Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gone fishin'

See you in a few weeks!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How's that for timing?

Well of all the... I made it onto the list - The List! - just in time to go dark for three weeks as we go on vacation. I may or may not post from vacation - more than likely not. I'll probably write in my journal and then post excerpts - and pictures - after we're back.

So check back in mid-October for vacation stories and November for the FET.

Yellowstone here we come!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On again

My on again off again FET is on again. We'll be cycling in November, which is pretty much when we were going to cycle before I freaked out and decided that November was too late and tried to squeeze in an August cycle which I then cancelled after freaking out that it was too soon. I find the timing oddly perfect - odd because just a few months ago I thought this same schedule had us waiting far too long before all the right people were in town at all the right times. But now it all just seems to fit: we can go on vacation worry free and I can drink wonderful red wine with my elk medallions and prime rib and buffalo steaks. Dr. L will be away when we return - attending the ASRM conference, actually - but his office will re-open just about the time I should start a cycle. I have the Progynova in hand, so I can start taking that CD3 without having to see Dr L again. We'll both be in town the entire month of November so he can do all the monitoring, and of course he'll perform the transfer. It means not returning to the States for Thanksgiving this year, but that's okay: we've developed a wonderful expats' Thanksgiving tradition here and last year I was sorry to have missed it even though it was wonderful to see my family.

I feel good about this schedule, and it's been really good for my body to be neither injecting, pregnant, nor nursing for six whole weeks in a row (we weaned August 1). After a roundabout trip, I ended up with the schedule we had in the first place. But I think the trip was necessary.

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Search results to be proud of

Thanks to post like this and this, I am the number one Google result for "puke fest 06." Yeah, this is a class act blog, baby.

Special thanks to Small Boy, whose puking made it all possible.


Friday, September 15, 2006


Today a friend and I took our small boys to Sumiswald in the Emmental region* to see the Alpabfahrt, the ritual of the cows returning from their Alpine summer homes. A great many Swiss dairy cows summer in the mountains (as do sheep and goats) - I would even say the majority, but I don't have actual research to back that up. At the end of the summer, as the weather turns cold at altitude, the cows are brought back down to their stalls in the flatlands. The Alpabfahrt was always a cause for celebration and entire villages would turn out to welcome the cows home. The cows would be groomed for the occasion, wearing their best bells and crowns of flowers, and the farmers would wear their best clothes. The cows would be paraded through town and the residents would celebrate the return of the cows - their livelihood, after all.

Many farmers now simply ferry their cows home in cattle trucks, but several villages still perform the traditional Alpabfahrt. Larger villages have realized that it can also be a powerful tourist attraction and combine the parade of cows with other festivities; some villages perform the Chäseteilet (dividing of the cheese) and visitors can watch the distribution of the cheese and enjoy local specialties. The Sumiswald Alpabfahrt was pretty low-key; it's a small village and off the beaten track. Most of the people there were locals. We saw a few school classes getting out for the morning to enjoy the festivities; P and I were probably the only people there who drove an hour to watch, but you never know.

I'm disappointed with a lot of my pictures - we haven't bought that new digital camera yet and R and I are getting increasingly frustrated with our point-and-shoot - but even though some of them are blurry I'm posting them because it's the Alpabfahrt, and after all those times people say things like "oh, you'll be waiting until the cows come home" here they are. The cows are coming home.

The traditional clothing is called Trachtenkleider. The vests worn in the pictures above are for more special occasions; the blue shirts with the rows of Adelweise in the picture below are traditionally farmers' work shirts. We bought one for Small Boy and he is so beautiful in this shirt. And he has several generations of farmer blood on R’s side – both maternal and paternal lines lie close to the land – so he can wear it with pride.

In the picture above, the cow on the left is wearing a Treichel (Treichle in Swiss German) – a cowbell made from a single sheet of metal that is beaten into shape. The cow on the right is wearing a Glocke (Glogge in Swiss German) – a cowbell that is made by pouring liquid metal into a form. The cow in the next picture has a Treichel, and a fabulous head-dress.

R's family farms. R's dad gave up on cows long, long ago - as they say around here, eine Kuh macht Müh, viele Kühe machen Mühe (one cow makes mooo, many cows make trouble) - and now they only farm crops. It's a hard life; it's uncertain and it's hard on the body and dairy farmers can never take vacation. I like it that somewhere in a village people groom the cows, and put flowers on their heads, and put on their Sunday best and parade through town with their children and grandchildren. It's a hard life, it's a risky life, and it is a big deal that the cows are coming home. They should celebrate. They should be proud.

This is a beautiful tradition, and I hope villages like Sumiswald hold on to it tight.

* The Emmental region is the home of Emmentaler cheese - that cheese with the holes in it that people in the States call "Swiss cheese." If you want to taste real Cheese with Holes In It, buy some genuine Swiss Emmentaler.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lights? We don't need no stinkin' lights. Now with an Update

Swiss apartments - rental apartments, mind you - do not, as a rule, come with lights. No ceiling fixtures, not even of the cheapest kind. (They also generally do not come with window treatments of any kind, hence Small Boy possesses the only room in our apartment with actual curtains.) They do come with electricity and sockets but you, my friend, must buy floor lamps and/or mount the ceiling fixtures yourself. So in an effort at some trans-Atlantic yeah-we-could-improve-on-this-but-we-are-teh-lazy-and/or-cheap solidarity with Phantom, may I present our office light:

And our hallway light:

And the light in our guest room:

Our dining room, however, rocks:

And Small Boy has the best lighting in the apartment:

It wouldn't be that big a deal to change these things, but it's just sooooo low on the never-ending list of priorities, you know?

But it's terribly un-Swiss.

UPDATE: To add insult to ugliness, the bulb in the office just blew!

Monday, September 11, 2006

An achievement quite ordinary

In "The Third and Final Continent" (from Interpreter of Maladies) Jhumpa Lahiri writes:
"While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."
I have such moments as well. When I walk to the Old Town, which I do almost daily, all I have to do is look up to see the Alps like a wall across the horizon and it hits me all over again: I live in Switzerland. It's easy to let go of that fact between the shopping and the cooking, playing with Small Boy and changing the sheets; I do all the ordinary things of life here in Switzerland just as I would have to do them back in D.C. From day to day, it's just life after all. The expat life can't be a stream of adventure forever; there are the groceries to be put away and the trash to be taken out and the bills to be paid. It's life. It's fun and it's messy and it's boring and for long days at a time it's nothing to blog home about.

Then I see the Alps on a particularly clear day or walk to the Münster (cathedral) on which building began 1421 or smile at the crowds of tourists waiting for the magnificent Zytglogge to ring the hour and I remember that it's a bit more than life. It's life here in this strange place with this strange language. Do you know that in five years I have gone from being a woman who couldn't order a meal in German to being a woman who can meet with her Reproductive Endocronologist in German? Although I do not speak dialekt I can watch a television show about PGD (Pre-transfer Genetic Diagnostics) in dialekt and ask R for the meaning of exactly one word (which turned out to be a term of art that the moderator asked the doctor to explain). I have come to know this city better than R., who grew up 20 minutes away. I have made a life here, here at the foot of the Swiss Alps.

An acheivement quite ordinary that sometimes takes my breath away.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

No wonder they're endangered

Thirty-five hours of labor (I feel for ya' Lun Lun, I really do!) to deliver a 4 oz baby the size of a stick of butter? Seriously? No wonder they're endangered.