Category Archives: Geneva Stories

Shout About The Clinton Foundation From the Rooftops!

From 1999 to 2002, I was saving the world.

That’s how I described my job at the World Health Organization, anyway.  And while it was modestly said tongue in cheek, I honestly did/do feel like that’s exactly what I was doing.  Saving the World.  And it made me proud.  I’m still proud, even though most of what I did was email folks who were actually saving the world.

In the early 2000s, Africa was a public health nightmare .  HIV/AIDs was spreading and with it the ancient scourge of Tuberculosis, which was hoped to be contained and ultimately was instead increasing.  That’s because about 40% of HIV patients have latent TB, which develops into full blown TB, a highly contagious airborne infection.  One that since my day has become more drug resistant.

Drugs for HIV — anti-retrovirals, were expensive.  Prohibitively so for the people who needed them most.  The infrastructure for getting the drugs where they were most needed often didn’t exist.  People were dying.  Lots of people were dying because of disease and the inability to get and/or afford medicine.

I left WHO just as the Clinton Foundation started saving that part of the world.

The Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) worked with existing groups including the WHO and the U.N.  But it brought clout to a field that was mired in bureaucracy.  It cut to the chase.  And it solved many of the problems of drug affordability and delivery.  They negotiated incredible price deals.  They worked on getting drugs to the people who needed it most, beginning with HIV-positive mothers because 90% of them transmitted HIV to their newborn babies.

The Clinton Foundation is everything American outreach should be.  It should not be shuttered.  We Americans should be shouting about the Clinton Foundation as a beacon of light.  Exactly the way we all want the US to be viewed in the world.  We Americans do good work.  Good Works.

The Clinton Foundation is saving the world.

What is President Bill Clinton’s successor doing?

 

Google Image

Google Image

 

George W Bush sure as hell ain’t saving the world.

 

 

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Give Peace A Chance – Bomb Agrabah

It was one of the most embarrassing things about working at the World Health Organization for an American like me.  My knowledge of geography really wasn’t all that hot.

I was pretty good at Europe.  I knew that Italy is shaped like a boot, and Switzerland, where I was living, looked like a delicious croissant.  Russia and China?  No problem.  South Africa and Chile — those were easy — they’re at the bottom (and I had been to Chile, so I knew that it was south).

It didn’t help that several countries changed names at the precise moment when I was trying to find them on the map.  Yeah, I’m talking to you Burma/Myanmar. 

But I’m a pretty quick study.  My knowledge of geography grew daily as I had to figure out where the hell everybody was when they went away without me.  Today I can proudly say that I, an American citizen, am no longer geographically challenged.  I’m so good, I can even find Malawi on a map.

Malawi

It’s right there at 4:00.  Google Image.

So I will admit feeling a wee bit sanctimonious when I learned that the GOP wants to bomb every Arab city including Agrabah.  Because I know where it can be found.

GOP voters support bombing Agrabah!

Those stupid Republicans!  They don’t even know where Agrabah is!  They don’t remember their, umm, history.  I know that it’s the town from The Arabian Knights.  Agrabah, the city of magic is the stuff of fiction, and folk lore and Disney movies.

 

Agrabah is where Aladin and Jasmin lived.  The city they flew over on the magic carpet.  Oh and the Genie.  He was there too.

My bloggin’ buddy, Bruce Thiesen wrote an interesting piece about the GOP, that made me think that bombing Agrabah isn’t such a bad idea.

I figure, by focusing all our military efforts on Agrabah, we can rewrite Middle Eastern politics and history.

  • We can shoot fictitious people instead of real flesh and blood ones!
  • We can carpet bomb the hell out of a magic city instead of ones with bricks and mortar and things like hospitals and schools.
  • We can demonstrate to the world that we are willing to use the most terrible of weapons if anybody tries anything on us, but without hurting a fly.  Or a flying carpet.

Bombing the shit out of Agrabah will satisfy the blood lust of the Right Wing without hurting any real people.  The GOP will be happy, the Military-Industrial Complex will get their $$$$$ and nobody gets hurt (well, except the taxpayers). It’s a win-win-win.  Lots of wins.

This is how we give peace a chance.

I’m expecting the Nobel Peace Prize for this baby.

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A-Sick – Abroad

When you move to another country where you don’t speak the language, you expect things to be challenging.  But I think that there are scientific studies that estimate that the odds of your expectations equaling reality is precisely 5,392,487 to 1.

When we moved to Geneva in 1997, we, like all other expats, knew that there would be culture shock.  We didn’t speak the language.  We didn’t know our way around.  We were babes in the woods and there were wild boar in them thar hills.  Oh, and in those woods.

In fact, we hadn’t been in Switzerland long before John came down with a cold.  NBD, right?  Off to the pharmacy we went.

But of course, we couldn’t speak the language, which made it a bit of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I took my responsibility as family french speaker seriously.  I went to the pharmacy with my husband with my English-French/French-English dictionary in hand.

My husband has a cold (mon mari a un rhume).  He has a stuffy nose (il a un nez bouché).
Sadly, my french was not really good. And I learned again that day that if you are foolish enough to speak to a french speaker in French, the asshole will respond to you in french!  WTF??????  Why do they DO that?

Anyway, in pidgeon french, I told the pharmacist that we wanted a decongestant.  And really, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

“Vous avez besoin d’un lavage de nez,” said the pharmacist.

John and I looked at each other.

“She’s recommending a nose washer,” I said.  “I guess that makes sense.  I guess a decongestant will “wash you nose.”

We were handed a box and the pharmacist allowed us to open it to look at the instructions.  The illustrated instructions.  Color illustrations. of a man leaning over the sink with a ‘lavage de nez’ in one nostril and a stream of green snot pouring out of the other.

Lavage de nez 1

I am not just using this picture because my husband is a big baby when he gets sick.  Really.  Google Image

Ewwww.

Upon our return to the US, we learned that netti pots had become popular remedies for stuffy noses.

Ewwww.

They also spread infection because they are difficult to clean.  And then there is the goo that goes into the sink….

Ewwww.

Tonight while spending money I don’t have on gifts for folks, I saw a commercial for a Navage.

So I needed to share my story.  Because that’s what we bloggers do.

 

Ewwww.

I just felt it necessary to prove that I don’t only think about poop when I think about weird medical treatments.

But of course, everything I discuss would interest any 12 year old.  Like me.

You’re welcome.

 

 

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Fathers and Daughters

The father-daughter relationship is fraught with all the possibilities a therapist could wish for.  Even in my family.

Well, except for my relationship with my father.

You go ask Dad …” was one of the enduring sounds of my childhood.I only asked “why me” once:

It was a hot summer day when I was about four.  I was happily cooling off in the puddles on the sidewalk.  I didn’t even really want to go to the beach.  My brothers and sister did, though.

“Go ask Dad if he’ll take us to the beach,” Judy commanded.

That summer, Dad, already working two jobs to support his wife and five kids was studying to take his insurance licensing test.

“Why me?” I whined.  “I always have to ask Dad.”

“‘Cause when you ask him, he always says yes” Bob responded.  Judy and Fred agreed.

So I went in and asked him.

Sure enough, he packed up his books, loaded the four of us up into the car, and headed off to Beardsley Park, where there was a delightful stream that formed the most wonderful pools of different depths, where we would each be happy and cool.   I can still see Dad sitting on a rock ledge in the shade, his pants legs rolled up, his feet in the water and a large black binder on his lap.

I never again asked “Why me” when it came to getting Dad to do anything. Because I realized that my brothers and sisters were right.  Dad always said yes to me.

Somehow, the fact that I was the clear favorite in Dad’s eyes was rarely held against me by my brothers and sisters who all had far more complicated relationships with Dad.  It was pretty much accepted by everybody.  That’s just how it was.

Dad and Me in Geneva, June 1998.  You have to guess which is me.

Dad and Me in Geneva, June 1998. You have to guess which is me.

I don’t have any recordings of his voice, which was deep and scary (to everybody but me) when we were kids, and became deep and comforting when we were grown. But this song, while he never heard it, always makes me feel close to Dad, who died in 2000. Today would have been his 98th birthday.

I love you, Dad.

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Lovely Rita

Lovely Rita meter maid,
Nothing can come between us,
When it gets dark I tow your heart away.
Standing by a parking meter,
When I caught a glimpse of Rita,
Filling in a ticket in her little white book.
In a cap she looked much older,
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man.

How can you live in America, be named Rita, and have never heard “Lovely Rita”?

It was 1979, and I worked at the office of the International Tax Program. (WAKE UP!!!! I’m not gonna talk about tax, I promise.) The ITP was a pleasant place to work part time, as I was in my freshman year of college. The people who worked there were an incredibly kind bunch of folks.

My desk sat right out front in the area immediately inside the doors to the ITP’s offices. My desk was right next to Rita’s, the receptionist.

Naturally from the moment I met her, and from the instant I walked into the doors of the office every day for a year, I could hear the song.

Lovely Rita, Meta Maid …

I often called her “Lovely Rita” which is unlike me, and was even more unlike me when I was 21. I hummed the song and sang it softly all the time. The ear worm lasted the whole year I worked in the office.

My lovely Rita was an older woman – about 40 at the time, which seemed as ancient to me then as it seems young to me now. She’d emigrated from Germany, some years before, and was not at all familiar with English-language pop music.

It was some months after starting to work there that I learned Rita had never heard her own song. How could that be?

Naturally I went home planning to take the record into the office. But I couldn’t find my copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Anywhere.  It had vanished.

Nobody in the office had it, either. Nor did any of my friends.

I searched a couple of used record stores in Boston, and enlisted the help of my roommate, Elizabeth who was a record-store junky. Somehow, there were no copies of the album anywhere.

Unwilling to be completely defeated, I enlisted some talented friends – folks I’d been performing with in amateur musicals. Together, me, Erik and Terry serenaded Lovely Rita with her song.

We sounded something like this:

Well.  Kind of like that.

My friend, my lovely Rita loved it.  For the rest of the time I worked there, she would hum along with me when I sang it.

*     *     *

This is my entry in Knocked Over By A Feather’s Beatles Contest.  The rules are pretty simple — tell a story using the lyrics to any one of several Beatles songs:  Across the Universe, Baby You’re a Rich Many, Good Day Sunshine, Hey Bulldog or Lovely Rita.  Guess which one I chose.

Go and enter.  It’s fun.

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Filed under Beatles, Boston, Geneva Stories, Humor, Music

Back with Julie

One week after landing in a hazy, overcast, gray Geneva, Switzerland, I had my very first taste of what I’d moved 3,000 miles to experience.  And it was, of course, magical.

I was alone for the first time in weeks.  Exploring.  John was working, Jacob was safely at his first day of school.  I was on my own, with only our Bernese Mountain Dog, Charlie, for company when it happened.

I was driving down the Route de Divonne when the clouds, at long last, parted.  And there they were – just past the now glistening Lake Geneva — the mountains.  The Alps!  Mont Blanc, with its year-round snowy peak, the highest mountain in Europe. The Alps danced right there — just through my windshield.  I could practically reach out and touch them, taste them, smell their beauty.  It was magical.  Breathtaking.  Inspiring.  Unforgettable.

Google Photo

Google Photo

I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.  You know just what I mean, don’t you.  I felt like Julie when she is up there in the mountains all by herself.  When she throws her arms wide and sings with all her heart, The Hills Are Alive, With the Sound of Music.  And they are.  Trust me.  They are.

I slowed down, tried to breathe, tried to memorize the moment and keep it in my heart. Tried to capture the moment forever.  I also tried not to hit another car.

And then, well, something else happened.  From a side street to my left came a small car.  It turned in front of me, pulling behind it a long green open-air trailer.  Neatly stenciled on the back in a lacy, delicate script were these words:

jardin naturel

“Natural Garden,” in French.

On top of that trailer sat the largest pile of steaming cow manure I have ever seen.

Yes, my first solo excursion in the Swiss countryside became a metaphor for life as an ex-patriot living there:  There were moments of majestic beauty that I call “Julie Andrews Moments,” when I was filled with beauty and awe.  When I honestly felt like the luckiest person on earth.

And there was a lot of shit.  These two elements combined with travel to places I never dreamed I’d see, made our time in Geneva the adventure of a lifetime.

 

*     *     *

My bloggin’ buddy, Naomi, a wonderful traveler who actually posts her own pictures and does not cut them from Google, wrote this post about a trip to Switzerland.  Naoimi inspired me to re-post this old, old post.  I wrote it back in the days when you didn’t know me.  When you didn’t realize that some way, somehow, shit is always a metaphor for my life.

And if you ever get the chance to go to Switzerland, do it.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 — it’s not worth all that much over there!

Google Photo

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Boaring Followup

When I wrote my story about Cooper and the wild boar he tried to befriend, well, I did it as a way to make my peace with my furry friend’s passing.

And as frequently happens when I write about things that hurt my heart, my blogging buddies have all helped me through what has been a sad few days.  Thanks.  It has made a difference.

Karen, from Mom in the Muddle commented that she’d never known anyone with a wild boar story  And it occurred to me that I have several.

So I thought I’d tap that keg one more time, and tell you my other wild boar stories.

Spoiler Alert:  Nobody dies.  You’re welcome.

Boaring-story #1

Linda was an English angel.  We met when she came to my door about six months after we moved to Switzerland.  By that point, I was incredibly lonely – my French was, ummm, sucky, and I knew very few people.

Then Linda knocked on my door. She spoke English.  And she was moving in down the street with her husband and two, count ‘em two kids – a girl Jacob’s age (Catherine) and a boy (James) a year younger.  Friends for my son!  Did I mention that she was English.  And that she spoke English?

While Linda was visiting that first afternoon, John called. I told him that we had a new neighbor who spoke English and that I wasn’t going to let her leave.  I said this in front of Linda.  Somehow, she didn’t take me to be some sort of psychopath and became my friend in spite of what must have seemed like a creepy thing to say.

Anyway, one evening after Cooper and I had our encounter,  Linda was driving down the busy road that was next to our house.  Linda drove a large, green Mitsubishi Montero, and that night she struck a fully grown, male wild boar.  Only a car that size could have won such a jousting match.  Linda was unhurt, and she called the local police, the gendarme, to report it.  The men in uniform came rushing.

Now what do you think was their first question?  Did they ask if she was hurt?  If her car was alright?  If she was traumatized by hitting and killing a beast that weighed as much as a truck?

No.  Wrong on all counts.

“Madam, do yu vant it?” they said in heavily French-accented English.  “Ze sanglier?  Ze body?  Ze boar?” 

You see, the meat from wild boar is a much sought after delicacy in Switzerland and France.  Linda was unaware of that fact.

Linda straightened her British backbone, stiffened her British upper lip and said in her most refined British accent:

“Why No.”

Image from gourmetfly.com

Image from gourmetfly.com

Linda’s boar was given to a local bistro in the next town.  The served sanglier à la chaise for the rest of the season.

Google, natch

Google, natch

I didn’t try it out of respect for Cooper’s pal, the boar who didn’t kill us.  It only seemed fair.

*   *   *

Boaring story #2

In mid-2000 we moved a short ways away, across the border into France.  There we had a lovely house, but the dog walks were less spectacular.

Still, every night after Jacob went to bed, John or I would take Coops for a walk.  We took turns, because Jacob was still too young to leave alone.  We were still surrounded by farm fields, but the views and the walks now along town streets that meandered alongside of farm fields, instead of farm roads that criss-crossed them.  These roads were built for cars, and darn it all, people used them to drive on!

John insisted on taking a flashlight whenever he went for a walk at night.  I thought he was a pansy.  I mean, really, there were streetlights here and there, plus your eyes adjust to the darkness and I for one could see just fine in the dark, thank you very much.  I was not a pansy; I didn’t carry a flashlight.

And you know, that was probably just as well, because one night while Cooper and I were out, we walked down a road that was busy enough to require me to leash Coops.  And it was a good thing.  Because as we came around a curve I noticed something silhouetted in the streetlight 30 feet ahead of us – a full grown, tusked, wild boar.

Thanks, Google But our boar's tusks were way bigger

Thanks, Google
But our boar’s tusks were way bigger

Male wild boars have tusks that protrude from their lower jaw.  They use these tusks to skewer dogs and people who displease them.

Cooper and I stood very still and watched him.  The streetlight glistened on his tusks which were quite large.  I figured they would easily go through either Cooper or I.  Maybe both.

Unless we died from the stench.  Wild boars seem to have an aversion to water.  And soap.

After about 10 minutes that seemed a whole lot longer, Pumba moved on into the farm field on the other side of the road.  There was a dip of about two feet between the road and the field, and Pumba negotiated it easily.

Phew!  Another boaring averted.

*   *   *

Boaring-story #3

Naturally, I started to become a wee bit nervous.  Paranoid.  Fearful of large mammals that might kill me and my dog.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t do anything stupid around a wild animal.  I respected them.  I admired their strength.  Their wildness.  Their ability to kill me if I ticked them off.  So I knew that I was safe.

Cooper? There was not even the slightest chance that he would be sensible. So during the fall, when the wild boar were known to be around, I kept him on the leash in the evenings.  I was learning.

I did decide that maybe my husband John wasn’t such a pansy after all.  Perhaps, I thought, just perhaps, a flashlight wasn’t such a stupid idea.  It could let me see what was going to attack me, although sometimes I think you’re better off not knowing what’s gonna hit you.  Still, maybe having a flashlight would give me a blunt instrument with which to defend myself.   I looked at the six-inch plastic flashlight in my hand and realized that I was totally screwed in the weapons department.

One night, not long after Cooper and I had seen Pumba basking in the streetlamp, that we had another sighting.  I was starting to worry that my luck just couldn’t continue.  Time was running out.  How many times can you be in close contact with a wild boar without getting boared?

It was getting on towards December.  There was a distinct chill in the air.  The leaves were off the trees, the shrubs were bare .  The moon was full that night, and so I left the flashlight at home.  I could see just fine in the bright light that needed no batteries.  Of course, just when I needed the moon, it chose to disappear.  And that is when I looked to my left and saw the dim outline of yet another wild boar.   And this one was even bigger.

This wildlife crap was beginning to get on my nerves.

“SHIT!!!!” I thought.  “What is with these pigs?  Do I have a ‘Gore me’ sign on my back?  Or one that says ‘Secretly wants to be Boared?’ ” 

Does Mother Nature truly have a warped sense of humor?

In the dim light, I could just see the animal slowly walking, straight towards me and Cooper.  We slowly backed away, but it kept coming.  Slowly and steadily it lumbered our way, prolonging my fear.  Why not kill me and get it over with?

I swear, this animal was even bigger than the last boar we’d seen.  From its size and shape, I figured it was possibly the largest wild boar on earth.

And then, just when it was at the edge of the field, about 20 feet away from frozen me and squirming Cooper, something surprising happened.

The wild boar mooed

 

There was a whole mess of them Google Image

There was a whole mess of these scary critters
Google Image

The farmer had apparently just moved his herd of cows to that field the other boar had crossed.  It had previously been empty.  The moon came back out and shined down on me, as I laughed uproariously.  Cooper looked confused but he wagged his tail and tugged on his leash.  He wanted to play with the cows.  Of course, they don’t much like dogs, either.

*    *    *

Cooper and I never again met a wild boar.  And you know what?  That suits me just fine.  Because dealing with one sanglier was memorable.  A whole herd of them was just getting boaring

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