Showing posts from October, 2010

Mobbing also exists in Swiss schools

"Mobbing" has been on my mind lately. What's "mobbing" you may ask? I, too, was confused by the word when I first heard it after moving to Switzerland. Until that point, I had only associated "mob" with a hostile crowd or with the mafia. Since then, I've learned that the word "mobbing" is used in Europe to describe all forms of bullying, including that done by individuals.

The following behaviors fit under the "mobbing" category:

ignoring someone, not talking with that person and shutting that person out of activities (psychological mobbing)
 calling someone names, making fun of or threatening someone (verbal mobbing)to hurt someone, i.e. hitting, tripping, pinching, pressing against the wall (physical mobbing)to hold someone against their will, i.e. to lock them up, to hold them underwater, dirty, damage or destroy someone's propertyto send harassing emails, text messages (SMS) or to bully someone on the internet (E-…

Summer tires under 7.5 degrees

It's snowing! Not a lot. Just a dusting. And it's not really sticking at my elevation of 1,300 meters.

In light of the weather, my karate teacher Roland, who happens to be an automobile aficionado, reminded me that it is dangerous to drive with summer tires, even if the roads are clear of snow or ice. He said that summer tires are made to only be effective at or above 7.5 degrees Celcius (45.5 ºF) and summer tires will not grip the road properly at temperatures under this limit. Not only will tire performance be greatly diminished in curves but also when traveling in a straight line. They will not grip when one attempts to stop.

I double checked, and he's right.

So, that's why my car is at the garage.

Latest gardening mistake

Yesterday, I cut and laid landscape fabric on the paths of my vegetable garden to create a weed barrier, tucking the edges under stones.  Then, I spread a layer of wood mulch on top of the fabric. Today, to my consternation, I read on various gardening blogs that the fabric isn't any good, as it prevents water and organic matter (including broken-down mulch) from reaching the soil. Shoot! My dirty little secret is: I put the stuff down around my raspberry bushes and newly planted shrubs.
Has anyone had any luck with this fabric?

Comparing parking meters

Parking meters were a constant topic during the time I lived in Rhode Island and wrote for Newport This Week. Going to city council meetings and reading local newspapers felt like Japanese water torture. It seemed like every week, people argued in letter form about paying for yet another forest of single space parking meters. Downtown merchants complained that parking meters contributed to lower sales; and 'nimby'' (not-in-my-back-yard) types went on-and-on about how ugly they were and compared them to casino slot machines.

They didn't know about multispace meters, or  ultra-modern, time- and space-saving inventions that appear in most European cities... and in our village.

It's a 'pay by space' meter. Here's how it works. You park in a space, memorize your space number, go to one of the two meters located at each exit of the garage, enter your number and pay. The meter prints out a receipt, which you can just keep on your person. The meter memorizes t…

The cows are back, winter is coming

Yesterday morning, I awoke to the comforting sounds of cowbells and mooing. Looking out my bedroom window, I saw our bovine friends--their heads down--chewing their breakfast of dew-covered grass and dandelion leaves. It's nice to have our tenant farmer's cows back after their summer-long vacation at higher pastures.

Nevertheless, these particular cows appear sad.

I think the reason is that they lack horns. Removing horns from calves is becoming a trend, here in Switzerland, due to the advent of the less-expensive free stall dairy barns. Without horns, cows need less space, therefore stables cost less. Also, if cows are allowed to wander freely, they are less likely to hurt each other without horns.

Many believe that the quality of milk is compromised by the removal of horns. My neighbor, an old lady who has lived here for the past 80 years, no longer wants milk from our farmer because he has removed his cows' horns.

Regardless, I love this yearly cow arrival in my backya…

Mountain guide's daughter struggles with vertigo

I am happy to report that I survived yesterday's seven-hour hike that included a climb up the Giferhorn. At 10:45, we parked the car on a road past the Wasserngrat cable car base station and started our ascent through cow fields. For the next two hours, we walked at an easy pace, chatting, and stopping often to take pictures. As we passed the Giferhorn refuge hut, the path narrowed and grew noticeably steeper, and as it did so, the ground to my right disappeared. I stole a glance at the rock cliff below and felt my calves shake. So this is what tight-rope walking must feel like. I dared not look that way again, for fear that the abyss would pull me down. Then, I remembered the words of American writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, as he described the vertigo he felt as he climbed the Devil's Thumb in Alaska. Although, there is no comparison between our two ascents, I find his account in "Into the Wild" to be fitting:

"Below was thirty-seven hundred feet of air;…

Hiking, witch hunts, and Halloween

Today, we hiked a steep wooded path to reach Cholisgrind, a round hill overlooking Saanen. Choli is Schwiezerdütsch for the sir name 'Kohli',  and Grind means 'face'. We planned to eat sandwiches on the top--by the edge of the cliff that strangely resembles a face--the site of century-old witch burnings and prisoner hangings.

My friend and local historian Beat tells me that Kohli might have been the name of a Saanen man, who--having been sentenced to death, (yes, the death penalty existed in Switzerland)--might have had his head chopped off on this hill. Our local historian explained that another form of death penalty was putting the prisoner in a barrel and pushing it over the cliff.

Predicting that the children might complain about the steepness of the climb, I tried to pique their interest by telling them about witches and how they were hunted and persecuted in Europe.

"Were there really witches, mommy?" asked my six-year old son.

"No, not really,&quo…