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Many of you know that we recently returned from a two-week trip to the Gambia, that tiny country within Senegal in West Africa.  Since I never fully appreciate an experience until I've written about it, I've started a new category here, in which I'll put both travel memories and Gambia-inspired musings.  Expect it to be rather random; if I wait to get it all organized I'll have forgotten too much.  (Lots of thinking to do, many activities, and over 1600 photos.) In the meantime, here's some background.

After a couple of false starts some 45 years ago, I finally found a college roommate who became a friend for life.  (Realize that in those dark ages, even smokers and non-smokers were often paired up to live together!)  Kathy went on to get a Ph.D. in mathematics and enjoy a long career as a university professor with a well-deserved reputation as an excellent and caring teacher.  Several years ago she embarked on a different sort of adventure altogether, and is now a math professor (and department chair) at the University of the Gambia, with an even stronger reputation for both excellence and caring.  She's not there for the adventure (although there is plenty of that), nor for the salary (meagre), and certainly not for the working conditions, but to make a difference in the world.  Yes, she's a saint, a fact of which I'm all the more convinced since our visit.  (You can ignore this part, Kathy, assuming your flaky Internet connection lets you see it.  You and I both know you're still the crazy person I knew back in college.) Perhaps it's more useful—since labelling people as saints tends to put them out of reach—to say that she's a Christian called by God to use her skills and experience in an unusual place. However you look at it, she's there, and is making a difference.  The world, Africa, the Gambia, even the University—these are too large to exhibit visible change.  But without a doubt she has for a number of years been changing the lives of families and individuals for the better.

However, despite the University's state of denial, she won't be in the Gambia forever.  Hence our determination to seize the year (and the presence of this trip on my 95 by 65 list).  The only reasonable time to make the trip was in January, which is during the dry season and between semesters for Kathy.  Coming during the dry season turns out to be very, very important: the weather, though still hot (90's) is much more pleasant, the mosquitos are much less numerous, and transportation tends to be through a few inches of dust instead of a foot or more of garbage-and-water. Definitely the time to go!

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So we went.

Some people travel for adventure.  Others for the educational and cultural growth.  As much as I value the latter, the primary importance of travel for me is still being with family and friends—and specifically, seeing them in their native habitat, as it were, so that their stories and experiences have more meaning when I hear them from far away.  The educational experiences are a great bonus thrown in, and on this trip we even had a few adventures.

Stay tuned.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 11:32 am | Edit
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I wrote this in response to someone's Facebook discussion, and put too much time into it not to save it here.  The subject was the very survival of America, and one optimist had said, "Doom and gloom speak just because the candidates of your choice aren't winning. People have been saying for over 200 years that the country is doomed if so and so gets elected to office. Well the country is still here and alive and well."  This was my response:

It is true that of the presidents I have experienced, the ones I thought were good people (Carter, Bush II) turned out to be terrible presidents, and the ones I thought were nuts (Reagan, Clinton) turned out much better than I could have imagined. Sometimes good intentions aren't enough, and sometimes people rise to the office. And good and bad luck have more effect than we admit.

Our recent trip to the Gambia convinced me that the best equipment in the world will not survive ignorance, abuse, and lack of regular maintenance. I worry not only for the United States, but for all of Western Civilization. It is under attack from all sides, from the Terrorists Formerly Known as ISIS to American college campuses. We whose mighty heritage this is have not done well in keeping it clean and oiled. Instead of fixing the broken parts, we trash them. Our children have no idea how to keep this great gift of the ages in working order. The beliefs that massive debt (personal and national) is okay; that name-calling is rational discourse; that our own failures are actually someone else's fault; that success implies not hard work but ill-gotten gains; that poor, even immoral, choices should not have consequences; that those who disagree with us are somehow subhuman and deserve whatever we can heap upon them—these attitudes, much more than whoever gains the highest office, are what will bring us down.

Sure, there are still pockets of resistance, but they're getting smaller and weaker. There's still hope—but only, I think, if we realize, as the great Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Edit
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I had a 325-day streak going on my DuoLingo language lessons.  I managed to maintain it through our long plane flight to the Gambia, and through the first couple of days there, even though Internet was spotty and difficult.  But then we went on a five-day trip up-country where there was No. Internet. At. All.  Nada.

DuoLingo allows you to "buy" (with credits) a "streak freeze" by which you can suspend your streak and restart.  That's the theory, anyway.  However, you can only buy such an extension one day at a time, so even though I have so many credits I could suspend for 137 days, that did me no good at all when I couldn't access the Internet for several days in a row.

I'm okay with all this, though I wish DuoLingo had a more useful "suspend" function.  Streaks can be motivating, and the daily reminders certainly helped me establish a good habit.  But while striving to keep up a streak can be a good servant, it's a bad master, and I threw it away without a second thought in favor of an invaluable experience.

My walking/running habit suffered a similar setback this trip.  Travel is great, but very hard on carefully, painstakingly built habits.  I gave myself four days of recovery once we returned, and there is still much that needs to be done before I can say we're settled back in.  But today is the deadline I've given myself for restarting my DuoLingo, exercise, and some other formerly-regular habits.  It's a small step, but if I succeed, it will be the soonest I've ever recovered from a trip.

The burden of important projects that have been neglected since before Thanksgiving (many of them for much longer than that) is likewise weighing heavily on me.  Travel is fun, and more importantly travel is valuable—ten times more so when it means spending time with family and friends.  But if I'm going to continue to enjoy it, I need to be more deliberate in budgeting for project time when we are home.

Plus, for me, the larger part of the travel iceberg lies below the surface:  the processing and writing time.  Not to mention over 1600 photos to sort, evaluate, and organize.

Ganbarimasu!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 6:04 am | Edit
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On January 28, 2016, we were preparing to land at the end of our flight across the Atlantic from Paris to Newark, the penultimate leg of a journey home from the Gambia that had begun with a take-off from the emergency Space Shuttle landing site that serves as the Banjul Airport runway.

Thirty years ago, that same Atlantic received the shredded remains of the Challenger and all her crew.

Five years ago I wrote about our own experience watching that disaster unfold, so I won't repeat it, except to add that in all the launches I watched before and since, the vapor trails were quickly dispersed.  That time the sky's tears streaked the cold blue for hours.

What struck me this time, thirty years after the fact, was something I didn't pay much attention to at the time:  President Reagan's speech in response, which he gave instead of his planned State of the Union Address.  It was written by the then relatively unknown Peggy Noonan, and delivered as only the Great Communicator could.

What Reagan (and Noonan) knew, as did Winston Churchill, was how to inspire people to be better than themselves.  You don't make children learn more by telling them how stupid they are; you don't make people love others better by insisting they are racist, sexist pigs; you don't encourage the weak to become strong by pointing out their failures.

Nor do you regale them with how strong and smart they are, and insist "you can be anything you want to be."  You don't imply that success should be easy or that love doesn't require sacrifice.  You don't suggest that the best way to fight terrorism is to continue buying and selling as usual (President Bush after 9/11) or partying on (some Parisians after the recent attacks).

A good leader is not afraid to insist that there is no gain without risk, no success without effort, and no victory without battle.  The way is hard, the road is long, and it is not safe.  A great leader goes on to encourage others to believe that they are the kind of people who will rise to meet the challenges; that the benefits will be worth the cost; and that the way, though difficult, will be sprinkled with joy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 10:15 am | Edit
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I try to avoid clickbait—you know, the Internet equivalent of the TV news teaser, "World ends tonight, details at 11"—but this one on Facebook mentioned both "Basel, Switzerland" and "drum corps" in the subtitle, so I succumbed.  I was glad I did.  (Thanks, BJ.)

The Top Secret Drum Corps founded the now-famous Basel Tattoo in 2006.  I enjoyed watching the parade in 2010, though we didn't attend the Tattoo itself, being fully entertained by newborn Joseph.

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Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:54 am | Edit
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We didn't come nearly as far south as usual on our trip home from Connecticut, because we enjoyed a wonderful visit with my cousin, her husband, and other family members.  We hadn't seen each other since my Dad's memorial service in 2002, and only just scratched the surface of reminiscing and catching up.  We could have lingered longer over breakfast, but we needed to get going, and anyway, our hosts were dealing with a clogged kitchen sink.  It was a great visit, but it meant we were still nearly 850 miles from home.  We were thinking of stopping around Savannah, but ... things happened.

The trip began uneventfully, unless you count the good event—the trip from Washington, DC to Richmond has never been so easy.  Probably that's because we're usually hitting that stretch in the late afternoon, and this was morning.  No traffic problems at all!  But we made a gas stop in good old Walterboro, SC, and as we drove away the car door locks began randomly and repeatedly cycling:  lock, unlock; lock, unlock.  We tried this, we tried that.  We searched the Internet, where what we found most useful was learning that other people have had the same problem, though there was no consensus as to a solution.  I whined on Facebook, and received some replies that cheered us up, but no practical suggestions.  Our own mechanic had gone home for the day.

So we just kept going.  Instead of stopping in Savannah, we decided to go straight home, not knowing what might happen if we stopped the car and left it overnight.  There were some promising breaks in the lock cycling, but it would come back again.  And again.  Until finally it didn't.

Although we no longer had our Personal Percussion accompaniment, the I-4 stretch had enough to keep the driver awake:  a long construction zone, with no street lights and no lane markers, in the pitch dark and pouring rain.  At least the other folks on the road had the sense not to be driving the posted 70 mph speed limit.  But we made it to the grocery store, where the car locks behaved normally, for a few staples and some sushi for dinner—as I said, we hadn't wanted to stop the car while far from home.

And then we were home!  All seemed well, and we walked over to the neighbors' to pick up our mail.  There we discovered that both of them were sick in bed.  This is relevant to my tale because of what happened next:  Porter went to turn the water to the house back on, and discovered the valve was leaking—and who knows how long it had been.  He had the material needed to repack the valve, so instead of enjoying our sushi, he went to work.  Normal procedure would have been to borrow from our neighbor both his assistance and the tool needed to turn the water off at the street.  But ... (see above).  Not without difficulty, Porter managed to make do with me as an assistant and wrenches plus a lot of effort to turn the water off, then on again, then off again when we realized things were still leaking, then on again when the repair was finally complete.  Well, almost—we have water, and we've left the finishing touches for a time when, we hope, the "sun comes out and dries up all the rain."  So the day that began with plumbing, ended with plumbing.

Oh, and we also replaced the battery in one of our smoke detectors, which was beeping so insistently I could hear it from outside the house.

We may be getting to bed a lot later than we had hoped, but we're home, we're thankful for a wonderful vacation and a safe return, and we trust that daylight will reveal no further problems—our neighbors keep a good eye on things while we are gone—and we finally had a chance to enjoy our sushi.  Soon we will be off to bed, after I write one more post....

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 11:44 pm | Edit
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The one good thing about living so far from our grandchildren is that their growth between visits is often dramatic, and easier to see than when one's data points are closer together.  But Nathaniel, six months old, certainly made the most of our two weeks together.  When he arrived, he was a good crawler (commando-style), but had just begun to take some wobbly creeping (hands-and-knees) steps.

Before the second week was out, he had a good, solid, cross-pattern creep, i.e. was able to get across the room and into trouble in no time at all.  And never one to rest on his laurels, Nathaniel wants to cruise!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 9:12 am | Edit
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So, it's "quiet time" here with the Swiss contingent.  Vivienne and Daniel have worn themselves out and are now asleep.  Joseph spent the first half hour reading out loud from the Bible:  New International Version, starting in Ruth, ending in Revelation, and skipping all around in between.  Now he has a spray bottle and a cloth and is cleaning up streaks on the glass doors to the balcony.  Janet has followed the lead of the younger ones, but I'm enjoying the sun, the cool breeze, and a moment of quiet (maugre the barking dog, the nearby airfield, and the heavy contruction noise).

Side notes:

  • The time stamp should now be right for my posts.  I hadn't bothered to change the time zone in LifeType, but finally decided it seemed too silly to write about the afternoon with an early morning timestamp.
  • I can't decide whether to be pleased or annoyed that Google thinks it's smarter than I am.  It looks at my IP address and decides to deal with me in German....
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 12, 2015 at 7:21 am | Edit
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I don't know what caused our homeward flight to be delayed five hours.  It certainly wasn't the weather, which could hardly have been better for March in New Hampshire.  The Southwest Airlines agent said the delay was due to maintenance, but I suspect that any "maintenance" that so disrupts the flight schedule is more along the lines of "repair."

Whatever the cause, at about 2 p.m. we discovered that our 5:30 flight had been rescheduled for 10:30, with the estimated time of arrival in Orlando moved from a very reasonable 8:45 to a very unreasonable 1:45 a.m.  Unreasonable, that is, if your ride home from the airport has to get up early to go to work.  We looked into alternate flights, but none was direct, and their arrival times into Orlando weren't all that much better.  We chose to stay in a situation where if the flight were cancelled the onus was on Southwest to make other arrangements.  Porter reserved a rental car instead (there are return places for both Hertz and Avis near our home, which makes this a convenient option), and we settled down to enjoy a little more time with the grandkids.

Not all that much time, as it turned out, because in order to fit our new departure into the Daleys' busy schedule, we had to leave home sooner than strictly necessary.  There was a bit of a question just who would drive us there, as Jon had been called out on an ambulance run, but he made it back just in time.  The rest of the family stayed home, so there would be plenty of room in the car on the way home for a large load of pellets for the woodstove, but Heather insisted that Jeremiah come, even though he had to be awakened from his nap.  I'm sure it was a good decision to let him say goodbye to us at the airport, because at barely two I'm sure he was shocked enough this morning to find us gone.

At the Manchester airport, our flight was famous.  They kept one restaurant open well past the normal closing time, so we were able to eat a late dinner while passing the long hours of waiting.  The food wasn't great but it was more than we had expected, and we were grateful.  Pretty much, if we saw anyone there who wasn't an employee, he was on our flight.  Thus after dinner we were able to settle ourselves some way away from the gate (but within eyeshot), and know that we would not be left behind.  In fact, the Southwest agent came to us (and the others scattered around) to deliver our two $100 vouchers "for the inconvenience."  True, it was inconvenient, but for two adults with no travel deadline it could not be called onerous.  (I did keep imagining what it would have been like if we had been travelling with three children under four, as Janet and I had done in the summer.)  We settled into a set of comfortable seats with charging stations for two phone and two computers.  We were warm and safe; we knew our plane was now in the air and on its way to Manchester; we had work to do and books to read, in peace and relative quiet.  Some people might pay a lot for that privilege....

We took off just before 10 o'clock, and all went smoothly with the flight, our subsequent retrieval of luggage, the rental car, and the ride home (none of which should ever be taken for granted).  It's times like this when I'm reminded that one of the blessings that came from Porter's years on the road for IBM was a great familiarity with the whole car rental procedure.  Even so, this one took some getting used to:  it had no keys.  Well, it did, but we didn't find them until later, tucked away in a compartment.  The only instructions were "depress the brake and press the start button."  Figuring out how to turn off the radio was also a trick.  Eventually he knew enough about the car to drive it home, but our first computer was less complicated.

We arrived home somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 a.m.  Everything was fine except for the clocks, which all insisted it was an hour earlier.

Today Porter is digging his way through Central Florida's surest sign of spring:  mountains of fallen leaves, and the trees still shedding.  When he is no longer in danger of falling off the screened enclosure into the pool (best-case falling scenario), I will venture out again to replenish the neglected larder.

Our feelings for Southwest Airlines were not of the rosiest when we learned of the long flight delay, but I was impressed by their efforts to make it up to us:  not only did the vouchers sweeten the situation, but the cheerful good humor of all the staff was contagious.  It's still my favorite airline.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 11:34 am | Edit
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alt95 by 65 #38 (5 new restaurants, #2) and #48 (visit King Arthur Flour):  Two flies with one swat.  (This European expression is much more to my liking than our own, as outside of dinner I see little reason to kill birds.  I have no such compunctions about flies.)

Our visit to the King Arthur Flour store, bakery, and café was Part I of our pre-Nathaniel-birth adventuring.  (Part II, which contributed to #69, will be the subject of a later post.)  KAF's products are good, though not inexpensive, and I loved getting a chance to visit their home turf.  Even more, I loved that the employees were so friendly and generous, especially since their generosity came out of their own pockets:  KAF is 100% employee-owned.

The food?  I had a bite of Noah's sandwich, which was wonderful, but for myself had ordered a simple half-baguette.  If you're taste-testing a bakery, you don't want to clutter up the basics with other flavors.  My verdict?  They do sell great bread in America, even if you'd never know it from the grocery stores and most restaurants.  The café is also not inexpensive, so maybe it's a good thing we don't live close enough to eat there on a weekly basis.  The temptation would be great.

I also enjoyed browsing the store, though I surprised myself by not buying anything.  If I get another chance to visit the store, I'll be more prepared with a plan—and more suitcase room.  There's just too much to choose from, especially with five kids anxious to get to the next stop on our adventure.  In the meantime, there's always mail-order.  And learning to make my own good bread.

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Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Edit
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The Battle of Kings Mountain was, like that of nearby Cowpens, decisive in turning the tide of the American Revolution in the South.  Not that I was ever taught that in any history class in school, where local prejudice made the Battle of Saratoga the only "turning point of the American Revolution."  But better half a century late than never:  I know it now, and we visited both Kings Mountain and Cowpens on one of South Carolina's most beautiful ever November days.

Another point of major importance that I never knew:  in the South, the Revolution was actually a civil war.  Having been brought up in the Northeast, I never thought of Tories as being all that important:  the Revolution was a battle between patriotic Americans and their nasty British overlords.  But in this part of the land the fight was brother against brother, or at least neighbor against neighbor, with loyalties somewhat fluid, and more about personal freedom than politics and breakfast beverages.  The British did their best to encourage the Loyalist faction (Tories) against the Patriots (Whigs), much as we keep trying to do in other countries today.  They'd hoped to get the Americans to do most of the dirty work for them, remaining themselves in more of a leadership and advisory position.  (Not much has changed in 234 years.)  At Kings Mountain, the officer in charge of recruiting and leading the Loyalists was Patrick Ferguson. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 10:57 am | Edit
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Many thanks to our friend RW, who alerted us to this Wall Street Journal article about a wine-tasting bicycle journey through the Wallis in Switzerland.  The timing was perfect, because that's the part of Switzerland we had the privilege of visiting while waiting for Daniel to make his entrance.  Janet wrote some about the trip here, and I hope to post my own memories soon—before I forget more than I already have.  In the meantime you can get some of the flavor of the canton (though, not, alas, the wines) through the article.

I have a correction to make, however.

And the Matterhorn delivers—as long as you don't mind seeing it with the crowds through the clouds.

And this is what Switzerland should say to New Zealand:

In a letter to his son, J.R.R. Tolkien claimed that a visit to the Upper Valais [Wallis in French] and neighboring Lauterbrunnen Valley inspired the Elven outpost of Rivendell in his books.

Having visited both the Wallis and Lauterbrunnen, I can now claim to have been not only to Middle Earth, but to Rivendell itself.  The Shire, however, I expect I'll have to find on a trip to England.

For most of his journey, the author rode what's called an e-bike:  not, as I originally thought, some sort of virtual tour, but a modestly-powered bicycle that "helps me on the climbs yet is easy enough to carry on the train."  That sounds like a brilliant invention for climbs that even Steven Perezluha might find daunting, or maybe even for weary, out-of-shape mothers who would appreciate a little help trying to keep up on family bike trips.

This journey was about wine, and ours was not, but the article captures the feel of the area so well it was pure delight to read.  You might enjoy it, too, for a little glimpse of what we saw this summer.  Of course, the article neglects to mention the mountain pass with frequent, hair-raising switchbacks, driving rain and hail, two carsick kids, and a woman threatening to go into labor.  For that, you'll have to wait for my version.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Edit
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Two years ago, Stephan wrote an excellent summary of why Americans overseas bear an unfair and disproportionate tax burden.  It's still true, and you can help by e-mailing the House Ways and Means Committee by April 15—if you don't need all that time to prepare your own taxes, that is.  You could also, of course, e-mail them with your own thoughts about tax reform in general.  That's too much for me to contemplate at the moment, so I settled for writing on this subject.  Here's one of my two letters, minus a few details.  You'll note I cribbed a good deal from Stephan's post.

I am writing to ask that the International Taxation Committee of the Ways & Means Committee for Tax Reform seriously consider the proposal of the American Citizens Abroad (ACA) for reform to residency-based taxation (RBT).  (http://americansabroad.org/files/6513/6370/3681/finalsubrbtmarch2013.pdf)

The current policy of citizenship-based taxation is unique among developed countries:  all others levy taxes based on residence alone.  As I understand it, this taxation by citizenship is intended to prevent very wealthy Americans from avoiding taxes in the USA by moving abroad.  But do you remember when tuna fishing nets inadvertently caught and killed porpoises as well?  There are several unintended, unfair consequences of this tax policy for ordinary, non-wealthy US citizens abroad  Here are a few examples:

  • The USA taxes its citizens abroad based on their income converted into US dollars. You might earn the same salary in year one as in year two, but be forced to declare an increase in income of several thousand US dollars because the dollar was devalued in that period
  • If you are hired as an expatriate by a large company, you cost the company more in expenses and tax attorney fees, which makes you less attractive for hiring.   This competitive disadvantage of its citizens is damaging to the US economy, particularly in this climate of globalization.
  • US citizens abroad run the risk of unintentionally becoming criminals because of the complex tax laws and agreements. The US tax code is complicated for US residents; it is worse as a citizen abroad. Additionally, IRS personnel rarely are able to answer questions you might have, so even if you try your best you run a very real risk of unintentionally running afoul of the IRS.
  • US citizens abroad are being denied basic local banking services. Many local banks altogether refuse dealings with anyone liable to taxation by the IRS rather than running the risk of being sued.
  • Because “any United States person who has a financial interest in or signature authority or other authority over any financial account in a foreign country, if the aggregate value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year,” must file an FBAR, an American overseas may be denied employment or promotion since US tax law could require disclosure of the company account to the IRS.

Even though I, myself, reside in the United States, I am affected by this unjust form of taxation.  My American daughter and her American family are currently living overseas and thus are hurt by the problems above.  Furthermore, I have been unable to open a simple bank account in her town in which to keep a small amount of funds to use while visiting them.  The banks will not open accounts for Americans because IRS rules require them to break their own rules to do so.

A move towards a residence-based system would it be simpler and fairer for Americans living abroad, and would strengthen America’s global competitiveness.

Please consider the RBT proposal submitted by American Citizens Abroad (ACA).  (http://americansabroad.org/files/6513/6370/3681/finalsubrbtmarch2013.pdf)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Edit
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I'm writing this post to remind myself how easy it is to order books from amazon.de—the German version of amazon.com—and for anyone else who might be considering such an order.

When you first go to amazon.de, the page can look intimidating, being mostly in German.  This is not a problem, for three reasons:

  1. It's still Amazon.  You'll be able to guess most of the important words simply because they correspond in position on the page to what you're accustomed to from amazon.com.
  2. If you're uncertain, Google Translate is a great help.
  3. On the top left of the amazon.de page, you'll see "Hilfe".  This is "help" and will take you to a page where (on the left side) you can click on Information for English speaking customers.  This section is—surprise!—all in English.

The company clearly expects some very nervous English-speaking customers, because the Step-by-Step Guide to Ordering is excellent.

From the English guide you can also learn about the Amazon Currency Converter.  This is an option you can turn on or off in "Mein Konto" ("My Account"), from the main amazon.de page.  Prices at amazon.de are given in euros.  One payment option is to pay in euros with your credit card, letting the credit card company handle the exchange.  But if you enable the Amazon Currency Converter, which stays on or off until you change it, Amazon will make the exchange.  The primary advantage of this is that you know at the time of purchase exactly what charge will show up on your credit card bill.

If you're sending the order to Switzerland, you're in for two pleasant surprises:

  1. Shipping is free, with no minimum order.
  2. The price will be less than you expect, since the EU's VAT will have been subtracted.

More good news:

  1. I don't know the legal technicalities of the connection between amazon.de and amazon.com, but it uses the same account information (passwords and such) and address books.
  2. If you have an Amazon credit card, buying from amazon.de is just as 'way too easy as buying from amazon.com.

"Okay, so what's the down side?" I hear you ask.  There is one:  I've found books to be generally more expensive on amazon.de.  Even so, buying from them is cheaper, and a whole lot faster, than having amazon.com ship overseas.  And since the USPS got rid of its International Media Mail rate (Boo! Hiss!), buying from amazon.de is much cheaper (and again, faster) than buying from amazon.com and shipping the books yourself.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 6:54 am | Edit
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Children really do expand one's horizons.  Who would have thought that trying to keep up with them would lead us to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland ... and to one of the 25 Least Visited Countries in the World?

Tied with Djibouti (sort of; the tourist counts are from different years), sandwiched between the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone, is beautiful Liechtenstein.  Here's the entire list:

  1. Nauru (200 tourists)
  2. Somalia
  3. Tuvalu (1200 tourists
  4. Kiribati
  5. Marshall Islands
  6. Equatorial Guinea
  7. Turkmenistan
  8. Sao Tome and Principe
  9. Comoros (15,000 tourists)
  10. Afghanistan
  11. Solomon Islands
  12. Micronesia
  13. Mauritania
  14. Guinea-Bissau
  15. Libya
  16. North Korea (35,000 tourists)
  17. Bhutan
  18. Timor-Leste
  19. Tonga
  20. Sierra Leone
  21. Djibouti
  22. Liechtenstein (53,000 tourists)
  23. Central African Republic
  24. Chad
  25. Dominica (73,000 tourists)

There's a small chance we may get to Dominca on a Caribbean cruise, but the others are long shots, by a long shot.

Liechtenstein is a beautiful and pleasant country, and an easy day trip from many places in Switzerland.  I highly recommend a visit if you're in the neighborhood.

Perhaps we should have paid the 10 francs (each) to get our passports stamped while we were there!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 9:34 am | Edit
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