Monday, 29 June 2009

Promotion 2009

Another year living in beautiful Geneva, and another Promotion. Promotion is an event that the Swiss do so very very right. At the end of June, each village dresses itself up in flags and prepares for an evening celebrating the promotion of each of its' students from one grade to the next.

The Mairie, which in essence is an executive of village elders, had bestowed a gift on each of the kids during the last week of school; a very generous 30 CHF coupon to a bookstore. Then at 4:30 on a hot afternoon last Saturday, all of the school children lined up behind their respective teachers and marched behind two bands, the aforementioned village elders, a group of ladies in traditional dress, and the local volunteer pompiers/sapeurs (firemen). They proudly walked the length of the main street through our village to the claps and cheers of the local population.

Following the parade, we all gathered on a village green crowded with bouncy castles, mini-roller coasters, barbapapa (cotton candy), popcorn, candy, and drink stands, tents lined with tables, benches, a dance floor, and a live band. The pompiers/sapeurs supplied barbequed saucisses, frites, salad, wine, beer, and ice cream.

It was an incredibly convivial and communal atmosphere. The kids scattered to play on the rides and games, and the adults mingled, chatted, and caught up on each other's summer plans. This year, we even had a well-attended anglophone table populated by Canadians, Americans, South Africans, Romanians, Finns and Norwegians. We are a slice of the international flavour of Geneva.

Promotion has been one of my favorite Swiss experiences, particularly in our small village. It has been a wonderful way for J to bid adieu to another year of school, to dwell on the friendships, and important moments achieved during the year, to be reminded of the importance of school in his life, and to build excitement for the next chapter.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Transylvania, Kentucky, a Barbeque and a Bottle of Pálinka

What do you suppose the odds are in a tiny Swiss village outside of Geneva, of finding and celebrating a Transylvanian-Kentucky connection? Ha! Well not only did we find it but we turned it into a new tradition - the Transylanian-Kentucky Summer Barbeque.

Ok, to connect the dots...the first dot are my wonderful neighbours Gilles and Ioli who clearly never received the Swiss instruction manual on maintaining a cool reserve toward all foreigners. They are Swiss and Romanian (specifically Transylvanian) and speak French, Romanian and very decent English.

The second dot are a recently-arrived-to-our-village-from Louisville, Kentucky family who moved into the old farmhouse formerly co-occupied by J's favorite clutch of chickens. David is the native-Kentuckian, Lavinia is Romanian (specifically Transylvanian) though she spent many years in Kentucky too. They speak English and Romanian - no French. and have her Romanian-only speaking Grandmother living with them. With me so far?

The last dot are our friends from around the corner Bijoy and Jawahara who are American not-too-recently arrived from California but who were both educated at the University of Kentucky and still have family living in Lexington. They speak only English (plus several other Indian languages). Bijoy has a hankering to go to Transylvania to dig into the history of Vlad the Impaler AKA Dracula. Bijoy's interest was the trigger for our party.

So, last Saturday night, we invited the 3 families including kids, the Romanian-only speaking Grandmother, and Lavinia's Romanian free-spirited father visiting from California over for a barbeque to make merry in 4 languages. We sat outside in the garden sheltered as much as possible from La Bise which was making an unwelcome early summer appearance. We ate classic American/Canadian barbeque including a cherry cobbler made from cherries from our tree and the wine and conversation flowed freely. All that was missing was a Gypsy folk band or a bluegrass banjo.

Gilles introduced a bottle of Pálinka late into the evening. In short, Pálinka is a double-distilled plum brandy and considered the national drink of Transylvania. It is vile, throat-burning, gag-inducing, tongue-loosening, laughter-causing plonk. C2 had 4 of them.

The only downside to the evening? All Romanian eyes rolled when any attempt to discuss Vlad was made. Apparently Romanians view discussing this part of their popular history as distasteful and tiresome. Who knew?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Heaven is My Corner Cherry Tree

Our cherries have been utterly magnificent this year. Sweet, juicy, plump and not a cherry worm in sight (unlike previous years).

The tree also doubles as a perfect shady picnic spot on a hot day. J, Murphy and I have passed many an hour under its' leafy umbrella.

J and I polished off this entire bowl after school today. Next on the menu: cherry crisp, cherry ice cream, cherry pie...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

And Now He is 6

I'm sitting in front of my computer with a glass of wine, watching the sun set over Mont Blanc with the satisfied feeling that today I was a good parent (those positive parenting moments occur so infrequently). J turned 6 today and we celebrated with a party attended by a dozen of his classmates in our back garden.

Thankfully and unlike last year, the weather was perfect - sunny, hot and around 26c. C2, was unable to take the time off to assist as he had some long-standing important meeting scheduled today (a likely story - coward!), fortunately, my mum more than took up the slack.
This year's theme was Disney in keeping with our visit to Disneyland Paris a month or so ago. C2 rendered a perfect life-size Mickey Mouse face in support of our 'Colle-le-nez-sur-Mickey' game, a variation of the Canadian classic 'Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey'. Sounds simple enough, but explaining the game in detail entirely in french is not so simply done. However, they got the general idea and the game was a hit.

Popping the kids champagne - always popular

The game 'Statues' went over well too (thank you Hannah Montana and your 'Hoedown Throwdown'), as did wacking the heck out of the packed-to-the-brim 'Pirates of the Caribbean' pinata. Still, the bulk of the time was joyfully spent by this group of six-year olds on the trampoline, the swings, and at the sandbox; nice that the classics still have appeal.

I don't know how my darling boy got to be 6 but he is beautiful, thriving, confident, well-adjusted, assertive, and healthy, and I am one grateful and happy mother.