The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Month: August 2014

Naming names and the Swiss flag phenomenon

Mtoto has progressed from stating things when asked questions to making his own observations. For example, yesterday we were on the 14 tram going up Rue de Servette. “We are going up hill” he stated without prompting. And we were going up hill – on Rue de Servette we are usually going up (towards Balexert) or down (towards Cornavin).

A moment later and mtoto pointed out of the tram window and said “Switzerland flag”. I looked out and sure enough, on about the seventh floor there was a Switzerland flag. This is an easy spot though – there are Swiss flags everywhere. If I saw this many England flags about in London I would probably be feeling a bit queasy as I tend to associate it with right-wing views. But I don’t so much about the Swiss and their association with the flag so I tend not to be bothered.

So unconcerned are we about the Swiss flag that we’ve even been swimming in it. Yes, there’s a Swiss flag swimming pool in Geneva. And bizarrely enough, it is floating on the river, close to the lake. When it was announced on 1 April, many people thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. But it turned out to be real.

When we were there last Sunday, having paid our 2 Francs (approximately £1.40) per adult to get in, it was fairly quiet at around 12:30pm. But the crowd was slowly building by the time we left at 2pm.

While I was swimming in the pool a photographer came in and started lining up some shots. He was from a Zurich regional newspaper he said and he asked all four of us in the pool if we were happy to be in his pictures. He was tasked with taking some pictures of life in Geneva. The final one he was happy with had a girl diving in from the side and me swimming in the background – possibly my first Swiss media appearance since we arrived.

The floating Swiss pool

The Carouge Market routine

Mama and I have a distinct memory, from our last period in Geneva, of visiting Carouge Market on Saturdays. So when we ended up in an airbnb stay in Dancet and followed it up with a sublet in Carouge, there was no better incentive to revisit the market.

Going to the market is also a great opportunity to practice a small amount of French in a way that you just don’t get when you shop in the supermarket.

So we’ve been off every Saturday morning to the Place du Marche to get our fruit and vegetables. Until today, I didn’t realize just how big an impression the market has had on mtoto and how it has given him some new routines.

On our first visit, we ended up going to one of the larger stalls. The prices were competitive and it was busy – surely a good sign. And we’ve gone to the same place each time now. So that’s a routine.  Another one of our family routines has quickly becoming stopping to eat fruit on the same bench after we’ve made all of our purchases. And last Saturday we had a whole breakfast at the market, including croissants, yoghurt and fruit. Mama was prepared and had brought her pen knife so she could cut up some of the fruit. She also brought our plastic cutlery (which came from the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank – thank you London!).

We’ve been able to practice our French and the staff on the market stall have put up with our slow choice of words and understand when we say that we would rather not speak English. Today I had fun asking for a “plus grande pomme de terre”. The woman serving me took me to the back of the stall and showed me a stash of dirty potatoes. I declared them perfect. She wasn’t sure but she did ask if I wanted to wrap them in foil. I didn’t, but I said yes, in case that helped. She checked with somebody else and then she got more out and I bought three.

Today, mtoto helped me by putting the things that we bought into the shopping bag. He was quite keen to start before I had someone serving me and then when we going he got the bag upside down but eventually he proved to be a valuable assistant. Then, when we were done I suggested to him that we could go to the playground. He turned and set off in the opposite direction. After appealing in vain I followed him and he took me to a bench in the market where he declared that he wanted to eat melon. Another routine!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought a knife so mtoto had to make do with four plums instead. I topped off each one and pulled the stone out and he munched away until he had finished all of each fruit. I then tried him with an apricot but he wasn’t so into that. The only thing that slightly spoiled our pause was that a trailer selling cheese was parked right in front of the beach, rather hampering our view of the market.

When mtoto was satisfied that he had had enough fruit, off we went through the square, stopping at the fountain so mtoto could wash his hands. Then we went to the playground at Parc Louis-Cottier. And when he was done there we went to the playground at the back of Boulevard des Promenades.

Recognising numbers

Today, mtoto and I were on our way to Carouge market. It’s on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

We took a slightly circuitous route, which took us through the peaceful town hall garden and there we spotted two works of art by the Swiss sculptor Yvan Larsen. One was Tetras – Lyre 1964 (a pigeon to you and me) and the other was Manchots (penguins). We came through the Marie and out by the Eglise Sainte-Croix and as we passed some bicycle parking and a sign signifying a max speed of 20 km/h for cars mtoto remarked “there’s a zero papa” and “there’s a two papa”.

This was the first time that I had heard him remark unprompted that he could recognize some numbers in written form. A few weeks ago we saw a couple of snails and he pointed out that there were two of them. So these numbers are beginning to make an impression. Until now I had assumed that his ability to count up to around 20 was simply him using his memory to record a sequence of words, just as he sings the alphabet more or less in tune with the Sesame Street alphabet song. I’ll be paying more attention now to his use of numbers.