Sunday, December 30, 2007

Free transport in Lausanne

This is from World Radio Switzerland and might be of interest for anyone planning on visiting Lausanne in the future.

Tourists in Lausanne can look forward to free public transport in the new year after a decision by the city council and seven other communes. Visitors who are subject to a “tourist tax”, which is set to increase from January 1, will all benefit from free fares on the Mobilis line, according to an article in Lausanne Tourism’s newsletter. The tourist tax varies from CHF2-3.5 per person per night. It is used by tourism associations to improve facilities. Officials hope the new system will make staying in Lausanne more appealing, as it offers free transport between hotels, the local hospital and schools.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bûche de Noël

Our after dinner treat on Christmas was a Bûche de Noël (yule log). It was excellent and is highly recommended to anyone who will be in France/Western Switzerland around Christmas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Web Site Changes

I changed my web editing software as part of the move from a laptop to desk top. The good news is that the software is in English, the bad news is that it has different fetures than the software I used to use. I have updated the site with a few Christmas photos and will add more tomorrow after I do some research in how to get the photo galleries to work with this software.

Joyeux Noël!

Merry Christmas!

Bomb Scare

This is the first bomb threat I've heard about since we've been in Switzerland.

From World Radio Switzerland...

Train services are back to normal after a bomb alert caused disruption on Switzerland’s network yesterdayA suspicious package was found under a seat on a regional train in the canton of Bern.Police removed the parcel from the train in Lyss at around 12.30pm. Explosives experts examined the item before destroying it.No-one was hurt in the incident, although Lyss station was closed for over an hour.

View Larger Map

Fondue - almost a complete success

Last night was attempt number three with the McCann family fondue set. The first two times we had problems keeping the burner lit, so yesterday we thought about replacing our gas set with an electic one. Before we did that, we thought we should test the gas burner one last time. It ran for five minutes without any issues, so we decided not to replace it. Last night it ran great for about four minutes before it stopped functioning. It took a while, but I finally rememebered that the can must be upside down when filling gas canister. Everything worked great once the canister was actually full.

This time we used a premixed bag of cheese purchased from Co op, which made the entire process a little easier.

Where did Santa go?

I checked NORAD's santa tracker this morning and was disturbed to see that he didn't have any stops in Switzerland last night. How could he skip an entire country? He could have at least stopped once in the country considering how many people have an internet connection and children who would like to know where he is.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baking bread with Grammie Krista

Just finishing a post started while we were in Bend.
Rowan helped Krista make bread on Wednesday. The photo on the right shows him kneading his little loaf.

Christmas Dinner

Click here to read an article on a traditional Swiss Christmas dinner. Our dinner will be more American than Swiss, but we will have fondue on Christmas Eve.

Christmasish Photos

I am having problems with my photo editing software (Elements 6 in French), so I can't get the photos resized for the web. Here are a few photos in an attempt to satisfy the demand. These are from our trip to see Pere Noel.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pere Noel

Yesterday we took the train to Roche de Naye to visit Santa. It was a small, narrow-gauge cog train. The train was a bit crowded, but we each did get seats together. Rowan wasn't too interested in sitting on Santa's lap, but was very interested in the treat that Santa was giving out. We got a family photo with Santa, which I'll scan and post on the web site once the printer/scanner is connected to the computer again. We were told there would be reindeer, but there was only one and it looked sort of pathetic without any antlers.

The snow was a bit hard, so it was difficult for the kids to play in. More photos will be posted soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weak dollar

This article from the International Herald Tribune makes me happy, at least for the time being, I'm paid in Francs.

A new computing experience

I finally gave up on my laptop and just purchased an HP desktop with Vista. So far, I am not too impressed with Vista. I have a copy of XP that I might need to install if I decide I am really unhappy with Vista. The PC came with a Swiss German keyboard. Here are a few of the differences between a US and Swiss German keyboards

  • The z and thez y have switched places.
  • The Swiss German keyboard has these keys: ö, é, ä, à, ü, è, §, °, &, and ¬
  • the ; and . keys are one row lower
  • The @ is above the 2 still, but I have to push the 'Alt Gr' key. pushing shift and 2 gets me "
  • The ' and ? and ´ are on the top row

Thursday, December 13, 2007

US joins the rest of the world


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States on Wednesday joined an international
treaty on adoptions -- a move that will protect both children and parents, and
make the State Department a central registry tracking all adoptions coming in
and out of the country, officials said. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty presented the U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions during a ceremony in the Netherlands.

"We would say that today is a good day for children and parents involved in intercountry adoptions," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
"This convention establishes international laws and procedures for intercountry adoption. Cases involving the Hague Convention are to ensure that adoptions occur in the best interests of the children."

The agreement sets out what the State Department called "safeguards to protect the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents." It says children may be
adopted by prospective parents outside their country only if there is proper and
informed consent from the "family of origin." The treaty calls for authorities to make sure that birth parents haven't been persuaded to give up their children in exchange for money, urging countries to take "all appropriate measures to prevent improper financial or other gain in connection with an adoption." Officials also should make sure that the child's wishes are considered, the document says. The treaty covers the other end of the adoption process as well, calling on the country where the adoptive parents live to "prepare a report including information about their identity, eligibility and suitability to adopt, background, family and medical history." The rules begin governing international adoptions for the 66 signatory countries on April 1, 2008.

More than 19,000 foreign-born children were adopted by Americans in 2007 -- more than all the other countries of the world combined, McCormack said.
Final ratification "took a while" -- 14 years -- because adoption laws in the United States are generally regulated by the states, he said. "It took quite some time to actually normalize and get a common standard among all of the 50 states and build up the right institutions and procedures so that we could comply with the convention," McCormack said.

"It took some time to do that groundwork, and when you have 50 separate
sets of laws and 50 separate sets of state legislatures, it takes some time to
make sure that we get it right." Tom DiFilipo, of the Joint Council on
International Children's Services, called the agreement "a great accomplishment
after 14 years." "We're just glad that it is over and will be in place in April," DiFilipo said on the telephone from Moscow, where he was giving a speech on adoption. "The basic principles, accountability, transparency, doing everything in the final interests of the child, how can you argue against that," he said. The new rules may create delays in finalizing adoptions, especially adoptions from those countries that have also approved the Hague convention.

Guatemala, the country that provides one of the highest numbers of children coming to the United States for adoption -- more than 4,600 this year -- also just approved the international agreement, and its courts and government officials are expected to be overwhelmed. Salome Lamarche of Families Thru International Adoption said her organization has been preparing for the new rules. Her group has handled more than 3,500 international adoptions.

She predicted significantly fewer adoptions from Guatemala, at least in the short term. Several countries that are common points of origin for children adopted by Americans have not agreed to the treaty, including Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine and Ethiopia.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas market

Today we went to the Montreux Christmas market. It wasn't too different than a Chrismasish market you would see in the US. In fact, there were two groups of Native Americans/Pre-Columbians performing music. Our primary areas of interest were the "old fashioned" roasted chestnuts, the hot chocolate, the crepes, the playground, the carousel, and the ferris wheel. There are a number of Christmas markets over the next 23 days, so I'm sure more will be visited.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

New photos

Photos of our trip to the US have been posted on Blogs from the trip will be available soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Una - one year later

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Una being attacked during our morning walk. She has made a full recovery while staying at the Winchells.



Photo Shoot

Emily and Krista took the kids to Sears this morning to have photos taken for our Christmas card. Rowan is a bit sick, so it was a fairly painful experience. They decided that we should try again in the afternoon, so we went back at 3:30. The afternoon session was a little worse than the morning session. Here are a few of the photos.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


This is from SwissINFO and should make my coworkers very happy.

Up to 120 centimetres of snow has fallen on the Swiss Alps since Friday,
the largest amount at the start of winter for over five decades – and more is
expected. Tourism authorities in ski resorts are rubbing their hands, not
only because of the low temperatures but also in expectation of a record

The southeastern resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland,
which lies at 1,560m, saw 62cm of snow fall within 24 hours, according to the
national weather service MeteoSwiss on Sunday morning.

St Antönien, also in canton Graubünden, reported 64cm and Braunwald in the neighbouring canton of Glarus saw 72cm, the same amount as Unteriberg in canton

The last time so much snow fell in November was in 1952, but what is also unusual about the current weather conditions is that the stormy northwest wind is carrying relatively large amounts of snow down south, for example to the upper Engadine valley.

According to the federal institute for snow and avalanche research in Davos, the level of snow above 1,500m has reached 120cm since the snow began to fall.

The areas hit most were the northern slopes east of the Susten pass, the resort of
Samnaun, the Silvretta mountain range and northern Graubünden.

Experts warned on Saturday of a significant danger of avalanches in the areas and raised the warning to its second highest level.

However, no one had been caught up in an avalanche and there was no major damage, according to police, who said few people were currently on the slopes. On Sunday evening the warning level was lowered to "considerable".

On Monday morning, however, Viasuisse, a traffic information provider, warned of snow-covered roads above 600m – including northbound access routes to the Gotthard and San Bernardino tunnels – and it said 14 passes were closed.

Those in the tourism business were delighted by the unusually early and heavy

They are hoping this winter will see the number of overnight stays and skipasses sold make up for the disappointing previous winter season, which ended up being the warmest on record.

In Graubünden, Switzerland's largest tourist region, many ski resorts are planning on beginning the winter season a week early and are currently busy bashing the

Resorts in the Bernese Oberland are also looking forward to a better start to the season.

Eduardo Zwyssig from the Gstaad-Saanenland tourism office is hoping the first ski areas will open on December 1.

Gieri Spescha, spokesman for Graubünden tourism, said: "The important thing now is for people in lower parts of the country to notice that winter has arrived."

What's more, the winter conditions are set to continue. MeteoSwiss expected 15-30cm of snow to fall at the beginning of the week and predicted that it would even make it down to lower altitudes.

If the weather proverb connected to St Martin's Day – which on November 11 commemorates the 4th-century Bishop of Tours – is to be believed, we're in for a hard winter: "If Martin's beard is white, a long cold winter will bite."

Only the southern canton of Ticino can expect milder weather in the coming weeks, with temperatures rising to 13 degrees thanks to the north Föhn wind.

Day 2

The concept of Niamh sleeping through the night was wishful thinking. I went back to the room on Sunday morning (first night in US) and the entire family was up. This was a bit disappointing for two reasons:

1. It was only 4AM
2. Breakfast wasn't survived until 7AM

We went for a short walk and then played in the hotel room until breakfast. Emily pulled the mattress off one of the beds and the kids would run across the box springs and jump onto the pillows and mattress. It might be one of their favorite activities.

The kids took a nap at 8:45 and slept until 11:30. We then went to the airport to have lunch. We discovered that there is an entire security line for people who are premier on United, so we didn't have to wait in line at all. The only issue we had is that I had to take my money belt(what do you call it when it is around your neck?). This wasn't really a big issue, but was sort of a pain to do. I use it all the time and have never had to take it off to go through security. That might be because it normally doesn't have four passports and four residence permits in it.

The flight left more or less on time and went fairly smoothly. The aircraft, an EMB-120, is very noisy, so you couldn't really hear the kids. Bend is warmer than we expected.

Niamh slept through the night, but Rowan got was up form 1AM to 4AM. I think Emily and I will need a vacation from our vacation.

Clann Mhic Canna'

I recently received my results from Family Tree DNA and learned that I am related to members of the 'Ó Catháin clan', but may only be part of the 'Clann Mhic Canna'. I plan to upgrade the DNA test so I can get more definitive results. Here are two links that might be of interest.
McBride Family Project

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We survived!

We survived the plane trip to the US, but there were a few issues. Since we brought our car seats with us, we used a mobility car to get from our apartment. This worked fairly well, but I had to run to the platform with the last load of stuff because the train had already arrived. Since Morges isn't the first stop, the luggage racks and all the other normal luggage spots were taken. I had our pile of stuff right in front of the door. The only problem with this strategy was that I had to move the luggage at each stop so people could get on and off.

We got to the train station and were told that the flight we were booked on was probably going to be delayed or cancelled due to whether at Frankfurt. We got booked on a flight that was supposed to leave 90 minutes prior to ours, but actually only left about 30 minutes earlier. There weren't four seat available together on the earlier flight, so we were given four non-adjacent seats. I asked a few people to move, so within a few minutes after takeoff we had 3 seats together.

All went fairly well in Frankfurt. The security line was very short again (very different than my first two Frankfurt experiences!) The flight left Frankfurt about 45 minutes late and we had a headwind so we arrived at SFO an hour and a half late. We had four seats together (the middle section on a 747) and were in economy plus so that was nice. Rowan got on a sugar high and didn't sleep for the first six hours, but then took a 3 hour nap and was up for the final 2.5 hours. Niamh was more or less up the same times as Rowan. At the end of the flight she wouldn't go back to sleep and screamed for a while. We received a few comments about how well behaved the kids were, but one lady did remark to her husband that they were "screamers."

I know Rowan enjoyed the airplane and I think Niamh would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been 14 hours on planes in the same day.

We took the shuttle to the local Courtyard hotel for the night. Niamh has slept through the night (this might still be wishful thinking, as it is only 4AM), but Rowan got up at 1. We have been playing with cars for the past 3 hours. We assumed that one child would be awake most of the night, so we got two adjoining rooms for tonight. It might have to become a standard first night plan after a major time change. It is nice to have two doors between the sleeping child and the whining child.

We're off to Bend later today and will be back in the Bay Area on the 21st.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Standard Time

I wanted to remind everyone that Europe is no longer on daylight savings time (DST). For the next week we are only eight hours ahead of the west coast.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Florence Photos

I have received a number of complaints regarding the lack of Florence photos on the web site. That problem has now been resolved.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Important Football News:

From the US Soccer web site:

Quote Sheet: USA 1, Switzerland 0

On the game:“It was a typical game in Europe. Both teams made it hard for the other team. For us, it is important to understand the mentality of being in these games and still finding ways to win. It is still an important step for us. It's a game where credit goes to the team for sticking together, being organized and not giving too much away. And finding a way to win at the end.”“This year
the work has been good and we feel like it is improving. This was our second
game in Europe. We need these kinds of games. Against Sweden we saw that the
first half was solid, but the second half was disappointing, and so the goal
tonight was to pick up on the first half to understand that the tempo of these
games is sometimes different. The commitment of the other team in terms of every
physical challenge. The head balls. Every tackle. These are things that now we
must understand and that we must be able to sustain the commitment on our end
for 90 minutes. So this was important.”On whether he thought about bringing Adu
and Szetela on earlier:"These are both young players…first time in a national
team camp with this coaching staff… I think its important to bring young players
along at the right speed. Having a camp where they could get a feel for the way
things have been done for these last 9 months and to understand what is expected
of them on the field and off the field I think it’s a good step now that they
get on the field and are both part of a winning effort."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Immigrants in Switzerland

Articles like this are very common in Switerland these days. I'm not positive, but I think it is more common in the German speaking portion of the country.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tete de Moine

We got to experience a new cheese, Tete de Moine, today. Emily thought it was great, but I'll only score it slightly above average. Here is a quote from The Cheese Primer:
No other mountain cheese in the world possesses such intensity of
flavor-stunning and memorable.

I checked and it should be available at a Whole Foods near you!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fall Break

Rowan is on fall break until October 22nd. His preschool follows the same schedule as the Vaud school system, so he is preschool free for two weeks.

In other Morges news, they have started planting the bulbs for the tulip festival. Come in mid April if you want to see lots of tulips. Along those same lines, I just heard that tickets from Oregon to Geneva for the Feb and March time frame were$640 round trip including taxes.

The local grapes are being picked this week. I just discovered that we live a block away from the Morges commune wine processing center. The tractors are hauling the grapes down our street. Right now it is mostly green grapes, but I have seen a couple trailers full of red grapes.

The weekend of the 12th is the local train show. I think I'll head down on Saturday morning and then take Rowan in the afternoon. I'll have to practice my French so I know what I'm buying.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Geneva: To visit or not to visit?

Most guide books recommend skipping Geneva, but the New York Times recently provided an itinerary for a weekend visit.

36 Hours in Geneva
GENEVA, the political and transportation hub of Europe, is one of those seemingly unavoidable cities. It's like a Swiss version of Atlanta: practically everyone passes through sooner or later, whether they want to or not. But there are plenty of reasons to stay longer. Not only is Geneva blessed with a sweeping lake within beckoning distance of the snow-covered Alps, but its medieval ramparts have also long served as a cultural haven for the world's exiles and freethinkers. Switzerland's famous neutrality also means that there is a thriving community of expatriate polyglots, many of whom work for international agencies like the Red Cross and the United Nations. So if you fly through Geneva, add a couple of days to your stopover.

Friday 4:30 p.m.

Walk or bike along Lake Geneva's glamorous lakefront, where, on a clear day, you can see snow-capped Mont Blanc floating in the horizon. Rent a Bike (41-51-22-51-4820;, at the Gare de Cornavin, the main train station, has bicycles starting at 23 Swiss francs, or $19 at 1.21 Swiss francs to the dollar, for a half day. Start at the immaculate Jardin Anglais, with its famous 15-foot flower clock, one of Geneva's signature sights. Then glide over to the Jetée des Eaux-Vives, a breakwater that leads out to the Jet d'Eau, one of the world's largest fountains. From afar, the fountain might not seem remarkable. But from under the 459-foot-tall column of misting water, it's an awesome spectacle, especially when it's illuminated at night.

8 p.m.

Every visitor to Switzerland should sample at least one bubbling cauldron of cheesy stuff, and Restaurant les Armures , inside the Hôtel les Armures (1, rue du Soleil-Levant; 41-22-310-3442; ), is a fondue institution. This wood-beamed restaurant with muskets on the wall is at the top of Old Town, which winds around a hill overlooking the Left Bank. A plaque near the front door commemorates a 1994 visit by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton . If you're famished, order the cheese fondue with mushrooms (27 Swiss francs).

10 p.m.

Walk dinner off with a stroll through the narrow medieval streets and head toward one of the city's favorite meeting places: the leafy Place du Bourg-de-Fours, the former medieval marketplace in the heart of Old Town. A dozen restaurants and cafes surround a tiny 18th-century marble fountain in the cobblestone square. Tiny La Clemence (20, place du Bourg-de-Four, 41-22-310-1096; is a popular spot during the day for café au lait and a croissant. At night, it draws a lively mix of students, businesspeople and politicians.

10 a.m.

Though the walls of the tiny Old Town are covered in graffiti, the cobblestones and stone facades look much as they did during the Reformation, when John Calvin and John Knox found refuge there and created a "Protestant Rome." Signs of the Reformation are evident at Cathédrale St.-Pierre (6, cours St.-Pierre; 41-22-319-71-90; with its green-copper spire crowning the hill. A side chapel with 15th-century angel frescoes is a riotous contrast to the austerity of the cathedral's nave, which was stripped of its decorations by 16th-century Protestant reformers. Climb to the top of the north tower (3 Swiss francs) for a sweeping view over the city and the lake.

1:30 p.m.

The airy Musée d'Art et d'Histoire (2, Charle-Galland; 41-22-418-2600; features an admirable cross-section of art history, including exceptional works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso. For a real treat, head to the second-floor galleries and get lost in the Genevoise landscapes of the Swiss painters François Diday and his student Alexandre Calame.

3 p.m.

Anyone who says there's no money in philosophy should visit Voltaire's former home, now the Institut et Musée Voltaire (25, rue des Délices; 41-22-344-7133; Voltaire was a shrewd businessman, and his writings on liberty and sharp wit won him rich and powerful patrons, including Catherine the Great and Frederick the Great. From his Palladian villa set in an immaculate garden Voltaire in the 18th century set forth the ideas that would help spark the French Revolution. You can read them, along with his personal letters and manuscripts, in the philosopher's sumptuous salons.

5 p.m.

If there's any doubt that you're in the world capital of watches, wander down Rue du Rhône with its diamond-encrusted and gold-plated shops. Check out Bucherer (No. 45; 41-22-319-62-66;, which has been selling high-end timepieces since 1888 and has what is thought to be the world's largest selection of Rolexes. A mere 44,000 Swiss francs buys the special-edition platinum model. Not unusual enough? Go up the street to Marconi (No. 53; 41-22-311-3630), a boutique watchmaker that makes only small-run editions. Its clunky, over-the-top timepieces (600 to 850 Swiss francs) look like something Willy Wonka would wear if he could afford them.

8 p.m.

Geneva has a growing Middle Eastern community, as evidenced by the Arabic script on storefronts, banks and offices all over. For a cultural taste, follow your nose to Rue de Berne, where Libyan bakeries, small teahouses and Middle Eastern restaurants stand side-by-side with the city's small, tidy red-light district. La Caravane Passe (11, rue du Dr. Alfred-Vincent; 41-22-731-3431) is a casual family-run restaurant popular with immigrants and students. Order a steaming plate of traditional lamb couscous (15 Swiss francs) and wash it down with pots of foaming mint tea ( 3.50 Swiss francs).

11 p.m.

Geneva tends to shut down early, but there are a few spots where you can party with the city's moneyed class. If the high cocktail prices (25 Swiss francs) don't faze you, head to the Platinum Glam Club (18, quai du Seujet; 41-78-726-6941; White sofas and V.I.P. lounges surround a pulsating dance floor, where the city's well-dressed 20-to-40-somethings gyrate under strobe lights and smoke machines. The music ranges from thumping techno to Middle Eastern dance music, and notable D.J.'s have included the likes of Busta Rhymes and DMX. Admission is 25 Swiss francs for men, free for women.


11 a.m.

Who says the Swiss are humorless? Certainly not the cheery waiters at Faim (5, rue Châtelain;; 41-22-340-2575), a Scandinavian-sleek cafe on the Right Bank. The funky décor, tasty eats and rotating photo exhibits draw the city's bright young things every Sunday morning. A brunch plate, including delicious restaurant-baked bread and jams, is 28 Swiss francs.

1 p.m.

When you hear news reports of "negotiations taking place in Geneva," it invariably refers to the Palais des Nations (14, avenue de la Paix; 41-22-917-4896;, home to the second-largest United Nations office, after New York. Sprawled along Geneva's Right Bank, this complex of grand offices was built from 1929 to 1936 to serve as the headquarters of the League of Nations. When it was reconstituted as the United Nations after World War II, this became the U.N.'s European headquarters, housing an alphabet soup of organizations like Unicef and WHO. The hourlong tours — in any of the organization's 15 official languages — take you through the enormous Assembly Hall and the commemorative galleries (10 Swiss francs; passport required). Later, stroll the surrounding 87.5-acre Parc de L'Ariana. Avoid being nipped by the peacocks that roam wild. In a city as safe as Geneva, this might be the greatest danger you'll face.


Yesterday we went to St Cergue to see their festival celebrating the cows coming down from the alpine meadows for the winter.

We had to take the train to Nyon and switch to a smaller train to get to St Cergue. The smaller train was very full. We had to stand for the 40 minute trip and could hardly move. Once we got to the festival we saw three sets of very large cows come through town. The cows all have very large bells around there necks and many had flowers too.

Photos will be posted soon.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Uncle Pat's visit

Uncle Pat spent two weeks in Switzerland/France and three nights were with us. We went to Chillon and wandered around both Morges and Lausanne. We stopped at the local dairy store on the way back from Chateau Chillon and asked the girl at the counter to recommend three types of cheeses. The highlight was the Vacherin Mont-D'or. It was described as "one of the highest achievements of human civilization" in the Cheese Primer. I'm not sure if I'd rate it that high, but it is very good. We went to a little festival today and there was a booth giving away free samples of the cheese. It might have been the highlight of the day.

It is the cheese in the upper left corner of the plate in the picture below.

The two other cheeses are also very good, but don't deserve to be compared against other major accomplishments in history.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Only six visits later...

...our dishwasher works. The dishwasher hasn't drained properly since we've been here and the repairman had been here five or six times. The dishwasher company decided to replace the machine and that seems to have solved the problem.

Foreign residents given their say

From swissinfo, based on an article in German by Renat Künzi

A new website launched on Sunday gives Switzerland's foreign residents the
chance to vote – albeit unofficially - in next month's parliamentary elections.
The aim of the German-language site is to show that foreigners – who account for 20 per cent of the population – are responsible citizens and should be granted voting rights.

Hans Verbeke, one of the founders of the website,, said issues such as tax rates, pensions and relations with the European Union are of concern not only to the Swiss but also foreigners living in the country.

"We foreigners have many duties to perform as permanent residents therefore we should be given more responsibility, such as voting rights in referenda and elections," the Belgian marketing expert who has lived in Switzerland for 20 years told swissinfo.

He said Switzerland benefits greatly from its foreign residents since they too pay taxes and make their share of financial contributions to the country's social insurance system.

"We want to receive voting rights so we can take responsibility for the political
decision-making process too," Verbeke added. Interested foreign
residents can register online and cast their ballot anytime between October 14
and election day one week later.

Verbeke said the virtual ballot box would contribute to political transparency in the country. "The Swiss will be made aware of whom we would vote for if we only could."

The four-person team behind the project – two foreigners, Verbeke and an Austrian, as well as two Swiss – hope it will lead to foreigners being granted voting rights.

Four or five years?

"We want to see Swiss citizens launch an initiative which will lead to voters having a final say on the matter in four to five years' time," he said, adding he was convinced there was a good chance that this would happen. While the centre-left Social Democrats and Greens would be in favour of such an idea, Verbeke says the initiative would need the support of the two main centre-right parties, the Radicals and Christian Democrats, to win over enough of the electorate.

The rightwing Swiss People's Party, known for its anti-foreigner campaigns, represents the biggest obstacle to such a change to Swiss law.

"Anyone who really wants to vote can apply for citizenship," Gregor Rutz, the party's general secretary, told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.

Foreign residents have already been granted limited voting rights in some cantons and towns and villages across the country.

"It could become a pioneering project and allow Switzerland to prove to the world that it is very different to how it is often perceived," the Belgian said.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chateau D'oex

Today we went to Chateau D'oex, which as about an hour and 45 minutes east of Morges by train. We took the regular train to Montreux and the Golden Pass from there to Chateau D'oex. Once we got there we took a gondola halfway up the mountain and then a ski lift the rest of the way. Rowan enjoyed the ski lift more than I did. He complained that I was holding him too tight, but I was worried I wasn't holding him tight enough.

On the way home there weren't any seats in 2nd class so the conductor let us sit in first class (sometime it helps to travel with two small kids). Not only did we get to sit in first class, but we got to sit at the very back of the train with picture windows in front of us so we had a 180 degree view.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Six months ago....

...we arrived in Switzerland. It is hard to believe it has been six months.

In other fun news
  • Emily's purse\wallet thingy was last seen in the Montreux train station.
  • A locksmith costs CHF 600 to replace the keys and lock
  • we'll get to see how quick UBS can replace a debit and credit card

In the even more fun news category, I believe the router is not functioning correctly, so if you need to contact Jody or Emily, you'll need to use our home number.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

More Niamh

I know this will create an imbalance in their blog space, but we'll live.

Euro 2008

The Euro 2008 will be held in Switzerland and Austria next year. There is a lot of interest in the tournament, but I don't understand it. I think the games are sold out, so I'll have to watch on TV. The good news is that each of the Swiss games will probably be on at least 3 channels (Italian, German, and French).


Here is a somewhat interesting article from cnn\Rick Steves. Emily and I visited this town in June when my parents were visiting.

Equal Blog Time

There have been a few complaints about unequal blog time after I posted a picture of Rowan and not Niamh.

Problem resolved.

Enemy Number One!


Switzerland has been described as Europe’s ‘Climate Enemy Number One’, for its highly polluting cars and its ineffectual policy on Carbon Dioxide emissions. According to the Transport and Environment organization, the cars on the road in Switzerland – especially new vehicles – came out as the most polluting, when compared with the 24 countries of the European Union. The ATE says that Switzerland holds the dubious honour of leading the way when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions from new cars too, with 187 grammes per kilometer, compared with the European average of 160 grammes. The organization says it is not enough to expect the public to buy smaller, cleaner cars. Kurt Egli, from the ATE says they are calling for a change to Swiss law. The European Union is discussing a law which would insist that CO2 emissions be reduced to 120 grammes per kilometer by 2012.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Europe's Last Witch

The woman known as ‘Europe’s Last Witch’ will not be pardoned by the canton which ordered her death more than two hundred years ago. Authorities in the canton of Glarus, where Anna Goldi was beheaded back in 1782, rejected a motion to clear the woman’s name but has instead ordered an official study into the life of Ms Goldi, to determine, scientifically, if she was indeed innocent. Anna Goldi worked as a maidservant for a doctor in Glarus, who told authorities that she repeatedly put needles in the milk of one of his daughters, apparently by supernatural means. She was arrested and admitted, under torture, that she was in pact with the devil. Official records, however, made no mention of witchcraft and instead marked down her crime as murder of her second child, who died shortly after birth.

Friday, September 7, 2007

First day of school

Here is a picture of Rowan on his first day of preschool/daycare. He had a great time and wants to go back.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Paris Update

I just realized that I did not post many comments on our trip to Paris, so here is a summary of the trip.

We left Morges on a Thursday morning and took the local train to Lausanne. We took the TGV from Lausanne to Paris. It takes a little less than four hours to get from Lausanne to Paris. I purchased the tickets on line and thought we are all sitting together, but it turns out that we were not. We got lucky that the train wasn't super crowded and we were able to sit together.

Our apartment was less than a 10 minute taxi ride from Gare Lyon. We were on the 3rd floor (4th US floor) and the stairway was narrow. It sort of a pain to get the stroller up and down, but it was worth it since staying in an apartment is much easier than an apartment. We spent the afternoon wondering around the neighborhood, but didn't actually do any serious sight seeing. Much to our surprise, the kids both slept as well as they did it home, which was a big improvement from the trip to Interlaken.

On Friday morning we got up and went to the Louvre. The security line was fairly long, but since we had a stroller we got to the front of the line to get hand checked. There are actually four ticket lines inside, so it didn't take long. The first thing we did was see the Mona Lisa. There weren't too many people there, so we got a decent view. The kids decided that they were hungry, so we went to the ticket area and had a snack. Then we went and wandered a bit and saw Venus De Milo. Then we left. All told we were in the Louvre for maybe 2.5 hours.

After the Louvre we walked to the Luxembourg gardens for lunch. Rowen enjoyed playing at the playground (2 Euros to play) and Niamh had fun pushing the stroller around. After that we walked to the Eiffel Tower. It was a fairly long walk, but not too bad. We didn't go up because the lines were too long.

On Saturday we went to Notre Dame early to beat the crowds. We didn't have to wait to get in and walk around, but the line to the museum and the spire walk already had a huge line an hour before it officially opened. We spent the afternoon walking around in search of chocolate shops that Emily wanted to visit. Unfortunately, most of the ones we found were closed for August. We ended up finding a few, so the quest was successful.

On Sunday we had to be out of the apartment by 9:30 and we took a cab to the train station. We found lockers for our stuff and then took the metro in search of another chocolate shop. We found it, but it was closed for the day even though the web site indicated it was open on Sunday. We walked back toward the train station and found a restaurant that Emily had learned had the best hot chocolate in Europe. It was good, but I'm disappointed if that is really the best. We took the metro back to the station, had lunch and waited for our train. We got back to our apartment at bath time, so the kids took a bath, ate dinner, and went to sleep.

Niamh is signing!

Niamh isn't talking yet, but she has started signing. She knows and can do the signs for milk, eat, all done, more, book, and bath. If you are interested, here is a link to an ASL dictionary.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Adoption Update

Today was our appointment with the Swiss social worker to get an introduction to the Swiss adoption process. One of my co-workers went with us to translate as the social work didn't think she knew enough English to communicate everything.

I need to send her an email summary to validate what I think I heard, but I think there weren't too many surprises. Before we can do anything we need to get evaluated by the Swiss social system. This requires at least one home visit and 4 or 5 office meetings. The bad news is that there is an eight month wait to get evaluated.

I believe we can simplify the process by adopting via the US system (still requires a Swiss social evaluation), but we'll see what happens. Things are a bit more complicated because the US didn't sign an international treaty that the rest of the world that signed that is supposed to help protect the rights of the children. More info on the treaty can be found here.

We also can't adopt two children at once and the child has to be at least 18 months younger than Niamh.

We used a babysitter, Delphine, whose name we got from the Red Cross. We had met her before and I think things went well. The kids were both asleep (per schedule) when we got home, so that was good. Even better, she said she'd come back.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rowan's Favorite Things about Paris

1. Rowan loved all of the cross walks with signals (GREEN MAN!, RED MAN!). He would yell GREEN MAN! when it was our turn to walk across the street and RED MAN, RED MAN when we were crossing against the light. This morning he kept asking if we could wait for a green man today.

I'm not sure if the taxi driver was impressed with Rowan screaming GREEN LIGHT at every intersection between the apartment and the train station.

2. We took a few of Niamh and Rowan's toy trains with us so that they would have something to play with on the train and in the apartment. Rowan tossed Rosie (a "Thomas the Tank Engine" train) out of our 3rd story (4th floor in the US) apartment. I went out to look for it, but couldn't find it. I went back up and looked out the apartment and saw Rosie across the street under some bikes. We were about to leave for the afternoon, so we finished getting ready and Rosie was gone by the time we got to the street. Rowan now talks about Rosie's big ouch and how Rosie is up in the sky. I guess I'll be getting a new Rosie when I'm in the California next month

3. Rowan is really excited about the Eiffel Tower. We visited it on Friday afternoon, but did not up. As expected the lines were very long. I guess that is why the Brits listed it as the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world. Rowan spent the rest of the trip pointing out pictures of the Eiffel tower and mentioning it whenever it was visible.

More Paris commentary and photos to follow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Update: Rain rain go away

The rain has stopped and the sun is out. Unfortunately, there was about 2 inches of standing water in the storage area before the rain stopped. Since the storage unit also doubles as a nuclear shelter, I'm concerned that if the water can get in, the radiation will be able to as well.

Most of our stuff was either in plastic bins or elevated off the floor, but there were 5 boxes that hadn't been unpacked yet. Two boxes of clothing, two boxes of photos/paper stuff, and one box of cloth diapers (we decided to stop using cloth after we got here). One of the car seats had water in the frame, but it didn't get quite high enough to fill the seat.

We now have photos spread all over the train room and are washing clothes and diapers. I'm headed out to IKEA tonight to get some additional shelving so that everything can be elevated.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Look out Paris, here comes Niamh

We're going to Paris on the 16th for 3 nights. Neither Emily nor I have been there before, so we're both very excited. The train leaves from Lausanne at 7:22 AM and gets into Paris almost 4 hours later. I'd been told it only took 3.5 hours, but I guess my multiple sources were incorrect.

We taking the tgv, or as Rowan calls it "super woosh!," which should be a fun experience. Niamh doesn't get a seat, so we'll have to pass her back and forth for the entire trip. The only downside to the train trip is that we only get 1 window seat (Rowan) and two aisles instead of the other way around.

We decided to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel so that we have a little more space and a wall between us and Niamh in the evening. Here is a link the apartment we are staying at.

Rain rain go away

It has been raining for two straight days so Rowan has been singing "Rain rain go away. Come again another day." I can't believe it has only been two days. It seems like it has been raining all summer.

The creek/canal across the street was at least 15 inches higher than normal this afternoon and we could hear the water running for the first times since we've been here. More rain is expected on Friday, but the weekend is supposed to be nice.

People often comment about the amount of rain in Seattle, but it is no worse there than it is here

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Swiss Sailing

From the Swiss Embassy newletter:

This summer landlocked Switzerland wowed the world again when it
successfully defended its America’s Cup title, sailing’s most prestigious prize. In a nail-biting finish, the Swiss team Alinghi beat the New Zealand Kiwi team by just one second. This victory made the Swiss team, for the second consecutive time, the only
European team to win the America’s Cup in the regatta’s 156-year history.
A stellar international crew, excellent Swiss boat design, and the funding,
passion and participation of its owner and crewman Swiss businessman Ernesto Bertarelli made Alinghi the champions. Switzerland swelled with pride over this second sailing victory with some people even joking that the country had earned its own ocean!

IMPORTANT NOTE: The "international" crew did not include any Swiss members!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Swiss Kids...

Switzerland’s interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, has created waves among
political parties in Bern, following outspoken comments on the subject of giving
Swiss nationality to those born on Swiss soil. With just three months until
parliamentary elections, Mr Couchepin has gone against his party, the Radicals,
and says he thinks children born to foreigners who have fully settled in
Switzerland should automatically be given Swiss nationality. The cabinet
minister said nationality should only be granted to children if their parents
have been awarded C-permits, meaning they were well-established and
well-integrated into Swiss society. However, even with those conditions, the
idea is still a controversial one in this country. The Radical party has firmly
distanced itself from Mr Couchepin’s argument, while his stance has been met
with derision by the Right-Wing UDC party. Left-wing parties, however, have
welcomed his comments, saying that as a country with high immigration, granting
Swiss nationality to second-generation immigrants makes sense for

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More time off?

Swiss workers should have an extra week’s holiday to help them recover from
the stresses and strains in the workplace. That is according to the Trade Union
Travail Suisse which is calling for the standard holiday entitlement in
Switzerland to be increased from five to six weeks. Employers, however, are not
impressed and have described the demands as ‘unnecessary and exaggerated.’
Swiss workers are some of the highest paid in Europe but they work some of the
longest hours. By law, we are entitled to four weeks paid holiday a year but
most people manage to take five, which is the European average. However, workers
in France, Germany and Italy have more time off than we do. Travail Suisse says
working life is not a sprint but a marathon and people need more holidays to
relieve the pressure of work and relax. It also helps to redress the balance
between work and home life. The Union is launching an initiative to get six
weeks holiday on the statute books and needs to collect 100,000 signatures in 18
months to call for a nationwide vote on the issue. However, the Swiss Employers
Association is fiercely against any changes and says that workers in this
country have more holidays than those in Britain and the United States and
extending the current holiday entitlement would be at the cost of Swiss

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Train....bad news, good news, and great news

The bad news is that the local train store does not have and cannot order the Marklin HO Thomas the Tank Engine set.

The good news is that Niamh has become very interested trains. She enjoys watching the trains go in circles and looking at the Thomas book.

The great news is that I just heard Emily refer to our guest room as the "train room."

Gender Gap in Switzerland – Wider than European Average

Women all over Europe earn less than men, but in Switzerland the gap is
more pronounced than nearly all other countries in Europe. That is
according to figures released this week by the European commission, compared
with figures for Switzerland from 2005. This country ranks 22 nd – just
behind Great Britain and Finland and way below the European average.
Federal figures show Swiss women earned around 20 percent less than their male
counterparts. The EU average is around 15 percent less.

Harry Potter

Emily headed to the bookstore, Payot, this morning to get a copy of the new Harry Potter book. The store was basically empty; just Emily, the employees, and stacks of HP. I was worried that there would be long lines or not enough copies. It seems odd that people in Fairbanks are lining up a week or two early, but there isn't even a line in Lausanne.

We have the UK version, which is shorter and stouter than the US version. Pictures of the kids with the books will be posted later this weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One adoption...three governments

Assuming we adopt a child (or children) from Ethiopia, we would need to officially adopt the child in Ethiopia and then re-adopt the child on in the US. Once the child is picked up in Ethiopia we would have to immediately go back to th US for a few days to finish paperwork, but the child would be a US citizen upon arriving in the US.

We've learned that getting a B (residence) permit in Switzerland is not straight forward. We are supposed to get pre-approval from the Swiss government before moving forward with the adoption, so we have an appointment with a Swiss social worker on the 20th of August. She doesn't speak English, so we will try to get our French teacher or one of my coworkers to go with us.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A quick trip to Bern

Emily was able to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting at the embassy in Bern yesterday. Fingerprints are only done on Friday afternoon, so we didn't have much choice in when to go. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Bern and the embassy is about a 10 minute bus ride from the main station. We decided to walk instead of taking the bus, so it took us about 35 minutes to get to the embassy.

We had to show our passports, leave our bags at the gate, and go through a metal detector to get inside. At first we were the only people waiting to be helped,but another American arrived to get fingerprintsafter about 30 minutes. Our appointment was at 3 and her appointment was at 3:30. We were all fingerprinted at 3:45, which was a bit frustrating. The good news is that there were toys in the waiting area for kids to play with.

We stopped off at a chocolate store and a toy store on the way back to the train station. Purchases were made at both locations

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Famous Swiss People

I thought this list was interesting. I don't think everyone listed is Swiss and am disappointed that I couldn't find Richard Scary on the list.

Change in plans

We were planning on visiting the Geneva police station to get fingerprinted as part of the adoption process, but there has been a small change in plans. Even though the US consulate in Geneva provide the forms and the possible places to be fingerprinted, it seems we got the wrong information. The paperwork from the consulate is incorrect. Instead of going to one of the big three(Bern, Geneva, Zurich) police stations, we have to go to the embassy in Bern. They only fingerprint by appointment and only on Fridays. We don't have an appointment yet.

This is a little disappointing because instead of a 30 minute train ride to Geneva, we have to ride the train for over an hour and then take a bus to the embassy. To make me even more cranky, the appointments are only available during Niamh's nap time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Some of you have already heard this news or read about it on other blogs, but I thought I should share with everyone.

We are thinking of adopting 1 or 2 children in the not too distant future and one of the first steps is to have a social worker come visit to see if we are fit to adopt. It seems like a strange concept because I would think everyone would be on their best behavior during the visit. Anyway, living in Switzerland makes things a bit difficult. A US qualified social worker came from Germany on a Saturday and left Sunday morning. She asked for copies of a bunch of documents and asked a few questions. It seems like the entire thing could have been done in a couple of hours and that she didn't really need to stay overnight. In fact, she mentioned that she has done multiple home studies on one day in the past.

She did make a comment along the lines of Rowan and I being a bit too interested in trains and that she knows that lots of people enjoy watching model trains go in circles, but she thinks it is weird.

We are working on getting all of the paperwork in order and have to go to Geneva on Thursday to get fingerprinted. I had to go to Geneva last week to get the forms (expect another blog entry) and now we have to go to the Geneva police station to get the actual finger prints.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Swiss HOG Weekend

This weekend is the fourth annual Swiss HOG (Harley Owners Group) weekend. The gathering has the street along the lake blocked and traffic is horrible. It doesn't seem like one street would be a big deal, but there are only 4streets that go east\west, so it does really mess things up. Rowan enjoyed walking by all of the motorcycles. He kept trying to count them, but he can only count to about 12 before starting over.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Web site

I know it has been a while, but the web site( now has about a dozen new photos. Emily mentioned that she has lots of photos on her laptop that I don't have on mine, so I'll try to move them to my PC this weekend and then post a few.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quick Update

It has been a busy few weeks. I spent a week in Malaysia and Emily had a friend (and her 3 kids)from Israel come for a week. There are a number of photos that I'll put on the web site either tomorrow or the next day.

Our house has sold for about the same price that we got from the company, so I guess we got a decent deal.

More updates to come soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Doctor's visit

Rowan and Niamh had their first Swiss doctor's appointment on Wednesday. Here are their stats.

Height: 91cm
Weight: 13.8 kg

Height: 74cm
Weight: 9.5 kg

There were a few differences between this doctor and those that we visted in the US.

1. The doctor didn't mind that we left our insurance cards and told us we could bring them the next time we came in.
2. No payment required
3. No nurse
4. The doctor didn't look at us like we were crazy when we told him that we hadn't given Rowan the chicken pox vaccine. In fact, they don't even offer it until age 7 here.

The doctor is going to call the hospital, get Niamh's records, and find us an English speaking allergist.

Monday, June 11, 2007


We went to Lauterbrunnen on Thursday and stayed at the Hotel Staubbach( It had an indoor play area for the kids and a good view of the falls. Emily and I took the tram to Schilthorn. It took about 30 minutes and required 4 different trams. The view was restricted due to weather, but I imagine it is amazing on a clear day. That afternoon we(Grammie, Bumpa, Niamh, Emily, Rowan and I) took a tram to Grutschalp and then a train over to Murren. We spent about an hour walking back to Grutschalp and took the tram back down to Lauterbrunnen. That night Niamh decided that she wasn't going to sleep in the hotel, so Emily and I took her back to Lausanne. Rowan, Bumpa, and Grammie took the train back the next morning.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Grammie Annie and Bumpa Mike!

Grammie and Bumpa(Grandpa) arrived on Saturday afternoon. Rowan spent the afternoon showing them all of his favorite things in Morges. These places include, but are not limited to the lake, the store, the ducks, the playground, the train station, the swans, and waterfalls.

We drove to Bern on Sunday. We spent about two hours walking around the old town. We saw two bears in the bear pit. Rowan isn't a big fan of bears. Einstein lived in Bern in the early 1900s. We walked by his house, but didn't go in.

House Update

The house in Seattle sold last week. I'm eagerly awaiting the sale price to be posted on the King County site so we can learn if we made a good deal.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Swiss reputation for tolerance under threat

Swiss reputation for tolerance under threat
By Sam Cage

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland’s reputation as a haven of tolerance for immigrants has been undermined in recent weeks by calls for a ban on new minarets, a mysterious synagogue blaze and neo-Nazi threats to disrupt national day celebrations.

Switzerland is known for public order and efficiency. Its neutral status and high living standards, as well as its need for lower cost workers, have historically attracted refugees from conflicts around Europe and the world.

But with rising immigration -- and lack of integration caused partly by tight laws on handing out Swiss passports -- religious and ethnic tension has been on the rise, particularly focusing on Muslims.

"There is always this feeling that Switzerland is a little island and you daren’t let anything in because it will destabilise it," said Clive Church, an expert on Swiss politics, recently retired from the University of Kent.

By the end of 2005, more than a fifth of Switzerland’s 7.5 million residents were foreigners, a higher proportion than in any other European country except Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

Most of those are from Europe, with large communities from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, many of those Muslims who fled the conflicts there.

"Radical Islam is a huge foreign political factor," said Swiss culture and politics expert Jonathan Steinberg of the University of Pennsylvania. "None of the immigration before constituted an international threat. Now they do." Foreigners accounted for more than 40 percent of registered jobless in April, according to government figures.


A group of right-wing Swiss politicians has launched a campaign to ban the construction of minarets, claiming they are a symbol of power and threaten law and order.

The attempt to launch a national referendum on minarets has triggered widespread criticism but also attracted some support.

"There’s no doubt that the attack on the minarets is part of a larger picture of Islamophobia," said Church, who said the backlash -- if the ban became law -- could be comparable to a storm of protest last year caused by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad first published in Denmark.

Meanwhile organisers have threatened to cancel Switzerland’s traditional national day celebration on August 1 due to threats by right-wing groups to disrupt the event.

Neo-Nazis have disrupted the ceremony in recent years and shouted down then-President Samuel Schmid in 2005. And this week, police suspected arson in a fire that destroyed Geneva’s largest synagogue, although they have not ruled out an accidental blaze.

"Right extremism in Switzerland ... is a political and social reality," said a recent Racism in Switzerland report by the Zurich-based Foundation Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. "Although this movement remains marginal, it has never been as strong numerically since 1945."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Household Shipment

Our surface shipment arrived last Tuesday. We've found a few broken items, but nothing major. Before we left we sold a few items, gave lots of stuff away, and took van loads worth of stuff to Goodwill. I'm amazed at the amount of junk we shipped over here.

The shipping container was temporarily misplaced. We had been told it was at customs in Geneva, but then we found out that the customs agent went to go clear our container and the container wasn't there. It seems it got left at the port in France for a few weeks.

We just got rid of the rental furniture on Monday, so we had a full house for a week. Now that the rental furniture is gone, we can actually walk in all of the rooms without bumping into sutff.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A family outing

Last weekend we ordered a second Ergo carrier ( and it arrived today. We decided to put it (and the attaching backpacks) to use on a hike. We headed North of Morges on the trail we took on Mother's Day. Having both kids on our backs made for a much quicker pace.

The trail went through forests, vineyards, and fields. After about an hour we cam into a clearing and saw Chateau de Vufflens on top of the next hill. We took a break below the castle and had lunch. We discovered that the our 1:15 walk could have been accomplished in about 5 minutes on the local train.

Pictures have been posted.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good Customer Service

Yesterday morning we had to get two prescriptions for Niamh. One of the prescriptions was for a Benadryl like drug and I'm not sure exactly what the other is. We also wanteded to give Niamh some pain killer to help her sleep since she has at least one tooth coming in. We weren't sure if we could give her Motrin or Tylenol so I went back to the pharmacy to ask about it. Since they don't sell either Motrin or Tylenol, I asked if there were any issues with taking the prescribed drugs and a local child's pain killer.

The person at the pharmacy spoke very little English, but I was able to figure out that Niamh should be able to have the pain killer in addition to her prescriptions. Later that evening I got a call from the pharmacy from someone with excellent English skils who wanted to make sure my questions were answered. I was fairly impressed that they called.

No Hot Chocolate?

My department had a group lunch yesterday. After the meal almost everyone ordered a coffee and since I don't like coffee I ordered a Hot Chocolate. One of my co-workers explained that hot milk based drinks are normally not ordered after a meal. He told me that I run the risk of being laughed at if I order a Hot Chocolate after eating. Based on the large smile on the server's face, I think he might be correct.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

15 Francs to the hospital

Actually, it is 15 francs (CHF) from the train station to the hospital. It is 17 CHF from the hospital to our apartment.

Niamh ate a very small piece of egg and became rather unhappy. She got hives on her face and her skin became red. We gave her some Benedryl and then followed her normal evening process (bath, nurse, bed). About an hour later she started to cry and I went to check on her and there was vomit all over the floor, crib and Niamh. I walked across the street to the urgent care facility and discovered that it had closed 30 minutes earlier.

We debated for another half an hour on whether we should take her to the hospital. About 9 we decided she should go to the hospital. We didn't have enough cash, so I had to visit the ATM down the street. About 9:20 Niamh, her car seat and I headed to the train station to get a cab. The cab driver didn't speak English and I had to say "hopital" (there should be an ^ over the o) three or four times before he figured out what I meant. Once he realized that I wanted to go to the hospital he quickly tossed the car seat into the trunk and drove out of the parking lot at something either at or slightly above what any normal person would consider a safe speed. The trip to the hospital only took about 5 minutes and we probably could have driven a bit slower and been ok.

The emergency room is quite nice. We did have to fill out a little paperwork-actually I handed the clerk Niamh's residence permit and insurance card and he did all the paperwork. While that was happening a boy came in holding his chest or maybe his arm and was screaming really loud (even louder than Niamh). I found out later that he had broken his arm in multiple places.
We had to wait a bit to be seen due to the boy, so we paced around the waiting area looking for brochures on allergies. A woman who was waiting for her friend asked me what was wrong with Niamh (in French) and I replied 'je ne parle pas francais.' She quickly switched to English. She seemed to know a lot about food allergies.

The nurse saw Niamh after about 10 minutes. She took her temperature\weight and said she was going to page a doctor. It took about 30 minutes to get a doctor who spoke English. She examined Niamh and gave her some stronger drugs, two prescriptions, and permission to leave. She also mentioned that we should bring her back if it happens again and should visit our doctor to discuss possible tests (Appointment had already been made for 13 June). The security guard called for a taxi and we left.

Tomorrow we get to experience take prescriptions to the pharmacy and figuring out how insurance actually works here.

Car Free

We've decided to try to be car free for a while. Yesterday we signed up with Mobility (, which is a car sharing service. They have five cars at the local train station (4 blocks away). We've signed up for the 4 month trial period. I think it should work fine, because almost everything is in walking distance.

I should get my pin number this week and I hope to try it out this weekend.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

House Update!

The house is "subject to inspection." Not much else to report.

Frecnh lesson pdate

French lessons seem to be going OK. I've had a successful trip to the bakery. Well, we did switch to English after she asked if I wanted a bag to put the items in, but I'm still counting it as successful.

I was also able to get a printer cartridge at the grocery store using only French. They are kept behind the counter, so I had to ask for it. I think the clerk knew I wanted a printer cartridge, but I think she thought I wanted 21 of them. In reality, I wanted cartridge number 21.

We covered 'to be' and 'to have' last week. I think this week we will spend more time on 'to have' and 'to not have.' We only have one lesson this week because Thursday is a national holiday (Ascension).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A train ride without screaming

We took the train into Lausanne today in search of our favorite things (book store, toy store, and chocolate store) and Rowan didn't cry at all. We weren't at the station very long, so we didn't see any trains 'woosh' by without stopping. In the past it didn't matter if trains went by or not, there has always been lots of screaming.

We found two books stores. FNC (cannot find link) is more of an electronics store with a portion dedicated to books, while Payot ( only has books. Payot has a much better English language selection than FNC. Both are about an eight minute walk from the Lausanne train station.

We also found the toy store and the chocolate store, but didn't go in. The toy store is too croweded for a stroller and the chocolate store didn't have what Emily was looking for. She must have been looking for some big pieces, as she could tell from outside that the store didn't have what she wanted.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A trip to Geneva

One of my co-workers had a party at her apartment in Geneva last week. One of the guys on the team drove and three of us went with him. We had very clear instrcutions on how to get there, but we ran into a few problems. All went well until we got of the expressway. We ended up going in circles and having to ask for directions 2 or 3 times. It was fairly amusing since two of the people speak\read French and I think all three had been to the old Agilent office that is only a couple blocks from where we were going.

French Lessons

French lessons started two weeks ago. The instructor comes to our house on Monday and Thursday for 3 hours. She works with me for 90 minutes and then with Emily. I'm making progress, but I'll need more than the 150 hours the company is providing. I should have taken French instead of Latin in high school.

I'm fairly confident that I can carry on a conversation as long as it is limited to the following topics:
  • Name
  • Gender
  • City of residence
  • Nationality
  • How we are feeling
  • Basic descriptive info (tall, short, thin, hair color)
  • Languges spoken
  • Spelling
  • Counting to 10

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Swiss holidays

Someone asked about Swiss holidays a few months ago and I don't think I ever responded. Here are the holidays I don't have to work:

New Year's Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Ascension Day
August 1st (National founding was on Aug 1, 1291)
Jeune Federal
Stephen's Day

Jeune Federal should have a ^ over the u and Federal should have ' over the e's. The vacation days differ by canton. Here in Vaud I think we just get the basics. I believe that the law requires all employees to receive 4 weeks of vacation a year. It is either law or company policy that at some point each year everyone has to take two consecutive weeks off.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New gun laws?

From the Washington post...

ZUG, Switzerland -- Evening rush hour at a Swiss train station: men in suits, a
woman carrying a cello, kids lugging snowboards. Markus Marschall, a university
engineering student, walked through the bustle wearing an orange T-shirt, leather jacket and aviator sunglasses -- and a Sturmgewehr 90 automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder.

"It's perfectly normal," said Marschall, 25, who carried the olive-green rifle, issued to him by the Swiss military, on a canvas strap as casually as he might carry a tennis racket. Nobody gave him a second glance.

Switzerland, a country of 7.5 million people with an estimated 2 million or more guns in circulation, sits as a heavily armed exception in the heart of Europe, where most countries have strict gun-control laws. Virtually all able-bodied Swiss men are required to serve in the military, which issues them assault rifles or pistols, or both,
which they store at home and keep when they leave the service.

At a time when the Virginia Tech killings are stirring debate about U.S. gun laws,
Switzerland is also weighing new curbs on a robust culture of gun ownership that
dates back centuries. Parliament is considering a measure to ban the keeping of
ammunition at home. Opposition politicians, backed by a leading women's magazine, are campaigning to get guns and ammunition out of Swiss homes to be stored in gun clubs and military armories.

"If you have a gun in the home, the risk of death is higher than if you don't have a gun at home -- very simple," said Manuela Weichelt-Picard, an elected official and survivor of this country's worst gun slaughter, in which a man with a rifle killed 14 people and himself at a local government meeting in this lakeside city south of Zurich in September 2001. Swiss anti-gun activists saw the Virginia Tech shootings
demonstrate all over again the danger of easy access to firearms.

Gun advocates argue that stricter controls would violate age-old Swiss tradition, would not deter crime and would not have prevented the Zug massacre. "No gun law will ever stop the crazy man from doing outrageous things," said Ferdinand Hediger of Pro Tell, a gun owners' association.

Anti-gun activists said they were pessimistic about winning major gun-law changes in a country where guns are a commonly accepted part of life. Each spring, more than 200,000 people take part in a national target-shooting competition staged in nearly every village in the country. Hediger of Pro Tell -- named for William Tell, the legendary Swiss character who with bow and arrow shot an apple from his son's head -- said Swiss shooters fire 70 million rounds of ammunition each year, nearly 10 bullets for every citizen.

But a poll published Sunday in a national newspaper, SonntagsBlick, found that 65 percent of 1,200 Swiss surveyed were opposed to storing military guns at home, with 76 percent saying it was not "necessary for the army's mission." Although 54 percent said Switzerland's high rate of gun ownership made the country "less safe," 60 percent said that changes in laws would not stop gun violence in Swiss homes.

No one knows exactly how many guns are in Switzerland -- estimates reach 3 million or more -- in part because military guns have been passed down through generations. The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimates that the country has 46 guns per 100 people, which puts it behind only the United States, with 90 guns per 100 people; Yemen, with 61; and Finland, with 56 -- and just ahead of Iraq with

Hediger, of Pro Tell, estimated that at least half of Swiss homes have a gun tucked away somewhere. Marschall, a full-time student and Swiss Army militiaman, said he keeps his rifle in a bedroom closet with "T-shirts and sports equipment" and a sealed canister of 50 military-issued bullets. He was on his way to the annual shooting practice required of all 200,000 soldiers and reservists.

A gun for every man is the basis of a generations-old defense doctrine in the tiny, traditionally neutral country. Swiss officials call it the "porcupine" approach: Switzerland may be small, but weapons in basements and attics in every Alpine village act as millions of quills to deter invaders.

"An army should be ready as soon as possible, so soldiers should have weapons and ammunition at home -- this is our tradition," said Ulrich Schluer, a national legislator who serves on a commission on security. Many Swiss feel the policy served them well during World War II, when their country largely escaped the conflagration that consumed most of Europe.

According to Swiss police, there were 204 homicides in Switzerland in 2005, including 48 that involved guns. That is about the same number of gun-related killings as took place last year in England and Wales, which have strict gun control and a population seven times the size of Switzerland's.

According to a 25-nation survey by the International Action Network on Small Arms, a British-based organization against gun violence, Switzerland's total number of gun deaths, including accidents, in 2005 was 6.2 per 100,000 citizens, which was second only to the U.S. rate of 9.42 per 100,000. Switzerland's rate of gun deaths was more than double that of 18 of the countries surveyed, including neighbors Germany and Italy.

Schluer and other gun advocates attributed much of the violence to criminals who obtain weapons illegally. But gun-control proponents here contend that guns kept at home are used increasingly in suicides; according to government figures, there were 271 suicides by firearm in Switzerland in 2004 out of a total of 1,283.

Annabelle, a Swiss women's magazine, reported that there were at least eight cases in the country last year of men shooting their wives or children, then themselves. These included the murder of international ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet by her husband, who then shot himself. To highlight the problem, the magazine printed posters showing a happy Swiss family: mom with a baby, a young boy in dress clothes and a beaming dad wearing a tie and holding his assault rifle uncomfortably close to his wife's face.

"We don't know any woman who wants a weapon in the house," said Lisa Feldmann, the magazine's editor. "Women and the younger generation think this is crazy."

Although there was a national debate, Switzerland did not make any major changes to its gun laws after the massacre in Zug, a picturesque town of about 24,000 on the shores of a placid lake that bears the same name.

"I don't know how many people have to die before things change," said Weichelt-Picard, who was in the room during the Zug killings and helped tend to the dead and wounded, all of whom she knew. "There are too many people in our world who can't handle a gun in moments where they are angry or upset."

Weichelt-Picard said her first reaction to the news about Virginia Tech was, "Oh no, not again." She said she was in trauma therapy for months after the shooting here.

Simone Hinnen, 35, one of 14 people wounded in the shootings, still wears an elastic bandage over the scarring on her right lower leg and, after a half-dozen operations, still has trouble walking. Hinnen said that stricter gun laws would not have stopped the Zug shooter, who used privately purchased guns, but that guns stored at home often lead to family violence.

"I understand people who say this is our history," she said. "But for the younger generation, I think it's different. It should be forbidden to have a gun at home."

On Friday afternoon, Marcel Brunschwiler, 34, a business consultant, ate lunch in a sunny plaza next to the building where the Zug shootings happened. He said that while Switzerland and the United States are world leaders in gun ownership, gun-related killings are in his view far more common in the United States. He blamed that partly on violent American television shows such as "24," which he watches

"Kids in America watch these shows and think, 'I just have to kill this guy and the problem's solved,' " Brunschwiler said. "We have a completely different way of thinking."

Brunschwiler said he owns a 9mm pistol, which he keeps in a drawer with his CDs.