Bonjour de la Suisse

Hello from Switzerland! ~~ The adventures of a California girl who got married to a great guy, G, and traded in her old life for the chance to live in a foreign land and live the expat life for a couple years. We live in Geneva, Switzerland with our globe-trotting cat, Scout.

Ma photo
Nom :
Lieu : California, United States

"The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." ~ G.K. Chesterton

samedi, mai 31, 2008

Grams comes to visit

When my mom left Geneva I was so sad and was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. G was back at work and I was all on my own with Madeleine. But now that my mom had flown back to the US it was G's mom's turn to visit. Really we were only on our own for a day (a long day) and we did pretty well; going out to lunch with my friend, Cycle Guy, and doing a little shopping. But needless to say I was really looking forward to having G's mom out!

We went out to pick her up at the airport and it turned out to be quite a welcoming committee. Three of G's coworkers (including Mrs. Kofi) came down from the office to meet up with us at arrivals. Like my mom, G's mom has also been out to visit us in Geneva before so she was familiar with the city and I didn't feel the need to entertain her while she was here. But also like my mom, I wanted her to have a good time while she was here visiting.

The first few days we were busy running errands and meeting up with some of my friends for lunch. On Thursday we had lunch with “The Non-Desperate Housewives of Geneva” group who I hadn't seen since going into the hospital, so I was eager for them to meet little Madeleine. They were all thrilled to meet her! The next day we went out to Mrs. Kofi's house in Mies for lunch and took a walk to the local lakeside park.

That week was also our three year wedding anniversary, which we quietly celebrated at home. This was very different than the last two anniversaries that we celebrated in Venice, Italy and Hallstatt, Austria. True this year we aren't jet setting to some fabulous location, but for me it was my favorite anniversary yet; all because of our little girl.

That weekend was the Caves Ouvertes in the Geneva countryside. It is a yearly event where hundreds of wineries throughout the Geneva region welcome visitors for wine tasting. Last year we went and had a great time and we knew this was an event not to be missed. So the four of us took the train out to the neighboring town of Satigny and did a little wine tasting. The weather cooperated and it turned out to be a gorgeous day! On Sunday we took a nice long walk along the lake and indulged in some gelato at the best gelato place in Geneva, Gelato-mania in the Paquis.

We had Madeleine's photo for her passport but we were still waiting for her birth certificate before we could apply for her passport. It finally arrived but because of the Memorial Day holiday the US Embassy was closed and we had to wait until Tuesday to turn in all her paperwork. We had heard a lot about the guy that works at the Embassy, J. It turns out he has quite the reputation and is known throughout the expat community in Geneva as not being very nice and actually quite difficult to deal with. Well, everything I had heard was true... he really put us through the ringer and after almost an hour in a very hot room, we had completed the process. Now we just have to wait three weeks (hopefully) for her passport to arrive.

The last two days of G's mom's visit was full of appointments and errands. I wanted to get some things done that I really couldn’t do on my own like take Scout to the vet (for her rabies shot so she can return to the US) and get my haircut. We also went by the Clinique Generale-Beaulieu (so Grams could see where Maddie was born) and we stopped in G's office to show off Madeleine. It was a busy couple of days, but we had a great time!

G's mom was a huge help and I was really sad to see her go, especially since there were no other moms in the queue to come to visit. We were really going to be on our own... at least for another month before we head back to California. The day G's mom left Madeleine turned one month old. Where had the last four weeks gone?!? I feel like she is growing up so fast! I'm sure I will feel like this for the next... ummm... 18 years? ;)

Three generations

She is still so little!

Lunching with Mrs. Kofi

Ahhh... my favorite hold!

At the Caves Ouvertes wine tasting

Walking among the vineyards in the town of Satigny

Off to the next winery

Fast asleep

Strolling at the park along the lake

Our family by the lake

Hands up!

Spending time with grandma

Happily napping on mom's shoulder

Maddie found her thumb!

mardi, mai 27, 2008

Howdy neighbor!

Today is the annual Fête des Voisins (or European Neighbors' Day). It is a bid to get us to actually talk to our neighbors for longer than a ride together in the elevator. I think it is a fantastic idea and I would love to see it extended to the US. After all, there is (hopefully) no harm in having a chat with our closest residents and build community bridges.

This got me to thinking... how many of us actually know our neighbors? Back when we lived in Redwood City I didn't know anyone, or so I thought. The day of "The Great Flood" I found out that I worked with the gal who lived upstairs and she had lived right there near us for a year before we realized we were neighbors.

Here in Geneva I occasionally chat with an Englishman from upstairs and say a hearty "bonjour" to everyone I run into, but I really don't know anyone in the building. Since Madeleine has arrived I'm sure everyone knows us (especially after we got locked out during a rain storm and had to wait in the lobby for about 10 minutes while Maddie cried). I have started chatting more with the owner of the hair salon on the ground floor of the building. Rony, the coiffure (or hair dresser) is quite enamored with little Maddie and I see him quite often as we come and go.

When we return to California I would love to know our neighbors better. I would also love to see "Neighbors' Day" expand beyond Europe, especially to the US - I think it would make the world a better place!

lundi, mai 19, 2008

Babies for Obama

While my mom was in town we all participated in a "Geneva for Obama" gathering where we took a photo for the Bridges for Obama project where Obama supporters all over the world take group photos on bridges in support of the campaign. Little Madeleine, at just three weeks old, was by far the youngest one out there and I think she may be one of the youngest Obama supporters in the world!

You can see all of us on the far left of the group photo, which even made the local paper! My mom is holding the flag, I'm behind her with Maddie and G is behind us. The photo was taken on Ile Rousseau (or Rousseau Island), just a block from our house (the cars behind us are on the Mont-Blanc Bridge).

Obama ~ Change We Can Believe In!

Geneva Bridges for Obama picture

Go Obama!

dimanche, mai 18, 2008

Hello grandma!

The toughest part about having a baby overseas isn't the language barrier or the unfamiliarity with the health system. The toughest part is being so far away from family. When I was put on bed rest both our families wanted to come to help out, but there really wasn't much for them to do. But now that the baby had arrived both my mom and G's mom were scheduled to come visit. They had decided to stagger their visits so they could help us out as much as possible.

My mom came out first, just four days after we came home from the hospital. We went out to the airport to pick her up and on the way home Madeleine went on her first train ride. That day was also the first time we saw Maddie suck her thumb. I was so happy my mom was here, both to meet Maddie and to help us out in those early days. For me it was important to have help just to get out so I could build my strength back up after being on bed rest for three months and after the cesarean. This was my mom's fourth trip to Geneva, so there wasn't much sightseeing on the agenda, but I was still determined to be sure she had a fun 10 days with us.

We were off to a busy start. On Saturday we went to watch my netball team play in their first tournament and then we spent the afternoon in the neighboring town of Carouge. The next day was Mother's Day! It was so nice to be able to celebrate my first Mother's Day with my mom, especially since Madeleine is her first grand child. We had a wonderful day which we spent down by the lake.

Monday was a holiday in Geneva, Whit Monday (or Pentecost Monday), yet another religious holiday. We decided to sneak into France so we could take the Télécabine (the cable car) up to the top of the Salève mountain that overlooks Geneva. I was a little nervous taking Maddie into France without a passport, but there was no one at the boarder so we just walked right over! (Needless to say, we made it back to Switzerland with no trouble).

The rest of the week was spent running errands and showing my mom a bit more of Geneva. We went out to the Clinique Generale-Beaulieu to drop off a book for the wonderful nurses that work there and to show my mom the hospital. I also has one final appointment with the gal who runs the psychology study at the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève Maternité (or the HUG) - the place where I was on bed rest for three weeks. We also met up with my friend, "Chill Out" for coffee at Starbucks (the hip place for all the new moms in Geneva).

The big event of the week though was getting Madeleine's passport picture. It was quite an endeavor! The US Embassy had recommended a photo shop in town that specializes in infant passport pictures. We went there on Tuesday, but Maddie was fast asleep and after about 30 minutes of trying to rouse her we left. The requirement for the photo is her eyes have to be open, mouth closed, and both ears showing, which can be quite a challenge for a baby.

The next day we returned... and she was again fast asleep! We decided to go to Starbucks around the corner to wait her out (so when she woke up we could get the photo), but after two hours she still could not be woken up and we went home in defeat! That afternoon when she was wide awake we jumped on the bus and practically ran down the street with her to make it to the shop before she drifted off again. The guy in the shop saw us and despite having several waiting customers in front of us, he swooped over and picked her up to get her picture taken. Viola! It was done. :)

That weekend we all participated in a "Geneva for Obama" gathering where we took a photo for the "Bridges for Obama" project where Obama supporters all over the world take group photos on bridges in support of the campaign. It was a bit drizzly, but we were there! That afternoon while G ran up to the Balexert mall my mom and I accidentally got locked out of the flat. Unfortunately it was pouring rain by that point, but we were only locked out for an hour or so... never a dull moment around here.

The 10 days sure did go by fast, and before we knew it we were headed back to the airport. My mom has never been so sad to leave Geneva before; she didn't want to leave little Madeleine. But we will be moving back to California in just six more weeks, so grandma will get some more Madeleine time very soon! :)

Three generations

Look, it's my new bouncy chair!

Our little family in Geneva

Out by the lake on Mother's Day

So very sleepy

It's time for a bottle

Drying off after bath time

In front of the Clinique Generale-Beaulieu

A good spot for a nap

Smile for the camera!

Just me & my bear

Up at "Le Salève" overlooking Lake Geneva

Look - There's Geneva!

Hanging out

lundi, mai 05, 2008

There's no place like home :)

After six days at the hospital we were ready to go home. It was exciting and a little nerve racking all at the same time. I felt like we had been spoiled at the Clinique Generale-Beaulieu and now we were about to be all on our own with our little one.

We had one final check from my doctor and from the pediatrician. Madeleine also had her picture taken for the official hospital birth announcement (just click on April 2008 to view). Even though we couldn't get her to stay awake, it is still a cute picture. In the afternoon Mrs. Kofi came to pick us up. Installing the car seat turned out to be a little more challenging than we thought, but eventually we got it secured so Maddie was safe and sound on the way home.

G had taken two weeks off and it was great that he was around the entire week after we came home from the hospital. We had a sage-femme (or midwife) who came out to our place every day for the first week. Our sage-femme, Sadrine was a life saver! She helped us out so much, weighing Maddie every day, helping me with breastfeeding issues, and simply being there to answer all of our questions.

One of the things the nurses at the hospital told me was to get out and about as soon as possible. The more I was able to get out and walk the better. So on our first full day home we walked to the Paquis for ice cream and then we walked back along the lake. Those first few days at home were fantastic, we were all settling into our new life together. Although we aren't getting too much sleep these days, we are just so happy to have our little girl home with us.

Thanks for everything! Our little family is heading home.

Is that Miss Suisse Romande? No, it's our ride home, Mrs. Kofi!

Madeleine slept the whole way.

Settling in at home.

dimanche, mai 04, 2008

Five star hospitality

So when I decided to give birth at the Clinique Generale-Beaulieu I was told by Mrs. Kofi (who also gave birth there) that it would be like a vacation. Hmmmm... major surgery and birth like a vacation? Well, besides the abdominal pain and struggling to walk again, it almost was!

I was in the hospital for six days (four of which were without a room mate) which is standard in Switzerland after a cesarean. It was really great because it gave me time to recover (it took two days for me to take my first steps) and for us as a little family time to get to know each other. It also gave G and I time to savor the first few days with Maddie without worrying about anything. We had lots of visitors while we were in the hospital which really made me happy. So many people wanted to meet Madeleine.

Everything about the hospital was great. The care we got was excellent. The staff was fantastic, the nurses and mid-wives were so supportive and helped me so much with everything from breastfeeding to building our confidence as parents. The nursery was first class, with stations to weigh, bathe, change and dress all the babies. Everything is provided for you (even all the clothes) and there is always someone there to help out.

But my biggest surprise was how delicious the food was. I would have paid good money to eat that hospital food in a nice restaurant. That is right... delicious hospital food (now there are three words you don't hear together too often). And on top of that we were given a special Champaign dinner for G and I one night right there in our room. It was fantastic; five star all the way!

Although it wasn't quite the same as being on vacation, having Madeleine at Clinique Generale-Beaulieu was an amazing experience. If I had my way I would have all my future kids there. But somehow I doubt our insurance is going to pay for plane tickets to Switzerland! :)

Madeleine at one day old

Hi dad!

Our room with a view

She is just so cute!

So happy together

Our five star Champaign dinner

Bon Appetit!

One last sip!

Lots of kisses

G in the nursery

Time for a nap!

Our little family