This one is going to be kind of rambling. Not much has happened in the last week, but I’ve got a lot on my mind!
First off Covid: I have to admit I am very disappointed that we won’t be able to see George and Gabby (his girlfriend) next month. Europe is keeping people from the US out until the virus rates come down to a manageable level. The two kids are not scheduled to come in for another few weeks, but I do not see any way the virus levels will go down enough in the US for the European Governments to react. Americans were in the news last week as a group apparently rented a jet to fly to Italy for vacation. Of course they were denied entry. Unfortunately, no one was there with a phone to record the Ken’s and Karens yelling at the Italian authorities for not allowing them entrance. Switzerland seemed to have the virus contained, we spent all of May and most of June with new cases per day well under 50. There was a spike towards the end of June where one day new cases were over 100, but then July hit, and with the exception of Sunday’s new cases have been above 100 each day, with a spike of over 200 new cases. I don’t if it was in the works for a while, or not, but on 2 July, the Government announced mandatory face coverings for all public transportation. This had been the one big flaw Julie and I had noticed in the virus prevention here. Social distancing, for the most part, is a daily occurrence. Except on trains and busses. The penalties are not that severe if you get caught, You are just asked to leave the train or the bus. If you refuse, however, you are fined 250 CHF for disturbing the peace.
Continuing with Covid Coverage: The Swiss Government has rolled out a mobile app for contact tracing. Part of me wants to install it, but the IT person inside me screams out not only no but HELL NO!! The app is supposed to use bluetooth on the device, and constantly reach out for other devices with the app. Every day, you are supposed to answer questions about how you are feeling (symptoms of Covid) and then if you are tested and the test comes back positive; report that you have the virus. If anyone your phone came into contact with either reports symptoms, or a positive test, you are supposed to change your status on the app, and if someone has tested positive then you are supposed to self quarantine.
I’ve got lots of problems with this whole thing. The first one is the security risk. I don’t want my phone’s bluetooth turned on all the time. I keep bluetooth turned off, unless I am specifically doing something like listening to podcasts. Sure the chances of something bad happening are slim, but having that app installed means I have now opened up my phone to anyone and everyone that comes near me. That concept just makes my skin crawl! Secondly, the Government claims they are not tracking your GPS locations on the app, I don’t buy that for a second. Especially, because the app information states, “If you have spent 15 minutes within 1.5 meters of someone that has reported symptoms or tested positive…..” I know I am not the smartest person in the world, but I don’t think bluetooth has the ability to say how far away a connected device is. You are either connected and have a signal, or you are are not, and that distance of connection is much farther than 1.5 meters. There has been some talk about the Government making it mandatory to download, but so far the cooler heads in the government have prevailed. I have no problems with contact tracing. In fact every restaurant you go into, has a voluntary sign in sheet with name, email, and phone. If it is a sit down restaurant, I fill that out every time. I just do not like the idea of making it really easy for the government to track every single place my cell phone and I have been.
Final thoughts on the virus: COMEON United States get your act together and get this thing under control! Julie and I want to come home for Christmas, and hopefully bring the kids back to Switzerland for a week or two afterwards! At this rate, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
AIR CONDITIONING: Julie assures me this June and July is nothing like last year. She was miserable as Switzerland had many days where the temperature was close to 100 degrees F. In fact she wound up staying in the hotel a couple of extra days, because our apartment doesn’t have AC. I have to say I miss the air conditioning. Not only for the lowering of the temperature, but for getting rid of the humidity. We have learned that a concrete house actually can stay pretty comfortable, if you lower the window blinds following the sun. For example, Every night before we go to bed, we close the shades on the east side of the apartment. Then during the afternoon, we open the east side, and close the west side blinds. This along with a couple of fans actually keeps the inside temperature OK. The funny thing, though, is I still work up a sweat practically walking from one end of the building to the other, I even broke down this week and bought a dozen handkerchiefs to carry with me. Not for blowing my nose, but for wiping the sweat off my face everytime I walk somewhere!
I am amazed with the lack of bugs in the house. There are no screens on windows or doors, and we leave them open all the time. Granted we will get an occasional spider that causes Julie to scream at the top of her lungs, but I think we have less bugs here than we had inside the house in Wisconsin. Not sure how that works. Switzerland has flys too, but for some reason, the flys tend to stay outside. 🙂
TAXES: I am a firm believer in taxes. I figure that if a city, state, or federal government wants to do something it has to be paid for. Personally, I am of the opinion that taxes in the US are either to low, or just not configured correctly. However, I think taxes should be simple enough to be done by the individual. I knew that our taxes would be a lot more complicated now. Especially this first year, as part of our money was earned in the US, and part of our money in Switzerland, but even that should not be to hard. I mean we know exactly when our paychecks were from the US, and when they are from Switzerland. Our United States Federal and State tax returns this year are 187 pages long! Hell, some businesses probably don’t have that much paperwork with their taxes. I have no idea how long the Swiss tax return will be, because that one isn’t completed yet. And the funny thing is that one should be simpler. No write offs, no exclusions, it should just be the income Julie earned in Switzerland, and then they have a wealth tax as well. The wealth tax is every asset you own, plus investment accounts that are Non-Retirement. The asset part was easy! We have none. We got rid of the house, cars, and furniture isn’t counted. The bank accounts were pretty easy as well. We had to print out the account balances on 31 Januar and provide that to the tax preparer. I think the main reason I am frustrated on the taxes, is that I was expecting one number, and the amount owed is going to be significantly higher. The second reason, is that for the first time in over 30 years, I did not do our taxes and the added complexity makes it really hard for me to go back and see if all the numbers are correct. I have long been a proponent of a simple flat income tax. No write offs, just here is your income, and here is how much you owe. That would certainly make this process a lot easier. :).
COOKIES: My wife has decided I have lost to much weight. After a year she finally found a place that sells brown sugar. For the 4th of July, she decided to make a triple batch of chocolate chip cookies. Thank goodness she gave some of them away, because in 4 days, I have eaten most of the remaining cookies! It was a true taste of home for celebrating Independence Day!
TRAVEL: We are reaching a stretch where we will not be able to make any real plans to go places on the weekend. August is Julie’s worst month of the year, because that is the annual filing for AMCOR. July runs a close second, because all of the divisions from all the different countries are getting their numbers turned in. You would think this would be pretty standard, but every year Julie spends hours the month before filing working with the other accountants to get them to send her the correct information. This year seems like it will particularly hard, as it will be the first time the new company has to provide annual numbers and follow US accounting procedures. Oh well, that was the job and she knew what she was getting into!
That being said bigger trips are out for the next 6 – 7 weeks, but we are going to take advantage of some Saturday or Sunday day trips, and visit places with in a couple of hours. We started that this weekend with a visit to Rapperswill. Rapperswil is another old city with a very long and rich heritage. It is actually a lot bigger than I thought it would be. There is a beautiful old castle that sits on a hill looking over the downtown. Unfortunately, the castle was closed; so we will certainly be going back, as it is only about 30 minutes away by train.
Another unique thing I learned that Rapperswill commissioned the first and one of the only bridges that cross Zürichsee. The bridge was completed in 1360. It was over 4700 feet long and it was 14 feet wide. Certainly big enough to allow two way traffic. This wooden bridge was used until 1878. So the original bridge stood for over 500 years, and since then (from what I could find out) there have been three replacements. Kind of makes you think they may have built things a little better back in the day,huh?
The main reason we visited was to see the Elephant Parade. The Parade is a traveling exhibit designed to highlight the plight of the endangered Asian Elephant. The parade is composed of about 60 ceramic statues that have been decorated. For my Wisconsin friends, it is similar to the Bucky statues that are all over Madison.
I hope you enjoy the pictures!