Gratitude Friday: The Great Outdoors

Post by Lauren

One of the things I am so grateful for in Geneva is the beautiful parks and green spaces. I wrote about this on a previous post when we first arrived.

However, I am just continually impressed by how the community uses these spaces, especially in the summer when the fountains are on for the kids swimming pleasure. Even better, the ville de Genève hosts tons of extraordinary events outside. These don’t just happen every week, or once a month. There is something literally every day and usually two happening in the same evening. Sadly, we haven’t been able to experience it much this week because of the monsoons, but here are just two ways we have enjoyed it in the last 2 weeks:

# 1 – Free concerts in Parc a la Grange – these are twice a week – Wednesdays and Fridays for the entire summer. There is seating, or you can choose to bring a picnic. Large groups of people meet and picnic together, listening to the music. Gabe and I biked there and enjoyed a little picnic for two.

# 2 – Free movies in Parc Perle du Lac – this happens four times a week. Gabe really wanted to see Top Gun, so we spread the word and had a really nice evening with A & A, D, and C & M last Saturday night.

We loved the spirit of the movie-goers. Someone dressed up as an air-traffic controller, and others brought sparklers. However, the funniest part were the Swiss spoofs on Top Gun they did before hand. You can see the spoof videos as well as more detail on the evening here on A’s post about the evening.

We look forward to trying out the other things but in the meantime, we are just so thankful that Geneva offers these programs and we get to enjoy them in the beautiful open air, gratuits!!!

Bon weekend, everyone!

Rain, rain go away…..

Post by Lauren

When it rained in Charlotte, it wasn’t a big deal. I mean, it was a good water cooler topic, with people commenting, “ummm…i think its supposed to rain today” and “man, did you hear that crazy storm last night?” but it really wasn’t a show stopper. Mainly because we had cars there. And you’d hop in your car that was really close to the office entrance and drive that car to a grocery store and park really close and then home which was virtually by your door or even completely sans rain with a garage. And you could keep rain gear in your car if the occasion arose to need it.

And as we continue, this post is not meant to discourage public transportation. I am a huge fan and it would rank in one of the top 3 reasons I love Geneva. But, I am certainly developing a whole new appreciation for city-dwellers all over the world. They have this completely different life than what I am used to.

And……sometimes it is not glamourous.

I got my first taste of this when I walked / trammed / bussed home a large house plant from IKEA over the course of a 2 hour adventure. Quite different from my experience buying a plant in the US. Before, I’d roll up to the Home Depot about a mile from my house, pull my car really close, use a cart to load it, and I was set. It would take 10 minutes tops and I wouldn’t break a sweat. A little different carrying a fern a mile and then getting boxed into a tram and needing a rescue effort to get out and home.

And, now, I am learning from rain. Life goes on when it rains, but in a city, it is quite different. You have to be prepared, or else be drenched.

#1 – You have to remember your umbrella. And if you live on a lake, there is a chance of rain most days, so you really should bring it with you at all times. And since we don’t use cars, this means – carry on your person. Here are the contents I already have in my bag this week:
– normal purse stuff – wallet, phone, camera, passport, etc.
– gym clothes and shoes – since i go before French, and then have to carry my clothes and shoes for the next 12 hours. This would be better if Globo Gym didn’t require a clean set of shoes upon entrance, but it is what it is and i have to carry them around in my purse all day after my session
– toiletries from showering at the gym – makeup, hair, comb
– my school books, papers, pens, pencils, highlighters, French dictionary, reading glasses
– my breakfast and lunch for the day – the lunch line is too long with our 15 min break
– my umbrella and rain coat
It makes me tired listing this out. The umbrella and rain coat are the items that really push it though.

# 2 – You have to accommodate your umbrella at all times. On the tram, while you are walking if its not raining anymore but the thing is wet, in stores ( got yelled at for bringing mine in store the other day), and when you reach your destination – whether it be temporary or permanent.

# 3 – You have to navigate your umbrella. On a city street, this can get awkward. I had a showdown with a lady in my neighborhood on the teeny sidewalk. Who was going to jump of the sidewalk and risk death by bus? I ended up raising mine really high to the sky to avoid either of us going into the street…not easy when you are 5’ 2”. However, I am worried I might lose an eye over here to an umbrella showdown.

# 4 – You are permanently damp and icky. But at least everyone is. Just today, I had an appointment with the chiropractor at 6:30. It required an hours worth of connections to get there. It just so happened one of my transfers that I wasn’t familiar with was in the middle of a big downpour burst and doing the turmoil, my umbrella broke and I was soaked to the bone. Good thing I had my gym clothes with me, as guess what I did?

There’s always a bright side to being a bag lady I suppose.

A few tid-bits of Genève history

Post by Lauren

Now that I am a student, I am learning more about the history of Genève. We actually have some cultural excursions built into our summer French course. On Monday, a professor gave us a walking tour of the area around the University. She said it was the last time she was going to teach us anything in English, so I figured I better report on this one as my facts might get a little screwy in the future when I am trying to digest them en français.

Henri Dufour was one of most important men in Geneva history. He was a Swiss army officer, and engineer and topographer. He helped found the Red Cross along with Henry Dunant.

Our professor said that the windows along Rue de Confederation were designed to maintain the same perspective the entire length of the street. Good to know if I ever decide to paint it!

 

 

T

he population of Geneva doubled by 10,000 in one year in the 16th Century as French and Italian Protestant refugees fled from their countries into Switzerland to escape the massacres. Since it was a walled city for its own protection, they ran out of room and had to go upward. See the different stories and window patterns as you go up?

Note, that in the Reformation, that is why Geneva became the center of commerce and trade – it now housed an extraordinary amount of watchmakers, jewelers, & bankers.

It still be it is harder to find an apartment now in Geneva than back in the day. Current vacancy rate is 0.17% – yes, that is a tenth of 1 percent, not 17%.

Place de la Fusterie and Molard used to be actual ports. Water once was were cafés now are. There were different ports for different goods, like water, food and stone.

Place du Molard, current times

Place du Fusterie, current times

They had to eventually push the Rhone out to make more room for the population. Temple de la Fusterie was a French Protestant Temple after they pushed back the water. Globo Gym is located directly between these two. If only they knew back then.

Pierre du Nitron

We have seen this little rock many a day, but never knew its significance. It was brought in by the glaciers and used to be a place for human sacrifice in the Iron Ages. Later, when the mountain elevations of Switzerland were being mapped, this rock was apparently used as a surveying basis for determining heights for all of Switzerland.

Okay, that is it for now as I need to be a good student and study more French. Au revoir!

I always wanted to be a débutante

Post by Lauren

It’s official….I am now a student of the University of Genève. Actually, I am just taking a 3 week intensive French course. The unfortunate thing about it is that I’ll have to turn in my handy student ID on August 6th. I was looking forward to the student discounts!!

We had to take a knowledge test yesterday and then all anxiously arrived early today to see what class we were placed in. I am an A2. Which means, I am not the lowest in the bunch, but still a beginner. And did you know that “beginner” in French is “débutante” ? Sweet, I always wanted to be a débutante.

University of Geneva

It turns out, A2’s are a little bit advanced for my pace. The teacher only speaks in French to teach us. Plus, I am the only one in my classroom who doesn’t already know a second language. People are working on their 3rd, 4th and 5th ones. I am a bit behind but am determined that I will get better faster by swimming in the bigger pond.

In my class, we had to say where we are from and group whether it was masculine or feminine. Here are a few of the countries. Guess which one I am from?

Origins of our class

I missed one because I couldn’t understand her, but it sounded exotic. Also, I shouldn’t leave out the fact that our professor lives part time in Switzerland, France and Morocco. These next 3 weeks are going to be interesting…..

 

Yvoire, France

Post by Lauren

We had heard from our friend A that Yvoire was a really cool medieval town on the lake to check out. He had traveled there on a co-worker’s boat for dinner one evening. We personally think his way was the best way to travel. However, since we were in Northern Geneva countryside so that Gabe could attempt to teach moi how to drive a stick shift, it was only a 15 minute trip.

It was a cute town and I can’t wait to bring my Mom back to see the beautiful flower covered buildings. But, as A had noted, a bit crowded so we might choose to go back in the evening or when it isn’t the middle of summer.

Another small world story – we bumped into a lady Gabe works with in Yvoire. So, two days in a row, we have collided with people we actually know while we were out and about. Switzerland is starting to feel like home!

Fête de la Tomate & Carouge

Post by Lauren

Friday night, we checked out the Fête de la Tomate in Carouge. The Swiss love their festivals (we have seen/been to 4 already in our short time here) and we equally love going to them. Mainly, because it provides a neat outing and more tasty & affordable cuisine than we can find in the restaurants.

The Fête de la Tomate was a really enjoyable evening, but this festival was a lot smaller than the others. Especially as I think it is a bit more lively on Saturday vs. Friday night since it apparently was the first year its been open Friday night. Maybe everyone didn’t get the memo including the vendors as the tomato stands, tomato sauce stands, etc. weren’t open.

We explored it for a bit, enjoyed the band, had some food, and then headed back into Carouge to have a glass of wine and dessert.  Ironically, we ran into friends A & A and their pups during our walk.

 

Why our life looks like the NYSE

Post by Lauren

 

I actually hope that by the time I post this, I am over my down-funk that I have been living in all week.

But I knew that it would likely come…….

In acclimation class, we learned about the various stages of culture shock. This is the true terminology, but I realize that when I use the phrase “culture shock”, it comes across as strong or extreme. I think maybe a better way to describe it is “culture disorientation,” so for the purpose of this blog post, I’ll use that vocabulary.

For those who aren’t familiar, the textbook stages of “cultural disorientation” go like this:

1. Initial excitement
2. Initial anxiety
3. Arrival fascination
4. Initial culture shock
5. Surface adjustment
6. Internal shock
7. Acceptance & adaptation
8. Return anxiety
9. Reintegration shock

However, it is not guaranteed how long you stay in each stage as well as both spouses can be in different stages or move along the continuum at different paces.

Here is a depiction of this with our 8 weeks here in Geneva. The pink is me and the blue is Gabe. I actually don’t even know where we are on the numbered list…..maybe somewhere between 3 and 5.

“How can you be blue in the land of cheese and chocolate?” one might say. “Don’t the Alp views you see daily give you a high all the time?”

We would probably be happy non-stop if it weren’t for culture disorientation – a reaction to the loss and to the ambiguity created by the unknown rules of the new culture. So, at our downturns, some may seem reasonable (we miss friends and family) but some others may seem a little silly (laundry, not being understood, not understanding).

However, sometimes the little things can have pretty big effects. The textbook explanation is that these little things get at the core of your self image – on how you view yourself as a person. You used to be capable, but in this new situation, you are not. While you were seen one way amongst your community in your home country, in this new country, people react to you and see you differently. While you expect to miss your friends and family, you don’t expect to feel like a different person some days because of your environment.

Here is an example…..after standing in a really long line at the grocery store, I happened to have a zucchini in my basket. When the cashier got to it, I hadn’t known to put a produce sticker on it from the machine in the produce department. So, it didn’t have a barcode for her and she growled some French disdain at me. I didn’t know enough French to explain that I didn’t know and I was sorry, that they could put it back, or I could put it back, whatever was easier to keep the line moving. I just kind of muttered “je suis désolé” which i thought was “I’m sorry” and just stood there pitifully while they got a manager to come take the zucchini, weigh it, bring it back and plop it on the register with even more disdain for me and my idiocy. The people in line behind me gave me exasperated looks like I ruined their day.

And this happens every day – I don’t necessarily get down on myself that I didn’t know how to do things – that is to be expected. But, some of the disorientation comes when people perceive you as something you never believed yourself to be. In the US, that situation would have gone differently for me because I knew the language and norms of my local grocery. I would handled myself fine. And it gives me empathy for those visiting the US and how they are treated if English isn’t their primary language and they are just starting to learn, like I am here.

And of course, the peaks of this experience are well worth these downturns. As I share on Gratitude Fridays, these highs are just incredible. The highs are just balanced by the valleys too; as is life – full of ups and downs.

Like the top photo, I am sure our experience in the end will turn out soaring like this mountain range. However, I just wanted to share a little more on this subject, and it gives me a reason to use PowerPoint, which i miss and used to be really good at 🙂