Look what came in the post today:
"Hm. More Roman History books. I wonder if they taste better than the other Italian book I had for dinner last week?"
Ah! A few necessities arrived from the States. More Roman books for Mr. Wild Dingo, a few American/English-speaking movie DVDs and ...
"I see no shoes. I hear no shoes. I smell no shoes. I taste no shoes."
I ordered 2 new pairs of Dansko's, my all-time favorite shoe brand to replace the other two pairs that the criminal above destroyed. They do sell Dansko's here in Geneva, but the styles are not the same styles you can get in the U.S. Now I'm a simple gal. I don't have a ton of shoes. And in fact, except for a few special high-heels for dressy occasions, I just don't wear Ferragamos or Manolo Blahnik. Nor do I buy a pair of shoes for every outfit. I'm low maintenance. You'd think I could find something similar here in CH.
Note Bene: In case you don't know, "CH" does not stand for Cheese or Chocolate. Though I think it should. Because until you come here, it's entirely impossible to convey the vastness of cheese or chocolate variety at the grocery store. Instead, the initials "CH" stand for one of the NINE names that Switzerland goes by. Yes, it has NINE names.
The country has 4 official languages, in order of dominance: German, French, Italian, Romansh. But if you can't speak any of those, don't be surprised if the Swiss speak English to you because that's pretty much the default second language here. German Swiss speak English to the French Swiss who also speak English. Still, not everyone speaks English so you can't take for granted that they do and must always try to speak either French or German.
So for a country with four languages, it's not surprising that it should have at least four names. Ah, but the Swiss have two methods of communicating: formally and informally. So the first four names are the formal names which is appropriate because the Swiss are quite formal in their relationships and communication styles. They are: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Confederation suisse, Confederazione svizzera, confedraziun svizra.
Still no similarity to the letters CH, huh? The next four are shortened informal versions: Schwiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra, which are the equivalent of being someone's first name. That only makes eight names. So what's the ninth?
Well with eight names in different languages, all too long and not useful in Eurosports, they decided to find a name that could be acceptable in all national languages, a Latin-based name: Confoederatio Helvetica, the 9th and official name of Switzerland. The English translation is Helvetic Confederation. I could go on about the name in terms of its ironic historic inaccuracy but this is a blog about dogs and a post about shoes, or more accurately, "chausseurs." Who cares if the name is historically accurate, right?
So what was I saying? You'd think I could buy something similar to my favorite Dansko's here in CH. But no. One cannot. The only Dansko's they seem to carry here are ugly. Swiss women wear a lot of ballet slipper-type of shoes or boots. The boots I get. The ballet slippers? I just don't get. There's no support and they seem very cold! I've never been a fan of ballet-style shoes, except maybe when I was 15. But I'm old now. And I need some damn support. Ballet slippers are not gonna cut it. Come to think of it, neither is my California "winter" jacket. Shoot another item to add to the shopping list. And shopping is just something that I don't want to do here in CH.
"I agree. Dansko's taste much better than ballet-slippers. Please don't ever get a pair of those!"
You see, the shopping in CH is, well, tres difficile. The Swiss place a huge value on their home lifestyle. That means by Saturday, 6:00 PM, everything closes. Shops remain closed until Monday at 9, or 1 or sometimes Tuesday at 9 AM. During the weekday shops are open until 6. If you are a late worker, you're pretty much screwed if you are out of milk during a week night. So most Swiss shop on Saturdays. The grocery, clothing and furniture stores are jammed by noon Saturdays. Try going to Ikea on a Saturday and see if you make it out of there alive. So if you're shopping all day on Saturday for groceries, it leaves little time to shop for clothing or whatever else you desire.
That leaves only 1 day on the weekend to enjoy. I mean, I don't know about you all but I don't enjoy grocery shopping, so to spend my Saturdays doing that would seriously make me cranky. Thankfully, I don't work now, so I can shop during the week for us. Still, since we share a car, it's not that easy and it must be planned.
So compound the difficulty of getting to a store at a convenient time with the availability of products here. Here's where the real culture shock comes in. In France, one is never far from a Gap clothing store. But there are no Gaps here. No Bananna Republics. This wouldn't be so bad but the equivalents I'm able to find within walking distance from my house, are, um, without style. I just don't know how else to put it. I desperately need some heavy cargo pants for dog walking. Just basic, button and zip up, normal rise, 4 -6 pockets, straight or boot leg cut. Nothing fancy. What I found was $50 thin-fabric, ugly bunchy pants that tightly tapered at the ankle. If MC Hammer went camouflage you'd have a good idea of what they looked like. Now picture that with ballet slippers and my White Snake '80's hair cut and you'll start to get a feel for my new look.
Note Bene: For those who've seen my haircut on FaceBook and think it's OK. Well, let Mr. Wild Dingo be the first to tell you that if I don't drastically work hard on it every day, it seriously looks like something out of a 1980's metallica band fan-club. And for extra punch, it can even look like a mullet! Not to mention, the bangs stick straight up like Alfalfa from Little Rascals unless I use a half a stick of super glue to keep them down. Or a hat. I'm not exaggerating here. This is the first haircut in my 40+ years I've ever had that I left me thinking "WTF?" Because you know, hair grows out, its not forever so I don't much care if it's not a great cut. But this took the cake. I don't have it in my heart to experiment again. Hair cutting scissors have been ordered. It's that bad.
"Oh this here lint speck is sure more interesting than that tasty shoe over there."
Sure it is Juno. You little criminal.
Finding other basics has been difficult, like a good source of Vitamin C or Fish Oil which have been an international trend for human diet supplementing. I can't find Vitamin c here with more than 50 mg and I prefer to take 250-500 mg. We've tried Internet shopping but we're prohibited from buying food or vitamins from another countries on the Internet. If we do manage to find a product we like that isn't food or vitamin, we pay a heavy duty.
And what's the deal with roasted almonds? Why can't I find some decent almonds? I can buy pistachios, mixed nuts and peanuts until I'm blue in the face. But no almonds. Sigh. This is going to be a hard three years.
It's funny, the Swiss are heavily prided in being self-reliant and producing "Swiss-made" products. Yet, when we can't find a product here, and need to buy it internationally, we're taxed 25%! So basically, if it's not made here, you can't buy it. Or if you buy it, you must pay the government a lot of money for them not being able to supply it.
While I can't find fish oil locally, I found 2 Internet sites that deliver here, a German holistic dog care site and a UK dog care site that will ship fish oil tablets here for reasons I still can't understand since other merchants in other countries have said they cannot.
"Ya, like I'm to blame for all the eaten shoes in this house."
So thanks to the TravelMarx (who are visiting in November), they shipped us a supply of Airborne, dog treats, books, two pairs of shoes and some DVDs. Just don't tell the CH government. After all, it's their fault that my original old, non-tax worthy shoes got eaten in the first place. I'm starting to think that CH stands for all the "CHaussures" that Siberians consume from foiling Swiss-made door handles. Geez, you'd think with the focus on banking systems here, they'd at least have a method of closing door latches that was, um, hard to open for someone without opposable thumbs. So I don't think it's fair I should have to pay duty on the replacement ones, do you?
No cash for the treat jar but you'd like to show the love? No problem! Connect with me on LinkedIn and endorse my creative writing skills. Thanks for the love!
"Your project is guaranteed to meet superior Siberian standards or I will fatally masticate it. You have my "woo" on that!"
"I keep your project safe from crows, coyotes, and flies. I prefer to be paid in salmon treats and tennis balls."
"I manage the treat jar & the staff's daily payroll of cookies and bones. The staff is excellent at math and let me know when I come up short."