Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A note from Mom

OK. Mom here. In spite of all you hear about how everybody in Europe hates us and is rude to Americans, we have found people to be quite friendly and helpful. Oh, there have been a few clerks who've obviously had a bad day, but on the whole we have enjoyed those we have encountered both in Paris and London. And the Swiss couldn't be nicer. Jean-Pierre (who owns the house Jessica lives in) is a dear man.

Since our favorite fallafel place in Salem closed, we have yearned for some decent fallafel. We found it in Paris. We had a couple of hours between trains on the return to Neuchatel, so we made a beeline for L'as du Fallafel. Oh, my....so-o-o-o yummy!

Jessica has been a great navigator. Despite being humbled by the Versailles fiasco, she has led us through a myriad of underground trains both in Paris & London. The Metro in Paris is a piece of work to figure out! In addition to conquering the underground transportation systems and buses, she was able to get us where we were going on foot. A map of Paris is helpful, but I can tell you that I'd still be sitting on some bench somewhere under a tree if it had been up to me to read it.

Signing out..........Mom

Monday, August 29, 2005

I hereby pay homage to my dear little dog Paddington.

My mom would just like to share this blister with the world. Let it be known I dragged her all over Europe without letting her blisters and bent-out-of-shape back get in my way.

Here's a classical pic. It's the changing of the horse guard. This was about as exciting as it got.

Big Ben is big...and...benny. In the background is the London Eye, an overrated ferris wheel. Well, actually I'm sure it's really cool--I'm just bitter that it cost too much.

This is Westminster Abbey. Surprisingly it's full of tombs. A little strange, but we were excited once we got past the kings to the Poet's Corner where Dickens, DH Lawrence, Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, etc. are laid to rest.

We went to a traditional pub called Bag 'O Nails just across the street from Buckingham Palace.

We had to do the tourist thing and order fish 'n chips. They were indeed tasty. A surprise was the side of "mushy peas" which looked like baby food but was delicious.

We'd never been deliriously happy over a cup of Starbucks americano and ice water. Who knew ice water was such a rare treat in the world?

Happy Birthday, Cathie Jo (aka: The Good Sistah)!!

Metro Misadventures

Well, we must go back to our time in Paris and recount our Metro adventure to Versailles. It's worth a blog entry all its own. By our third day in Paris we were feeling fairly confident using the Metro system and hadn't had any major glitches. We knew from the start that this day would be different--our morning devotion was on patience. Uh-oh.

We set off quite happily on the Metro towards Versailles. But I discovered we weren't going in the direction I thought we were so we hopped off and thought oh well, we'd just get on one going the other way. Frustratingly we couldn't figure out how to get to the platform on the other side so I hopped on the next train hoping the next stop down would be easier to figure out. Horrifyingly Mom didn't understand what I was up to and the door closed before she had a chance to get on! I was speeding off to the Eiffel Tower stop and she was left standing there waving to me that she'd stay put.

When I returned to the stop she'd found her way to the other side so we just waited there for the next train to Versailles. Phew, we were finally on our way with not too much time lost. About a half an hour down the track, in the middle of no where, I got up to see how many stops were left before Versailles only to discover we were going in the wrong direction!! Turns out, Versailles is at BOTH ENDS of the line, but direction takes you all over creation before putting you out at the wrong place for visiting the castle. ARG. We got going the other direction AGAIN and Mom commented in true Pollyanna form: "Well, I'm glad we're on the Butt Train. It's where we get to see the backside of Paris."

Ah yes, a great way to spend 2 hours of our afternoon in Paris. But at least we finally got to Versailles. We even found a free toilet inside McDonalds. As we set off towards the castle, Mom exclaimed: My camera! Sheesh, you'd have thought the worst was already behind us. Perfectly aware that the camera was a goner (I mean who gets a camera back that they left on the Metro in Paris?) we hustled back into the station and asked around. A man behind a desk informed me that the Metro is quite full of pickpockets but he humored me anyway and made a couple of phone calls. As Mom was praying under her breath, we heard someone say, "Un appareil de photo?" and the man said, "Oui, oui, oui, oui." I translated for Mom and we waited to see if he had a bit of good news for us. Suddenly, he appeared with the camera in hand!! I'm sure the story of the luckiest woman in the world is still spreading around Paris.

As we FINALLY walked towards the Chateau de Versailles, we crossed the streets very carefully, thinking perhaps getting run over by a truck was the next event of the day. Happily, we toured the beautiful estate without further incident. I'm sure it tasted all the sweeter after having worked so hard for it! We think our lesson on patience was quite sufficient. Hear that God?! :o)

PS: I've dubbed my mother the Patron Saint of Lost Cameras. Get this: when she was in Nicaragua she left it in a taxi and the driver delivered it to her the next morning!! Unreal.

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I've been to London to visit the Queen!

[Hey there! Wrote this on Friday, just now getting it to you. We actually just got back home in Switzerland. Expect photos soon.]

We now find ourselves in London, after somehow passing by train from Paris under the English Channel. We did not arrive in a position to enjoy this city, as the toilet on the train was out of order and the first one we came across in the station was too. We finally got to one that was functional but we needed these things called pence, of which we had none. Thankfully the Patron Saint of Bladder Control came through for us. When travelling, always keep up a good rapport with her.

The next episode was getting to the hotel. Actually, getting there by Metro and walking with a map in hand worked out fine, but seeing our room made us wonder if it had been worth the effort. (Mom's comment: "This is not the Embassy Suites!") The Hotel Dacia Luxembourg in Paris was small, but this is the Hotel Dacia Crap-embourg. I don't know what to comment on first: the smaller-than-twin-sized beds with the acupuncture mattress springs or the postage stamp bathroom where you get the impression that the same man who designed the pocket knife architected this shower/toilet/sink combo. Mom commented, "You could stand in the bedroom and use the toilet if you were a man." Another interesting feature of the room is the massive railroad running beneath our window. We've found the trains to be quite regular. That is, my sleep was interrupted fairly often by their rumblings and we also mark their passing by the vibrating of certain light fixtures in our room.

London is, however, slowly redeeming itself. Our first day ended up turning out pretty well. We enjoyed a tasty meal in China Town and were impressed by the British Museum. The Metro system seems to be running well and has zipped us safely and speedily about the city. Even our hotel has its redeeming qualities--free breakfast and a coffee machine that actually puts out some great drinks. And we can confirm this city's reputaton for great fish and chips. We enjoyed some today at a traditional pub called Bag O' Nails.

The highlight of the last 48 hours, however, was definitely going to Buckingham Palace. It was expensive to get in, but did not disappoint. A few years ago they decided to open the State Rooms to the public for a few weeks each year to make more money, so we were privileged to see where the Queen does her entertaining. Apparently 8,000 people attend each of her 4 summer garden parties! Not only was the palace beautiful, the audio quide was interesting and informative. You just walk through the rooms with a head set on that tells you what you're looking at and where to go next. It was a great experience. I'm plotting what I can do to get myself invited to one of those garden parties...

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Bonjour from magnifique Paris!

We're loving Paris!! In a way this surprises me because I'm really not a big city lover. They usually seem dirty and I can't appreciate all the sinful amusements. But Paris is great. Everywhere you look there's something beautiful to see and there's loads of things to do. The history is rich and the culture is vibrant. There's so much to talk about and so many stories to share, but I'll just try to highlight a few things.

I think one of our most significant experiences in Paris was going to see Notre Dame; both times. We went our first night since it's only a 5 minute walk from the hotel, and enjoyed a great free organ recital. Afterwards we walked around the outer chapels as the Vespers service was conducted. As I listened to the concert, gazing up into the vaulted ceiling and admiring the stained glass, I appreciated how big cathedrals like that inspire a sense of awe and make you want to worship God. But after visiting the Sainte Chapelle today, a church which is no longer in use, I realized that part of that feeling I had is based on the fact that there's still life in the ancient Notre Dame. I'm not Catholic, but I could sense the presence of God there. I thought it was really cool that even with thousands of daily visitors, you can still come for Mass or talk to a priest for confession or counsel or light a candle and pray. Today we went back for a free guided tour. Our adorable English guide explained the significance of the statues and ornaments. She told us that when it was first built in the Middle Ages Paris was already a crossroads for people of many nations and it was designed to draw them in and teach them about the Christian faith. It is so amazing to see how that is still carried on today on such a colossal scale.

Today a highlight was going to the Orsay. I thought even before coming here that I would like it better than the Louvre and I was right. I mean, the Louvre is the Louvre. It's enormous and very impressive. But even with 3 hours devoted to the place you've barely scratched the surface and it leaves you a little frustrated. Plus it was hard to focus on what you were seeing because there was just so much of it. But in just an hour or so at the Orsay Museum today we got a great taste of Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, Degas, etc. This is really my favorite art genre, and Mom was blown away to be in the presence of such famous works.

Last night we got to see the Eiffel. That's a magical experience. We went at dusk and saw a great view of Paris by night. Every hour the tower's twinkling lights come on and it's quite a show. After descending the tower we laid on the grass of the Champ de Mars and watched it glow. It was perfect.

There's so much to tell, but I'll just conclude with a few of our favorite photos and write more later.

PS: We go to London in the morning!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

This was my first glimpse of Notre Dame. It's just a few minutes from our hotel!

Standing at the base of the Arch de Triomphe is an impressive sight. And daunting when you're planning on going to the top.

Here's mom with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Yes, we made it up to the top of the Arch de Triomphe by stairs. Mom guesses there were about 5,000 of them :o)

Nothing more fun than being a girl in a pink store filled with incredibly cute shoes.

Here's a beautiful view of the Seine as we walked along it at night.

This was pretty much the first view we got from the top of the Eiffel Tour. It's looking down at the Champ de Mars but I don't know what the buildings are.

Here's a view of the Seine. And a soccer game.

Here's the Eiffel as we gazed up at the twinkling lights.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ma mere est en Suisse!

Mommy is here! So far we've just dinked around Switzerland a bit and tomorrow (!!) we'll be taking the TGV (really fast French train) to Paris. Later in the week we'll take the chunnel (tunnel under the English Channel) to London. Here's what my mom says are the 10 best things she's seen and done so far in La Suisse, followed by some pics.

10. Stopping by Nathan's appartment and meeting him and his Irish friend Paul. Shy Paul had to leave the room to laugh as we were rolling on the floor in hysterics. Irishmen are funny. Americans are loud.

9. Eating at Hermine's house as Jessica does every Friday.

8. Taking a walk from Jessica's house that includes amazing vistas of the lake and vineyards.

7. Eating Swiss chocolate. (Jean-Pierre bought us the most special chocolate in town! Apparently the guy made chocolate for former US presidents.) The food in general, especially the cheese, is wonderful.

6. Swiss toilet paper. ??? So she says "I love Swiss toilet paper. It's not dusty. They try to make ours so soft that there's just this plume that goes everywhere." OK. I must be a really lame host if that's the best she can come up with. Or maybe TP is just really important in my mom's life. I'm not gonna ask. (Comment from mom: OK this tp thing has gotten completely out of hand--now she won't let me retract it!) Moving on...

5. Meeting Jean Pierre, a man who delights in fixing dinner for us.

4. Shooting pool with Nathan and Paul.

3. Speaking English with Annelies and hearing her delightful New Zealand accent.

2. The lovely 2 hour boat ride from Neuchatel to Morat. It was a warm and sunny day. It was disappointing however that the mountains weren't visible. (OK, so mom says there was no disappointment, but that's just because she doesn't know what she's missing)

1. Visiting the town of Morat.

Also among her favorite things, but falling at #452 is climbing the stairs (at least 5000) to the castle in Neuchatel.

#453 Greeting people with 3 kisses on the cheek instead of a hug. (Mom's comment on church choir practice: the whole choir has to greet each other with kisses before they can sing one single song!)

My mom arrived! I went down to Geneva to meet her at the airport and we took the train back up to Neuchatel. (Mom: Jessica bought me these beautiful Swiss flowers!) As Jean Pierre says "A flower among the flowers."

We took a boat form Neuchatel (shown in the picture) to Morat. It was my first time out on the lake. Very relaxing and fun.

Here's my mom in Morat! It's a very charming town. The buildings are beautiful, but the main attraction is the wall that goes around the city, which provides a great vantage point.

We walked the ramparts of Morat. From up there you get a great view looking down on the rooftops of the city.

Nathan and mommy at the cool but smoky poolhall in Neuchatel.

I finally got to play pool! I was definitely rusty, but I got better as I went along. It was weird having to pay afterwards--I've had free pool all my life! (My dad owns a popular poolhall in Salem, OR)

This is the old church by the castle. I can never take enough pictures of it. Although perhaps my perspective will change after seeing the great cathedrals of Paris and London.

Me and Mommy with great view of Neuchatel.

The grapes are ripening. I love the blend of purples and greens.

Beautiful view from near my house

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Me and Jean-Pierre who I rent a room from. He loves to write poems and short compositions. I translated one for you that is just too cute. If I did it justice it should make you laugh!

What is a grandmother?

By Jean-Pierre Meyer, translated from the French by Jessica Lebold

What is a grandmother?

A grandmother is a lady who doesn’t have any children but who loves other people’s kids.

Grandmothers don’t have anything else to do but to just be there. They are old and shouldn’t play or run too much. All they need to do is take us to the store with enough quarters for us to ride the horse. And if they take us for a walk, they should slow down when we see some pretty leaves or a caterpillar, without saying: “Hurry up!”

Generally grandmas are fat, but not so much that they can’t tie our shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take out their teeth and gums.

Grandmothers don’t have to be scholars. It is enough that they can tell us why God isn’t married and why dogs chase cats.

They don’t talk to us like we’re babies like visitors do. When they read to us they don’t skip over a single word and they happily read the same story over again.

Everyone should try to have a grandma, especially if they don’t have a TV, because they’re the only big people who have time.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Me, Catherine, Nathan, and Rob at church yesterday.

More on match-making

If you frequent this blog you will remember a post called "Match-making??" Since then I have discussed this matter with many different people and have even witnessed in action the concurrence of missionaries and online dating.

Case sample #1: I met a friend of a friend who is a misssionary in Geneva and was about to ask her what she thought about this topic when she proceeded to bring up how she'd met her boyfriend through a Christian discussion board about the Emerging Church/Postmodern Christianity.

Case sample #2: Actually, right this very moment as I post this, I am with a fellow missionary along with THE GIRL HE MET THROUGH EHARMONY!! Yeah, she stayed the night at my house even. I'll keep you posted on how this crazy adventure turns out.

Yesterday I received an email from a friend (who posted a great comment on this blog concerning this topic--you should go back and read that if this interests you) who happens to go to the same church as the children of the "first Wycliffe couple." When I visited her church a man told me that his parents were the first two people in Wycliffe to hook up. That was back in the 30's I think, right after the organization got going. Apparently, he told my friend the other day that Cameroon Townsend (missionary hero, founder of my organization) had encouraged them to hook up and that Uncle Cam was a relentless matchmaker! That makes me happy that I'm simply following his legacy :O)

The other day I asked a French friend here if he thought it was valid for missionaries to hook up online and he was like, "Well, just because God is going to bring a girl her husband doesn't mean she holes up in her house all day waiting for him to appear on her doorstep."

OK, as you can see, I really haven't been doing anything too interesting lately, so I'm a little stretched for Blog topics. If you think this is stupid just be glad I didn't do a post on flash cards or grammar drills. Although I won't excuse myself too much because unless you live in an internetless vacuum you're probably aware that online matchmaking is a hot topic around the globe.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Warning: meeting your online "match" can be awkward.

OK, so it seems to work out

Monday, August 08, 2005

These cars seriously freak me out. So tiny!

A picture this cute has to go on the blog. This is Rob (pilot with Wycliffe) and Annelies (New Zealand friend from church)

I confess I'm putting this picture on my blog just so I can feel cool that I have Iranian and Russian friends :o)

Swiss Rant

So is there a stage of culture shock called "THIS COUNTRY IS TOTALLY RETARDED"?! I just walked to the store to buy groceries and it was closed. Apparently on Mondays it doesn't open until 1:30pm! And that's after having been closed since 5pm on Saturday! Sheesh, a person could starve. Sunday night all I had left to eat was some dried fruit and nuts, and I already ate the last of those, so what am I supposed to do for lunch today? It's rather ironic because on my way to the store I was composing a blog post in my head about the good aspects of this culture and on the way home I was trying not to describe it with profanities.

Alright, just had to get that out. Seriously, I came home, threw my stuff on the bed and grabbed my computer. I guess this Blog is a sort of therapy for me sometimes. Like somewhere out there people are reading this who understand and sympathize with me. Thank you, dear cyber-therapists. But actually I'm a little bitter that right now my readers back home are probably sleeping, as it's 3am, yet if you so chose you could run to Winco right this moment and get all the food you wanted, while I'm without lunch at noon. Sigh.

Oh well, I should be thankful--the majority of people in the world today will probably only get one meager meal the whole day. Here in Switzerland I make a lot of comparisons with the US, but I better get over that before I go to Africa, eh?

OK, I'm going to go scavenging in the woods now.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Happy Swiss Day

Monday was the Swiss Nat'l Holiday. I went on a beautiful hike with team Wycliffe and swam in Lake Neuchatel. It was great. Hiking in the forest and swimming in the lake is my favorite exercise! It made me nostalgic for Oregon, though, to be amidst the natural woodsy beauty. Here's a few photos from our outing.

Me and Marian and beautiful scenery.

Hiking with Rob is an adventure. He doesn't stay on the trail for long!

Nathan, Rob, and Marian on a bridge

Jean-Pierre invited us out to dinner for Marian's going away. It was fun. Everybody thought I was drunk, but I was the only one who didn't have any alcohol! :o) Crazy American.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Butterflies.

Today my housemate Marian (who leaves Friday, sniff, sniff) and I went to the Papiliorama...that means butterfly...o-rama...in English. So many butterflies! It was great. Except that I was all sweaty because they have to keep it humid since they're tropical, but I suppose that's TMI. OK, just enjoy the pretty pictures.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

It's hard to choose between the dozens of fantastic photos I captured today. This one wins a slot on the blog because it's got both a pretty butterfly and space-age flowers.

I was very proud of this photo, but after a moment of reflection I realized anyone could make this look good in a picture! It's God who is the Great Artist!!

They were everywhere! It was wonderful, but it did make me think of an Alfred Hitchcock sequel.

The flora was just as impressive as the butterflies. This flower, I will admit, did enjoy some slight embellishments from my photo editor. But only slight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Excursion and Peanut Butter Update

On Wednesday we did our last excursion with the university program. It was one of the most impressive. We went to Ballenberg, a "museum" of old Swiss houses, like a little town on display. We also stopped by Interlaken for a tremendous view of the mtn Yung Frau.

One of the funnest parts, however, was on the bus: my Californian friend Kelly had her mom send her a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I can't express the joy that this brought us! I'm sure they've never tasted so good before. We had a great time giving them out to people and watching their reaction as they tasted the wonder of chocolate with PB for the first time. Almost everyone liked it! Comments included: "Mmmmmmm." "I have the impression of having travelled." "Tastes like Snickers." "Where's the ketchup?"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ballenberg is like a living museum. The houses are representive of different Swiss regions throughout the past few centuries.

Another Ballenberg house

The view of Yung Frau from Interlaken was stunning.

Alma the Cow and Yung Frau.

Thanks to me, Jill, and Kelly, the love of Reese's PB Cups has been spread around the world.

My own cartoon!!

OK, so this is about the coolest thing that's ever happened to me. In my class at the university I met a German boy named Ferdinand. He's only 17 but he's a cartoon artist! I translated his cartoons into English for him, which you can see soon at www.FerdinandLutz.com. To thank me he made me my own cartoon! I told him I wanted a picture of something typically Swiss and here's what he did for me. So cool!

Cool, huh?!!

Pidgin English

An unfortunate consequence of my French studies is that I am now unable to complete a sentence in Spanish, a language I studied for 9 years. What is encore worse (as evidenced by my unconventional use of the word "encore") is that my English has been completely weirdified. For example, the other day I told my mom, "We're having a grill tonight." (which still sounds perfectly normal to me) But she was like, "You're what?" "We're having a gr...uh, a BBQ." Another expression that is used quite naturally and regularly among the expats here is to say something happened "by hazard," meaning "by chance." I enjoy the fact that this is rendered encore funnier due to its similarity to "bio-hazard." So now I can say "It was a bio-hazard" instead of "It was an accident"! Voila, a new slang expression is born!

Domestic Animal of the Day: Jane, just because she's my cat and she's cool because she has curly hair and I miss her and the cats here aren't friendly.

Ethnic Identity of the day: Swiss German--gotta love these folks! There are so many here learning French and they've got the greatest accents. Plus they're super cool because they can understand everything German people say but the Germans can't understand them! Very stealth. If you've got satellite you've gotta check to see if you can get any of the Swiss German music programs. They call it "country" but this ain't no Toby Keith. It's like Heidi meets the 21st century. You never know when they're going to bust out a yodel.


This morning Marian commmented, "I've never seen anyone clean the balcony with a vacuum before." Had to capture the moment in a photo for you. Jean Pierre cleans the balcony ALL THE TIME. I thought balconies were to be cleaned a couple of times during the summer...the Swiss would be appalled.