Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yvoire, France

How's life? Not too shabby.

Dad has a new linen hat. Very classy! What happened to you, Mom? You look really happy, in any case.

Me and my blue-eyed girl

Grandpa Jerry, Grandma Elaine and Joran

We took a boat to the medieval town of Yvoire, France. This is one of four ice cream stops that we made that warm, sunny day. Grandma has sported her Obama T-shirt multiple times in the last 4 weeks. She's so proud of it and many Genevans and others have given her the thumbs-up.

Lac Leman/Lake Geneva is always lovely! The lake and the mountains are always near the top of my list of things I appreciate in my life! They're always outranked by these two wonderful guys, however!

Do you like my new hat?

Costco beef jerky...Yum!

I always recommend a trip to Yvoire. We've been there several times. It's relaxing, we enjoy lunch at a small place a bit off the main path, views are great, there's a lovely walk through the farmland countryside just behind the town -- it's so very French! The people are friendly and it's listed as one of the most beautiful towns of France.

Love, Jolene =)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best Place for Us Right Now

Geneva is the best place for us right now!

The number one thing I love about Geneva is that it has been a springboard for my personal growth. I believe that outer struggles I have are a result of what I've got going on inside -- my vibration, in Law of Attraction speak. Having many challenges and being so far removed from "the story of my life" that my left-brained ego had manufactured, I was able to understand myself, trust myself, value myself and believe in myself on a new level. The lonliness that I felt in the early days pushed me to build a community of online friends who are an essential part of discovering these parts of myself. My cells swell with appreciation for them and all that I have, and inner peace is no longer something I experience when all of the conditions are perfect. I now know from the inside out that the value of myself needs no justification.

And there are so many other things to love about Geneva:

1. The scenery is beautiful! White swans glide on crystal-clear water against a backdrop of various mountains peaked with snow. We have a close-up view of Mont Saleve, part of the Alpine range. Sunsets turn the layers of white rock a rosy pink. We can also hike this mountain, take a cable car or drive up. From Lake Geneva, we can see some of the higher Alps, and riding a boat to other cities along the lake is pure relaxation.

2. Location, location, location... Geneva is in the middle of Europe!

3. We are much closer to John's family than we used to be, and have enjoyed their visits here and our visits in the Netherlands.

4. My French has improved in the last 1 1/2 years.

5. Lots of parks, including the Jardins Botaniques, which has a great sandy playground and fountain, and the most whimsical carousel I've ever seen. And including Parc des Bastions, where you can play chess and checkers with pieces so big that you have to pick them up with both hands -- very cool.

6. House calls when you need to have your blood drawn, because there are so many pharmacies that they compete for your business.

7. Croissants, light and warm, melting in my mouth.

8. Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Armani, and more... anytime I have an urge for some good window licking... I mean window shopping.

9. Not having to check the bus schedule because I know another one will be there within minutes.

10. English spoken almost anywhere in case I'm in a pinch.

11. Open markets here and there and everywhere throughout the week, including Plainpalais, which also has a flea market twice each week.

12. Being able to find almost everything we want and being able to live pretty much the way we want to.

13. Jasmijn was born here.

14. I suppose I could go on and on, because I am finally really feeling happy here, enjoying summer, knowing that Geneva's not our forever-home, but The Best Place for Us Right Now!

Live well!
Jolene =)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Geneva Pros and Cons

We moved to Geneva January 9, 2008. By John's first day of work January 14, 2008, we were all sicker than we'd been in years, and I ended up taking Joran to the emergency room, because there were no pediatricians available, and I just couldn't stick it out after several days of fevers and then complaints of earache. That was the beginning of more challenges than we imagined we'd encounter in this cross-continental move.

We were so excited to make this move! And so ready, too. Even though the Pacific Northwest felt like home, we were still wondering if we should try out Europe before deciding to settle anywhere. John was born and raised in Gouda, The Netherlands and I had traveled throughout Europe during a Junior Year Abroad program with Smith College. Coincidentally, that program had been in Geneva. Everything came together beautifully for our move and we had every reason to believe that it would continue so. We were both looking forward to many travels and more time with the Dongelmans family and I was looking forward to picking up that old romance with Europe.

I have to admit that the move clarified a lot for us. We got out of what was feeling like a bit of a rut... or at least some aspects of our lives that didn't quite fit. We have spent a lot more time with John's family. I'm so happy to know them better. I've experienced city life in Geneva and know it's not for me. I've experimented with balcony gardening and now know I prefer a yard full of dirt, rocks and deeply rooted plants. I am sure that the best thing for my family is wide open space, a forest, a little privacy, wildlife, and friendly neighbors. However much I love that we don't have a car and ride the bus instead, I prefer a car now that I have children. Cars provide the freedom, privacy and quiet time that we need right now.

There are a few top drawbacks of living here for us: cigarette smoke everywhere, lack of customer service, lack of general friendliness and smiles on the street, general disrespect for children and teens, less freedom to do as I please than I am used to in the USA. There was a law passed last summer that there will be no smoking indoors in Geneva, but because of the way the government works here and people fighting the law, it is not yet enforced. In any case, there are so many smokers on the street, getting away from it is impossible outside of our apartment. Even there, it drifts over from the neighbor's balcony. Even Jasmijn's first doctor arrived smelling like an ash tray.

The customer service is shocking. I frequently stand unacknowledged at a cash counter while cashiers finish talking or folding clothes until they're ready to help me. If I ask where something is, I am often met with an obscure wave in the direction of where the employee thinks the desired product is. Heaven forbid if I want to return something! I can expect a scowl and/or downright refusal. Caution going into a toy store, because children are generally not allowed to touch the toys until after they are purchased.

I'm used to smiles and hellos in most American cities, and I've known for a long time that this is not part of European etiquette, but it still turns out to be a real downer and have a huge impact on our daily experience.

I never thought I'd be so patriotic, but now I really feel the value of "the land of the free." Geneva has a lot of rules, and I know that those rules are, in theory, there to help people live peacefully and respectfully together (did I mention "in theory"?), but I find them so constricting and adding to a feeling of mistrust in others. I try to live my life in a way that is considerate to others, but I'm also all about the grey areas of life. I believe that a self-determined life is the best life and we should all be working to understand eachother and support eachother to live the life we see fit. I don't think we should be worried about telling anyone else how they should live their lives and making laws to enforce what we think is best for anyone else. Except maybe make a law against making a law. (wink)

As for what seems to be the dominant parenting philosophy, I've seen the best behaved young children here and the worst behaved teens. It makes me think that the small children must be behaving out of fear or other manipulation and then the teens must be rebelling out of anger at having been so disrespected. I've seen a number of children hit and shouted at in public. Joran was even swatted by his own doctor once. The doctor then gave me a lecture about not being authoritarian enough with Joran. We won't be going back.

Anyways, I have written enough of an essay about things I don't like about Geneva. I think I'll start fresh with another post to tell you about why I'm glad we made this move, what we've learned and how we've grown.


A Good Weekend

Nothing new to really speak of. Just a weekend of 80 degree (F) weather in Geneva, playing at a beach park, swinging on tire swings, wandering through a rose garden, wading through fountains, enjoying picnics and conversations.... People have been kind on the buses, offering their seats to my parents and I. Smokers have been kind to move when I asked if they wouldn't mind smoking farther away from my family. That was a surprise here in Switzerland where smoking is considered a basic human right. Hmm... maybe Geneva isn't so bad after all.

John is at the tail-end of a week-long business trip, and spending a couple days in the Seattle area. He sounds so very HAPPY there! It still feels like home. I somehow have "Christmas in the Northwest" running through my head.

I'm going to an Aveda hair salon tomorrow. Mmmm... anticipating the luxury.

Live well,
Jolene =)

Friday, June 5, 2009


Tickle time is the best time.

Jasmijn is a joy. And she loves Joran so. Everything is okay with her. She goes after toys and finds that Joran wants to have them as his own. It's still okay with Jasmijn -- she loves him even as he takes a new-found toy away. He has grown sweeter and sweeter with her and is so obviously proud to be her brother. He will always be her first Knight in Shining Armor. All is quite well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fully Authentic

I've had enough with BE NICE philosophy. Yes, I know that everyone in this culture seems to live by it, but I think we would be so much better off and closer to peace if we would be Fully Authentic.

Joran is Fully Authentic. He's not yet spoiled by cultural and parental pressure to BE NICE so that others can feel good. Deep down, he must know that making others feel good is not his responsibility, and he creates many opportunities to remind me and others along his path of this fact. In the past, I have described Joran as intense and sometimes explosive, but forget it! We can all be intense and explosive when we are trying to be authentic in the face of overwhelming social pressure to BE NICE.

Trying to BE NICE only leads to resentment, because not everyone is nice all of the time. Not everyone is nice when we need them to be nice, so we are left with a bitter taste in our mouths. We want revenge. "Well, if my neighbor wasn't nice to me, why should I be nice to him?!" we ask ourselves. Then it unfolds to more blanket statements like, "The customers aren't nice to me, so I shouldn't have to be nice to them!" And then there are the times when BE NICE philosophy collapses on our families, "I'm not going to be nice to my kids when they are being so disrespectful of me!" Does "vicious circle" come to mind?

BE NICE is pretty hard to let go of after having it drilled into us for a lifetime. Maybe it helps to remember that when those helpful folks were trying to teach us to BE NICE, they probably weren't being very nice themselves. What were the "real" lessons of BE NICE? And does it make any sense? The "real" lessons went something like this: "you be nice so my life will be a little easier," "you be nice so that I can feel good," "be nice so that I don't have to deal with my own emotions as I react to your words/behavior," "I am more mentally and physically developed than you, so I can make you be nice," "when you are bigger and more powerful, you can force others to behave the way you want them to behave," and so many more.

I think it's time for us to trust that our children are innately social and want to be a productive part of their community. Let us trust that they will do this when they are developmentally ready. Let us listen for the lessons the children have to teach us so that we might turn into ourselves to discover and sound the trumpet of our own authenticity. I believe that once we have our cultural blinders off, we will find that true authenticity speaks and acts with love.

With much appreciation for All That Is. All is well.

Jolene =)