Day 6 & 7: Neuchâtel, Switzerland

We got into Geneva Saturday afternoon and it was another 1 hour train ride to Neuchâtel.   We are staying with my friend (and bestie!) Jen and her family.  Many of you know Jen and for those who don’t, we used to work together until the family relocated to Switzerland.  I’ve visited many time but this was the first time my kids have been to their home.  When Havana and Ari first saw each other they let out the loudest teenage squeal. Clearly they were excited.

As I mentioned, this is part of my trip that we have zero plans.  If we do something, great. If not, that’s great too.  Saturday, other than a walk down to the local grocery store and a quick trip to the lake beach to call in the kids for dinner, I did nothing but sleep.  I slept 14 hours last night, 14!  As I said yesterday, when I’m in Switzerland I stop leading and with that surrender, my sleep bank decided that last night we needed to refill the safe deposit box.

Sunday, just about everything is closed except hotels and a few tourist cafe’s.  We had a nice walk through town, a local art and history museum had free admission on the first Sunday and we saw an interesting exhibit on “automates” (VIDEO) (VIDEO) plus they had some fabulous paintings.  We also saw circus animals,a prison tower, and a church on castle grounds. While viewing the church, Jen and I sat down to rest and to allow the kids to look around.  We watched a tour group of elderly german tourists come into the church.  Some walked very slow and several were disabled by age.  They all sat down in the front pews and suddenly they began to sing.  Jen and I were so moved..we cried.  I’m glad I captured that on video.  On the way back, we learned that once upon a time this town was more like Venice.  Eventually they rerouted the river underground.(VIDEO) . The water you see at the side is more of a groud sculpure that pays tribute to the river that was once above ground.

Being here with the kids is a bit of fresh air for me.  Sometime it really does pain me to raise Ben and Havana in today’s “America,” especially California.  Both their Dad and I once lamented that these kids, even encouraged to do so, don’t really exhibit their independence in ways that we had done at their age.  When they do, for example in the way they dress, it’s usually fostered by mass media, advertisements and the cult of celebrity that the US entertainment industry uses to dumb down the majority and sway American youth to emulate Kim Kardashian, Snooki and Justin Bieber.

Some of the things we encourage them to do, we find other parents discourage out of fear and or “liability” (oh I have a lot to say on that one). Here kids climb trees, at home we are told it’s a violation of HOA/city regulations due to liability.  In Switzerland,  kids are expected to be independent early.  Jen was just telling me how her youngest was taught by the local police how to cross the street ALONE at 3 years old.  Kids walk to school ON THEIR OWN at kindergarten, take they bus as early as 9 years old, or just plain walk around town by themself.   Saturday afternoon Jen and I were out at a cafe and her daughter called to ask if she and Havana could go to the lake to soak their feet.  Her little sister wanted to go too.  Neither of us minded and we said we’d down to the beach and get them before we when home to make dinner (that’s the other thing, people walk here).  So after a while, we went down to the lake and we were look on the beach thinking they would just be cooling off their feet.  Nope, we found both girls out on the floating dock DIVING into the water.  The littlest was on the beach playing in the sand with other kids.  She had dressed herself for the beach.  No sunscreen, no packing their beach bags, no lifeguard, no designated adult supervision…and no one batted an eye.  There were several adults parents Jen knew that were at the little beach.  The kids were just out swimming and having a good time.  It truly was a “it takes a village” approach. THIS IS NORMAL AND THIS WAS WONDERFUL!  It was the first time something my kids did was close to what that age.  I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, I think America “the land of liability” is doing more disservice to our kids then helping them.  But’s not just the upbringing of independent children, it’s a culture that doesn’t exist in an “all about me” attitude…god knows if a small child tried to cross the street in America they have a higher chance of being hit by a car because Americans live in their own bubble most of the day they are not thinking about the possibility that a small child may cross the street on their own.  It’s a societal mutual respect thing.  If you’ve ever been in traffic in a 3rd world country, heck, Italy for that matter, it’s puzzling how there are so few car accident orpedestrians hit by cars.  I suppose that is how they are programed…they still may be vulgar while driving but they watch out and have respect for others on the road. Un like big city “this is my lane/my green light and you better get out of my way” drivers that I see every day on the way to work. I’m rambling…..

On that note, Jen shared this article with me and right now she on the balcony is listening to car horns and people celebrating world cup soccer out in the streets, including unaccompanied minors.  I imagine if I was at home…the cops would have been called by now.

Tomorrow…no plans. Perhaps revisit all my past posts that were written well past midnight, and correct the spelling errors and typos…yikes.

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