Saturday, May 24, 2008

Finally, my long overdue post about getting the boys' their Swiss passports and a post that has something to do with being an expat!

So. Forever ago we went through the process of getting Boychen his US passport and registering his birth with the US embassy. At the time, I said the Swiss story would follow soon. Life with two children and two procrastinating parents being what it is, "soon" turned into, um, five months but who's counting? Since both boys had passports they could travel on (in fact, if one possesses a US passport one is required to enter the US using that passport), we didn't feel rushed.

We needed to get a passport and national identity card for the Boychen and to renew them for Small Boy; the US passport is good for five years (so yes, my three year old is using a passport with a photo of him at ten weeks, which seems just the tiniest bit odd...I mean, do you have any idea how much a three year old does not look like his ten week old self?) but the Swiss identification both expired after three years. Since I took care of the legwork on getting the US documents I left the Swiss legwork up to R.

R called the Einwohnerdienste (that would translate literally as resident services - I can't think of a good colloquial term for that in English) to ask what we needed to do and to make an appointment. Yes, unlike at the US embassy we were able to make an appointment so we didn't have to take a number and wait there all morning with two small children. Switzerland 1- US 0.

To get the new passport and ID for Boychen, we needed the following documents:
  1. Niederlassungsausweis - I have never known how to translate this. It's a one page document that basically confirms that R lives where he says he lives.
  2. For children under 18 a birth certificate or the Familienbuchlein
  3. A recent passport photo
  4. And for a passport, the parents' travel documents (i.e. my passport and R's passport).
  5. And in the case of Small Boy, who was renewing documents, the old ones.

These are standard Swiss documents; if you're here legally chances are there is no trouble getting your hands on these, though if you don't have a passport and you want one for your child, you'd have to apply for (and pay for) yours, too.

We took the boys to get passport photos taken; we had procrastinated so long that Boychen's photos were too old so we needed pictures for both of them. The new rule is that you're not allowed to smile in your passport picture, which was very disappointing for Small Boy as he loves to ham it up for a camera. But he followed directions and didn't smile. Boychen just sort of sat there like a lump.

On the day of the appointment R took the boys and the documents to the Einwohnerdienste; unlike at the US embassy, the presence of both parents is not required. Switzerland 2-US 0. So while R and the boys were dealing with Swiss bureaucracy, I sat in the sun and drank a coffee. All alone. Switzerland 3-US 0.

The appointment lasted about 15 minutes, unlike the 2 hours we waited at the embassy. Switzerland 4-US 0. Because of the registration system in Switzerland, the Einwohnerdienste has all the necessary information about the boys on file, so they printed out the completed application forms for R to review and sign. Unlike the forms DS-11 and DS2029. Switzerland 5-US 0. R signed the forms and paid a total of 146 Swiss francs for two passports and two national ID cards compared to the 176.40 Swiss francs we paid for Boychen's one passport and one registration of birth. Switzerland 6-US 0. The documents will arrive in about three weeks by registered mail. Switzerland 7-US 0. Oh, and we didn't have to bring a stamp. For those of you playing at home, that's Switzerland 8-US 0.

So why, after all this complaining, did I get the boys US passports at all? Because if we're on on holiday and a tsunami hits, or an earthquake, or some form of violent civil strive, the US is so much better at evacuating its citizens than Switzerland because Switzerland doesn't have military transport planes like a Hercules and the US does. So I'll be waving those little blue books at the Marines for all I'm worth, thank you very much. That's probably worth 8 points. Let's call it a draw then.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

I am the best. mother. ever.

Lunch. Green eggs and ham.

(Click here if you're not familiar with them.)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, I'm alive, aka the briefest of updates.

Some days there is not enough coffee in the world; nor are there enough hours in the day.

I've sent out some poems. Three of them came back to me like children who did not get into the college of their choice, and three are sitting in some editor's pile waiting their turn.

We're trying to get our sleeping household in order. As in everybody in their proper beds. Boychen did surprisingly well last night; but once again I have given birth to a son who wakes at 5:45. Good lord. If those two boys didn't resemble us and each other so strongly I'd suspect lab error. Seriously, how can R and I - for whom sleeping is an Extreme Sport - have produced these roosters crowing at the sun? Stupid farming genes.

The weather, at least, is lovely.

We bought Small Boy a new bicycle helmet because the last one vanished off the face of the earth and it is strictly forbidden to ride anything with wheels sans helmet and Small Boy was missing his Like-a-Bike so. We got him a Giro brand, like his mama. I'm a Giro girl 'til death - back in the day I cracked a few helmets but never a skull. Giro's been good to me.

Boychen will be six months old on Monday. I can't believe it. He can sit up unassisted for brief periods. He puts everything in his mouth. He's got two teeth. He is a happy child. He loves his brother. He covets the cat. He's eating baby food. I leave you with a picture:


Friday, May 02, 2008

Romanisch, Switzerland's fourth official language

Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romanisch (that's in order of the percentage of the population claiming each language as their first language). About one percent of the population speaks Romanisch; I doubt if it will survive my sons' lifetimes. Which is a shame, because it's always a shame when a language dies and because I think Romanisch is beautiful. I don't understand a word of it, but it's beautiful.

Now ne of these days I'll learn how to embed a YouTube video into a post. Today is not that day. If you click here you'll get a clip where you can here Romanisch (the big Steinbock - let's call in a mountain goat in English - is speaking Romanisch and the little one is translating into the local dialekt). I love the sound of Romanisch. I also love the Graub√ľnden, the region this clip is advertising and the native home of Romanisch; it's my favorite region of Switzerland.

I'd like to learn some Romanisch one day.

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