Monday, February 22, 2010

Switzerland and the death of a Camera...

We're in Switzerland! We arrived on Sunday afternoon and quickly drove in to see Zurich. Ray has been before but this was my first experience in Switzerland. We drove... then stopped in traffic for way too long before parking and walking into the center of the city. We snapped a couple photos with our new (cheap) camera and carried on to drive towards our hotel--about 45 minutes from Zurich.

This whole camera thing: as we toured houses last weekend, I took our camera out to take a few photos of the very first house on our list to visit and the camera wouldn't take a photo. The lens was abnormally in the "out" position and wouldn't retract. It read "lens error, restart camera." We have a Canon Powershot S5 IS that looks like this. Now, picture it with the lens out and not taking photos = two very unhappy campers. We have only had the camera for 1.5 years (though from the sound of things we read on the Internet, we are lucky to have had it functioning for that long!) and it already died on us. We researched on the web and found thousands upon thousands of complaints from fellow camera owners. I can't speak for other camera makers, but I know Canon has a serious lens issues that have obviously not be resolved if that many horror stories were written to read. In true spirit, I added our experience to the list in hopes that Canon would consider fixing this issue for future customers. Because, as of now, we are no longer Canon customers or owners of a functioning Canon camera.

But what to do when you're leaving back to Europe for a few more weeks and visiting a few new countries to boot? Well, obviously, we needed to shell out some more cash for yet another camera. Between the two of us, this is our 4th camera in less than 4 years of our relationship. Well, we each owned two when we met and those broke as we dated... then we bought the 3rd one together before our marriage... and now we purchased our 4th.

We walked into Best Buy and purchased the cheapest digital camera they sold. Hey, if we're going to buy a camera on the whim and figure it will break in a matter of months like the rest of them, it makes no difference, right? So, anyway... if you're still reading... that's the reason our camera photos are of less quality from here on out (...until we invest in another quality camera. If those exist. Sorry, bitter).

Anyway, I think these photos from Zurich actually turned out decent! Despite my decent tech knowledge, I couldn't figure out how to space between these photos! I've never had a problem before, but I think the new camera is causing me trouble. I'll just write here and you can scroll down. I will figure this out. But, for now, I just want to get to bed!

I posted a photo of an old El Camino car. It was really weird seeing one of these in Switzerland! I also took a couple photos of people dressed in weird costumes. They are dressed, we think, because of Carnival that takes place during Lent. People dress up in crazy costumes and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol for no reason. I also took a photo of confetti we saw lining the streets of Zurich. We didn't actually see the festivities, just what was left over from them...

 ...It's been awhile since I posted a journal. Three more weeks and I retire from writing daily! Here's what has been happening as we see it...
Mittwoch 10.02.2010 (day 149) --in Chicago
It’s already Wednesday and I cannot wait until Saturday! I woke up at 4 a.m. to a 4.3 magnitude earthquake! Being from California, I know all about how they feel. I knew this wasn’t the snow trucks plowing outside that shook our house. When I turned on the news at 7:45, they confirmed my intuition. I can’t believe it. I guess having an earthquake in this area is extremely rare. I started the day off right with yogurt, a bagel (with cream cheese, thank you), a banana, and Tropicana orange juice. It’s lovely having all the comforts of home. The weather outside is in the early 20’s, but the wind chill all day felt like 6 degrees—so needless to say, I made a conscious effort to stay home today. I did, however, venture outside during the day to walk to the mailbox and clear the foot of snow from the top of the car in the driveway. The company car is here for Lothar to drive, but since we pick him up from the hotel and take him to work, it just stays here. Until our car is off of blocks, I’ve been driving either this one or Mike’s car—but I prefer to drive the red car. It was definitely cold outside to say the least. I received a call from Sandy, the head of IT at the company, asking if I’d like to come over for dinner. Though I have a sinus headache, I decided to go. She and her husband are such nice people and they treated us to dinner one night before in September, too. I talked with Solange and caught up today and Ray called a few times as well. Around 6:15, I headed out to have dinner with Sandy and her husband in the same city we’re staying in, Downers Grove. They live near the high school Ray and I would go running at during the summer. It was really nice seeing them again. We had a delicious dinner prepared by Sandy and some good conversation. I love how nice people are here in the Midwest. It’s going to take some getting used to, for sure! I came home around 9:30 and called Ray. He’s doing well sitting in his enormous Hyatt hotel room with a super large television, he says. He had prime rib for dinner with the rest of the crew and was in for the evening. We talked for a bit and then I watched American Idol on the Internet since I missed it while it was airing earlier tonight. Thank goodness for the Internet! It’s around midnight so I’m getting ready to call it a night! I have a big day tomorrow—buying toilet paper, gas, and visiting a store down the street I’ve never been to!
Donnerstag 11.02.2010 (day 150)
I think I’m acclimated to the time here. I was doing okay the past few days, but it’s perfect now. And in just one week’s time, I have to change my time zone again… and 3 weeks later, it’s back here. Oh, the life! My day was relatively uneventful, but I did accomplish a few things on the small scale. I woke up at a reasonable hour and ran some errands to get gas and buy some toilet paper. I know, try and contain yourself about how exciting my day was. It was really nice and sunny today. Nevermind the 20 degree weather and the slight wind chill that made it feel in the teens… but I have to be honest; I’d rather have sunny skies and cool air than gloomy skies and warmer air. I just love seeing the sun shine. I think I’ll handle Chicago just fine. Though, I think I’ll like summer and fall the best. I visited Aldi market today as well (I actually bought the worst toilet paper ever there). Aldi is a German company owned by the same two Germans who own Trader Joes. They are a discount carrier and the ones in the U.S. look similar to the German ones. I don’t shop there in Germany because they have random brands, inconsistent selections, and it’s not as nice as the others in general. Well, Aldi in the U.S. has similar attributes. It offers a more consistent variety of foods Americans eat and there are almost no name brands of items. I’m not against buying store brands, but I will always reach for the name brand if they are the same price. I saw a few brands, but they looked more like reject items and something Big Lots would sell or something. Frankly, I’d rather shop at Big Lots! I did buy tortillas that were priced at $1 and toilet paper just because I didn’t feel like driving to another store. They have great deals… but you certainly can’t do all of your shopping there. This week they were offering 44 cent avocados. That’s super cheap. But, it’s not worth shopping there solely for getting a 50 cent deal. Unless I happen to be driving by again, I won’t be shopping there regularly. I’ll still with my upscale Trader Joe’s, Dominick’s (Safeway in the Midwest), and Target. The rest of the day was also uneventful. At home I had lunch and worked out for 20 minutes before I got light-headed and had to stop. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been getting sinus headaches lately, the house was too hot, or what. But, I needed to stop. I talked to Ray and found out that House Hunters won’t be picking up our show it looks like because they’ve already done too many shows in the Chicago area. Bummer. It was fun to try! One of the houses on our long list (not the list we’re visiting Saturday) is now off the market. No big deal… it was one of our least favorite that fell into our categories anyhow. That’s about it for today! Ray traveled today from Atlanta to Dallas and of course, it’s highly unlikely for it to snow in Dallas at all (let alone a lot this winter) and it was snowing there… but not in the east or Midwest! Haha! A lot of flights were canceled and schools in the Dallas area were closed, but they all seemed to be pretty lucky with their travel plans. Let’s just hope Ray makes it out tomorrow… because I miss him and we have a huge day on Saturday!!!
Freitag 12.02.2010 (day 151)
Still feeling kind of sick and it was bad enough today that I wasn’t even interested in being inside Target! Gasp! I woke up and after breakfast, I got ready and put makeup on. I figured getting ready and getting out of the house would improve how yucky I feel, but that didn’t work. What did work was rolling down the window while driving. The fresh, crisp air was fantastic. I bought a few things at Target, picked up a Subway sandwich for lunch, and headed back home around 1:00. I took some medicine to calm my headaches (it feels like a migraine that hasn’t gone away for a few days) but it barely put a dent in the feeling. I rested up until I had to drive to O’Hare to pick Ray up from the airport. I went to Target to stall before picking Ray up and then started driving to the airport. It’s not a horrible drive, actually. I received a call from Ray saying they had landed but that it would be a few minutes before they exited the plane and I was worried that I arrived too early. Well, as I was exiting a toll area about 2 miles before O’Hare, I noticed about 5 cars pulled over on the shoulder. I also pulled over. Don’t worry, everyone was going very slow around this turn and is no less safe than being parked on a regular street. As I sat there, 5 more cars pulled up. It turns out, this area is used by locals who obviously know what they’re doing to stall before they get word that the person they are picking up is ready. Ray called so I drove in. Arrivals were a nightmare. I think from now on we’ll be doing all drop offs and pickups in the departures area—which is considerably smoother. We headed home and headed to get excited for our big day tomorrow. Day #1 of our house hunt!
Samstag 13.02.2010 (day 152)
Rough, rough day. It started by getting an email update from Redfin that our absolute favorite house just went under contract. Literally one day before we could get in! Ugh. It happens… I was just hoping we would be lucky. Neither of us were feeling very good this morning, so it was already a rough morning. We met a showing agent at the first house on our itinerary list. It is the largest and most expensive house on the list and we didn’t have any photos of the inside from online. We weren’t too excited. House #2 was even less exciting. House #3, we fell in love with but carried on. House #4 and House #5 were contenders, House #6 was acceptable but not for us, and House #7 was something we highly considered putting an offer in. It was a bit custom, which would be hard for resale. It was really spacious and fantastic for entertaining and had a Naperville address. But, it was too far south. We drove back to House #3 and decided to place an offer on that one. We went to lunch, went back home, called our agent, he ran comparables (and so did I), and started the offer process. We wanted to start it immediately, but unfortunately our agent was obviously busy today and on top of that, it was moving day for him. Ugh. Finally, he printed the contract and we placed a first offer. He asked us to meet him at the house and we would get all the signatures… but as we pulled up, so did another couple. We waited for our agent and sat out in front of the house (hiding a bit down the street) for about 40 minutes and they never left. We finally couldn’t take it anymore thinking that they might also place an offer, so we told our agent and met in a 7-11 parking lot to hand over the papers. He called the sellers agent (which we had to wait about 2 hours for) and he faxed her the offer. We were the first offer, so that’s good. The bad news is that there could be more on the table if they don’t get back to us like fast. We heard nothing back from our agent tonight, which means he heard nothing back from the seller’s agent. This is the most nervous, scary, exciting, unpredictable, vulnerable experience we’ve ever been involved in. It’s just so hard having to wait for others. Since we’re really decisive and proactive people (we were ready to place an offer within 2 hours of touring all houses on our list!), we find it frustrating that we have to wait for so-and-so to call another person to get a counter, etc. We pray that God can find us the place for us… because the way it looks now… we either get this house, or we go back to Germany empty-handed and crying. God has it under control. That’s such a hard lesson for me to learn. Hoping for positive news tomorrow.
Sonntag 14.02.2010 (day 153)
I slept 3 hours last night. I had so much adrenaline and nervous energy that I just couldn’t. It’s also freezing today. But whatever… we bought a house! Here’s the whole story: I woke up at 5 a.m. and we tried a new church (though we already scoped it out 5 months ago and had a feeling we’d love it) and knew that would be home for us. Church, check. As for the house, we didn’t hear anything until about noon when we received an email from our realtor telling us that the agent will be talking to the sellers at 2:00 and that he would contact us ASAP after hearing back. No call until about 5:00 and we were getting pretty bummed and sad—knowing we might be up against another bidder. There were people touring yesterday and this morning, all after us. There were likely many before us, too. It got lots of buzz, but no one else pulled the trigger—fast enough anyway. They countered our offer, not throwing in the refrigerator (oh well) or carbon monoxide detectors (oh well again). They countered about $6,000 less than list. We countered contingent upon a 1 hr callback for $4,000 less, making the house nearly $10,000 less than list. The truth is, we were willing to pay list because it was so nice. But, our realtor was confident and he ended up calling us back within 45 minutes rather than the 1 hour contingency we tentatively set. We got it! We are set to sign the contract papers tomorrow morning and get the ball quickly rolling since they are eager to sell (they’re already moved out, but the house is staged) and we’re eager to close quickly. We leave Thursday for Germany and arrive back here on March 16th. We close March 18th and move in that weekend. U-N-R-E-A-L! Tomorrow morning we meet with our agent to sign papers, get the inspector and all the other stuff moving before we hop on a plane! Things will move fast from here on out and we’re still praying that everything takes off without a hitch and there isn’t anything wrong with the house. It’s hard to think anything could be—considering all the amazing upgrades it has. Who would upgrade a house that nice if there were significant problems? We did see something about well water in the disclosure, but we will get to the bottom of that tomorrow morning. We walked around Barnes & Noble (that’s actually where we got the call from our agent, Patrick) and then had dinner at Bd Mongolian. We of course called close friends and family to tell them the news and drove around the neighborhood for 20 minutes just in awe of God’s love for us. We are so blessed. I must pinch myself.
Montag 15.02.2010 (day 154)
I’m writing this a day late… but I think I have a pretty good memory of what happened (yesterday). I still hadn’t slept much because we were so excited to sign the papers for our new house! We met with Patrick, our real estate agent, at our new house to get things moving around 9:30. We walked in and it felt even bigger and better than I remembered! It’s so gorgeous and we’re thrilled. We stood in our gorgeous kitchen and signed papers and discussed the process we had to get moving immediately. Because we head back to Germany on Thursday, we had to hire an attorney (the procedure in Illinois), hire an inspector, carry out the inspection, set up financing, put down $5,000 in earnest money, and sit back and wait. That’s a lot of people to get on board with only 3 full working days! We started by calling USAA for our financing in the morning. Then, we met Patrick and filled out the contract paperwork. Ray went to work after that and he called to set up an inspection and talk with our attorney about the paperwork/process. In the meantime, our realtor was prepping the paperwork and sending it to the seller’s agent to get the signatures from the sellers. At lunch, we had to drive to the Re/Max office in Naperville to drop off the earnest check we forgot to give to Patrick in the morning. Then, back to work for Ray and I stayed home trying to figure out my life. This whole teaching thing is going to be hard to set up. I’ve applied to every school district in the area (about 6 total) and have received zero calls. You aren’t supposed to show up at the schools because everything is done online. I love the online idea, but it doesn’t give me a chance to show myself. I also realize that no one hires in the winter…especially not people who live in Germany! I think I’ll have to cross this bridge when we come to it in March. Even then, I think it’s going to be tough. I want a job also to help with the finances. Initially, it’s an expensive relocation. We don’t have much furniture (that’s okay…we are totally content with less until we can buy quality furniture), I don’t have a car, and we’ve put down all of our savings to purchase a house. It might be a few months before we’ll be able to afford a car for me. Since Ray will only be working 4.5 miles (door to door, we calculated) from home, we can share a car for awhile. Since I don’t have a job, it’s a bit easier to work out a schedule. I also will be spending lots of time at home in the beginning getting things all situated. It will all work out. It’s just crazy buying our first house! Everything does have a cost. After work, Ray came home and we headed out to Best Buy to buy the cheapest digital camera they sold just so we could have something to take with us back to Germany for the next month. We still have a little traveling coming up, so we knew it was required to have a camera. The picture quality will obviously be lower, but at least we’ll have been able to capture some of those memories. I prefer buying online and taking time to research, but this is one of those cases where we simply didn’t have the time to sit around and wait for the mail to arrive or the deal to come up. I watch the Bachelor (for what I could stomach) and Mike came into town tonight. Ray was supposed to attend a dinner, but for some communication reason, he didn’t go. There will be more, for sure. I also blogged a little today… now…on to tomorrow….
Dienstag 16.02.2010 (day 155)
I was a good sleeper this morning. Since I only had a total of 8 hours the last two nights, I really needed it. I crawled out of bed at 9:30, nearly 2 hours after Ray & Mike left for work and got myself together for the day. I was on a mission to run errands today. I started at the post office, then I headed to the bank and on to the library. We have a weak Internet signal at the condo and I wanted to spend some time searching around for area opportunities for the summer. If I cannot find a teaching job and they aren’t accepting substitute applications, I am hoping to find some kind of job that can allow me to get out into the community, perhaps use some teaching skills (whether it be camp counseling, instructing, tutoring…), and meet people. I sent a resume and cover letter to the Naper Settlement—a huge historical park in downtown Naperville that has camps and tours for visitors. They are accepting applicants for the summer months to work as educators, counselors, etc. I have no idea if it pays $5/hour or $50. I thought it would be worth a shot either way! I plan to call local school districts to find out if they are accepting substitute applicants at this time (though they rarely do at this time of year) also. I headed back to the condo and worked on some paperwork and various little things I wanted to send out before heading back to Europe. Tomorrow I’m visiting our storage unit (I’ve been avoiding) to drop off some of the stuff we brought back from Germany that has been cluttering the condo since we arrived. Then, I’m doing some laundry, checking the P.O. Box once more for any stragglers, hoping my new bedding arrives (otherwise it will be sitting on the porch for a month probably. Haha), and packing. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful. I hadn’t received a phone call from Ray all day because he was having a big presentation today about hydraulic sales in the U.S. I imagine they went to dinner with the sales team after as well. I sit here, watching American Idol and relaxing before our big airplane ride. I cannot stand long plane rides. Frankly, I don’t really even like planes… but it’s required we take them to travel. I think we’re going to have a great last month in Europe. Exciting!
Mittwoch 17.02.2010 (day 156)
I packed up the car with items that needed to go into storage this morning before heading over to our new house for the inspection. That’s a scary process! I arrived 10 minutes early and the inspector and agent were already inside. I walked in and the inspector was upstairs filling sinks, turning on faucets, and turning on all the appliances he could to see if things were functioning properly. Along with his kit of goodies, he checked just about everything anyone could. It was a learning experience, but a bit depressing all at the same time. You just signed up for a 30-year debt and now someone is going to come in and tell you what little things (and big things) you’re also going to have to invest in that you’re being ripped off with. Ouch. Way to move straight from the honeymoon into your first fight. Anyway, it was nice walking around our lovely new house and learning all these flaws. It would’ve been better if Ray was there with me to learn and have the inspector teach us both—but someone has to pay for this place! Ray had some meetings and there was just no other way around it. So, I walked solo taking copious notes and photos for us to inspect later and figure out. Some alarming notes: he thinks the roof may need to be replaced at some point in the future, driveway/walkway uneven and need to be redone (not pertinent), some botchy installation of lighting in the basement, possible musty smell in basement… which also lead us to getting a mold inspection along with the radon inspection. Just write those checks, right? It feels like play money, but sadly, it’s not. It was great to know every bitty light cover or outlet function because I actually had a chance to get to know the house and look for areas to watch out for. After the inspection (lasted 3 hours), I headed to our storage unit to drop off some items and retrieve our ski gear for next weekend in Switzerland. Then, off to the post office where I checked out P.O. box. I wish there was an ability to know whether there was anything inside so I didn’t have to make the trip. I feel like that will happen eventually… checking if you have mail and the quantity online rather than in person. I wouldn’t have gone had I known we had no mail. Unnecessary trip. I came back to the condo and started some laundry, began packing, called to set up dental coverage and select a dentist, spoke to our real estate agent, inspector, and wrote more checks. Ray and Mike came home and then Ray headed out to have dinner with Lothar and Woody. I stayed and talked with a few people on the phone (soon to be turned off for the next month, sigh), had dinner, and finished up the laundry. We leave tomorrow for Germany again! I don’t mind the destination… just the long plane ride…….
Donnerstag 18.02.2010 (day 157)
This morning I spent the majority of the time just getting our belongings together, cleaning the sheets/towels/dishes and preparing the condo for any other guests that may come to stay. I also called the Illinois DOE and asked them to resend my credential and deficiency statement telling me what I need to complete in order to clear my credential from a temporary credential to a permanent status credential. They said they’d tried sending my credential to me twice, only to have it returned both times. Ugh. I asked them to resend it a third time and I’m hoping that it will be waiting for me when we arrive back on March 16th. They did tell me my deficiencies though: APT test, and multiple subject tests. California is currently (I checked through certified mail) getting my scores together to send to Illinois. And, I already signed up for the APT test—so it looks like I was already familiar with the deficiencies and I’m taking action to get rid of them. We were meant to receive a package by FedEx by 10:30 from USAA about our financing and it arrived at 10:27. Way to cut it close FedEx. But, at least they can say they made it on time! We had 1 hour to fill it out, sign the papers, and get it in the mail. Ray came home, we signed, and he took it back to work for sending. Phew. So much going on. A limo was there to pick us up at the condo at 11:50 and we were at the airport 30 minutes later. As soon as we went through security, I received a call from our inspector who also is our mold inspector. He called to tell me that the musty smell was surely mold of some sort. Unfortunately. It was in a small amount, and we realize that many basements have some sort of must or mold… but the idea of any just scares me. Luckily, there were no signs of a single black spore—meaning the toxic stuff that often goes undetected was not evident. But, at the same time, it’s important to get that all out in the open and figure it out. We are now hoping our attorney and realtor can provide some clarity on how to approach the situation with the home owners. We want them, ideally, to disclose any concerns or issues they previously had that we could remedy before going through with a costly purchase. I would never be able to live with myself if anyone were to become sick from our house. What an expensive investment that would’ve been. In my first year of teaching, I had a student who was always sick. His parents had him tested for everything under the sun and couldn’t crack the code. He was absent over 50 days, I remember. It was vivid in my mind and we even had them reported for the situation. Finally, someone recommended a mold inspection close to the end of the school year. It turns out, the level of mold in their house was off the charts. The irony is that because he was always sick, his parents would keep him home from school…sleeping just feet from a wall that was completely covered in spores. He was staying home to continue getting sick. Anyhow, I had to relive that since we have something (on a smaller scale) to deal with. But nonetheless, it is something to deal with. We boarded our uneventful flight back to Germany around 2:00 and took off before 2:30. Unfortunately, tail wind was not in our favor—making the flight over 8 hours. We watched 3 movies and I liked none of them: An Education, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Truth About Lying or something like that. They were all either immoral, depressing, or sacrilegious—in that order. I also thought Where the Wild Things Are would be scary for kids just like the reviews said. We got almost no sleep and landed just before 6 a.m. Germany time—brutal. While we would just be hopping in bed in Chicago, we’re now entering daylight having lost a night’s sleep. Nothing new though. We’re getting used to it, strangely. It’s just amazing that you can go from one continent to another in a matter of hours. Hours! We taxied from the airport to pick up Lothar’s car at the Frankfurt factory and then off at incredible speeds back to Werdohl and our lovely little town of Neuenrade. Strangely, it feels normal being here. We like Germany. I guess this post is a Thursday/Friday post… but we’ll pretend like I’m not writing this at 7:30 a.m. while Lothar is driving the Autobahn. But, I am.
Freitag 19.02.2010 (day 158)
Here we are. Laptops are on our laps, we’re sitting watching Olympic cross-country skiing coverage in German, and drowsy on the couch. Back in Neuenrade, back in Deutschland. It’s actually nice to be back. The weather is slightly warmer than Chicago, though the same amount of snow is on the ground. I guess they had 3 days of intensity while we were gone. We slept the majority of the day as soon as we returned home, brushed our teeth, and managed to heat up this place. Ah, sleep. Uninterrupted, horizontal sleep. Of course, the rest of the German world was out and about, working and whatnot. We woke up around 5:30 p.m. (well, Ray woke up sometime in the middle of me sleeping for 8 hours to get some work done and make a few phonecalls regarding our trip to Switzerland) and he slept later than 5:30 to make up for that. We had Indian for dinner courtesy of my mom. Nice long hot showers completed our day and we headed back to bed after midnight in an attempt to regulate ourselves. Jetlag is rough!
Samstag 20.02.2010 (day 159)
I almost didn’t write this: we woke up at 2:30 today. We went to bed at 2:00 a.m., so it’s not all that unreasonable… but the bad thing is, this hardly helped our cause of getting back on track with the EU time zone. On top of that, we’re having a business dinner tomorrow night after our long drive to Switzerland. I’m just hoping we can make it there in one piece and awake! We are still pretty excited about moving into our new house (given all the little issues are resolved). We’re also nervous about the carpet in the basement. We read everywhere on the Internet telling us not to carpet basements. But, what do you do, then? Tile? I want this space to be usable and not wasted since we can’t floor it. Our day was super uneventful as we spent most of the day on our laptops researching. We spent a portion of time unpacking and then packing again for our week down south in Switzerland. Other than that, nothing big to report! Possibly the shortest update yet!
Sonntag 21.02.2010 (day 160)
We were up and out of the house by 9:30 this morning on our way south to Switzerland. It was a 5-hour drive that took us down through Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, the Black Forest into the Freiberg region, and finally down into Basel into Switzerland. We had a little while before we had to meet the executive for dinner, so we pressed on another 45 minutes to Zurich—which I had never visited before. Ray had been there after college, but Switzerland was new to my list of countries! A new currency, once again. The drive was nice. We passed a few castles and plenty of ruins. I always enjoy seeing structures on a hill—the idea that people actually spent time building that (most likely sans technology) amazes me. On our way, the GPS in our 3rd vehicle (every time we are upgraded to a better ride—this one is an A6 wagon with all the fixins’) sensed that traffic was ahead and took us on a detour to bypass it. Like magic, we exited the Autobahn about 200 meters before the red lights and didn’t have to wait a minute! It was amazing. After arriving in Zurich—after paying for the 2010 pass of over 30 Euro, we were stuck in traffic. Finally, we pulled off, parked, and walked into the city just to check things out. We saw a bunch of kids and adults dressed in crazy costumes and assumed that they were dressed for the annual carnival (car-knee-val) that takes place during Lent. We don’t know a whole lot about it other than that it’s a crazy event and yet another reason to dress ridiculously, drink uncontrollably, and have one last “harrah” before the serious takes place. It’s all over Europe and although we didn’t see the actual festivities, we saw about 30 people dressed in crazy costumes. Cologne, near our home in Germany, had their carnival last weekend while we were home in the U.S. It happens on different weekends all over Europe for participating countries. We left Zurich around 5:15 to head back to our hotel region. We checked in, got ready, and met a business acquaintance (my attempt to protect company names from showing up on Google…I rarely mention company names) downstairs. We drove to a hotel restaurant about 2 miles away for dinner. The building we ate in was about 400 years old. We had some traditional Swiss food and it was fantastic! It certainly wasn’t diet food, but good nonetheless. The Swiss eat something equivalent to our hash browns and I had some mixed with veggies and covered with cheese. Oh my goodness, right? Back to the hotel we went afterwards and we have until noon tomorrow before we meet up for lunch with more business colleagues for sushi. So far, Switzerland is treating us sehr gut!
Montag 22.02.2010 (day 161)
We began the morning slowly as sun poured through the windows. We have a sheer curtain in our hotel room, so we don’t have much of a choice other than being forced to endure the brightness. We’re not the best two people at waking up. We leisurely made it downstairs for our large selection breakfast and got things together before driving a few miles down the road (nevermind that we get lost everywhere) to the Swiss company we’re spending the week with. They have good relations with the company in Chicago, so it’s natural for us to visit and learn about their products, what they do to connect with us, etc. We arrived for sandwiches. Not normal sandwiches, however. They have some kind of mayonnaise cream, meat or veggies, possibly fruit, and a gel that sits on top to make a cohesive open-faced sandwich. I won’t comment on the “interesting” flavor. We sat in on a Powerpoint presentation about the company and learned a lot. It’s nice to meet someone who has been around the business for 35 years. Since the manufacturing business is just a large web across the world of interrelated companies, we were pleased to meet one piece of this large web. We took a factory tour and were really impressed with their processes. Since this is one of the few factory tours I have been on, I was certainly excited to people cutting rubber using a knife by hand, painting the parts, and other projects. It’s like a real-life version of “how it’s made” rather than watching on TV. We sat down again after the tour for another presentation of information in the conference room, coffee and chocolate (of course—when in Switzerland…), and were joined by another piece to this large web puzzle. He presented who he was, how he is related to the industry and company (him being the president), and then we went to dinner. This restaurant was fabulous. I think this was the best meal I had in all of Europe thus far. It was that good! Aside from giving portions like the Americans (no joke) and the prices being incredibly high (I had a single eggroll on a small bed of diced vegetables at it cost 19 Swiss Francs = about 19 U.S. dollars…and that was just my appetizer! Everyone had appetizers, drinks, wine, dessert, entrees… and there were 5 of us), the food was spectacular. For a meal, I had housemade ravioli stuffed with eggplant, garlic, olives, and topped with diced red peppers, cream sauce, greens, tomatoes, olives, and an incredible shredded parmesan. For dessert, lemon sorbet. We headed back to our hotel around 9:30 and I’m about to post to the blog! For an update on the house… our attorney sent the owner’s attorney a letter of “fixation”—of all the things, including the mold concern, be addressed before we will continue with the contract and purchase. Since the levels weren’t very high, we’re convinced it will all be alright. Honestly, they also have a bunch of books, boxes, etc. down in the basement that smelled musty because they’d been down there for nearly two decades of them living there. As far as we know, it could’ve been those boxes under the stairs that were reading mold count, not the stairs themselves. The basement itself is immaculate and we’re pretty convinced that it will all be figured out. Most home buyers don’t get mold tests done and I think they should. Basements are known to be susceptible to moisture. Frankly, we’re also convinced that any house would have traces of mold—mold counts are found outside too and it’s totally natural. It just needs to be regulated at low levels inside houses. There is a humidifier that regulates the temperature and the mold was detected on the basement stairs for the most part—not the other areas. It will all get figured out. No need to worry. 

2 comments:

Nic G. said... [Reply to comment]

FYI on the canon. Their repair service is excellent. Look up their website and find the instructions for sending it in. I've sent several in, and it usually costs around $50, but it comes back good as new, or they replace it with a newer model if it's no longer made.

bratts29 said... [Reply to comment]

I am so jealous! My mom is from Switzerland, I would LOVE to see the country!

FYI, I adore your blog so much I am giving you the Beautiful Blogger Award! Check it out on my blog and then pass it on!

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