22 September. 2020

Azulejos

Azulejo from the 1500’s

Julie and I were both floored by the beautiful ceramic tiles we saw in Lisbon. We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon; so after we checked into our hotel we went for a walk. About 50 feet from the hotel we saw the first building that was covered with these tiles. We thought this was a really neat way to spruce up a building, but didn’t think much more. Then we noticed that many of the buildings had these elaborate tiles covering all or part of the wall. This is when we did a little research.

Azulejos were introduced into Portugal sometime in the 12th or 13th century. They were brought into the country when the Moors invaded Spain and Portugal. The word means small polished stone. Originally the Azulejos were simple tiles that had stones which were imbedded into simple geometric shapes. In the 1300’s Portugal’s king brought back some samples of this art form from a trip to Spain, and things progressed quickly from there. The oldest azulejos were a very simple color palate. Usually this was blue and white, the 2nd most common colors (for my Green Bay friends) were green and gold. The simple geometric shapes soon led to very ornate decorations, it was very typical for these to tell stories about history, or religion.

The city of Lisbon from 1755 before the earthquake



One interesting thing we learned was the fashion of decorating the outside of your home with azulejos was actually begun in a Portugese colony… Brazil. The reason why it had not caught on, was the Portugese had not developed a way to mass produce the tiles, so it was only the very wealthy that could afford to use them for decoration. Sometime around the mid 1800’s some Brazilian entrepreneurs brought back the method of industrial production, and then the tiles began to decorate the facades of many houses and buildings.

Azulejos is an art form that reaches everywhere in the country. Somehow, I think I forgot to take pictures of this, but even many of the street signs use this art form. Most homes do not utilize tiles everywhere, but a good many of them will have one small section decorated this way. It will either be a picture like depicted below, or a small set of the geographic tiles.

Azuelos decoration on the outside of a home in Sintra

I hope you like the pictures below. I realize the pictures do not them justice. It is easy to get lost in the symmetry of the geometric designs. I enjoyed seeing the geometric tiles, but I was truly most impressed with the hand painted tiles.

I will have one more post this week, with the rest of our Portugal pictures. See you soon.

21 September.2020

Julie and I got back from Lisbon yesterday. It is going to take me a while to compile and organize all the pictures I took. So today is just going to be a teaser video. We took a trip to the Oceanarium. It was one of the best ocean aquariums we have ever seen. The fish that surprised me the most was called a Sunfish. You will see it in the video.

Lisbon Oceanarium

Lisbon was an amazing city. I think what I will remember most are the sidewalks, though. The sidewalks are all cobblestone, and I don’t think they ever heard of leveling the ground before they laid the pavers. We did not see one level sidewalk the entire time we visited. We walked close to 20 miles over our 4 days; so we covered a lot of ground. I will post more pictures over the next few days.

13 September.2020

Julie and I still have our trip planned for Lisbon. The Covid numbers are going up in Portugal, but no worse than they are going up here, so we are still planning to go. We are watching the travel advisories very closely. I’ve never been a fan of Air BNB, or the other services where you stay in someone’s apartment, but this trip is making me re-think that. I need to look at the cancellation policies. Part of me doesn’t want to travel right now, but the other part of me says, “We have sunk a crap ton of money for these hotel rooms, and if we don’t go now, we lose the money.” I feel for hotels and other businesses that rely solely on travel to make it. I could see forfeiting part of our money as a deposit, but it almost doesn’t seem fair that we would lose all our money for something that really isn’t under our control at all.

Even the airlines have gotten worse. We want to book flights home for Christmas, but all of the airlines, that I have checked, have done away with the free flight cancellation. The flights I have checked want another $250 – $300 to add flight cancellation to the ticket. They all do say I can rebook ONCE for free. With these kind of restrictions, it will be a LOOOOONG time before people are willing to fly again.

We decided that today was a beautiful day so we went for a cruise on Zürichsee. Julie and I have taken the boats before, and it was a very relaxing way to get downtown, so this time we took a 4 + hour cruise from Zürich to Rapperswil. It was a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon. We got to the Bürkliplatz about 11:00 this morning and boarded the boat. This was certainly something we will do again! It would be even better with some friends, so when you come to visit Julie and I next summer, this will be on the tour! Oh and when you get to the picture of the beer… HELL is German for bright… 🙂

After we got back home, we hopped on a ZOOM call with a bunch of our MN and WI friends, and now get to watch the Packers beat the Vikings. Next time will be a lot of pictures from Lisbon.

6 September. 2020

Almost over!

I am on the last day of my quarantine. My whole world revolves two rooms and a balcony.

I get out of “jail” tomorrow. I am really looking forward to Monday, because then I get to go for a jog. Riding my bike on the balcony is decent exercise, but it is boring as heck! There is not a lot I can say about quarantine. I know it could be worse, and I could be stuck in much worse accommodations, but it is no fun. I did get the chance to watch a lot of Netflix. Cobra Kai is pretty good, and I had forgotten what a fun show Lucifer is to watch. I also got the chance to read multiple books; so all in all I spent unproductive time about as unproductive ly as I could.

I did put almost 450 kilometers on my bike. I also lost all the weight I put back on while visiting the US. Those darn mega stuff oreos were the bane of my existence. When Julie and I move back home I am really going to have to watch that! I got my last breakfast in bed this morning,(That is habanero sauce not ketchup BTW) and Julie also celebrated with mimosas. I think she is getting tired of waiting on me!

My last breakfast in bed!

The B1G football season was supposed to start this weekend. IU was supposed to travel to Madison to put a hurt on the Badgers. It was kind of bittersweet to get pictures from Kaylee. Mom and Dad were going to come up to the game, so if we had been in Wisconsin, we would have had a nice weekend visiting with family. Oh well, I am really glad that my parents still went up to see Kaylee. That is one of the the things that really stink about living over here. We wind up missing even more family time.

I probably won’t post again until I have pictures from Lisbon. There just isn’t enough to write about with daily living!

19 August.2020

Well my wife isn’t going to be very happy with me, but what is she going to do I am in the US, and she is back home in Switzerland. :). Plus I am helping out her parents so I think that should give me some brownie points!!!!

I want to go back about 18 months in time. Julie was working for Bemis, and was working on the sale to AMCOR. We had thought she was going to be out of a job, and in fact she was getting everything ready for a job search. The bosses at Bemis, offered her an incentive to stay until the sale, so she decided to stick it out, and then would look for a job after the sale had gone through. Then AMCOR offered her the chance to keep working and move to Switzerland.

One of the things that went through our head, was “What the heck? Maybe we will get the chance to explore some of the world while she was getting paid.” The other thing was a possibility. Julie’s old boss made it very clear that he was only going to stay with the new company for a year. They needed a Chief Accounting Officer that knew US GAAP, and was familiar with SEC requirements and they did not have anyone on staff. So Julie and I also thought there might be a chance to extend her career. Well Jerry moved back to the states in June. Julie has been on pins and needles for the last few months as AMCOR was deciding who to put in Jerry’s position.

I am so proud of Julie because she was just named as Vice President and Corporate Controller. This is from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Announcement:

Effective as of August 12, 2020, the Board of Directors of the Company appointed Julie Sorrells, the Company’s current Director of Financial Reporting, as principal accounting officer, with the title VP & Corporate Controller. Ms. Sorrells, 55, has served as Director of Financial Reporting of the Company since the closing of the transaction with Bemis Company in June 2019. Prior to that and during Ms. Sorrells 29 year tenure at Bemis she served as the Assistant Controller and in various other financial roles within the company including in operating business units and corporate positions.

This is something she has been working for ever since she graduated IU way back in 1987. I think it is just about the pinnacle for an accountant. I don’t know where on S&P 500 AMCOR sits, but the way I look it, my wife has been able to achieve something that only about 500 other people in the world are doing right now!


I just know I am incredibly proud and happy of Julie’s success. I guess it just goes to show you that sometimes you take a risk, and it pays off.

11 August. 2020

Well I’ve been back in the US about a week now. Julie’s parents, are slowly but surely getting back on the right track. Her Dad got out of the hospital while I was over the Atlantic, but then her Mom went into the hospital 6 days ago, and got out yesterday. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, as they get over their illnesses, and regain their strength. If you are wondering it was not Covid that caused the problems. 🙂

I am pretty sure this is the first time I have ever been in Florida in August. Not sure I want to visit again this time of year. One of my friends compared the pain index to being in Wisconsin in January. My response is this: In Wisconsin I can put on more clothes until I get warm. In Florida, even if I went bare A$$ed naked it would still be much too hot for comfort. I am back to my younger days of going to bed at 9:00 to get up at 5:30. I’m still running down here, but I learned very quickly that I have to be done with my run by 8:00 AM. The area around Ft Myers has also changed a lot since I was here last. I know I came down with Julie once around the time we got married, so it has been sometime about 30 years ago. There is a lot more traffic than I remember.

I learned today the biggest difference between Switzerland and the USA. The craziness of some of the people. I was at a grocery store buying dinner, and the cashier starts going on and on about how Covid is a hoax, and it is criminal that we have to wear masks. She claims that Covid is actually a conspiracy between hospitals and the government. The hospitals are classifying every single patient as a Covid patient, so the government will pay them more money. Being a bit of a jerk, I asked her how “they” were able to get the rest of the world in on the conspiracy. She went on to tell me how it was all just made up. I explained that I lived in Europe now, and was here taking care of my in-laws, and that it was real, and that the rest of the world locked down to get the virus under control. I actually think she halfway believed me. She then started asking me about Switzerland, and we were having a nice little conversation. But then I ruined it… She asked me if I wanted to stay over there, or if I wanted to come back home. I looked her straight in the eye, and said. “You know my wife and I have actually talked about that very thing. We have decided that if Biden wins the election we will for sure be heading back, but if Trump wins re-election we have decided to give up our American Citizenship, and become Swiss citizens.” I thought her head was going to explode!

Talk to you soon!

30 Juli. 2020

This will be my last blog post for a while from Switzerland. In about 36 hours, I will find myself in Florida. Julie’s parents are going through a rough time in regards to health right now, and I will be heading to US to provide some assistance. Julie and I talked about this before we made the decision to move. In fact, one of the things that helped make the decision was the health of our parents; well as we are learning, when you get close to 80 years old all bets are off. So please keep Julie’s parents, and Julie, in your thoughts and prayers over the coming weeks.

Last weekend we took another day trip to the city of Lenzburg. Lenzburg is the home to Schloss Lenzburg, or for you English Speakers Lenzburg Castle.

Side view of Schloss Lenzburg coming up the hill.

Historians do not know for sure when Schloss Lenzburg was built. The earliest mention of the castle was in a document from 1077! For the next couple of hundred years, the castle was passed around between the Catholic Church, and the Counts of Kyburg. The Kyburg family was a noble family in Germany and the German portions of Switzerland in the 12 and 13 centuries. The Kyburg family was one of the four noble families in modern day Germany and Switzerland. Around 1340 the last Count of Kyburg died without an heir. His daughter married into the Habsburg family. (That name should be familar to many of you.) The Hapsburgs greatly expanded the castle, and used it as the residence of many of their liegemen.

From 1444 until 1798, the castle was the home for the Bernese bailiff for that area. A bailiff was the `person in charge of an area of land. They reported to the monarch. So although the bailiff was not a “royal” position, a bailiff had a lot of responsibility. In the mid 1800’s the castle passed to private hands. The castle remained in private hands until 1925. Interesting side note. The last “owner” of the castle was an American named Lincoln Ellsworth. The castle sat empty for the next couple of decades, and in the late 50’s the Canton of Aargau acquired the castle, refurbished it, and opened it to the public. So that concludes your two paragraph history lesson for the day!

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and the next time you hear from me, will be from Ft Myers, Florida!

22 Juli. 2020

It has been an interesting week since my last post. We finally got our taxes postponed. It has been really frustrating waiting for someone else to figure out something I have done myself since 1987. :). The Swiss taxes should actually be pretty easy. The payroll taxes are figured out automatically based on Julie’s contract, and then we had to provide proof of all other assets we have. That is figured out on a straight percentage as well, but for some reason the Swiss taxes are the ones causing all the problems. So we filed for an extension, and then paid a LOT of money to the US Treasury for the privilege of being American citizens!

As I started writing the blog about a year ago, I let everyone know that Julie’s Aunt was taking the mutt for us. Well, the mutt has had some health issues, so I’ve been trying to get some money to Jane. Once again, I learned a lesson that Credit Unions are great when you are local, and all of your transactions are straightforward. They are not so great when you are living in another country, and try and transfer larger sums of money in and out. The credit union has contracted out with another company for their online bill pay system. For the last 12 months, the ONLY thing I have used the bill pay system for, is to pay a credit card that has some auto payments attached, and I think I made one Verizon payment for the kid’s cell phones. Since my checkbook is locked in the storage locker, I figured I would set up another payee and send Julie’s Aunt a check to pay for dog expenses. Well I think after about 4 hours on the phone, and two days, the payment is finally set up. Apparently, I set off all kinds of red flags because I hadn’t used the system very much in the last year. The credit union did not update the bill pay partner with my new contact information; so the bill pay system called my OLD office number, get a different name for the phone number, and that caused them to flag my account as possible fraud! I only lost my cool once….

I had spent an hour on the phone with the credit union trying to determine what the fraud was. As part of the conversation I mentioned to the support person, that my contact information was correct when I am in the credit union’s website, but wrong when I am in the bill pay system. The credit union tech support informed me the bill pay system would be able to change my contact information. So during one of the calls to the bill pay support, I talked about changing my information. I was informed that the credit union doesn’t pay for “international” support, so they cannot enter my phone number or address. I then tried to use a Google Voice number I have, and to change my address to my parent’s address, but was told I had to contact the credit union to do that. I blew up just a little, and said you need to call with me, because the credit union said they can’t update that information, you need to do that. Bottom line: Dave, you will probably get some more calls for me! Sorry about that. I’m not in the mood for a tech support fight right now!

I am not a HUGE beer drinker, but I have learned I really like the beer over here a LOT more than what passes for beer in the US. The Budweiser of Switzerland is a much better product than the Budweiser back home. When I learned the Feldschlösschen Brewery was pretty close I made that one of my goals for a day trip. Last weekend we took a trip to Rheinfelden to visit the brewery. Rheinfelden is a beautiful little town. The town straddles the Rhein river.

Feldschlösschen literally translates to “castle in the fields”. The brewery was founded in 1876. It is the largest brewery in Switzerland, and it really does look like a castle.

Feldschlösschen Brewery

The picture above is a stock photo, but I didn’t get any pictures that really do it justice. The building and the grounds are very impressive. It really does look like a castle. I was joking that they built it like a castle to protect the beer!

The tour was interesting, to say the least. The website said they had tours available in German, French, Italian, and English. Unfortunately, I could not find English tours available; so we signed up for a German tour. The guide was very accommodating. He did the whole tour in German, and then as we were walking from place to place, we would give us a recap in English.

One of the tidbits of beer making I learned was in the preparation of the malt. I had always assumed, they just took dry grain, and with addition of water, hops, yeast and heat (simplified version) that beer magically came out as the end product. At least in this brewery that isn’t the case. They actually take the grain, and start the germination process. They start and stop the germination of the seed two different times, before the grain is ground for the malt. This is probably something that everyone else knew, but I never really cared how the beer is made, as long as it is cold. Another tidbit I learned was in the preparation of the hops. This brewery now takes the hops, dry them and crush them into little green pellets. These pellets all have the same size consistency, so it makes it very easy to always get the same flavor from every batch of beer. The tour guide explained that based on the hop growing season, the recipe for the beer had to change from year to year, because 1 kilogram of hops would contain different amounts based on how big the individual hops were. By crushing the hops, it allows the consistency to be the same batch to batch. Again, this might be something that all big brewers do I just did not know it!

Dealing with Covid also caused a bit of a chuckle. We were forced to wear masks for the tour, but at the end of the tour, we were dumped into a dining hall, with about 100 other visitors. We all sat shoulder to shoulder at banquet tables for an hour or so as we sampled the different beer. The tour tried really hard to social distance, and keep everyone wearing a mask for the tour, and then threw it all out the window at the end!

On Sunday, I took a bike ride around part of the lake. Hopefully the weather will be good this weekend. I plan on biking around the entire lake. For my Fox Valley friends. Zürichsee is the same length as Lake Winnebago. The difference comes in the width. Lake Winnebago is 3 or 4 times wider than Zürichsee. The best part, is that for most of the ride, you are between 100 and 200 meters from the lake. It is a beautiful ride, and the only real hill I have to worry about is the last mile back to the apartment. 🙂 I still suck at the hills, but it is so much nicer on my road bike vs the commuter bike I have. I think the 10 – 15 pounds you save with the road bike make a HUGE difference.

Once again, I hope you enjoy the pictures. Talk to you soon.

17 Juli. 2020 (School Opening Plans)

Schools were open in Switzerland for about 5 weeks, before going on Summer Holiday. The K-12 schools opened 11 May, with Universities and other schools (Language) opening up in early June. Schools were definitely part of the 4 phase re-open plan. The official plan is three steps, but the 3rd step did not address the resumption of LARGE Attendance events; these are events of 1000 people or more. Currently the country says they will address these events in August. Since, to me, the whole idea is to get things as close to “normal” as possible, these large events must be taken into consideration.

The Swiss COVID plan was 4 phases: Phase 1 this was about 2 1/2 weeks long. It was Personal care services, outpatient hospital services, and Home Improvement stores. Phase 2 was almost 4 weeks long. This phase opened up all retail, restaurants and bars, schools, gyms, and basically everything except Universities, and Larger attendance venues. Phase 3 This is where we are currently, and it will last approximately two months, or longer. Phase 3 opened up large venues. This is basically venues up to 300 people. As I said earlier Phase 4 is scheduled to go into effect at the end of August, and this is basically the phase that gets us back to “normal” life.

The following chart is a comparison of Switzerland, New Jersey, and Virginia. I compared these two states because they are the closest in population to Switzerland. The other thing I found interesting was the size comparison. Switzerland is about twice the size of NewJersey. Virginia is about twice the of Switzerland. So I thought these comparisons would also show some of the density issues. The chart does not capture the density as much as I would have thought. You will certainly see the numbers are really different between Switzerland and New Jersey. I would have expected the numbers for Virginia to more closely mirror Switzerland based on the density of population, but that is not really the case. So obviously there are many other factors that come into play. I do think the population density is one of the reasons Virginia’s numbers are significantly different than New Jersey’s however.

DateSwitzerlandNew JerseyVirginia
15 March2340 (On 16 March 80 cases)0 (On 20 March 20 cases)
3 April17744305  (also Peak)306
27 April (Phase 1 Lockdown Ease Swiss)0 (383 on 26th)2150565
11 May (Phase 2 Lockdown Ease Swiss) Schools Opened541413989
6 June (Phase 3 Lockdown Ease Swiss)23557865 (Peak was 26 May at 1615)
7 July 46267638
Numbers on this chart are New Cases per day (New York Times )

The lockdowns varied in severity and when they started. The Swiss shutdown everything except manufacturing, pharmacies, and groceries. New Jersey and Virginia closed schools the same week Switzerland went into lockdown. New Jersey went into lockdown a week later, and Virginia began their lockdown 1 April.

I believe the chart, especially the first couple of rows, show the difference between the population density. The peak numbers (as of 7 July) were very similar between Virginia and Switzerland. The peak number in New Jersey was significantly higher than either and part of that is due to population density.

There is one real big reason I wanted to show you that chart before I laid out the back to school guidance. Switzerland has had next to zero problems with going back to school. From what I could find there have only been two cases of COVID transmission that have caused individual schools to change their plans. I was not able to find any instance where a school had to close down again after opening. In the cases of transmission, the individual classes and teachers were quarantined at home for two weeks, but the rest of the school continued to operate. That is a pretty impressive record to me. That being said, based on where the numbers are at in most US states, I don’t see how many school districts will be able to go back this fall with even a modified schedule. I am sure some rural schools will have no problems, but based on the state wide numbers, there are not many urban schools that can open safely until the numbers of new cases crops significantly.

Overview of plan

I was able to get re opening plans from 4 local schools, they were all very similar, and basically, took almost no editing to get them into one plan. I could not find an official plan written by the canton, but I am assuming there had to have been one, since the school plans were all so similar.

Basically, the plans calls for reduced class sizes 15 people were the maximum. This meant students going to school for 1/2 days. you were either in school in the morning, or the afternoon. The plans all called for one entrance per building with appropriate hand sanitization stations at that entrance. NO Visitors during the school day. The other thing I found interesting is that in school instruction was only focused on the the three areas considered most critical: Mathematics, German, Italian, or French (English or Language Arts for my American readers) and Foreign Language. All other subjects were still covered, but they were covered via distance learning. I am sure the Foreign Language area seems strange, but you have to remember, that Switzerland is a small country, and there are four official languages in the country. So being able to speak at least one more language is critical for life outside school. You will also see the plan was in place for only one month, at the end of that month, things went back to normal. Again, we were able to do that because the virus is much more under control here.

You will see the plan is pretty basic, which I believe is good. If you have any questions, please ask. If I do not know the answer I will get it as soon as possible.

The Plan

1. General

The following concept describes which basic principles have to be taken into account in classroom instruction at the   school. It is based on the protection concept of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) 1 for schools, on the handing out of the Education Directorate of the Canton of Zurich to resume classroom instruction at the elementary school (regular school) from May 11, 20202 and on Government Council Decision No. 441 of April 30 2020 (RRB No. 441/2020) 3.

2. Scope

This concept is valid from May 11, 2020 to provisionally until June 8, 2020. All school actors must adhere to the measures listed therein and implement them.

3. Objective

The aim of the protective measures is to prevent the number of particularly severe COVID-19 diseases and to keep new diseases at a low level. The focus is on protecting the health of teaching staff and pupils, and especially those at particular risk.

4. Particularly vulnerable people

The COVID-19 regulation defines the persons considered to be particularly at risk as follows:

– People aged 65 and over

– People who have the following diseases in particular:

o high blood pressure

o diabetes

o cardiovascular diseases

o chronic respiratory diseases

o Diseases and therapies that weaken the immune system 

o Cancer

5. Teaching / pedagogy

a. The classroom instruction takes place in half-classes (up to a maximum of 15 students per class) due to a special timetable with reduced group size.

b. Schoolchildren attend on-site lessons at school during the average of half of the usual lessons. Classroom instruction is supplemented with diverse tasks and assignments from various specialist areas, which are worked on and solved at home. Specialist courses will continue to be provided through distance learning.

c. The focus is on mathematics, German(language of Canton), foreign languages. Pure swimming lessons are dispensed with. Sport and movement sequences take place, however in selected areas of competence, so that the distance to other students can be guaranteed.

d. Group rooms can only be used when accompanied by a teacher, and work in the school building is prohibited.

e. The teachers work to ensure that their pupils achieve the goals and basic requirements of Zurich curriculum 21 at the end of the cycle.

6. Lessons in special situations

a. If pupils are among the most vulnerable or if there are other good reasons that speak against attending classroom attendance, parents can request a dispensation. These students can take part in the distance learning sequences offered and process the orders placed online. As a rule, a medical certificate is required for this.

b. In such cases, kindergarten children stay at home without additional support.

7. Pupils

a. Schoolchildren who show symptoms of any kind of illness or live in a household with a person suffering from COVID-19 are not allowed to attend school.

b. Before starting school, the pupils gather on the school premises in the places shown in the plans below and enter the school building in a half-class association.

c. Every person disinfects their hands every time they enter the school building, disinfection dispensers are available at the entrances.

d. There is enough space in the cloakrooms in half-classes, it is also important to use them.

e. In the classes, the distance rules (minimum distance of 2 m) are observed as far as possible. The pedagogical and above all didactic means are adapted to the distance rules. Likewise the furnishings and the table arrangement.

8. Employee measures

a. Sick employees or those living with a person with COVID-19 living in a household as well as particularly vulnerable employees stay at home.

b. There is always a minimum distance of 2 m between adults and between adults and schoolchildren.

c. In the teachers’ and living room, in the copy room and on general surfaces (stairwell, entrance area, etc.), care is taken to maintain the required minimum distance of 2 m from one another.

9. General protective measures

a. The general behavior and hygiene measures apply to everyone and must be implemented consistently:

     – keep your distance (> 2m);

     – Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap;

     – avoid shaking hands;

     – cough and sneeze into the handkerchief or the crook of the arm;

     – stay at home with cold symptoms;

     – Only go to the doctor’s office or emergency room after registering by telephone;

     – Wear a mask if it is not possible to keep your distance (e.g. public transport).

b. The rules of conduct and hygiene are practiced with schoolchildren every day and checked, if necessary, improved.

c. Students are encouraged not to share food or drinks. (We recommend packaged baked goods from wholesalers for a birthday snack).

d. Students use disinfectants when entering the houses. In the school buildings, hands should always be cleaned with soap and water.

e. Half-classes are not mixed, on the one hand to reduce the epidemiological risk and to be able to trace contacts (contact tracing).

f. Between the half-classes, all surfaces in the classrooms are disinfected.

10. School complex – break area

a. The school complex is closed to the public (including parents) during class hours.

b. Adult people who are not directly involved in school operations stay away from the school area (e.g. parents who bring their children to school).

c. Larger groupings on the outdoor area should be avoided.

d. The breaks are staggered. For this purpose, the break bell is turned off. The children are encouraged to stay within the half-class group during breaks. Mixing of the groups should be prevented. The required distance must be maintained between the groups.

e. The school is open to the public outside of class. Accumulations of more than five people are prohibited. The minimum distance of 2 m from each other must always be observed.

11. Isolation and quarantine measures

a. Employees and schoolchildren who have typical symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat are self-isolated.

b. Employees and schoolchildren who have had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the immediate vicinity or whose symptoms indicate the new corona virus enter self-quarantine

.

12. Occurrence of symptoms of illness in school

a. Schoolchildren who come to school sick or fall ill while in school are looked after until they are picked up by their parents.

b. You will be taken to a quarantine room. A hygiene mask is given.

c. Inform employees who get sick in school

the school management immediately and go home. They can be tested immediately.

13. Occurrence of Covid 19 diseases in school

a. The school management is to be informed by parents or employees.

b. The sick pupil or employee goes into self-isolation. The family members must be in self-quarantine.

c. The school administration informs the parents of the affected group that a child or a teacher has Covid-19.

d. The school management informs the school medical service so that contact tracing can be started.

e. Neither the teachers or employees nor the children of the same group have to go into self-quarantine, but they have to take care of their health.

f. If there are multiple cases in the same half-class (> 2), all students in this half-class and the teacher are sent to self-quarantine for 10 days.

14. Camps and excursions (Field Trips)

Larger groups, school events, camps and excursions, school trips in public transport, cross-class project weeks, sports days and graduation parties are prohibited until the summer holidays.


I apologize for some of the stilted English. My own German skills are lacking, so a lot of the translation was done with Microsoft and Google Translator apps.

7 Juli. 2020

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!

MMMMMMMMM!

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?

Schloss Rapperswill

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.

Julie and I standing in front of the Kiss Me Elephant!

I hope you enjoy the pictures!