Saturday, March 31, 2007

We've been here three weeks!

It is hard to believe that we've been here three weeks. We've had a few major accomplishments this week. Our airfreight arrived on Monday, so the kids have lots more toys to play with. Rowan enjoys pushing his cart across the balcony when it is warm enough (It has snowed multiple times.) The airfreight also had the DVD player, which is currently being used to play Cookie Monster's greatest hits.

Another big accomplishment is that we got a TV that actually seems to work. The video on the the first TV stopped working, so we were without a TV for about a week. Speaking of TV, the only english channels are CNN International, CNBC Europe, and BBC Prime. The remaining 35 channels are in French, German, or Italian. I think the Simpsons is in French.

We purchased car seats last night, but have run into an issue. The car seat we purchased for Niamh is for children age 9 months to 3.5 years, so we assumed it would be rear facing. It wasn't. We are now investigating other car seat options.

We're about to head out to the MMM Migro for groceries. Migros are either M, MM, or MMM. The more Ms, the bigger the store. The one near our house is only MM, so it is about half the size of a normal Safeway. The MMM store is about double the size of a regular Safeway and sells clothing, electronics, food and all sorts of good stuff. I guess it is similar to a super Target.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


This doesn't impact us as we live in the Canton of Vaud, but I thought it was interesting. It is from

Foreigners to flex voting muscle in Geneva
Around 75,000 foreigners living in canton Geneva have the chance to vote in a
local election for the first time on Sunday.
The decision to grant the vote
to foreigners who have lived in Switzerland for at least eight years has swelled
the canton's electorate – at a local level – by more than a third to

Geneva's huge non-Swiss population won the right to vote
in a historic ballot in April last year. Foreigners make up almost 40 per cent
of the canton's 445,000 residents – compared with 20 per cent for all of
Switzerland.The "J'y vis, J'y vote" ("I live there, I vote there") initiative,
which also gives them the right to launch and sign popular initiatives and
referendums, was backed by a slim majority of the electorate. A separate
proposal that would have allowed foreigners to stand at local elections was
rejected."Our national identity is not the same as it was 50 years ago and the
change means we need to integrate foreigners more easily," Guy Mettan, a backer
of both initiatives, told swissinfo."The idea of giving the right to vote after
eight years is a way of integrating them into the Swiss political
system."Mettan, who leads the centre-right Christian Democrats in the cantonal
parliament, added that foreigners who "paid taxes, sent their children to school
and participated in the economic development of the country" had earned the
right to vote.

Right to vote

Elections are taking
place in each of the canton's 45 communes, with more than 1,700 candidates
standing for 896 seats.The canton's electoral office sent out an information
brochure to eligible foreign voters last year notifying them of their right to
vote. They were also invited to attend information evenings in their commune.The
estimated 35,000 people working for international organisations in the canton,
such as the United Nations, have had to apply to the cantonal authorities to be
registered to vote.Patrick Ascheri, head of Geneva's electoral office, said it
was difficult to say how many new voters would head to the polling station on
Sunday."As it's a first for Geneva we have nothing to compare it with," he
pointed out. "But that being said, the first election [involving foreigners] in
canton Vaud saw participation of around 20 per cent."Most parties have been
quick to embrace the new electorate. Carole-Anne Kast, coordinator for the
centre-left Social Democrats, said leaflets in eight languages had been
distributed at campaign stands in communes across the canton.Guy Mettan said the
Christian Democrats had invited foreign voters to "spaghetti parties", hoping to
get their message across over a bowl of pasta.


Mettan said it was difficult to say whether foreign
voters had the potential to change the political landscape in Geneva, especially
since at this stage no one knew whether they would lean right or left – or even
come out to vote.The rightwing Swiss People's Party, which campaigned against
giving foreigners the vote, said it had not made a special effort to tap into
this new seam of voters."The party has done nothing," said Eric Bertinat, a
member of the cantonal parliament. "We believe that since foreigners now have
the vote in Switzerland, we should treat them as Swiss."Gillian, 61, who did not
wish to give her full name, is one of those voting for the first time in Geneva
– and indeed for the first time in her entire life. She left Britain for
Switzerland before she was old enough to vote and has never cast a ballot.She
says the hardest thing is working out whom to vote for. In her commune of
Meyrin, there are more than 80 candidates standing for 31 seats."I never really
followed local politics before because I've never been able to vote. But I think
that as they've pushed for foreigners to vote, we should do so. The question is
who for?"swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in


Municipal councillors are elected for a
four-year period and their number is proportional to the number of residents
residing in the commune. Nine seats are up for grabs in Gy; 80 in the city of
Geneva.Municipal councils can take decisions on budgetary, land and construction
matters but cannot amend cantonal or federal law.Geneva communes with less than
800 residents elect councillors by a simple majority – there are six of them.
The other 39 use a system of proportional representation.More than 38,000
foreigners living in the communes of the city of Geneva, Chancy and Lancy have
already had a taste of the polling experience, voting on local issues in October
last year.


Foreigners who have
been resident for a certain number of years are entitled to vote in local
elections in cantons Neuchâtel, Jura, Fribourg, Vaud and Geneva.
Neuchâtel and Jura they can also vote on cantonal issues.
In Jura, Fribourg
and Vaud foreigners can stand in local elections.
The situation is very
different in German-speaking Switzerland.
Only a handful of communes in
Appenzell Outer Rhodes and Graubünden allow foreigners to vote.

Time Change

In case you didn't already know, Europe changed to Daylight Savings Time this morning. Switzerland (Central European Time) is now:
  • 10 hours ahead of Alaska
  • 9 hours ahead of the West Coast
  • 8 hours ahead of Denver

This means that Rowan woke up at 6AM instead of 5 AM.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

No more guns?


Centre-left wants to end Swiss gun tradition

The Swiss can keep their army guns at home - for the
time being (Keystone)

Related stories
weapons "kill 300 people a year"

demand tougher laws on weapons

magazine hands in gun ban petition

Pacifists and centre-left parties
want voters to have the final say on breaking with a long-standing Swiss
tradition of storing personal army rifles and pistols at home.
They said
would launch a people's initiative to ban such weapons in households.
announcement came a day after parliament refused to take action over the

Supporters of the ban are expected to launch a bid to
collect the necessary signatures for the vote within the next few months.The
House of Representatives on Thursday threw out a proposal by the Social
Democrats and the Greens to tighten the gun law, including having a central
register."Firearms are the biggest security risk in the country," said
parliamentarian Jo Lang, while the Social Democrat, Boris Banga,
argued that
current regulations on standard issue firearms were
outdated.Other speakers
pointed out the latest case of murder committed with
such weapons – a man shot
his girlfriend in southeastern Switzerland earlier
this week.Under Swiss law
all-able bodied men are issued with a rifle and 50
rounds of ammunition which
they can keep after completing their military
service.An estimated 1.6 million
firearms are in circulation in Switzerland
and a study found that 300 people are
killed every year by standard issue
weapons.There are also more than 150,000
active members of rifle clubs, many
of whom own more than one gun.
are the biggest security risk in
the country.
Jo Lang, Green Party


However, Justice Minister Christoph Blocher,
a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, downplayed the importance of
guns in crimes, adding the issue of keeping weapons at home should be part
of a
wider discussion on the army.Ulrich Schlüer, also from the Swiss
People's Party,
dismissed allegations that members of Switzerland's militia
army and civilian
shooting clubs acted irresponsibly."It's a sign of honour
for the citizen to
take the weapon home. They feel treated with disrespect
if they are denied this
right," he said.Parliament will continue the debate
on the gun law and on
proposals to ban the storage of gun and rifle
ammunition in households at a
later date.Recent polls show support for
keeping army firearms at home is waning
among the public. Last year a
women's magazine handed in a petition to
parliament in a bid to rid Swiss
households of weapons.Criminologist Martin
Killias of Lausanne University
has said that guns play a central role in
suicides and in the country's grim
history of family killings.Many newspaper
commentators echoed the changing
attitude among the public.Zurich's
Tages-Anzeiger newspaper says the ballot
box challenge mounted by pacifists and
the centre-left is a way out of an
obvious impasse in a parliament.


Arms fetishists

"Arms fetishists
parliament. Their decision had to be expected in a country which
celebrates its
readiness to fight off an outside threat by letting citizens
keep their
automatic rifles and pistols at home," the paper said.Der Bund
from Bern says
understanding for Switzerland's gun tradition is dwindling in
particularly among women."Whether a ban would make Switzerland
necessarily any
safer is another question, but better protection from gunmen
running amok is
reason enough to collect individual army firearms."In a
similar vein, the Basler
Zeitung says parliament missed an opportunity to
reduce the number of weapons in
circulation.Le Temps from Geneva sees no
point in sticking to the gun tradition
for the sake of those who put
tradition above everything else."It seems absurd
and outdated to refer to
the need for security in the face of terrorist
threats."It says rational
arguments, such as the prevention of murder cases,
should be more important
than emotional aspects and the natural instinct to
oppose any state
interference in citizens' rights and freedoms.swissinfo, Urs


The reform of the gun law
aims to bring regulations in line with the EU's open border policy, which
Switzerland will be joining in the near future.The legislation includes a
for purchasing firearms from private individuals, a ban on anonymous
through the internet or small ads and the tagging of new weapons
produced in
Switzerland or imported.However, there is no provision for a
central arms
register or restrictions for standard issue army


There are an
1.6 to 2 million firearms in circulation in Switzerland.
a third of
all murder cases involve private guns and army weapons.
weapons were
used in 68% of suicides, according to recent study.


Swiss parliament
without an Army group (GSoA)

Pro Tell - Swiss gun lobby (German, French,

Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide in
Switzerland (German, French)

Swiss media (German, French and

Friday, March 23, 2007

Trains, Buses, and bedside lamps

I purchased my first Swiss train set today. It is a Marklin HO set with two trains. The nice thing about Marklin trains is that they use a 3 rail system similar to Lionel's O guage. Rowan hasn't seent yet, but Niamh and I enjoyed watching the trains go in circles. Emily thinks we are crazy.

Emily and Rowan took a bus ride to a play group today. They bus system is fairly easy to use. To buy a ticket you look at a list of the possible stops and see how many zones you need to pass through and then you press the corresponding number. The price shows on a little screen, you input the necessary coins, and a ticket is printed. Emily and Rowan both had fun at the play group and will probably go back. It was mostly families from the UK, but there was one other American family there.

Niamh either touched or grabbed the lamp by the bed today and isn't very happy about it. It seems to be a fairly good 1st degree burn. It wouldn't be too bad, but it is the hand that she always sucks on. Sucking on the hand apperently hurts, as there has been a lot of crying this evening.

Remember: spell check is now in German, so expect spelling errors!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Swiss weather records

I know a few of you are interested in climate records:

Warmest location: Locarno-Monti 11.5°C (annual average)
Highest temperature: Grono (GR) 41.5°C August 11, 2003
Coldest location: Jungfraujoch -7.9°C (annual average)
Coldest temperature: La Brévine -41.8°C January 12, 1987
Highest rainfall in 1 day: Camedo TI, 414mm September 10, 1983
Highest rainfall in 1 year: Mönchsgrat 5,910mm, 1939/40
Driest location: Ackersand VS 521mm (annual average)
Longest dry period: Lugano 77 days (from December 6, 1988)
Highest new snowfall (per day): Klosters 130cm January 29/30, 1982
Highest snow amount: Säntis 816cm April 1999

From: swissinfo with agencies

Weather report

Not much snow in Morges

Snowstorms usher in Swiss spring

Snow returned to Switzerland after a long period of warm
weather (Keystone)

A blanket of snow welcomed spring on
Wednesday, with forecasters expecting the weather to worsen before there is any
The situation caused problems on Swiss roads, with a number of
people injured in collisions.

Up to 90 centimetres of snow has
fallen in the pre-Alps since Sunday.Forecasters say that the country will have
to wait until early next week to see warmer spring weather, as more snow is on
its way.The snowfall around the country made driving conditions precarious with
around 100 weather-related accidents reported as temperatures dropped to just
above freezing.Police said at least seven people were injured in road accidents
in St Gallen, where 40 centimetres of snow fell, Zurich and Bern.Many cars were
also a danger because motorists had already changed from winter to summer
tyres.A number of flights were delayed at Zurich Airport as planes had to be
de-iced before taking off.

More snow

The weather
situation is expected to worsen in the north on Thursday, according to Urs
Keller from MeteoSwiss, the national weather service."We are expecting between
15 and 25 centimetres of snow," he said. Temperatures at 2,000 metres altitude
are expected to drop to minus ten degrees.The weather situation should improve
by Friday, with temperatures at the weekend hovering between six and eight
degrees.In the south of the country, Thursday and Friday should be overcast but
rain is expected at the weekend. Temperatures are expected to climb to around 12
degrees Celsius.

Warm winter

Switzerland has
experienced one of the warmest winters ever, with average temperatures of
between three and four degrees Celsius.And forecasters believe that spring and
summer will bring record temperatures.The warmer winter temperatures across many
parts of Europe have resulted in flowers blooming early and animals' biological
clocks being disrupted.

From: swissinfo with agencies

So far, so good

On Sunday we went back to the train station and Rowan might be more scared than before. We were walking up to the platform and a train went through without stopping. That was all he needed to see before screaming "all done train."

I don't want to jinx it, but I believe Niamh had finally adjusted to the time change. She is more or less sleeping as well as she was back in Seattle. Speaking of Seattle, I found this house for sale:

It has been snowing on and off for the past few days. Not enough to stick, but it looks impressive when you just glance out the window.

Morges Tulip Festival

From the relocation company's spring newsletter:

Every year (since 1971), Morges greets the return of spring by celebrating the tulip, symbol of the spring revival. For one and a half months, more than 100'000 tulips(from mid April), preceded at the beginning of April by narcissus ,crocus andhyacinths…compete in elegance and illuminate the beautiful Parc del’Independence. On a surface of 30'000m2, the public can ad-mire beds of flowers that were prepared last autumn by horticulture apprentices from the Center of professional teaching of Morges(CEPM). At the weekend, music and other shows complete this great floral show and add harmony to the symphony of colors. This year the festival takes place from March 31st to May 13th. Free admission, open every day. For more information:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trains - woosh

Today Rowan and I went to the train station to look at the trains. He liked looking at the trains that were already stopped and the trains that were slowing down to stop, but he was not impressed with the trains that didn't stop. One of the intercity(express, but not super express) trains went through the station and he got a bit scared. He decided that he was "all done trains" and time to "go see mama."

We'll try again on Sunday.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Swiss Banking

On Monday I opened a personal bank account in Lausanne. It is similiar to a US checking account, but the Swiss don't write checks. All invoices are either paid online, at the bank, or at the post office. From what I can tell, most people pay all bills online.

The bank, UBS, was just what I expected from a Swiss bank. It is a large building in the middle of town and you walk into a large room . There are a few tellers on the either side of the room and one person sitting at a desk in the center. He called the person I was scheduled to meet with and he took me to a small room with a computer, two couches, a desk and chairs. I got a little worried when my relocation coordinator\translator got kicked out of the room, but all went well.

I got lucky and picked a bank where they can put all my information into English. As communication will be in English and as soon as the atm reads our cards, the text on the screen switches to English. One of my new coworkers picked a different bank and it sounds like everything is in French.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First 24 hours in Morges

We arrived in Morges about 8AM on Monday and went to the grocery store to get some food for the first few days. The store closest to our house didn't open until 9, so we had to walk a bit further(<5 min) to the next store. We found everything we were looking for with little difficulty and headed back to the apartment. We met the relocation coordinator who gave us our keys and showed us around the apartment building. The good news is that the temporary furniture was in the apartment when we arrived. The electrician from the phone company arrived and setup our DSL connection (see previous post). I went to the bank and setup our bank account...I'll post more on that once the DSL connection is working.

Niamh did fairly well last night. In fact, she did better than on any of the previous trips. She was only up for about 2 hours and wasn't screaming during that time. Rowan woke up once or twice, but it wasn't too bad.

French\German\Italian 1 Pat 0

Last night was the first battle with the local languages.....and I lost. The phone company came out and setup the DSL router for us yesterday morning. Since my very limited French\German\Italian doesn't include too many PC related terms, it was difficult to understand the instructions. I hope to find an english language version on the web while I am in the office today.

I just tried to do spell check on the text above and almost every word came back as misspelled. The dictionary seems to be in German. I guess that makes the score French\German\Italian 2 Pat 0.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We made it!

DISCLAIMER: I am writing this using a French keyboard, so please excuse any and all typos

We made it to the hotel with only a few issues. Here is a recap of the voyage.

Getting through the Seattle airport without any real issues. The flight left about 40 minutes late, which is never a good sign on a 18 hour (door to door) trip.

Rowan slept about 5 hours on the plane and Niamh slept for about 6, so that went better than expected. They layover in Coppenhagen was fine. The flight to Geneva also went well. The onlzy issues with the trip happened in Geneva. Our stroller has not arrived yet and we have no idea where it got lost.

I missed a turn on the way to the hotel,which took about an hour to fix. I didn't actually have directions, just a picture in my mind from GoogleEarth.

Niamh can't sleep, so we are in the business center while Em and Rowan get some rest

Friday, March 9, 2007

An action packed week

We made significant progress this week. Sunday was spent organizing the house and taking stuff to Goodwill and the dump. By the end of the day we were ready for the packers to arrive. Two individuals came on Monday morning to pack all of our stuff. I was surprised to see that they could pack everything we owned in about 5 hours. The movers came on Tuesday and it took them about 5 hours to move everything to the truck. It'll be about 3 weeks before we see the air shipment and about 7 weeks before the surface shipment arrives. I'm curious to see how much gets lost or damaged in transit.

Wednesday was spent cleaning and installing the air gap on the dishwasher. The cleaning went fine, but we had to make 7 trips to the hardware store to get the air gap installed. My plumbing skills are horrible. I know I shouldn't have waited until the last day, but it seemed like a good idea at some point. Today we sent in the closing paperwork and handed our key in. I just received confirmation that the house sale has closed.

Tomorrow we have a few errands to run and then we should be ready to go.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein

From the NY Times...

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- What began as a routine training exercise
almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss
soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers
wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality
early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.
A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.
''We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem,'' Daniel Reist told The Associated Press. Officials in Liechtenstein also played down the
incident. Interior ministry spokesman Markus Amman said nobody in
Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers, who were carrying assault rifles
but no ammunition. ''It's not like they stormed over here with attack
helicopters or something,'' he said.
Liechtenstein, which has about 34,000 inhabitants and is slightly smaller than Washington DC, doesn't have an army.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Tickets are booked!

FedEx just delivered our passports and visas. It is amazing how long it takes to get a small pieces of paper in a passport.

The tickets are booked. We are scheduled to leave on the 10th (only 8 days away!) in the evening. The good news is that we only have to stop once. The bad news is that a 4 hour layover in Coppenhagen before the flight to Geneva is scheduled to leave.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Swiss Consulate is efficient

I just heard from the Swiss Consulate that they have mailed our passports and entry visas back. We should have them tomorrow.

Plane tickets?

Assuming there aren't any additional visa issues(probably a very, very bad assumption), we are scheduled to leave on the 10th!

The current plan is:
Sunday: move to temporary housing in the Residence inn
Monday\Tuesday: Pack\Load and clean
Wednesday: Finish cleaning
Thursday: Close on the house
Friday: Run around trying to finish all those last minute tasks
Saturday: Continue running errands and board a plane
Sunday: Arrive in Geneva and stay in a hotel near the airport
Monday: Travel to Morges and get the keys to the apartment

Mail delivery

There have been a few questions regarding how long it takes for mail to go across the Atlantic. I don't know what the published transit times are, but it took 6 days for a letter from Morges to arrive in Seattle