Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

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Paris in May

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Next week we will depart on a month-long visit to Canada. In preparation, Eileen and I have tried to introduce Juniper to some of the experiences of a long flight. We have spent a couple of afternoons wandering around the airport: “Oh, doesn’t security look fun?!” We also found a quirky Thai café across the runway from the airport, with views of planes coming and going. Juniper has always enjoyed spotting airplanes in the sky, so this phase of the preparations was easy.

Watching planes at Cointrin

Watching planes at Cointrin

“Looks as if the 17h11 is leaving on time!”

We are also crafting a toddler management strategy for the flight itself. Our trump card is “Gru” (the movie “Despicable Me”), which effectively zombie-fies Juniper when she watches it.  At home, Juniper’s screen time is heavily regulated. But on the flight we intend to use Gru and the iPad gratuitously, along with snacks and treats. Juniper will live the toddler equivalent of an all-night bender!

To complete the “Gru” flight setup, we bought Juniper some child headphones. Unsurprisingly, she initially refused to have them on her head, which confronted us with a common toddler conundrum: how to explain to our stubborn two-year-old that the audio to her film could only be heard through those clunky-looking ear-hats that she won’t try? We adults take these linked concepts for granted. In the end we resorted to trickery: Eileen and I took turns pretending to have the time of our lives when wearing the headphones, until Juni wanted a turn.

On a long weekend in May, we brought the headphones on another of our pre-Canada preparations: a trip to Paris by TGV. The journey is approximately 3.5 hours long in either direction and we were keen, if a little anxious, to see how Juniper would respond to our clever plans. Boarding and exploring the train would be no problem, as she enjoys new surroundings, but eventually she would be tired and bored…

As planned, we relaxed moderation and allowed Juniper a buffet of raisins, bread and Gru. The return journey in particular demonstrated to Eileen and me that Juniper can behave better than we expect. As anticipated, she grew stir crazy and her activities became shorter and more frantic. But she kept it together with minimal whining and no tantrums. Eventually we plugged her in for 1.5 hours of Gru. Meanwhile, the train was ringing with the protests of the handful of other fed-up toddlers on board, who were testing whether continuous shrieking can stop the TGV.

Toddler management, phase 1

Toddler management, phase 1

Toddler management, phase 2

Toddler management, phase 2

Once arrived in Paris, Juniper was SUPERCHARGED! I think it was a combination of the new surroundings and that she had kicked her incessant winter cold: she felt great and was keen to explore. Whatever the source of her energy, she ran and babbled for three days straight, the most sustained rush of activity I have seen in her life.

Running near our apartment in Rue Quincampoix

Running near our apartment in Rue Quincampoix

Running through the queue barriers at the Centre Pompidou

Running through the queue barriers at the Centre Pompidou

Running at Place de la Bastille

Running at Place de la Bastille

Running in Square Jean XXIII, behind Notre Dame cathedral

Running in Square Jean XXIII, behind Notre Dame cathedral

As she raced around Paris, Juniper stopped every few minutes to point and exclaim “WOW!” The exclamations were doubly amusing because of her current need to confirm everything with all family members present: Juniper is chairwoman of our Committee of the Obvious. For example, when a truck drove past all three of us, Juniper exclaimed “WOW!”, her pointed finger quivering with excitement. She then calmly requested Eileen’s attention – “Maman?” When Eileen replied “yes?” Juni pointed to the truck in the distance, repeated her “WOW!”, complete with quivering finger, and then waited for Eileen to acknowledge. Next she turned calmly to me: “Papa?”

“Oui?”

“WOW!” The truck had disappeared from view, but Juni’s back was arched, cheeks were taught and finger was quivering.

“Oui, wow, Juni.”

“WOW!”

As you might expect, Paris’s landmarks were no more interesting to Juniper than its trucks or pigeons. As the following photos illustrate, the metro was her favourite experience: climbing up and down the stairs, exploring the grotty platforms, announcing the arrival of the trains and standing and sitting among the adults in the cars. She could have happily spent all three days underground!

“Train!”

Hangin'

“Fun platform, isn’t it, monsieur?”

Party in the metro!

“Vive la Métropolitaine!”

On Sunday we took a break from riding the metro to visit the Cité des Enfants, an excellent interactive exhibition at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. We had to lie about her birthday to gain entry, as the minimum age is two. Then Juniper displayed one of her consistent personality traits: she stood back to observe the different activities before engaging. Once at ease, she plunged in to the water cannons, wind tunnel, mazes, ball ramps and widgets, running and exclaiming throughout.

fun noun 1. enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure. 2. transferring water from bucket to basin

fun
/fʌn/
noun
1. enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure.
2. transferring water from bucket to basin.

Operating a water cannon

Operating a water cannon

Squirming through the forest

Squirming through the forest

On our way home, Juni napped in her stroller, tired enough that she slept through a loud music festival we stumbled upon in Parc de la Villette. The following photo shows her about to sleep through a descent into her beloved metro.

About to miss out on the metro

About to miss out on the metro

On Monday morning we were a little overambitious and raced to Place du Trocadéro to shoot portraits in front of the Eiffel Tower for the grandparents. Our train was at 11h or so, so we were only there for 20 minutes or so before racing back to the apartment to collect our bags. Juniper was upset to leave Trocadéro so quickly, until she discovered that meant hurrying back down to the metro!

Eileen and Juniper at Place du Trocadéro

Eileen and Juniper at Place du Trocadéro

Playing tag and ignoring the Eiffel Tower

Playing tag and ignoring the Eiffel Tower

We all enjoyed our weekend, Juniper most demonstrably. It was a bonus for Eileen and me to see Juniper in such high spirits in Paris, one of our favourite destinations. Juniper may only manage three-word sentences at the moment, but she clearly communicated that she would like to return to Paris!

Our train trip to Paris also reassured Eileen and I somewhat that we will survive our first long flight to Canada with Juniper. Her pupils may need a few days to recover from watching Gru for hours on end, but we hope to arrive in Canada with our sanity intact.

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Written by Kris Terauds

July 12, 2015 at 19:44

Posted in Uncategorized

Spring renewal

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I have now seen six springs in Geneva. Although this does not qualify me to write for the Swiss version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, I have begun to form my own expectations for the different seasons. For example, winter 2013-4 was stubborn and refused to step aside until June. This year, winter was more polite, giving way in March to a middling spring that has balanced sunny days with rainy ones.

Spring floods Geneva with greenery and flowers. The city is quite green throughout the year, but is downright lush in spring. The green sprouts in its tree-lined streets and network of parks, trails and green belts. Flower gardens are not as ubiquitous as green spaces, but the parks service tends flower beds in selected public spaces.

To enjoy the spring bloom, we do not even need to leave our apartment. In fact, the bloom crowds in on the views from our windows and balcony. The following photo shows a flower box on our balcony – tended by Eileen, not the city – and the street obscured by the green canopy that runs along our street.

Spring view from our balcony

Spring view from our balcony

Although we see a lot of green in our neighbourhood, we do not see many well tended gardens. For that, I am fortunate to work at the Palais des Nations, which has an ambitious staff of landscapers and gardeners. The Palais sits on a larger piece of land called the Parc Ariana, which the staff tends into various landscapes: mowed grass, gardens, trails, woods and wild grasses. When I walk to work, I do not meander through all of these zones. I enter the grounds at the Place des Nations gate, pass the iconic flags and then through the southern gate, into a large courtyard with a variety of flower beds. The following photo shows the view out from the southern courtyard, toward the flags, the three-legged chair and the Place des Nations, with a few of the central flower beds in the foreground.

South gate, Palais des Nations

South gate, Palais des Nations

Springtime flowers are one of the rare subjects that motivate me to bring out my little-used macro lens. I wait especially for the morning after a rainy night, when big water drops still wobble on the petals. This weather also helps with macro photography, which is more demanding than shooting at greater distances from a subject. The macro focussing motor allows you to focus at less than a metre, using smaller adjustments. This also means that the focus is very fine and can be upset by wind or shake. Tricky focus is compounded by the effect of proximity on depth of field: the closer you are to a subject, the narrower aperture you need to achieve the same depth of field. This requires a slower shutter speed, making the shot even more susceptible to wind and shake. Using a tripod on a windless day is best.

Another consideration is light: since my camera and I are often hovering over the subject, direct sunlight can result in my shadow falling right where I am shooting, creating stark contrast with the sunlit areas around. Clouds provide a more diffuse light, another advantage of the morning after a nighttime rainfall.

Here are a couple of macro shots on a windless, cloudy morning, albeit without a tripod. They show tulips in the flower bed from the above photo.

Red tulip

Red tulip

Purple tulip

Purple tulip

A couple of the other beds in the southern courtyard are filled with flowers from the allium family. I looked online for the exact variety, but the closest matches have silly names, such as “purple sensation,” “globemaster” and “millenium,” so I prefer just “allium flower.” The following photos were all shot on the same morning and show allium flowers in progressive stages of opening.

Allium sequence 1

Allium sequence 2

Allium sequence 3

Allium sequence 4

Allium sequence 5

The welcomest effect of spring has been its curative one on Juniper’s mood. She turned 18 months and began daycare in December. Those two developments contributed to a disagreeable winter for Juniper. Eileen and I still enjoyed moments of joy with her, but they were fewer than before and spaced between more regular tantrums and whining. This lasted until Easter weekend – Good Friday morning, to be exact – when she woke in a renewed happy mood.

So spring is rich with life, plants, flowers, colours… yeah, yeah. Not having my daughter throw a tantrum, flat on her belly, legs and fists pounding the floor, because I said she had to wear a jacket to go out in the snow – THAT is my favourite springtime renewal!

Here are a few photos of our expressive, toddling Juniper since her Easter renewal:

“I will come, but I will not like it!”

Hunting for Easter chocolates

Hunting for Easter chocolates

Running against the wind in Ouchy

Running into the wind in Ouchy

Juniper slides by herself, although still cautiously

Juniper slides by herself, although still cautiously

Three rebellious friends under four years of age

Three rebellious friends under four years of age

Flying is Juni's favourite mode of travel

Flying is Juni’s favourite mode of travel

“That cow is so awesome, it is blowing my MIND!”

Just don't turn right

Just don’t turn right

A cute mess

A cute mess

May sunshine and happy children carry on into summer!

Written by Kris Terauds

May 22, 2015 at 14:09

Posted in Uncategorized