Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another red balloon

Despite our weak health condition, Saturday was a beautiful day. M's uncle and aunt took us to the Deister for a 15km walk in the forest, stopping here and there at the different towers and cabins converted into little cafés. We could not have been luckier with the weather: blue sky and ideal Fall temperatures. In the evening, they invited us to have dinner at their house, and were quite surprised to hear that their balloon was the fifth and last one we had gotten back. We were actually quite happy to have gotten five red balloons back at all, as we truly did not expect so many people to participate and send it back to us. Besides, as we said jokingly, since theirs was found in the south of France, we did not expect Northern Africa to play the game!
But to our very big surprise and joy, we got another card yesterday in the post. The sixth red balloon was found, this time near Geneva, approximately 150km away from where our wedding took place. Our present this time is a dinner with the friends of M's parents.

So, bets are now open: considering approximately 70-75 balloons were released, was this the last balloon we'll get back, or do you think we'll receive others back and how many?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bad luck

The weather has been horrible these past weeks here up North. They had announced good summery days for a few days and they were right. Today the sun is shining and it's above 20 degrees. Just my luck, I cannot enjoy it as I have come down with a pretty nasty cold. The first of the year, and to think it's only early September... Pour couronner le tout, the long planned surprise day with M's uncle and aunt, wedding present to us because their red balloon was found 500 km away from its release point, is to happen tomorrow. Hiking, biking, and activities in swimming suit are on the program, and I truly don't know how I'm going to survive with my continuous sneezing and dizzy stuffed head!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

the Einschülung tradition

I remember perfectly well my first school day back in 1980, probably because of the picture taken that day. I was four years old and starting the Kindergarten in Switzerland on a sunny Monday morning in September. Those two first years in Kindergarten are obligatory in Switzerland, as they prepare the kids for school, by teaching them how to write the alphabet, the numbers, as well as other very practical things such as tying your shoes and setting the table. My mother had brought me there, and took a picture of me in my beige divided skirt and matching sweater, which thankfully made me look like a girl, as I had a very boyish bowl haircut back then. My new Mickey Mouse orange school bag completed the look. I shyly wave to the camera on this historical picture, my smile giving away my nervosity.

I was at my nephew’s first school day the other day and cannot help but being stunned at how things have changed since then. And at how different things are in Germany in that respect. First of all, although he has been going to Kindergarten for the past two years, he has not learned anything really useful there. Other than arts and crafts, singing and playing. Kindergarten is not obligatory here, so the first school day is the first 1st grade day with almost seven years old. And it is a BIG deal. It is called Einschülung.

Now, Einschülung takes place on a Saturday morning. It started at 9h30 in a protestant church, although the school is public and not religious. Even though it was a very big church, it was completely full, as all forty 1st graders were accompanied by gazillion family members. Not only parents, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it, everyone is present! The priest tried to make an interesting sermon for the kids and their families, talking about colors and races, but I have to say it was pretty bad and boring. Considering it was mostly a marketing action to get all those families back to going to church every weekend, I seriously think it was a failure. Then, after a one hour sermon, during which the kids were so bored some started playing football, others hide and seek in the nave behind the priest (no joke), we all went back to our cars and drove to the school. There, in a big hall, two classes of 4th graders had prepared a little show, which consisted in 4 songs welcoming the new students. That was actually very cute. Then the teachers for both 1st grade classes were introduced, and kids of both classes were called on the stage to follow their teacher to their classroom. The teachers took the opportunity to explain some things about the school to the parents and mob of family members during this time, who were then offered to walk around the school and get a coffee, while waiting for their kids to finish their first 45 minute class. All kids then posed together for the family cameras with their flamboyant school bags and Schultüte, which are huge paper cones made or bought by the parents and filled with sweets.

Follows the family lunch, which each family organizes either at home or in a restaurant, the traditional German coffee and cake two hours later and then of course the present giving session, where the 1st grader receives an incredible amount of presents. And I cannot help but wonder, what does all this have to do with the first day of school? Sure, on one side it is nice to make it an unforgettable day for the child, to celebrate it in family, but is it not a bit too much? Why is the kid getting rotten spoiled with presents just for beginning school? Ça me dépasse. I personally think the focus is being lost. And I won't even get started on the fact that school hours are so reduced (only mornings) it is just not feasible for German kids to learn as much as other European kids, who spend their entire day in school. I'll keep that to myself. Along with my refusal to letting my own kids getting their education here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

brilliant once again

He did it again. Khaled Hosseini wrote a beautiful touching second novel and I devoured it and loved it just as much as "The Kite Runner." Or maybe even more so, as I felt very close to the women he portrays this time around. The lifes of Mariam and Laila could seem crude and exageratedly melodramatic, as one horror succeeds the other; it is however a sadly accurate version of what many Afghan women have experienced. Except for some of the unrealistic romantic and fairy-tale turns that is, but they make the novel enjoyable and readable. Call me naive, but I enjoyed its happy twists!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Post diet

I am very happy to tell you that M and I are done with the Max Planck diet. We followed the two week plan, M hardly survived the very hard first week (unlike me, he had never followed a strict diet before and lacked his carbs for lunch and dinner), but the second week went by much better. I on the other hand have to say that I found the diet quite easy and was rarely hungry in between meals. But although I ate and suffered less, I of course also lost less: M lost 5 kg and I lost 4.

All in all a successful and quite interesting experience. We are now back to a normal balanced diet and of course regular sports. The last thing we'd want want is to gain all that weight back! Unless of course we weigh ourselves up side down from now on ;-)