What exactly are these people doing in my living room?

Post by Lauren


I have been wanting to learn how to use Gabe’s SLR for quite a long time. Even before we moved to Geneva, I looked at taking a photography class when we arrived at a nearby University. The obstacle was that most classes were in French.

When a friend mentioned her partner teaches photography courses in English, I was thrilled and signed up immediately. The course was supposed to happen ten evenings in January but some scheduling conflicts ended up canceling it. It was rescheduled for 3 full days during the week after my surgery. I had sadly accepted I’d just have to wait until the next one.

However, when the group found out that I couldn’t walk in order to get to class, they brainstormed and came up with an ingenious idea…why not bring the class to me?

So over the course of the last week, I have had 8 people (and one puppy) here for a photography course in our living room. We learned a lot of the technical background behind how SLRs work so that it can influence our creativity and ability to take pictures with emotion.

Our professor of photography

Learning our SLRs

The puppy wasn't as interested in learning skills

It’s been so nice to break up the time during my first two weeks home. The social interaction of having 8 people here was awesome since I can’t get out of the house. Also, having 24 hours of instruction on a topic really interesting to me helped make the days past faster.

I learned many new techniques and feel fairly educated on the right approach to use when taking photos in the future. Hopefully you’ll notice it in the coming blog posts.

See Digital Light’s website for upcoming courses in the Geneva & Lausanne area.

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Gratitude Friday: TLC

Post by Lauren

This gratitude Friday, I wanted to give a shout out to all the TLC (Tender Loving Care for those not familiar with this acronym) that I have received during my recovery. From here in Geneva to the Grand old US of A, I have been showered with visits, messages, cards, food, DVDs / magazines for entertainment, and flowers.

There are a few times that being away from “home” stings a little more. The worst is when major life events happen like my close friends having babies or getting married. I am totally bummed about not making the wedding of close friends next weekend. Also falling into this bucket is being sick or having surgery. All the thoughtful gestures from loved ones has made this experience so much easier.

A special thanks to my husband. I am incredibly lucky for his patience. It’s not easy to deal with a Type A, obsessive-compulsive patient who can’t walk or organize her own things. He does it without complaining one bit.

Below is a cross section of the really nice things people have brought / sent:

Merci beaucoup for the TLC!

I’d like to point out that what makes some of this food even more special is that N had to sacrifice her enchilada sauce to make our chicken enchiladas and N & N had to use some of their precious Skippy Peanut butter to bake the cookies. Nothing says TLC like a sacrifice of your US bounty.

*R & R: sorry, I forgot to get a photo of your care package before I dismantled it and started eating it!! I loved it and I really appreciate it even though I didn’t get a photo 🙂

Merci beaucoup to all who have done so much to take care of me!

Bon weekend!

The Röstigraben

Post by Lauren

Switzerland has many different divides based on its mountainous geography. Since many of the areas stayed remote for a long time, it prevented the ease of travel and communication. Thus, there wasn’t really ever a “melting pot” effect in transitioning into one Swiss culture. Still today, there are still four official languages, based on the geography.

A few months ago, we looked at this language divide. This divide can sometimes be expressed as the “Röstigraben” (rosti divide in German) or in “rideau de rösti” (curtain of rosti in French). While the divide is named for a culinary dish ( based on the farmers breakfast rösti which originated near Bern ), it is actually more commonly used to reference the attitudinal differences that exist on either side of the divide.

The Swiss Germans have political differences to their Swiss Romande neighbors. It includes voting (Swiss Germans don’t want to be a part of the European Union, and want to keep the franc vs. adopting the Euro) as well as general lifestyle differences (Swiss Romandes are less conservative, less strict on rules, etc). During the elections, you can see a lot of this exemplified in the political ads.

And what is Rosti anyhow, you might ask? It is a potato dish. The best way to describe it is like upscale Waffle House hash browns. Sometimes it is served as a side, but most times, times its a main course – usually smothered, covered with something yummy – cheese, mushrooms, an egg, or perhaps sausage. It’s simply delicious.

Rosti at Restaurant du Pont, Zermatt, Switzerland

Other countries have similar divides reflected in foods.

In Germany, they have a line called the Weisswurstäquator. It is known as the “white sausage equator” because the Bavarian region eats the white type, rarely consumed by those living in the Northern region.

In Italy, the pizza is better in Naples and Southern Italy. Why? Because the Southern part of Italy was notoriously more poor than the Northern part. Thus, they often scraped up simple inexpensive ingredients to make a meal….thus creating and perfecting the dish we know as pizza.

And, back in the United States, I believe we have our own version of a Röstigraben, if you count the succulent Waffle House hashbrowns as a national delicacy. There are far more WH’s in the South than in the North and the West.

I wonder if our forefathers brought this back from Switzerland?

Courtesy of Waffle House restaurants

What other places in the world have divides based on food?

Whisky Night

Post by Lauren

Our friends Lady J and The Man are leaving Geneva soon. They hosted a final soiree at their posh flat last Friday themed “Whisky Night”. Guests brought a whisky to “taste” and a food that would pair well with whisky.

The selection of whiskeys to taste.

Serving it up, classy style

There was a diverse group of guests, from Japan, France, India, and The States. And of course the hosts whom will return to their native Singapore in a few short days.

I didn’t partake in the whisky as I am taking one important medicine that is reduced in effectiveness with alcohol, but loved spending the evening visiting with everyone from the vantage point of the couch. It was a nice treat to get out of our flat for a few hours.

At least there was another non-whisky drinker

Below are just a few of the samplings of the pairings:

Sweet and Spiced meat jerky from Singapore
Teriyaki Chicken Wings
Pork Ribs in Char Siew Sauce
Truffle French Fries
Vegetable sticks with Crab Rangoon Dip
Refreshing Cherry Tomatoes with Plum
Sashimi Rice dish
Cucumber salad
Tortilla chips and homemade salsa
Bourbon Bread Pudding (our contribution)
Selection of Stettler Swiss Chocolates

Champagne and Baileys were also served as alternatives for the lesser whisky enthusiasts.

Cheers! Not sure whats wrong with A.

The group enjoyed the whisky, emptying three bottles by the night’s end. If you are looking to host a themed soiree anytime in the future, Whisky Night was certainly a hit!

My new kicks

Post by Lauren

Check out my new shoes. My surgeon jokes they are my new Jean Paul Gaultiers. He thinks its funny but I know they cost just as much as a pair of Jean Paul Gaultiers* so the joke isn’t as funny to me.

New shoes!

I also get cannes anglaises. It means crutches. Sort of. They are different than the US kind**.

The shoes plus the crutches redistribute my weight, allowing me to walk very short distances by myself. They are little miracle workers, considering that I have 2+ inch incisions on the side of both feet. I’ll do you a favor and not post the image of those.

I can walk 5 minutes every hour. At the pace of a snail. What this means is that I have to be super efficient with what I do. I keep a little list at my side of what I am going to do the next time I can walk….eat, go to the bathroom, grab the remote that is out of my arms reach, etc.

The rest of the time I do this:

This is like 20 CHF of vegetables.

Everything is going awesome with recovery. We are lucky to have had so many caring friends come visit. More on that later this week!

*this is a famous fashion designer. Apparently more famous in Europe and with people with more income than us.

**A few years back, my friend broke her leg on ski vacation in Italy. I remember her mentioning only getting half a crutch when she was released in the hospital. The cannes anglaises type is actually the only option they have here in Europe. I don’t mind it at all and find it easier than the ones that go under your shoulder….at least with my condition of having two bum feet.

Gratitude Friday: The Swiss Pharmacy

Post by Lauren

One thing I am recently grateful for is the Swiss Pharmacy. I had a few prescriptions I had been dreading taking in. I was almost positive the interaction was going to go badly with my French skills.

However, it turned out to be one of my most pleasant experiences yet!

I walked in and presented my four prescriptions, including one for crutches (yes, you have to have a prescription to get crutches).

The guy took my prescriptions, typed it in the computer quickly and walked back and got them all out of separate drawers that the computer indicated. In less than 5 minutes. For four prescriptions and crutches! How awesome is that?

This particular pharmacy handed my prescriptions back with their stamp on them and a receipt. So, I have to bring it back in for refills. Not a big deal.

What else should you know?

–In Switzerland, you must have a prescription from a Swiss doctor to get medicine. You cannot use a prescription from a different country.

–You must file the claim with your insurance to get funds back, this isn’t taken out up-front.

–They do not keep your prescription on file in a computer for easy transfer on refills. They either give it back to you, or file your prescription and make a tick mark when you use one.

–If you are visiting or new here to Switzerland, you should note that grocery stores and convenience stores don’t sell OTC medicines like they do in the States. You have to go into a Swiss pharmacy. But don’t worry – there are a ton of them, one on every corner. When we first moved, our real estate agent jested that she had a client once assume the Swiss were more sick because of the presence of so many pharmacies. Not so; just a different system. Kinda like how you can by alcohol or beer at the grocery store in some US states and not others.

–There may be a Swiss Pharmacy on every corner, but they are not open after 6pm or on Sundays. You can always go to the airport pharmacy if you are in a bind!

–The Swiss pharmacy has over the counter meds as well as high end lotions like L’Occitane.

–This Swiss pharmacy doesn’t have all types of OTC medicines that Americans are used to. If you are an expat, bring 2 years worth of your favorite cold, tummy, and painkiller medicines. Sometimes when you are sick, its easier to just have what you know and like vs. navigate the best substitution in a foreign language.