This just might be the longest I have gone without writing since we moved here. Since the kids left after Christmas, it has been pretty boring. We have not done much at all. I do have some pictures to share from January. George and I went skiing one day, but that is about it.
I did get a lesson in how quickly government can work. My passport was due to expire at the end of the year. When we renewed Julie’s it involved a trip to the US Consulate in Zürich. Everything had to be done in person; so we even had to have an affidavit signed by Julie, that she knew I was the one renewing the passport. Covid of course changed a lot. Since I am a GOOD UPSTANDING citizen I was able to mail in my renewal. Just like I was still living the US. Though, the default, is to get it returned a LOT faster. It is only supposed to take 2 – 3 weeks for processing, and the government came through. It was actually a little under two weeks before I got my new passport.
I did wind up having to drive to Bern to get it though. Something had happened, and we were really afraid we were going to be making an emergency trip back to the US; so I contacted the embassy and explained our situation. I was told exactly when the passport would arrive in Switzerland, and they would hold it for me. Saving the three or four days of extra processing to mail it.
I did learn that I think the US kind of has a problem with law enforcement types. The people hired by the embassy here, are rude and on a power trip, just like some LEO’s are back in the US. So as you come up to the embassy, there are two entrances. It is very well labeled which door is for personnel. There was another sign that read US Citizens —> and below that Visas —>. Both arrows pointing to the same place. The problem is that the entrance way had some temporary line guides set up, but there were THREE entry points. No sign saying which row was for what service. So I picked one and entered. It snaked around and made a 30 foot walk into about a 100 foot walk. I got to the end of the aisle, and I was 5 feet from the door, but nothing showing what way I was supposed to go next. So seeing the door, I went under the rope and approached the door. The security guards inside. immediately unsnapped their side arms, and were wildly waving at me. The glass was sound proof so I couldn’t hear a thing they were saying. Eventually they signaled that I was supposed to go my right and back under the rope. So I did, and one of the guards came out. He immediately started yelling and calling me stupid for ignoring the sign. I went right back at him, saying WHAT SIGN? He points to the BACK of a sign. So I go under two more ropes to get in front of the sign. There the sign says to wait here and empty all your pockets, etc…. Like I said, the sign was backwards from the way I came in. There was no way to see the sign.
The guard keeps going on about what a privileged American I am to just ignore the signs. I was giving it right back to him. Stating HOW in the HELL was I supposed to know what aisle to come down so I could see the sign? I told him around the corner, someone had set up the ropes; so there were three entry ways into the area. How are you supposed to know what aisle to choose? He still kept going on at me, but I finally just ignored him. This was probably not the right thing to do either, because he wound up frisking me before letting me in, because I could not provide a passport proving I was a citizen. :). I did eventually make it through security, but I was a little worried. The best part, was seeing that one of the guards had at least fixed the entry way while I was getting my passport.
The other interesting thing that happened was watching all of the people renounce their US citizenship while I was there. Out of all the people in the waiting area, I think I was the only one NOT renouncing their citizenship. Now before people get up in arms about this. It is not a political thing at all in most cases. The majority of the people there had the fortune or mis-fortune depending on how you look at it of simply being born in the US. Once their parents left these people had never been back. They were truly citizens in name only. For a lot of people having a US passport is a big problem. For example, in Switzerland, if you have a blue passport there are only a couple of banks that will deal with you. I also think these banks charge more for dealing with US citizens.
In the US we call it Mardi Gras. In many other parts of the world it is called Carnivale. In the German speaking parts of Switzerland it is called Fasnacht. I can’t tell you the literal translation, because I could not find one. However, talking to someone it was explained that fasnacht means “almost night” or “the night before the fasting.” It is that period before Lent starts of unbridled carousal!
Julie went back to the US this week to see her parents; so called a friend and we took the train to Luzern yesterday. The celebration is three days long. It is the Thursday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. I think they take the other three days are off to allow everyone’s liver to recover. On Thursday, the day begins at 5:00 AM with a cannon blast and hundreds of people parade through the streets banging drums and ringing bells.
I found another word that has no translation it is Zögli. I think it might mean roam or meander, because during the Zögli time period, there were small bands and groups of partiers that were just roaming the streets having a good time. There are two parades each day. The parades originally started out with just the guilds participating. The goal of the parade was to make fun of the politicians and other events that happened the prior year.
The mocking of events was something I found strange (as an outsider). There was one float in the parade that celebrated the burning of the Kapellbrücke. (This is the long wooden bridge that crosses the river. It was a HUGE deal and even now the city has not fully repaired some of the damage to the bridge.)
I think for next year, Julie and I are going to have to find some costumes, and head back. It was an amazingly fun day!
It will probably be pretty slow posting for the next few weeks again. Julie was able to get her knee looked at, and she is going to be stuck around home for the next few weeks. Hopefully, it all works out OK. She has been very frustrated to not be able to go on hikes or even walk to the grocery store without pain. We are especially hoping the next treatment works. We have a lot of visitors coming the next few months, and I know she is looking forward to spending some time doing things with friends and relatives!
Enjoy the pictures from FasNacht!