Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trees and Lights (Festival Arbres et Lumieres)

I'm so looking forward to this!

Enchanted trees... symbolic sparkles... mystical mirrors... I can't wait to get lost in this magical forest of lights!

For some more inspiration check out this photoblog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Other Side

Originally this post was to be about our little trip to the other side of the Lake. But I've just realized it's actually pretty metaphorical.

So we visited some friends on the other side of the lake last weekend. The weather was not so great as it was the foggy-rainy-chilly combination that is so usual in winter. So we didn't get around as much as I would have liked but the Montreux area is definitely one to visit. I'm planning to go back some time during the spring or summer.

Although it's not supposed to be one of the big attractions, I actually loved the fog. It's so magical, spreading over the lake like a sea of clouds. And at night you can see the shores of the lake all lit up by sparkling villages and towns. Like a fairy tale...

Being around so many Swiss and talking in French a lot made me think. My attitude towards this language is so different from the feeling I have towards English. The more I think about it the more I feel Dörnyei's (2005) Self theory coming to life. Because a language is of course a social medium but if you think about it it's not really imposed on one by the outside world. Or at least for not long, as people generally don't like outside pressure so they either shrug it off or rebel against it -- or internalize the idea.

So the point is that we always have some kind of internal drive to put effort into something. And while with English I had totally romantic reasons, which made the language a crucial part of my life at the time, in the case of French it's more the instrumental-integrative paradigm that could describe my attitude. By romantic reasons I mean the sort of self identification process that one goes through as a teenager -- and English just happened to be the language of mine. And somehow it all determined my future relation to the language. With French it's been totally different.

First I studied French in high school, like many others, and it was more like a school subject than a language. When I grew up of course I realized that it could also come in handy and gradually I started to think of it as a means of communication.

When I was in France I felt really comfortable being the wealthy educated foreigner. At the Cote d'Azur you can be either that or the looked-down-on immigrant and I chose to belong to the fromer group for obvious reasons. I didn't really feel like integrating into local society as I couldn't really identify with the social values of either the rich or the not so wealthy. It's a strange mixture of classes they have there...

So I was quite happy with my Arrogant-American-Speaks-Highschool-French accent and never really thought on polishing it. Of cours I'm too much of a linguist to not learn a language once given the chance -- but never my accent! Having spent like 6 weeks in Geneva last weekend I had to face the situation. I was totally changing attitudes. I'm in the Canadian context.

Gardner (1985) and his cronies have ruled the language learning world with their theory of integration for 20 years. Then teachers and learners all around the world could sigh with relief that they didn't have to pretend any longer. Because what worked in Canada didn't really work anywhere else. Of course you're pushed to learn a language that you encounter every day and that has high social standing. But in the case of the rest of the world it's often not the case. A great many people learn English in school settings or just far from native speakers -- for reasons very different from those of Canadians in the 1980s.

But the Canadian context still does exist. Especially here in Switzerland. And I so feel like integrating. I must admit I'm stunned. For years I've been reading and writing about the decline of the Gardnerian era. I've spent my years studying how this theory never worked in foreign language settings. I was so convinced it was totally outdated! And here I am, on the other side, shining with integrative motivation, learning a language with all its tones and pitch. It's crazy. But it's true. The integrative motive lives on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hike To Salève (from Geneva)

I'll be quick because I have lots of studies to read still. ^^

But yesterday's hike was awesome -- and as I'd been looking for hikes around Geneva for weeks and could find nothing I think it's worth sharing.

The only information I'd found online is here and there are maps available about the hiking routes here, here and here and about the surroundings here. We had this saved on a Blackberry so that we wouldn't get lost (the middle pic applies to our hike). Also there's an official group that leaves around 10 every Sunday (google it, plenty of information to be found) but we thought we'd rather go the 2 of us.

So about the hike. It was amazing. Using the tpg route planning website (<- see sidebar) it took us around 30 minutes to get to France (Croix-de-Rozon Douane, accessible by bus no. 44 for instance). From there we walked a little to a village called Le Coin through the village of Collanges-sous-Saleve. As soon as we got there a path led into the forest on the left so there was not much opportunity for as to get lost =) (I'm stressing this all the time because usually we're so careful not to get lost that we do. One shouldn't think too much on which way to go when climbing a mountain. Up is up... =]) Then we took path 22 on the map, towards Orjobet. We left the path only once =) but following blue-and-red signs all the time should take you through the walk. Switzerland's hiking routes are nicely marked so you can enjoy the scenery without worrying about which way to go.

And what a scenery to enjoy! People say the hiking season is over with October when the skiing season begins. So not true! The forest was gorgeous and although the clouds and the fact that it was "almost raining" all day should have been discouraging, we had a wonderful time. The fog in the valley made the forest so mythical we were constantly listening for dark clad riders and joking about approaching orks =D (OK, this was when the camera played around with the white balance...)

It's difficult to describe such a marvelous sight. I'm not a writer so I'll let the pix speak for themselves. We were zigzagging upwards till we reached a passage in the rock going steeply up. Later we crossed the small wooden bridge (a plank really, fixed to the surface of the rock over the gorge) and took the steep stairs up through the "hole" in the mountain. We'd been deprived from exercise way too long. So it took us some time but was a hilarious experience!

There are many ways to "climb" the Salève. We didn't stick to route 22 but as soon as we reached the signpost for Grande Gorge/La Croisette, we took number 19 (direction La Croisette) instead. It took us to the mountain top and we could have had coffee at the bar =) but the sign telling us that the téléphérique was 1 hour 30 minutes away was too tempting. ^^ So we followed the motor road that led in that direction through the fields. At one spot we spotted Mont Blanc ^^ and took the appropriate pics with us grinning in the wind and all that.

We got to the téléphérique/cable car/funicular in about an hour (the whole excursion took us 6 hours home to home, we didn't really care about time while there). And then the descent began. It's a MUST to try this thing! It was awesome! Check out the video at the end if you don't believe me! =D

It took us to Veyrier in 6 minutes [so short!:'( ] from where we walked to the Swiss border (I love Shengen! =D) and took bus 8 that took us home in 17 minutes. Had a hot shower and a nice dinner and talked about the wonderfulness of life in Switzerland over a mug of hot Swiss chocolate. ^^

See also on youtube.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Geneva Inside =)

I'm kind of confined to my couch these days. I'm reading research after research after study. I'm quite enjoying it, I'm liking my topic more and more -- but it still means that I miss out a lot on the fun Geneva has to offer.

Yesterday we had our brand new (& gorgeous) washing machine installed. It took around 10 minutes and cost CHF 150. I should get trained for a plumber! =)

But it's been working all day -- and gosh, what a difference! We used to have a very simple washing machine back in Hungary (that belonged to the owner of the apartment) and this is a Whirlpool AWE 7720.

By the way, I ordered it from They were really nice (and have very low prices) so I can only recommend them.

We're planning a little excursion tomorrow. I hope the weather will clear up... [thunderstorm outside =( ] ... and I can tell you what the Saleve is like! ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just to show you what has kept us so long :)

Moving in: before and after

The Best Fondu ever

OK, I'll make this post really short because I really have to be working on my thesis. But I've just thought of how many things I've done here in Geneva and never written about them. So I'll make up for it.

This place is awesome! We had fondue there a couple of weeks ago. The people who took us there told us it was the best fondue they'd ever had. And they were so right!

I loved the atmosphere, like in a granny's dining room. With the pictures on the wall and the different tables and chairs! None of them matched and neither did the plates and forks =) ... and the gorgeous smell of good Swiss cheese. (Which makes you think of another good point: that your kitchen will be spared of it! =D)

I can't write about the fondue. Words can't explain its excellence.

And the meringue avec sa creme du Gruyere! Guys, don't read the description on the menu. I know it sounds the weirdest thing on Earth -- but it's delicious!

I'm still dreaming about that fondue and wake up wishing I had some occasion coming up soon. Or someone coming to visit just so I could go back to the Café du Soleil. Not that it's expensive or anything. I guess we're just not used to going out without some special reason. But this might be changing soon because the Café du Soleil itself is reson enough.

Monday, November 9, 2009

IKEA Update

So. It was worth it. Or so it seems. Lesson learned.

Lesson #1: It's really worth calling customer service hotlines a lot and chasing them down about any development in your case. (IKEA called me to fix a delivery date for today on Friday.)

Lesson #2: Call stores before you travel there. Stuff might get out of stock really quickly. (Yep, the carpet we wanted to buy did so just that very morning... )

Lesson #3: Never tell them you're gonna be at home all day. Otherwise you're really gonna be at home all day. (I'm still waiting for my bed...)

Lesson #4: (And not just IKEA!) It's really worth calling customer service hotlines a lot and chasing them down about any development in your case. (We had our washing machine delivered this morning! Yippee!)

Friday, November 6, 2009

"IKEA á ... Aubonne"

The fact that I know all the hotline menu options by heart must be a good indication of how efficient it is. But it's a longish story so no spoilers, I'll start at a beginning.

Disclaimer: this is not complaining. (I've been doing that long enough, an I hate doing it, believe me!) It's just to warn those that go on their bedhunt or sofachase tomorrow.

We live in Geneva (surprise, surprise! =]) so after a bit of field research we decided to buy the bigger items of our furniture at IKEA ("á... Aubonne" -- OK, I can't stop that now. If you've ever called the hotline you'll know what I mean). I'm not saying it was a bad idea, I have more time than money so I still think it was worth it, although I could really do without the complications. Actually I quite like the style of IKEA -- and I'm not thinking of plastic tools in all colors of the rainbow. The more expensive stuff they have (e.g. real wood furniture and fine decorating elements) is of rather good quality and looks really stylish. That is, if you put it together right and provided you get what you order.... Well, we had most of our problems with the latter. So, based on my month long experience (never had problems with IKEA back in Hungary...), here are some ground rules:

1) Check for all the stuff here. Prices, availability, etc. Most of the time it's accurate =D

2) If you don't have a car big enough, call them here at least 5 days before your planned excursion to rent a van. Actually it's really not expensive, like CHF 20-35 an hour (I don't remember exactly) and CHF 100 for the night (5 pm. - 11 am.; if you rent one on Saturday the'll take it back on Monday; a good number of kms included, we did it in 100 kms, which was the limit included in the nightly fee). The only thing I didn't like was that we had to take the van back, and return to Geneva by train. But if you can leave your car there, it should be fine.

3) There are other options like home delivery (4-6 weeks, yes, I know!) and so-called furniture taxis -- but the van's jus the cheapest and fastest solution.

4) Take into account that Tuesday is their least busy day and any morning during the week is quite comfortable. Sunday early afternoon is a nightmare (lots of tired kids, lots of tired parents, lots of people) and it only gets worse towards the closing hours. So good luck! =D Don't expect to spend your Saturday shopping away nicely. But if you're determined and keep the browsing to a minimum, you'll be fine. Just try not to take your kids if you're planning a longer visit. I couldn't see any enjoying the experience, although IKEA's tried its best setting up touch screen drawing boards and such distractions.

5) Check the item numbers, etc. Sometimes shop staff can misunderstand you (even in French... or even more so =D) and give you the wrong size/color/item.

6) Don't be surprised if opening the package there's something missing/extra/that doesn't fit/is the wrong color/size/etc. Call them. According to the customer service hotline there are loads of files at IKEA Aubonne. (They record such problems in files.)

7) In such a case go and pick up/exchange stuff at the store. They do it quite willingly and are really friendly, whatever language you speak.

Unfortunately we only realized we'd been given the wrong size when we put together the bed. I guess we could have payed more attention. The problem is it's too big to take back (yess, I disassembled it! =D) in an ordinary car so I'll have to wait for IKEA to come and replace it. They promised to do so in 2 weeks on October 26, so I'm getting a bit edgy... But just a tad. It's not worth worrying about.

Some people have compleined throughout the web about IKEA mattresses. Well, we have the Huglo and although I only chose it because it was the firmest and I hate soft mattresses I just love it. We though of exchanging it because the thought of a spring mattress felt tacky -- but not the thing itself. It hasn't settled or changed a bit these two weeks. Of course we're kind of skinny (he more so), so that could make a difference. But you can try all of then at the shop.

Be careful if you order/buy a MALM bed. Sometimes the person taking your order tells you this, but in many cases they forget to add that the midbeam (support median) is not included in the package but is very important to buy.

So, apart from a couple of small things (stuff missing or screws not working properly) this is all the experience I've had with IKEA Aubonne. We bought loads of stuff so it's not a bad balance. One should only pay a bit more attention to make the shopping experience a better one.

We're going back tomorrow -- and, interestingly enough, not to complain. We need some more stuff. So all this hasn't put us off. =)

See you guys at the lamps! ;)

(If you're looking for more budget furniture stores in Geneva, try Pfister and Interio. Both can be reached by bus 29 from the train station and a host of others. They're a bit more expensive and of course smaller. Fly is the Swiss equivalent of IKEA and a bit farther from the city.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Memoriam

I just have to post this. It has nothing to do with Geneva or my life at the moment but...
this is the first thing I've ever read about anorexia that I actually agree with.

I've read so much about cures and people (involved or not) fighting it -- but I always felt sad because I knew they were worthless efforts.

I've read about people fighting the opposition -- and felt like sicking up, for several reasons.

But I couldn't have put it better than Carrie Sloan. I guess it's all about undertsanding it. Really understanding it. Not like wishing one had the self control to do it. Not like loathing it like an enemy.

Sometimes I really think that there's a whole misconception, a sort of misconceptualization about it. I guess it's a mental condition one's prone to, just like all the others we don't care so much about. Like some people have a tendency to get nervous, etc. And most people get nervous at times, to some extent.

I think this could work the same way. One can like have it, say, in 40 %, without going to extremes. Without being noticed. Still, it's a thinking disorder. And I really hate the fact that it's considered "absolutely normal" for women to be concerned about their weight.

There's nothing normal in that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Bit On Language Learning Motivation

OK, I know this is kind of off topic. But not that much.

I'm working on my thesis and I've just realized how funny this whole thing is. I mean my topic is Language Learning Motivation -- or really, one aspect of it. And suddenly it struck me that I can actually test theory in my own life.

Anyone interested in this type of motivation can soon find out that it all started with Gardner and his colleagues in Canada, who basically said that one's learning a language in order to become part of the group speaking it. And the more you like the group the more effort you put into it, so the more proficient you'll be. Well, I bet it worked in Canada, especially at that less globalized time.

But recently I've been hearing comments from learners such as the wish to learn a language (for instance English) in order to be able to communicate with others from all over the world. Now this isn't really about losing one's cultural and national identity and integrating into the group of native speakers!

I believe other factors can also be very powerful. The prospects of a promotion can easily motivate someone to learn a language to a certain extent, or pass an exam. Kids (and not only kids...) learn in order to please others. These factors are present in the lives of all. But I find it intriguing why the concept of the "world citizen" has been so underresearched.

So I've taken up this topic and have proposed to investigate the Hungarian prospects. I'm still in the data collection period but while questionnaires are flowing in (well... rather trickling...) I'm doing some reading.

I was actually when I realized how close this topic actually was. Amazing. I've been learning French since the age of 14. First at highschool -- for the obvious reasons -- then at various language schools motivated by various goals. Later I went to France for 4 moths and there I had other reasons and a very complex attitude to influence my learning (even if you're not taking classes you never really stop learning in one way or another if you're motivated). And well, now I'm here in Geneva and the situation reminds me a lot of my own readings.

So who's right? Why am I learning now?

I guess I'll go with Dornyei and his colleagues (not literally, that I can't however much I'd love to). They claim that motivation is part of your self image. What really drives you to do something is the image of the person you want to be or who others want you to be. And it's constantly changing. Those outside factors form some reflections in you and this is actually what motivates you.

I've had pretty different ideal selves in my life, which is reflected in the extent of my motivation and what I attributed it to. Also, this has had a huge impact on my achievements. I'm just really (REALLY) curious if Gardner and so many researchers ever since have been right. Does integrative motivation overrule everything?

The other really interesting question is where am I integrating into? In a city where half the population is of foreign origin (google for numbers but they'll be shockig), who do I want to be like? Switzerland is prone to dualisms. If you live in Lausanne you're definitely not like Genevans. French Swiss consider themselves way different from German Swiss (do not ever mix up the two! not even in jokes!). So where do I integrate?

At the moment I'd say I'd like to become a Genevan of vague Hungarian roots. I want to mix and match. I want to be one of the group, definitely. I don't want to be collared "a foreigner". On the other hand, how do you define Genevans? Where are they from? France? China? Libanon? Hungary?

I've always thought of Geneva as the heart of the Switzerland I've fallen in love with. The sophisticated multicultural country where people work hard, eat well, smile a lot and go skiing or hiking at weekends. And speak many languages and cherish traditions but don't shun new ideas.

I've always thought of this Switzerland as the feeling and pulsing heart of the world, where all cultures meet and being Swiss just cannot be defined as being born to one bart of the world.

So I guess Swiss are "world citizens". Which means I also want to be one...

So Gardner was right. In part. He just didn't know what a small world we all live in.