Coming Out Even

IMG_3506We finally got the email we were waiting for regarding our security deposit for our Swiss flat. We’ve been home for seven weeks, so I don’t think Swiss efficiency is everything it is cracked up to be. That’s okay, though. When we signed up for health care, they patiently waited for our first payment until we opened up our Post Account.

And so…. here are the results.

The email from our property manager said, “You have left the apartment in very good shape and there will be only a deduction of CHF 23.15 for the bill from the laundry. Thank you for that!”

Yay for us!

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Riding the Bus in So. Cal

Part Three of What I Will Miss was Trains! Trams! IMG_6443Now I am home, I am missing the trains and trams. It is well known that Californians have an everlasting love affair with their vehicles. It is not easy to get many places on the Metrolink light rail or by bus, but on Saturday we actually did take the bus.

After buying discount tickets to the LA County Fair for $12, we found out that parking costs $15. A little internet research steered us away from the Metrolink ($10 per person for a weekend day pass), but it turns out that the bus is ONLY $1.25 one way! Less than a cup of coffee, glampers. And it is only 50 cents for senior citizens. Exact change only, please.

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I knew there was a bus stop across from the Claremont train station, and without transferring, the number 197 takes riders right to Gate 1 of the Pomona Fairplex. On the weekends the bus runs once every hour, but on weekdays it comes by every half hour.

We were not exactly sure where to disembark, but the bus driver was quite helpful, as well as a few of our fellow riders.

I would definitely consider taking the bus again.

New Blog

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 7.37.50 AMPerhaps this blog has one or two more posts left, but now that I have been steeped in life back home for over a month, I have started a new blog called Claremontography which you can read here.

My About page reads thus:

Those of us who live in the southern California town of Claremont know what a gem of a community this is. Originally a railroad stop on the Santa Fe line in the 1880s, the first industries of citrus and education created an environment for the growth of a diverse population. The photos and stories which will appear in Claremontography aim to highlight some of what makes this small city unique.

Of course, when my wanderlust kicks in, the scope of this blog will extend to other locales throughout Southern California, the United States and the world.

Nostalgia

This weekend has brought me a wave of Heimweh and nostalgia for Switzerland. I was never homesick for California during our sabbatical, but I suppose that is because I knew I would be back within the year. At this point, I don’t know when we will see Zürich again. We will, I am sure, but I don’t know when.

IMG_6302Then this blog post from Newly Swissed popped up: 17 Nostalgic Signs of #GrowingUpSwiss. While most of the signs were foreign to me (although they have American counterparts), I smiled at the Migros Chocolate Popcicles which we ate during this past hot, hot summer. They were just like the ones I ate as a kid, but smaller.

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If you scroll down the list there is picture of a boy holding a cow bell, and that is from a story called A Bell for Ursli. One of my friends gave me a mini copy of this book when we left as a small remembrance. The author is a popular classic Swiss children’s writer.

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Landlines

In Switzerland our landline rang fewer thanIMG_0681 ten times throughout the entire year. A few times it was our health insurance calling to confirm information. A few times it was the wrong number. A few times H called from work.

We did not have caller ID there, but I am so glad that we have it here. It seems that since we have been back we get an average of 2-3 spam calls every day. I now screen all of my calls if I don’t recognize the number. I google the phone number and then block it when it turns out that it is a scam.

I am sure that it was not this bad a year ago. It would seem that the Do Not Call Registry does not apply to scammers.

On the plus side, I’ve seen fewer than one smoker per week here.

Street Photography in Zürich

IMG_4789I find myself going through my photos of our year, reliving our experiences. Although I am not a great street photographer, I did try my hand at taking photos of people going about their business. Here are a few of people in Zürich that turned out okay.

There always seems to be a group of kids out on a field trip, no matter the weather.

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Waiting at the tram stop by the ETH, everyone is wearing a black coat.

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Someone is always enjoying the chairs on Sechseläutenplatz in front of the Opera House on a sunny day.

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Even though time between trams is usually less than 10 minutes, it’s nice to have a bench for waiting.

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Okotoberfest in the Zürich HB

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You have to pay to let your dog ride the tram if it takes up more space than your handbag.

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With mandatory military service, you always see young men (and sometimes women) at the train station on Saturdays going home.

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Cell phone culture is alive and well in Europe, too.

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Saw a Mennonite once.

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Maybe my favorite candid snapshot. Two kids chatting up the coffee bean roaster.

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Ruined by Switzerland?

IMG_4749My regular followers might remember that I follow the blog One Big Yodel by Chantal Panozzo, an American expat from Chicago who recently returned to the Windy City after eight years in Switzerland.

Her most recent article, How Switzerland Ruined Me for America and Its Lousy Work Culture, has the expat community all abuzz. Panzanno writes about differences between Swiss (and really, European) Work-Life balance and what many Americans experience. For example, Swiss companies must give their employees at least 4 weeks of paid vacation a year, and we all know that maternity leave is better in many countries than here in the US.

Her points are well-taken, but, of course, she paints only a partial picture of life in Switzerland. Yes, the Swiss make better salaries, on the average, than Americans, but the prices in that country are extremely (and I mean it) high. From rents (very few people own real estate) to food, and that fabulous public transportation will run you a pretty Franc.

Another issue is that it is extremely difficult for foreigners to find work in Switzerland. An employer must prove that they cannot find a citizen for the job, and one must usually speak the language at a pretty decent level (this is no small effort as it takes at least several years to become somewhat fluent). If you work for an American country that moves you to Switzerland, that helps, but you generally do not know how long your contract there will be. I know people who have been there longer than they anticipated, and people whose contracts have been shortened.

It is not culturally easy to be an Ausländer in Switzerland, either. It can take years to feel as though you fit in. If you are not willing to live within the Swiss parameters and follow rules, and you like your freedom to be who you are and do whatever it is you please, it can be a tough adjustment.

Not all American jobs are as horrible as the one Panzanno was applying for in her article. Some are, but others are much better. I know that H and I are among the fortunate who have flexible time and enjoy our work, especially when it allowed us to spend a great year living in Zürich.

There’s always a trade-off.