Living next to the Alps has some benefits. This winter, we were determined to take advantage of all the mountains have to offer! A few weeks ago, after the big freeze was finished, we headed to Les Gets for some perfect, sunny skiing. The view of Mt. Blanc was excellent!

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Well, French class continues to be my weekly source of hilarity.

First of all, class demographics. All female.  Half  are half young-ish people in their 20s who are daughters/girlfriends/wives of physicists (and one female physicists). The other half are women in their 40s-50s with children. Kat and I are the only Americans. The rest hail from Italy, England, Japan, Korea, Poland, Russia, Romania and Slovakia. This makes for a lot of interesting french dialects.

It’s a two hour class which is long. When I think back to college, I’d try to avoid those 1.5 hour classes even if I only had to go twice a week instead of three. With intense listening and language talking, two hours is draining. As a result, sometimes I lose my patience and start getting silly.

Take last week. About 1.5 hours into class, we’re going through some verbal exercises that Madame has asked us to model just like the cassette tape. (Yes, I said cassette tape.)


A: Il est comment mon blouson?

B: Ton blouson? Trop grand!

This roughly translates to “What do you think of my blouse?” “Your blouse? Too big!”

Got it? Ok, here’s the next one.

A. Il est comment mon pantalon?

B. Ton pantalon? Trop grand!

Last one!

A. Il est comment mon caleçon?


“What’s a caleçon?”

Madame wrinkles her nose. “That’s hard to explain…” she begins.

Kat grabs her dictionary and starts flipping through as Madame explains, in french, that it’s something that women wear on their legs, sometimes under dresses, and can be long.

Kat finds the word. “Boxer shorts.”

Madame and the rest of the class give us funny looks. But there, in her dictionary, it says boxers. Or, alternatively, long johns.

We’re puzzled as the rest of the class comes to the conclusion that “leggings” is the best translation. I finally ask whether the word can mean some other clothing for a man.

“Yes,” Madame says, apparently remembering this. “It can also mean underpants.” Aha.

At this point, I’ve either had too much french class or realized the ridiculousness of the conversation that we are about to have. “Then, isn’t this conversation a little strange if a guy is speaking?”

Kat and another younger classmate start giggling, realizing what I’ve asked. Madame doesn’t seem to get it, or she doesn’t understand my french so I have to repeat the question. At this point, the older women start to laugh, realizing what I’m asking.

Finally, Madame, with a straight face and in English responds. “Wouldn’t your husband or your boyfriend ask you something like this?”

I suppose the occasion hasn’t come up in our relationship. But, if it does, I’ll be ready.





One Year :)

John and Sarah’s wedding from Sarah Croft on Vimeo.

Postdoc Pants

So, one of the things that J really needed is a pair of new pants.

Apparently, living in the country of potatoes, cheese and bacon has had an opposite effect on him. He has actually lost quite a bit of weight and now all his pants are too big.

Since we had a bit of a shopping bust in London and he was too busy to get pants in the states, we had to suck it up and buy some pants here. Unfortunately, H&M is just as cheap quality as it is in the States and twice the price. But, we found a really nice pair of pants at Globus, the most expensive store in Geneva. They are a great pair of pants though, and they fit him great.

So I was surprised to find them in the wash this morning. Of course, he’s worn them all week and they should be washed. But, these are PRICEY POSTDOC PANTS that I need to be super careful with. I should read the washing instructions.

Despite these pants being an English brand, the instructions are in German.

Ok, Google Translate. Please tell me what this says:

Binnenste buiten en apart wassen. Ware von links waschen. Flecken nicht lokal entfernen. Farbabgabe beim tragen. Ausfaerben bel der wasche. Farbschattlerungen und Waschkniffe sind typisch Fur diese modische hose. Das ausfarben und die Optik berechtingen deshalb Nicht zur reklamation.

Binnenste buiten wassen s apart. Ware wash from the left. Stains are not local. The ink transfer contribute. Wash the dye running cable. Farbschattlerungen washing and tricks are typical for these fashionable pants. The ausfarben and optics berechtingen Not so for complaint to.

Washing and tricks are typical for these fashionable pants, eh?

Hiking in the Jura

We welcomed Joanna and Mika to Geneva this weekend by going on a lovely hike. It’s full on fall in the Jura, and we know we’ve got only a few more weekends of nice weather before it’s cold and snowy.

hiking! jura!!!

Enjoy these pictures I shot!

I bought my first pair of beautiful, expensive Italian shoes. Behold: Luciano Barachini.

Don’t you step on my blue grey suede shoes

I guess there’s a time when you buy crazy beautiful expensive shoes and never look back. They were 33% off the original price, satisfying my internal bargain huntress.

Oh, Switzerland. How you are skewing my perspective on how expensive clothes/shoes/everything should be!

French class, Part 1

Last week I joined the CERN Women’s Club. Apparently, this club has been around nearly 50 years and provided activities for women at CERN. Judging by the sign up melee, it seems to be run by the Golden Girls, international edition who assume that your husband works at CERN. (Somewhat annoying for my friends who are actually female physicists.) But, for a 25 chf membership fee, I get access to a host of women-only activities including yoga, swarovski crystal jewelry tutorials, German children’s choir, and various language classes. Since I am awful at Yoga, don’t need to pawn off crystal jewelry, do not have a toddler wishing to sing Geman songs, it was French class for me.

I’m at an advantage here in SwitzerFrance because in middle and high school, I took French classes until my senior year. This all would be more helpful if I didn’t decide to learn Japanese in college, thereby pretty much undoing all my natural French hesitations and accent. I’ve found that for me, language is largely binary. That is, I know my home language (English) and something else. That something else for the past several years has been Japanese. Comprehension isn’t really the issues, it’s speaking. Let me tell you that French people look at you very strange when you say “Arigatou” instead of “Merci.” Having to discipline myself to respond in French has been a challenge, so I here I was, signing up for French Intermediate class.

On our first day, we did introductions in French and then had to take a placement test. Everything, even the instructions, was in French. Still, I was cautiously optimistic as I read the reading comprehension questions. A train announcement. An airport report. A phone conversation.

Sweet, I’ve done all this. I’ve traveled on trains, I’ve been in airports. I eavesdrop on people on the tram all the time. I was ready!

The instructor started the CD. Train annoucement: Le train vadcamzedix huinfe a voie day ennsin man twaznimu.

Omg. WHAT?

This is basically how the rest of the listening comprehension went for me. I got bits here an there like “train” and “track D,” but I had no idea what the train number was or what time it was coming.

The airport announcement was worse; I didn’t get a single word. Desperate, I read the answer choices for the questions, hoping to use my deductive reasoning skills.

What happened to the airplane?

  1. The airplane is delayed
  2. The airplane is broken and needs to be fixed
  3. The airplane has been changed

What should the people do?

  1. They need to retrieve  their luggage
  2. They should go to the new gate
  3. They need to wait until the flight is ready to board

Test aside, talk about a stressful situation at an airport. All you get is that there is something wrong with the plane. I could imagine myself doing the completely wrong thing. Well, actually, you’d probably be in an airport and watch others around you who did understand what happened and follow their lead, but here, in my french test, no such luck. I mean, I had no idea what had happened to the plane.

The rest of the pre-test was similarly frustrating. I mean, yes, I get my French isn’t the best ever, but I understood the entire passage on a princess crowned in 2003, but could not answer the question “How does the author feel about the princess? How do you know?” I read the passage twice more and realized that the three or four vocabulary words I didn’t know held the key to answering the question. So, I wrote, “If I knew what xxx meant, I probably could tell you.”

I still don’t know how I did on the test, but it couldn’t have been good.