Monday, June 24, 2013

Swiss parents are more hands-off in playgrounds

Yesterday Peter and I went to a new playground at Parc Beaulieu while Kenny was attending a classmate's birthday party.  There was a really exciting piece of playground equipment there that the kids - older ones, too - were lining up to use.  It's kind of like a maypole, with four chains attached at the revolving top.  Kids need to cooperate, but when they get going, they can swing around in a a circle quite nicely, kind of like an amusement park ride.  

There was an American mom there with two kids, both around 10, and I watched as she coached her kids on how to use this piece of equipment.  I guess I'm more used to the Swiss way of doing things now (much more free-range), because it really shocked me how very managerial she was with her kids.  There was no question at all of letting her kids learn how to do this on their own.  She was there the whole time, unraveling the chains, coaching them on where to run, giving one of them a time-out when the other got bonked on the head by an errant flying handle, even though the first had nothing to do with it.  

Previously some other older kids had been doing a great job of helping the younger kids enjoy the ride.  But with this mom around, they just faded away.

Do kid's activities really need to be micromanaged like this?  I don't think so.  And I think we're doing our children a real disservice in not letting them be more responsible for themselves.

Also, while we were there 2 boys, one about 4 and another about 6, asked Peter if they could kick around his soccer ball with him.  The 6 year old chatted with me a bit, asking how Peter had learned to play soccer, etc.  In the US, these kids would be warned away from ever talking to an adult, because of "stranger danger".  

Friday, June 14, 2013

On my own in Amsterdam

We've been on a lot of family trips recently, but I also wanted to do a trip all by myself.  What with cheap fares on Easyjet to Amsterdam, and my 50% work schedule, it wasn't hard to arrange.  I packed super light, so that I wouldn't have to go to my hostel (yes, I stayed at a youth hostel, more on that later) to drop off my things before going sightseeing.  I basically carried everything with me all the time.  It turned out to not be a problem at all - I have a thing for ultralight travel and lightening my load was a fun exercise.

On Monday, I arrived around 9 AM after cutting it WAY too close with the flight (I missed one of my buses, and then the security line was very long).  I went straight to the Rijksmuseum, the biggest and most popular one in Amsterdam, and then just strolled around town.  I went through the red light district, but there wasn't much going on - it was only about 5 in the afternoon.  I thought there was nothing going on, just a bunch of windows with curtains on them and red lights over them, but I was wrong - I did see one lady in a window.

In the evening I attended a Quantified Self meetup.  It was interesting - all the talks, etc, were in English, although with a few exceptions all the people attending were Dutch.  Also it was less...rigorous, less scientific than I thought it would be.  I would have liked to stay longer except that I was really tired from getting up so early to catch my flight, so I bailed early, and went to the youth hostel.  The youth hostel was totally fine, except that I was sharing a room with 5 other ladies.  One of these ladies must have been passed out or something, because her phone alarm went off at 6 in the morning.  She didn't even wake up.  Another woman tried to turn it off, but just hit the snooze button.  This happened 2 more times at 10 minute intervals.  Finally I asked the woman that was hitting the snooze button to hand it to me, was able to turn it off completely, and got a few hours more rest.  A good thing, too, because I was about to toss it out the window.

I ended up chatting Tuesday morning with 2 American women who were studying violin in Manchester (apparently it's cheaper there, though they still quoted costs of somewhere around 20K USD a year, just for tuition - seems very high!).

Then I took a tram straight to a bike rental place close to the train station.  I soon had my 1 speed, back-pedal for brakes bike, and took the ferry north of Amsterdam.  It was a gorgeous day.

The bike was fairly comfortable - the seat was actually more comfortable than mine - but after using it, I now appreciate bikes with gears and hand brakes much more.

Here's a few pictures from my ride

Very flat, but the wind can make it difficult 

In the town of Holysloot
After my bike ride, I had coffee and cake in the restaurant on the top floor of the Amsterdam library.  It has a really nice balcony with a great view of Amsterdam.  Very pleasant to sit there after a long bike ride!

My flight back to Geneva was late in the evening, around 9, so I got to the airport with plenty of time.  There wasn't a soul at the security line - great, I think to myself.  Not really - they exercised all their equipment on me, including the full body scan device, and then totally picked apart my tiny backpack.

Overall  a great trip, especially the bike ride.