4 Dezember 2021

Well it has been a fairly quiet week after returning to Switzerland. It was a pretty easy transition back into “Hausmann Tasks.”

It is very easy to tell that winter has returned to Switzerland. It is dark by 1630 every afternoon, and we have seen the sun exactly one time this week. We got a little snow on Monday and Tuesday, but not enough to actually stick on the ground for longer than a couple of hours. Julie and I are still trying to enjoy the season. We went to the Zürich Christmas Markets on Thursday. It was pretty awful weather, but the markets are always fun.

Zürich actually has three larger markets. There is one in the train station, the Neiderdorf Area, and at the Opera House. The markets are all different. The market in the train station is focused on buying traditional Christmas goods. The market in Neiderdorf seems more focused on foreign goods. The market at the Opera House is more of a food and drink venue. Julie had heard the market in Rapperswil is actually better than the Zürich markets so we hopped on a train and rode to the other end of the lake.

Unfortunately by the time we got to Rapperswil the weather had worsened. The rain was really coming down, and the wind had picked up so bad we watched multiple umbrellas turn inside out. We did find the nicest sales people at a stand, though. We had just started walking through the market, and Julie found a place selling wool chair mats, and other products. Julie wanted me to get a new pair of house slippers, and we can never remember our sizes over here; so the nice young lady brought out plastic sheets and paper bags; so I could stand on something dry and try on some slippers. Needless to say, Julie wound up buying multiple things, and has even said she is heading back next Thursday for more. I guess that counts as a win/win????!!!

I was going to be writing this in Prague. Prague has a Christmas Market that is on Julie’s must see list. Instead (I will talk more on this later.), we are in Basel for the weekend. I learned yesterday, that I forgot something back in the US. I mentioned earlier that we have seen the sun once this week. Well that was yesterday. As we were getting ready to leave I realized I would want my sunglasses. However, when I opened the case and saw nothing but air looking back, I realized the sunglasses are sitting in an F-150 back in Mitchell, Indiana. Oh well, hopefully I can return in two weeks and get them! This leads me to my next thought. Are we ever going to get over Covid?

We are now approaching the end of year two in dealing with this virus. The US appears to have gotten their Delta wave this summer. Europe is getting it now. Throw in Omicron, and we appear to be looking at another COVID Christmas. One of the biggest problems is that travel restrictions seem to come and go with a moments notice. When I arrived on Monday, we were still good for trip to Prague. By Wednesday, the trip was called off, because there was a mandatory 10 day quarantine upon returning. Even for people fully vaccinated. By Friday, the quarantine part had been lifted, because Switzerland’s status was just as bad as the Czech Republic’s. Now we have a very heavy testing protocol in place with any foreign travel. For example on our trip to the US for Christmas we have to take a PCR test 24 hours before the plane departs. We then have to take another PCR test 72 hours before we come back to Switzerland. After we come back, we have to wait 4 days to get another PCR test. I do not know how much these tests cost in the US, but here they are about $160 per test. So we are looking at about another $100 for the two of us for the trip. The way we read the law, this is now true for any international travel. We were thinking of going to Strasbourg, France next weekend, but that trip is probably out as well.

The worst part about the Christmas Trip, is that we were bringing the kids back with us. The travel situation is so tenuous right now, that we will probably wind up canceling the return visit for the kids. Julie and I are both surprised Switzerland has not already imposed more lockdowns. The Government said all along that as long as the situation remained stable they would not make any further moves, but in the last two weeks the number of people in hospital has skyrocketed. Zürich has filled up their ICU beds with COVID patients, and a news article I saw yesterday said they are unable to transfer patients to another canton. One other move the Government is making actually kind of pisses me off. Not because it is not the right thing to do, but because it rewards people that should not be rewarded. The announcement this week is that work from home is recommended, but may be made mandatory for the unvaccinated. I guess I still have much US in me. If your company requires you to be at work, and you choose to not be vaccinated to work from home, the company should immediately be able to terminate your employment. That will never happen here. At this point I am ready to throw up my hands in the air and say “F*** IT!” There are far too many people not willing to be vaccinated, and few countries will require the vaccination; so we will be dealing with this for the foreseeable future. We might as will just lift all the precautions and let life go. A lot more people will die, but at least that helps the over population problem right? I am writing this from a hotel in Basel. Julie and I decided to come visit the Basel Christmas Market instead of staying home; so obviously we are not that worried about catching Covid.

I do think many of the restrictions make sense. I support requiring the Covid certificates before going out to eat or going to any entertainment venue. In my mind, this should encourage people to take the one step the experts all agree would eventually mean we can stop being concerned about Covid. Julie and I are also on the waiting list for the booster shot. We should be able to get it right before we return to the US for Christmas.

Basel is a very nice city. Like most larger Swiss cities a good mix between the modern and the old. The two live successfully right next to each other. This is our second visit here. We came here for lunch one day when George was visiting this summer. We walked along the river side and toured the Cathedral. The weather was excellent yesterday; so we checked into the hotel and visited the Christmas Market. Julie claims this one has been her favorite in Switzerland. I think she said this, because it has been the first time this year, she could add to her Christmas Market/Gluwein cup collection. It is a great setting. You enter the market through a small alley, and it opens up to a drink and food court. All nestled along the base of an old church. You follow the alley along the walls, and it opens up into a really nice plaza where the majority of the market is located.

It turned out the “church” is now the Basel Museum. It is a fascinating museum with a great mix between the history of the church, history of Basel, and other exhibits. It is highly recommended if you are ever in the area. Julie and I commented multiple times, that our kids would love this place. Outside of the Swiss National Landesmuseum, this one is my new favorite. (Sorry Bern.) We topped off our Friday with dinner at an Irish Pub. We had a little problem with our food order, but the pub had live music; so we still had an amazing evening.

Unfortunately, the rain came back on Saturday. We were able to go strolling through town for about a couple of hours before the heavens opened up, but it has rained pretty heavily all day; so we relaxed in the hotel room.

I am thinking a lot today about many of my friends in Memphis, TN this weekend. This is the third year we have had to support the Barlow Family and Team David from afar. Julie and I both really miss being there. I know everyone is always asking for money this time of year, but if you have a spare dime there is no better place to support than St Jude Hospital. I am attaching the link to the Team David page please donate if you are able.


Also before I get to some of the pictures from our weekend, I would ask you to keep another High School friend in your thoughts and prayers. Brian Grow and his wife Misty just found out one of their grand children was diagnosed with leukemia. Stay strong Archer, you can beat this!

25 November 2021

Since I am back in the US, I will start this with

happy thanksgiving everyone!!

Unfortunately Julie is back in Switzerland toiling away for the MAN! This year, as always, I am very Thankful for my wife. I truly hit the lottery jackpot, when she agreed to marry me three decades ago.

I do not have a lot of funny stories during my trip back. Things have, knock on wood, gone extremely smooth. I was a little worried after seeing the border control line when we landed in Washington. It took so long to get through customs that I only had 10 minutes to spare to catch the flight to Indianapolis. Side Note: I contend that when you enter your “home” country the customs line should be smaller than for visitors. Going through customs it was annoying that there were only two agents for all US citizens but 8 for everyone else. Especially when the line for citizens was easily three times longer than the other. I did make one fateful mistake at the Zürich Airport. Arriving at the airport early, is usually a good thing; so like a dutiful traveler three hours was the time. I made it through security in record time, and got on the train to go to the terminal. Unfortunately, in the terminal, all the bars and restaurants were closed. I really wanted to start of my trip with a cocktail or three, but instead wound up walking over three miles by pacing from one end of the terminal to the other. By the time the flight was boarding I am sure everyone else in the terminal was comparing me to a caged animal. All of that walking did make the flight go easier.

I have found it a little shocking that in the US Covid no longer appears to be a thing. No one wears a mask. I was castigated in Fleet Farm for being a sucker and wearing one, and get a lot of strange looks when I go into places wearing a mask. Even yesterday, Dad and I drove to the hardware store in Mitchell, and he asked why I was putting a mask on. It is simply habit. I always carry a mask or two now, and whenever I go anywhere. It seems so strange to me, that a simple piece of paper, cloth and plastic can be such a divisive thing.

Things I did not realize I missed until I came back

So the first thing I made George do after he picked me up at the airport was go to the White Castle Drive through. I started getting a craving for sliders at the airport in Zurich. Wow, did that little two inch square burger taste heavenly. The only disappointment was they were out of onion chips. 🙁 I have since stopped two additional times at White Castle and that will have to old me until I am back in December!

Living in the self acclaimed cheese capital of the world you would think I would not miss cheese. 🧀 Cheese itself I do not. There is a much wider assortment of fantastic cheeses available at my local grocery store than the the biggest cheese store I ever found in Wisconsin. However, cheese curds are not a thing in Switzerland. I told myself I was stopping at the first Kwik Trip in Wisconsin to buy some cheese curds. It took me seven

stops before I finally found some. That bag of golden deliciousness was every bit as good as I remembered.

There were two other things on my must have list. The first was for Julie. She always puts a caramel flavoring in her coffee every morning. After two years we finally found one store that actually sells coffee flavorings, but in typical Swiss fashion they have allowed for the scarcity in their pricing. So I needed to pick up 6 Davinci Sugar Free Caramel syrup bottles. Thanks Theresa! Julie was ecstatic when I told her about the gift!

The second thing was some underwear. Yes they have underwear in Switzerland, but I have been unable to find the style I like. I am not a fancy man. Hanes boxer briefs are perfect, and my parents thought I was a little strange for wanting to visit Walmart on my first day back just to buy some. What they did not know, was I had thrown away all but enough to get me through my first day in the US. It had been probably three or four years since I had last purchased under garments; so they were getting pretty ratty!


It felt great arriving back in the Fox Valley. I arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. My first task was to get the hunting gear out of the storage locker. I opened up the door and immediately experienced heart palpitations because almost nothing was where I thought it was. The gun safe was there, and Kaylee’s hunting clothing were right where I thought they would be, but I did not find anything else I needed in the front of the locker like I had “remembered”. Thank goodness I had my Dad track down some ammunition for us. I was positive I had put all the gun cleaning supplies, ammunition, and hearing protection on the top of the gun safe. NOPE! I have no clue where that stuff is, because I unloaded a good portion of the locker and never found it. I was able to find some of my hunting gear, but somewhere in the stacks is a box with my orange hats, coats, and most importantly boots! Thank goodness it was not very cold this year! So after failing miserably, I went to Fleet Farm and had to buy some last minute gear for hunting. (Side Note: Julie no Christmas presents for me!). I did not sleep a wink that night, because of two other items. Kaylee needed her Social Security Card, It was either in a small fire safe in the storage locker or in the safe deposit box at the bank. I THOUGHT I had left the key to the safe deposit box in the gun safe, but I did not, which means it is back in Switzerland. I also could not find the fire safe; so I convinced I had let Kaylee down.

On Thursday morning, I got up and went straight to the DMV office in Appleton. This was another thing I was convinced would not go well. I was even so concerned about renewing my license, I had called the main office in Madison and had a contact name and number in case of problems. I mean what problem could there be when I am getting an ID that specifies an address that I am no longer living? So I was full of trepidation while I was standing in line. The anxiety went to a level 10 when the man in front of me was sent home because he did not have “proof” of address while trying to do the exact same thing. I steeled my heart and got to the counter, the first question from the agent was, “Do you have proof of address?” Like the Smart A$$ I am, I replied, “Yes, but you will not be able to use it. Your system will only take a five digit zip code, and my zip code is only four digits.” This of course caused a raised eyebrow. I explained what was going on, and all she said was “OK.” In fact the whole process went easier this time, than the last two times I had to renew my license while living in Wisconsin.

Feeling that the Gods were smiling down on me, I went straight to the storage locker. Within two minutes, I found the items Kaylee needed, and some more of the hunting gear. It felt like Christmas morning!! I had set myself up for spending the entire day in frustration, and here I was finished with all my tasks by 9:30 AM. I then spent the rest of the day tracking down some of my old co-workers, went out to lunch with some, and then drove to the town of Omro so I could congratulate the new High School Principal. I had worked with Kathy for years in Winneconne. She came as a High School Science Teacher, and we worked very well together, because she loved using technology in her classroom, and when she moved to the Assistant Principal, we again worked hand in hand. Winneconne lost a good one when she moved to Omro, but the school system at Omro really hit the jackpot!

I felt strange driving into the hunting camp for the first time in three years. It felt like coming home. The Eierman Family has been so gracious for allowing me to hunt with them for the last 20 plus years. Tom is like a second father, and before I moved I spent as much time with him fixing his computers as I did with my real parents! I still have not figured out who Tom has replaced me with. 🙂 I was able to take a few shots with my gun so I knew I would hit what I aimed at, and then waited for Kaylee to arrive.

I did not have any success hunting, but honestly, shooting a deer was a tertiary consideration. I really just wanted to see my friends, and spend some time sitting in the woods! I saw deer every time I hunted so that was good it meant I could still do it. Like a good father, though, I put Kaylee where I thought she would be successful, and she had success. She even made her brother happy, by giving him half her deer! It is kind of amusing that she claims to be a better hunter. Then I remind her that I was the one who put her in the stand where SHE saw deer.

I came back to Southern Indiana on Tuesday. Driving back I had to stop and fill the truck up with fuel. I truly realized how good people in the US have it when I paid the bill. I put almost 30 gallons of gas in the truck, and it cost about $80. I did a quick conversion in my head, and realized I had put in over 100 liters of gas. In Switzerland, that same tank would have cost hundreds of dollars. I do understand how frustrating it is when prices go up. The same issue happens on the other side of the Atlantic, but I will never again complain about the high cost of fuel. It could be MUCH MIUCH worse.

I choose to not go hunting this morning, because it is pouring rain. I love hunting, but there is no reason to be miserable! I am going to end this now; so I can help my Mom finish the final preparations for the feast. I am looking forward to seeing two of my three sisters again in a few hours. I have to wait until Christmas to see the third.

I will write again when I am back home with Julie in Rüshlikon. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a magical start to the Christmas Season.

11 November 2021

This will be my last post from Switzerland for a couple of weeks. In 4 days I will be heading back to the US. I am going to spend some time in Wisconsin and then head back to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. I will probably write at least once per week, because I am sure I will have some amusing stories to relate.

There is probably a 99.9% certainty that something will not go right with the Wisconsin DMV. I mean what can go wrong while trying to get an ID that has an address on it, but the only address you have is in another country? I have already talked to someone in Madison, but just because that person understands my problem is no guarantee that someone in Appleton will. If I had not talked to other people, in my shoes, that let the license expire to learn the headaches I would just let it expire. That being said, I do not want to retake all the tests when we eventually move back. I am not so much worried about getting the ID. I am not getting the Real ID (where you have to show proof of citizenship as well as residency.). I figure when we move back I can worry about the Real ID. What I figure will cause problems will be asking the person to have the ID mailed to a different address than is on the ID. According to the person I spoke with, I have to keep my old address on the license, because that is the ID I have to provide to keep my voting eligibility. Yet since we moved so long ago, the Post Office will no longer forward any mail. So I have to use my daughter’s address as the mailing address.

One thing that still has me ticked off about Switzerland is the health insurance situation. I have talked before about how Switzerland runs the whole country on the same system as Obamacare. It works, and overall health care is very good here. What has me angry is that when we moved here two years ago. I was given the “basic” insurance that every company is required to provide. This is OK as long as I am in here, but it does not cover a thing if we travel to another country. I do not worry about for short trips, but spending two weeks in the US scares me a little in case of an accident. I think I do need some coverage. Anyway, I just bought a policy that covers up to $1million in expenses. Max I could be on the hook for is $20,000. So pretty similar to the long term policies in the US. The cost is about $80 for two weeks. At first I thought this was expensive, but then I started thinking about how much money was taken out of my paycheck every week and how much my old school district had to pay. I realized that $80 is a heck of a deal. There is still much confusion on my part why my insurance company would not let me upgrade to a policy that would cover me in other countries. Julie was eligible for that one right away. The price increase would have been $150 per month. Based on my track record with doctors here, that would have been a good deal for the insurance company. Anyway, it is all bought and I am ready to head back to the US next week.

For those of you that get our Christmas cards, do not be alarmed that they have a US stamp on them, and are mailed from Indiana. I spent this week getting the cards ready. If I were mailing them from here it should have been done about a month ago. The mail is so inconsistent with the US. Sometimes letters take 6 days. Other times they take 6 weeks. The other reason for doing them now, is that it costs about $2 to mail something to the US from here, but I have a bunch of 40 or 45 cent forever stamps. So I have them all addressed and stamped so I can drop off and save about $100 on postage. Even with the increased postage, here, it is not enough to keep the Swiss Post in the black. There are talks about limiting service just like the talks that have been going on for decades in the US. I am not sure what the cost of postage really needs to be, but it is not high enough to keep the system running.

Below I am reposting the videos that were made in Murten. I learned that I should never update this thing on a weekend, because absolutely no one goes back and reads it. I do not get a lot of visits on my blog but I enjoy the writing, and it gives me something to do. On a normal day about 15 people visit my site. On a day that I post something that usually goes up to 30 – 40. Again, not a very big reach! 🙂 That being said when I posted these videos on Saturday only three people visited the site! So if you are interested to see a little more of Murten, please click on the videos below.

I hope you have a great rest of your week, and the next time we talk I will be back in the USA! Hopefully with some good stories to tell!

6 November, 2021

As promised I will be posting the two videos from Murten, but before that I have some more living outside the US things to share.

First to update you on the visit to the pharmacy. It took three trips, but I finally got the stuff Julie needed. I still have to say I am even more confused by the experience. My second trip back, the pharmacist took the card, but BEFORE she did anything else, she looked online at the medication, and saw they did not have it in stock. She did order the stuff, and told me it would be in the next day. She scanned the card in the system. So I come back the third day to pick it up. I had the card ready to go, and looked at me and said, “I do not need the card. I scanned it in yesterday.” So what gives? They do obviously keep the information from the card in the system. Was the first person just not treating me well? All she had to do was look up my wife’s information from the prescription. I guess I just got lousy customer service, instead of finding some real difference between stores over here vs stores in the US. 🙂

Our cable TV woes are still continuing. We now have three competing theories. One technician at UPC claims there is a bug in the programming, and that many people are impacted. Another technician claims that it is either the electrical current in the apartment, or the power supply for the cable box is bad. I still think it has something to with the construction going on around the building.

For the first theory, I started a thread on one of the forums I monitor. They have a section titled TV/Internet/Telephone. So I thought it was a natural. I figured if it was an update issue, there would be some other people respond. The thread has been up for almost a week, and the only responses I have gotten are “UPC is a crap company, and no one should ever use them.” and “there is something wrong with your cable box. You should probably switch it out.” So based on my limited sample size. No one else is having a programming problem with their UPC box. In regards to the, electrical theory. The technician wanted me to plug the box into a different outlet. That did not do anything. He then asked if I switched the power supply out when I got the new box. Neither of them have had any impact on the problem, because I did switch out the power supply. Here is the interesting thing. Last Saturday and today, the box has not rebooted ONCE. This, to me, leads some credence to my theory that all the construction is somehow messing with the cable signal. Of course no one from UPC wants to come and check on that. That might cost them a lot of money to replace the cable down the street. Oh well, we probably will not be customers for much longer. I am ready to just ditch the whole thing now, but Julie is afraid there will be problems while I am back in the US. So I guess we wait until after the Holidays to make the switch.

For those of you that are Facebook friends with me, you heard this rant yesterday, but it is a pretty good example of how complicated things are now days, so I thought I would share it here as well.

So I am traveling back to the US in 9 days. To get back into the US I have to provide proof of a negative COVID test, I am not sure about the vaccination status, because the rules are different for citizens. Yesterday I get an email from United Airlines about making the trip easier. They want me to get in and upload my documents before traveling. This is normal. We did the same thing when Kaylee was here to travel back and forth from Italy. So I log into the United site. I upload my passport information (for the second time). but am stuck trying to upload the COVID information. I figured I should be able to at least upload my vaccination information, but United has tied the vaccine into the test. So without one I cannot upload the other. This is where it gets silly.

The instructions state that all documents have to be uploaded at LEAST 72 hours before you fly. So for me that means by next Friday morning. Unfortunately, The documents have to be uploaded BEFORE you would have any information in regards to your Covid test. The test has to be taken 3 days before you leave. So if I go in at 8 AM to take the test. I won’t get the results back before noon. That service also costs me an additional $100. For the normal Covid test, the cost is still $150, but the results do not come for 24 hours. This makes it impossible to meet the 72 hour deadline.

Where it became even more funny. Is that in the section regarding the Covid test. United says I cannot take the test until the 14th. So if I wait until the 14th, I cannot fly back home, because I won’t have the results back I do not think I can even pay for the fast test on a Sunday. So I guess I will simply do what all our visitors did this summer. Take the test about 48 hours before I leave, and ignore having to upload the documents. Hopefully it will work out fine. I will be very angry if I get to the airport on Monday morning, and cannot fly home. Reminder to George: I get in to Indianapolis at 7:00 PM Monday the 15th. Don’t forget, you are picking me up and driving me to Mitchell. 🙂

Here are the videos from Murten:

Driving through the old section of Murten
The City Wall of Murten

Julie took some nice pictures from the town, so I thought I would share some of those as well:

Thanks for reading. Not sure what I will post about next week. I am going to be pretty busy getting ready to head back home! Talk to you soon, though.

4 November 2021

First off, Happy Birthday to my Father. He is 84 years young this week. He certainly is not as spry as he was 30 years ago, but he still loves getting out and doing things. He walks every morning, and spends time in the garden or other maintenance tasks on the farm. If it were not for computers he would probably still be practicing medicine as well. He still gets excited about travel, and he and my mother are already making their plans to come back to Europe next year. Anyway, Happy Birthday Dad! Glad we got to talk. I hope you like your gift, and I am looking forward to seeing you again in about a week and a half.

I had one of those “Oh Crap! Life is a little bit different here moments yesterday.” I had to visit the Apotheke (Pharmacy) and get something filled for Julie. We have visited this store multiple times. Of course I had never picked a prescription up before. I thought it would be like the US. Show up with the order, give your wife’s name, date of birth, and some other information, and you would get the medicine. Not here. I am sure they keep records that Julie has gotten medicine there in the past, but I could not get the order filled, because I did not have her insurance card. Honestly, I do not see how that matters. The way the insurance works here, is that I am the middle man. I pay for the drug, and then I ask the insurance company for the payment. I am sure it has something to do with the fact, that some drugs are no cost to the user, and then there is an arrangement made for payment, but I do not know for sure how it works. I do know that because of data privacy rules stores do not keep all the information they have about people in their data files. I am guessing that insurance information is one of those things they choose to not keep.

Technology did come through for us this past weekend. My son was in the “Moot Court” competition for his law school, He made it to the final round last Saturday. My parents, and some other relatives and friends were able to be there in person, but not so much Julie and I. His school, though, was very accommodating for us. They set up a zoom meeting; so we could watch him compete. The time difference was a little inconvenient for us. We wound up eating a really FAST dinner, and then sitting outside the restaurant watching his arguments. Julie and I were given a LOT of strange looks by the passerby’s but it was worth it.

Before I tell you a little about the town we visited. I got a lesson that my language skills are NOT nearly as good as I think they are. We show up to a restaurant, and exchange greetings with the server. This was done in German. So after the greetings in German I say: “Wir haven eiene Reservierung um seben uhr dreissig. Der Name ist Julie Sorrells.” Translated to We have a reservation at 7:30. The name is Julie Sorrells. Pretty simple and I thought I said everything right. However, she gives me a BLANK state. She had no clue what I said. So I tried it again. Still nothing. So I tried using the word for appointment (termin) thinking I butchered reservation so badly. Still just giving us blank stares, but then starts saying something that I cannot understand at all. Julie adds in, from behind me in English, We have a reservation…… The server immediately starts smiling, and shows us to our seats. The rest of the evening we conversed back and forth in German and English both.

I am really not sure what happened. I am convinced I said everything correctly. I did ask online, if I said something wrong. Here was the feedback I got:

1) Most said there was nothing wrong. She was just surprised to hear German. Julie made the reservation online and in English; so she was probably expecting an english speaker.

2) Like many Swiss people she speaks multiple languages. She was conversing with almost all the other customers in French. So the thought is that she is probably learning German just like I am. Since I do not speak German like a Swiss person, she probably did not understand my accent.

3) I did not use the common form for time. In German the normal way to say 7:30 is halb acht or 1/2 8. Honestly I struggle with this one, because in the US you would never say “It is 1/2 to 8.” You would always say, ” It is 1/2 past 7.” I always forget with the half, and think past instead of to the hour. I do need to get better at that.

The online feedback seemed to agree on number 3 the most, but I struggle to buy that one. What I said was not wrong, just not the preferred way of saying it. I think number 2 is probably the most likely explanation, but we will probably never know.


So our trip this weekend was to the village of Murten. Murten is about 150 KM from our house, so about a two hour drive. Murten is located in the canton of Fribourg. It is pretty close to the French Border. Friburg is the start of the French speaking area of Switzerland; so Murten is truly a bilingual village. Below is a picture from the church bulletin. You will notice that not only the mass order is written in two languages. Look at the song. The verses switch back and forth between French and German. This certainly made the Mass harder to follow. In German, I can usually follow about 50% of the service, and 30% of the homily. Last weekend those percentages were cut in half. Even during the homily, the priest did some in German, and then some in French!

Murten is a VERY old settlement. Archeological finds around the city are from 8000 – 5000 BC. Unfortunately, the provenance of those finds cannot be proven because the records have all been lost, but in the 1970’s during some road construction some additional finds were made that dale from 5000- 2500 BC. That is still pretty darn old! In Swiss History, the town is first mentioned in 515 AD. It was mentioned as a defensive site. The lake on one side, and the shape of the hills around the lake made Murten a natural defense. Murten is one of the few places that have maintained the old city wall. Parts of the wall date back to the 1100’s. The wall was made bigger for the next few hundred years, and in 1476, the city was under siege for two weeks. You can still see some of the bullet and cannon ball marks to this day! Starting around 1500 the town had really started to outgrow the walls; so parts of the wall were torn down, and as is common here were replaced with houses like pictured below. However, what makes this place unique, is that the majority of wall was preserved as it was originally built.

There are still a couple of spots where you can climb up to the battlements and look over the town, and the countryside like you could almost a thousand years ago! I will be putting up a video that we made walking along the old part of the wall; so you can really see what it looks like. The picture below is a panaramic photo I took from near the center of the wall,. You can see from the White tower on the left all the way along the wall to the tall tower on the right

The name of the town comes from the Celtic word for “Lakeside Fortress” One of those examples where the name describes the thing exactly.

Murten is an example of the thinking that lack of transportation can make or break a town, Back in the 1800’s Murten’s future looked very bleak. The government was putting in a rail line on the west side of the country that would go from North to South. The line was originally planned to go through the town, but it was rerouted through the Canton Seat of Fribourg. For the next 20 years the town struggled to survive because there was no transportation. Around 1875 a rail line was finally installed from Fribourg. That allowed tourism to become one of the driving forces for the village.

My final thoughts on Murten. I was very surprised by the number of homes in the old part of town. In most villages I have seen the old part of town has been preserved for business. Sure there are homes above the store fronts. Murten is a little different. The old part of town is about 4 blocks wide by about 6 blocks long. About 2/3 of the buildings are primarily business. However the section of the town closest the wall is primarily homes. There is an occasional storefront, but the majority of the buildings seemed to be homes. It looked like a really nice place to live. The other big shock was to find the grocery stores and some of the other retail establishments open on Sunday morning, Outside of the larger train stations or the airports, this was the first time in two years I have seen a grocery store open on Sunday. I think that is a sign that Murten’s number one industry is now tourism.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will have two videos and some pictures on Saturday or Sunday to post.

27 Oktober 2021

So this week has been one with a lot of frustration, and it is only Wednesday! I am hoping that by the end of the week it will be a bit better.

So Julie and I have been having cable TV problems for a few weeks now. The cable box simply decides to reboot itself. Some days it might be only once. The worst day has been five times in a 50 minute window. As a technology person the one thing I always feared were problems that seemed random. They are always frustrating to the user as well as the “fixer” so I know a little about how the technicians at Sunrise/UPC are feeling. What is the most frustrating is that we pay for cable TV, yet we really only use it for about 50 minutes a day. When we are having our morning coffee and breakfast the BBC is on; so we can see about the weather, and keep up with what is happening in the world without having to consult a dictionary every 30 seconds. So when the TV reboots itself multiple times in that 50 minute window it becomes very annoying.

I am convinced it has something to do with the construction going on around us. The reboots ONLY happen when someone is working. However, UPC does not appear to share my concern. At this point I am going to give them two more weeks, and then I call a competitor.

My second frustration has me convinced that if travel does not pick up after the pandemic, it is solely due to the airlines. I do understand they have it tough. They lost a lot of business starting in 2020 and that money is lost forever. They have scaled back in a lot of ways, but this has also made the travel experience that much worse.

It started off with the kids coming over this summer. Kaylee somehow managed to not have any major changes in their flights, but George and Gabby were a different story. The morning they were departing, the flight was cancelled at 3:00 AM. They did get a text message about the flight, but who in the heck reads text messages when they come in at 3:00 AM? Most of us have gotten to the point we do not even have an audio notification to a message we just get a visual pop up. By the time they woke up and found the notice they should have already been at the airport boarding the one other flight that was leaving that day. It was nice in that we got to spend another day with the kids, but a pain in the butt for them.

Like a good traveler I made my reservations for Christmas months ago. We try and schedule the non-stop flight from Zürich to Chicago, and then connect to Indianapolis from there. It should have the least amount of headaches, because there are multiple flights all day every day from Chicago, or if the worst happens, we can rent a car and drive to southern Indiana without that much of a headache. So the first change was fly to Washington and then to Indiana. Not that big a deal, still just one stop. The next change was fly to Newark, then to Indiana. Again not a big deal. The icing on the cake came this week. We fly from Zürich to Newark, Newark to Chicago, and Chicago to Indianapolis. Even worse we only have 1.5 hours to get through customs in Newark and to the new terminal, and 40 minutes to change terminals in Chicago. The other thing that made me angry is that instead of getting into Indianapolis at 7:00 PM we do not get in until 10:50 PM. That 4 hours is the difference between being able to sleep at our destination vs having to pay for a hotel for the night, because I will be exhausted.

Now I have not had the pleasure for flying into Newark from over seas. Maybe it is possible to get through customs that quickly, that is not my experience in any other airport I have visited though. So if we miss that flight we spend the night in the airport. You know they will not put us up in a hotel, because the airline does not control how fast customs moves. Assuming everything goes perfectly and we make the flight in Newark. What do you think the odds are that this plane takes off on time? So now we probably miss the flight to Indianapolis. So the way I see it, unless everything goes absolutely perfect, there is almost zero chance we make it home without having to spend a night in an airport.

Here is what makes me INCREDIBLY ANGRY. So I am logged into the United website. I am looking at all the available flights they have. Somehow the original flight we had booked is now back on the schedule. So I wait for my 90 minutes on the phone and ask about that flight. I asked why we just cannot go back to the original flights we had reserved. I was politely informed that is possible, but it will cost an additional $4500 per ticket!!!!! To get back on the SAME flight that I booked originally, and UNITED kicked me off? I have many things I can call that situation, but the most polite is BULL SHIRT!

In United’s defense the flight is a Swiss Air flight, but because United has limited flights into Zürich they have a partnership with Lufthansa (they own Swiss). So I do not really know which company kicked us off the flight, but it does not seem right that I have to pay extra to get back on a plane that I originally booked, and that I did not choose to leave. The other part of this situation that really honks me off, is that looking on the website there were multiple ways to complete our flights that were easier. For example, if I wanted to have a 2.5 hour layover in Newark there was a directy flight to Indianapolis, that I could take instead of routing through Chicago. It gets me there almost three hours faster, and United does not have to pay for the added weight on the third flight. To me that saves them money. I guess I need someone that knows airline economics to tell me if that is true, or not. It sure makes them more money for me to have some convenience because they wanted to charge me an extra $300 per ticket to make that flight.

There is a very strong possibility I am over reacting to this. I would guess that before now, I averaged 1.5 flights per year. We thought we would be flying a lot moving here, but I am still just a little above average. I have flown twice a year since moving here. I just know on my two trips back to the US, I have not had any issues with flight changes, but this year they have been awful. Even worse it seems the flight changes are never in the favor of the passenger.

What makes me even more upset, is that I am already looking at giving the airlines even more money in 2022. Julie and I want to visit Budapest and Greece. Both of these trips will involve air travel. Not to mention, Julie really needs to fly back to the US in the spring to visit her parents. She has not spent any time with them in three years. I guess the bottom line is that I really need to meet one of those incredibly rich people that supposedly live here in Switzerland. I need to find that one friend, and convince him to let me use his private jet whenever I need one! I guess I need to start hanging out at different places than the grocery store and library. How hard is it NOT to become an alcoholic but drink every day? Asking for a friend…

Not much else to report this week. The weather is definitely heading toward fall. We do not see the sun much anymore, and the temperature is down in the single digits every morning. We will be driving to the town of Murten this weekend. Murten is located right on the border between the French and German sections of Switzerland. In fact, so far it has been the first city that I have always seen the french name and the german name used together. The town is called Morat in French. The town is one of the few that have preserved the medieval city walls that surrounded the population. So next week I should have some more pictures to view instead of simply reading my rants.

I hope you have a good week.

Talk to you soon.

18 Oktober, 2021

Today’s post has probably been written 20,000 times by 20,000 different people. It is something that practically every person over the age of 25 has experienced at least once but more likely multiple times. I wish I could tell you I have pictures of the beautiful hike Julie and I took this past weekend or inviting prose about the wine tasting we went to Saturday evening. There will be only one slightly entertaining section of how bad my language skills are. This is a story that could (and did to one extent or another) happen to me back in the US. I guess to relate it to being an Expat it is simply proof that somethings never change. No matter the country, the culture, or the time.

So my story starts a couple of weeks ago. The last post I made I told you about the cable TV problem we were having. I ended the story with a new cable box coming out. Well unlike the US, the package arrived exactly when it was promised. I got the new box installed, and was very happy to see that there were new features with the new box, that were not part of the old one. For example, during setup the cable box immediately recognized what television was hooked up. The set up process asked if I wanted to tie the TV and speaker system into the remote. This of course was a HUGE plus, to be able to put two of the remotes in a drawer made me happy. The menu looked different, and I was even able to set up different captions; so that on some channels I could listen to the TV in German, but have English sub-titles. I figured this would help me learn. So I was really happy until 7:12 the next morning.

If you remember, the old cable box rebooted every morning at 7:10. I was watching the BBC for my morning news, when… the whole thing rebooted. I was slightly peeved, but wound up greatly relieved when it only rebooted once. Sunday morning, it rebooted four times, and this morning it rebooted again three times. So since I already had to give up my morning run. I decided to call UPC and try and work through customer service. I called at 9:30. Next comes the obligatory bad language skills part of my story.

I started the call speaking German. I got through the whole address, customer number, even was able to talk about the box rebooting. I did have to look up to learn the german word for reboot was Neustart. (Side note: another example of how the german language really makes a lot of sense. The word describes exactly what happens.) I even remembered that neustart would be a split verb so The UPC box reboots every morning becomes Die UPC box startet jeden Morgen gegen 7:00 Uhr neu. I was feeling pretty good. I did explain to the technician that I only spoke a little german. He was fantastic with me, and easily slipped back and forth between german and english flawlessly. I was also very appreciative of the fact that once he realized I was trying to talk in german he really slowed down, and was very helpful. I also appreciated that before he handed me off to the next person, he asked if I wanted a german or english speaker. This unfortunately was the end of the good parts to my story.

He put me on hold to wait for the next technician. I was on hold for 45 minutes, when the call disconnected. I went downstairs put the laundry in the dryer, and called again. The next person very quickly transferred me to the next level…. Unfortunately, I spent the next 3 HOURS on hold. I admit I wasted about 30 minutes sitting doing nothing. Finally I started doing something else. I mixed a loaf of bread, swept the floors, sharpened all the kitchen knives, got a load of laundry put away, and completed most of my daily housework all while listening to the awful hold music. After three hours on hold the call disconnected. I will call back again tomorrow. If I have another 3 hour wait; then I will be calling Swisscom.

I am a very loyal consumer. The first mobile phone I bought through Verizon, and I still have the kid’s cell phone plans through Verizon. In the past I have switched between cable TV and satellite a couple of different times, for service related issues not simply to save a dollar. The first time I switched to satellite because the cable company was not going to carry the Big Ten Network, and I really needed my Indiana Basketball fix. Ten years later I switched back to cable, because Direct TV had just released their new DVR and whole house system. I wanted to upgrade, but since they were giving systems away for nothing to new customers, I was unwilling to pay full price to upgrade. (What really ticked me off about that is the day AFTER the cable company had installed the new equipment Direct TV called and said they give me the new customer deal!) I have stayed with USAA for over 30 years. I switched once to save some money in 1989 and in 1990 was back to USAA.

One bad experience outweighs a lot of really good ones. UPC has been good. We have only had one cable outage in two years, and no internet outages. When Julie was working from home, we had a lot of wifi problems, but UPC helped us diagnose and solve the problem. They sent out new and extra equipment to make sure Julie was able to function from home during the pandemic. The service people have been extremely nice. So why am I considering changing companies?

It was simply the three hours of being forgotten. If they would simply have a live person come on every once in a while and let me know they were still around. Even some kind of timer that would say ,”There are 3500 people ahead of you. The wait will be 2 days and 21 hours.” Even better would be an automated system that says, :”We apologize for the wait . We have your contact information, Press 1 and we will have an agent call you when they are available.” It truly does not take that much to let the customer know you care about their time as well. This is going to sound petty, but I was not even able to get my laundry done today, because if I had gone to the basement the call would have dropped and I would start all over again. I also could not leave the phone upstairs, because if they had answered I still would have to start all over again. The bottom line for me is: DO NOT WASTE MY TIME.

Hopefully I have not wasted your time today. I hope you had a smile or two.

I have finally crossed the Swiss threshold for scheduling things. I had emailed one of the couples that we do things with, and was trying to find an evening to get together. We realized that weekends for the next three months are already booked. They have friends visiting from the US the next two weeks, then I am back in the US for deer hunting. When I get back we are spending the next two weekends in France and Czechoslovakia, then Christmas ( we are headed to the US, and I believe they have family coming here ), and then our kids will be here for a few weeks in January. I never realized how busy we are. Getting back to our friends; we agreed to have dinner on Wednesday. 🙂

I will end with something I learned about Switzerland just today. When you die in Switzerland, you rent your grave site for a term of 20 or 25 years. At the end of the time surviving family is given the tombstone if they want it, your remains are then dug up and disposed of. Most are simply incinerated. In most cases though there is not much left. The Swiss do not use vaults like in the US, and I am pretty sure the bodies are not embalmed like in the US. The caskets are simple wood boxes. With the amount of moisture and no preservation there is usually not much left after the 20 years. The exceptions to this are if you are from a really wealthy family that has purchased a large plot or if you are famous. If you are wealthy, the bodies are not moved, they stay in the family area. If you are famous. The remains might be disposed of, but the gravestone is kept in a place of honor in the cemetery. I hope that last thought was not to morbid for you.

Talk to you soon.

14 Oktober. 2021

As I am sitting here waiting for COOP to make a delivery I decided to write a little. It has been another quiet week here in Der Schweiz. Fall has arrived, but considering the way most people dress here you would think we are in the middle of January. The temperature was 3 degrees (C) this morning. When it hits 4 I wear a long sleeve shirt while jogging. When it hits – 1 I add long pants to the mix. I realized about half way through my 5 miles that it is obvious I am not a native. With one exception everyone I saw was wearing a winter coat and hat. Even the people jogging where wearing more clothes than I wear when the temperature is -5 or -6. Switzerland does not have “The Farmer’s Almanac”, but all the indicators are for a cold winter. I have not been able to determine if it is cold to Wisconsin standards but outside of the mountains I really doubt if it is going to be THAT cold.

I think I have mentioned in earlier posts that Julie and I have made some new friends. This is another US couple that has lived here about a year longer than we have. Anyway, we went out to dinner last Saturday. I have not decided, yet, if the bar was an Irish Bar that served American Food, or an American Bar that served Irish Beer and Whisky. It was a great night. Julie had a big ole juicy cheeseburger, and I had chicken wings. I have not had wings in over two years, and they really hit the spot! It was also the first place we have found over here, that really knows how to make onion rings.

This week actually felt like home. We have been having cable problems. Just like in the US, it is actually cheaper to get TV, Internet, and Phones all bundled together, than to get any one separately. Because of that we have cable TV, but it is only turned on for about 30 minutes every morning. That way we can get some BBC news while we are eating breakfast. The rest of the time we watch either HULU or Netflix. Anyway, the cable box has been acting up for about a week. Every morning at 7:10 the box reboots. Most mornings it only reboots once, but Wednesday it rebooted 5 or 6 times. I have tried updating it, resetting it.. You know the drill. Everything that you have to do with any kind of computer device. I finally gave up and psyched myself up for the dreaded Swiss German phone call that would have me curled up in a fetal position within 90 seconds of talking to someone. The call went just like it would have gone in the US. The only difference is that you have to listen to the introduction in German, French, and then Italian before you can start pushing buttons to get to the write department. I spent 45 minutes on hold waiting to talk to someone, of course, this was after I got hung up on twice. I got the first level technician, and he told me to reboot the box two times. Still was glitching out. He passed me on to the second level tech. He told me to “hard” reset the box. All of these things of course having been done multiple times over the last week. Finally after spending another 30 minutes on the phone with the 2nd level tech, he agreed to send out a new cable box. This is exactly what I tried asking for when I was on with the the first level technician.

I had to take a break to accept the delivery. I think grocery delivery is something I will miss when we move back to the US. I do not use the delivery for fruits and vegetables, but I really like using the service for the bulky and heavy things. The delivery service gets everything right to the door, and I only have to move the stuff one time. It is so much nicer than having to load everything in the car or use the shopping trolley and move things two or three times. I guess I am more lazy than I thought!

So for all my other Gen X and Boomer friends, have you heard the new Mellencamp song? If you have not; do yourself a favor and give it a listen. The collaboration between Mellencamp and Springsteen is really good, I think they should do more together.

The job search is still not going anywhere. I am really thankful we were able to negotiate a deal where I do not HAVE to work. The thing that frustrates me is seeing the same advertisement for a job come up time after time. I have a spreadsheet going of all the jobs I have applied for. I have seen multiple jobs still up 6 or 7 months AFTER I got my rejection notice without ever getting an interview. I am coming to the conclusion that the employment market in Switzerland is NOT as good as people claim. Though I do keep finding people online that talk about looking for jobs for years before finally finding a company that will hire someone outside the EU. It also makes me wonder why the government even bothers giving out work visas to people that do not have an employment contract, yet. Oh well, all I can do is keep going.

Last thought for the day comes back to taxes. You have all heard me rant multiple times that it stinks having to pay US and Swiss taxes. I understand why the US doesn’t want to change the tax rules. The number of people living outside the US is so small, that there is no lobbying group making it worth the politicians time to even discuss it. I do think the US needs to do something to make filing taxes less onerous. Another US citizen talked to Julie about something his accountant in the US discovered. The company that has been doing our taxes has not been taking advantage of all the tax loopholes. Apparently there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Housing Exclusion that allow you to “exclude” part of your income and write off part of the cost of housing. It is designed for countries that have tax levels below the US and I guess is a benefit of still having to pay US taxes even though we get nothing from them. The catch to this is that it is not an automatic thing. You have to file specifically to take advantage of them. You would think a company that has a special department of US citizens that live in Switzerland would know about this but apparently not. We have not been happy with the company doing our taxes anyway. If they missed this exclusion it will make sense to forgo the company benefit of someone doing our taxes and finding someone ourselves. The fix to this would be so easy. Just have the US go to a flat tax over all work income and investment income. Then allow you to deduct any foreign tax paid. Of course that solution is way to simple so it will never be implemented.

Honestly, the Swiss system is so much easier. Income tax is graduated based on income. I believe that all income is taxed the same no matter where it comes from. You get charitable deductions, and some kind of deduction for owning a home. Everyone also gets hit with a wealth tax which is figured from all Non-Retirement assets you have. The tax form is like 1040 EZ form. One page long. The only downfall I see to the Swiss method is that if you have a permanent visa or are a citizen there is no withholding. The individual is expected to simply save the money to pay one time per year. I know a lot of people in the US that would never be able to handle that. I think the tax rates are able to be so much smaller than the US and other European countries, because the military industrial complex does not have the same control as the US, and health care is mandatory but the responsibility of the individual. That being said, I pay a lot more in fees and other hidden taxes than I would in a lot of other countries.

I think that about covers it for today. I need to get my German studying in, and still have to get to the store so I can make dinner! Talk to you next week.

two years and here are some of the things I am still confused about. :)

7 Oktober 2021

At age 54 my wife and I really never thought we would find ourselves selling almost everything we owned and putting down roots in a country where we did not even speak the language. Yet, here we are two years later. Our initial thought was that we would spend a couple of years touring Europe every weekend, but of course Covid and the pandemic put a HUGE crimp in those plans. We have had the chance to explore in Switzerland. Even after two years, here are some of the things I still just do not fully understand.

Why does switzerland not have a capital and why is it really bern?

In most European countries the capital city is also the most “important” city in the country. Whether that means population size, or industrial might, there was something that caused that city to become the capital city. In Switzerland Bern is only the sixth largest city. When the Confederation of Helvitica was started in 1291 until 1798 the capital city was wherever the Federal Diet chose to meet. This rotated between the cantons. After Napoleon invaded in order to centralize the government he initially set the capital in Aarau and then Luzern. In 1803 the Diet then began rotating between six of the cantons. This system lasted until 1848.

In 1848 parliament voted to seat the federal government in Bern. The feeling at the time seemed to be that Bern is located centrally in the country, and it was already a large enough city to handle the growth that seating the government would bring. Here is the important part. In all of the laws that set the federal government to meet in Bern, none of the laws call Bern the capital. The laws simply state The Federal Assembly meets in Bern and The official seat of the Council, Departments, and Chancellery is the City of Bern. Not one law officially calls Bern the Capital. The old wives tale is that this goes back to the days of the initial federation. Not one city or canton is supposed to be more important than any other.

For all practical purposes though, Bern is the capital of Switzerland.

when is toast not toast?

Which of these is Toast? As someone from North America, I would say the picture above this text is bread, and the picture to the right of this text is toast. To me toast is made when the bread goes through the chemical reaction caused by applying heat to bread.

In Switzerland though, the “bread” in the top picture is called toast, and as near as I can tell there is not another word for the careful burning of the bread. So my english speaking mind gets confused when a breakfast place asks if I want my toast toasted. 🙂

The bread Switzerland seems best known for is Zopf. It is made from white flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, and milk. Before baking the dough is rolled out in 4 long strings and then braided. The Swiss traditionally eat Zopf on Sunday mornings, but Julie and I have found it makes wonderful “French Toast” and also really good sandwiches!

I found some amazing arguments online between people arguing about toast, and when bread becomes toast, but I have never found any explanations as to how the square bread came to be called toast. I think it may be because real brot (bread) is probably never put in a toaster. At one point it seemed someone was going to report me to the local authorities when I made the mistake of saying online that I made french toast with Zopf! I think I made the mistake of admitting to a mortal sin here in Switzerland.

Where can I find swiss cheese in switzerland?

People in the US know all about Swiss Cheese. It is a very mild flavored cheese. It is white in color. Some times there are more holes in a slice than actual cheese. Well over here the vast majority of the cheese is “Swiss” cheese. This is only because the majority of the cheese you find in Switzerland is made in Switzerland. Unfortunately, we have never been able to find the exact cheese we are looking for.

What North Americans think of as swiss cheese is basically a knockoff of a true swiss cheese called emmantaler. A true emmantaler is much harder than the cheese we were looking for and it has a stronger taste. It turns out the cheese that tastes most like the swiss cheese we were used to is actually Dutch!

I thought for the last 25 years I was living in the cheese capital of the world, Wisconsin. Sorry Cheeseheads…. There is really no comparison. The styles and varieties of cheese you find everywhere are leaps and bounds above anything I ever found in Wisconsin. Even in the smallest grocery you will find varieties of cheese that could only be found in specialty stores in the US.

The only cheese product I have found missing in Switzerland are cheese curds. I really miss that squeaky goodness that is only found in a fresh cheese curd. Oh well, in about 6 weeks I will be back in Wisconsin for deer hunting, and I will be looking for that first Kwik Trip across the border from Illinois so I can buy a bag.

how did a country this small not develop one common language?

Language is normally the one thing that every citizen in a country shares. Sure there might be dialect differences, but the base language is the same. This never happened in Switzerland. The best explanation I found for this is that Switzerland is a country of “will” not of shared culture. The 26 cantons were originally separate sovereign states that agreed to work together because they were stronger together than by themselves. Each one had it’s own customs, army, and language. When the 26 cantons agreed to work together and forge a federal government there were agreements that each canton could keep the language they were using.

Here is the breakdown by language. About 68% of the country speaks German. (This is even more fragmented, because there are multiple dialects of German through the country.) 23% of the country speaks French. 8% speaks Italian. Less than 1% of the country speaks Romansh. I do not think I have ever heard Romansh being spoken, but I have read it is a combination of Latin and Italian.

Outsiders view having four languages strange. I admit, it does make reading instructions on packages more difficult. The print has to be a LOT smaller than normal, because instructions are always written in German, French, and Italian. (The Romansh speakers get the short end.) Sometimes it can be frustrating, but in any tourist related operation English is always spoken, and the only places I have had to rely totally on my limited German are grocery stores and gas stations. Even in those places, if we are completely unable to communicate the employee always goes to find one person that speaks English. 🙂 I think the Swiss take great pride in the fact that language is not a part of what makes them Swiss. When I think about the language barriers in the country, I always think about an article I was reading during the European Soccer Cup this past summer. The Swiss team did very well, and for a couple of weeks the soccer team was the main thing in the news. The article asked how fans of the team interact with other fans from a different part of the country. The answer was simply “We yell and cheer in our native languages, and then when we need to really say something, we all talk in English.”

A final thought

This weekend is one of those times living far away from family is tough. My Mom’s side of the family is getting together to celebrate the life of my Uncle Jerry Sadek. My Uncle Jerry came into my life when I was a very young boy. One of my most vivid memories of Jerry, was the look of concern on his face after I woke up in the first aid room at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort. Jerry and I thought it would be a good idea to go skiing the morning after I drove straight through from Indiana. I got about 200 yards from the ski lift and passed out from a combination of altitude and exhaustion. Jerry skied down the mountain behind the ski patrol sled and waited for me to wake up!

Jerry was a man that loved hard and played hard. He was the life of every party he attended. He could sometimes be gruff and annoying, but in the end you knew he always had your back. That he would do his very best to protect and defend the ones he loved. We had a lot of good times on the slopes of Breckenridge, and the beaches of Hilton Head. Family get together s will not quite have that same spark for a while. I am sure the rangers on heaven’s golf course will be kept pretty busy for the rest of eternity.

1 October 2021

What happened this week? Well….. I went to the dentist for the third week in a row. Julie has a wrist that will not stop hurting, and road repair season has started near our apartment.

In regards to the road repair, I think we will be living with this one all winter long. According to our landlord, and a letter from the town, the town is replacing all the sewer lines. Back when the lines were installed there was no thought of separating storm water from “black water”. So there was one big pipe run, and that handled everything. Unfortunately, as many communities have learned YES, MILWAUKEE, WI I am talking about you. That can be a big problem with a lot of raw sewage being released. Thank goodness they have not had that problem here, but the increase in rain the last few years has the town worried about the future. They are digging up all the sewer lines, and then installing separate runs for the two systems. I am being hopeful that there will be no emergencies on this block for the next few months, because access via the street is going to be very limited the next few months. Between the construction on houses and the street there will be many times that you will not be able to get to our apartment by car.

We got another good lesson this week on how the Swiss government handles immigration. One thing that does make immigration management easier is that thousands of people are not lined up at the border to get here. The federal government sets the rules, and sets the quotas on who can come in. The canton (state) government is responsible for approving immigration, ensuring the quotas are kept, and they run the verification systems. The local government is responsible for monitoring where everyone is living. We got another example of how efficient this system is just a few days ago.

If you remember from a couple of months ago, Julie had to have her passport renewed. I was so impressed with how quickly the US government replaced her passport. On Tuesday, Julie got a letter from the town. The letter was reminding her that the passport was set to expire in November, and prompting her to get it renewed if she had not done so. They also requested that she make a copy of the passport and get it to the town hall.

Efficient, may not be the correct word, but it is what comes to mind. One drawback to this system, is that some cantons interpret the rules differently, and once a decision is made there does not seem to be a means of appeal. I was reading an online post from someone in my shoes. This person is a non-eu citizen, and is here with a spouse. Like me, this person is wanting to work, but unlike me the canton they live did not grant him/her a work permit. Unfortunately, she cannot appeal the decision. There could be more to the story. For example, I had to prove that I met the requirements for a “highly skilled” individual. (No jokes from the gallery on that one.) Meeting that requirement involved my resume and college transcripts. I wonder if this move had happened 20 years ago, when I was just getting out of college with my MIS degree. I am sure there is not much demand for immigrant retail managers here, and would just having a degree but no experience be enough to consider me highly skilled? Of course the kids would have been little then; so I probably would have still had to be the Hausmann. It is hard to work, when the kids come home for an hour or two every day for lunch.

In other Swiss news….. There was a referendum over gay marriage last week. It passed with about 65% of the vote. This is not going to be like the US where the day the courts ruled marriage constitutional people started queuing up. According to some of the reports I have seen, it might be a year or more before same sex marriage is fully in place. Same sex couples are seen by the law as equal in almost all ways. The two big things that will change are: 1) partners can jointly adopt now where before only one “parent” could legally adopt. 2) lesbian couples can now seek medical help having a baby. Not sure how that last one was ever enforced, because a single woman could get fertility treatments, but not a lesbian? I guess that goes to show that laws designed to discriminate do not ever have to make sense. This was another one of the political questions that was very interesting to follow. A lot of people were making the arguments that individual cantons should be able to decide this. In some ways when I hear political arguments here, I feel like back in the US!

I just made reservations for two Christmas Market trips this year. I do not think Julie is very happy with me. Because of deer hunting in WI, I will be missing two weekends of Christmas Market time. We are going to visit Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czechoslovakia. So she will just have to get enough Christmas from those two cities, and I am assuming Zürich will have their markets again; because we really enjoy going downtown and listening to the singing Christmas Tree! Strasbourg is about a three hour drive, but we are flying to Prague. One benefit of Europe is that airline tickets are pretty inexpensive. It is about an 8 hour drive to Prague, which is pretty closed to the breakeven for driving vs flying. The trip by air, should take about 5 hours, but with delays……. Taking a train is not going to work, because with the transfers, the train is a 14 hour trip. The round trip cost is cheaper by train, but when I look at the time difference; that eats up any of the savings to me.

I also know winter is coming, because I have an appointment to put on my snow tires next week. Also because on an English Forum I follow, the annual winter vs summer tire debate started up again this week. I do not know why this amuses me, but it really does. Before I moved to Switzerland I spent 30 years in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Not once in those 30 years did I ever own snow tires, and there is a lot more snow there than here in Zürich. I concede the fact that snow tires are better than year around tires, but I also think that when people get in accidents in the winter, it is not because of the tire it is because they forgot that you have to slow down when driving on snow and ice. I am thankful that Julie’s company provides a place to get the tires changed and they store the tires as well. When I got online to book my appointment, I was able to book a VIP appointment, and get quickly. If I had to wait for the normal appointment I would not be able to get the car in until November. I also got an alert on my phone that some of the mountain passes have already implemented their winter tire rule, and online I saw that some of the auto passes will be closing for the winter in the next week or two. I wonder if I will actually need my “WINTER”coat this year. I have only worn it once in two years, and I did not need it even then.

I hope you have a good weekend. Talk to you next week.