Monday, October 31, 2011

Thank goodness for a sunny weekend

This past weekend was very kid-centric, with lots of playground time.

On Saturday we took a roundabout route, through Parc Bertrand to a "toy library" or Ludoteque.  It was supposed to be open Saturday morning, as per the online calendar, but it turns out that it's actually closed this Saturday because of special hours for the week long autumn holiday.  That was disappointing, but at least the playground outside was good.  There was an outdoor ping pong table, which I've seen in a few places around here.  I'll need to buy some ping pong paddles and balls and make use of them.

Later we walked to the Natural History Museum, very close by.  The kids and Eric had already been there once, and they had lots they wanted to show me, especially the 2 headed turtle!  That was the only live thing there, everything else was basically stuffed animals, or mineral displays.  It held the kids attention astonishingly well, considering how old-fashioned and non-interactive it was.  But it was free, so that was good.

After lunch and some downtime at home, we went to a small playground with old fashioned equipment just below old town - I think it's the Treille Promontory.  It also has what's hailed as the longest continuous bench in the world.  Then we went down to the Parc des Bastions.  The first thing we saw there was something that was apparently an "Occupy Geneva" protest.  Lots of people camping there, with tents, lots of anti-capitalist signs, lots of holding of hands in circles.  Then we walked over to the playground (of course) where the kids entertained themselves very well.

Two friendly students from the nearby University of Geneva came by and did a very lengthly survey on what we thought of the idea of using playground equipment (such as the kid-powered merry-go-round that our kids were cavorting on) to create electricity.  I think we were the first people that they talked to about it.  Apparently it all had to do with the Global Sustainability Jam (  I stomped on the idea pretty well because I thought it was so impractical, but they didn't seem to mind too much.  However, they did say that now they needed to find someone who actually thought the idea was good.  I was a little self-conscious, because they were videotaping my answers to their questions on their iphone.   I was surprised at how little English they spoke.  I speak some French, and so I understood most of what they were saying, but they tried switching to English so that Eric could understand, and it was pretty limited.  I believe in Switzerland, for the French speakers, the next language they learn in school is German, and not English like it is in the rest of the Europe.

Just after that, Eric was throwing some apple cores from our snack into the garbage.  As he did so, he saw what looked like a wallet in there.  He pulled it out and found a white leather woman's wallet, filled with identity cards, receipts, insurance cards, but no money.  The victim was a retired woman from Germany.  I've heard that pick-pocketings are very common, and that we should be very careful.  Here was some first hand proof.  We looked around for some police, but there were none to be seen.  I also realized that we haven't seen any police at all, walking around.  I found a non-emergency police number on the internet, called it, and was told to go to a police station nearby, in the Old Town (Vielle Ville).  We went there, but it was closed (though I had asked the police officer who answered the phone if it would be open, and he said yes.  I guess we'll probably just bring it by to some police office on Monday, when they should be open again.

Later we bought some roasted chestnuts (Peter and I liked them, Kenny and Eric didn't) and viewing St Peter's cathedral, with an intricate set of carved choir chairs from the 1400's.  Then we had dinner at Chez Ma Cousine, where we went our second day here with Paige and other friends from work.  And then a quick and convenient bus home, to relax and decompress.

There's STILL NO INTERNET here at our temporary apartment.  God, I hope we find something permanent soon.  Eric is grumbling about the work ethic here, where they leave essential services (to us, anyway, the internet is pretty essential) broken for the whole weekend because they just basically do not work on weekends.  At all.  Ever.  That's what it seems like at this point, anyway.  Maybe customer service is a uniquely American skill.  I'm gathering that most of the impressions that I've gleaned over the years about the Swiss (efficient, hard working, etc) are actually traits of the German speaking part of Switzerland, not the French speaking part.  They take it a lot easier here.

On Sunday we took bus #1 to the Botanical Garden - we didn't need to change buses at all, and it left just a few blocks from our house.  It was almost empty - not much happens here Sunday morning.  We walked around, saw a very tall persimmon tree with a lot of ripe looking persimmons higher up.  I've seen persimmons in the stores a lot, it's one of the more common exotic fruits they have here, considering the fruit and veggie sections are usually quite small in these small stores.   We also went into a greenhouse with a lot of exotic plants, that reminded me of the one at Volunteer Park.  Then we found the playground - as usual, a focus of our trips!  The kids had fun using some sand-moving pulleys and buckets.  We had brought some food along for a picnic  (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftover pizza, oranges, and Kenny's birthday cake). There was a mini-zoo with a herd of deer and a few other animals.  We also chatted for a long time with a family with 3 boys, the wife is from New York, the husband from Spain, and the kids are completely trilingual, in French, Spanish, and English.  They moved in August from Paris to just inside the French border, outside Geneva.  The kids go to a public school there, that's also kind of a magnet school, apparently, and has multiple days of the week that are focused on different languages (i.e. Wednesday is English).  They were quite friendly and we exchanged phone numbers.  Maybe these will be the first people that we meet here that become friends with us!

We walked from the Botanical Garden to the UN European headquarters, which was locked up tight, unfortunately.  And from there to La Perle du Lac, a beautiful lakeside park that also has a science and technology museum which we'll need to go visit.  Like the Natural History museum, it's free.  There was a pair of parabolic sound reflectors that you can talk into, and hear someone hundreds of feet away very clearly.  Kenny and I used them quite a bit, even experimenting with the softest whispers we were able to hear eachother.

Then we went down to the lake, where we took a ferry (no extra charge, since we've already paid for monthly passes for the public transport system) across the lake to the walkway along Quai Gustave Ador.  Lots of people were out and about, enjoying the sun and warm weather.  Then to the kids beach that has a playground area made out of old bicycle tires.  I'll put up some pictures soon, it's a very unique playground that the kids really enjoyed.  It would NEVER be allowed in the US, because we Americans are so paranoid about liability.  But the kids were nuts over it.

We were pretty hungry by this point, so had a panini, croque Monsier, and a few ice creams for the kids at a little food stand next to the walkway.  It was the only place that was open, it was really crowded and the quality of the food wasn't good at all.  Plus it was a long wait.  Next time I'll bring more food with. We took the bus back home, though it probably would have been just as fast to walk.  But it's good in any case to get to know the bus system.

The internet is still down here at the apartment.  No surprise there since I knew they don't work over the weekneds, but it's amazing what a gap it is in our lives, even though we still have our phones with internet.

So, this weekend was pretty good.  Hopefully it's a sign of things to come, because truthfully, the first few weeks have been quite difficult for a lot of reasons.  I'd like to think that as we get adjusted here, get to know some people, find permanent housing, etc, things will get easier.

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