One of the things I have wanted to do since coming back to the land of English is volunteer with a hospice organization. Hospice, in case you don’t know, is caregiving for people who have a terminal illness. When there is nothing that can be medically done to turn a disease around, when there are no more treatments left, then patients and their families are eligible for hospice care. A hospice team – in a facility or in your home – makes sure that you are comfortable, as free from pain as possible, and supports your family as you make the transition out of this world.

Volunteers are a part of this team, doing nonmedical stuff like listening, bringing water or coffee or tea or warm blankets, wheeling patients outside for fresh air, and generally trying to be helpful while at the same time not making things worse than they already are. I just completed a 26-hour training program for hospice volunteers. My first shift at the hospice on the UBC campus is tomorrow afternoon.

The reason I wanted to do this? My dad.

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The Saga of Smokey the Cat

smokey1It has been a very long, dry spell here on Gydle. My apologies. But like I’ve said before, I’m not going to waste your time and mine by putting up meaningless drivel.

I decided to break the fast with a cat story.

I know it’s taboo to write about your cat on your blog, but it’s also taboo to have a blog and not post anything for four months, so while I’m breaking the rules I figured I might as well go all the way.

But you said you weren’t going to put up meaningless drivel! you say. Good point. But just because it’s a cat story doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. Whether or not it’s drivel, well, you’ll have to make that call. Continue reading


Last week, while I was writing about the word that is the same in every language, (huh?), Marc was traveling back to Switzerland to confer with his PhD students and check in on our first-born. When he landed, he sent me an e-mail: “In Geneva waiting for the train for Morges…..all the usual emotions of coming back somehow…”

I asked him on skype later if he felt homesick. A little, he admitted. Well, we had lived in Switzerland for almost ten years, three years longer than any other place we’d lived before. I think I made a sympathetic noise. But I can’t really relate, because I’m not really homesick for Switzerland. I’m still enjoying shopping on Sunday and all these yoga classes. Continue reading

The she-wolf

Do you ever find that when you start to pay attention to a thing, all sorts of coincidences line up to help you hone your focus? Keep you from letting it go? It’s almost as if the universe is saying “Finally! I can’t believe it took you so long!” Continue reading

Last lines to Lausanne

IMG_2781My last days living in Switzerland are looming. Two weeks and I’ll be back across the pond, the sun rising hours later on a completely different body of water. As the time draws nearer, I realize that:

One, I’m getting really impatient with things that drive me nuts about Switzerland.

Two, I’m already feeling nostalgic about the things that I love about Switzerland. Continue reading

Moment of (unexpected) beauty

It was a long, wet winter here in Heidiland. And is has been a cold, soggy, hypothermia-inducing spring. Down in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Lago Maggiore is brimming over. Around here the farmers can’t plant their potato crops, because the fields are too muddy for their tractors to till. Continue reading

20km de Lausanne: hypothermia version

Hello. It has been a week and a half and I am finally warmed up enough to type.

Last year’s 20km had people suffering from heat stroke. This year, it was hypothermia. Nothing like a little variety to keep those race organizers on their toes. Continue reading

Neatnik, Swiss-style

A while back I wrote a post on stereotypes. Okay, it was a long while back, when Harold Camping was predicting that the world was about to end. In that post I recapped some pretty standard Swiss stereotypes:

The Swiss go on eating Rostis and chocolate and dipping day-old bread into oozing pots of cheese fondue, occasionally heading down into their fallout shelters for another bottle of Chasselas or Pinot noir, which they deftly open with their ever-handy Swiss army knives, accordions playing cheerily in the background.  When they’re not conducting secret bank deals involving covert Carribean cash transfers, that is. Or cleaning their ovens with toothbrushes. Or hiking up an Alp behind a herd of fat cows whose bells ding and dong sweetly into the picture-postcard valley far below.

Today, I came across something that made me laugh. It’s a story of a Swiss person who has taken the Swiss neatnik stereotype to such an incredible extreme that he completely defies another Swiss stereotype: the one that says the Swiss have no sense of humor. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share on April 1st. It’s no joke, though. Continue reading

Dream, American

The other day Luc had to give a presentation to his English class about the novel “the Great Gatsby.” It had to be 12 minutes long, so I volunteered to listen and time it. He argued that the theme of the book was “The American Dream,” or, more accurately, the Illusion of the American Dream.

See, Gatsby was all about excess – the old idea that the more you have, and the more you can accumulate, the happier you’ll be. You’ll finally reach some point of maximum return, you’ll hit the top of the top. Then people like Tom, who are born rich, will let you into their fold. There’s this idea that everyone has an equal shot at being one of the chosen few. It’s just a matter of hard work. The movie is coming out this summer, in case you didn’t read the book in high school.

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Dispatch from the pit

IMG_0509It happened today. Out running along the lake in a cold drizzle, I felt it. The low pit of winter is past. We’re on the upslope to spring. There was a huge gaggle of cormorants (is gaggle the right term for cormorants?) on the fake island in Preverenges. They must be on their way to Scandinavia. They must be feeling it, too. (I took this picture the day before.)

I know it officially happened on December 21, when the balance of dark versus light hit bottom and the slow climb back into the sun began once again. But January is usually still too dark and cold and, well, winter for it to register. Today, however, despite the clouds and the rain, I finally feel like I’m climbing out of the hole. Continue reading