfortunately, the man standing next to me didn't. And, even more unfortunately, he had his arm leaned up on my seat the entire way home. And, most unfortunately, he doesn't use deodorant. Ah! Dang France!
171: “Voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigor.” - Seneca August 8, 2012 | I get to go on a business trip to Paris... wahoo! Checking off the life goals one at a time. Next life goal, make it to this weekend. This feels like the longest week everrrrr... | "Necessity is the mother of invention." August 10, 2012 | One of my favorite things about John is his homemade enchiladas. I find absolutely nothing wrong with a food being one of the main reasons I love my husband. If you tasted these, you would agree with me. | It might be shocking to the public audience to know how often we used to eat enchiladas for dinner in the US. Without sauce available at the French grocery store, however, we went on an enchilada fast for a few months after we arrived. Then one day I just couldn't take it anymore. I needed an enchilada in the worst way. John found a recipe for the sauce and has made it from scratch ever since. It makes my heart and stomach very happy. And we have lived happily ever after ever since
172: “Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.” - Tommy Cooper August 12, 2012 | Last night was the annual "Geneva party" downtown. Never ones to miss out on a party, John and I headed down to the lake, wandered through the rides and fair-like food (slightly different here... no corn dogs and lots of crepes and waffles), and then waited for the fireworks show. What no one told us is that this is the coolest fireworks show that has ever existed. In the history of the world. These pictures are not zoomed in. The show lasted an hour, and even the slower parts had more fireworks than most grand finales. I'll take care of my hearing loss later. | This isn't a firework... but you probably already knew that...
173: “Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year - and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” - Anthony Robbins August 13, 2012 | ...dance parties in the car with only our legs so other people wouldn’t see ...when I am crying and you ask why I’m leaking ...the time you used a hand mixer in the peanut butter jar and peanut butter flew everywhere ...when you stood up for me ...the night we made mac and cheese at two in the morning and ate it straight from the pot in bed ...learning to snowboard together ...the time we ordered room service ...winning all of our miniature golf tournaments, except for the first one your Squirrelympics outfit, especially when you said, “tell my wife to relax and enjoy the view” ...the boat ride on Lake Como when we picked our kids’ names ...the morning we realized our second floor toilet had leaked all the way through to the downstairs entryway ...weekends at The Chrysalis ...the first time I saw you on our wedding day ...the fight we had over healthcare law ...the time you let me put mascara on you ...the millions of hours we’ve spent watching Friends holding hands ...the poem you wrote and mailed to me ...when you asked me if I dream about Batman too ...the night we ate dinner under the thunder storm in Mexico ...the day Winston died ...the time you ate the bite I was saving for last ...the night we spent in Vancouver ...the Thanksgiving when we tried to cook a turkey and had to call your parents to come over to help ...when you rub my back ...the camping trip when we thought we were going to get killed by a deer ...the Navy Seal rafting trip in Hawaii ...all of the times you came to pick me up in college ...the story you wrote about our engagement saying it was the greatest ...thing that had happened in your life ...the road trip down the West Coast in Big Blue ...the look on your face when Christmas decorations come out each year and you can buy more lights ...the time you put olives on your sandwich and I cried ...the bar on the hill in Barcelona ...the first time I cut your hair ...when you do your gorilla impression ...the emails we wrote when I studied abroad ...the morning you broke down the door to the garage with a hammer because you had locked yourself out ...the day you arrived in Geneva ...when I ask you to tell me a bedtime story and you do ...the way you make me a better person ...the way you make me feel about myself ...the way I feel about you ...the way you love me ...the way I love you 10 years, JB. I love you. Thank you.
174: Happy birthday to you! August 14, 2012 Happy birthday to our new niece, Claire! She was born yesterday, and she is BEAUTIFUL!!! Thanks for making me teary at work, little one. Fine, I got teary twice. :) We love and miss you already! Love, Auntie Dee & Uncle John
175: “And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln August 20, 2012 | Saturday was John’s birthday ! To celebrate, we went to the party capital of the world CERN. No, it’s not some fancy club or beach destination; it is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. We spent the morning amongst the best of the best in particle physics. This was the place that founded the World Wide Web. John was super excited. | We took the two hour tour in the morning where we learned all about the particle accelerator they have set up underground in a 27 kilometer radius around the area. For those who don’t know (idiots) it’s a big tube that is buried about 50 meters underground where they make atoms collide and study the results. We figured out that we walk over it twice each time we go grocery shopping. So when they create a black hole that can’t be contained someday, we will be the first to go. You all will have an extra two milliseconds. The 1976 disk could hold one picture from a digital camera today. We also visited the particle and microcosm exhibitions. I was just glad to know that we can return anytime. Don't want to pack all of the fun into one day. We had a birthday taco salad with special American provisions for dinner, mojitos / daiquiries, and peanut butter brownies for dessert. Overall, I like celebrating John’s birthday! We're thinking we'll do it again next year.
176: "I've never let my school interfere with my education." - Mark Twain August 23, 2012 Talk about coming full circle. My current client is a private school, so I have been working in a classroom for the last week and a half. I told John that I had been sitting at a desk all week, and he sympathized saying, “Yeah, those ergonomic chairs aren’t very comfortable.” They are in no way ergonomic. Or comfortable. They are two wooden slabs attached to metal. I should make a name tag for my desk. P.S. I also eat lunch in the cafeteria.
177: "Home is wherever I'm with you." August 27, 2012 John and I have been homesick lately. As the one year mark approaches, it seems like time has slowed down, and we are just hovering at “half-way there”. We have always mentioned things that we miss about home, but lately it’s been more frequent. John had an especially rough week last week since he got some not so great news, Neil Armstrong died, it was really really hot here, and Samsung lost the case against Apple. I tried to cheer him up by reminding him that we ate taco salad twice, the Seahawks played great on Saturday, and he was married to me, but it didn’t seem to work much. Maybe because he was doing dishes for the millionth time and can’t we just freaking live in a place that has dishwashers?! | We are definitely getting arrow holes in our house when we get back. | We went to a medieval French town yesterday since the day was gorgeous. Our problems were nothing that a boat ride, some fresh air, and ice cream couldn’t fix. Well, anything is fixable with ice cream.
178: “If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.” - E. Joseph Cossman August 28, 2012 | It has officially been one year since I moved to Geneva. One year ago today I was sitting at Sea-Tac airport wondering what the heck I was doing and drinking my last Starbucks for a very long time. When I landed in Geneva with all of my suitcases, I really wondered what I was doing. It was a sunny day. I got all of my stuff from baggage claim and went to find the luggage carts. I still have the cart token in my purse for anyone who wants a free cart at the Geneva airport. Actually, never mind, I’m going to keep it for my trip home. I can’t believe I’m going to have to carry all of that stuff again. I might leave more in Switzerland than I originally thought. I remember going to lunch with the girl half of our couple crush friends last September and asking her how long she had been here. When she said a little over a year I thought to myself that that sounded like foreverrrrr, especially considering the first week I was here literally felt like 10 years. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. At least not without gray hair and a walker. But I’m here one year later. And so far we have not identified any gray hairs. John has looked. This year has been great, hard, happy, sad, a dream, fun, encouraging, discouraging, frustrating, exciting, slow, fast, and crazy all at the same time. I have learned a lot. I have learned about myself, John, the world, conjugating French verbs, business, US income taxes, culture, storage spaces in Seattle, being a landlord, enchilada sauce, family, VAT, what’s important, limits on bringing food into Switzerland, and wine, amongst many other things. And I expect I may learn even more next year. Yeesh. Watch out, I will be one smart cookie. So here is to the next year. If you had asked me just over a year ago if I thought I would be living in Switzerland right now, I would have said no. John would have laughed and said no. You just never know.
179: “Once a guy starts wearing silk pajamas it's hard to get up early." - Eddie Arcaro September 3, 2012 | We have been waiting and waiting for a nice weekend for a couple of months now. We’ve been itching to go do some exploring, and I always prefer to explore in the sun. At least for outside exploration. It has been nice during the week, and then like clockwork it gets cloudy on Friday and stormy on Saturday and Sunday. This is a mean trick. Rainy weekends happen to be great for watching Husky games (by games, I mean victories), however. Go Dawgs! And they are a perfect excuse to wear my PJ pants that I got last winter. All day long. Two days in a row. | “Life is not about learning to survive the storm, but rather learning how to dance in the rain.” September 7, 2012 | It is finally going to be nice this weekend!! Wahoo!!! John and I are going to go to the market, get ready for our visitors who come THIS Thursday, and do the wine tasting walk/ tour/ hike/ stumble in the Lavaux wine region that I have been wanting to do forever. It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, so this will be an extra special weekend. It is important to appreciate everyone around you and everything you have, but appreciating it doesn’t necessarily mean it will last, which makes me sad. But going on wine walks with John makes me happy, so that’s what we’re going to do. They say that you don’t appreciate the sun unless you’ve also seen the rain, so this weekend we are going to get out in the sun. Literally and figuratively.
180: “One of life's gifts is that each of us, no matter how tired and downtrodden, finds reasons for thankfulness: for the crops carried in from the fields and the grapes from the vineyard." - J Robert Moskin September 9, 2012 | I think this has been my favorite Dolin Death March so far. While on vacation, we always seem to take walks that last foreverrrr. Even though today wasn’t technically “vacation”, we played hometown tourist and went to the Lavaux Vineyards. These vineyards stretch for miles along the Lake Geneva shore. They fill steep hills with neat rows of grape vines and lead the eye from house to house and down to the water’s edge. It’s beautiful. | We took the train to a small village in the middle of the vineyards that sounds like Chexmix and then headed out. Rick Steves’ advice was to “not bring a map, just get lost in the vineyards, that’s the point”. So we turned towards the town we planned on taking the train home from and started the march. Walking downhill is fun until you realize that each step downhill means one uphill. We wound down one of the main roads, took in the views, and identified the mountains from the viewpoints on the side of the road.
181: Then we saw several cars parked and people walking up a very steep hill. Yes, Ricky, it is fun to get lost, until you’re lost uphill with nothing to see. We decided to follow the crowd anyway and ended up at a tower built in the 1200s serving the local wine. It was totally worth the hill. We each got a glass of wine (no need to mention this was still technically in the morning hours – it was 5 o’clock somewhere) and then walked through the medieval tower. The tower was really cool with arrow holes, old furniture, huge wood beams, and beautiful views. One of the ladies who worked there laughed at us because she had never seen someone go to the tasting room first and then bring the wine through the tower. We just had our priorities straight. | We meandered through the vineyards for about five more miles stopping for a picnic lunch and counting the wineries. Most were closed since it was Sunday, so the full experience is definitely a Saturday activity.
182: “The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.” - Franklin Jones September 9, 2012 | There are many things you see in Europe that you don’t in the US... castles, roundabouts, silky scarves for men and so many scooters. I mean the razor scooter things that kids have. I remember my scooter with pink handles; that thing was my ticket to freedom. You could get everywhere so much faster. Everyone here rides them. The kids at the skate park ride scooters instead of skateboards. It’s really a scooter park. And oftentimes you see businessmen riding scooters in their suits. I still laugh whenever I see a middle aged man on a scooter. Especially when he also has a silky scarf around his neck. | We made it down to the lake and headed along the boardwalk to the next town. And then the next. And then stopped for water and ice cream. And then walked to the next town. We walked another five some miles and then decided to hop on the train back home. | Not the train we took home, but John wants one of these little trains at our house. | We definitely did the march, had some wine, and both got a sunburn, so that pretty much counts for a Dolin vacation day. Except for the sock tan lines. Shoot.
183: “A house may draw visitors, but it is the possessor alone that can detain them.” - Charles Colton September 12, 2012 If I thought the one year mark was going by slowly, the 13 month mark is coming up fast. And this fall is going to go by even faster. And then John’s favorite part about Switzerland comes after that: snowboarding season. We have lots of visitors coming during the next couple of months, so it will be like we are normal people with normal social lives again. I mean, we’ll never be normal, but more normal than when we only have each other to talk to. We are getting our first visitors tomorrow! Our friends are on their flight from Seattle right now. Per our flight tracker, they are currently somewhere over Michigan. I got home from work today and told John that they were on their way. His response was “ughhhh...” We still had dinner to eat, a full night of sleep, and breakfast tomorrow before they get here. Tomorrow we are planning on doing Geneva in the rain and then an early bedtime for our traveler friends I’m sure. John made his enchilada sauce tonight for dinner tomorrow, so the whole apartment smells delicious. We ate salad for dinner tonight. So not fair. Our friends aren’t coming a moment too soon. We decided that it’s about time we have other human interaction tonight when we started talking to more inanimate objects than usual. We usually just have a few. Okay, we’re definitely not normal. Hope our friends still like us! For the family that’s coming, you have to love us anyway. Can’t wait to see everyone! P.S. Finding out that your umbrella is broken when it's already pouring rain and you're late walking to work isn't a great way to start a morning. Also ughhh....
184: “There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same." - Chinese proverb September 17, 2012 | Tarrah and Riley came to visit us this weekend! I know Tarrah from college since she was one of my sorority sisters. Living together for four years during college wasn’t enough, so we lived together for a couple of years afterwards too. I have lived with Tarrah for about a quarter of my life. And now we can add Europe to our list of adventures together! They arrived early on Thursday morning, so we picked them up at the airport and then let them wander Geneva by themselves while I went to work. Needless to say we didn’t take any pictures that day, but that’s okay since they were sleepy, and me at my desk isn’t very exciting. The next day we got up bright and early and headed out to the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc. We lucked out because the day was beautiful and totally clear. We got to take two gondolas up to the top. The first one was really steep (like this: / ). Then the second one was REALLY steep (like this: l ). It was pulling us up almost vertically. We went up to the tippy top there. We bundled up as soon as we got to the top. We could’ve used more layers or a wind shield bubble, but we survived. We had some hot cocoa / hot wine / some sort of other hot liquor at the top, and then we tried going outside again and were much more comfortable. It was beautiful.
186: We headed down to the town of Chamonix at the base of the mountain and did a mini bar / dessert hopping tour. John found eternal happiness when we found a local Chamonix IPA beer on tap served from a girl from Bellingham at our last bar stop. He loved the beer, and I finally convinced him not to leave me and marry her.
188: "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles Schultz September 17, 2012 On Saturday we went to the morning market to get some lunch and dinner makings (fresh ravioli... mmm... ). We then accidentally played Combo Buster (a card game / now a drinking game) until our fondue dinner reservations that night. We went to a totally cheesy Swiss restaurant downtown complete with real live yodlers. Tarrah was particularly impressed with the cheesy pickels.
189: After a beer / wine / cheese hangover (the best kind), we went to the Swiss countryside town of Gruyeres. This town is known for its chocolate and cheese (aka heaven). We did the chocolate tour first and got our money's worth out of the free samples at the end. There is something so satisfying about making yourself sick. It's feels so good and so bad at the same time. | We walked over to the cheese / castle part of town which involved climbing two hills. I'm pretty sure I burned off at least the piece of chocolate I'm holding above.
190: We made it up to the medieval town at the top of the hill and stopped at the castle for some views. I wasn't lying that we climbed up a hill. | We enjoyed our ravolis that night and dozed off to a Husky win. The whole world was smiling.
191: Vive la France! September 24, 2012 | “I think it’s funny when couples have matching swimsuits.” - Pete, my brother-in-law “Yes, it is weird. Are they both wearing the same pattern?” – John, Danielle, and Heather, my sister-in-law “Yes, and they are even wearing the same shape.” – Pete, as he points out the couple both wearing women’s / speedo bottoms and no top. Love the French Riviera. Heather and Pete came to visit this week, so we headed out of Switzerland and down to Southern France for wine and beach time. A perfect vacation combination. | We rented a car, accidentally made a stop at a McCafé on our way out of town for coffee, and hit the open (other than the frequent tolls) French road. We made a beeline for our first stop, a B&B in the middle of nowhere near Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence. We arrived at the chateau, got the tour of the pool and terrace and decided it would do for three nights. It was beautiful. We headed into town for a late lunch and explored the quaint streets.
192: Then we went to “the source” as it’s called. It’s basically a hole with water in it that supplies the river its water. A little anti-climactic since we didn’t see any of the rumored nymphs that hang out there.
193: We had to get back to our chateau, though, because dinner was served at 7:30 in the dining room. The woman who ran the B&B was an AWESOME chef. I’m going to be mean and post food pictures. Hopefully I don’t cause water damage to my laptop while uploading these because my mouth is watering just thinking about the lava cakes. | The next day we did one of my favorite activities ever wine tasting in France. We stopped at five wineries, three recommended by Rick Steves in our wine road tour guide book and two that we added at the end since we weren’t ready to go home. I think drinking before 11am is perfectly acceptable when it’s in a guide book. We tried to calculate how many bottles we should buy in total, and considering we left Heather and Pete with two for their last two nights in Europe, I think we did a great job.
194: We combined the wine tasting with cute village touring. Then we stuck just to the wine tasting. Our favorite winery was up on a hill and had a friendly old British man who took us through their wine list and told us about the region. He mentioned that he really wants to go to Walla Walla someday. Weird. We were there during harvest season, so we got to see the grape delivery and sorting process.
195: I got to practice my French at the last two winery stops since the people there didn’t speak English. And since they were our last stops, my French was even better than usual. We had another dinner at the chateau that night complete with another cheese plate. I love chateaus and cheese.
196: The next day we did a tour of the cute villages in the area. We hit Gordes, Rousillon, and then Avignon (more of a city than a village). The villages dated from the Middle Ages, and it kind of still felt like they were there.
197: Then we arrived in Avignon, which used to house the head of the Catholic church and the Papal Palace. We skipped the tour since the 50-something couple who was staying at the chateau with us said it was only “midly interesting”, meaning likely to be totally uninteresting to us.
198: We did the two Rick Steves walking tours and then headed back to the chateau for some wine. We went to an Italian restaurant that night where we practiced our serious “santé” faces. It is rude in France not to look people in the eye when saying cheers, so we made sure to look each person in the eye for a long time every time we cheersed. I think we were totally integrated into the culture. | Our little Scenic then took us down to Aix-en-Provence on our way to the French Riviera. It did not fit into this parking spot. It is not a big car.
199: The view from our hotel in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, an isthmus just outside of Nice, was unbelievable. We had a view of the Mediterranean sea, the cliffs, beautiful gardens, and of the huge yachts anchored in the bay. You know the boats are big when they look big even from far away. We had take-out pizza and wine on the patio in front of our hotel. And we played card games until late that night. It was heaven.
200: We explored the beach selection in the morning and finally settled on a little cove just down the street from our hotel. This was the entire day.
201: In keeping with the celebrity lifestyle, we went to Monaco for dinner that night. First we decided which yacht we would pick. | Then we went to the casino. | And then on to the castle and “old town” where we couldn’t decide if we were in the New York hotel in Las Vegas or if real people actually lived there.
202: Once again, going all out, Pete and Heather ordered a fireworks show for us as we walked back down to the train – I mean yacht. | Very un-celebrity like, John and I caught the EasyJet flight home yesterday. We went through security at the airport, and the lady manning the x-ray machine looked at John’s bag of bathroom stuff. She stared intently at his stick of deodorant and felt it. She looked at it like she had never seen deodorant before possible love France. Now we are back in the real world where we don’t even own a car. C’est la vie! | " Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus September 28, 2012 It’s definitely fall around here. There is a chill in the air (and in our apartment since they haven't turned on the heat yet...), it’s dark when I wake up in the morning, and I am craving some sort of pumpkin treat. Unfortunately they don’t really do pumpkin treats around here, but I only have to make it through one more holiday season without nutmeg and spice. It might be time to fork over the $10 for a Starbucks drink. Happy weekend!!!
203: "Wine is bottled poetry." - Robert Louis Stevenson September 30, 2012 | This weekend we made the first official batch of "vin chaud" (hot wine), our favorite hot drink for a cold day. And in related news, not changing out of your pajamas all day makes getting ready for bed at night that much faster. Not that I would know... | “Life can be like a roller coaster... and just when you think you've had enough and you’re ready to get off the ride and take the calm, easy merry-go round... you change your mind, throw your hands in the air and ride the roller coaster all over again. That's exhilaration...that's living a bit on the edge...that's being ALIVE.” - Stacey Charter October 3, 2012 Living here has been a kind of roller coaster ride. For people who are generally low drama, this is a different sort of lifestyle. After about a month of being homesick and wondering if we made the right choice moving here (even though it doesn’t make a difference because we are here now), all of a sudden I am happy we are here and already missing it for when we move home. I’m not sure John is to that point (yet? ever? not sure). There is definitely a shift from the one to two year mark. Or maybe it’s a shift knowing that we won’t be here next September or that this is the last time we will have to wait for someone to turn the heat on in our apartment. It seems like time is shorter and should be more cherished. So while the roller coaster is on its way up, I’m enjoying the views. And John is coming with me in either direction, so that makes it extra sweet.
204: "Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn October 9, 2012 I am on my way home from a career highlight (and maybe life highlight) - my first ever business trip to Paris. I stayed one night, had meetings last night and all day today, and the only monument I saw was the Arc de Triomphe from the side. But it still counts since I got to go to dinner and have French food and French wine. Something about Paris always feels so homey to me, even when I have spent most of my hours at the airport or at an office building in the suburbs. I need to figure out a way to do this more often. Thursday I’m going to practice again and go to Amsterdam for work. This week I will have been in Rome, Geneva, Paris, and Amsterdam. Going home is going to be rough. My usual week at home consists of the ‘quah, Bellevue, Seattle, and maybe Tacoma if I’m lucky. | When in Rome... October 10, 2012 We arrived in Rome on Thursday night, got on the train to the city from the airport, and then hopped on the subway. The instructions from the hotel then involved taking a bus for 3 or 6 stops (different sources) and getting off in front of our hotel. We checked it on google maps, however, and the walk from the next subway station was only 15 minutes, so we decided that we were much more likely to make it to the hotel in 15 minutes on foot than actually make it on the bus. As we walked past the spray painted metal bars over windows, alone, at 11pm, we decided that is the last time we claim to know a city better than people who live there. On the plus side, we must have made it to the hotel in about 8 minutes because we were walking so fast.
205: We finally made it to the Pantheon to meet our friends from home, Steph and Andy. Usually we meet in Snoqualmie or Issaquah, so it was fun to say things like, “See you at the Pantheon!” We finally found them and their bottles of wine. Steph and Andy had done a tour of Italy, and Rome was their last stop. On their trip they had accidentally bought too much wine, so Steph emailed me beforehand to know if we would accept the challenge to finish all of it that weekend. Challenge accepted. | After sitting outside by the Pantheon for a while, we decided to grab a to-go cup of wine and go on a walk. Apparently the best time to tour Rome is between 2 and 3am because there were no crowds. All of the sites were clear for pictures. Who knew?!
206: The next day we met Steph & Andy outside of St. Peter’s / the Vatican for lunch. We may or may not have stopped for a gelato appetizer on our way.
207: We strolled around Rome the rest of the day and then stopped at the Capuchin Crypt, a new site in Rome for John and I. I expected an underground space with bones piled on top of one another because generally that’s what a crypt or catacombs are. That is totally not what it is. They don’t know who did actually did it, but someone unearthed all of these Capuchin friar bones and displayed them very ornately and creepily. Google it. It is weird, cool, and kind of shock if that’s not what you’re expecting. The tour guide kept telling people to watch their heads and not knock down any bones in the back since now it is illegal to decorate with human remains, and all bones that fall off can’t be replaced. Not a warning you hear every day. | After that, we headed back to Steph and Andy’s hotel in the Pantheon square where there was a rooftop bar for a drink. We watched the sunset (and fireworks!) from the roof, played our new favorite card game, Crop Duster, and continued to work on “the challenge”. | Probably a had to be there story, but at lunch John was really excited about his order of spaghetti and meatballs. When our meals finally came, he got clams. Not really what he was craving, but he ate it anyway. Maybe meatball in Italian means clam?
208: Dinner that night was one of the best meals I have ever had, other than the octopus appetizer that everyone else got that I didn’t eat. My pasta was delicious, and I would consider going back to Rome just to eat at that restaurant again. And again. The next day we met at the Colosseum, where Steph and Andy took a tour in the morning. We did the same thing as the day before as we wandered back to the hotel, stopping for a pasta lunch, and making it back to the rooftop bar.
209: We made another bar stop on our way to dinner and then picked a restaurant in the Trastevere district of Rome. Dinner was of course delicious, and we had a celebratory tiramisu for our last night in Rome. | And of course we won the challenge.
210: As I got on the plane to Amsterdam this afternoon, I got a hint of the distinct "Europe smell". As I walked down the aisle to my row, the smell got stronger and stronger. I waited for me to pass the apex and for the smell to slowly fade. And then I stopped at row 15. I put my bag in the overhead bin, looked down to my row, and asked the gentleman sitting if I could squeeze by to get to my window seat at 15A. The epicenter, the gentleman, was 15B. I have never been so unconcerned with air pressure as to actually, seriously, want to open the airplane window at 10,000 feet. | De-o for the B-O October 11, 2012 | I’m pretty sure I have mentioned it on this blog before, but it is too funny that milk is the lunch drink of choice in Amsterdam (not for three year olds, for work lunches). Not Coke, not wine, not fizzy water, not cigarettes. I don’t think I have seen that in any other country. No wonder the people here are so tall. And I look exactly like them. | Got milk? October 13, 2012 | "Nothing burns like the cold." - George R.R. Martin October 16, 2012 | This morning I walked out of our apartment building and heard the sound that means winter is definitely coming
211: "A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for." - Anonymous October 25, 2012 | My best friend of life and twin, Jenn, is now mama Jenn! She delivered a beautiful, healthy, precious, adorable little girl, Aubrey, on Saturday, and we couldn’t be happier for them. I woke up at 4am Switzerland time on Sunday and layed in bed wide awake. I knew that Jenn had gone to the hospital, so I had been thinking about her all day. When I woke up though, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was THE moment. I tried to go back to sleep but decided to write a quick email to Jenn to let her know I was cheering her on. The subject of my email was “Push!” I woke up the next morning and soon after received a picture of Aubrey and Jenn with the stats. She was born at 7:04pm. I looked back to my sent folder and had sent the email at 4:01am Switzerland time three minutes before she was actually born. It’s a twin thing. Aubrey, Auntie Dee can’t wait to meet you, even though you slept through our first skype date. My wish for you is that you find a friendship as strong, funny (haha, peculiar, and shoot self), reliable, adventurous, and happy as your mom and I have.
212: "The truth is that parents are not really interested in justice. They just want quiet." - Bill Cosby October 26, 2012 My parents were our grand finale of fall visitors. Something about saving the best for last. :) They squeezed in right between the week of constant rain and the predicted snow this Saturday and arrived in Geneva after a two week tour of Europe. My mom remembered the way to our apartment – cross the freeway, traverse the field, and make a right at the naked statues. They arrived on Thursday night, and my mom was very impressed with the hominess of our apartment. Then I remembered that when she was here last year I slept on a twin air mattress in the middle of the family room, didn’t have any kitchen appliances, and all of the lightbulbs were naked hanging from the ceiling. Everything is relative. We took my dad to a French town called Annecy the next day. We wandered through the old town and canals, took a walk by the lake, ordered a token crepe and ice cream cone, and visited our fair share of cutesy shops. I think my dad liked the town, but he probably could have done without all of the shops. Little did he know that it was just a warm up of cute towns and cute shops.
213: One of the cute shops. Can you guess which letter is missing? | The next morning we took them to our French market and the grocery store. I’m sure our trip to Carrefour, our local supermarket, was the highlight of their trip. They quickly toured downtown Geneva while John and I napped in the afternoon, and then we went out to dinner to celebrate John’s birthday. He picked the all-you-can-eat mussels and fries place in France that we had been to before. They have a menu full of flavors of mussels, and then they bring out a big pot of them. The best part is that you can switch flavors before your next batch. Between the four of us we had white wine, beer, blue cheese, and mustard. I was stuffed after my first pot of mustard mussels and bowl of fries.
214: Sunday we went to another cute French town, Yvoire. I think my parents got their fill of cute French towns and crepes for that matter. | Monday we went to Gruyeres, a chocolate / cheese / castle town in the Swiss countryside. We started with a tour of the chocolate factory with the piece of heaven at the end with unlimited samples. We burned off the chocolate walking to the next town where the cheese and castle are. We did the tour of the castle and took the cheese tour. We didn’t even need lunch since we got cheese samples too. I could get used to chocolate hors d’oeuvres and then a cheese main dish.
216: We rounded out the visit with a trip to Chamonix on Tuesday where we went to the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, and then strolled through the cutesy shops in the town. My poor dad. | My mom grabbed this bag to carry coats on our way out the door. As we were taking the elevator downstairs I wondered why she was taking out our trash. Come to find out the bag was coming with us all day. I guess parents are embarrassing at any age. So I had her pose with a trashcan.
217: "The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I'll never be as good as a wall." - Mitch Hedberg October 30, 2012 | I bet most of you went to a Halloween party this weekend. And you dressed up and had a great time. And this week you’re going to eat so many mini Snickers that you’ll regret buying the extra Costco bag “just in case”. And it will feel so bad but so good at the same time. That’s cool, America, you can have Halloween. Do you know what Switzerland has? ROGER FEDERER. So while you were busy putting on face makeup and furry costumes, I was watching the best tennis player who has ever lived. Live. In front of my very eyes. | He served, he hit forehands, he hit backhands, he challenged the line calls, and he played in two tie-breaks. AND HE TOOK OFF HIS SHIRT. IN FRONT OF MY VERY EYES. Roger played against Juan Martin Del Potro in the final in front of a hometown crowd in Basel at the Swiss Indoors ATP 500 tournament. It went to three sets with two tie-breaks. We were on the edge of our nosebleed seats the whole time. Roger lost in the end, but he’ll always be a winner in my eyes. I was glad John was there for one of the best days of my life. Our wedding was a close second. Just to make it fair, we did find a German brewery where we had dinner the night before, so John had a great weekend too.
218: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” November 5, 2012 John and I had a quiet weekend this weekend. His parents asked us yesterday what we have been up to on the weekends, and John said “nothing”, which is pretty much the opposite. Unless Rome, Basel, parents visiting, and going back to the US for four of the five weekends is nothing. We went to the market on Saturday morning, and on our way back we noticed that we could see the Alps behind Geneva. Oftentimes, even if it’s clear, it’s too hazy to see them, but when it’s extra clear outside, they are beautiful. So we put away our groceries, grabbed the camera, and headed downtown to get some pictures. And by the time we got there, it was cloudy. Dang, the weather here moves too fast. So we took pictures of ducks instead. Yes, we had a “nothing” sort of weekend.
219: "Christmas is not a time nor a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be penteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." November 5, 2012 | We have a secret. One of the fun things about living so far away is that we only have to tell people what we want to tell them. We could lie about all sorts of things, and people probably would never find out. Yes, in a weird, twisted way, I think that’s kind of fun. No, John is not pregnant. But we did put up our Christmas tree this weekend. I came home on Thursday from a trip to Zurich, and Tommy Tree was up. Fine, full disclosure, our Christmas tree is decorated AND we’re done with all of our Christmas shopping. AND we listened to Christmas carols while decorating this weekend. AND I already ordered our Christmas cards. Exhale. And now admit you’re just a little bit jealous.
220: "The next time they give you all that civic bull about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election." - George Carlin November 6, 2012 Happy election day ! One of the best parts about living abroad is not living in the US during the elections. I highly recommend timing an international move to coincide with the presidential election. There are no commercials, no banners, no phone calls, and no little picket signs in the ground. It is almost worth the administrative hassle. And paying double taxes. Actually, it’s not worth the taxes, but that’s a whole other blog post. Shouldn’t I get two votes? Best of all, none of my prime time TV shows were interrupted for debates or speeches. It’s not that I don’t care about the election. That’s not it at all. I watched two of the three debates. I voted (vote early and often!), and I am interested to hear the results. But I made my own, informed decision without listening to any commercials. We were invited to an election party tonight at a hotel in Geneva with the American International Club. It is from 10pm to 4am. We are not going because I would rather sleep and find out the results in the morning. Call me unpatriotic, but at least I will be a well-rested American citizen tomorrow.
221: “Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert Heinlein November 7, 2012 | Exactly one year ago today, John arrived in Geneva. I remember getting ready to meet him at the airport. I cleaned the apartment, prepared dinner, and did my hair. I put on a cute outfit with boots and a peacoat and tracked his flight for almost the entire 14 hours he was in the air. I was sooo excited. I searched through the lines of people coming out of the doors of the baggage claim area. Finally, I saw him. I started waving and smiling. This is how I imagined our reunion. | He dragged his six suitcases towards me, gave me a half smile / half grimace, and asked me where the bathroom was. It was better than I imagined. We went back to the apartment, he fell asleep on our Ikea fold out couch almost immediately, and me and my nice hair watched Say Yes to the Dress. Since then we have traveled, eaten too much cheese, spent way too much time together, laughed, fought, made memories, and, most importantly, survived. There were times when I wasn’t sure we would make it to this point. Actually, there were times when I was sure we wouldn’t. Like the day I came home from work and John told me that it only cost $5000 for him to fly home the next day. Hon, I am so proud of you. You did something totally out of your comfort zone, and you did it with a smile on your face (most of the time). You are the best. You have made my dreams possible and put yours on hold. There isn’t anyone I would rather live with in a 50 square meter apartment in a country over 5000 miles away from home. Home is wherever I’m with you. I promise we’ll still move back to our Seattle home though. Happy one year anniversary!
222: “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy.” November 19, 2012 Pop quiz: What is the most unfulfilling way to spend money? Answer: Buying a new dryer for a house that you don’t live in that you won’t get to use for another year that you didn’t even get to shop for. | “Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” November 20, 2012 Some of our favorite friends, Nathan, Katy, Joelle, and coming soon, picked us up from the airport for our second and last visit home before we moved back. Like good best friends, they brought us directly to Red Hook Brewery. We loved the beer, nachos, and company. And Joey apparently changed her mind and now loves Uncle John. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. | Regular face | Silly face | Happy face | Surprised face
223: 'Twas the night before Christmas November 20, 2012 Twas the night before Veteran’s Day, And all through the house Everyone was celebrating Superholiday Thanksmas birthday 2012 with all of the Dolin family and spouse. First we sang happy birthday And opened gifts and cards that were very nice and not mean. We celebrated all family birthdays Through the first half of 2013. Then we wished everyone a merry Christmas As the presents were handed out. We took turns opening our holiday gifts With wrapping paper strewn about. The lights decorated the outside, And we had a makeshift tree. Thanks for my presents, everyone, Merry Christmas to me! Thanksgiving dinner was the grand finale. We had turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie And gathered around the table Talking about how now we can all get high. I would say Superholiday 2012 was a success. Now that it’s over, it’s a little sad to me. But aren't you jealous that our shopping and cards are already done? And we still have Tommy Tree!
224: "No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home. No matter how you lived there." - Joseph Brodsky November 20, 2012 Some highlights from our trip home last week: - Getting my nails done with Whit for less than $50 - Going to Qdoba with Whit and getting the chips and guac on the side - John being happy that he got to go to his office for a day. He does exist! - Whit’s recipe for tortellini soup that we got to try. - Shopping at Target. Twice. - Shopping at Costco and eating all of the samples. - Superholiday Thanksmas Birthday celebration. See previous post. - Meeting our new niece, Claire. - Getting pedicures with the Dolin women. And the leg massage that I got. - Eating pumpkin pie. And lemon merengue. In the same dessert serving. And they weren’t half - Monday night dinner with the AGDs. - At MND, Jacquie saying, totally seriously, “I never take toilet paper for granted.” - Getting a Kindle for my birthday and Christmas and getting to use it right away. - Drinking Starbucks. - Making pecan balls with my mom. Then deciding the first batch wasn’t enough so making a - Playing The Farming Game with John and my mom. Yes, we have a game called The Farming - Eating steak and baked potatoes. And having steak leftovers. - The pass not having any snow on the roads. - Meeting our other new niece, Aubrey. - Cuddling with Jenn on their couch that is really a bed. - Getting a no cavity report for John and I at the dentist. - Playing Cropduster with Jenn and Michael. - Michael’s turkey for a sandwich for the road. - Playing Cropduster with Heather and Pete. - Eating sushi. - Getting hugs from Joey. - Eating teriyaki. - There were no lowlights. | slices. | second batch even after everything had already been washed and put away. | Game. Yes, we play it regularly. Yes, I won.
225: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy November 22, 2012 Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We have a lot to be thankful for, most importantly our family and friends. Thank you all for your love, support, happiness, and fun that you bring to our lives. Hope everyone has their stretchy pants on and is ready for some eating! Something not to be thankful for: Working all day on Thanksgiving then flying home from a business trip and arriving at 11pm to no turkey. Some things to be thankful for: We got to eat turkey last weekend, John made extra yummy enchiladas for dinner, and we get a four day weekend in March for Easter. I'm thankful for Easter! Karma is a b****. November 23, 2012 Remember the pop quiz about what the most unsatisfying way to spend money was? You failed it. And so did I! The correct answer, as we found out yesterday, is that the most unsatisfying way to spend money is to buy a new dryer for a house you don’t live in, that you don’t get to use for a year, that you didn’t get to shop for, WHEN THE DRYER YOU USE IS BROKEN AND YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS OF CLOTHES TO WASH BECAUSE YOU WERE OUT OF TOWN AND YOU CAN ONLY DO LAUNDRY ON FRIDAYS AND JOHN IS RUNNING OUT OF UNDERWEAR!! That is a mean trick. Guess we’ll be bringing out the drying rack.
226: Just say no. November 23, 2012 Late Monday night while in Amsterdam trying to find a new dryer online (did you know you also have to buy a cord and vent thing??), my mom said something to me that I never thought I would hear. Like I would have bet a billion gajillion dollars I would never hear. This is a direct quote. “Honey, just go smoke a joint.” | "A baby is born with a need to be loved - and never outgrows it." - Frank A. Clark November 25, 2012 | One of the highlights of our trip home last week was that we finally got to meet our new little niece, Claire! She is just the cutest thing and has a huge open mouth smile, not that you would know it from these pictures. I love Claire like Claire loves milk.
227: "People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one." - Leo J. Burke November 25, 2012 | One of the other highlights of our trip home last week was that we also finally got to meet our other new little (like, extra little) niece, Aubrey! She is teeny tiny, and I just want to snuggle with her little burrito blanket body all day. It was so fun to see my best friend be a mom. I didn’t even know we were allowed to stay out past midnight now, let alone have kids. I can’t wait for Aubrey’s first game night. She doesn’t know what kind of family she was born into. She better find her hands soon if she wants a chance to win at Cranium.
228: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow December 3, 2012 | Good things come in small packages. December 4, 2012 Most things are smaller in Europe : cars, toothpaste containers, and hotel rooms, to name a few. Most of the time it’s not a big deal (although the weekly game of trying to fit all of our groceries into the fridge is getting a little old), but you should see this hotel bathroom. This is where I’m staying this week, and I am just thankful that I can fit between the toilet and the sink. That's not to say that it doesn't take some maneuvering. | I am standing in the doorway to the bathroom. No, it doesn't open up to a jacuzzi tub behind me. | Just to give some perspective, the distance between the sink and the toilet is the size of my hand.
229: "They are not all hooligans. Some of them just come along for the fun. Instead of playing on their PlayStations, they have a go at the riot police." - Gerard Gaudron December 9, 2012 | The neighborhood holigans are back ! We found another menacing sign the other day right in our neck of the woods. This time they actually had the nerve to spray paint our zip code. First the name of the bus stop and now the zip code what will they think of next?! The name of the grocery store?? It appears as though Switzerland may not be as safe as everyone says it is, at least not in our hood. | "Never run after a bus or a man. There will always be another one." December 9, 2012 It’s almost 11pm here. I arrived at the Zurich train station about a half hour ago, got on my trusty tram towards the hotel, and then missed my stop. There is nothing worse than riding on public transportation when you know you missed your stop and will have to walk all that way back. In the snow. At night. With luggage. Oh, wait, there is something worse. When the next stop on the tram line is called “Creamatorium”. No, spelling it with a “K” rather than a “C” making it German does not make it any less creepy.
230: "When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb and to seek the mountain view." - Ella Wheeler Wilcox December 10, 2012 | I have learned something about myself in Switzerland. Well, I have learned many things about myself, not the least of which is to hold on to the railing in the bus at all times so you don’t fall and knock over a lady with a crutch, not that I would know from personal experience. I digress. I have learned something important about myself. And it is something very important for John to know, although he probably already figured it out nine and a half years ago. I like to go to new places and try new things. I knew this on a surface level before; for example I would always pick to try a new restaurant rather than go to one I already have been to, even if I loved it. But I didn’t realize how deep it ran. It apparently translates into where I want to live as well. This is good and bad news for John, the one who craves the familiar. I have realized that while I am definitely not bored living here, I would be if I did for a long time. Actually, bored isn’t the right word. I think the word is restless. I am really looking forward to next year because I get to travel a lot to several different countries. I love that. And I love it because the places I go will be new to me. But after that, they won’t be. And then I’ll want to go to more new places. I do like home, and sometimes I get homesick. And maybe the reason I feel happy exploring is because I have a home to go back to. So the bad news for John is that I apparently get restless in places easily. The good news is that now I know this, and now I know that moving out of Seattle would keep me entertained for about two years, and then I would have the same feeling again. So it’s not personal, and I just have to figure out how to manage. I have a hard time imagining that Paris wouldn’t keep me occupied though...
231: These boots were made for walking. December 11, 2012 | It is definitely wintertime in Geneva. This weekend we held the official 2012 winter welcoming ceremony where we celebrated with the unveiling of something very close to my heart. Yes, these are my SnoRacers (the “w” is purposefully omitted in order to emphasize the coolness of the boots). Other than my college education, this is perhaps the most worthwhile investment my parents ever made. I have gotten their money’s worth out of these things ten times over. I have been wearing them every winter for about the last 16 years, and they have been trusty friends through snow, slush, and puddle. Boyfriends have come and gone, I have graduated, I am married, and the SnoRacers have been there every step of the way (pun intended). And apparently snow boots are like a fine wine. If I thought they were cool in 1996, they only get better with age. | "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon December 12, 2012 I had an epiphany the other day. Talk about learning things about yourself lately. Exhausting. Anyway, I have been struggling with what I want to do with my career next. It’s a natural transition time moving back to the US, so I’ve been evaluating my options. And overevaluating my options. And then I figured out why I was having such a hard time. I don’t know what exactly I want to do next because I have already fulfilled my main career goal of working in a business role in Europe. It’s really cool to have done so so early in my career, but, crap, now what do I do?? John has ruled out a few options such as professional reality TV watching and anything that requires living abroad, but otherwise the possibilities are endless. I kind of forgot to have a plan for after my plan. And now my first plan is almost done. And I’m usually a pretty good planner. Not this time. Shoot.
232: "Yes, we can." - Barack Obama December 13, 2012 I was chatting with a controller at one of my clients today. He is originally German but now Swiss and has worked all over the world for several years, including a lot of time spent in the US. He detected through my accent that I'm American, so he started asking me about where I'm from, etc. I'm always a little nervous when people ask me whether I'm American because you never know if that's a positive or a negative. He immediately started comparing American working styles to European working styles, and, although they are all stereotypes, I completely agree. And it was really interesting that they came from a European. Interesting that we both perceive the same things. Some comparisons: In the US, the answer is always yes. And then they figure out how to do it later. In Europe, they are always trying to figure out why the answer could be no. In the US, if you tell people to change something, they do. And often without much discussion as to why. In Europe, people ask several questions over several days, figure out why it won't work, and then don't do it. In the US, if you want something fixed, it's fixed. Anytime. Quickly. In Europe, if you want something fixed, hopefully it's not after hours, and hopefully they get around to it within the month. In the US, people make work problems their problems. And they'll fix them. In Europe, work problems aren't your problems because you go home at the end of the day and get paid at the end of the month. It seems easy to tell which are positive and which are negative, since I'm American and of course things should be done right away. And why would you say no to a client? But if I turn it around and think like a European, it doesn't seem so clear. At least they don't check email on their vacations.
233: Happy birthday to me! December 18, 2012 I celebrated my birthday this weekend with two of the coolest people on the planet: John and Britney Spears. Britney’s birthday is on the 19th, so we had a joint party with double the awesomeness. Britney made Tartiflette for us for dinner which is basically potatoes, bacon, onions, and then lots of cheese all melted together in the oven. And birthday calories don’t count, so I could eat as much as I wanted! John made us a cake for dessert since clearly two pounds of cheese isn’t enough for one night and we still had free birthday calories! We danced, chatted, drank, ate, and sang. And all my birthday wishes came true.
234: Twas the Night Before Christmas... December 25, 2012 Yesterday we kicked off John's favorite time of year in Switzerland: snowboarding season. We went to Les Contamines, a new resort for us, and now one of our favorites. John even went up to the tippy top to take pictures at the spot with a camera on the ski map. Some advantages of French ski resorts vs the US / Canada: - In France, there are no trees since most of the skiing is at higher elevations. Good news for us beginners. - In France, the lifts are usually detachable, making the dismount much slower. Great news for us beginners who no longer dread getting off the chair lift the entire way up. - In France, it is generally warmer. Good news for those of us that get cold in 50 degree weather. - In France, lift tickets are generally about $30. Good news for us bargain hunters. - In France, there are usually crepes and hot wine at the end of the day. Good news for us crepe and hot wine fans. We boarded all day, ate crepes, drank hot wine, and then watched the Seahawks game when we got home. It was one of John's best Christmas Eves ever. If there had been more Christmas lights and family, it would have been perfect.
235: "It's Christmas time in the city... ring a ling... hear them ring..." December 25, 2013 Well, John and I have decided that we are officially moving back home in 2013. Santa didn't find our apartment last night, so hopefully the renters in our house are enjoying our presents. I'm sure they are wondering why Santa came with parmesan cheese, refried beans, and IPA beer. Although that does sound like a festive Christmas. We celebrated today by making an extra yummy breakfast, opening a few gifts that we had under the tree, and then playing our newest game, Rubiks Race. Thanks, sister! I then took two naps, we watched some House Hunters, had dinner, and drank hot wine. It was a great Christmas day. Merry Christmas and to all a good night!
236: Every cloud has a silver lining. December 27, 2012 John and I went snowboarding again yesterday. We returned to one of our favorite spots from last year, Flaine, but unfortunately this time the wall of clouds covering the huge Alps above stayed the entire day. And came in and out on the slopes. The snow was good in the morning, but it was crowded, and by the end of the day all of the runs had moguls. Not my favorite way to snowboard. The highlight of my day was when I totally bit it in front of a line of 10 year old kids in a ski school. They were literally standing in a line facing me as I went by, and I caught a front edge and fell forwards flat on my face. Some laughed as I thought to myself that 1) I am a better skier than they are, 2) they should try snowboarding and see how good they are at it, and 3) at least I can drive... not having a car is beside the point. One little boy kept saying (in French), "Oh, it happens to everyone." I hope Santa was listening and he got some good presents this year. If not, he should be on the good list next year. Thanks, little buddy. We stopped at the very top of the mountain for a crepe and hot wine snack and enjoyed the view of the cloud. We are now on a brief snowboard break to let our bodies recover. You should have seen John get out of bed this morning. That was a preview 60 years into the future.
237: The gorgeous mountains are right behind the wall of clouds. Right there! | The little dot in the center is me! | "Ironically, rural America has become viewed by a growing number of Americans as having a higher quality of life not because of what it has but, rather, because of what it doesn't have." - Don A. Dillman December 31, 2012 John and I are party animals. You probably don't even realize how crazy we are over here. This week, for example, we decided to take a few buses that we had never taken before. We took the 21 through town and then caught the L. We admired the view from the L as it turned from city to cute town to country in about five minutes. Like literally country with cows and everything. We were the only people left on the bus at the end of the line, and this is where we ended up. You only live once. We may even do this again. We still have the K and the S to take.
238: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... December 31, 2012 | This weekend we went to "the Christmas capital of the world"! At least that's what Strasbourg calls itself, and Geneva certainly isn't it, so we were game. Each street had its own decorations with lights, Santas, and garland. There were booths set up in all of the squares in the city with hot wine, snacks, and trinkets. The hot wine came in reusable cups, and we walked around while sipping it. Kind of like a Christmas Vegas.
239: The town has historically been both German and French (it's right on the border of the two countries), so there is a mix of both that you can see in the buildings. | I made John do an impression of the buildings. | The food that we ate this weekend consisted of hot wine, crepes, more hot wine, roasted chestnuts, flam (an Alsacian regional food like a pizza but with cream sauce), beignets (like donuts but in different shapes), hot wine, and Subway. Yes, Subway. I have no regrets. I ate a turkey on wheat (unfortunately without banana peppers...ugh, but fortunately with honey mustard sauce). It was delicious, and I am not ashamed.
240: Shnappy Shnew Shnear! January 1, 2013 Our New Years Eve party guest list included the likes of Team Dolin, many French people, and Britney Spears. The party started at 9pm, so of course we had dinner beforehand. But we shouldn't have. We should have known that French people would start dinner at 9:30 at night. So we ate dinner again, drank wine, watched people dance, and chatted. All of a sudden we looked at the clock, and it was 23:58. There was no big countdown at midnight, so I made John give me a kiss at 12 anyway, and then about five minutes later everyone else started celebrating. They popped open the champagne and everyone started kissing everyone else (the three cheek kisses, not real French kisses). It was pretty funny because everyone made the rounds, women to men, women to women, men to men. People we knew, people we didn't know. It was like a big congratulations party since we all made it to 2013. Which I guess is a feat since I know John thought he was going to die a couple of times in 2012. Happy new year!
241: "Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese." - Billie Burke January 4, 2013 Unbeknownst to us, John and I live in the retirement community of Geneva. We went to a building fondue night on Wednesday, and we were the only ones under 50 for a while. When two people our age showed up speaking English, we got excited. And then we learned that they don’t actually live in our building, and I’m pretty sure one of them lives in London. At the moment we’re surprisingly not interested in too many more long distance relationships. So we chatted with the old folks about their grandchildren, moving into the building 40 years ago, and the Swiss pension system. They wondered why they never see much of us. Then we realized that it’s because we work, and not many other people in our building do. Anymore at least. We had real cheese fondue and then meringues with cream (a local specialty) because after eating a lot of cheese, it’s important to eat more fatty dairy products. It was delicious, however, and thankfully we had plenty of white wine to help digestion. We received an invite to another dinner, so stay tuned. I’m going to have to brush up on my WWII history.
242: "Let them eat cake." - Marie Antoinette January 6, 2013 | We decided to play the Kings Cake game again this year where we bought a "galette", a pastry / almond paste cake with a little token inside. Whoever gets the token in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day. John started cutting the cake last night, and I asked if he had found the token yet when he was almost done. He said no, kept cutting, and then all of a sudden we heard a clunk, and we had found the token. John finished cutting, I chose my slice, and I totally picked the wrong one. John is king for a day again this year and gets to keep the little Superman he won. He has worn his crown all day today. Like from waking up in bed this morning to trying to figure out how to get it to stay on during our run. Definitely not one to let power get to his head. I still think I'm the winner though because I got more cake without a Superman taking up part of my piece. Except John keeps calling me his "loyal subject". | “At every party there are two kinds of people - those who want to go home and those who don't. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other.” - Ann Landers January 11, 2013 | Last night was our annual work Christmas dinner. I think it should be the annual New Year dinner, however, since it has been held in January two years in a row now, which is the entire life of the office. The negatives: - It was on a Thursday night. - Significant others were not invited so John ate spaghetti at home. - The tiramisu wasn’t great. - There was no photo booth with feather boas and sailor hats like the company party in Seattle. The positives: - My caprese salad appetizer was super yummy. - It was within walking distance of my apartment, so I got to have more wine and more fun than anybody else. But I didn't have too much fun. Fine line at work functions. - I got to sit next to Britney. - The restaurant made the people at our table who ordered a certain meat dish wear paper bibs. With bowties drawn on them. - I did not order the bib meat.
243: Business is business. January 11, 2013 Bonn Budapest Bratislava Bucharest The cities that start with the letter B that I will be going to in the next couple of months. So cool!!! | "Switzerland is simply a large, lumpy, solid rock with a thin skin of grass stretched over it." - Mark Twain January 13, 2013 | We spent this weekend in Zurich since I am working here next week and the best time to sightsee is when long underwear is a must and blue lips are in style. | We arrived in Zurich on Friday night and then crossed our fingers during our sleep that night that the weather would clear up so we could go to Luzern for the day on Saturday. Sure enough, they changed the forecast from snow to sun at 9am on Saturday, so went to Luzern, and I got to cross it off of my Swiss bucket list!
244: Luzern is a Switzerland postcard city with a lake in front and mountains surrounding. | It also has two wooden bridges that cross the river. They both have paintings from the 1700s along the inside of the bridge. On one of the bridges all of the paintings had a skeleton in them. This was to remind people as they crossed the bridge daily that everyone dies. Pleasant. Can you imagine signs along I-90 like "Bellevue: Exit 1 mile" and "Skeleton: don't forget you will DIE".
245: AND it even has... a dam. One of us was more excited about that than the other. We strolled along the lake stopping for a picnic lunch on a bench. Picnics are generally better in warmer weather, but the ducks didn't seem to mind. There were hundreds on the lake. | And, as is custom in all Swiss cities, we did a tour of the naked statues. Luzern did not disappoint. | Naked man with naked horse. Naked man / woman sunbathing. Wouldn't want any tan lines! Other naked man with naked horse. Naked woman playing instrument? I think that's an instrument?
246: Today we went to the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfalls in Europe. The water level is at its annual low, but we decided to see the falls anyway since we will probably never be here at its annual high. Apparently, however, there is a boat that takes people up to the falls and onto the huge rocks in the middle of them, but the boats weren't running today. There's one reason to go during the high season. We spent about five minutes at the falls that took an hour to get to, so we decided to continue to Schaffhausen, which supposedly has the cutest old town in Switzerland. And it was really cute, but we forgot to take pictures until we got back on the train. See, isn't the town pretty?
247: Announcement! Announcement! Annouuuuuunnnnncement! January 18, 2013 Well, it's about time to get that picture of my face off of the front page of the blog. I see it everytime I log on to the internet, and I can't have those googly eyes stare back at me for one more day. So I have some public service announcements. Just a few tidbits of advice since nobody asked for my opinion: - Please wash your hands. It is cold season, something with which I, unfortunately, am all too familiar. I see you leaving the bathroom without stopping at the sink. And I don't like it. Yes, I'm one of the freaks who uses a paper towel to open the bathroom door as I'm leaving. - Walking in heels in the snow is not ideal. I may know this from experience just a few hours ago. Bring snow boots when visiting Switzerland in the winter. - Keep your accounting records tidy. Please. | "If friends were flowers, I'd pick you." January 21, 2013 Whitney booked her plane ticket to come visit this summer, so I immediately booked a trip to Croatia for us. We are flying to Dubrovnik and flying out of Split. We have seven days to figure out how to get from one place to another. This should be reminiscent of our Europe trip 2005 when Whit, Jenn, and I backpacked in Europe together. I imagine we will spend the days sightseeing, playing waterproof Uno, and debating such life mysteries like what constitutes hair vs. fur. And then, since Whit and I always make each other do not-fun things, she can help me move overseas! It could be the greatest not-fun event of our lives! She will be so lucky to help me clean the apartment, pack up air mattresses, and carry my suitcases. I haven't forgotten about the time she made me babysit three obnoxious kids with her about ten years ago. I think we're even. I can't wait!
248: "There is no conversation more boring than the one where everyone agrees." - Michel de Montaigne January 28, 2013 | Blog subjects have been tough to come by this week. It may be because we’re getting used to funny European things, we are boring, or a combination of the two. I was in Fribourg last week and Zurich the week before for work. Very strange feeling knowing that that might have been my last trip to Zurich. Very nice feeling knowing that that might have been my last trip to Fribourg. Last week in Fribourg we talked about world political and religious issues. Interesting conversation between an American, a Frenchman, and a North African. We covered religion, North Korea, WWII, Syria, nuclear weapons, gay marriage, the UN, and taxes. Needless to say, our views differ greatly on all of those topics. Some of the guys in Zurich are going to Vegas for one of their bachelor parties. The main question they asked me was how (not) to get arrested. Upon reflection, there isn’t too much that one could do to get arrested in Vegas, but it’s definitely possible. Then we discussed what outfits they should make the bachelor wear, and we came up with more ways that they could get arrested. No, that’s not a segue into how John and I got arrested this weekend. We had a quiet, relaxing weekend of reading books, watching a movie, skyping, and cooking. Nothing blog worthy. We were going to go snowboarding, but then we didn’t. Great story.
249: "Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne." - Quentin Crisp January 31, 2013 | Cologne, Germany has one of the most beautiful churches in the world. It is in a gothic style with huge spires that intricate stone carvings that reach towards the sky. It is the landmark of Cologne where the city meets and creates its identity. It has historical significance and modern importance. | I walked to, in, and around the church this afternoon. I paced the aisles to the altar and back admiring the stained glass and massive arches. Until a storm moved in and lightning and thunder hit simultaneously. Then I got the heck out of the building with the metal spikes up high in the air. This hail storm happened in two seconds outside. Don’t worry, though, I had an umbrella. In my suitcase. In my hotel room. So I had soaked boots and socks and squished back to the hotel. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it here alive today anyway. I took a little propeller plane from Paris with about 10 other people. So there wouldn’t have been too many casualties in any case. The captain warned us when we left Paris that there would be some turbulence at takeoff and landing. He wasn’t kidding. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bumpy flight. When we arrived in Cologne he said, “Welcome to Cologne. Well, we, uh, had the turbulence I promised you. Bye.” Can’t wait to fly out tomorrow. Also, John, no, Cologne doesn’t smell any different than any other city.
250: "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you feel the impact." - Barack Obama February 2, 2013 There are some differences between airport security in Europe and in the US. Example 1: I have been to four aiports in four countries in the past two days, and my ID was not checked once. Example 2: John came to meet me at the aiport and somehow ended up in Baggage Claim. On the other side of security. One of my flights was delayed by a little over an hour last night because of a concern about one of the tires on the plane (I really wish they wouldn't tell the passengers the actual reason for the delay because who wants to get on a plane after "technical concerns". They should just say there is a delay since they're preparing a gourmet meal for everyone on board and stocking the bar.) One lady was freaking out that she was going to miss her connection, and she was on the phone on the little bus that took us from the plane to the terminal after we landed. She kept saying in a loud, shaky voice, "It's chaos, just utter chaos here!" There was no chaos. She was the only crazy one. Hope she made her flight for the sake of the airline attendants. | "You can observe a lot by just watching." - Yogi Berra February 5, 2013 John and I crossed another ski resort off of our list this weekend - Avoriaz. It was one I was looking forward to most, but it ended up being our least favorite. First, when we arrived at the bus (still early), we were some of the last people to get on, and they weren’t even sure they had enough seats. When we finally got on the bus John ended up in the front row which he doesn’t like, and I ended up next to a guy who literally had his legs in half of my foot room in front of me. Two people ended up getting off of the bus though, and I have never been so grateful to get my bus buddy back. The slopes were crowded since it was a Sunday (what else do you do on Sundays around here?), it was partly sunny, and it had snowed the week before. Unfortunately I’m still not a good enough snowboarder to not worry about everyone else, uphill and downhill from me.
251: We did some runs on one of the other hills, including an accidental red, and then headed back to the main area where we finally found a run we really liked. We did it a couple of times, and then I saw John on the side waiting for me. Laying down. It is totally normal that he has to wait for me but not normal that he is sprawled out on his back. He accidentally caught an edge, and the French Alps beat John in about two seconds. We immediately got our money’s worth out of his helmet, but unfortunately his back wasn’t so lucky. We called it a day shortly after, and now I know what John will look like walking around in 50 years. So we ate crepes and drank hot chocolate and sat outside to people watch, one of my favorite hobbies. Along with skiing / snowboarding, so that worked out well.
252: "The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair." - Audrey Hepburn February 6, 2013 Conversation at work this morning: Britney: "I'm tired this morning. I didn't feel like getting ready, so I just threw my hair up and didn't spend any time looking nice." Me: "Yeah, I have had those mornings." Britney: "You look like you did the same thing this morning." Guess I won't be wearing my hair like this anymore... | The only certain things in life are death and taxes. February 7, 2013 Like any person, John and I love doing our taxes. Living internationally makes them extra fun. I was talking to the GT Switzerland tax person to determine whether we needed to file a return in Switzerland for 2012. As foreigners, our taxes are withheld with each paycheck. If you exceed a certain income threshold, however, you must also file a return at the end of the year. 2012 threshold in the canton of Geneva: over $500,000. Per person. Unfortunately we won't be filing in Switzerland this year.
253: "One of the most difficult times in my life was when I escaped from Romania in November of 1989." - Nadia Comaneci February 9, 2013 I have now been to Romania. Weird. I spent part of this week in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for work. It is not a good idea to look up safety information for cities to which you are going the next day. I don’t recommend googling things like “Bucharest crime” after you have purchased your plane ticket. John and I discovered that the main things I needed to look out for were: taxi drivers, stray dogs, and organized crime. As for the dogs, unfortunately I didn’t have time to get my rabies shot before I left but they said you should be okay if you walk in groups and avoid packs. I decided I could probably avoid organized crime for three days, so that left the taxi drivers. The Bucharest office arranged for someone to pick me up at the airport when I arrived. I ended up paying the extra $20 to take the hotel transportation back to the airport, so I also successfully avoided taxi drivers. As John told me last night on the phone, if you get kidnapped by a taxi driver and pay the ransom, they’re probably going to drop you off somewhere random where it will cost more than $20 to get to the airport plus the ransom and therapy. Bucharest pretty much looks exactly like you would imagine it to look like. Some people call it “little Paris”, but as a Paris fan myself, I’m not sure I would go that far. It’s like a combination between Paris, Prague, Russia, 1985, communism, Times Square, and Vegas. The buildings don’t really have any sort of coordination, so there will be a Russian looking church next to a hotel with Parisian architecture next to a communist looking apartment block that has been partially burned out with broken windows.
254: Russia | Las Vegas
255: I saw three of the top five attractions in the city (the other two were museums): the Opera House, the Parliament building, and the Old Town, including Stavropoleous Church. I actually saw the Opera House twice since I didn’t realize I had passed it on my way to work and then went again to see it. I also walked through the Old Town once in the evening and once on Saturday morning. Very different vibe at those two times. Old Town is a pedestrian only zone and pretty much all bars and restaurants. Many of the buildings are remodeled in Vegas style where they look fake, and some clearly haven’t been touched since communism in 1970. My hotel was in the square where the president was killed in 1989. There were bullet holes and big screens and traffic and restaurants. I also went to dinner with some coworkers one night where there was Romanian food and Romanian dancing. Very fun, and very different than Swiss dancing. The driver on my way back to the airport said that he did not like living in Romania. He had had hope that things would change, but he said that life has not. He estimates that 60-70% of the population doesn’t work or doesn’t work legally (not like work permit legally, like involved in illegal activities), and of the 30-40% who do work, only 10% pay taxes. That is a difficult ratio to sustain successfully long term. I’m glad I went, glad I saw it, and glad I made it back home. | The Opera House - Romanian Athenaeum | The Parliament Building
256: I made a startling discovery yesterday. People were alive. On a Sunday. I thought this was forbidden! And now I love Prague. I arrived yesterday, on a Sunday, and walked around the city. There were many people out and about, eating, strolling, and SHOPPING. Yes, stores were open on Sunday. It felt as I imagine I will feel going to Target on the first Sunday when I get back to the US. It was beautiful. | "Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week." - Joseph Addison February 11, 2013 | I walked through Wenceslas Square to Old Town and over the Charles Bridge. I bought myself a $1 hot chocolate on the way (including whipped cream) and meandered through the streets enjoying PEOPLE in the CITY on a SUNDAY. I love you, Prague. I want to come back every Sunday until August.
257: “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure.” - Czech proverb February 14, 2013 When Whitney, Jenn, and I backpacked around Europe in college, we would always make it a point to have a “cultural dinner” in each city. I’m pretty sure when we went to Prague our cultural dinner was Italian food. It’s a culture somewhere at least. My trip to Prague this time was very different than the last, to my employer’s relief I’m sure. I didn’t go to any parties with people dressed up as procreation matters. I didn’t sleep in a hostel with 12 beds per room stealing whiffs of my bed neighbor’s cologne. And I didn’t get dropped off by a bus driver in the middle of nowhere when my ticket suddenly “expired” halfway between two stops. | I did, however, do something I have never done before (not that I have done any of those other things twice). I went to a cultural dinner, by myself, not Italian, and ordered a beer. On my own. I was at a brewery, and it was real Czech beer. I have never missed John so much in my life. I guess maybe I missed him more on day 89 of being away for three months, but he would have loved this place. For dinner, I ordered the Hungarian Specialty #1. Surprisingly, it wasn’t spaghetti.
258: "Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own." - Mother Teresa February 14, 2013 I am spending part of this week in Budapest, Hungary. I have no idea why, but I have always wanted to come here. John and I are even coming back in the spring for a weekend, a trip we had planned before I knew I was going to be here for work. And it’s a good thing we’re coming back because work traveling during February doesn’t make for very exciting tourist activities. It’s dark, cold, and I have to work. Opposite of vacation. Overall it has been fine, but yesterday I made an almost fatal mistake. We had sandwiches for lunch, and I thought they had been sitting out the rest of the afternoon. But when they came back out for snack time, I couldn’t resist their beckoning calls and ate one. It didn’t sit very well, and after that I was definitely not Hungary anymore.hehe | "The great national temperance beverage." - Coca Cola slogan 1906 February 20, 2013 This week I am in the city with the coolest name in Europe : Düsseldorf. Every time I write it or say it, I want to say “dork” instead of “dorf”. I have found, however, that the Düssel isn’t a dork at all and is actually pretty cool. One fun thing is that it has a lot of good restaurants. So far I’ve had Spanish, Italian twice, and German twice. I got made fun of for ordering a Coke at lunch since “all Americans drink Coke”, but I almost never drink Coke, don’t even like it, and only ordered it because I can pronounce it anywhere. I wanted to make fun of the people at my table who ordered the double cheeseburger (which is actually called a double cheeseburger), but instead I just sipped my Coke. I plan on exploring more of what the dorkf has to offer.
259: "Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!" - Anne Tyler February 24, 2013 | John and I decided to add a little extra excitement to our weekend on Saturday. No, we didn’t go skydiving or wrestle with alligators. We did something much more adventurous. We went to the grocery store later in the afternoon. Yes, you might want to sit down for this. I will explain. We usually go to the store in the morning after the market, but this weekend we decided to skip the market and go to the store later in the day. I told you, this is crazy. Shopping in France is different than shopping in the US for many reasons, the least of which being that we have to bring our passports to go to the grocery store. And the most annoying differences were in full force this weekend. These both happen routinely in the morning as well, but not nearly to the same extent. Exhibit A People are HORRIBLE about blocking the aisles. See someone you know? Please stop to chat in the middle of the aisle. Looking for something on a shelf? You just leave your cart wherever is most convenient for you. Is someone else already stopped on the side of an aisle? You should definitely park your cart next to theirs so no one else can get through. | These people were not in the middle of moving their cart. It was like this when we got to the aisle while they were looking at something else a few feet away. Rather than parallel parking, they are perpendicular parking. There is a reason this is an unknown term. Exhibit B Grocery stores here run out of food. Routinely. Could be veggies, cereal, meat, canned goods, anything. That’s part of the (not) fun of shopping here; you just never know what will or will not be in stock. The bottom shelf is where they keep the chicken. Lesson learned: don’t plan two meals around chicken without a vegetarian Plan B. Also, next time John takes a picture of an empty chicken shelf, I am going to be there to see the looks he gets from other customers.
260: "You may delay but time will not." - Benjamin Franklin February 24, 2013 I still get confused with the 24 hour time clock they use in Europe. The fact that 14:00 doesn't equal 4pm throws me off every time. Good to know that the confusion also goes the other way, however. Note the room service hours. Hope I'm not hungry during the other 23 hours of the day. | “There is precious little in civilization to appeal to a Yeti.” - Edmund Hillary March 3, 2013 Snowboarding at Les Gets yesterday: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. | The sun setting on our last run of the day. Is that haze or just cigarette smoke?
261: The morning was the worst of times. The traffic to get up to the resort was bad, John couldn't find an unlocked bathroom, we took the wrong gondola up the wrong hill and had to turn around and take it back down again, I cried for no apparent reason (to John or me) and got my goggles all foggy, and we missed a turn back to our lift so we had to go down a red run by accident for a second time that morning. The afternoon was the best of times. We found a few blue runs that I liked, John found a bathroom, the sun was shining, we ate awesome paninis for lunch with a view of Mt. Blanc. | And the highlight of the day: John did his first black run ever. | The drop off above is where the run started. I would have taken a picture, but I didn't want to get too close. It was called Yeti, and he made it down the hill mostly upright. He was so proud of himself, and I was so proud of him! | And then I noticed that his fly had been down the whole time. Even the best have to stay humble.
262: "There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs." March 4, 2013 I realized this weekend that we haven’t shared with the greater world one of our most treasured European experiences. It has become such a part of our daily lives that I think we have taken it for granted, and we really shouldn’t. Our elevator. This gem is a little piece of the 1960s operating in a modern world. Take a tour with me. | The door is a calming, welcoming blue / gray. The handle is smooth and inviting. | You confirm your desire to take a journey this fascinating piece of machinery as you press the button that says “lift”. No more than four people can access the elevator at time, which gives the whole experience a more intimate feel. | You indicate your floor by pressing a round, black button set on a shiny metal background. | As you walk in, the smooth fake wood envelopes you. It feels fancy. Like you’re heading up to the penthouse suite. Classy. | And the light. The light fixture really adds the finishing touch. The texture of the plastic, the warm glow, it’s pretty. | It’s like a little delve into the past, a more peaceful time, as you prepare to walk out the doors to your future. At least when it's working.
263: "Only a kind person is able to judge another justly and to make allowances for his weaknesses. A kind eye, while recognizing defects, sees beyond them." - Lawrence G. Lovasik March 6, 2013 The Bratislava, Slovakia airport doesn't serve many cities, so I flew into Vienna this morning. I had planned on taking a taxi from Vienna to Bratislava, which is what I'd heard was the best way to get there. I asked the taxi driver how much it would cost, however, and when he told me 120 euros, I immediately turned around and waited for the 8 euro bus. I made it to the Bratislava bus station and upon seeing the bus station area was hoping that it wasn't actually where they were dropping me off. It was. I then got confused by the taxi situation, so I decided to walk to my hotel. I had heard good things about Bratislava, but the area around the bus station probably isn't the part they're talking about. I guess the area around the Seattle Greyhound station isn't a classy neighborhood either though. I made it to my hotel without having seen any of the "cute" part of the city. I put my stuff in my room and then headed out to find the Bratislava in Wikipedia. They ended up being right that the Old Town is very nice. It seems to me, however, that the city took all of its niceness and put it into one little area. It did score some points when I found a shirt for under $5, however, and I could pay for it in change, and John wasn't here to stop me. | The one on the right is appropriately named "The Blue Church".
264: Where's the beef? March 12, 2013 John and I went on a date with Britney and her husband on Saturday. John got extra dressed up as he gelled his hair and even put on a bow tie. We each ordered a hunk of beef (not that John's not hunky or beefy enough for me), and it arrived on a hot stone so each person could cook it to their satisfaction. Perfect. All of the best restaurants make you wear bibs. | "In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks." - Scott Adams March 12, 2013 | This week is the annual car show in Geneva, and it’s right next to our apartment. So we get to avoid the traffic and parking mess if we had a car. Ironic. We went bright and early on Sunday morning to avoid the main crowds. Since we’re in the market for two cars this year, it was fun to be able to compare the models all in one place. We’re still deciding between a Maserati and Alpha Romeo. Or maybe we’ll just get one of each.
265: John found the Prius he’s dying to have, and we got in that one twice. And then I hopped in to the driver’s seat of the $50k car I’m not going to get. When we got home we did some research on the cars we liked, and they just don’t look quite as nice on Craig’s List.
266: "True love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does." - Torquato Tasso March 16, 2013 I love watching The Bachelor with John. The romance on the show just always seems to melt into our family room. John: Would you go on The Bachelor? I mean, if you did, you would probably have to move. Danielle: Yes, I don’t think I would mind moving if I was in love with someone. John: I would mind. Danielle: Thanks for coming to Switzerland. | Reduce, reuse, recycle March 16, 2013 There is a display of characters made of recyclable materials in the park next to the auto show this week. It made me do a double take on the way to work the other day since I swore I saw a giant monster out of the corner of my eye, which is very traumatic so early in the morning. We went back today to take some pictures. All of the characters are made out of little metal parts. How much does it cost to ship a metal cow home? Maybe I’ll give the cow John’s seat on the airplane, and John can take the boat. Wouldn’t want to risk rust.
267: “People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot.” - Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI March 17, 2013 Danielle and I made a very important discovery at our local grocery store just in time for St Patrick's Day. Needless to say it will be gone before Monday; Danielle doesn't really like Guinness, and it's Sunday. Micheal, Mick, and Bryan: Verdict is that it tastes just as good as from the tap. | March 23, 2013 Last weekend we went to a very Swissy event : The Versoix Chocolate Festival. We have low standards for entertainment on Sundays, but this far exceeded my highest hopes. You should have seen the samples!! John of course turned it into a beer festival when his selected “festival treat” was chocolate beer. | "Chocolate is not cheating! After a salty meal, you need a bit of sweet. This is living, not cheating." - Ali Landry | There were several booths all with each vendor’s chocolate creations, and did I mention the samples? We got to try several different chocolate products, and I didn’t even need a festival treat. In order to continue the fun, we then took the little chocolate train from the festival back to the town, which ended up being a five minute ride through an industrial office park. Very scenic. Oh! And we also got lots of samples.
268: I’ve started and restarted this blog post several times now. I even deleted it and restarted it with the exact same first sentence I’m using. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, which I guess is why I’m not a professional writer. Sometimes since we’ve been here it feels like we just get screwed by big things, little things, medium things. From permit issues to foreign exchange rates, we’ve had our fair share of “well, it is what is” issues. I didn’t know I was stressed out filing our taxes this year. I thought for sure we would owe $30,000, which John thought was an exaggeration. I already had the amount in my mind. It was a very precisely calculated number that I totally made up. We had a much better time preparing our taxes this year than last since we knew what kinds of documents and information we would need, John did most of the work rather than me, and we made wine mandatory. We got everything together in early February and waited for the numbers to fall where they may. We just got our final return, and it was much much better news than I thought. Turns out John was right, and I totally exaggerated. But will the difference cover the medical bills to cover my high blood pressure? So this time our “it is what it is” situation worked in our favor, and the US will just have to make it another year without our tax dollars (don’t worry, Switzerland is getting plenty of our tax francs). Actually, this will probably just help with covering the increased social security taxes this year. Have fun and don’t spend it all in one place, Uncle Sam. | "I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." - Arthur Godfrey March 23, 2013 | "You're only as good as your last haircut." - Fran Lebowitz March 24, 2013 | John (on the way to the grocery store): We need to get some haircuts. Danielle: What do mean haircuts? John: You know, black beans. We need haircuts black. The french word for "beans": haricots = haircuts. John's French is really coming along.
269: "All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" - Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts March 27, 2013 Pro about living in Switzerland during Easter: We get a four day weekend! Con about living in Switzerland during Easter: No Cadbury eggs in sight. Toss up. | "We too played on the great European stage, and ours was not the smallest role." - Sandor Pet April 3, 2013 Budapest slowly climbed John's favorite European city list as our long weekend wore on. It started just above Paris by default (which is at the bottom), so it had some work to do. We checked into our hotel, and we immediately fell in love with the square and church we look over from our room. We went to our traditional Hungarian dinner that night and both ordered the Hungarian special which was goulash, goose leg, and a fruit strudel for dessert. I didn't know I liked goose leg that much, and John didn't know he liked fruit strudel that much. It was soooo good. | Our view. Slightly different than Issaquah.
270: The next morning we woke up to rain. Like Seattle rain where you look like an idiot for using your umbrella (and you're not really sure which way to point it), but it's really misty and my hair gets all frizzy. So we took a walk. We wandered through the shopping streets and up to the main part of downtown by the river. Budapest is divided into two sides, Buda and Pest. Creative. The sides are divided by the Danube river in between. And there are beautiful buildings on both sides. It's a really beautiful city, and you can see all of the beautifulness from all angles. Even beautiful on a Seattle day. | We decided to do the city tour where an old Hungarian lady told us about the city. We couldn't help but think that she had lived through most of the history she recounted to us.
271: One of my favorite moments of all of Europe so far has been the view from Gellert Hill where we could see the entire city for miles and miles. Kind of like the Space Needle but with less skyscrapers and volcanos and more Eastern Europe and spired buildings. | We then went up to Buda castle and Mathias Church which sit on top of the hill over the river on the Buda side. This is where several Hungarian kings were crowned and married. Kind of like Orcas Island but with less trees and fire alarms and more kings and coronations.
272: AND THEN we found Heaven. Heaven is in Budapest. In the form of a Mexican restaurant called The Iguana. We ordered mojitos, margaritas (yes, plural of both of those), guacamole, and jalapeno poppers. It was not Hungarian, and I don't care. It was so delicious. If not immersing yourself in the culture is wrong, I don't want to be right. I'd rather eat my poppers. To even it out, however, John had a Hungarian beer that night. We also found slippers in our hotel room. We may or may not have brought them home. The slippers and Mexican restaurant brought Budapest right below Munich for John. Hard to overcome very very large glassess of beer. | The next day it was freezing cold but sunny, which is close enough to walking weather for us. We did a big loop around the city stopping at the Holocaust shoe memorial. The memorial is for those who died during WWII when the Nazis had the Jews line up on the Danube, take off their shoes, and then shot them into the river. The Russians liberated Hungary during WWII, but then they forgot to leave until 1990 when the communist regime was overthrown.
273: Then, since it's better to enjoy the cold on a boat, we took a boat tour down the river. | And we went back to heaven that night for more guac. We got seated upstairs by ourselves, which didn't seem too weird until everyone else was seated downstairs. Every single person. The entire time we ate dinner. So we had our own waitress who brought us fajitas and daiquiris, further confirming it actually was heaven. | Did you know Ronald Reagan was a Seahawks fan?
274: If Budapest is beautiful during the day, it's stunning at night. And it's John's new favorite city, even ranking above London and Barcelona. At least that's what he said after the Iguana margaritas.
275: "Stop worrying so much. Worrying is using your imagination to create things that you don't want." April 6, 2013 It feels like just yesterday that we moved over here, and now, literally yesterday, we are starting the process of moving back. We had someone come to give us an estimate for the move, and whereas last time we had a ton of questions, this time we had barely any since we know how it works. Some days I am ready to move back right away, and some days I already miss being here. Very weird mix of emotions. John has a countdown of the days until he flies home, but I'm not even to the point of counting the months. I think (know) the next few months are going to fly by since we have lots of fun things planned and not fun things planned like moving. It's one of those times when it's important to seize the moments and enjoy the present but so hard not to focus on the future. I need to work on that. I feel more at peace with the decision to move back than I thought I would. I know that it's the right time for us to leave the land of naked statues and chocolate, and John, not surprisingly knows that too. | "Ummm, I'm gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk... oh oh! and I almost forgot ahh, I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay." - Bill Lumbergh April 6, 2013 Long weekend in the US: Taking off Friday or Monday. Both if it's Christmas. Long weekend in Switzerland: Taking off Wednesday through the following Tuesday. Yes, that is five vacation days, seven days in total. Also known as one week in the US. I prefer Europe weekends.
276: Move over Madame Drew and Monsieur Holmes. After little over one year, we Dolins have solved a mystery that has astounded the human species far and wide. What is that smell that John keeps smelling in Geneva? He swore it was a perfume that everyone was wearing. I swore that there was no smell. Ah, marriage. But, as of April 7, 2013, the mystery is solved. Sometimes the most seemingly evasive of answers is right under your nose. Pun intended. The flowery, perfumy smell (not to be confused with the other official smell of BO) comes from the "parfumerie". Our local bus line actually ends at the "parfumerie", but we had never ridden it that far. Then, as we took a Sunday walk (not to mix business with pleasure), we happened to smell THE smell. I smelled it too. I even recognized it as the common laundry soap used in this area. And then the smell got stronger and stronger. Until we reached a building with a huge vent just pumping out THE smell. That building happened to be the "parfumerie". Well, by golly! Wouldn't you know?? THE smell is pumped to the city air taking it wherever the wind blows. I even smelled it today in front of my office building. Apparently we're experiencing light northerly winds today. Now on to our next case. Perhaps the Bermuda Triangle. | "It is my business to know what other people don't know." - Sherlock Holmes April 8, 2013
277: But it ended up being the nicest surprise from Rathdrum, Idaho (where the Bunny apparently lives) !!! | We haven't opened the eggs yet, so we're still not sure if they're the real thing. But, if I die while biting into the chocolatey goodness of a Cadbury egg, I will die a happy woman. Thank you Jenn and Easter Bunny!!! You are the best friend / rabbit a girl could ask for!!! | "The Easter Bunny ate all of the carrots that we left for him. What a pig." - Steve Carrell April 12, 2013 | The Easter Bunny came!!! And he is a Russian spy. | We received a notice that we had a package. It looked like a Russian bomb. Luckily, John was the one who picked it up from the post office. | "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" - Ronald Reagan April 15, 2013 | Last Thursday I spent quite a bit of time at this little piece of paradise: | I hit three countries in one day flying from Amsterdam to Berlin in the morning and then back to Geneva that night. I don't think 10 hours at the old East Berlin airport counts as "visiting Berlin", unfortunately. And it was for work, so it really wasn't very fun. The airport was not the nicest, but apparently this guy found something to get excited about. He used about half of his one piece of carry-on baggage to transport sausages. Sounds like something John would do.
278: "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." - Margaret Atwood April 16, 2013 If one were to try a pick up line on Spring in Geneva, this would be how the conversation would go: Picker upper: Come here often? Spring: Not really. About once a year actually, but this year I'm really late to the party since I had to spend extra time getting ready. But don't I look great?! Picker upper: Yes, you look beautiful, but that was a mean trick. Can I take you home with me and cuddle forever? It was gorgeous out this weekend, so we spent Saturday afternoon on Britney's terrace and Sunday afternoon on Mont Saleve to see the view of Geneva. Britney's house doesn't have a gondola, but we had to take one up the mountain on Sunday. We made it to the top and could see Geneva and the Jura (mountain range behind Geneva) on one side and the French Alps on the other. Not too shabby of a view.
279: We also saw some para-gliders and a hang-glider take off from the cliff. After my heart attack when the other people jumped, I decided not to run off the side of the mountain. | The view from the para-glider take off point. | And, to complete the spring experience, we had our first dinner on the balcony of the year with views of France on one side and France, including Mont Blanc, on the other. | “It is a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions. This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.” - Dave Berry April 21, 2013 | Apparently this friendly face was looking especially approachable yesterday because John had four people ask him for directions, a signature, etc. And although he does look like a very nice person, he also looks very American. From the hoodie sweatshirt to the softshell black jacket to the non-skinny jeans to the WHITE tennis shoes, it's pretty obvious. He also has no cigarette, scarf, or poodle. He always looks so confused, and I have to jump in and explain that we have no idea where we are either, we don't want to sign anything, and John can't even read the flier you are trying to shove in his hand. John just keeps walking and saying in his American accent, "Non, merci!"
280: Deo for the BO April 22, 2013 I am going to run out of deodorant this week. The plastic is slowly rising to the surface of the stick, and I'm trying to hold on as long as possible. Normally I would just stop by Target to pick up my two pack for $4 and be on my merry way, but I haven't had to buy deodorant here yet, and let's just say it doesn't take up a lot of shelf space at the store with the brimming options. I settled on this lovely stick of "shower fresh FRESH". It's just a little guy and cost over $4. And it's a liquidy roll-on which isn't my favorite. And it has a touch of alcohol smell which also isn't my favorite. Not sure I'm going to survive for another four months, but I will try. Sometimes you just gotta suck it up. C'est la vie. | "The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy." -Sam Levenson April 25, 2013 I received a letter from my grandma today. In it, she enclosed a slip of paper with her phone number on it. Below the number, she wrote: Best Times Sat - until 2:00 Sun afternoon Rest of time in & out of room My 97 year old grandma has a more active social life than I do when she is only reachable twice per week. I'm both pathetic and proud.
281: "When your dreams turn to dust, vacuum." - Anonymous April 30, 2013 Life in Geneva is nothing short of glamorous. Views of the tallest mountain in Europe from our balcony, weekend trips to Rome and Paris, and having the unique opportunity to buy three vacuums in a year and a half. Purchasing appliances is of course one of my favorite past-times. Who wouldn't want to spend their hard earned money on items you hate to use? It just makes it that much more exciting imagining all of the hours we will get to spend together once I get the beauty home with me. I bought a vacuum when I arrived in Switzerland. I purchased the cheapest model available, for 30 euros, since it only had to last two years to clean a 50 square meter apartment. It was almost tempting to buy a dust buster instead. That vacuum broke a couple of months ago, so we purchased the next model up... no bag! It was snowing that day, so the buses weren't running regularly. I carried that thing all the way home from the grocery store. Uphill one way. In the snow. Across the border where they asked me to declare it. Well, fool us once, shame on you, vacuum. Fool us twice, shame on us and shame on the F Bus and the snow the day we bought it. Fool us three times, well now we have a guarantee! We bought the cheapest model available (it even has "discount" in the name), but we made sure to pick up the guarantee this time. Yes, we guaranteed our 30 euro vacuum cleaner that we plan on using for three months. We had to take the receipt to the customer service counter, fill out a form, take the form and receipt to another customer service representative who stamped it, pledge our first born child, and then pinky promise. Sorry Dolin child #1. But if you had to purchase three vacuums in the course of 18 months, you would have done the same thing.
282: Do you want fries with that? May 3, 2013 I spent part of this week in Hamburg, Germany. I still haven’t stopped laughing at the hamburger jokes in my head. I guess people who come from Hamburg would be known as Hamburgers. What if Americans were known as Hot Dogs. Well, I have been called that from time to time. Kidding. Sometimes traveling solo is a good thing. So Hamburg is a nice city. Much larger than I imagined. To be honest I haven’t imagined Hamburg much in my life, but anyway, it was bigger than I thought. I walked around on Wednesday to the harbor and downtown. One thing is for sure – this city has more churches than McDonalds has fries. And in the harbor I realized I had accidentally walked all the way to California. Ahoy San Diego! | Only five of the steeples would fit in this picture. There were more to the right. | On Thursday evening I decided to walk in the other direction from my hotel. So instead of taking a left into the city of the Stepford Wives, I took a right. Into the offspring of Aurora Avenue North in Seattle and the Las Vegas strip. As a woman traveling alone I felt like I should definitely hit apparently one of the most famous red light districts. I didn’t see any actual red lights, but I did see a lot of interesting things. Apparently Hamburg puts all of its interesting on one street. I finally turned off the street and went down to the harbor district where I found a great little seafood restaurant. As I got up to leave I accidentally brought the tablecloth with me. Totally like the movies. I caught the glass, but the candle fell on the floor and got wax everywhere. Not being able to blame this incident on anyone else is a definite negative about traveling solo. Getting to eat all of the garlic butter myself at dinner totally made up for it though.
283: "I'm not above using obscure Mexican battles to justify my drinking." - Unknown May 5, 2013 Happy Cinco de Mayo! Surprisingly, this isn't a holiday that is celebrated much in Switzerland. John and I are making up for the rest of the Swiss population, however, and purchased a six pack of Corona, a lime, and enchilada makings for our own little fiesta. Ole! | "I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again." - Joan Rivers May 7, 2013 John and I had our preliminary apartment walkthrough last week. So, the weekend before we cleaned the apartment. Like cleaned the entire apartment. Top to bottom. Front to back. Side to side. I leaned out windows to clean the exterior after I did the interior. John vacuumed above cupboards. We took scratch pads to every square inch of the tile backsplash. And we were each rewarded. John got a small piece of wallpaper. It was green, orange, and yellow flowers. We are sure it existed before we did. I found a pack of US gum that I had forgotten about! I replaced the weird Swiss gum in my purse right away. The walkthrough man showed up at our apartment 30 minutes early. Who shows up to an appointment where things are supposed to be clean 30 minutes early? John was still vacuuming the bedroom. Walkthrough man took about four pictures, didn't turn on any lights, didn't open any cupboards, asked us if we had all of the keys, and then left about four minutes later. I'm not sure if this is good news, bad news, or just no news? Guess our security deposit will find out in August.
284: "The difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists." - Charles Dickens May 8, 2013 | Ah, spring. Flowers blooming, birds chirping, and construction. So much construction. Right outside of our apartment. We received a notice a couple of months ago indicating that the city was going to put in a new heating system and to expect construction through July 31. Perfect timing. These people start early. They are always out by 7am, and John and I once swore they started at 5:30am. So we generally wake up to the soothing sounds of BEEP BEEP BEEP and drilling concrete. Peaceful. It's way worse for John since he has to listen to it at home all day. At least I get to leave. But of course they don't work weekends. "The trouble with jogging is that by the time you realize you're not in shape for it, it's too far to walk back." - Franklin Jones May 12, 2013 John and I went on a run in the park near our apartment this afternoon. I passed by another woman who was jogging on the track as well. My attire: shorts, t-shirt, running shoes. The Swiss woman's attire: slacks, blazer, blouse, silk scarf, nylons, fancy flats. Seriously.
285: "You go to Santorini to get married and come to Mykonos to get divorced." - Jim, our trusty pool bartender May 27, 2013 | John and I just got back from a trip to the Greek islands, and we both agree that it's a good thing we didn't go there first when we arrived in Europe because we would have never gone anywhere else. It was AWESOME. Greece was John's top Europe pick, and now we have a shared favorite Europe destination. Mykonos and Santorini kicked Paris' butt. We flew to Mykonos first. | After: Mykonos | Before: Geneva | The night we arrived we walked into town on a gyro hunt. We had a recommended spot to go, and even though the town is less than 1 km all around, it took us about an hour to find it. It is the cutest town we have ever seen but also the most confusing. Great when wandering, not so great when hangry.
286: Mykonos town was beautiful. | The streets were tiny little things with white stucco buildings on both sides. That didn't stop the trucks and cars from driving right though... whether there were pedestrians in the way or not.
287: We spent many hours at our hotel pool and bar. The view was gorgeous and the drinks delicious. We also ate lots of dolmades and greek salad. And played a lot of games. Kind of like I imagine Heaven to be.
289: Our hotel was the quintessential Greek white building with blue trim. And toilets when you weren't supposed to flush toilet paper. And towels that wouldn't dry overnight in the bathroom because of the humidity. Paradise. | We also stopped by the quintessential non-Greek ice cream chain of Ben & Jerry's for some milkshakes. I GOT A COOKIE DOUGH MILKSHAKE. For people who don't get ice cream because our freezer is too small and doesn't actually freeze, this was a life highlight. | Monday night was Greek night at our hotel. We learned how to make tzatziki from a real Greek woman (Anna, the owner of the hotel) and then got Greek dancing lessons from Anna and her professional Greek dancer husband, Yanni. As tempting as it is, John and I are not going to become professional Greek dancers. We are clearly not flexible enough for the kicks. So we celebrated with some more drinks.
290: Our last day was rough and consisted of baklava, more drinks, more pool time, more walking around the cutest town ever, more drinks (this time on a balcony over the water in "little Venice" as we decided to switch up our sunset vantage point), and then a pork souvlaki dinner at Niko's Taverna. | We did not want to leave Mykonos, John especially. Little did we know that Santorini was just going to make the best trip ever even better. We got in line at the Seajet ferry dock, and, in the Greek way, waited for our boat that was an hour late which no one announced in the hot sun.
291: "Beware of Santorini's ancient spell- once you come here you'll always want to come back." May 27, 2013 | We were so sad to say goodbye to Mykonos that we didn't even give Santorini a proper hello. And then the view from our room was one of the most beautiful views we've ever had, we got a 1/2 litre of Santorini white wine welcome drink, and there was a towel animal on our bed, and we realized that our vacation just got even better.
292: We stayed right on the Caldera, which is a large crater formed by a volcanic blast sometime in BC. There are huge cliffs down the side and then buildings that drop all over the top. This means we also had our very own stairmaster.
293: The first night we walked around our little town of Imerovigli, picked up some Donkey Beer, made some new best friends (a couple from LA, Teri and Dan, and a couple from Philly, Jackee and Chris, staying in our hotel), and watched the sunset.
294: We went to a Greek restaurant right up the hill from us with the GBFFs (Greek best friends forever), which is where and with whom we ended up eating dinner all three nights. One of the couples was telling us that they were seated next to a British couple and American couple at dinner a few nights before, and the American couple was totally hitting on the British couple making plans for trips in the future, inviting them to come visit, etc. And the British couple was totally not interested. So we all decided to be best friends and go on all vacations together from now on. And buy the dilapidated building next to our hotel together on the credit card of the couple who left first. The next day we woke up to hurricane winds that would not stop. We decided to go on our planned hike to Oia (pronounced ee-ya) anyway. But first we had the breakfast of champions that I will never forget. This breakfast was perfect in every way. When I had to pour myself my own bowl of cereal to eat on the couch when we got home, my heart and stomach yearned for the fresh OJ on the balcony.
296: The hike is about seven miles along the rim of the crater. It was beautiful. And very windy. Which is why there are only pictures of short haired people along the walk. We finally made it to Oia, a very posh Greek town with blue domed buildings, marble sidewalks, and people dressed nicely. Except for us who had just walked seven miles in hot wind. But we still enjoyed the scenery even if the scenery didn't enjoy us. We took the bus back to our hotel and, as gluttons for punishment, went for another little hike to the old capital on the huge rock in front of our hotel. Apparently it used to be the capital city, and now there is just a church and some ruins. We think we should resettle there. There is already one room ready to go.
298: Everytime we got back to the hotel, there was a new towel animal. Having never had a towel animal before, I was overwhelmed with the variety. John made me a heart with our old yellow towels when we got back. Nice gesture, but no googly eyes, and the view from our bedroom just isn't as good.
299: We watched the best sunset of the trip from the hotel balcony over Mythos, John's Greek beer, complimentary champagne and our new GBFFs.
302: Wind shots:
303: We spent our last day in Santorini walking through even stronger winds (not gusts, like constant wind for 48 hours) and down to the other large town on the island, Fira. We had another successful gyro hunt and then headed back to the hotel so we wouldn't miss the nightly "sunset treat" from the hotel and to meet up with our friends for dinner. The usual.
304: We were even sadder to leave Santorini. We hopped on the ferry again and got to stop in Mykonos one more time on our way out and had a last hurrah Greek platter for lunch / snack / dinner. | Then John, John's week old facial hair, and I flew out of the Greek islands with very sad, but very happy hearts.
305: “A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.” - Bob Hope May 30, 2013 We need to run an errand at the bank. There isn't one in our neighborhood, so we have to go to the branch downtown. So I look at the hours online, and it says they're open 8 to 6. I leave work early today to make it down there by 6 with a little time since I always get lost in that neighborhood. I arrive at the bank at 5:07pm. The doors are closed. I go around to the other doors, and those are closed too. I look at the friendly little posting next to the door, and the hours are actually 8:30am - 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Thanks for the convenient hours, bank! That happens to be when I have most of my free time to run errands. So now I have to go again tomorrow during lunch. So far I've spent about an hour on this stupid errand, and I haven't actually done the errand. I can't wait to give my friendly teller at the little branch at my local grocery store a big hug when we get back. At 6pm.
306: "The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off." - Anonymous June 2, 2013 | Last Friday I had to work late. There was also a building BBQ at our apartment. I started getting messages from John around 6:30pm that went something like this: "BBQ smells good. Getting hungry." Which just made me hungry but without the actual BBQ smells. I finally left the office a few hours later and then had to stop at the airport grocery store (the only one open after 7pm) to check for pizza sauce. Turns out that grocery store doesn't carry pizza sauce, so we had to move Friday night pizza night to Saturday, but then we actually had some sauce in the fridge the whole time, but someone not to be named didn't see it probably due to the sheer size of the fridge, so it was all for nothing. Anyway. I had to wait for the next bus a bit since the buses don't run quite as frequently on Friday nights. I walk up near our building and smell the BBQ smell. Yum. But I didn't want to walk through the crowd up to the apartment and then not actually attend the BBQ. So I turned around and went into the building next door and went down to the basement. There are several apartment buildings all in a row, and ours is in the middle. John figured out one day last year that all of the buildings are connected in the basement with concrete hallways and big blue fire doors everywhere. It looks like a bomb shelter down there where people would live for like 50 years without going outside until some alien discovered them. And it probably is knowing the Swiss. If the world is going to end, hopefully it does so in the next two months because John and I will be safe. I walked through the creepy basement hallways and felt like I was walking a little far. Sure enough, I ended up at the building on the other side of ours. So I walked back to make sure I didn't miss ours, which I didn't, and then exited the same way I came in. I then decided to try the other door to our building. I walked down the stairs to the basement, but the big blue door was locked. I walked down another floor to who knows where, and that big blue door was locked too. I walked back up two stories and once again exited the same way I had come in. I ended up entering our building, walking right through the middle of everyone, waiting at the elevator awkwardly since it was being used, and then getting uncomfortable with the staring and walking up the seven flights of stairs to our apartment. It was over an hour commute where it usually takes me about 20 minutes. It was a hopping Friday night.
307: "An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her." - Agatha Christie June 13, 2013 | A funny difference between Europe and the US is that in Europe when people introduce themselves at work, they say their age. Like, it comes in the same sentence as your name. And today, at a work meeting, when the manager gave his little elevator pitch and didn’t mention his age, someone asked. I think it’s weird, and it immediately gets me thinking about lawsuits. So American.
308: "I'm from Sweden. We don't wear clothes in Sweden." - Alexander Skarsgard June 16, 2013 | Last week John and I went to the land of blondes, Ikea, and many hours of daylight... Sweden. Going to Scandinavia was on my Europe bucket list, so I made sure to fit it in before we go home. We hopped on our friendly EasyJet flight and settled in our seats, 4A and 4B. We were surprised that we were so close to the front of the plane because we're usually at least in row 20-something. I got out my Kindle, put on my seatbelt, and practiced saying "Yeah" with a Swedish accent. And then, on our longest Europe flight yet, a clean cut looking young man with the WORST BO ever sat right next to me in 4C. Everytime he moved, I got a whiff. It was awful. I wanted to run out of the plane and board the one heading to Newark. Yes, Newark. It was that bad. Surprisingly, I survived the flight, and we made it to Stockholm. John immediately decided he liked Stockholm with all of the pretty blondes and redheads walking around. I immediately reminded him that he was married. | The first thing you notice in Stockholm is the prevalence of 7-11s. Yep, the green / red / orange signed Slurpee stores. On every corner, like Starbucks in Seattle. | Also, duly noted is that 7-11s and garbage smell the same no matter what country you're in. First thing on our agenda was to find and consume some Swedish meatballs. They were delish. And John even found a super dark beer, so all was right with the world.
309: The next day was cloudy, so we headed to the number 1 Stockholm Trip Advisor recommended and parent recommended (since my parents were in Stockholm last fall) site, the Vasa Museum. | The Vasa was a huge ship that was built in the 1600s to go to war. They made elaborate carvings, painted it, armed it, put about 200 men on it, and then about a mile out of port it sunk. About thirty people drowned, and it layed on the sea floor just outside of the city for about 300 years until they decided to pull it out in the 1950s. About 90% of the ship is still intact and was preserved underwater. There are also some skeletons, clothing, pots, weapons, etc recovered. It's now on display in a museum where it's like a little peek into the 1600s. It was a lot cooler than either of us thought it would be. | That evening we headed to the port to hop aboard our first ever cruise ship to go to Tallinn, Estonia. I was assuming it would just be a little boat from the 1970s, but it was way better.
310: "I hope one day when I say I'm from Estonia, people don't say: 'What? Where's that?'" - Carmen Kass June 16, 2013 | When I booked our overnight boat trip to Tallinn, I was not imagining cruise ship. But it totally was. It had Bingo and everything. So I made John pose so I could draw him naked, like on the Titanic. Kidding. | We got to cruise through the Archipelago, a series of 2400 islands off the coast of Sweden. It was so green and tree-y that it reminded us of home. With lots of beautiful boats and houses interspersed. In Sweden, all land is "free use", so you can camp on any of the islands as long as you can't see any houses from your campsite, even if someone owns the land. We didn't camp, though, we cruised.
311: At Rick Steves' suggestion, we had pre-ordered the buffet or, for a fancier Swedish term, "smorgasbord" where we gorged on mostly, sushi, salmon prepared various ways, cheese, and ice cream. We totally hit the Kids Corner dessert bar for ice cream with toppings. | The ship was nice since it was built in 2004, but the decor was totally 80s. Not sure who their interior designer was but it wasn't someone born after 1960. | We made it to Tallinn the next morning and found our way to the hotel. Rather than a gorgeous, perky blonde girl checking us in and asking how she could help, we got a Russian-y guy who spoke to us only enough to let us know our room was not ready yet. So we walked through the adorable medieval city for about two hours to kill time. During WWII Estonia was occupied by Russia, then Germany, then Russia again. They were finally liberated fully in 1994 and have since become one of the most progressive and successful European countries.
313: Then we ran into a couple from San Diego at an imported beer store where John was looking for Red Hook. We quickly realized that they were us. They are living in Switzerland (German side, but still) for two years for her job. He is having trouble getting a work permit. They are moving back to CA at the end of this year. It was so weird. So we ate lunch together at a place recommended to them. It was a throwback to the 1500s, so we ate elk soup and ox sausages by candlelight. There was no electricity. Luckily they did make beer and cider back then. | When we finally checked in to our hotel, this was our bathroom. Bigger than our current apartment. And interesting placement of the toilet. | We spent the evening walking around old town where they were having a Tallinn festival, so there was lots of entertainment. We liked this band so much that we stopped for some wine / beer in the main square to listen before dinner. The next act wasn't on until 8pm, so we thought they had another hour left on stage. Unfortunately they ended their performance at 7, before we even got our drinks. Oops.
314: We ate dinner in a cave, and it was delicious. John added to his types of meat eaten count for the day when he got the wild boar.
315: Since the sun doesn't go down, really ever, we took an evening stroll. | The next day said goodbye to Estonia and boarded our ship back to Stockholm to see more blonde girls. I am a great wife.
316: "Dignity is like a perfume; those who use it are scarcely aware of it." - Queen Christina of Sweden June 16, 2013 | We took a newer ship back to Stockholm. We boarded and proceeded to find our room. We walked down a couple of hallways following the signs to the 8300s. Then we ended up at a door to the deluxe rooms and suites. Apparently we got an upgrade on the room because that is totally not what I booked, and we got one of the deluxe rooms at the very front of the ship with a free fruit basket and mini bar. Score! So it was John's turn to draw me. Just kidding, Dad. | The normal dinner time for the buffet was full, so we hit the early bird special. The older ones aren't quite as quick, though, so it worked out okay as we could maneuver around them. We then watched the sunset over the Baltic Sea from the outside deck... at 10:30pm.
317: We hung out at the "Starlight Lounge" listening to music for a while too. It's so weird - people wouldn't clap. The entertainment was actually really good, but from the audience reaction you would think it was me singing up there. Anyway, then it was after midnight, and this is what it looked like outside. Twilight. | Our first day back in Stockholm, we went to Skansen, a zoo / old town / aquarium / rides theme park. It was way bigger than we thought it was, so we ended up spending all day there.
318: And John got pooped on by a bird. Again. I tried not to laugh, but I did, and it was pretty funny. If you haven't heard about the seagull incident of 2006, ask John next time you see him. | I really wanted to take a boat ride, since I guess the cruise didn't count, so we took a little boat to Fjderholmarna (had to look that name up again, and luckly I'm using a Swiss keyboard with the right ). And unlike Skansen, it was a little island that was much smaller than we imagined, and it took us about 30 minutes to walk the whole thing. | Apparently Swedish sunbathing is a lot like Seattle sunbathing - rocky.
319: That afternoon we took the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo walking tour. We hit all the main stops like Salander's apartment, Blomkvist apartment, the coffee bar, the Millenium offices, and Bjurman's apartment and office, which we were staying surprisingly close to. | AND THEN we saw the royal wedding party. The princess of Sweden, who is actually of French descent, got married in Stockholm that day. The royal guests were bussed through the streets. We decided to wait with everyone else to see the princess do her drive by. Little did we know that it was going to be a very long wait. John was totally uninterested after about five minutes, but after about 50 minutes, we were going to see the princess that we had just heard of for the first time the day before. | Can you see the princess of Japan with her tiara towards the front? Unfortunately I left my tiara at home this trip so that I could fit everything into my EasyJet approved carry-on.
320: And then she drove by and that was that. | Only ALL of the roads were closed. Stockholm is made up of several islands, and we there were barricades and cops and soldiers between us and our hotel. We ended up watching the parade of all of the official people leave as well. It took forever and was so not worth it. | That night, though, I finally got John drunk enough off water to ride the lion I was begging him to ride since we got to Stockholm. | Our last day we walked around, swam through a huge thunderstorm without our umbrellas, and took funny pictures of John.
321: We found a European TGI Friday's with everyone sitting outside and smoking cigarettes. Fashion alert: Rolled up jeans are coming soon. On men. They were everywhere. | The morning we left we took a walking tour of the city, learned that the Swedish queen doesn't really speak Swedish, saw where Stockholm Syndrome was born, walked by where the Nobel prizes are handed out, and said goodbye to the pretty blonde girls.
322: "In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Albert Camus June 16, 2013 | Apparently Geneva decided not to have spring this year, and we are now in summer. Hot, humid summer. Yum. John brought up the fans from the cellar this weekend, so it's official. I'm feelin' hot hot HOT! | “I've always wanted to go to Switzerland to see what the army does with those wee red knives.” - Billy Connolly June 19, 2013 | Switzerland cracks me up sometimes. I took two stealthy pictures today to show what life is like in Switzerland for normal, everyday people. I should work for the CIA with my stalker picture taking skills. I haven't tapped any phone lines yet, though, so maybe I'm underqualified. | Exhibit A: Grown man. In a business suit. With his scooter. Like the one I rode everywhere when I was six. | Exhibit B: A Ferrari stroller. On the bus. My child isn't getting anything Ferrari until I do. Get in line, kid.
323: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.” - Anonymous June 24, 2013 | John and our apartment survived Hurricane Geneva 2013. Like it was a Category 1 hurricane freak summer storm. Winds of up to 130 kph at the airport... which is right next to us. | John said he stood outside looking at the rain. And then it rained harder. And then the wind started blowing. And then it started blowing harder. And then it started hailing. And then John decided it was time to come inside. And then John decided it was time to close the windows. And then he thought about where he should go if the apartment blew away. And he wasn't being dramatic. | When it was all over, about 15 minutes later, leaves, branches, and hail were scattered over the roads. So were tiles from roofs. And so were actual trees. There were several cars in the area that were damaged by the hail. Either the windshield was broken or there were dents all over the car. Luckily John and I don't own one of those, so we didn't have to worry about that. It dropped 12 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes. I was in a windowless office at a client all day, so I missed everything. But John sent me pictures, at least until he almost hid in the bathroom.
324: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” - Edmund Hillary June 25, 2013 | John and I have been watching the weather every weekend for the past few months waiting for a clear day to go see the Matterhorn. We’ve had some sunny days during the week, but every weekend it has been raining. Not so conducive to seeing a mountain. This weekend, though, the weather forecast for the town of Zermatt which is at the base of the mountain was “cloudless skies will dominate”, so we decided to go. It’s a 3 hour 45 minute train ride each way to the mountain. Much closer than a 14 hour flight plus a 3 hour 45 minute train ride, however, so we had to do it before we left Switzerland. We left our apartment at 7am and hopped on the train and then another train until we arrived in Zermatt at about 11am. We looked up, and there it was. There were clouds over the middle of it, but we saw the bottom and the top. We took a couple of pictures from the town on a whim, not knowing that that would be the only time we saw the top of the Matterhorn that day. | I wanted to ride the funicular, gondola, and another gondola to Rothorn, because as Rick Steves says, “This is where you get the classic Matterhorn views.” Unfortunately, however, the two gondolas hadn’t opened for summer yet. We took the funicular up anyway and then ended up on a DDM (Dolin Death March) for the next four hours as we hiked to the next gondola station.
325: We took the “Walk of the Five Lakes” which boasted swimming in four of them and reflections of the Matterhorn in three of them. The glacier lakes were really beautiful, but we didn’t see any reflections. Other than maybe clouds. We didn't see the trail for much of the way either.
326: We also ran into several wildlife creatures including vicious sheep, threatening mountain goats, and a marmot in the distance. It was strange just to walk right through the animals who could have cared less that we were there. Although I cared about their poop I was trying not to step in. | We finally made it back to our funicular stop and got the best views of the base of the mountain that we had seen that day. So we figure if we put all of our mountain sightings together that we saw the whole thing. We both agreed that we could successfully check the Matterhorn off of our Swiss bucket list since after 8 hours in the train in one day, we’re not going back.
327: "To me, glamour isn't about being sparkly." - Tori Amos July 10, 2013 | The movers are coming next Friday. Weird! I’m trying to enjoy my bed as long as I can until I’m back to my air mattress island in the middle of the floor. I’m also using all of the kitchen utensils I can before I go back to my box of plastic Fred Meyer silverware. I literally have used each one of our knives in the last few days just to make sure they know they are loved before I send them away for three months until the big delivery sometime this fall. We have several boxes stored in both of our parents’ houses. They charged us a nominal storage fee of one Red Hook Brewery lunch last week. Best storage deal in Seattle. I am looking forward to seeing what I thought was important enough to store for two years. I think there is a box of sports bras. But, really, if I’ve survived for two years without them, do I really need them? Tomorrow is my one month countdown to home. I have a new post-it list of things I’m supposed to do before I leave that I don’t want to do. This includes sending in paperwork, making phone calls, and visiting my friends at my favorite cantonal population office. It’s so glamorous to be me, particularly since as of next Friday all food I consume has to be able to be cut with a plastic knife.
328: "Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved." -Erich Fromm July 10, 2013 | Being far from home is hard when we miss fun things like weddings, babies, and just hanging out on Friday night. But being far from home when bad things happen is even worse. John’s mom passed away suddenly on Monday, July 1. It was horrible, and I will never forget that day and the feeling in my core that felt like it would never go away. We took the first flight back to Seattle on Tuesday to be with John’s family. I am now back in Geneva, and even though the world keeps spinning, it will never be the same for us. I literally cried out all of my tears, and by the time we got to Seattle, I didn’t have any left. I can just hear Diana saying, “Don’t be stupid; you do not need to cry over me.” I wrote her a letter, and hopefully she can read it from wherever she is. Hopefully she is watching me write this right now and telling me to stop crying. Dear Diana, I wish I would have written this while you were still here for me to watch your face as you read it, but I will just do the tears for the both of us. The sadness comes in waves, and whenever I feel it coming on I try to focus on how fortunate I was to have known you so long and so deeply. You were just the kind of woman you admired: strong, nurturing, opinionated, loving, and so fun. You had the most welcoming spirit of “everyone is family”, and I have always felt like a part of your family. I was always invited to family events, I always got birthday cards and gifts, I knew I could call at any time, and I always knew you would be there. You were adventurous, outspoken, elegant, and beautiful. Beautiful and photogenic – and that is a lucky combination.You were supportive of us - John individually, me individually, and our relationship together. You wanted nothing more than our happiness, and you freely gave motherly unconditional love. To both of us.
329: What I admire most about you, however, is the kind of mother you were. I know that you know how great of a son you had, but you should also know how great of a husband you raised. I feel lucky to have married your son every single day. He is kind, respectful, enthusiastic, affectionate, loyal, and giving, and I have oftentimes thought of reminding you what a wonderful job you did. He is a gentleman. Not a pull out my seat at a restaurant type of gentleman but a gentleman who always puts my needs above his. And I can get my own chair anyway. He spoils me. Not with material things but with I love yous and hugs and attention. He always makes me feel loved. He cleans. Well. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Diana. He is energetic. I know this must have been exhausting when he was four with a He-Man sword, but it's so fun to have a partner who wants to experience life. He loves with his whole heart. This is something that I know he learned from you. I owe all of my happiness to you. We will always be the two women who loved John most, and I am happy to share that honor with you. I can only hope that someday he and I will raise children with the care, delight, and pride that you did. You were a bright and brilliant woman, and we will keep dancing to Elvis and telling your funny stories. So wherever you are, I hope you are at peace. I promise that I will take care of your boy. Love, Danielle
330: "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." -Abraham Lincoln July 13, 2013 Today is Diana's open house memorial. The weather is supposed to be perfect: 75 and sunny. I have been thinking about everyone all day today. I love you all. I also edited the letter since it didn't feel exactly right to me before. You will be missed every day, Diana. | “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” - Coco Chanel July 14, 2013 | Happy France 4th of July, which is July 14th. Being in Geneva, I get to cheat and watch the French fireworks from our balcony. See how close we are to France?? | "Home is where the heart is." July 16, 2013 John is back in Geneva! Yay! He arrived safely and soundly this evening from Seattle and is now asleep in bed. This is probably the third time since we've lived together that he has gone to bed before me. And the count for how many times he has woken up before me is similar. I'm so happy to have him back! It feels homey here again. In other news, our sidewalk smells like pee. Hot weather + no rain + the other sidewalk closed since they are still doing construction + dogs + I swear I smell human pee = nasty pee smells and stains on the sidewalk outside of our apartment. Waiting to get back to our suburbia planned community with rain...
331: “Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.” - Johnny Carson July 19, 2013 | This is the sign outside of a post office in our area. Note that they are open from 8:30 - 10:00am and from 2:00 - 6:00pm on weekdays (10:00-12:30 on Saturdays). I know I need a four hour lunch break after I work an hour and a half in the mornings. | “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” - Albert Einstein July 19, 2013 | Today is moving day. Goodbye couch. Goodbye bed. Hello air mattress. Hello Club Dolin with the huge dance floor in the family room. We sat on these watching the movers, and then we had to get up so they could move them. | Our new crib. Homey. | It's so awkward sitting on the couch watching people pack your stuff. That's why I'm hiding behind my laptop screen pretending I'm solving world hunger or researching my new theorem. In reality, I have checked facebook ten times already (not too much action when 99% of your friend list is sleeping) and made sure the royal baby hasn't been born yet. For the record, he / she wasn't born 20 minutes ago, 15 minutes ago, 7 minutes ago, or 1 minute 34 seconds ago. I thought of something more awkward though. Other people sitting on the couch watching me pack.
332: "Prosperous farmers mean more employment, more prosperity for the workers and the business men of every industrial area in the whole country." - Franklin D. Roosevelt July 21, 2013 | The Saturday market is our favorite part of Switzerland. Actually, it's in France, but it's closer to us than downtown Geneva, so it counts. It's going to be weird when we don't have to bring our passports to Costco. The market is totally typically French. There are accordions playing as you enter. Merchants yell out deals on the fresh fruit of the day. There are cheese stands, wine stands, olive stands, and veggie stands. There are dogs, cigarettes, and people chatting right in the middle of the pathway. We have our little circle down pat and go to our favorite vendors weekly. | This is John's caramel guy. He sells homemade caramel at the various markets in the region. He speaks at least four languages (that we know of). He also always throws in some extra caramels in the bag "for the road". He and his caramels will be missed. He will probably also miss our 10 euros / week.
333: "The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival." - Aristotle July 21, 2013 | This weekend we celebrated John's successful survival in Switzerland for two years.We celebrated with a sweaty walk down by the lake, our favorite part of Geneva. John even said that he is glad that we moved here, and he doesn't hate me for it. All in all, success! This is John's top 10 list of things he will miss about Geneva. Note there is nothing there about spending so much time with the wife. But, it's probably true that the chocolate trumps wife. 1) Transportation – It only took me one week to get annoyed at the traffic in Seattle. I wouldn’t mind higher taxes if I could easily take a tram, bus, or train to work over sitting in a car. 2) Cheese – Living in a country known for its fondues has its advantages; really good cheese being one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that cheddar is a great cheese for Tex-Mex but there are other unique amazing cheeses out there to try and enjoy. 3) Britney Spears – Not the pop artist but our friend Carolyne who is the sweetest and nicest person. She has helped both Danielle and I adjust to life in Switzerland and we hope that we can return the kindness when she comes to visit us in the future. 4) Weather – Did you know that the weather can change on an hourly basis or that clouds don’t always mean a constant drizzle of rain? Funny how perception changes when you move outside the constant gray sky of Seattle. 5) Chocolate – We’re not talking about Hershey’s, we’re talking about the good stuff. Light milk or super dark chocolate that tastes like you have died and gone to heaven. Just need hook the Europeans on peanut butter so we can make peanut butter blossoms and bars.
334: 6) Farmers’ Market – All year ‘round and always fresh produce. I feel like the market is where Europe not only beats the US but annihilates in the choice and quality of any super market found in the US. If you want to experience the European lifestyle you must visit and try the produce from a market. 7) Travel – Danielle and I have been to Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Lake Como, Lyon, Southern France, Paris, Luzern, Basel, Zurich, Munich, Stockholm, Tallinn, Budapest, Mykonos, and Santorini. All of these places are within two and a half hours away from the Geneva airport which is a 10 minute walk from our apartment. I should also mention that airport security takes 10 minutes at most to get through. 8) Hot Wine – If wine and hot cider decided on having a child this would be the result. Adding a little Christmas cheer has never been this easy. If you ever have the chance to go to Strasbourg for the ‘Largest Christmas Market in the World’ be sure to purchase a 12oz cup of hot wine (vin chaud) for about three Euros. 9) Snowboarding - $70 per person may seem about right for a lift ticket until you realize it also includes transportation from the center of Geneva to the French Alps. That is right folks, $35 for a lift ticket for the day! As an added bonus we will be boarding above 7000ft which does not see above freezing temperatures during the winter season and has the most breathtaking views. 10) Caramels – I’m eating one right now as a matter of fact is a product Danielle and I purchase from the Farmers’ market. It is much different from the caramels you buy in the store which tend to be more sticky. These caramels crumble just a little bit and should probably be combined with Swiss chocolate to make the most satisfying experience. | We also took our four year anniversary picture.
335: "I always tried to turn every disaster into opportunity." - John Rockefeller July 28, 2013 | Whitney arrived on Thursday, and in true Whitney-Danielle friendship fashion we have had several disasters and some successes. Whit described my apartment as "a seamless blend between the Cold War and soviet Russia". Cozy. Especially since all of our furniture is now home, so we have a rug, two air mattresses, some lamps, and a step stool. Literally that is everything I own. We eat romantic dinners on the rug with the step stool as our "wine bar". The first day Whit was here I had to go to work, so she explored downtown Geneva on her own. She told me stories of a guy who crawled through the bushes to talk to her whose name was Mama-ooo, solving the lasagna crisis of 2013 (I made a lasagna that we have to eat in three days... Whit has definitely been doing her part for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), attracting attention from cops at the UN for taking too many pictures, and people making out on her reading bench at the park, so I am no longer leaving her alone in Europe. We had big plans for Friday night when I got home from work, but I found Whit sleeping in starfish position on the air mattress at the apartment. I decided to start the laundry on my own, and then came up to get the pizza stuff out. Long story short, the heat in the dryer is broken so we had to hang up all soaking clothes around the apartment a la backpacking tour of 2005, Whit didn't actually turn on the oven so our pizza sat out in 90 degree heat for about an hour, and there is a hole in my air mattress so I slept on the Cold War floor. | We recovered, however, by opening some wine, finally eating the most delicious pizza ever at 10pm and not even getting sick, and blowing a fan on the wet sheets hanging over the door to dry them before bed time. Lesson learned: Wine solves all problems.
336: "Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustave Flaubert July 28, 2013 | This weekend Whitney and I decided to explore the greater Geneva area, which means France. Saturday we went to Annecy (now called Annecy in my Pantsy by us, which I'm sure the francais love). It was the hottest day of the year, so we decided that rather than sweating at home, we would sweat while wandering cute shops and looking at a pretty lake. | As the highly rated tour guide that I am, I immediately took Whitney to the grocery store to buy myself some sunglasses and water. After 30 minutes of watching me try on sunglasses at a Rite Aid looking store, I decided I would be a good friend and host, picked a pair, and we were off. We stalked a purse that I ended up buying, perused artwork displayed on the street that Whit ended up buying, and sampled a delicious cookie that we didn't end up buying.
337: Whit got me back for the sunglasses because after walking up the hill to go to the castle (gelato in hand to make it bearable in the heat) and walking back down again, she said she wanted a picture of the church up there. She thought we could see it from the bottom of the hill, but it ended up being at the top. I went with her anyway and sans gelato. | We got to dip our feet in the lake, which was sandy and turquoise. Unfortunately the water was very warm, so it wasn't exactly refreshing, although trying to get out back over the side where we jumped down did prove to be very exhilarating as I tried about three times and got my shorts that I'm wearing all this week dirty. | And we also had the best crepe ever. It was goat cheese, egg, herbs, tomatoes, and honey. We were well fed. Again, in true Whitney-Danielle fashion. | In true Europe fashion, there was an angry, stinky mob trying to get back on the bus to head home. We made it on, though, and continued to solve the lasagna crisis of 2013 back at the apartment.
338: "I think I do more romantic things with you than anyone else I know." - Whitney July 28, 2013 | Whit and I went to Mont Saleve today to get a view of the city and have a little picnic. We took a bus, walk, border crossing, walk, gondola, walk to get there. We headed up to the top for a gorgeous view of the whole Geneva area. We took a little "wike" (like a walk / hike) up to the top and munched on our picnic of bread, bleu de Gex fromage, pepperonies, apples and pears. We got some pictures taken of us, and then headed back down. On the wike back down is when Whitney pointed out that we have done more romantic things together than she has done with anyone else. I have to agree. | We were going to sit by the lake sipping some Processo on the way home, but we checked our trusty weather app on our phones noting that a thunderstorm was rolling in. So we headed back to the apartment to watch the lightening and sheet of rain come closer and closer. And there is nothing more romantic than cool air below 90 degrees blowing through the apartment after hot and humid weather since early last week.
339: “If you want to see paradise on earth, come to Dubrovnik.” - George Bernard Shaw August 7, 2013 | Whit and I woke up at 4am last Monday to board our plane to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Actually, I opened my eyes at 4 when the alarm went off, and Whit was already up in the kitchen waiting for me to wake up. Apparently she was still jet lagged. We packed all the fashionable clothes we could into our EasyJet size approved backpacks. We had heard that the Croatians are extra fashionable and that you may not get served at a restaurant if you aren't dressed trendy enough for them, so we were a little worried. Luckily for Whitney, she was traveling with her most fashion-forward friend. I threw my white Adidas visor on my head (sun protection is always in style) on top of my head, and we were off. Dubrovnik is absolutely beautiful. It is so beautiful that the heat almost doesn't matter. We checked in to our hotel, but, surprisingly, the guests from the night before weren't already checked out at 7:30am. So Whit, her straw hat, my visor, and I headed out for a walk through town. | The old town has windy streets, stairs, and gorgeous views. It was so hot and humid that Whit and I made up new terms for our levels of sweat. It was very sexy. Our hotel was 74 steps up, and then our room was another 20 on the third floor. We finally checked in to the hotel at noon, and Pero our "hero", the owner of the hotel, offered us a shot and some water and all was right with the world. Whit remembered him from a Rick Steves video she watched, so we were pretty much rubbing elbows (or taking shots) with the stars.
340: People watching in Croatia is just as interesting and shocking as all of the wars they have been in. We headed to the beach where everyone wears a bikini, no matter how big, small, short, or tall. If they were wearing a top, that is. We also saw a little photo shoot of a girl in her swimsuit... with aquasox on. Talk about fashionable. We cooled off as we took our first swim in the cool sea of heaven. Then we decided to go beach hopping so we made our way to a rocky, cement-y beach near town. After basking in the glorious sun for 10 minutes, a native Beagle pooped right next to us, and we decided to go back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. That was the last time I even attempted to use any sort of heated hair appliance or product. After that it was just my hair, a hairband, and the humidity. We walked the wall of Dubrovnik, and it was one of the most awesome things I have ever done. The wall goes all the way around the old town, and the views are incredible. The sweat just kept dripping into my smile. I can't believe I didn't take a Croatian lover. John had nothing to worry about since anyone attracted to me at that time has a serious lack of judgment.
341: We had dinner at an okay restaurant (serving tunny fish haha) with bad service, so we were hoping that this didn't mean that we weren't good looking enough since it would have made it a long week. When we got the bill we noticed a "cover charge" for our bread, butter, olive oil, salt, etc, more than half of which we didn't even get served. Usually when I pay cover I expect some dancing, but we didn't dance on the table. At least that night.
342: We decided to do the "Three Island Fish Picnic" excursion on our first full day in Dubrovnik. After some confusion at the pick up ending with Whitney waiting by herself while I went to get my phone and an old guy in a white van asking her, "You want to get in my van?", we made it to the boat. The old guy ended up being our captain, skipper, driver, tour guide, and chef for the day, Marco. We went to three islands (hence the name of the tour): Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan. The ride to the first island was peaceful seas, and we enjoyed the view and finally not sweating. Whit and I debated the Amanda Knox trial, which ended up being awkward considering the couple sitting right next to us was from Italy, one being a law student. Then Marco brought out the grocery basket of unlimited wine, and we all introduced ourselves by nationality so that Marco could stereotype us all day. Wine and stereotypes before 10am, and we were off on our cruise.
343: “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” - Jawaharlal Nehru August 9, 2013 | On the first island we started our usual Croatia pattern: church then beach. God was smiling. | We made it to the second island, which is known for its olive oil, wine, and hard workers. Again, we churched, then beached. The beaches were mostly rocky, so we had to develop a very graceful "belly first" method of getting in and out of the water. Getting out proved to be a challenge when I literally got beached on the rocks and couldn't get up. Like a whale. Good thing I'm not looking for a husband or any social acceptance.
344: Chef Marco served us a delicious lunch of whole fish and salad. It actually was really good, and we were happy as soon as the grocery basket of wine came back out. The waters got really choppy, however, so we strongly considered that this might be our last meal ever. Whit and I ate with the Italian couple who ended up not hating us, at least not to our face, and the four of us finished up the fish and wine at island number three. We then did church and beach. We saw the signs indicating no exposed shoulders or legs... on our way out in our bikinis. God wasn't smiling so much. The best beach was all the way on the other side of the island. You could take golf carts, but between the mob mentality and the wine, we decided to walk. There and back. The water was much calmer on the other side, and the beach was of course beautiful. Team Italy and Team USA even beat Team Ireland, who took the golf carts, back to the boat. International relations with Italy are now up, but Ireland could use some work considering all of the trash talking that went on. Apparently Marco's stereotypes were contagious. Croatians... We took off for home port in the choppiest waters yet. We almost lost our Italian friends once, but then Marco popped us head up from behind the wheel with some red wine and righted the ship. We went to drinks with the group, sans Marco who I'm pretty sure didn't need more drinks, and then to dinner with the Italians.
345: On our way home from dinner we got stuck in a protest in front of city hall. Whit asked what the protest was about, and apparently the people were upset about the sale of land to develop a golf course nearby. We were confused because they were protesting in a circle, and in the middle if the circle there were a bunch of chairs and lamps set up. Whit tried to find a protester that wasn't too passionate to ask them what important part of the protest the chairs symbolized. She asked a woman what was going on who gave her the run down of the golf course debate, so she said, yes, but what about the chairs? The woman looked at Whit and said, "Oh! That's for a play about a party". The play was surrounded and totally unrelated, obviously. The show must go on.
346: The next day, as the romantic couple we are, we went to "Lovers Island", Lokrum. What is not romantic, however, is that no one in Croatia neuters their dogs. So between the dogs and the speedos, Whit and I just kept our heads down. Anyway, Lokrum is haunted, so it is illegal to spend the night on the island. It also boasts a botanical garden, beaches, a fort, a lake (called the Dead Sea), and a monastery. We took the little ferry over and went to the botanical garden first. I am pretty sure my little front yard has more vegetation than this botanical garden. We were underwhelmed. | We stopped at the little cave / sea / lake and then headed to the beach. The beach is made up of huge, flat, rocks to lay on and jump off of. The water was freezing, but we went in anyway... after I pushed Whitney in I thought I should go too.
347: Our hunt for the fortress took us the most time since it seemed all of the trails were closed, and we were so freaking hot. We finally walked to the other side of the island and past a barrier to get there. Rebels. It definitely felt haunted since there was no one else up there. We took some pictures from the watchtower at the top and then needed a beach break. Tough day. | After the ferry ride back to Dubrovnik we needed a gelato break (again, rough day), and then we went to find the famous Buza Bar that is just on the other side of the city wall with rocks to swim off of. The beer was way overpriced, but considering the show we got from the Brazilians that were there in their skimpy suits, it was a steal.
348: On our way home we picked up a bottle of wine to drink while getting ready for dinner. We found a cute place in the alley next to our hotel. They had the best pasta, and the owner decided that he liked us so we also had free wine all night. Of course we got free wine on the night we definitely only needed water. When in Rome, though, so then we went to another bar with the owner and his friend and girlfriend. And then really when in Rome, we went to a club with them IN the city wall. When in Dubrovnik. | “Security is an illusion. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.” - Anonymous August 9, 2013 Little did we know that our Croatia luck was about to end.
349: First, we got our last Dubrovnik crepes at our favorite little breakfast stop, and there was a new lady who didn't put sugar on my banana crepe and put Whitney's chocolate sauce on top rather than inside. I know, disaster. It was just an omen of what was to come. Then, we missed our bus to our next destination, Split, by two minutes because the lady at the counter had to take a potty break right when we got to the front of the line. It was the only time of day when the bus doesn't run every 20-30 minutes. Whit tried to buy a Coke Light, and that lady shut the window in her face to arrange the ice cream. Dubrovnik is beautiful, their Greyhound-esque bus station isn't. We waited on the ground for an hour and a half, and then hopped on our coach. Our driver was not messing around. It was a very long five hour bus ride, and he was in control the whole time. We were speeding over the bridges, no turns could slow us down, and "No toilet!" as he said. We thought emailing our final wishes to our husbands would be a little worrisom, but it probably wouldn't have been too dramatic. When we got on the bus, Whitney asked me what my highlight of the day was so far, and the only bright part so far was the delicious bagel chips I had purchased as my bus snack. | The only good thing about the bus ride is that we drove through Bosnia for about 15 minutes. There was a border check and everything, so now I have been to Bosnia. Not something I thought I would ever say. We finally made it to the hot, sticky, stinky city of Split, Croatia. A nice man was waiting for us at the bus station to take us to our hotel, so things were looking up for about five minutes... until we got to the hotel. List of things wrong with our hotel: | The room we stayed in did not match the description at all. We had a double room, yes. There is no wifi or AC. They did promise us a seating area, and they delivered... we have a folding chair in the corner. | Our bath towels are otherwise known as hand towels.
350: The entire toilet seat fell off of the toilet the first time I tried to sit on it. After that we had to hover. | There was a window to the street, without a window covering, in the shower. At a very convenient height. The shower head fell on Whitney's head. And we didn't have any hot water after the first day. | The lights turned on only when they wanted to. | The closet door collapsed on me. | My sheets looked like I was getting ready for a pap smear. | Our bedroom door was made of glass. CLEAR GLASS. There was no lock on the outside door, so the only thing between us and a crazy, murderous Croat was a glass door. | Our sink wasn't big enough to fill a water bottle. | There was no garbage can. So we made a garbage pile under Whit's bed.
351: The window in our bedroom with sheer curtains and a little trail right to it to save our friendly murderer from having to enter through the front door. | After discussing all of these issues, we looked at each other and decided to google map the address on the confirmation. It turns out the address is 4.4 kilometers away. We were sure we were scammed and that, assuming we aren't murdered in the middle of the night, we should launch a full investigation in the morning. We walked, found the beach since that is a number one priority, and then had dinner. The service wasn't just terrible, we were actually ignored. We hadn't showered or done our makeup and had ridden a Croatian bus for five hours. So, it was confirmed, we were too ugly to be served in Croatia. At dinner, Whitney asked me again what my highlight of the day was. It was still the bagel chips. | "At one point, I actually, ironically, thought I might go into criminology and work with the FBI." - Monica Lewinsky August 11, 2013 | We both woke up the next morning, our first morning in Split, just happy to be alive. We slept horribly, as fearing for your life does, and Whit dreamed that our room was in Bosnia. We decided to conduct an investigation into where exactly in the heck we were. Armed with Google Maps and a blueberry muffin, we headed to our actual hotel address. On our way there we ran into the guy who had brought us to our hotel the night before. We told him what was going on, and he brought us to the travel agency handling our booking. They assured us that the address in our email was just the check in place and that there was no problem. Righttttt, no problem. There was yelling, not with us but between the Croatians, and then they gave us a refund of 40 euros. Enough to buy us beach towels, hot dogs, and rent two chairs on the sand for the afternoon. That totally made up for the clear glass door to our room.
352: The day kept getting worse and worse as it just got hotter, the city smelled like fish, sewage, and sweat, and the cruise ships were in so the streets were packed. Whit and I took some advice from a wise man (Mick Wokich) and got some gelato, which usually rights all of the wrongs of the world. Unfortunately Whit took a bite of mine and dropped a huge chunk on the ground. And then my sunglasses broke. It was rough. | But, we decided to use those 40 euros to make us happy, so we changed into our suits in our hotel (for all to see), and went to the beach. We couldn't have been happier on our two lounge chairs under an umbrella, taking cool off breaks in the sea, with our books. My sunglasses were fixed with just a smidge of duct tape. Even Whit's hot dog was delicious. We were offered a pub crawl on our way back from the beach, so we knew we looked better than we had the night before at dinner.Things were looking up.
353: We decided to try to sight-see again that evening after a cold shower. Whit found a walking tour of the town, and our first stop was a square and a church. They were serving wine on the steps, so we sat down and then didn't get up for another two hours. As the sun set over the church we realized that this was probably the most romantic situation we had ever been in. And then the live band came on. Their first song "went out to all the lovers out there" and was Chris Issac. Our round, sweaty waiter was also feeling romantic because he gave us both kisses on the cheek and sang to us every time he walked by. Croatian customer service was really improving.
354: We did end up finishing the walking tour around midnight. Sight-seeing at night after some wine was perfect. And romantic. | "Too drunk to fear our hotel: Day 9" - Whitney August 11, 2013 | Our kayak / snorkel was awesome, though. We took a van to Brela and kayaked through bright turquoise water to a little beach accessible only by water or crazy people hiking down the mountain. There was a fresh water spring near our snorkel spot, so we got to see lots of fish. The water was freezing in some spots and very warm in others. Makes you wonder if you were swimming through fish pee. On our way back we rowed past several naked people. We had to ask ourselves a very important question: How many naked people does it take to be considered a colony? | We stopped for breakfast the next morning at our blueberry muffin place on our way to our snorkeling / kayaking excursion. We ordered our muffins, and the guy told us to wait 20 minutes before eating it. We felt so lucky that we got fresh out of the oven muffins. But come to find out, the 20 minutes was to wait for them to defrost. Bosnia hotel room nightmare luck, we're back.
356: Our cultural dinner was fishies that stared back at me. Whit dropped her fish spine in her water. Delish. | We did the pub crawl that night, and hopped on a bus that took us to a bar just outside of old town. Another important question, does that make it not a crawl? Important life considerations. We hung out with an Australian and several Norwegians. All it took was a 90 minute power hour, and we were signing Lion King before we knew it. Someone told us the bars closed at two, so when we looked at our watch at 3:30am while we were dancing at a club, we figured out that that person was lying and that we would be very tired for our waterfall excursion that left in five hours. | When we got back to the hotel room of death I felt something slimy on my shoe. It was poop. And gum. Another life question: why me?
357: "Coo-kah-lee-coo!" - Our tour guide August 11, 2013 | We made it on time to our Krka (yes, that is how you spell it, and there is no vowel between the K and R), waterfall excursion. We even had time for Whit to stop at a bakery to get breakfast since she had accidentally eaten her muffin the night before. Our tour guide was very animated the entire way to the park. and when he wanted to wake us up when we arrived at our destination (not that I was sleeping after the four hours of quality sleep I had), he would say "coo-kah-lee-coo" in a sing songy voice. I am not a fan of waking up, so if I have to open my eyes, that was a fun way to do it. The waterfalls were amazing. And I hate the word "amazing", but they really were. We got to swim right next to the falls. Hooray for lower safety standards than the US! We walked the loop back to the bus from the falls, and the whole park was absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and I'm married to John so that is saying something.
358: We returned to the bus and stopped at the Visovak island monestary. So cool! | Our third stop was another part of the waterfall park. We had lunch at a little place in the park where the owner makes his own meat, cheese, and wine. Be still my heart. It was so good. We also played in the waterfalls there, including our own little waterfall jacuzzi. It was exactly like Sports Illustrated. | Our last stop was the town of Sibenik, which was very cute, but after swimming in waterfalls all day a little underwhelming. BUT, we found our dream gelato shop with ALL of our favorite flavors. A highlight not to be overlooked.
359: We are professional tourists. We took this picture for our promotional brochure. | "The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams." - Oprah Winfrey August 14, 2013 | Whit and I slept great our first night back in Geneva. Our doors locked and were solid wood and everything. Ah, the luxury. Still no AC or chairs, but at least neither of us dreamed we were in Bosnia. We went to the Chateau de Chillon as we tried to check everything off of Whitney’s list. This was probably the fifth time I had been to the castle, so you are welcome ticket checker for paying your salary for this year. The dungeon is still my favorite part, though, and you can see the rocks from the island popping through the bottom. We picked a beautiful day to go, so the view was awesome.
361: We went to dinner at Britney’s house that night. On the way there I gave Whit some cultural tips – they kiss three times on the cheek, no one takes a sip of wine until a formal cheers has been made, and French people love talking about sex. By the end of the night Whit had almost kissed Britney on the lips, we had had several glasses of wine, and we entertained some lively conversation. Tres francais. | The next day we had a “last supper”, or lunch, with my boss and Britney. This was followed by an exciting visit of people coming to buy the table and lamps I had for sale as well as a couple who came to look at the oven / stove. Before they came I got nervous that they would want to buy the stove right then, so I cooked the rest of the food we owned. This seemed like a great idea at the time but would come to haunt us later. Also, there is just something about cleaning an oven by hand on your knees that brings a girl back to Earth. | Our biggest decision of the day was whether to eat salad and chocolate or just chocolate. The bottle of wine was not even up for discussion. We sat on our air mattress and planned our trip to the Swiss Alps the next day. The weather forecast was looking iffy, so Whit decided to look at the webcam from the top of the mountain we wanted to go to. The view of the fog was fantastic.
362: "Switzerland is a place where they don't like to fight, so they get people to do their fighting for them while they ski and eat chocolate." - Larry David August 14, 2013 | Since Seattle is always so sunny, we couldn’t wait to see clouds and got up early on Thursday as we headed to Lauterbrunnen, a little town in the Berner Oberland Swiss Alps of Switzerland. We arrived in the pouring rain and got lost walking to our hostel that was two minutes from the train station. Neither of us had umbrellas, so we were both in great moods. We checked into our hostel and got out the one thing that never fails to make us happy: food. We had a nice little lunch / Phase 10 tournament outside on the covered patio as we wished with all of our mights that the clouds would part so we could see farther than the green field in front of us. It was actually very peaceful until a crowd of about 40 Korean students also sat down in our area. As the ambiance changed from serene Switzerland to hungry Asian tourists, we decided to head out on our walk, rain or shine. | Borrowed umbrellas in hand (mine a Marilyn Monroe beauty with only two metal spokes sticking out of her face and Whit’s was a knockoff Burberry that broke in half during our walk – that’s what we get for secondhand hostel wear), we decided to walk to Trummelbach Falls along the Valley Trail. We managed to get lost three times in Lauterbrunnen, a city that takes 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. We also clearly had appropriate footwear with Whit’s canvas shoes and my tennis shoes sloshing against my socks with each step.
363: The walk was beautiful. The clouds raised enough for us to see cows and then hills and then huge cliffs. There were waterfalls everywhere we looked. It was like walking along the bottom of a really lush and green Grand Canyon. I've never actually been to the Grand Canyon, but that is neither here nor there.
364: We made it to the falls, and they were unbelievable. There are 10 waterfalls inside the mountain, pouring from the three large peaks in the area. As we stood in line we wondered why everyone exiting was various degrees of wet. Soon we found out why. First, we took a cog-wheel train thing up through the inside of the mountain. Then we walked up through the mountain to all of the waterfalls. It was so loud that we could hardly hear each other talk. Maybe a good thing after spending every minute of two weeks together, though. The waterfalls were unbelievably powerful, and the pictures don’t do it justice at all. We soon figured out why everyone was so wet given the heavy mist and dripping caves, so Marilyn came out to see the falls for a bit too. | On our way out of the falls, we finally saw the tops of the Eiger and Jungfraujoch, two of the mountains that people generally go to that area to see. We took our pictures, which was good because it turns out that would be the only time we would actually see the mountains.
365: Our next destinations were Gimmelwald and Murren. Both are small farm towns higher up in the mountains, so we had to take a gondola to each one. We started with the bigger one, Murren, and the views were incredible. The mountains and cliffs were beautiful, but the clouds were moving in quickly, so we stopped to take some pictures. We asked one man to take our picture with the Alps in the background. We smiled brightly with one of the most beautiful scenes behind us, and the man took a picture of us and a tree. It looks like we are standing in Woodinville. | We also found a stump that had the quintessential view of the cliffs and valley. When we walked up there was a mother and daughter taking a picture, so we waited. And waited. And waited. They each took so many pictures that by the time they finished, the clouds had moved in, and we got a picture that looks like we are just sitting in the clouds.
366: Once again, we turned to food to comfort us. We each purchased Swiss chocolate, and almost two years to the day of my arrival and only five days before my departure, I found my dream Swiss chocolate bar. It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved before. As we strolled back to the gondola station, Whit noticed that there was no one else around anymore. It was a ghost town, and neither of us had checked the gondola schedule to see what times it would go back down. For about the thirtieth time in a week, we thought we might die. We would suffer from a slow death that night stranded on a Swiss mountain, not even with a nice view. Thankfully the gondolas were still running, and we lived to see another Swiss cow. We went to the town of Gimmelwald next, which was just the cutest little Swiss town imaginable. All of the homes are from the 1500s when the cows and goats used to live in the basements. And it still pretty much looks the same. Our favorite was the old cheese hut that was built on stilts so the mice couldn’t get to it. To give an indication of the town, Rick Steves’ book has a “Nightlife” section for each town. Gimmelwald’s nightlife section said “See Murren”. We returned to Lauterbrunnen that night to eat Swiss things like sausage, rosti, and raclette. We are basically locals. As we fell asleep that night in our 8-person mixed dorm room, a la Europe Trip 2005, our bunk buddy let out a little good night fart. Our other favorite part of our hostel was that there were no shoes allowed in the “house”, so they had a basket of slippers at the door to change into. I never knew how much I love wearing dirty stranger slippers. And they were sexy to boot. The husbands should be happy our bunks were twin. | We dreamed dreams of bright sun and stunning mountains, but when our bunk mates woke up at 5am to get ready for an hour, we glanced outside, and the fog was socked in. We wanted to go up to the very top of Schilthorn, but we decided that it would have been a waste of money since we can see clouds at home. So we hopped on our train, stopping in Interlaken for a cold quiche breakfast with horrible service, and then headed on our merry little way back to Geneva.
367: "Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes, but life is changing all of the time." - Miguel Angel Ruiz August 14, 2013 | According to Britney, I couldn’t leave France (I know I lived in Switzerland, but it was pretty much France) without going to Macumba, the hottest night club in France (I’m sure there are none hotter in Paris). We had dinner with Britney at her weekly Friday lunch spot and then went to Veronique’s apartment before going out. We had some drinks, listened to French rap, and took pictures. I haven’t left to go out after 11 in a long time. Macuma was enormous. There were several rooms, and each had a different theme: foam (which I don’t go to after an unfortunate incident sophomore year of college when I found out I am allergic to foam), 80's, Latino, black/African, and a room for people in their 30's and 40's. They also had a swimming pool. We went to the 30’s / 40’s room, and Whit and I snuck in because we are still in our 20’s. Rebels. We danced the night away. You know it is a late night when someone in your group asks if we should go to breakfast as you leave. On our way home at 5am, Veronique kept telling us that she could have danced all night if getting home after 5 isn’t all night, I’m not sure what is.
368: "When someone follows you all the way to the store and watches you buy toilet paper, you know your life has changed." - Jennifer Aniston August 14, 2013 For a few days last week, I corresponded with a man / woman named Dija who was interested in purchasing the microwave that I had posted for sale online. They had also asked me what else I had available, including, specifically, a toilet brush. Yes, this person wanted to buy a used toilet brush from a stranger. I also offered them my dirty shower curtain that I wasn’t going to clean for them, and they also wanted that. Interesting and slightly unnerving. They refused to come pick anything up, however, so we had been dreading the bus ride carrying a microwave, two large fans, a toilet brush, and a huge bag of miscellaneous items. Then, a nice, young couple came to buy the oven (hallelujah!) and ended up buying several other items too, including the microwave. We were so ecstatic that we didn't realize that we hadn't heated our dinner yet, so we sat on our dining rug and ate cold rice with smiles on our faces. I broke the news to Dija who was upset that I had sold everything and asked if I had anything left. As a total joke, I wrote that the other people hadn’t taken the shower curtain or toilet brush and that he / she could have them for free if they came to pick them up. I told him / her to come by that evening, Sunday, and they wrote back saying they would be there at 10pm. Again, Whit and I thought for sure we were going to die. While skyping with Jenn, she made us promise to call her back after the pick-up since she was worried that our bodies would end up wrapped up in the shower curtain. We packed everything up, each put a steak knife in our pocket, and brought everything downstairs for this mystery weirdo. It was the first time I have ever left my house armed. Then they emailed to let us know they would now be there at 8am the next day to pick everything up. Dija’s sister was the one who ended up coming to the apartment, and she was so tiny that Whit and / or I could have beat her up easily. She seemed equally as weirded out to be picking up a stranger’s toilet brush. We didn’t end up needing the knives and couldn’t believe we lived through another near death experience.
369: "It feels right. But it's emotional. Saying goodbye to anything you've done that long is hard." - Angela Ruggiero August 14, 2013 | To celebrate my last few days in Switzerland, we did some very Geneva-y things. On Saturday we went to the Geneva Festival to watch the fireworks. Whit also finally got to see my favorite Geneva attraction: the flower clock. We walked around the festival and then found a good fireworks watching spot, so we set up shop with Phase 10, a bottle of wine, and some hot churros. So Swiss. The fireworks show did not disappoint. It was nice of the city to arrange such a marvelous farewell party for me.
370: On Sunday we did the Lavaux vineyards walk. We stopped at a couple of places for wine, ate yucky cold leftover pasta as we tried to eat through the rest of our food, and walked through vineyards with stunning views. Overall it was a great day.
371: My last day in Geneva was spent half fun-ly and half not so fun-ly. The apartment walkthrough was at 2pm, so we packed and cleaned in the morning. The walkthrough went great, and then we headed out to our hotel, all nine bags in hand, shoulder, and anywhere we could carry them. The only item that I hadn’t sold or given away was our vacuum since we needed it that morning to clean. We stood in front of the building debating on what to do with it since it was practically brand new (purchased only a few months prior, granddaughter of the original Geneva vacuum). As we talked, my next door neighbor who I have never talked to walked by and chatted just for a minute, wishing us a good trip, etc. I asked him if by chance he would be interested in a free vacuum, and by golly, he has a friend struggling with money who would loooooove it. The moving gods were good to us. Whit and I dragged our bags to the bus to the Intercontinental Hotel, one of the nicest hotels in Geneva, which is saying something since one hotel in the area has suites that go for $55k per night. As we walked up to the hotel dripping sweat, two very nice bell boys ran to us to grab our bags and bring them up for us. Not many people arrive there on Bus 5 with backpacks, I’m sure. Hopefully Whit hates me less after we got to wear robes to the pool and share a bottle of wine. We went out to kebabs for dinner and watched the sun set over the pink Alps on the lake. And then we slept in a bed that we didn’t have to blow up. It was my last night in Geneva.
372: "It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad, and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure." - Ernie Harwell August 14, 2013 | I am somewhere over the Atlantic right now, approaching my favorite ice country of Greenland. Only six and a half hours until I am back home. I even checked “US resident” on my little customs declaration form, which will reduce the questions from my friendly customs officer. Now it’s official. Despite the fact that I am actually on the plane and had to carry all of my stuff on the bus twice (yesterday and today), it still hasn’t hit me that I am moving back. I feel like I am going back for a visit. Also, some of the novelty wore off when we went home last month. I got to drive and go to Target, so this time I’m not chomping on the bit to get behind the wheel on a Sunday and go crazy like I was before. I am a little worried about reverse culture shock. I have gotten used to the, let’s say, less stressed attitude about work. Unfortunately my company did not offer me the same salary and vacation in Seattle as Switzerland, despite my compelling email asking them to support my current lifestyle of weekend trips to Rome and French wine. I can’t wait to sleep in our house tonight. John moved everything over, other than what is currently in the UK that is, and at last report we only had 12 boxes left to unpack. I am wondering if he found my hair dryer and straightener, which I’m sure were top priorities for him. Could be an interesting hair day at work tomorrow. People are going to wonder what Switzerland did to me. In fact, Switzerland did a lot to me and not much at all at the same time. A fourteen hour flight happens to be a good time to reflect. The main thing that Switzerland did for / to me was make me proud of myself well clearly it didn’t provide humility. But as conceited as it is, I am proud of myself for doing it. I fulfilled a dream of mine that made me uncomfortable in many ways (kissing at work, leaving family and friends, carrying six suitcases at the same time, screwing up my French, owning a bidet, etc), sad (missing family and friends, spending $10 for ice cream, not being there for several important life events, work visa issues, etc), and nervous (starting at a new office, meeting a crazy person from Geneva craigslist who wanted to buy my used toilet brush, wondering if our things would actually arrive, hoping our relationships with people back home wouldn’t suffer, praying that our renters didn’t destroy our house, etc). I feel like this is the most adventurous thing I have ever done, and I’m usually not an adrenaline junkie (see nervous above).
373: Several people have asked me throughout the last two years whether I would do it all again. My response has varied from yes to hell no to maybe to absolutely. Now, looking back at everything as a whole, I would. There were deliriously happy times, awful sad times, and some regular boring times. But there are those at home too. I smile and cry wherever I go. That is why I also don’t think this experience has changed who I am as a person. Lucky for my friends and family. :) Now, on to the next adventure. Au revoir, Geneve. P.S. I came home to over 100 roses scattered throughout the house. There is stuff everywhere, but the roses make it all better, and my husband is the greatest. He not only moves to Switzerland with me, but he surprises me with flowers and peanut butter triple chocolate ice cream when I get home. Also, an important note, all future adventures will be in areas where peanut butter triple chocolate ice cream is readily accessible. It is just not right to live without it.