Saturday, March 31, 2012

Laundry in Switzerland

When we first arrived at our temporary apartment in Geneva, getting used to the washer/dryer situation was big. I'd read that washer/dryers are uncommon in apartments in Switzerland, and that there's usually a common  room in the basement where people do laundry. It was really inconvenient, and involved multiple trips down to the basement over the course of the day, checking whether the machines were finished, whether dryers were free, etc.

Thank goodness in the permanent apartment we're in now, we have our own washer/dryer, no more trips to the basement. That's the good part. The bad part is that it's a combination washer/dryer (it's in the kitchen, under the counter), which is not as effective in washing, and as for drying - forget about it. Unless you put in a much smaller amount of clothing (about half of what you can put in during a wash cycle), there's a scorched smell while running the dryer cycle, which lingers in the clothes, too. Eric claims that it doesn't bother him, so he just puts his clothes in the full wash/dry cycle. But for me and the kids clothes, I use the wash cycle, then hang the clothes up on a folding clothes rack in the kitchen. There's not much humidity in the air here, so they usually dry overnight or during the day. I don't wash clothes as frequently as I used to, because of the extra hassle. Overall, though, I have the routine down now, and it works pretty well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Craigslist in Geneva!

Here's something I really miss here in Geneva - Craigslist. Back in the US, you always knew where to go to buy or sell anything used. There's really only one place, and that's Craigslist. We sold both our cars, and our travel trailer on Craigslist before we left. I had some big gripes about the lack of various features, but it's big, it works, and everyone posts there.

Here in Geneva, the story is very different. There actually is a Craigslist in Geneva ( but it's a sad empty little shell of a website, with some spam and not much else.  There are places to buy and sell used items online. The problem is, there are far too many of them, and none of then have a solid lead in the online classified marketplace.  Also, many of the expat websites have a little classified section.  And at all the grocery stores as well, there's a well-used bulletin board where people post little notes, advertising this and that.

It adds up to a very fragmented classified marketplace. So it's just not worth it for me to try to buy or sell anything used online, except perhaps for something large like a car, because I'd need to learn how to post in so many places.

Maybe that's why I see so much large furniture on the street here, on the day of the month that the city picks up large items. Much of it is in reasonable condition, but where on Craigslist you can easily put up a "free to the first person who'll pick it up" type thing, here it's just too much work.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Walking distance to everything...

Now I'll write something positive to make up for my gripes about graffiti and dog poop in my last post.  And that is...I really enjoy living so close to everything, practically in the city center, and right next to a beautiful park, Parc Le Grange.  Here's where I went today:

  • walked the kids to school (3 minutes)
  • walked from the school to my work (5 minutes)
  • took a walk along Lac Leman at lunch
  • walked to school to pick the kids up (5 minutes)
  • walked with the kids to the park (6 minutes)
  • went home from the park (3 minutes)
  • walked to the Coop grocery store (4 minutes)
And, it was a beautifully sunny day, warm, no jacket needed.  The playground at Parc Le Grange, very close to us, has a great playground area, a sand pit, a water fountain, lots of trees to climb, a wading pool, and ROMAN RUINS.  Yes, roman ruins.  Nothing extraordinary, just a few dug up walls from an old roman villa.  But still, living so close to roman ruins is pretty exciting, especially for Kenny.

And yes, groceries are crazy expensive.  But some of the store brand items are pretty reasonable. They're tucked out of the way, but for instance, a two kilo bag of apples was 2.50. That's not bad at all. And kiwis, of all things, go on sale for really reasonable prices - 1.30 for a kilo.  Yogurt is pretty cheap, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pristine Switzerland?

I try to stay away from negative posts, but I have to write about this, since it's such a contrast from what I expected.  Before coming to Geneva, I had an image of Switzerland as being completely pristine, clean and tidy.  That ideal was dashed on the way to our temporary apartment from the airport.  There's graffiti everywhere, on everything.  And not nice, mural style graffiti, but just plain old tags and scribbling.

Also, the amount of litter around is tremendous.  Maybe Bellevue, where we moved from, is particularly clean, and so the contrast is significant.  I don't know why there's so much litter here, in a wealthy, super-expensive city.  But it's there.

And last but certainly not least - the dog poop!  It's worse than I've seen anywhere.  I'm baffled at the level of irresponsibility of the dog owners, letting their dog poop on sidewalks all over the city, without even an effort to clean it up. I was also seeing lots of dog poop bags, with poop in them, just sitting on the sidewalk. I was astounded - why would someone take the trouble of putting the poop in a bag, then not even put it in the garbage (conveniently placed on almost every city block)? And yet they do. Just a few days ago I actually saw a guy picking up his dog's poop, put it in a bag, and then TOSS THE BAG IN THE STREET!  I stared at him, but didn't say anything. Amazing.

I wonder if Zurich, in the German speaking part of Switzerland, is any different? There was an article in a Swiss magazine recently, about how the Romande (French-speaking part of Switzerland) are the "Greeks of Switzerland" (in a bad way, free-spending and lazy).

Friday, March 9, 2012

A public gaming evening

Very close to our house, within a few blocks, is what's called a ludotheque (toy library/community play space). We've been there quite a bit, to have the kids play and "check out" some toys.  But also on occasional evenings, they have game evenings or "soirĂ©e jeux".  Tonight was one of those evenings, and, with a lot of trepidation, I went there on my own.  Some friends showed up as well (parents of another child in Peter's class, from Germany, he works with the UN human rights commission), but that was after I'd already been there a while.  It went pretty well, I got there pretty early and was able to sit down right away to play a game.

The game was called something like Pix.  It was a little like Pictionary, except that instead of just being able to draw freehand, you put magnetic squares on a grid, and get extra points for making the drawing with the least number of squares.  It was a lot of fun, though trying to understand what was being said, and also speak a little bit of French, was very stressful.  People were generally quite helpful, and they had many facilitators (from a group called Joca) to help with the games.  

After the Pictionary type game, I played another one with my friends, which was not nearly as fun.  It was one of those long-running strategic games that I'm not very good at.  

Overall - I'm proud of myself for going here!  It took some guts, especially since I've barely been able to practice my French at all and I'm quite rusty.  But it's always good to get out.  I talked to one of the facilitators, he said that the Joca association mainly organizes game evenings, and is supported financially by the city of Geneva.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Warm and sunny, just how I like it!

The weather the past few weeks has been giving us a break - it's been beautifully warm and sunny, day after day.  We took advantage of it to do some day trips this weekend.  Saturday we walked on the Sentier de Sous Terre, on the north side of the Rhone.  The water is beautifully clear and blue.  There was a lot of evidence of homeless camps around, though - mattresses stuck in corners and caves everywhere.  At the beginning of our walk was an archeological site - Saint-Jean-hors-les-Murs, an old priory.  The kids were most interested in the lizards scampering around on the warm sunny rocks.  The lizards were never in any danger of being caught, but the kids tried anyway!

We got to the same area we were last weekend - La Jonction, where the rivers Rhone and Arve meet.  But this time we were below, right down by the river.  There's a pumping station there, which pumps sewage to a treatment plant.

Here's the view from the bridge

On Sunday, we had planned to rent a car and head out to Lac de Joux, one of the largest lakes in Europe that freezes.   Luckily, I called the tourism office first, and though the lake is still frozen, it's starting to melt and is too dangerous to walk on.  We should have gone last weekend!  So we headed to Nyon instead.  It's a nice little town on Lake Geneva with a castle and nice waterfront.  We took a few buses to the train station, then the train to Nyon.  It's just about a 15 minute ride, very smooth and quiet - I love the trains and am looking forward to a longer trip!

The castle is within easy walking distance.  Unfortunately our timing was off - we got there around 10:30, and the castle and other local museums were only open from 2 till 5.  So we wandered around, had our lunch, and hung out at playgrounds and the beach.  

Most of the castle was taken up with an exhibit of old porcelain - not interesting at all for the kids, and just slightly more interesting for me.  But there were the towers and the interior walkways which were great, and at the top of the castle was a former prison, with scary little rooms.

I don't have pictures of the Roman museum, but we went there too.  It was the first Sunday of the month, so all the museums are free!  I like that, not only that they're free, but I feel perfectly OK just running through the exhibits if the kids aren't that interested, and just catching the highlights.  My main takeaway from the Roman museum was - the Romans actually used cranes to build things!  They had cranes that look quite similar to what we have nowadays, with block and tackle, and slaves powering the cranes.  Amazing.  There was a very knowledgeable archaeology student who talked to us at length about the excavation, the ruins, etc.