Monday, March 30, 2009

Culture Shock by Mighty Mouse

On reading a local restaurant's children's menu: 
"Chickens have fingers here?"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sick in the USA

It would appear the Mighty's have a yet unspoken family tradition: illness upon trans-Atlantic relocation. 

Prior to leaving Toronto for Geneva, I came down with the -itis trifecta: sinusitis, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Come to think of it, I had conjunctivitis, too. Around that time SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was a raging concern and I was a gasping breath away from turning myself in. Poor Mouse was a sympathetic sufferer, sporting a cold and matching ear infections. Somewhere over the Atlantic she completed the ensemble with what we can only suspect was chicken pox. Our first weeks in Geneva included multiple visits to the Clinque des Grangettes, the pediatrician and a notable pediatric dermatologist. In the end it took over four weeks to make Mouse reasonably comfortable and nearly three months for her skin to heal over. We survived, but not without considerable distress.

Now back to the present. We've been in P-town all of 48 hours and Emma the Brave has had two chest x-rays and has been prescribed a broad-spectrum anti-biotic and inhaler. Having come from Switzerland where medical doctors are as likely to prescribe homeopathic or naturopathic remedies as their synthetic rivals, I found this management style a bit of a shock. I resisted the temptation to challenge the doctor's request for an x-ray. After all, he suspected a pneumonia was brewing and she's my precious little girl. The ordered investigations were over before we knew it and we were sent on our way, pneumonia-free and prescriptions in hand.  Twenty minutes later Emma and I  were back at the hotel, a vial of bright red medication on the table between us.

"What will it taste like?" Emma asked.

"I'm not sure. Cherry, maybe?"

Emma frowned. "What if it tastes yucky?"

"It can't be any worse than the Swiss stuff."  Could it?

Emma sniffed the opened bottle. Her eyebrows raised appreciatively. "Mmm." 

I measured out her dose and handed her the cup. Please, God, don't make a liar out of me!

Emma wet her top lip with the liquid and licked it clean. Her face was impassive. 


"I don't like it, but it's not that bad," she said, then swallowed the rest of the dose in two big sips.

God Bless America!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Impressions

Mouse threw up while in line at American immigration. Immigration paged the Center for Disease Control who took Mouse's temperature (101.9F), recorded our contact details, and called for a wheelchair. Immigration processed our visas as quickly as they could and remained polite and friendly throughout. All the while, Emma the Brave sat on the floor about 20 feet away, determined not to catch her sister's illness. By the time we'd collected our luggage and dog, Mouse was chatty and asking for someone to take her picture in her first wheelchair. Security rules dictated we couldn't. Ah, well.  Can't have everything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Top (and Bottom) of Geneva

The number one thing I will miss about Geneva: 
The People 
(you know who you are)

The Birkenstocks

My Biking Belgian

Crazy Canadians

Muses in the South of France

The Original Diehards

Canadians--We're Everywhere!

The Geneva Writers' Group and their exceptional leader

My Corsier Family

And the number one thing I won't miss about Geneva: 
The Occasional Public Toilet

And, yes, this is the ladies room.  It's 2009 people!!!

Good-bye, Au Revoir, and See You Soon!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Geneva Top Two

Things I will miss most about Geneva #2: 
The Mountains

Nestled between the Jura and the Alps, Geneva is a short drive from some of the most beautiful places on Earth.



The Mighty's on the télésiege at Les Gets

Mouse on Top of the World

The Chalet

La campagne near Gruyère

"Allez touriste! Vous n'avez jamais encore vu une vache?"

Things I won't miss #2:
Swiss Medicine

Take a glass of the world's most bitter grapefruit juice, stir in an equal amount of dish soap, then take a sip--that's what medications taste like here. A dear friend once confessed that her child would sooner take a suppository than allow Swiss medicine past her lips.  That's just not right, yet I see her point. Medication does not have to taste like it's going to kill you to be effective!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Geneva Top Three

Things I will miss most about Geneva #3: 
The Lake

Things that I won't miss #3: 
Motorcycles and Scooters

If you share the road, share the rules!  Don't pass on the right. Don't cross a solid white line. Don't park on the sidewalk. And, for God sakes, don't jump a curb to avoid a red light. I can say this with impunity because the Captain ranks among the top offenders, maybe not for the last one, but easily for the others. 

You all are lucky to be alive.  Don't push it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Geneva Top Four

Things that I'll miss: The Food

Pizza at da Paolo

Lamb Shanks from Globus

Fresh Garlic from Argeles

Grapes on the Vine in the Geneva Campagne

Saucisse Frites Everywhere

Tuesday's with Monsieur Poulet

The Corsier Friday Marché

Things that I won't miss #4: Parking
Park any more to the right and you'll get a nasty-gram on your windshield by morning. Any more to the left and you'll sleep in your car.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Geneva Top Five

I can't help but get a touch sentimental at times like this. We're moving in less than a week and heaven knows when we'll make it back.  If there is one thing the last few months have taught me is that the best laid plans can change when you least expect them. In honour of this, for the next few days I will share with you the top five things I will miss about Geneva. To keep things from getting too sappy, I'll share my least favourite things as well--there are a few.  Here goes!

Things I will miss #5:  Travel

Porticos in Bologna, Italy

Beer in Belgium

Walking the Beach in Argeles, France

Champagne in Epernay

Above the clouds in Interlaken

The Market in Barcelona, Spain

View over Lugano, Switzerland

Cinque Terra, Italy

Things I won't miss #5:
Having to go to three different stores for groceries.  Why is it impossible to find Colgate toothpaste, creamy peanut butter, chili powder and beer all at the same store?  Why must I go to France to buy Cheerios and Nateos cereal? Both are packaged by Nestle and last time I checked Nestle was SWISS! Migros and Coop both carry Heinz ketchup but only Coop carries Heinz baked beans. Why? Why? Why?

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Trouble With Having Friends Who Write Well... that they're so damn good they can make you cry in twenty words or less.  

In honour of my imminent departure, my writing friends wrote me a book. In it they speak about the books that influenced them as they grew up, books that shaped their view of the world and themselves. They also mention some pretty nice things about Yours Truly. I'm slowly making my way through it, though it's taking a lot of tissues.  These people are pros and mercy is not in the cards.

It just goes to show that writers will do almost anything to see their names in print. 
Thanks a million everyone. 


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turret Envy

There is something about a turret that kicks this writer's imagination into high gear. For the past five years I've driven past this particular specimen on my way into town. Wouldn't you know, it's the very same private home that inspired Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?  If only my novel were half as successful...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who needs chocolate?

Allow me to present Hans, the yodeling marmotte: 
Merci Anne-Valerie et Marie-Claude!
Comme toujours, vous me faites rire.

Sick à la Suisse

Parc de la Grange,  ten minutes before impact.

Our new apartment is a stone's throw from Parc de la Grange, an enormous green space in the Eaux Vives quarter of downtown Geneva. As it happens, it is the girls' preferred outdoor play place and invariably brings back memories of our first weeks in Geneva.  Saturday morning Emma, Mouse, Honey and I headed over for a quick play and romp before setting off for the mountains.  The girls were on the giant climbing structure all of ten minutes when Emma took a tumble, bashing her chin against a metal bar. To say her scream was heart-stopping would be an understatement. By the time I reached her, blood was streaming through her fingers and down her neck as she clutched the injured area for dear life. I pried her hands away to reveal a gaping slit just over a centimeter wide on the underside of her chin.  

Our plans had just changed. 

I searched my pockets for something to place over the cut. Nothing. I whipped off my coat, then my shirt, bundling the bright red jersey under her jaw. Luckily--or perhaps not so--there were no close spectators, save Mouse who thought I had lost my mind. Once I had my coat on again we headed back home where I called the hospital.  They said to come right away and thanked me for calling first.  Before leaving the apartment I checked that I had my proof-of-insurance letter, also known as an attestation, a picture book, and some North American pain reliever. (Emma can't handle the bloody awful Swiss stuff and I can't say I blame her.)  Two hours later we were home again with a pair of stitches and instructions to see our family doctor in five days to have them removed.  A bill will come in the mail at the end of the month.  

I have always been impressed by the quality and timeliness of the medical care we've received in Switzerland.  Doctors are punctual and thorough. They never appear rushed. Even emergency rooms have an air of tranquility that simply no longer exists in Canada, if it ever did. Of course, we're insured. If I hadn't been, what then? 

I will be interested to see how the American health care system has evolved since I worked there ten years ago.  When I left, insurance companies were attempting to dictate what was appropriate care. Two physiotherapy visits for this diagnosis;  three for that.  It was insulting and, at times, downright scary. Vigilance was required to ensure you received the appropriate care and not just what the insurance company would pay for. I expect not much has changed.  We'll see.  In any case, it's been a grand experience in Switzerland. 

Bravo la Suisse!

(Photos courtesy of my iPhone.  Not bad, eh?)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Finding Normal

Parenting through change is a skill unto itself. How can one be the pillar of reason and predictability when life throws you a curve? Here are a few of ideas that are working for us:

Routine, rules and a point

Retaining a degree of predictability minimizes anxiety. Since moving into temporary housing we've kept up the Healthy Snack Cafe, Money Matters, standards of acceptable behaviour, and before-bed routines. Homework and chores, however, have fallen through the cracks while bedtimes have drifted well past the usual 8p.m. It's unrealistic to expect life to go as usual, though a little planning can help. For instance, the girls' teachers were informed of our impending move and warned that homework might not get done. Their responses were sympathetic and appreciative. That said, keeping up rules like 'food stays in the kitchen' helps kids see parallels between their old home and the new.

Write it all down

Make a family calendar outlining when big events are going to happen. Our calendar has included the days the house was packed, the day the sea shipment left, the day we moved into our temporary apartment, and the big day--Tuesday, March 24--when we will finally fly west. Emma and Mouse take turns crossing off the days, an important feature. A calendar takes an intangible concept like time and transforms it into something concrete. For quite a while we weren't certain when we were going to leave, so we marked in a tentative departure date with pencil. The girls understood that pencil could be erased and that the date could change. As it happens, it didn't, but tracing the pencil notes with ink had added significance.

Talk it out

"I'm going to miss crêpes, Mommy."

"My bear's going to be lonely without me."

"What if the boat sinks?"

These are just a few things that have been said in our house over the past few weeks. I wouldn't say the girls are fixated on the negative aspects of the move. On the contrary, Mouse can't wait to eat Cheetos. Emma is dying to play in her new backyard. But the sad stuff has come up, too, and has needed acknowledgment.

To Emma's crêpes comment I said something to the effect that I'd miss crêpes, too, and that maybe we'd need to learn how to make them at home. I even went so far as to buy the traditional T-shaped wooden dowel used to spread the batter. All I need now is a recipe and we're in business.

For her giant, heart-sick bear, Mouse and I came up with a couple of good ideas on how to make him less lonely with drawings and pictures, but in the end it was Emma who tied the enormous brown bear to her equally big dolphin ensuring that the two would be packed together. Ten bucks says that Box 25 will be the first one opened on the other side. Any takers?

As for the sinking boat comment, it's possible but highly unlikely. "It would be very sad," I told her, "but we'd be okay. Thank goodness things like that don't happen very often."

Tonight the girls will get a relaxing bath, a proper supper, and, God willing, a good night's sleep. Once their routine is set, maybe I can get one of my own. I miss my writing, my bike, my home. Life isn't normal, not even for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Boxing Day Blues

The cowbell rang at 8 a.m. Monday morning.  It was boxing day and our packers had arrived: two herculean men that would spend the better part of three days wrapping and crating our predominately utilitarian possessions.  The Captain ushered them around the house, pointing out what was going and what was not, then the men disappeared, returning minutes later with rolls of  white foam floor runners, cardboard boxes, tape, and reams upon reams of packing paper. 

Mother Earth, forgive us! We promise to recycle.

I've moved seventeen times in 37 years. One might suppose I'd be used to it by now. In many ways, I am. I fully expect months of chaos and confusion bookended firmly on the departure side and more unpredictably on the other. Moving to Geneva took more than a full year of adjustment and adaptation: a new language and culture with two very young children was bound to take its toll. Vancouver, on the other hand, took about 15 minutes. We bought Honey within days of arrival and spent the next year exploring Canada's Pacific Coast. Sure there were unknowns--there always are--but new frontiers in your home country and mother tongue inspire few middle of the night panic attacks, at least in this filly.

I'd like to say I'm experiencing the same pie-in-the-sky anticipation for this move, but that wouldn't be true. Let's face it: it's hard to top Vancouver with a puppy and the USA isn't exactly my native land--no insult intended or implied.  I will be a visitor, permitted to live there by the grace of my husband's employer and American immigration. I will not have the same freedoms of my neighbours, nor the same responsibilities. It's an odd sensation, this expatriate existence, living in countries to whose future your not committed by citizenship.  I'm not sure I approve, at least in the long term. I wouldn't be surprised if one day I'll be seeking my American citizenship, or my Swiss one, for that matter. I'd like to think I'll end up in Canada again, but that day may be very far off. We've made our choices. Now it's time to live them, for better or for worse.

The boxes left today leaving behind the dusty, dirty shell of a house that was once our home. It was good run. We'll miss you Corsier. Onward, ho!

More photos from my Geneva garden: