28 April 2021

Another quiet week on the hill above Lake Zurich. Just in the last couple of days, the hill across the lake has gone from brown to green. The leaves have come out on the trees, so it at least looks like spring. It has gotten a little warmer so that is good as well.

Yesterday, I spent another fun afternoon with CoSN, and a bunch of really good EdTech people in Florida. It was the last of some Cyber Security training. It is always good working with people from other backgrounds and finding out the way they do things, and I always like learning from new people. The highlight of the training was doing some table top exercises in reacting to a cyber security incident in your building. It was really hard to get some of them to think in real life terms. As soon as the first scenario was brought up, some people immediately jumped into shut everything off, segregate the network, start trying to clean everything up. I was like wait a second. The scenario says the person is unable to open a file. Doesn’t that happen at least once a week? If you immediately jump to the conclusion that everything is a virus, or an attack, how do you get anything done? I then asked the group to talk about the last time someone couldn’t open a file and walk us through that. This allowed us to look at the scenario a little more realistically. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

On another front, the vaccination saga took another turn this week. At the beginning of the week, we were reading about cantons having to cancel vaccination appointments because the promised deliveries did not take place. Then this morning, Julie called and said, ” The Canton of Zürich opened up appointments to people over the age of 50.” I logged in and got us appointments in a couple of weeks. There must be a high demand, because I had to log in once for Julie, and once for me. In the 2 minutes it took me to save Julie’s appointment, and get logged in as me, the center was booked for the day. So now it looks like I will have to go the vaccine center 4 times. Two to get Julie there, and twice for me! The vaccination center is only a couple miles down the road, though, so that is good. Assuming the delivery schedule stays intact. We will have our vaccines done before the end of June. That is about two months earlier than I was predicting. Germany seems to be the country struggling the most in this part of Europe. Although there are not literal travel bans in place, there are effective travel bans. Hotels in Germany are only open for “essential” travel. I do not know how the hotels are identifying essential, but from the German people I talk to online it is a pretty strict definition.

I was chatting with a woman who lives in Munich last night, and she basically has to have a COVID test every 48 hours. Many of the businesses are requiring a negative test before a customer can enter. There has not been any talk like that here, but I am sure once the COVID passport gets approved the requirements to show a negative test will be put in place for at least some businesses. I am pretty sure the restaurant, bar, and theatre business groups would love to get something like this in place.

It seems kind of funny, but right now I would predict that travel will open for people outside Europe to travel in Europe before it opens up for Europeans to travel. Everyone wants to open travel to North American soon. I think it is because people from the US spend a lot more money when they visit.

Somedays I wished I had studied economics more heavily; or maybe that I understood country wide finance better. Back in 2015 Switzerland implemented negative interest rates. I do not know what the economic catastrophe then was, but for whatever reason the Swiss National Bank decided this step needed to be taken to weaken the Swiss Franc. So for the last 7 years banks have had to pay the national bank for any cash in excess of the minimum reserves they are required to keep. The banks turn right around and charge their customers higher fees, and in some cases actually charge their customers for keeping money in a bank account. This seems strange to me, but now three or four times per year. Julie and I are forced to transfer money back to the US. Honestly we would do some of that anyway, but now we have to do it to keep from paying for the simple pleasure of being able to deposit Julie’s pay check. It is a strange system, and some day, I really look forward to sitting down with someone that understands finance a lot more than I so they can explain it to me.

On a work related note: I am going to end with something I learned this week about my job search. It started out, by me applying for a job with Accenture here in Zürich. I got another rejection letter, but it was actually the BEST rejection letter I have ever seen. It was complimentary, and even hope filled that a job would open up soon where I would be a better fit. Now I am smart enough to know it is a boilerplate auto response type email, but it was a masterpiece, and whomever Accenture had draft that letter should be highly rewarded! The only problem was the “This is an automated email.” line at the bottom of the email. So being kind of silly. I got on Tik Tok and made a quick video about the email. With a tag line at the end of the video showing my email address, and a plug for Accenture to reach out. Well, they haven’t reached out yet, nor do I expect them to. I did learn much more about employment here. For example, I learned that age discrimination is 100% a thing here. Companies have to pay more to the government in retirement plans for any person over age 50. So now, I just need to figure out how to make myself look about 20 years younger on my resume picture, and I need to go back through and get rid of all the dates on the resume. Of course if I do that, no one will EVER look at the resume, because dates are expected. Oh well, I knew it was going to take a while to find something if I started looking anyway. This just makes it a little harder. The thing that was a little depressing were the people that commented that they have been looking for jobs for literally years. The longest was four years in one case. That would make me miserable.

Well, I am going to sign off now. I need to run to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner before Julie gets home. I hope this finds you well, and I will talk to you later.

25 April 2021

It has been another quiet week in Rüschlikon. Julie is trying to finish up Amcor’s quarterly finance reports; so she has been working long hours. The reports have to be turned in for approval this week, so then she gets a bit of a breather. She did go into the office for two days last week; so that seemed like a life altering change. I think I finally convinced her to upgrade her train pass to fist class. In some ways this seems silly. I mean you are talking a local commuter train. It isn’t like she is sitting on the train for hours to and from work. However, I see a couple of advantages. The first being the first class coaches are never full. She will always be able to get a seat. That also means that as long as we are still under the throngs of COVID, she is not going to be shoulder to shoulder with other people. Many of these people “follow” the mask requirements to the letter. By that I mean, just like on an airplane, you do not have to wear your mask while eating or drinking; so many of the riders choose to have a bottle of water or beer with them the entire ride. Honestly, I think the bottles are empty, because I almost never see anyone drinking from them, but simply holding them in your hands, the police will never make you put a mask on.

We did eat dinner in a restaurant for the first time in many months. We were trying to think when the last time was, and we think it was before Christmas. We were sure Switzerland was going to go back in lockdown before the Holiday. It turns out we were a few weeks early in our prediction. We did have a really nice conversation with the owner. He was describing how hard it was to stay in business. Before the lockdowns he was describing about 30 – 40 on an average evening. Now he is lucky to do 10 diners per night. The rules changed about a week ago where restaurants could serve people outside, but his outside dining area is very limited. Even worse, is that it is supposed to rain pretty much every day next week. Two restaurants that we visit occasionally have shut down. I am surprised more have not gone under.

Those of you that lived somewhere that speaks a different language than your mother tongue can relate with this. Speaking on the telephone is one of the most anxiety producing activities when you live overseas. When you are not fluent in the language it is hard enough getting by in face to face conversations. I don’t know what it is, but the conservation through the speaker of a phone leaves me almost completely clueless. I called the restaurant to make a reservation. I got through setting up the day and time, and then it happened. He asked a question, and I could not understand a word he said. How many in German is Wie viele. (It sounds like Vee Feela). I can normally hear those words, so I know the answer. This time all I heard was gibberish. so after making him repeat the question three times, I finally just asked him to speak English; so we could finish up the reservation. He had a good laugh with me while we were eating; so that is good! I know I am getting better at speaking, but it is still hard.

Yesterday also started our spring cleaning. We mopped and scrubbed the balconies. I realized after I was almost done, that I had made a huge mistake. Sometime in May the pollen is coming back. Last year it was almost like we lived in a pine forest. There was a thick covering of bright yellow pollen over everything; so I will wind up scrubbing them again very soon. The second patio in the house, will soon become my bike riding patio. It has gotten warm enough, that I can bring my bike up out of the basement. Riding on the balcony is only slightly better than riding in the basement, but both options beat the heck out of riding or running in the rain. I did break down last week and do something kind of silly. I bought a 2nd rear wheel for my road bike. It is such a pain switching out the road tire for the trainer tire each time I go from a real ride to the trainer that I decided to spend some of our travel budget that isn’t being used and make it easy on me. 🙂

In older posts I have talked about the health care / insurance system over here. Basically, the country runs on the same principal as the Affordable Health Care Act in the US. Everyone here is required to buy insurance, but the government will help you if you cannot afford to pay. I have learned that the insurance companies are not very responsive. When we moved, I made the mistake of telling the insurance company that I had visited a chiropractor within the last few years. With this bad mark on my record, I was only able to get the basic insurance. This is the level that every company is required by law to offer. The insurance itself wasn’t that bad. It has a 2500CHF deductible, and then it is an 80/20 split up to 15000 CHF per year. Since I am pretty healthy, and rarely go see a Dr. I could live with it. The only real problem is that it did not cover anything else. No dental coverage. No eye coverage. Nor does it offer coverage outside of Switzerland. So the two times I have gone back to the US I took out temporary health insurance. This is VERY expensive, but if I got into an accident, it was much better than having no insurance.

In November, I wrote the company requesting a quote for a step up in the Insurance. I figured I had been here a year with no claims maybe they would give me the upgrade. It took them 6 weeks to get back with a quote. So in January I turned in the request, and asked that go into effect on 1 March. So here we are at the end of April, and I have just submitted my third request to see if it was approved. The thing that irritates me, is that the only upgrade I have asked for is to be covered when I leave Switzerland. Everything else would remain the same. Assuming that my health stays the same, the company is going to make a lot more money off me. The upgrade costs 150 CHF per month; with one Dr Visit a year that costs almost nothing. You would think they would jump at this. For me, it even costs me more money, but assuming we can travel outside of Switzerland this year, I do not want to have to go through the headache of remembering to buy short term insurance every time we cross a border.

Since Sunday is truly a day of rest. Julie and I enjoyed the sunshine and took a long hike over the hill. The Sihl River runs through the valley on the other side of the hill. There is a wonderful hiking/biking trail that goes along the river, so we hiked along watching the fish, and other wildlife. I really need to go buy a fly fishing rod. Hey Rick Tardy. Come visit, bring your poles, and teach me to fly fish! The highlight of the hike was watching the mallard mating dances that were happening. Unfortunately, I was so engrossed watching, that I forgot to pull out my camera and make some video. I have to admit, these relaxing Sundays are one of my favorite things about living here.

This is one of the months that it is hardest being away from the kids. Finals week is approaching fast; and if nothing else it is easier to call and check on the kids when you are within a time zone or two. :). George’s finals start tomorrow. I wonder if year 2 finals are harder than year 1 for law school. Kaylee has a week of midterms, then the MCAT, and then her finals start. I think I would rather be George at this point. 🙂 So if you would, please keep both of my children in your thoughts, they have a couple of hard weeks ahead. Oh and Happy Birthday Gabby! Julie and I hope you are having a wonderful weekend with your parents.

Well, that is about all for this week. I have the Prosecco chilled, so I think it is time to make up some Aperol Spritzes and sit on the balcony watching the sailboats on Zürichsee.

Until next time.

20 April 2021

Zürich celebrated their version of Groundhog Day yesterday. The day used to always happen around the Vernal Equinox, which is the first day of Spring. However, around 1950 the celebration was moved to the third weekend of April. The entire celebration is called Sechseläuten. This is translated as the ringing of bells. Back in the “days” the trade guilds of Zürich worked 6 days a week. They had winter hours and summer hours. The winter hours were dawn to dark, the summer hours started at dawn, but ended at 6:00 PM when the Fraumünster bells rang. I find it kind of funny that they celebrated working longer hours, because they got paid a daily rate, which meant they worked more for the same money, but the longer days meant the workers actually got to spend some daylight with their families. Sometime around 1900 the festival included the burning of the snowman.

No one really knows when the tradition of the Böögg started. However, it was commonplace in the late 1600’s. Boys in one of the sections of town started burning snowmen, to celebrate the coming of spring. You know boys, fireworks, flames. What a fantastic combination… Back then there were multiple Bööggen. There were probably contests to see who could build the biggest, or have the biggest explosion. It is thought that Böögg is short hand for the boogeyman, but again, this is something that no one really knows for sure.

Over the years the tradition has become the faster the Böög burns, the better the summer will be. Of course the prediction comes true every year, because it is completely relative, and there is never a definition of what makes a good summer.

Last year the entire festival was cancelled due to Covid. This year, the festival was cancelled, but they still burned the snowman. The burning took place near Andermatt, on the Devil’s Bridge. A place I want to visit this summer. I recorded video of the celebration, but figured no one would like to listen to 6 minutes of German, so I did a little voice over with the history, and then added some music. I hope you enjoy it!

It is another quiet week, so I will have one more post this week, about something. No idea, yet, what I will write about.

Talk to you soon.

14 April 2021

Happy Almost Tax Day for the US. Well, traditionally happy Tax Day, I guess that has moved back until May this year. I don’t understand the rationale for this move. Last year it made sense. The whole world was discombobulated with the virus and the lockdowns. This year, we are are now adjusted, and based what everyone is telling me about life in the US… everything is back to normal with the exception of international travel.

I know I have told you before that one benefit that Julie’s company provides is a company that does our taxes. We just have to provide the info, and they take it from there. Swiss taxes were actually due last month, but the accountants filed an extension for us. This kind of irritates me. I have always been a person that liked to file early. What irritates me the most is that the SWISS taxes should be really easy. The only thing that really has to be figured out is the amount of the “wealth tax”. Unfortunately, we cannot go forward with the US taxes until the SWISS taxes are completed. We don’t have to pay double, but taxes are higher in the US than here, so we pay the difference between the US total, and what we already paid in Switzerland. The only savings by living overseas come from not having to pay State Taxes.

The only thing going on this week is anxiously waiting to find out if the Government is going to lift the work from home orders. I don’t see how they can the order. The COVID numbers keep going up. The numbers are not spiking, but it is just a consistent rise every week. Part of me thinks they should just go ahead and open everything back up. Keep the mask mandates in place, but go ahead and open. The problem is that hospitals are still overwhelmed, and opening back up will cause that situation to be worse.

The advertisements have started for the June referendum. From what I can tell there is only one thing on the ballot, taking away the emergency powers from the federal government in regards to COVID. Honestly I do not have any clue which way the people will vote. My gut tells me the powers will be taken away but that is just a wild guess. There is a significant minority that thinks the government should never have put any restrictions in place. The feeling is that individual liberties outweighs the risk. This argument should sound really familiar to my friends back home in the US. It is the exact same argument. I think there is also a significant minority that believes the government should be able to make rules in a pandemic, but also feel the government has bungled the response to this emergency.

Bungled might be strong, but we had our strongest lockdown in March and April 2019 when the country was getting about 1100 – 1500 new cases per day. Since October, the numbers have been higher than back then, yet the lockdowns have not been as strict. I think the one decision that caused most people to question the government was to allow the ski resorts to stay open all winter. I think the slow vaccine rollout will also cause people to think the federal government should have some of the powers taken away.

Last week I posted that our vaccine rollout was comparable to the US in regards to percentage vaccinated, well it turns out I was looking at a poorly worded website, or (and probably the most likely) I translated the web site incorrectly. I had seen a site that reported over 1.6 million “Vaccinations” had already taken place. It turns out, that was the number of doses that had been administered, so the total number of vaccinations is not even half that. Switzerland has never used the J and J vaccine, so it takes two doses to be vaccinated. So I thought we had vaccinated about 20% of the population. It turns out that we have only fully vaccinated about 7% of the population. That is a big difference!!

Julie is anxiously awaiting news about returning to work. Honestly, I think she would rather work from home right now, though. She likes going into the office, but until she can get a vaccine, she doesn’t want to ride the train. I can’t say I blame her. Being on the train is probably the most risky thing (in regards to covid) that we ever do. Being this close to the end, it would be a huge bummer if one of us caught the bug now.

It looks like she will be working from home a while longer, though. The Government just announced they are loosening restrictions, but they did not mention the work from home requirement. Starting Monday restaurants will be able to serve outside, and everything else will open. I do find it funny that there was no announcement regarding the work rules, though. What I find the most funny is this was the one restriction, that studies have shown to not be effective, yet, it is still one of only two restrictions left in place. I am not counting international travel, when I talk restrictions. Each country has their own travel rules, and actually the rules coming back into Switzerland are less onerous than the rules if we went somewhere else!

I do not know the right word to describe my emotion after reading the announcement. Amusement is not quite the right word. It wasn’t like I laughed, but I did chuckle a little when I read the line, “The risks associated with the easing are acceptable…” I read that as “We know everyone will start acting like idiots on Monday, but we think there is enough room in the hospitals to account for the increased cases of the virus.” The announcement did go on to say:

Berset cautioned that the easing of restrictions should not be seen as a signal that the danger is over and the population can let down its guard. “That is not at all the case,” he said. “We need to continue being careful.

Virtually all the activities again permitted from Monday should be practiced only while wearing a face mask and with appropriate physical distancing, the government said.

And as far as possible, activities should take place outdoors, where the risk of infection is far lower.

I am glad to see the restrictions easing. I do find it crazy that more strict restrictions were put in place when the numbers were lower and now that the numbers are starting to trend up again the restrictions are loosened. If the vaccines were being given with a greater pace maybe it would make more sense.

Anyway, that is enough rambling for today. I hope this finds you well. Talk to you next week.

Getting older STINKS

but it is still better than the alternative!!

There have been a couple things I like about not working. Due to some of the strange noise requirements of our apartment building; I am able to practice my guitar almost every day. If I were working, the only day I could practice the guitar is on Saturday. I am not allowed to practice musical instruments on Sunday, nor after 7:00 PM. This is not an uncommon practice for Swiss Apartments, just go back and look at some of the strange laws I have talked about in earlier posts! The other advantage is being to exercise 5 or 6 days per week. It is much easier to carve out an hour and a half or two hours to exercise, when you are not getting up before sunrise to get to work, and you are exhausted when you get home. I have not been able to exercise this consistently since I was in college.

Now, I also know that staying in shape is A LOT HARDER the older you get. Back when I was in my 20’s I could not run for 6 months, and still go out and pass the APFT for the Army. I think I had to run the 2 miles in under 22 minutes. Now, if I don’t exercise for a couple of weeks, I can’t even run one mile without walking.

This winter the weather was so bad, I spent a lot of time in the basement on my bike. I would ride 40 – 50 kilometers 5 days a week. Once the weather started getting a little warmer, I started running again, but have still been struggling. Last week the weather was only nice enough to go outside one morning, so Saturday I went on a 4 1/2 mile run. It was exhausting. I know you use your leg muscles differently on a bike vs running, but still… Anyway, I survived, and then Julie and I went on another 4 – 5 mile walk that afternoon. So Sunday morning I was pretty stiff and sore.

I was in the shower just thinking to myself, that I really need to look into YOGA, or some kind of stretching regimen i just feel “tight” most of the time. I was reaching down to squeegee the glass and I felt a terrible burning pain in my lower back. It took everything I had to stand back up. Needless to say, I spent the rest of Sunday in bed (and not the good kind of in bed) or sitting in a straight backed chair to keep the pain manageable.

The good news, is that I am in good enough shape, it only knocked me off my feet for a day. I woke up this morning, still a little sore and stiff, but able to walk. I am thinking, I will even be able to walk to the store this morning. I will probably still drive, because the weather sucks, but I think I could make it on my feet! 🙂 So anyone reading this: If you have a good YOGA program, or stretching program that you like, please make a comment or reach out and let me know. I am very interested in hearing about something that works.

Apartment vacancies

The financial reports for Switzerland keep saying that the rental market is a sellers dream. Especially in the biggest cities and surrounding areas. There is simply a lot more demand than there is supply. I was reading one article that said in the canton of Zürich over 80% of the residents rent. Based off of the number of apartment buildings being built, there are a lot of people that believe the things I am reading. There are buildings going up seemingly everywhere. I can still see almost a dozen cranes from our apartment, and that is not counting the other side of the lake!

All of this being said, I am starting to have my doubts the market is as strong as everyone says it is. There is one apartment, on our way to the train station, that has been vacant for a year now. Granted it probably isn’t the nicest place in the city of Rüschlikon. It is on two levels, but no view, and the building is extremely narrow. However, in the two buildings that are now finished on either side of us. Only one apartment is occupied. Between the two buildings there are 7 apartments, so only having one occupied seems to go against what the experts are saying. I am sure there is something going on that I do not know about. One of the buildings has never shown up in the apartment listings. One was there when the building was just a shell. The listings showed pictures of what it was supposed to look like, but I have not seen any listings for that building in the last two months.

When we were moving we learned that most people in Switzerland move in either March or September. That was one reason we had a harder time finding an apartment. We were stuck with looking at vacant places, or in our case, just lucked out in finding a family that was moving back to the US at the same time we were moving here. My observations since being here do seem to confirm that. September was when everyone was moving around us. There were moving trucks here every day, the last two weeks of September. And this March again, was when all the buildings filled up. On our walk to the grocery store there is a 4 building complex that was completed this spring. Each building has at least 4 apartments. In March, 15 of 16 units filled. The one that didn’t really kind of sucks. You do have a very small yard, but only one room is able to have a window or door to the outside, everything else in the apartment would be below ground!

I will admit these apartments have to be on the extreme end of affordability. Based on what we pay, and what the listings show for 3 bedroom places, the apartments down the hill (and you can see the corner of in the picture). Probably start at 7,000 per month, and the top floor apartment has to be over 10,000 per month. The top floor apartment is almost double the size of our place, it has two levels, no obstructed views, and lots of balcony space. If I remember correctly, the apartment up the hill from us started at 5,500 per month and the high was 7,500. So yes, rent is expensive here. A 300 sq foot studio has an asking price of 800 per month. The cheapest place in the area is 450 per month. For that you are renting a bedroom, and you share everything else with the family living in the house.

I do have to admit that even on a gloomy day it very pretty here. It has been overcast and raining/snowing all morning, but the view across the lake is still mesmerizing. Yes, that is snow towards the top of the hill! Spring is literally trying to stay away.

Hope you have a great week. I’ll talk to you later.

9 April 2021

I have found shopping here, to be quite a pain in the behind. Wait, let me rephrase that. I have always found shopping to be a pain in the behind, but in Switzerland I find it even more onerous. The exception to the shopping rule is if I am looking at tools, or anything hunting/fishing related. My favorite store back in the US was Fleet Farm (If they don’t have it….. You don’t need it…..). I could buy practically anything I wanted there. In fact, Julie would get very angry, because that is where about 80% of my clothing came from. Yes, you are right, I have absolutely zero style. The only thing I couldn’t buy there were shoes, but there was Rogan’s for that. During our trip to Locarno, I realized that both pair of my casual everyday shoes bit the dust. I had a pair of Nike Tennis shoes, and some (it turned out real cheap) cheapo shoes I bought in December. So for the last two weeks I have been trying to buy shoes.

Normally I know my size. My problem, is that it is impossible to find a wide shoe. Over the last three weeks, I have spent over 4 days shopping. I spent two days going from store to store, and another two searching online. I had to go to the stores, to actually try on shoes. It turned out I needed a spreadsheet. Some makes I had to wear a 44 before my feet would go in, other brands a 44.5 or 45.

OOOOOHHH! They came while I was writing this morning!

In the US I am always either a 9 or 9.5 wide. I finally broke down and bought some shoes online yesterday. The nice thing is that shipping and mail actually work here; so some time today, Die Post (The Post) will deliver my new shoes.

Don’t even get me going on clothes shopping. I have pretty much decided that I will only be buying clothes when I return to the US. I am not morbidly obese, but over here I have to wear either a 2X or 3X in any shirt or jacket. No one carries those sizes. Even ordering online they are next to impossible to get. Pants, I have simply given up. I can find pants that fit my waist, but they feel like constrictors around my thighs. I have not yet, found a pair of pants that feel comfortable. I have made two trips across the border to Germany. There is a town named Konstanz that sits right on the border. The entire town is like one giant shopping mall, because everyone from Switzerland visits as the prices and taxes are lower in Germany than here. With Covid rules, I am not even sure that is an option right now, anyway. So I have simply decided that whenever I am able to visit the US again, I will bring an empty suitcase with me, and while there I will fill it full with clothes to bring back here.

I just realized what is amusing to me about talking about shopping, is that while I am writing this, I am also waiting on a delivery from the Grocery store. Even though we have a car now, I try not to drive to the grocery. I have learned that it is really a lot nicer, to pay the store one time per month to deliver all of the heavy and or bulky items, instead of having to make multiple car trips to the store. We go through about 5 gallons of distilled water every week. The distilled water is for the coffee maker and the ice maker. Dragging bottles of wine and water up these hills is hard work. So the lazy man residing inside my body says pay the Grocery store $3 once per month to deliver that stuff. It is surely cheaper than driving the car to the grocery store a couple of times per week.

Yesterday, Julie went back to the office for the day. I know she went to the office for some time during December, but it feels like she has worked out of the apartment for the last year. I know I have told you before, that I made her a promise that I would walk her to the station, and pick her up from the station every day(as long as I am not working). Well I learned yesterday, that we have completely forgotten how to communicate about her work schedule. I asked her in the morning what time she would be home. She said no later than 6:30; so I had dinner ready, and was down at the station for the 6:25 train. The train came, and NO JULIE. She finally texted me that she had just left the office and would be catching the 6:35 train in Oerlikon. :(. That is what she meant to say, that she would be leaving the office no later than 6:30. So I had a nice leisurely sit at the train station last night. Thank goodness it had warmed up to about 8 degrees, otherwise it would have been very cold.

Julie’s boss seems to think that Switzerland will announce the end of work from home next week. I think they might announce an end date, but I don’t see it happening until sometime in May at the earliest. Switzerland went into their modified lockdown almost four months ago now. The number of new cases fell the first month, but they have been on a pretty consistent rise since early February. The Government says about 20% of the population has been vaccinated. Which seems really strange to me, because that is about the same population as the US. Everything I read here is very negative about the Swiss vaccination plan and schedule, yet if those numbers are accurate we are doing just as well as the US. What seems strange to me, is that most places in the US have opened up vaccinations for every adult. Here, we are still in the over 70 age group or other people with comorbidities. I was just reading this morning where almost 20,000 appointment slots in the city of Zurich are still open for April, yet the government will not open up the vaccination guidelines to allow more people to fill these slots. I have a hard time seeing the government opening things up more, when the numbers are going the wrong way. Of course I would not have thought that US Governors would start lifting the mask mandates before the numbers start going down either; so obviously I do not know anything!!!!

Swiss history (not so good)

I have talked on my blog about me following TikTok. As an educator I think an app like TikTok can have a pretty big impact on individual students. I am not saying that every teacher should start using TikTok in their classroom, but I am amazed by the amount of really good content that is being created on this app. A lot of knowledge is being shared as well as a lot of scantily clad teenagers that will probably regret those videos in another 10 – 20 years.

Anyway, I am following a young lady who is getting her PHD in History at a University here in Switzerland. She posted something last week about the Verdingkinder (discarded children) so I have been doing a little investigation.

This sad chapter of Swiss History is even more embarrassing for the Swiss as the Japanese/American internment during World War 2 is for the US. Basically until the 1950’s Switzerland practiced child slavery. Of course it wasn’t called slavery. The practice began in the early 1800’s. If a woman had a child out of wedlock, or a family was poor and could not feed another mouth, the young child was handed over to the local government authorities. The Government would in turn give these children to factory owners or farmers. The theory was the benefactor would feed, clothe, and care for the child in return for the child working. Of course the practice turned into indentured servitude for these children, until they were old enough to escape, or aged out of the system. Until the 1930’s there were even markets established for the sale of the children. Some of the stories are sickening. It is hard to imagine that practices like this could happen in an enlightened country.

Here is a link to one article I found that does a pretty good job describing what happened. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/tragedy-of-child-labourers-comes-to-light/3791074

REinfall (Rhine Falls)

During our recent weekend in Schaffhausen, Julie and I took a hike to the Reinfall. Reinfall is basically the Niagara falls of Europe. The Rhine Falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe. I am sure there are some waterfalls that are considered more beautiful. Heck, Julie and I have seen many here in Switzerland, but Niagara are the only other falls we have seen with more water flowing per second. I hope the kids are able to come over sometime this summer or next.

The Rhine Falls have their own Maid of the Mist boats, and these boats actually drop you off on a rock formation right in the center of the falls, and you can climb a stairway right in the middle of the falls. Look at the picture below. See the flag in the middle? That flag sits at the top of the rock right in the middle of the water fall.

I want to climb those stairs with the kids and get some pictures!

It was a gorgeous day for a hike. The sun was shining, and the temperature was near 10 degrees. One thing I really do like about living here is the amount of walking/biking trails. We were able to hike to and from the falls on both sides of the river. Even though people own the property up to the river they have to allow an easement for the walking trail. Now based on the fences along the trail, and the amount of garbage you sometimes come across; Swiss people are no better than anyone else in regards to being a good steward of the public resource. Some of the fences are pretty darn severe; so you know the home owners have had problems with people trespassing and causing issues. I do find it fascinating that we could walk the three miles from the hotel to the the falls and back again on one path, and not have to worry about cars. In all the places I have travelled in the US, I have never found another place that takes such a serious interest in ensuring that pedestrians can get around as easy as here. They even go so far as to have road signs on all the trails so you never get lost.

We were also able to find a nice little abandoned island to have a picnic lunch during our hike.

During our picnic lunch

Another thing that impressed me on our hike is the water quality of the river. I am sure a big part of that is due to having rock instead of a mud bottom, but every time we crossed the river you could still see the bottom even in the deepest areas. This is not unique to the Rhine. Everytime we go near a lake or stream Julie gets mad at me because I stop and look for fish. I do think it has more to do with the beds of the rivers and streams than anything else. The only other place I remember seeing water this clear was in Yellowstone Park and that is another place where the bottom of the waterbodies are made of rock and not mud. I would never drink the water with out a lot of filtering and decontamination, but the clarity of the water almost is enough to think you could stick your head in take a drink, and not get sick.

I think this is our last bigger trip for a while. Amcor has quarterly filings coming up so Julie will be pretty busy the rest of April and May. We will probably take some day trips, but the next big trip I am planning is down to a town named Vevey for late May. Vevey is in the French section of Switzerland near Geneva. I don’t think there will be much a resemblance to Vevay, Indiana, but you never know. Vevay, Indiana sits in Switzerland County and is named after Vevey, CH so maybe there will be some similarities. 🙂

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Falls and our hike. Talk to you next week.