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Showing posts from March, 2014

Driving on mountain roads for health

All in all, living in the mountains has its advantages, except when things go wrong and you need to see a specialist. Visiting such a doctor involves a one-hour-plus drive on curvy, sometimes icy, mountain roads.

Recently, I damaged my shoulder by undressing and ended up with adhesive capsulitis or "frozen shoulder". The injury occurred in November but it wasn't until January that I finally went to our family physician. The x-rays showed a four millimeter bone in my joint. Afraid to hurt my shoulder any further, I stopped moving my arm. Big mistake! One week later, I couldn't move my shoulder at all.

To find a reputable orthopedic doctor, I had to leave the Alps. Now, after three trips down the windy road to Bern and an MRI, I know what I must do: three times per week physiotherapy and daily exercises. One problem is that all the physiotherapists in our area can only offer me one appointment per week. Grrr… I guess that's the subject for another post. Do people i…

Spreading the black gold

Newcomers are shocked when they witness the spraying of "Gülle" or the black liquid cow shit and piss, considered gold by local farmers.

So what's going on?

In the olden days, farmers mucked out their stalls, scraping the liquid and solid cow excrement into wheelbarrows and dumping the mixture onto a pile outside. Problems began when farmers increased the size of their herds, and the shit piles grew. Run-off from these piles contaminated the ground water and made people sick.

To solve this problem, the government began requiring the installation of tanks to collect the black smelly, liquid manure. This liquid--which gets particularly stinky after stewing all winter long--is then pumped into a movable tank that is strapped to a tractor and sprayed onto pastures. As you can imagine, the stink is violent.

The benefit is that the spray feeds the grass without going deep enough into the ground to pollute groundwater. Much evaporates before it even hits the ground.

It can be …

Alpine cure for the going out craving

When friends come for a visit they say the same thing.

"This place is breathtakingly beautiful, but what the hell do you do for entertainment around here?"

 "Don't you go stir crazy?"

"How are you going to meet a man here in the middle of nowhere?"

Answering is a struggle.

"Uhm… we have a book club,"  I say. "We sometimes go to the movies, er... to dinner or to a concert…. Oh and there's bowling!"

The truth is: I don't crave entertainment anymore. No longer do I fear missing out when I stay home on a Saturday night.

Has living in the Alps cured me?

Now I like: trying out a new gluten-free recipe, reading life-changing books, practicing a Chopin Nocturne or Brahms Intermezzo, hanging out with a cup of herbal tea and playing boardgames with family and friends.

Perhaps it's my age or having kids, or perhaps I've been living in a place where people are in nature often, work hard, and spend time alone. Perhaps, these val…

Swiss thrift goes a bit too far

Francesca*, an American expat, told me a story the other day that not only made me giggle, but that is an example of Swiss thrift going a bit too far.
You see, approximately 13 years ago, Francesca had just begun a relationship with a Swiss man who lived in the Alps. Upon moving in with him, she made a strange discovery in the bathroom: a section of dental floss draped on the mirror. When she asked him about her finding, he confessed his economizing habit of reusing dental floss at least two or three times.
She is no longer dating the man. Apparently, he was otherwise pretty normal.
*Name changed

Not paying church tax

When I moved to Switzerland in 2002, I filled out a form at the commune, declaring my residency. At the "Religion" line item, I wrote: "Protestant." My religious affiliation has always been complicated to explain. When I was one, I was baptized in the Swiss Reformed Church. Five years later, I was baptized again in the French Roman Catholic Church.

Returning to my Swiss roots, it now made sense to go back to my original religion. Plus "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." I was now living in a Protestant part of Switzerland. I remembered studying Henry IV of France, who was known for changing from Protestant to Roman Catholic in order to avoid further bloodshed and for saying: "Paris is well worth a Mass."

So for years, I paid taxes to the Swiss Reformed Church. Even after getting married, my residency card continued to list me as a Protestant, even though my then-husband, an atheist, was listed as "other." But upon my divorce and name …

Is academia the be-all and end-all?

Last week, my 14-year old daughter's friend Lea* came over. During lunch, I asked Lea which subject she was planning on studying after completing school. For those of you who may not know, the ninth grade marks the end of obligatory schooling in Switzerland.

"Florist," she answered with certainty.
"Wow, wonderful," I responded.

I haven't always sounded so positive about the Swiss educational system.

Being a product of a "liberal arts" education, I have struggled to understand the benefits of  Switzerland's "dual system."

The Swiss "dual system" begins at the end of primary school, or the sixth grade. Kids with good grades are separated from those with less than good grades. Those children with good grades are put onto an academic track and enter "Sekundarschule;" at 16 they go on to "Gymnasium"which leads to the "matura," a requirement for entering university. Those who didn't get such good…