Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Things have finally settled back into a routine in this Swiss household. The last two weeks were school holidays, and the kids were off for two weeks - not just off of school, but all other extra-curricular activities. While the kids were with their grandparents two days out of each week, it's really exhausting to have two small children for 10-11 hours a day, especially when you can't communicate well. Last week I went out almost every night to get away. This week I'm staying in - for two reasons. One, I'm exhausted. Two my friend Heather just lent me a big, fat book and I'm devouring it.

Tonight is a perfect book-reading night - it's cold, rainy, and there is a beautiful fire roaring in the fireplace. I'm so excited to curl up with my book, and go to sleep early. Tomorrow I have the afternoon off, and needless to say, I am so excited to have hours to sit and read. I might even build a fire if it's cold and rainy.

Some of you might be wondering what book I'm reading... ok fine. I didn't want to tell you because it's so nerdy. I'm reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, the third book in the Eragon series. Lame, nerdy, I know, but I've invested in the first two books, I have to read this one. And I just found out he's working on a fourth book, so it's no longer a trilogy, it's a cycle. Great. I'm going to be bound to nerdy dragon books for a while.

I mean, there's a dragon on the cover. How nerdy is that? I took this with my macbook, which is a mirror image camera - that's why the text is backward. And nerd glasses to go with the nerd book.

Speaking of nerds and dragons, my brother and I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together a few years ago. Lawrence and I read nearly all of the books together, with the main exception being the 7th book, as he was in Ireland and I was in the States when it printed. Anyway, Lawrence and I share a special Harry Potter bond, and while were in the the theater, making fun of all the nerds dressed up like Harry, we noticed the guy in front of us was drawing a dragon. Not just a little dragon on a scrap of paper, a big dragon on a huge sketch pad. And it really was a very good sketch. Lawrence points it out, we quietly laugh at what a nerd that guy was, and then Lawrence says (loudly), "What a nerd! Who let him out of the nerdery? And that dragon sucks. I could draw a dragon that could puke on that dragon." And I was SO embarrassed, but I was laughing so hard, because for some reason I think my brother is hilarious, and I think I cried because I was laughing so hard. And then I reminded him that we, too, were (are) nerds, and even though we thought we were cool, we were still at the midnight showing of a Harry Potter movie. And after the movie, in true nerd form, we talked about how wrong it was from the book, and how the book was better, and got angry at how they changed it, and then we probably went to Krispy Kreme and tried to eat whole donuts in one bite, but it gets a little fuzzy at this point.

Well, that's it for now. I'll let you know if the book is any good.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

best discovery ever

Who has happy, cozy feet?

Cam does!
My bathroom floor is heated. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

funny kids

I think I work with some of the cutest, funniest kids.
Here are some funny things I have heard.
(translated from French for your ease)

scene 1
In the car, on the way to Mathilde's piano lesson
Mathilde: Mama, today I tried dates at school. I loved them!
Ivana: Wow, dates? You really liked them? Well, next time I go to the store, why don't you come with me and we can buy some.
Mathilde: Why do I need to go with you?
Ivana: So I don't forget!
Mathilde: You take a pen, you take a piece of paper, you write it down, bring it with you. It's not hard.

scene 2
dinner table
Bertrand: Malko, what do you want for your birthday?
Malko: Um, I want a telescope, so we can all look at the stars and planets.
Bertrand: What else?
Malko: I want a picture of you and Mama on your wedding day!

scene 3
Malko talking to everyone at dinner
Malko: Oh, the skies and flowers are so beautiful! The mountains! Oh! And Mama and Papa are very in love, and now Cami is here, and all three of you are all in love! Yay!

I love these kids, and I love my job.

Friday, October 17, 2008

it was a beautiful fall day

It really has been the nicest fall day. I had the day off, but instead of sleeping in, I diligently went to my French lesson in Nyon. I'm very glad I'm taking a French course, but nothing compares to being absolutely immersed in French. I'm kind of catching a bug for learning languages... Dan wants me to learn Latin, which would be good, but one of my friends here speaks Finnish, and I think I'd really like to learn a little. But I have heard it is extremely difficult to learn, so only if I'm up for a challenge. Which I am. So I'll let you know if I learn anything at all.

After my French class, my friend Kornelia and I went to Migros to do some shopping, and then went to McDonald's for lunch (I know, I know, all the places to eat here, but we ate it at the castle, so does that count for classy points? And when you want a big mac, you want a big mac).

Shopping at Migros leads me to my next point: I have given up my make-up snobbery. Officially over. Ok, not really, but as far as mascara goes, it's certainly over. For years I've been using MAC mascara. Fibre Riche initially stole my heart, and then I had a brief fling with Mascara X. Plush Lash came and took the prize for a long time. Then, I abruptly switched to Chanel Inimitable, which is the BEST mascara I have ever tried. Unfortunately, it is 39,90 CHF. That's roughly $39. !!!!! I just couldn't justify buying it (the Chanel mascara I really want to try is 47 CHF!). In the States, it's about $27... which is still ridiculous. So today, I bought drug-store mascara. I told Kornelia it was a big deal, but I think only the people who know me well will comprehend what a major day this is for Cam. I bought Cover-Girl Lash Blast. I like more than I thought I would. It's not as nice as the Chanel stuff, but it does the job. Don't worry, I haven't changed completely, it's still MAC, Nars, and Clinique for everything else.

Anyway, I had a great time with Kornelia, she's awesome and perfectly bilingual in Swedish and English, and doing very well at French, so she constantly inspires me to work hard. We also bought some food for the outreach in Geneva I mentioned a few posts ago. Tonight I'm going into the red light district with some friends, and we are going to pass out sandwiches and just try to make friends with people. We are going to find out what people might need - groceries, sleeping bags, warm clothes, etc., and then we are going to return with those items. While Switzerland is a rich country, there certainly are a lot of people who need help, so we are going to do something about it. Or, at least try. We're also looking up organizations we can partner with and further extend a helping hand. If you're the praying kind, we welcome your prayers! A lot of my friends here are "transitioning" in Switzerland, aka not living here permanently, so we want to make a positive impact on this country during our respective stays.

I really need to go catch my train, so I will post more later!

Au revoir!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I've been really neglecting my blog lately. I'm so sorry. I really have been busy!

Last weekend, I went to Anzère with a group of people (twenties 'n' thirties, aka TNT) from my church, and I had a wonderful weekend. We rented a chalet, hiked, built fires, ate fondue, drank wine, had a few devotional times together... so refreshing. I really feel like I'm making a home here. I know that someday soon, I will be so homesick for the States (already homesick for Chipotle and Target), but I have met amazing people, and I feel like I have transitioned pretty well. I think living with a Swiss family, and approaching this year with an open mind has really helped. I came knowing Switzerland would be different from the States, in ways I would expect, and completely not expect, and I think that mindset helped me settle in quite well. I know the honeymoon will end, but right now I'm just enjoying it.

Yesterday, I had the day off, and today I had an unexpected day off, so I've been just relaxing and catching up on the sleep I lost in Zermatt and Anzère. I know I'm growing up because I can't really sleep past 8am anymore. I just get up, no matter what time I went to bed the night before. For those of you who don't know me too well, this is a big deal. I need a lot of sleep to function, and I am definitely crabby in the mornings. No so much any more, though...

My French is really progressing. Yesterday, my friend Jenna and I found an adorable little crêperie in Nyon, and I spoke French with the server. When he found out I was an American, he was impressed that I even tried to speak French with him, and complimented me on my accent. We had a nice conversation in "franglais". I consider myself so lucky to be around French all day - my children don't speak any English, most of the dinner conversation is in French, we watch French movies, listen to French music, radio etc. I am so immersed in it, it's hard not to learn. I also try to speak a lot. At first I was very shy about it, but I've recently just gotten over it. Can't get better unless I try.

And just to reiterate, I am so so so thankful for my friends here. I remember crying to Dan via Skype, and saying, "I just need one friend, that's all I need." Well, now I have many, many friends that I love dearly. I am so happy and content in my relationships. It's wonderful. I will leave you all with a photo (that I stole from Ben. Thanks Ben.). Outside of our chalet, ready to go, everyone happy after a great time.

Great group of people, huh? I think so. I will definitely try to post a little more regularly! The kids are on holiday this week and the next, so my days are up in the air. But this Saturday I'm having an international thanksgiving with some friends, so I'll try to take loads of pictures.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Saturday the 4th, I woke up at 5:30, caught a train at 6:30, to board a bus at 7:15 in Nyon. Me and 60 other au pairs.

It was great fun. While I absolutely hate waking up and getting out of bed, I do love being up in the mornings. I think that stems from my years of working in a coffee shop. There is something special about walking through a city at sunrise, witnessing something gorgeous that happens every day without fail, but generally goes unnoticed.

I arrived in Nyon at 6:41, and I had a lot of time. So, I wandered to an open bakery, and got a pain au chocolat and some fizzy water. The woman who was working didn't just grab one from the display, she got on straight from the oven. My plan was to walk to the castle and eat in the courtyard, overlooking the lake (the side door is always open), but my croissant was so warm, and the chocolate so gooey... I couldn't help myself and DEVOURED it on my way to the castle. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It probably wasn't the best pain au chocolat in the whole world, but it certainly hit the spot. Here's the view from the castle courtyard (well, when there is daylight):
Can you see why I like to go there and think? It's lovely. Anyway, it was drizzling a bit, and the lights from France were glittering across the water, and I just sat and thought. I like to just sit and think these days. When it was closer to 7:15, I headed back to the train station to meet up with the other au pairs and to claim a seat on the coach bus.

The whole trip was organized by a really great couple, Paul & Becky. They organize and run an au pair club, centered in Nyon, for people in the Geneva/Lausanne region. It's a great resource for au pairs, and Paul & Becky are some of the nicest people you will meet. They've lived in Switzerland for 22 years, so they know the ins and outs. Check out the website for information.

Anyway, somehow all the au pairs made it, and we left for Zermatt. I couldn't sleep at all. I stupidly left my iPod at home, and my book was under the bus with my luggage, so I just stared out the window at the gray weather, and prayed that it would clear up so we would have a nice hike.

After about 3 hours, give or take, we arrived in Täsch, and had to take a train into Zermatt, because no cars (or huge coach buses) are allowed in the town. When we arrived, it was like a postcard. Imagine what you think a Swiss village should look like, complete with flowers, gingerbread woodwork, and beautiful Europeans in designer ski-wear, and there you have it. To top it off, it was snowing. It felt like Christmas. We trekked to the hostel, got settled in our rooms, and then departed for a short (6 km) hike to Z'Mutt and back. The sun came out before our hike, and it turned into a beautiful day. At Z'Mutt we stopped at a little place for apple strudel with vanilla sauce. ZOMG it was so good. I had a hot chocolate, a great view of the Matterhorn, and good conversation. So nice.
our view of Z'Mutt while hiking back to Zermatt

After we got back, I ran to the grocery store with some of my roommates and got lunch and dinner for Sunday. It's hard to buy groceries when you know you don't have refrigeration or access to an oven/microwave. We realized we would be able to put some things on the windowsill overnight, because it would certainly be cold enough. I got 2 baguettes, a little jar of nutella, baby bell cheeses, and some dried meat. Perfect. We made it back to the hostel in time for dinner (which was actually really good), and then we (my roommates and I) decided to stay in for the night. Turns out we were the only girls who decided to stay in... But it was so worth it. We talked a ton about au pairing, and family differences, and the lights were out before 10pm. I slept like a rock, thanks to the fresh mountain air, good stretch of the legs, and amazing down comforter. I woke up before 7, and was able to capture a few pictures of the Matterhorn at sunrise - I took this from the window in the hostel.

Matterhorn... it's nice to wake up to this

Sunday was our big hike. We met at 9, and took the train up to Gornegratt. The view was absolutely breath-taking. I didn't take too many photos because I just knew I couldn't capture it. The first one is me on the "observation deck" (for lack of a better term), and the second is actually just a picture I took of the glaciers while eating lunch, but that's what you could see from the top. Incredible.

it's me!It was so beautiful, it was ridiculous

We started our 3.5 hour hike down, and it was awesome. After a short time we decided to stop and eat our lunch. Here are my roommates/new traveling buddies/partners in crime:

I had such a great time with those girls. The hike was tough, because it was downhill the whole way (about 14 km). When you think downhill, you think, "oh, that's way easier", but really, it's just as hard. My feet were hurting because I was trying to grip the ground, and I was curling them up in my shoes. By the end, my knees were so sore from the repeated impact. But what made it even tougher was the snow... It had snowed about 10 cm, and with all the hikers and the sun, the snow got pretty packed, and it was dangerous. It was great packing snow, would have made for an awesome snowball fight, but dangerous for hiking. Sadly, right when we arrived, a lady fell, bloodied her nose, and broke a tooth. This wasn't on the hiking path, either - it was in front of the mall by the observation area. We all realized we needed to be very careful. Nevertheless, I still fell about 27236 times. One time my feet just slipped out from under me, but there was no snow or ice to blame - just dry meadow grass. Taryn took a picture of me just sitting there and laughing - before I realized I fell on thorns...

But really, the hike was beautiful. This is a picture from the worst spot of the whole hike. The only way I can think to describe it is like that famous road in San Francisco - down a steep hill with lots of little hairpin turns. Now, when I started this hike, I knew I was pretty high up there (over 3000 km), but the trail was flanked by level ground. I knew at some points it would be steeper on the edges, but I didn't think it would be so steep that my palms would sweat and my tummy would drop and my knees would get weak and I would feel like ants were crawling up my back because there was a sheer drop and the trail was packed with ice and snow and if I lost my footing I WOULD DIE.

Ok, I'm being a little dramatic, but it really was intense. We took it very slow, and Jenna and Mavis alternated holding my hand, and Taryn bravely led the way. The other girls from our little group were faster, and waited for us at the bottom, which was sweet. When we got down, I looked back to take a picture, but it was hard to pick out the trail, because it just looked like a snowy cliff.

can you see the grass in the very bottom of the picture? yeah, that's a cliff.

Anyway, we reached Zermatt without further incident (it's that town on the floor of the valley in the last picture). We changed clothes, packed up, and met up with everyone else from our massive group at the train station. It was definitely worth every penny. I highly recommend Zermatt if you want to hike, ski, or snowboard, but it is very very expensive. I made some great friends, planned a trip to somewhere warm (or as Jenna calls it, our sunny vacay), and just had a ball. This weekend I'm going to Anzère, so I will have more stories to tell.

I really want to write more but my brain just shut down. And I realized I've been writing/formatting this post for about 2 hours now (I get easily distracted). Time to finish a novel, and go to bed - tomorrow I only work until 11am, yea! Happy Tuesday, tout le monde!

Friday, October 3, 2008

catch up

It's been a week since I last posted! Sorry. It's been crazy busy! This is going to be long.

Let's see:

Saturday was two major events: Desalpes, and the kids' huge joint birthday party. It was a blast. I got up early and headed into St. Cergue with Bertrand and the kids (Ivana went to set up the party) and it was a blast. We saw hundreds of cows passing, flowers on their heads and massive bells around their necks, heard a "choir" of alphorns (I had no idea they sounded so beautiful), and some yodelers, ate raclette and drank white wine (even though it was only 10 am), and I bought a bell for Dan's grandparents' bell collection. I met up with a friend after Bertrand and the kids went to swimming lessons. It was great fun.
After that, I took the train home and Bertrand picked me up at the station for the kids big birthday bash. The family rented a little log cabin in the woods, and we built a big fire, and the kids (and ridiculous gifts) came pouring in. The adults had a great spread of cheese, grapes, figs, beer, wine, and champagne. The kids had enough candy for a week-long sugar high. There were two "clowns" who kinda ran the whole thing, and they face-painted, led the kids in a dance time, cut & served the cake, and even held the pinata while the kids swung wildly. It was fun, and very very exhausting.
Sunday I played guitar at church and had to learn a bunch of new songs. My friend Brad lent me his guitar for a few days (so nice - the kids loved it too; we had sing-a-longs). Also, Ivana left for San Diego Sunday, leaving me & Bertrand to manage the kids. While Bertrand is an awesome dad, he doesn't really "get" taking care of kids full-time like the mom (or nanny), which is a pretty internationally-accepted stereotype of fathers. Before she left, Ivana asked if I'd help out a tiny bit more than I normally do when she's gone, because "Bertrand is a man, and he does not know" (her words, not mine).

Monday and Tuesday were low-key, but Wednesday was my birthday! That's right, I'm 26. And guess what. It was the first time in my whole life that I didn't care that it was my birthday. Didn't care one iota. But I really had a nice day. I had to work all day; Malko in the morning (he spent the afternoon with his grandparents) and Mathilde and her friend Kiara in the afternoon. But it was a breeze, because the kids are so great. It was especially nice to have Kiara around, because she is fluent in English - her mom is from New York! She translated between Mathilde and me, which is a luxury we don't normally get. I'm usually running to the French/English dictionary with a confused look on my face. Ivana called in the morning from San Diego and said the sweetest things to me - she wished all my dreams to come true, wished me every happiness, and just wished me a great day. I got a little choked up - I work with the best family. I went out to dinner with a few of my girlfriends, and it was good fun, although our server was very crabby. Though I took pictures of the beautiful wrapping jobs the girls did, I didn't get any pictures with the girls... so I stole this one from Laura. Is it just me or do I look a little like Gramma P in this picture? I love my au pair friends - they are all so great. They got me a Swiss army knife, Cheetos, Reeses' Pieces, and some L'Occitane lavendar hand lotion. Then I got a nice voicemail from my parents and I got to video chat with Dan for a while, which made it perfect. It would have been the best day if he could have been here, but that's ok. I'll see him soon, I'm sure. Right, Dan?

Thursday was great - I sent the kids off to school, ran into Nyon and did some quick shopping, met up with Becky and she helped me get my demi-tariff (150 CHF for a card that gives you half off on all public transportation in CH, valid for a year which = awesome), came back home, collected the children from school, and came home just as their grandparents came to get them. I then had the whole afternoon free, which I spent practicing piano and voice, and making peanut butter bars for my small group. I think the best part was during small group - during prayer requests one of the guys mentioned he'd been reading a book on homelessness, and we all got enthusiastic about helping out the less fortunate in our area. While Switzerland is usually considered a country of "negative poverty", there are homeless, refugees, and a lot of prostitution and sex trafficking. We decided we are going to do something about it. Not sure what, but the weekend of October 17-19 we are going to the streets of Geneva to pass out food, clothes, whatever we can. Just talk to people and show them love, and relationship. That's what Jesus did, right? Hung out with the least of men? So we are going to do it too.

Tomorrow I leave for Zermatt. I have not started packing at all, and I need to catch the 6:30am train. Ugh. Cross your fingers for clear skies and no rain/snow! I will be sure to post loads of pictures up on my return.

à bientôt!