25 Februar 2021

Our hike around Einsiedeln

Some new German words due to COVID

The German dictionary has expanded by over 1200 words since the coronavirus was discovered. I thought I would share some of them with you! I tried to put in ( ) if there is a direct english translation

Kuschelkontakt: (cuddle contact) The person that is specifically only used for “cuddles”. Please note the quotation marks! 🙂

Abstandbier: Drinking beer while keeping socially distanced

Todesküsschen: (Kiss of death) This is used when someone comes up and gives you a kiss on the cheek, but you are afraid of catching germs.

Maskentrottel: (Mask idiot) When someone wears their mask underneath their nose.

Überzoomed: Stressed out by too many video calls.

CoronaFußgruß: A greeting made by touching feet instead of shaking hands.

Hamsteritis: The tendancy to hard food and other supplies like what happened at the start of the pandemic

23 Februar 2021

I wanted to start talking a little about driving over here. For the most part the rules of the road are very similar to the US. There are a couple of differences though.

In smaller towns parking is very haphazard.

Parking on my street

The video was made on the street about a block from my apartment building. On the entire street there are only 4 parking spots, but that doesn’t stop people. The Land Rover is always in the street. I am guessing there must be a law that says if one tire is parked in a drive way, the car is OK. I say that only half joking. This is not just in my town, every smaller town that I have visited, has the same issue. The funny part, to me, is that the driving car is the one responsible if there is an accident.

Speedlimit signs are only posted at the change site. For example coming into town, there will be one 50 KPH (kilometer per hour) sign no matter how big the town, I have not seen another speed limit sign until the speed limit changes again. In town or on the autobahn, that really isn’t a problem. In town, you just know to not go any faster than 50 KPH (side streets you keep below 30 KPH), and on the autobahn you just know it is usually 120 KPH. The exception on the autobahn is in or near a city the speed limit will be 100. What confused the heck out of me were country highways. When you leave a town you might see a sign like this.

Road sign used in Switzerland – End of maximum speed limit, the word means general limit in German.

and yes I have had to learn to read the signs in German, Italian, and French. For the most part that was pretty easy. Anyway, when you come across a sign like above, it means the speed limit is 20 KPH above the number posted. Why they just can’t post a normal speed limit sign is still beyond me. The other weird thing, is that these signs have only been on the left side of the road, where all the speed limit signs are on the right side. I am just very thankful the car has a heads up display, and it is tied into the GPS system. So far the car has been really accurate, which is good because speeding fines can get expensive quickly. 40 CHF for 1 – 5, 120 CHF 6 – 10, 250 CHF for 11 – 16. Anything over 16 KPH requires going to court, where the ticket can be based on your income!! I have talked to some people, and yes, you might get a ticket for going 1 KPH over the speed limit. The majority of speeding is caught by camera, and in some places the cameras are set for the exact speed, and if you are even slightly over, you get a ticket. My limited experience is that in town almost everyone drives 3 – 5 KPH slower than the posted limit.

The final thing that is still taking me a while to get used to is this: on secondary roads you give priority to traffic on the right. Sometimes it is marked, sometimes it is not marked. So while driving you always have to be watching for someone to simply stop in the middle of the road, as they stopped for a car on the right. Where I see the most is at an intersection walking to the grocery store. It seems pretty obvious to me, which is the primary road, but a lot of the time I will see a car stop because there is a car coming up to the intersection on their right.

I assume, the more I drive the more comfortable I will get, but so far I am still uneasy behind the wheel.

Einsiedeln

This weekend we took a trip to the city of Einsiedeln. It is about 40 minutes away from the house, and I had seen they have a nice winter hiking trial system. It is right on the edge of the mountains, so I figured there would still be snow on the ground. You will see from the video and the pictures, the snow was lacking. There is a small ski slope there, but it has already closed down for the season.

In the town, the most obvious landmark is the Abbey. The Abbey dates back to 934 when the first church was erected on the grounds. I was unable to take any pictures inside, as the church prohibited photography but the interior rivaled many of the churches we visited in Rome. Here is a link for google images, so you can see a little of what the church looks like. Link to Google Images. There are about 50 monks living in the Abbey, but you can tell from the size, that at one time, there must have been hundreds. The grounds surrounding the monastery are equally impressive, there are very large stables, and a saw mill on the property.

Julie and I went for a 5 mile hike around the town, and the lake nearby. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon; so it was delightful to be outside.

The Abbey

I have come to the conclusion that spring is just around the corner. My winter coats and boots have been put away. I am sitting watching the cleaners in the building next door and the workers are in shirt sleeves, and one is even wearing shorts. The daily temperature is up in the 50’s now. It won’t be long until the flowers in the neighborhood are blooming. That was my favorite season last year!

On a final note, we are nearing the 1 year anniversary of when the world changed due to the pandemic. A year ago, Julie and I were skiing at the Matterhorn. This was just as they announced the first lockdowns in Italy. Oh how naive we were 12 months ago.

Covid

The Swiss Government announced last week that we are going to continue with restrictions through the end of March. The restrictions will be: continued work from home and bars, gyms, and theaters will continue to be closed, and restaurants are closed to dining in. The last few weeks I have noticed a lot more pushback in the news. I think, just like the rest of the world, the Swiss are coming close to their limits. The work from home is the one that doesn’t make any sense. There was a study released a couple of days before the new restrictions were announced, that showed how the work from home has actually INCREASED mobility not decreased mobility. The study basically said that when people had to go to the office, they were being more careful on weekends. Now that they are working from home, most people are going places on the weekend instead of staying at home. So the way I read this, the work from home order has actually made things worse instead of better. My anecdotal evidence says that is true as well. Schools have been out of session for the last two weeks due to the end of winter ski break. (I don’t know what else to call it.) and there is no one in town. I think the majority of families took their kids skiing for the last two weeks. Normally people go one week, but now the working parent only has to take off one week, but the whole family gets to play in the mountains for two weeks.

There has not been any more talk of the vaccine passport here, but I think it is only a matter of time before it goes into effect. There has been a lot of talk about treating people differently once they have had the vaccine. IE no quarantine and those kind of things. I don’t know how they will implement any of that without some kind of vaccine passport. There has not been any real talk about when things will open up to allow cross border travel again. I think we are looking at late summer or early fall, but I really do not know anything.

I do think we are almost over the 2nd wave. The case and death numbers are now below the peak of the first wave.

I hope this post found you well. Talk to you next week. Not a lot of pictures to post, and I will have a video of our hike up tomorrow or Wednesday.

My own Rage Against the Machine

I have always been a strong proponent of Social Media. When I worked for a school district, I spent a lot of time over a couple of years trying to convince the board to allow the internet filters be loosened. I thought it was beneficial to let the students express themselves, and see that social media could be used with restraint. Facebook allowed me to reconnect with people I had not seen in decades. It brought me closer to my friend Paul Barlow as he was going through the struggle of losing his youngest to cancer. This got me off my butt, and running to raise money for St Jude Hospital, which in turn will probably add years back on my life. Professionally, I have met some amazing people through Twitter. I even had the chance to appear on a “panel of experts” at a national conference because of the connection made through Twitter. I know that my own professional learning was enhanced by social media.

I have often scoffed at people that make the big proclamation before pulling away from Social Media. “Why in the world do they need to make an announcement? Just do it already. You won’t be missed.” I still feel that way, but I also understand now, why those people might have felt the need for one last rant before turning things off.

Last night I was in bed reading through my twitter feed, AS USUAL. I came across a tweet from a young 2LT. This young lady must have just graduated her Officer Basic Course, or completed some other milestone. She had posted a picture of herself proudly wearing the blue stetson of an armor officer. You could see the pride in her face, and the determination in her eyes to be the best young officer she could be. It brought back a lot of my own happy memories from 30 years ago. I congratulated her, and wished her the best, and went to sleep. Never thinking a thing about it. Then I woke up.

The first thing I saw on twitter were other Officers and NCO’s taking people to task for their comments on twitter. After a few minutes of checking I found it was all directed at the 2 LT in the paragraph above. Sure there were a lot of congratulatory messages, and messages of good luck, but something had also turned ugly. In the space of about 8 hours, this young officer had pulled herself off twitter. The messages had changed from good too bad. She was getting threats for her life and safety. I don’t know if it was actual soldiers, or not, but she was being threatened with rape if she reported to “their” unit. Some of thing threats were even worse, and more directed. What should have been on of the happiest moments in this young lady’s life was now ruined by a bunch of misogynistic asses. I am betting that most of them probably didn’t even have the courage to sign up for service themselves. I am sorry I do not know the young lady’s name, but Lt Trouble or @giltheamazon I AM SORRY.

I am sorry that you had to go through this, and I am sorry that in your future Army career, you will probably face this same crap again and again. Most of it won’t be to your face, it will be said behind your back in the barracks, Enlisted and NCO clubs, and even the Officer club. I am also sorry that you have to face it online as well. The same is true for every woman in regards to their online life. The social media companies need to do a much better job of protecting their customers.

I think this has been building for a while. I was sick of all the lies that Facebook let slide during the election season. I understand the theory that SM sites are not publishers, and therefore not responsible for the content. In my mind, that might have been true, when people used Twitter to find out what Ashton Kucher was eating for breakfast, and back in the days that Facebook was used to help grow your neighbors crops in Farmville. Those days, though, are long over. I don’t think these sites should be responsible for editorial and opinion content, but I do think they should be responsible for people spreading lies and pretending it to be fact. They should also be responsible for immediately removing threatening speech on their platform. It can be done, the technology is there, they just need to do it!

I know that my actions do not make any difference to anyone but me. I know that my choosing to not post on Twitter or Facebook is not going to make an impact with those companies either. Like most people that make these threats, I’ll probably come back eventually.

Here is the main reason I wanted to write this. I know that some of my friends, and a lot of acquaintances follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see the pictures I post from Switzerland. If you still want to see these pictures, you will have to subscribe at https://theexpateducator.org I will no longer be linking my blog posts to my Facebook or Twitter pages. If you want to contact me, my email is listed on that site as well.

Take care, and I’ll see you all later.

17 Februar. 2021

Garbage

Last week I spent a little time cleaning and organizing our storage room. I came across a bunch of garbage bags and it got me thinking about the differences between trash and recycling here vs in the US. Those of you that know Julie, also know that she never saw a sale she didn’t like. If Tide was on sale, she bought Tide even if we had 5 bottles in the basement. She did the same with trash bags. I wound up donating a lot of them, but we moved with enough garbage bags to last us a year. Unfortunately, we are unable to use any of them, and they will be moved back to the US with us, to be used there. Thank goodness plastic doesn’t degrade very easily. :).

Trash over here, just like the most places in the US, is a municipal issue. Trash is picked up once a week, but here is where it gets different. Garbage can only be disposed of in your town’s special trash bags. Our trash bags are white and orange, they come in different sizes, but it is very obvious if someone tried to use a different town’s garbage bag, The bags are sold in grocery stores, and they are a controlled item. Meaning that you can only buy them from a store cashier. The cost for the kitchen size bags is 16 CHF for a bundle of 10, or 1.60 CHF per bag. (Remember 1 franc is roughly equal to $1.) We go through between 3 and 4 bags per week. If I remember the annual costs that were on our property tax, then what we pay over here is actually very comparable to what we paid in the US. The biggest difference being the amount of garbage that money paid for. I would say when I look at the quantity of trash, then we got about double in the US what we get over here. That is just a guess, but I know we threw away a lot more in the US. Part of that was because the kids came home occasionally, but we also bought a LOT more stuff in the US than we do here.

When it comes to recycling, I really like the way we did it back in WI. It was A LOT easier. Here we have to take the recycling to drop off points. We have to separate all the recycling. Not just glass from plastic, but different colored glass, and different types of plastic. In some ways it isn’t that onerous, as the recycling stations are on the way to the grocery stores, and at the stores, but it does take more time. Also over here, it is easier to recycle other things that is hard in the US. For example two of the grocery stores near us have battery, lightbulb, and water filter drop off locations. Getting rid of hazardous materials is just as hard over here, but hopefully I won’t have to find out about that for a couple of more years. The Swiss do take great pride in the recycling system, and everyone participates. However, the dirty little secret about what actually gets recycled is the same over here as it is in the US. An example I found online is that over 80% of paper and cardboard gets recycled, but only about 60% of that actually gets recycled, the rest of it is handled like regular trash.

Video on garbage and recycling in my town.

A final note about trash over here: The Swiss stopped burying garbage a little over 20 years ago. Now all of the refuse is incinerated to produce electricity. In Europe, Switzerland is the number three country for amount of garbage generated per person. So there is a lot of trash!

Weekend Trips

We did a little driving this weekend. On Saturday, we drove to a town named Pfäffikon for a taste of the US. We went and visited a Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken. Restaurants can still be open here for take out or delivery.

Popeye’s Chicken

The chicken was just as good as I remembered it being. Sorry Chick-fil-A you lost that battle! I am predicting that from this point on, if we take weekend drives, we will somehow find ourselves driving through Pfäaffikon on the outbound or homeward trip.

On Sunday we visited the city of Chur (prounounced: kur). Chur is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland. According to some sources it is THE oldest city in Switzerland. The city is 111 km from our house, so it takes about an hour and a half to get there. It was my first experience driving in the mountains over here, but it was all freeway. Very pretty but no twists and turns. One of the fun things were all the tunnels. Until this trip, the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado was what I think of when I think big tunnels. Not any longer. The Kerezenberg tunnel is over three times longer than the Eisenhower. I was a little disappointed though, because I was going to take a video going through the tunnel on the way home, but this tunnel is only one way. :(. The return trip is along a lake, so it is more scenic, but not as memorable. I also learned that I have never driven a “luxury” car before moving here. I am paranoid about speeding tickets, so I set the cruise control about 2 KM under the posted limit. I freaked out a little when after about 10 minutes the car started slowing down by itself. I thought I had broken something, but then I realized the car thought I was to close to the car in front of me; so it was slowing itself down. 🙂

Chur is not one of the popular tourist places, but especially during the summer, I can see it being a fun place to spend a few days. It is in a big open valley; so there is a lot of hiking and biking trails, but close enough to the mountains that you can get up to the hills as well. There isn’t any skiing right there; so the town was pretty much a ghost town. The most awesome thing we saw was two men dressed up in some kind of costume complete with a sheep mask. They were playing cowbells that were attached to their costume. I really wanted to get a video, but I didn’t have any cash with me to pay them, and I thought it would be disrespectful to record them without compensating them for their efforts. Next time we visit, hopefully they will be performing. The old section of the city is really charming, and it was really kind of neat walking up the hill towards the church. Unfortunately, Julie saw a lot of little shops that she wants to visit once the lockdown is lifted; so we will probably be returning more quickly than I realize.

COVID Update

I am realizing that the Swiss Federal Government is no better organized than the US Federal Government. Which is kind of surprising since there are only about 8.5 million people living here. Last week, literally 10 minutes after I posted my update, I read an article saying there was going to be announcement in about 24 hours about the extensions we were going to have for the lockdown. Well the next day came and went, and there were no updates. I have since learned, that there are some officials that want to go even more strict in regards to the lockdown. They want ski slopes closed, schools closed, and they want to go even more strict on the work from home, and store shutdown orders. These same people also want the lockdown to continue all the way through March. Their belief is that the UK and South African variants of the virus are becoming more prevalent, and if the country wants to have any kind of “normal” summer then we need to lockdown even harder and longer. Of course another group in the government wants the exact opposite. The next group is saying we should open everything up. They think all the restrictions are not needed, and that we are making the situation a lot worse than it needs to be. The reality is probably going to be that some restrictions will be loosened, but the timing for the complete lifting of the restrictions will be

The other story in the news lately, has been that the Minister of Health has been accused of burying a report from last summer. This report was saying that the Government should have started taking steps in August or September, to keep the 2nd wave from getting out of control. Instead the Federal Government loosened restrictions during that time. This loosening led to the 2nd wave being about 3 times worse than what happened last March and April.

The Federalist style of Government is the same over here as back in the US. The individual Cantons are just as powerful as the individual states are back home. This has led, just like the US, to a patchwork of rules in trying to contain the virus. We are seeing the same thing over here in regards to vaccinations. Some Cantons are doing a really good job and getting the vaccinations distributed very well. Others are really struggling. The biggest difference (outside of having 7 Presidents) is that in Switzerland it is much easier to have a say at the national level. It is very easy to get an initiative on the ballot and to force the entire country to vote on it. In fact, one of the initiatives coming up this summer is to take away the Federal Government’s ability to put in place any restrictions due to a health crisis. It is expected to fail, but every Swiss citizen eligible will be able to vote on this. To show how easy it is to get something on the ballot for a national vote, one of the other initiatives is called the “bistro vote”. This is to force every restaurant to become a canteen for workers. It is supposed to allow any person working outside to be able to go into a restaurant to eat lunch. The would take place even though restaurants are closed for eating in right now. I can’t figure out if that last one was put forward by the restaurant industry, or the labor unions?

Anyway, it doesn’t look like we will be over this any time soon.

We did not get a lot of pictures but below are the pictures we took from Chur.

Talk to you next week.


10 Februar 2021

I just learned my wife and I are NOT on the same page once again. She was telling me the temperatures for the weekend are supposed to be in the 20’s. She forgets that we live in Europe and we use Celsius for temperature here. I was ready with the shorts and tank tops. The only problem is that she still has Fahrenheit on her phone. I feel like a fool now! I should have known better, but the weather has been awfully strange this year; so I thought there was a chance.

Ink Jet Toner

So I need my friends in the US to do a favor for me. Next time you are at Target, Walmart, or any place that sells ink for an ink jet printer; look and see if they have HP 62 cartridges. Then just leave a comment on FB or here. I am trying to see if there is a worldwide shortage or just a European shortage.

Knowing that Julie would be working from home for 6 weeks, before we went into lockdown we spent a weekend (well a Saturday because the stores are all closed on Sunday) hitting seemingly every store in the Zürich area that might sell toner. As an old school accountant, Julie prefers to read excel files on paper vs a screen. (I know it is sad.). I knew that we would need more ink, so we shopped and we shopped and we shopped. I think we went to over 50 stores that day. We were able to find ONE black cartridge. We did buy it thank goodness. I got back home and started looking online. I found one online shop that did not specify they were sold out; so I ordered two black and two color cartridges. Well it turns out they were out of stock as well. Three weeks later, I got one black cartridge. The store sent me an email saying they had no idea when the other cartridges would be shipped, and wanted to know if I was going to cancel the order. Heck, there is no way I’m canceling. I do not want to go back to the end of the line waiting.

I have checked websites from all over Europe, and I have been unable to find any more ink. I really do not want to go buy another printer, just for the ink, but we may not have a choice. I’ve got Julie being very careful about what she is printing; so hopefully we will get through the next three weeks with what we have on hand.

Popeyes

There are literally only two other couples we know here. We had dinner last Saturday with one of the couples, and they informed us that there is a Popeyes Chicken restaurant in a nearby village named Pfäffikon. Since it is not supposed to be raining on Saturday we are going to take a drive and get a chicken sandwich for lunch. Personally I’m very happy I always liked Popeyes better than Chick fil A. The town only has about 10,000 residents so it seems like a strange place for an American fast food place, but that isn’t the strangest thing I have seen in Switzerland. :). Maybe I will call Chick fil A and see if I can franchise here. Then we can have the great chicken sandwich debate in Switzerland, and see if it causes the same uproar that it caused in the US. There was a Popeyes that opened in Appleton, right before I came over, and I remember they had to bring in extra employees for a period of time just to direct traffic in the parking lot. I think the Chick fil A opened the week I moved, or the week after I moved, so I never saw what happened with their opening.

Speaking of driving. We are looking to spend a long weekend in the town of Davos in March. Even though they are not having the economic forum so I won’t have a chance to meet a gazillionaire, I still want to visit the area. We are looking at renting another apartment so we can cook for ourselves just in case the lockdown rules are not loosened. I probably should not use the word lockdown. We can still travel any where we want in Switzerland, but I just don’t know what else to call it.

Taxes

It is tax time over here as well as in the US. One of the benefits Julie gets from her company is help with tax preparation. It is a nice benefit as we have to file taxes for Switzerland as well as the US. I have to say one thing I like better about the Swiss system, is that the payroll tax system is much better than the the US. Last year the only reason we had to pay any Swiss taxes at the end of the year was the fact they have a wealth tax. So we had to pay a very small percentage for all of our non retirement investments in the US. This is compared to the US where every year we had to come up with a lot of money at the end of the year, because they never seemed to take enough out of our paychecks. I know the finance people are screaming at me now, because it is always better to pay later, but I have always liked the idea of paying as little as possible in April.

I am still a little upset with the IRS because they charged us penalties and interest on the “quarterly” payments we were “supposed” to make before we moved over seas. I tried arguing with them, that we didn’t even know we were moving until the 2nd quarter of the year; so how could we reasonably be expected to make a quarterly payment the first quarter? Needless to say my pleas landed on deaf ears.

I am very interested to see how the whole tax situation works out after living the whole year over here. Last year it was very tricky, because Julie and I had different move dates, and that made a big difference for the Swiss taxes. The biggest question is going to be state taxes. I know we need to file for WI because WI has some strange requirements for what constitutes your “Domicile.” The question comes in how much will we owe. Last summer as we were finalizing the 2019 taxes, the tax preparer recommended that I make quarterly payments to WI that doubled what we were making to the Federal Government. I tried showing the preparer that we would not owe that much. WI law states’ ” Wages, salaries, commissions, and other income for services performed in Wisconsin.” That would only be the income I make from the App business, and interest from the bank accounts. I guess you could make a stretch that it could also be the dividends and other investment increases, but even then we are not talking very much money. The vast majority of our income is from Julie’s salary. I don’t know of any way that someone could claim THAT was from services performed in WI.

COVID update

Things are still very strange here. In many ways the outlook is good. The number of new cases is well below the peak of the first wave. The number of people in hospital is also well below the first wave. The concerning news seems to be the new strains of the virus keep you in the hospital longer than the first strain. So although the number of people in hospital is falling, it is not falling nearly as fast as it should. The second area of concern is the R rate, or rate of spread. It is still above 1 in the country. (last week I ranted a little that this is because of leaving the ski slopes open.) The government has said that for sure the lockdown will continue through the end of February, but has been mum on continuing on into March.

I was reading today that the UK has informed their citizens to NOT make any holiday plans for 2021. The government was of course talking about taking holiday outside of the UK, but it also made a point of saying not to make any plans for a holiday within the UK either. That is a little troubling to me, because it is a pretty good sign that international travel will NOT be opening up much this year. I know that we have just started 2021, but I keep thinking back to 11 months ago when I was very confident Julie and I would be traveling to Indiana for a wedding. I am having a much harder time being optimistic this go around.



Happy Birthday month to George (Drew) and Kaylee. We were able to talk to the kids on their birthdays; so that was nice.

I hope you have a wonderful week. I’ll talk to you again next week. Hopefully with some pictures of a really good chicken sandwich!

NOTE: I am testing a feature in WordPress that is supposed to post a custom message when the blog posts automatically. So you may see a couple tweets or linked in messages.

3 Februar. 2021

I don’t think I am exaggerating very much when I say we have some sort of precipitation practically every day for the last three weeks. Early on, we were getting snow. We got almost a foot of snow in one storm, and then we would alternate rain and snow. For the past seven or eight days it has just been rain. Everytime I read a local paper or watch a local newscast, I am expecting to see talk of flooding. So far I have not heard of any. Which honestly has surprised me A LOT. I do not think the lake level has changed more than inch or two, but with all the rain I would think that every home along the lake shore would be underwater by now. It looks like we may get a break on Thursday and Friday of this week, but then the next 10 days are predicted to be wet.

About a year ago I tried to explain a little about the health care systems here. In a nutshell the Swiss developed Obamacare, but it is Obamacare on a grand scale. Everyone is required to have insurance, if your income level is low, the Government will help, but it is not nationalized health care like most of Europe. Everyone over here complains a lot about the cost, but we are paying less for health care here than we did in the US. Even though now we are paying for three different health care plans (one for Julie and I, and each kid has their own plan). we are still paying less than what the school’s portion and my portion were two years ago. I bring this up, because I finally have the chance to upgrade my health care plan.

When I got here, I was forced to take the very basic care plan. This didn’t impact co-pays, and deductibles, but it did mean if I got sick, I would be in a barracks style hospital room, and it also meant that I was only covered while in Switzerland. The two times I have been back in the US, I paid for extra insurance plans to cover me there. That was VERY expensive, but if I had caught COVID it would have been very costly. Anyway, now I get to update. I am still sticking with the barracks room, but I am opting for better coverage in other countries. When we were able to travel I was always just a little concerned about getting sick, or having an accident. With the updated plan, I have coverage if we go to another country; so I don’t have to worry about remembering to take out the extra insurance.

I think in an earlier post I told you I was picking up my guitar again. I had not touched it since we moved, but my goal this year is to spend 15 – 30 minutes every day practicing. Well yesterday I managed to break a string. I never even thought about having extra strings on hand. I was a little worried that my practicing would have to stop due to the lockdown. I knew there were not any stores that would be able to sell guitar strings. I am pretty confident the Swiss Government would not class that as a necessity. I found some online at a store named Galaxus. Galaxus sells practically everything except food. Anyway, I learned they are every big as efficient as Amazon in the US. I ordered two sets of strings yesterday at 4:00 PM. This morning, they were in the post. I don’t even think Amazon is that efficient when they need someone else to deliver the packages. I would up missing a little practice yesterday, but after putting the new strings on the guitar I was able to practice today.

Another one of my guilty pleasures this lockdown has been watching Netflix. “The Originals” is one of the two series I have been watching. I do not know quite how to describe it. It is basically a soap opera with vampires, werewolves, and witches. None of the characters are all good or all bad. Each character has their moments, and you really never know when the good or the bad is going to show up. With all of the rain, I have not been running, I have been riding my bike in the basement. While I am riding, the other series I have been consuming is “The Protector.” The Protector is a Turkish based show. It is all about a group of immortals that are trying to take over Istanbul, and they have been thwarted through the centuries by a protector. The protector is a hereditary job. It has been passed down from father to son for something like 28 or 29 generations. It takes a little bit of adjusting to get past the english voice over, and every once in a while I start laughing because I know the translation is JUST a little off, but it is a fun story.

Speaking of Lockdown….. We have four weeks left. I have a sneaking suspicion that like a lot of Europe the Swiss Government will extend the lockdown into March. I was reading an article yesterday that was talking about how the infection rate is still high in a lot of the country. The good news is that the number of new cases is falling, but apparently, the rate of spread is still high. The really odd thing…… The parts of the country that have the worst spread rates? Where the ski slopes are. The one thing the Government said they wouldn’t shut down. Now, I am smart enough to know it isn’t skiing that is causing the problem. It is more the fact of being in long lines next to other people, and the fact that hotels are still doing business in the ski areas. I just find it a little strange that the problem has been isolated to these areas, yet the government doesn’t want to close down the slopes.

Other Covid news. Switzerland decided the Astra Zeneca vaccine could not be used. I do not know what this company did differently than others, but the Government said there was not enough data to know if the vaccine would work. Almost 20% of the country lives in and around Zürich, but we are one of the worse areas for the vaccine roll out. The latest news, is that the general public will not even be able to start getting vaccinated in this area until mid April or later. Ironically, none of the medical facilities want to help the canton distribute the vaccine because the canton isn’t paying enough. Which seems really strange to me. The canton is paying 50 CHF per dose. For a hospital or clinic, that would already have some of the infrastructure set up to give vaccinations passing on potentially 50,000,000 CHF seems strange to me. It seems that Switzerland is doing better in regards to vaccinations than the surrounding countries. I saw that in Geneva they are having a hard time distinguishing between the French citizens that are eligible for the vaccine, and those that are not. The law is that if you cross the border to work, and you have Swiss health care you are eligible for the vaccine. Since the border is open there have been cases of people coming over from France to get vaccinated. In another case, there was a busload of vaccine tourists who were caught and sent back home. There is a growing business in Northern Italy of trying to Italian citizens across the border to get vaccinated.

We have our thieves and scammers here as well. In the Canton of Vaud, the police are looking for a group of people going around too houses pretending to be someone from the government. These people are then charging the home owner to get on the Covid Vaccine list.

I am going to end this post with a couple of comments about cheese. There is no such thing as Swiss cheese here in Switzerland. All cheese is Swiss cheese, and the type of cheese that you are thinking of as Swiss Cheese is actually called Emmentaler. Thank God I saw smart enough to NOT ask for Swiss cheese the first time I went to the Grocery. There have been two stories in the news recently about swiss cheese. The first is that the industry has had a record year, even with Covid. The reason is that more people are eating and cooking at home, and swiss people eat more cheese at home than they eat when going to a restaurant. The second story involves swiss cheese and Germany. There is a dairy near the German Border that has petitioned the government to allow 3 million liters of german milk to be imported. The dairy cannot get enough swiss milk to keep up with the demand. The story talks about the conundrum of how can the dairy make “Swiss” cheese if the milk is not from Switzerland. The dairy is being very smart. They are saying that all the cheese will be exported back to Germany, so they won’t be bringing down the quality of swiss cheese! The Swiss are very protective of their milk and cheese. There is a 76 rappen (cents) duty on every liter of milk that is imported from abroad.

So that is it for this weeks post. If you are in Madison, WI this week, please give Kaylee Sorrells a shoutout and wish her a Happy Birthday. My baby turned 21 this morning.

See you next week.