The apartment suddenly got a LOT more quiet this week, even with Julie working from home! Kaylee left for Madison on Saturday, and since both kids are back in the US the apartment just feels empty. It is getting a good cleaning this week, though! It is kind of strange having Julie home again so much. I think I am going to have to get a big whiteboard so that she can write down the days and times of her meetings. I have to work around the meetings so I can do house work.
I think I mentioned this in an earlier post this month, but 2022 is giving off such a strange sense of Deja Vu. Last year we were also in the middle of a work from home ruling. However, last year (if I remember correctly) we were in a kind of forced lockdown. Restaurants and bars were closed. The only exception were those in hotels. I remember thinking how stupid it was that you could go skiing and be in a gondola with people; you could go to a hotel and eat in the restaurant or bar, but practically all other entertainment venues were closed. Of course we were all hopeful because the vaccine was being rolled out, and we we naively believed that everyone would get the vaccine and it would be the end to the madness.
Now here we are a year later. By a lot of measurements in a much worse place with the virus, but the only real difference is that no one has any optimism for things to get better any time soon. Enough of the downer talk!
After the trip to Basel last week, we really did not do a lot. Kaylee and I went and visited the Lindt Museum in Kilchberg, but other than that we worked on a puzzle.
This puzzle was a lot more difficult than the previous puzzle. The blue alone took us most of a day. It would have been longer, but Kaylee noticed there were some electrical lines running diagonally across the sky. So we had to examine every single piece, and look for a “hair”. We eventually had to separate all the blue by shape. Then we would try each piece one at a time until we got one to fit. 🙂 Kaylee called it “Puzzling by brute force.”
I did get around to making some videos of our Basel trip.
Julie and I had seen some advertisements for something called the LILU Light Festival. This is something the city of Luzern started doing a few years ago. We thought it looked pretty fun; so after seeing off we bought tickets and took the train to Luzern. I wanted to take the train, because I had the thought the festival might have a sort of Christmas Market vibe, and wanted to be able to partake of adult beverages and not have to worry about driving home. Well my thoughts turned out to be WAY OFF THE MARK. It was nothing like a Christmas Market, and there was no booze to be had. Primarily because the crowds were so extensive, that it would have required a multiple hour wait to get anything.
Most of the show was outside but you could buy tickets for the inside light shows. We thought about buying tickets, but once we saw how big the crowds were, the last place we wanted to be was inside a building standing shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers! As it was, Saturday Night is the first time I can remember wearing a mask outside when we were not required to wear one.
The festival was supposed to have these light exhibits set to music. However, at most of the displays you could not hear anything. I am glad we went, but probably will not go back next year.
The rest of the week should be pretty quiet. Hopefully, I can think of something else to write about!
In a nutshell Green Bay started to freeze over, so people had to get out on the hard water and fish. A pretty large group were in one area, and the wind picked up. Next thing these people know they are no longer connected to the shore, and are floating out into the middle of the bay. At least one person was smart enough to have a cell phone with them; so they called 911. Five government agencies had to respond to rescue the fishermen. (I say men because there might have been some women on the ice, but typically these stories are all men, because we are the ones that are dumb enough to be first on the ice.)
What amazes me about this story, is that I am no longer amazed. This seemed to happen at least once a year while we lived in Wisconsin. I seem to remember it happening more at the end of the season, because most people do not think about how fast the ice starts to get bad in the spring. Yes, the ice might still be 12 inches thick, but in the spring the ice gets soft and honeycombed; so the thickness is very deceiving.
It took me years before I would finally drive one of my vehicles out on Lake Winnebago. I never lost that sick feeling I would get in my stomach whenever I was in my truck, though. No matter how cold it was my window was always down. I wanted to be able to get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible if it started to go down!
My friends and I would go out ice fishing and sturgeon spearing every year; some years the ice was more secure than others, but it was really the picture below that would ease my fears.
For some reason I was never as worried about getting OFF the ice as I was driving on the ice!
Getting back to the story. This story makes me angry every time I hear it. I was not angry that people were rescued. I do get angry about the fact that (to my knowledge) the individuals that choose to put themselves in that situation never got a bill for the cost of the rescue. Fire Departments in the area have spent 100’s of thousands of dollars or more on special boats and other equipment that allow the first responders to get from shore, across the water, on to the ice floe, and then back to shore. I always thought the people should have been responsible for at least some of that cost.
I think the other reason this story resonated so much is that I really miss ice fishing. This weekend we would be heading up to the border of Minnesota and Canada for four days of ice fishing, cross country skiing, and fellowship with some of our best and longest friends. Have fun on the Gunflint!
Dateline Gambarogno, CH
For years I have been reading stories about small towns in Europe offering homes for 1 Euro. These stories almost always happen in small towns that have had an economic collapse for one reason or the other. The reality is the old saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is…” comes into play strongly. These are homes that have been abandoned for years or decades. The cost to bring them to a state where they can be lived in can be in the high tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The icing on this cake is that if you are approved you have a very limited time to start and finish the remodeling projects.
The latest story I saw was from the village of Gambarogno. This village is in the Italian portion of Switzerland. The village is trying to sell “rustici”, these are old stone houses. They are probably hundreds of years old, but have been abandoned for a long time.
Julie and I have visited the area once. We hiked through one village that had a lot of these old stone homes. They were mesmerizing. We were so mesmerized by the houses we did not even take any pictures. 🙂
This story resonated with me for two reasons. The first being it is true example of the old saying. The homes are advertised as having a “lake view” with a lot of other attributes that lead the reader to think that these are perfect weekend getaway or holiday homes that just need a little TLC to bring back to life. NOT SO FAST. A follow up article was an interview with a person who paid the 1 CHF and started the process of taking ownership.
She went down to see the properties and discovered the following: Yes, many of them technically have a lake view, but the lake is very far away, and at most you can see a sliver of the lake. There is no road leading to the houses. It is an hour hike from the nearest parking spot. There is no electricity running to the homes, nor does the community have any plans to run electricity to the homes; even worse the community will not allow you to put solar panels on the roofs because that would take away the authenticity of the home. There is no water. Most of the homes do not have roofs any longer and are little more than ruins. Finally, even if all you want is a hiking shack with no amenities; you have to rent a helicopter to get building materials up to the house. This alone will add thousands to the cost of refurbishing the buildings.
The second reason the story appealed to me was this quote;
“I have nothing against German-speaking Swiss tourists who buy a rustico,” Della Santa told SRF.
“But I don’t like to see people coming who have absolutely no desire to integrate, who don’t speak a single word of Italian.
“Anyone who buys a one-franc rustico must be interested in the history of the place. This is not for people who just want a holiday home in the sun.”
This quote showed exactly what living in Switzerland is like. Let me explain.
In many ways I get the feeling that Switzerland is bi-polar. Out on the streets the people in Switzerland are smiling and extremely friendly. They will bend over backwards to help a visitor. The country realizes what tourism brings to the table, and act appropriately. Before the pandemic, I found that almost 9% of Switzerland’s GDP was due to tourism. I do not mean to imply that the people are friendly just because of the money tourists bring in. Where we live tourism is really not a big deal, but most people give a smile and friendly greeting on the street. Then you try and compare the hoops that Switzerland makes people jump through to actually move here, and you get the feeling that non Swiss people are expected to keep off the grass.
In all the European Union countries it is very easy to just pick up and move. It is almost the same as moving from one state to another in the US. However, even for EU citizens it is not easy to just pick up and move to Switzerland. An EU citizen can move without pre approval, but they have 14 days to register with the town they move to. However, before getting a residency permit, they either have to enter into an employment contract, or be able to show the ability to live without income for the duration of your permit. This basically means showing enough savings to last you for five years. If you lose your job, you can only stay in Switzerland for six months to look for another job. So meeting this is simply difficult but not impossible. The immigration policies are the biggest sticking point between Switzerland and the EU. In fact treaty talks broke off this past summer because the EU wants more access, and Switzerland wants things even more restricted. Trying to live in Switzerland for someone not from the EU is even harder. Basically the only way it can happen is for a company to sponsor your permit application, or simply be incredibly wealthy. 🙂 Even then it is hard, as Switzerland only allows about 4000 residency permits every year to non EU citizens.
Getting back to the quote. The mayor of this village expresses it very clearly for all of Switzerland. It is not enough to simply want to live here. We want you to become one of us and diversity is not appreciated.
One of the other American’s we have met has lived abroad extensively. She and her husband are on their third (I believe) assignment outside the US. She explained to us that this has by far been the hardest assignment they have had. Outside of other ExPats she has been unable to make any local friends. I do not think our friend has an introverted bone in her body. She will reach out to any and everyone she meets. It just goes to show how hard it is to “fit in” here in Switzerland if you are not Swiss.
I do not intend for this to be negative. I am 100% sure that a lot of what I have experienced living here would be the same if I were European and moved to the United States for a short time. What struck me about that quote was the simple fact that it was said out loud. I think most countries treat ExPats and Immigrants differently than citizens, but they would put on a different face and say in public that everyone is welcome. That just isn’t the way things are done here.
I still have not decided if that is a good thing or a bad thing. 🙂
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Our visits with the children are almost over. George left last weekend, and Kaylee leaves in three days. We love seeing the kids, but the weeks after they leave are harder, because we realize how little we get to see them now. I am sure that is the same problem all our empty nest friends experience. It just seems worse when you know it is a 10 hour flight and thousands of dollars to be able to see them again. We are looking forward to May, as we head back to the US for graduations.
I will have another post this week of our visit to Basel, the Lindt Museum, and hiking.
Today marks a dark anniversary in the history of the United States. The first time a presidential handover was not handled peacaefully. I will not comment any more than that…
We were fortunate to be able to spend another New Years Eve in the alps this year. It was extra special because our children were able to be with us. I do not know if Engelberg celebrates that much more than Andermatt, though Engelberg was drastically louder. In Andermatt we were staying at a hotel that was away from the center of town. We did not have a balcony; so we watched the fireworks from inside the hotel room. In Engelberg, we stayed in a hotel two blocks from the train station. The neighborhood was more boisterous simply because of the people walking home from the center of town. We had a great time standing on the balcony yelling “FROHES NEUES JAHR!” to all the neighbors. We did not have as good a view of the fireworks display, but it was still a very fun evening. Most of us were going skiing the next morning, though, so we called it a night when the noise subsided about 1 AM.
After the headache of getting back home (See my last blog post.), we were ready for a relaxing few days in the mountains. We did learn something about the car we have been driving for the last year, though. It only has seating in the back for two people. This made us a little uncomfortable since there were five us needing to ride in the car. The kids improvised. They put the smallest in the middle, and then wrapped the seat belts around all three of them. If we had gotten stopped, I am sure I would have gotten a ticket, but we got away with it. The most ironic thing, is that Julie’s company just started giving us car options for this year since the lease is up on our current car. We now have appointments made at different dealerships; so we can see the cars before we take one!
The trip to the mountains was a lot longer than normal. It is normally about an hour drive from our apartment to the train station in Engelberg. Well, there must have been a lot of other people heading somewhere to celebrate the New Year, because the autobahn was at a standstill. I could not figure out why the GPS system in the car was telling me to get off the highway, but after the second exit, I realized it was trying to steer me around the traffic; so I got off the autobahn and started following the GPS. That was a mistake. Instead of traveling along the highway at 15 KPH, we were now on city streets traveling 5 KPH. After another hour of trying to get through Luzern, the GPS kept trying to get me to re route AGAIN. I knew we were only about 2 kilometers from the autobahn at this point; so I ignored the GPS, and got back on the highway. By this time the traffic had dissipated; so the last 30 minutes of the trip went smoothly.
After arriving in Engelberg, we went and got our skis from the rental store, had a nice dinner, and then crashed. Julie and I were exhausted. We both got a little sleep on the plane but that was it for the day.
New Years Eve we had arranged ski lessons for some of the group. Young George (showing he is much more like his old man that he wants to believe), went straight up the mountain, as high as he could get to ski down. Unfortunately, on that side of the valley the snow was awful. There was only one run open so he skied that a few times, and came down for lunch. After the lesson, we went over to the other side of the valley where there was actually some snow. It was still pretty bad low on the mountain. There were a lot of rocks and mud peeking out from the snow. It was a fun afternoon though. We ended our ski day by skiing down to the bottom of the mountain. This was HAIRY!!! There are two ways down the mountain: Gondola, or one ski run. This mean that at the end of the day at least 1/2 the people on the mountain are using the exact same space on the mountain. Every level of ski proficiency was on display for this 1/2 to 3/4 mile ski run. Even more exciting were the hair pin turns and the run being only 10 yards wide in spots.
New Years Day only three of us wanted to ski; so we headed back up Mt Titlis. We did not head all the way to the top, but we found some fun runs and spent about four hours tearing up the slopes. Thank goodness the snow was A LOT better further up the mountain. Mt Titlis was a fun ski area. I hope to visit it again this winter and try some more mountain skiing.
In the afternoon we turned in our rented equipment and met up with the rest of the group. Kaylee and I were the only ones who had been up Mt Titlis. When we were there this past summer the weather was awful and we could not see anything; so we took the entire party all the way to the top The pictures below are: When Kaylee and I were at Titlis in August, a panoramic picture from the top and a group shot from the top. I thought you might like to see the differences between a clear day and a cloudy day.
After enjoying the top of the mountain we headed back to town for a relaxing dinner, and to head back to Rüschlikon the next day. It was another whirlwind trip to the mountains, made even more hectic by having to scramble and try and meet Zürich’s Covid requirements that we did not even know about until we got back and started getting emails about sending proof of our covid tests.
Since being back home, we are managing covid tests for the return trip to the US. Gabby was the first to head back. George leaves in about 36 hours, but we get Kaylee for another week. I am learning a little about what my parents started to go through when trying to get different schedules to line up. Between limited number of vacation days, and two different universities starting up at different times I feel fortunate that we were able to have everyone over at the same time this year. It might be the last time that all of us are here together!
Julie is back to work this week, but Switzerland has a mandatory work from home rule in place; so for at least the next three weeks I have been relegated to the kitchen table and she has taken over MY office! Just like everywhere else COVID seems to be leading the news here. I was just reading an article this morning that explained the train system is having to cut routes, and that in some of the most popular ski towns restaurants and even hotels are being forced to close because to many employees have caught the virus. I was very surprised that the government did not issue new mask mandates. The health department released a study that FFP2 masks offer 70 times more protection than the surgical masks that most people wear. Many countries in europe have mandated the FFP2 masks and will not allow cloth or surgical style masks. I have noticed that since we left for Christmas the mask compliance has gone up a lot. For the most part people have been really good about wearing masks, but November and early December it was very noticeable the number of people that would not wear them on the trains, or had to be reminded to put them on inside a building. Since we have been back, I cannot remember seeing one person without a mask on the trains, and a lot more people are wearing them when going from building to building. Personally I am holding out a lot of hope, that this will be the last big spike in COVID cases. It is probably a pipe dream, but I am going to hold on that hope as long as I can!!
It finally got cold enough that I had to move the bike into the basement. I had taken a couple of weeks off from exercise after the St Jude’s 1/2 Marathon, but with the New Year I knew it was time to get off my behind again. I tried riding out on the balcony, but it was just way to cold. So for the next couple of months I will be spending about two hours a day down in the basement putting many kilometers on the bike. The weather is just so lousy in January and February, that I will probably jog only a couple of times in the next few months. That should be OK, though, I have my eyes set on a three peak mountain ride the middle of September this year. To accomplish that I need to put a lot of hours in the saddle this spring and summer.
I hope your New Year has started out as good as mine! Enjoy the pictures, and I will talk to you next week.
We have been back in Switzerland for almost a week now. I haven’t written anything, because as soon as we got back we repacked suitcases, and headed up into the Alps to celebrate the New Year with the kids. I will have more about that later this week, but this post is going to solely be about why no one really likes to travel any more. Sure, most of us love the adventure of exploring new places. We enjoy being with family or friends. However, it is the actual travel that sucks today. Getting from one place to another is not the enjoyable experience it used to be. I know I am sounding like a BOOMER. Darn kids get off my lawn!!
It really wasn’t that long ago that flying was a more pleasant experience. The seats had just a little more leg room. You were given free beverages and snacks. If you were bored, you could even get a pack of playing cards for some solitaire on the tray table. Little kids could go up front and see the cockpit. I won’t even get into the kabuki theater that is security today! The news today is filled with people assaulting flight attendants and other passengers. There is no excuse for violence, but it is easy to understand the frustrations. Here is our latest travel story.
It started back about 8 or 9 months ago. This was the time that prices were dirt cheap; no one was flying anywhere except for emergencies. Trying to be a smart consumer, I booked our flights from Switzerland to Indiana for the Holidays. I always try and book a direct flight from Zürich to Chicago. Yes, O’Hare airport is awful, but there are myriad connections to Indianapolis, or at worst we can rent a car and drive to my parent’s house. The problems started when United started changing the flights. They kept changing the flights and making more and shorter connections. What should have been a one stop trip, suddenly became a three stop trip. I went round and round with United, and we finally got a travel schedule that was at least doable. However, I was really frustrated. The original flight I wanted to take was suddenly back on the schedule. I asked about taking that flight, and was told, “Sure, you can have that flight for an additional $4500 per passenger.” So the airline can cancel the flight at their whim, and then charge an extra $9000 to be booked on the same flight I booked in the first place? What I originally planned to be a 12 hour journey had suddenly ballooned into a 24 hour ordeal, and it meant getting a hotel in Indianapolis, because we were now getting into Indiana at 11 PM and I was not going to try driving another hour and a half being that tired. So going into the trip I was already irritated.
Anyway, we made it to Indianapolis, and it actually wound up being a really good change. There are a LOT of things we cannot easily find here; so my wife and I spend a day shopping every trip back. The changes allowed us to wake up, have a nice breakfast, spend our day shopping, and then drive down to Southern Indiana. Once we were done with the “chores” we were able to enjoy spending time with our families.
So coming back to Switzerland is where the problems really started.
We had been listening to the news for 5 days about how airlines are cancelling numerous flights due to Covid. So many flight crews were calling in sick, that airlines could not staff the flights. Also knowing how busy the airports are immediately before and after the holiday we wanted to make the return trip as stress free as possible. We planned to get to the airport FIVE hours before the flight left. Have an enjoyable lunch with shrimp cocktails at Harry and Izzy’s. (Great restaurant by the way. Give it a try if you find yourself in Indianapolis anytime soon, or the Indy Airport!)
Julie and I go to check in and are told the flight has been cancelled. The counter agent tells us the reason is weather in Chicago. This immediately makes zero sense, because she offers to book two out of the four on other airlines flying to the same airport at roughly the same time. One was an American flight leaving about 45 minutes before our flight, and the other was a Delta flight that was scheduled to leave about an hour after our flight. I have never heard of a weather prediction being that specific, that flights leaving in four and six hours were fine, but five hours? You are out of luck. Anyway, since there were four of us flying and there was no guarantee that we would be able to get back together we declined the offer of those flights. Instead Julie and I were rebooked for a flight the next morning. United did offer that we could drive to Chicago and catch the last leg of the flight there.
We decided not to do that, because of cost. Renting a car in Indy and returning it to Chicago was going to cost almost $350. If we had each of the kids drive a car to Chicago (the only way to get all four of us plus the luggage) it would have meant an additional $400 in parking fees. We knew it would be much cheaper to simply send the two kids up north, while Julie and I would stay another night in Indianapolis. Making the situation even more confusing was our son’s girlfriend was meeting us all in Chicago so she could spend New Years in Switzerland. We thought that made the most sense.
So we got the kids driving north. Julie and I found a nice hotel to spend the night that had a restaurant. The next four and some hours were very relaxing.
We had just sat down in the restaurant and had some cocktails delivered when my phone rang. It was my daughter telling us that Swiss would not allow the kids on the flight to Zürich. The first reason they were given: “You cannot be here. Your flight from Indianapolis was cancelled.” Then they were told, ” The united gate agent cancelled all your tickets.” My daughter called me because the hold time with united was pushing 2 hours so by the time she talked to someone the flight would have left. I quickly scrambled and found a ride back to the Indianapolis Airport to have a discussion with the United people there. The next hour was spent arguing between United and Swiss Air about if the tickets were good, and if the kids actually had seats. I do not know what caused Swiss to suddenly accept the tickets, but all I know is that within minutes of the united agent printing off boarding passes for the flight that did not exist. Swiss was able to see the reservations and print off tickets for the kids. Thank goodness the security lines were not that bad, because by this time there was only about 45 minutes before the plane took off. The kids ran through security and to the gate. They got there with a few minutes to spare. So we thought things were good.
Seeing as we were going to be gone about two weeks we had to do something about the cat. Boarding animals over here is even more expensive than in the US. Instead we hire a pet sitter. This person comes in for an hour each day to check on the animals and play with them. The laws here are very strict about animal care; so I quickly contacted the pet sitter and asked her if she would come one more morning. I sent another message once we knew the kids would make the flight telling her that there was no need to come by the apartment because our kids would be arriving one time. Unfortunately, she did not get the second message, and instead of leaving the key in the mailbox she had the key with here. So the next morning as I had just sat down on the plane, my phone rang again.
This time it was my daughter explaining that there was no key in the mailbox. Telling us it was raining, and they had no way to get into the building. I was able to call the pet sitter and she ran the key up to the kids. She only lives about a mile away; so they did not have that long of a wait. So the last crisis was averted.
The worst part about the flights being re arranged was the wait in Chicago. Our original plans called for reasonable layovers in all the airports. Not to long as to be annoying, but not so short as to miss a flight. Well because of the cancellation, United booked us on a 7:30 am flight to Chicago, while our flight to Zürich did not leave until about 7:30 PM. This meant an 11 hour layover. It is not fun to be in an airport that long. You can only walk the terminal so many times before someone has called security because you are probably a terrorist that is casing the place for an attack.
We were able to stay in a United lounge for large chunk of time. The dining room in the Polaris Lounge was very good.
Our biggest concern now were the COVID tests. Switzerland requires a test 24 hours before the “departing” flight. The real question is what IS the departing flight. We figured it was Indianapolis, but when we got online to complete the arrival form Switzerland says the departing flight was the one from Chicago. This was a big problem. We got our COVID test the morning before we were originally supposed to leave. That was well within the 24 hour window. One of the reasons we had to take the 7:30 flight from Indianapolis; was that United considered the departing flight to be Indianapolis. The 7:30 flight meant that we still had 30 minutes left on our COVID tests!
I was very worried about this so I made Julie check in with Swiss Air about 4 hours before flight. This would give us plenty of time to get a quick test. It would have probably cost another $200 but at least we would be ok to get back home. I was needlessly worried. The gate agent never even questioned anything. She took one look at the test certificate and said we were good to go. Now the worst thing would be if the custom’s agent looked at the test when we landed and tried to send us back.
The last few hours were not nearly as enjoyable as the first few. We checked into the swiss lounge, but it was a major step down from the united lounge. It was a lot more crowded, the seats were very uncomfortable, and the food and drink selections were sub par. I really shouldn’t complain because this was still better than sitting on the floor of the terminal, because there were absolutely no seats in the public area. The worst part, however, of the lounge was that the restrooms had not been cleaned in weeks. They reeked and were filthy.
We were finally able to board the flight, and we got home a day later than originally intended. I guess this was a good thing, because I have chatted online with people that have been stuck for days.
Once we were back we re-packed some bags, and headed up into the mountains. Where we were able to spend an enjoyable few days skiing, and celebrating the New Year.
I was originally not going to write about the problems of the trip. However, once again United has upset me. We were forced to spend an additional $400 + to get back home. I do not buy United’s excuse about the weather; so I wrote a complaint and asked for some compensation for our troubles. I know the airlines do not give compensation for weather delays; so I was very offended when they stick to the weather excuse, but then offer me a $75 credit for future flights. I would have at least given them credit for sticking with a bad excuse rather than offering me a pittance for the added cost and added stress they caused. I guess I have to start looking at different options for flying in the future. Unfortunately, there are not many options for Zürich to the US. I will now look for flying to other destinations in Europe, and then making the atlantic leg. Paris or London are much bigger cities; I am sure there are more choices to get to the US than from Zürich.
I hope you had a wonderful New Years celebration. I will write more this week with some pictures of our New Years celebration and skiing experiences.
We have been back in the US now for about 5 days. We left our house at 7:00 AM on the 18th. By the clock we finally got to Indianapolis at about 10:00PM that same day. By the time we got to the hotel and checked in it was 12:30 on the 19th. So by the clock it was a long day, but if we had no time zones to worry about we would have spent 23 1/2 hours traveling. The extra long day did help with the jet lag, though. We both slept for about 8 hours, and really have not had any problems with jet lag this trip.
Julie and I intentionally stayed in Indianapolis the first night instead of driving another 75 miles to my parent’s house. We were able to spend a couple of hours doing some shopping for things we have hard time finding back home. I love going back home to Mitchell, but when down there your choice is Walmart and JcPenney; so staying in Indianapolis meant I did not have to drive back another time! EDIT: Well my mother informed me that JcPenney is closed; so your choices are Walmart and Lowes. 🙂
One of the most frustrating things, to me, about living during this pandemic, is how fast things change. Back home, in Switzerland, we really were not hearing much about the virus for a few weeks, and then WHAM! We get hit with the news the hospitals are full and the government is looking at implementing new Covid restrictions. As time is passing, the government seems more and more reluctant to put any strict mitigation efforts in place. We were prepared for restaurants to close, and quarantines be imposed for arriving travelers, which meant we would have to drastically change our plans for after Christmas. The restaurants are remaining open ( so far) as long as you are vaccinated, and they actually loosened the entry requirements; so as of now our kids will be returning with us. To enter Switzerland now you do have to be vaccinated; that has been the rule for a few months now. Where it became loosened is that instead of requiring a PCR test you can now come in with one of the rapid tests. I guess why I am saying that is loosening up is that the rapid tests are not as reliable, but they are a lot less expensive. Which kind of makes me happy as we have to pay for 5 people heading back after Christmas. We also have to take an additional test 4 days after returning.
Back in Indiana, we were getting ready to see everyone for the first time in two years, and then my youngest sister called, and she and her family are in quarantine at home, because her son’s best friend caught Covid, and due to contact rules her son has to quarantine for a few days. So it looks like we will not be seeing them this visit. I feel even worse for them, because most of Weston’s gifts are already here in Indiana, and very quickly after Christmas they were also supposed to attend a wedding.
There will be about 25 us still getting together, but we are trying to be safe. We have all been trying to limit our exposure the last two weeks, and another of my sisters has been scouring southern Indiana for at home covid tests; so we will all test ourselves before the big party.
Even though I was just back in the US a few weeks ago, I still am shocked by the almost universal lack of mitigation being enforced. Almost every store has signs up regarding wearing a mask, but maybe 1 out of 10 people is actually wearing a mask, and out of the people wearing masks maybe 50% are actually wearing a mask. My wife’s parents are staying at a hotel that claims they are mitigating for the virus. The website says that only registered guests are allowed in the hotel, it says they are checking for vaccination status, and enforcing mask wearing for anyone not vaccinated. Well, her parents arrived yesterday, so we went down to see them. It turned out that none of the rules the hotel has published are actually being enforced. We parked the car (after passing multiple signs stating that only registered guests are allowed in the hotel), walked right by the guard that was supposed to be checking for hotel guests, and met her father who had been given 5 of the “guest only passes” by someone at the checkin desk. No one ever asked about vaccination status, and no one ever checked the passes. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that they are not doing the covid mitigation. What does make me angry is that they CLAIM they are doing covid mitigation.
When I was in the US a few weeks ago, I went out of my way to have some cheese curds. Those golden nuggets of goodness were one of the things I have really missed. We went to a restaurant in Bedford, Indiana, that claimed to have “Wisconsin Cheese Curds”; so we just had to try them. It turned out their idea of a cheese curd was to bring out a plate of mozzarella sticks. Needless to say we were sorely disappointed. I tell you this because last night we went to a restaurant in French Lick, Indiana that also claimed to have “Wisconsin Cheese Curds.” The family started chuckling and my son and I were debating if they would also be mozzarella sticks; so experimented and ordered the cheese curds AND the mozzarella sticks. We were pleasantly surprised to learn the Ohana Bar and Grill really did know the difference between the two. If you ever find your self in French Lick, Indiana give the restaurant a try. Great atmosphere combined with cheap prices and good food make a fun meal.
Not much else to report. I will try and write once more before we head back to Switzerland.
The word of the week here has been COVID. What about on the other side of the Atlantic? Julie and I keep waiting for more restrictions to come down. Switzerland has blown by all the stop signs the Government said would trigger. the daily case count is higher than it has ever been and hospitals are over flowing. Zürich has been out of ICU beds for two weeks now, and three or four other cantons reached that level in the past week. This week the government announced they were mobilizing the medical units of the Army like they did the very first wave February and March 2020. It seems surreal that back then new cases were only about 1000 per day. Yet I remember one of the headlines that was very close to “Switzerland has the biggest military call up since World War II.” Switzerland’s new case count now is hovering about 10,000, with the highest daily count reaching 19.500.
The Government is meeting this weekend to discuss further steps. Right now to enter Switzerland you have to: 1. be able to show proof of vaccination, 2. have a negative PCR test 72 hours before travel, and 3. have a 2nd negative test taken between day 4 and 7 of your stay. Based on the rumors I am reading the travel restrictions will probably not change unless things get even worse than they are. The two plans the Government has sent to the Cantons are:
Variant 1: 2G plus mask
The first path tightens the Covid certificate to vaccinated and recovered people, meaning that negative tests no longer qualify for the certificate.
In effect, this means restricting indoor areas only to the vaccinated and those recovered from the virus.
Masks must be worn indoors except for when sitting. Bars and restaurants are required to have allocated seating. Food and drink can only be consumed at a person’s seat.
If the venue cannot operate with allocated seating – for instance clubs, choirs, brass music concerts and rehearsals – then attendees would need to be 2G compliant (vaccinated or recovered) as well as providing a negative test.
This is known as 2G+.
Venues like fitness centres and restaurants are able to dispense with mask rules and allocated seating if they require visitors to show a test in addition to their vaccinated and recovered status.
2nd path: Partial closures
The second path tightens the Covid certificate to vaccinated and recovered people, meaning that negative tests no longer qualify for the certificate.
Under this path, indoor areas of bars, restaurants, clubs etc would have to close for everyone, i.e. not just the unvaccinated.
Sporting and cultural activities – i.e. amateur sport – would be restricted to 2G compliant people from age 16 and up.
Eating and drinking would no longer be allowed at outdoor sporting events.
I do not see many places willing to adopt the 2nd path. The other thing that neither plan addresses is work from home. I think work from home is going to be part of anything that is eventually tried. I am kind of surprised this is not part of the plans that have been published. In my mind, one of the realities is that unless some restrictions are put on the ski slopes nothing else will matter. Most of the slopes are already open this year and this time of year the ski slopes are where you find the biggest crowds. I have not seen any thing talking about limiting the number of people in gondolas, or wearing masks while in the lift lines. After living here for the last two years the one thing I have learned is that if you want to impact something in Switzerland from Dezember to März it had better impact the ski slopes if it has any hope of working.
Julie and I are taking it easy we do not want to risk catching it now since in 7 days we will be on a plane heading west across the Atlantic!
We have left the apartment this week, but not very often. We ran downtown this afternoon. I had not taken any pictures of the tree in the train station (See Above.) That is one of my favorite things about living here. I just love seeing that tree. Julie also needed to head into her office to drop off the Secret Santa gift. She is working from home this coming week; so it was either do it today or be the office grinch! Julie was looking for some chocolate santas and deer like we saw last weekend. Sorry the picture is not that good. We really liked the buck teeth on the deer, but it was Sunday morning and the store was closed.
It has snowed almost every day this week, but you can barely tell it down at our level, but the the hills surrounding Zürich are snow covered, and the Alps are almost completely white again.
The 12th is supposed to be clear so we are going to try the Rapperswil Christmas market again. Last weekend it was rainy and windy we would like to go when the weather is nice!
We have our appointments made for Covid testing before we head home, and other than a couple of trips to the grocery store we probably will not leave the apartment next week! I have a lot of cleaning to do this week since we hopefully have three visitors flying back after Christmas.
My last thought before closing out tonight, is what the heck happened to Indiana in Wisconsin? I mean the last time IU won in Wisconsin our oldest was only 1 year old. I do not what happens to the IU BB team when they get to Badger Land, but somehow the team seems to lose itself. Even worse is getting a 22 point lead and blowing it. The only thing that makes me feel a LITTLE BIT good is knowing IU still holds the series lead by over 20 games. How bad was Wisconsin in the past? Hopefully something exciting will happen this week so I actually have something to write about before we head to the US for Christmas!
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!
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.
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!
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:
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.