Day 8: Rigi & other thoughts

Our goal today was to get out of town and see some nature. A colleague mentioned taking the tour to Rigi , a mountain southwest of Zurich. We got something of a late start. We got a package deal at the ticket office at the Hauptbahnhof.

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Here is a shot of us on the train.

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After hiking around Rigi we took a cable car down to Weggis, then by boat to Lucerne. Lucerne was a pretty town but by the time we got there we were all too tired and hungry to see much of it. We also didn’t know when the train to Zürich was leaving. We headed to the train station and discovered that, uh oh, the last train for hours was leaving in fifteen minutes. We had hungry, whiny kids (and a hungry, whiny dad) so we grabbed some sandwiches and hopped on the train.We stopped by the Migros in the Bahnhof. Grocery stores close at irregular hours here and on Saturday they seem to close early. Thankfully the shops under the train station (Rail City) are open a little later and on Sundays too in a pinch. We grabbed some food and headed for home. It was nice by the way to talk with Mom and Bill & Sharon via Skype. We don’t have the video working yet but voice is nice.Tomorrow we are taking a lazy day. We plan to head to the park for a while. Then we will take a tram south to Wollishoffen, a neighborhood we are interested in perhaps.

Saying “thanks”

My friend Scott was inspired recently to figure out a way to simply say “thank you” to all the vets out there. This isn’t a political statement either for or against the current war. It’s just a way of saying thanks to all the people who do put their lives on the line.So he created The Gratitude Campaign . Nice work Scotty. Instead of sitting back and puzzling, you did something. I hope it takes off!

Pre-move thoughts

In all fairness I have to say this is written after we moved. Nonetheless the idea for this post came before we moved and I have been thinking a lot about it. Many people asked us how we thought things would go. Someone suggested we write it down and laugh about it years later. So here goes, the list of things I think will happen while we are here:

  1. The flight and actual settling in will go smoothly. We hired someone to help us with this and simple things like food and shelter should be okay.
  2. We will struggle with the language. Not German since we plan on taking courses but with Swiss German, the dialect here. We can take courses later in Swiss German but I noticed on my visit in March that I just couldn’t understand a blessed thing.
  3. The kids will do fine in school early on and then struggle a little down the road. In other words I suspect when things are new and they are being treated as “special” that things will be fine. When the newness has worn off, I think things will get hard. Other parents have told us to expect crying jags at the end of each school day.
  4. I will miss the social structure I had. When I want to go out for a pint, or go to dinner, or whatever it will be odd. This would be true with any move of course but more so since we have the language barrier.
  5. I suspect Susan will find a social network much more quickly than I will.
  6. I will struggle with jet-lag the longest (note: this so far has not been true, this has been an easy transition thus far).
  7. We went into this with armor of sorts: it will be different and that’s not only okay it’s one of the reasons we moved. We’re trying to convince the kids of this too. At some point this armor will break apart and we will be sorely homesick for some period of time.
  8. Things will cost more than I think they will.
  9. Our overall lifestyle will be healthier. With walking much more and the high cost of eating out I suspect we will eat in, have quiet evenings at home, etc. I’m sure as we get more familiar with the landscape we will be able to find cool things to do but overall I suspect a healthier lifestyle.

That’s a start. I’m sure there are more thoughts than this. In my dreams I always think about skiing a ton and being outside a lot. We will definitely wind up outside as the apartments will be tiny. The boys will need to be outside just to work off their energy.

Day 6: kids in school

Okay, now the reality is setting in for everyone. I am working full time which is nice. Today we took the kids to school. They are attending a DfF (Deutsch fur Fremdsprachige) class, i.e. a class for people who don’t speak German. The building itself is imposing. I’ll post pictures at some point, but in the US you’d house a federal court or state office there. Very nice.The classroom itself was bright with lots of colors. The kids’ desks are all arranged so they can see one another. The teacher, Mrs. Rufo was very pleasant. She speaks English but will only do so in case of an emergency. Otherwise the class is 100% German. We saw her interact with several other kids and she was patient and kind. I hope that happens when we are out of the classroom too:-)Susan stayed behind to watch for a while and get the schedule straight. It looks like they get 1:45 for lunch which is nice. They will also do PE twice a week and one day of swimming each week. This morning the class was empty for the first as the kids go to mandatory “sewing and knitting” once per week and “wood working” another day. That is kind of cool, I suspect both kids will like those courses once they get enough German to understand the directions.Susan will have a full report later today and no doubt the kids will have much to say as well. Today is a half-day for them, tomorrow is a full-day.

Day 4: melatonin

I slept really well Days 1 & 2. I didn’t sleep well on Day 3. Last night (sort of the start of Day 4) I slept very well again. There have been several differences in all of those days so I cannot pin this down to any one thing, yet. However one thing of note is that Days 1,2, and 4 I took a single melatonin tablet before bed.I know research is mixed on this stuff. Some people swear by it to overcome jet lag, others see no effect. As someone who is apparently immune to Ambien you’d think it wouldn’t make a difference. And maybe it doesn’t. But I slept really well last night, crashing at around 9:30, waking briefly around 2 as the kids climbed into bed, then waking again at 6. Nice.What’s on deck today:

  1. 2nd day in the office. We have a crunch piece of work to get done. That actually feels nice
  2. Cell phones. We understand that until we get a permanent apartment and my work visa we will only get prepaid SIM cards. Oh well.
  3. Apartments. We are meeting to look at apartments from 4-6. Or rather Susan is while I watch the kids. I could also look at apartments but
    1. I am less picky about certain things like light, flowers, parks, etc.
    2. Susan has a much better idea of what I do care bout, e.g. secure bike parking, proximity to groceries, nearness to pubs, good running /cycling routes.

Other than that it will be a bit more grocery shopping. It seems like we are picking up a single basket of food each day and just slowly starting our collection. You know the drill. For instance we have no rosemary so I cannot make rosemary red potatoes. Okay, so today maybe I get rosemary & potatoes and a small chicken (prices for meat here are sky-high) for a nice roast tonight.We are doing a decent job of eating in although we’ll get better. So far breakfast has always been eaten in. Lunch once, dinner once. Last night we had take-out food which was pretty good. K and I liked our burgers but apparently L doesn’t like spicy tomato-something Indian hot/spicy sauce on his.

Day 3: the weather and other random thoughts

One new thing for us is that we cannot “read” the weather. We don’t know where rain comes from or wind. We don’t have any sense of what the weather will bring. It turns out that the forecasters don’t either (which makes it just like Seattle!). We have Weather Underground predicting partly cloudy. Then we have WeatherZurich predicting a few degrees colder and snow mixed with rain. And we have the BBC predicting “sunny intervals” a phrase I have never seen before having lived in the Puget Sound region most of my life.So which is correct? Who knows, it will take a while to figure this out and also to just look out the window and get a sense.Today is our first weekday in Zürich. It’s definitely noisier in the morning which is kind of a relief. Susan went out for a brief run, I am heading out next. Then we will get ready and walk to the kids’ school and perhaps I will head into the office for a time. Goals for today seem pretty simple:

  1. Start apartment hunting
  2. Get a SIM card and calling plan so Susan has a cell phone
  3. Find the post office and get that working
  4. Buy another electric adapter so we can plug in more than one thing at a time.

We’ll see how all this goes. Tomorrow the apartment hunting really cranks up and I will definitely go to the office.Update: we went down to Sihlcity, the big shopping mall here. K needs a new coat. L could use a new sweater. After that I went to work. Wow, it’s like a startup! I worked for a few hours this afternoon and it was fun albeit a little tiring since it’s been so long:-)I walked to the apartment from the office. It took about thirty minutes although it could have been a lot less had I not got lost for a short time. Nice to know I can always walk in less time than many people I know commute via car in Seattle. Next time for my big adventure I will figure out a way to shorten the commute via the tram. And sooner or later I will get a bike and tackle the commute that way.

Day 1 in Zurich

Gruetzi! Okay, that’s it for Swiss German today. Today we got out and about. We walked down to the lake on a cold but sunny day. We wandered through a swap-meet and then wandered up Bahnhofstrasse which is the main shopping street here. We met my colleagues and their families for lunch and then got lost on the way homeWe have Internet now, sort of. We were told we had wireless but neither Liam nor I could figure it out. Bear with me, there is a story here. A few weeks ago we pushed Liam not to take his old laptop with him. He agreed to just use my Vista machine or Susan’s Mac. Well… at the last minute he got really upset and wanted to take my old tablet so he could have XP and Linux on a machine. He was pretty adamant and in all the stress the kids have been under with the move we said okay. But it was close. Only Bill lending me a slightly larger pack in the last hour allowed us to handle this. So… the note in the apartment says “wireless only works with XP, not Mac or Vista”. Score one for Liam. And then… we cannot get the wireless working. Me or Liam. We both had noticed a USB adapter left in the apartment but didn’t think much of it. But Liam today noticed it says “air” on it. So he plugged it in and lo and behold it’s actually a USB wireless adapter that only has drivers for XP. So score 2 for Liam! Final story… we have Internet access now. But no camera or microphone to Skype. We’ll work in tackling Internet for Susan’s Mac next.

Violent entertainment

I decided to write a little something about this after stumbling over a link in Tuesday Morning Quarterback. The irony in writing about violent entertainment as pointed to by a column on football does not escape me.That said… Gregg Easterbrook has a serious point. Yes, smoking in movies is bad. But why? Well… because showing smoking in a cool light likely aids and abets kids with smoking. Are there stats out there? I suspect yes and no, stats can be massaged. But answer this and try to be honest for a moment: when you first saw the cool guy smoke in a movie or saw someone flip out a lighter to take car of a hot woman’s cigarette in a movie, didn’t it register? Sure, maybe you were cool enough or smart enough or aware enough to know better but it was there. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Zippo lighter, master of film and just generally a cool thing. Doubt it? Bring one out at a party and watch people play with it. I cannot for a moment believe that anyone thinks there is not fire behind the smoke (if you will allow the allusion) of showing cigarettes in film as being cool. Fair enough, let’s take that as granted.So what about violence in film?Easterbrook points to an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics that purports to say that violence in film and television clearly has a correlation to violence in kids. A cursory reading backs that up and frankly I am too tired to read the whole thing. People can start nit-picking now. But here is the question: have you ever watched a show or movie that was violent or disturbed you? Did you have nightmares? Did it ever make  you think about violence? Sure… sure… we are well-adjusted people who are intelligent (you are reading this after all). We know that violence is wrong. But somehow it creeps in anyway. Maybe it’s a bad dream, maybe it’s that small, tiny amount of aggression in the grocery store line. But it’s there.Try the converse for a moment. Does romantic music make you feel romantic? Will a slow lullaby put you to sleep? Will a sad drama make you cry? So why in the world is anyone doubting that a violent movie would have similar consequences?Like global warming aren’t the facts there and the only thing is to debate what to do about it?In our case we simply don’t tend to have violent media in our home. We know our kids will get access elsewhere and like everything else we are not as pure as the driven snow (a certain weakness for “The Sopranos” means I am human:-). But really, why not shield your kids as much as you can? They will see plenty of violence without your help.

What am I doing?

As we race around getting ready for our move to Zürich many people ask “Paul, what are you doing?” I fumble around for an answer. Not because I don’t know what I will be doing but rather that I need to tailor the answer for the questioner. In other words my mom really doesn’t want to know what product I will be working on but rather where we will live and where the kids will go to school. On the other hand co-workers and Facebook buddies do want to know what product I will work on, what else is going on at the SDC (Swiss Development Center) and very often if there are other development centers in Europe (yes ).I can now proudly point people to the SDC’s home page. And yes, we are hiring .