Sunday, July 29, 2007

Climbing the Alps, 21st Century Style

Let me catch you up on last week. The last thing I talked about here was the UMF Global Reception held here at the John Knox Center. After the reception, we continued to have class on Thursday and Friday. Both days brought special guests from important NGOs in Geneva. We also forged ahead with Ruby on Rails, the web programming language we're trying to learn over the course of these three weeks. I'm seeing some good progress with my 'test site' and am slowly remembering all the coding I'll need to create media-rich web content in the future. Practice makes perfect. Right now, I definitely need more practice.

We are also working very hard on building relationships with our NGO partners. Right now, I'm really interested in re-inventing a mothballed student journalism site. I would like to work with the IBO to make it a good fit for their goals and objectives.

On Saturday, the 7:11 Running Club took a day trip to Chamonix (pronounced sham-mon-knee) to enjoy the French countryside and climb up Mt. Blanc. Chamonix is a provencial ski village in the French Alps--about 90 minutes by bus from Geneva. The town is what I've come to expect from small town Europe--very clean, welcoming to tourists, and, well, provencial. There are a lot of natural wonders to behold while there. We decided to climb to the top of
L'aiguille du Midi, which lies 3842 meters (about 13,000 feet) above the town below. We made it to the summit in about 20 minutes. As you've probably guessed, we didn't exactly climb the mountain with our ropes and crampons. But, we did pay to ride a cable car! It was quite an experience--to be dangling above the jagged rocks of the mountain in a 10X20 car packed with 75 people. Jennie was not at all thrilled. The views from the top were, well, some of the most amazing sites I've ever seen. Make sure you take a look!

Speaking of photos, I've got a lot of great photos, which you can check out either on Shutterfly or on the global program's web
site at Click on my name on the right hand side. You can , of course, also see what others in the program are contribuiting.

I would also like to take a moment to mention that the 7:11 running club is still in effect. In fact, we all got in late last night (1:30am) and I still got up early this morning to run. I must be crazy. That, or I'm feeling good about my recent commitment to running 5 days a week. With all the hills here, it should be a piece of cake to run in my flat home-state of Michigan!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 25, 2007

I think that if you were to ask anyone here whether or not they could believe that we’ve been here three days, most would say NO WAY. The bonds and friendships we are creating with one another make it feel like it’s been so much longer. And, that’s a good thing. At least I think...

This morning, like the last two, started off with our morning jog. The 7:20 running club is now the 7:11 running club, since we were having a hard time coordinating showers and breakfast once we got back from the run. It worked out fine, but my legs are ready to fall off my lower body. I don’t think I’ve ever run in such a hilly area. The John Knox Center is at the top of a hill, so we usually go downhill for the first part and the end is always uphill battle. I’m glad to be getting out each morning, though. It’s always easier to run with a group.

Class was interesting today. We are learning to write web applications with “Ruby on Rails”. Although this was only day three, we’re moving along and actually created a very basic application today. Inspires me for more. However, my brain tends to be pretty fried by lunch.

The second half of the today, we met with Cyril Ritchie from the F.I.I.G. He is a fascinating man with a very interesting story. His office is on campus here, and he is also the president of the John Knox Center, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing him more. Tomorrow, the WFUNA comes in to speak with us. The reason we are having so many guest speakers is that we are in the process of trying to figure out what kind of project we want to work on. These guests have ties with all of the NGOs in Geneva.

Tonight was our formal reception. The Chancellor of Univeristy of Michigan-Flint—Jack Kaye—is here, along with other dignitaries from Geneva. We hooked up with Flint via IP video and had a press conference to discuss our new program. This program is brand new and very unique. I hope we were all good ambassadors.

Now, on to the important topic: The food was out of this world. There were so many great dishes, I don’t even know where to begin. It is safe to say that I, perhaps, may never eat this well again. The chef was flown in from Spain especially for the occasion.

After the reception ended, a group of us headed down to what is becoming our new hangout. It’s about an eight minute walk from the center. We enjoyed even more food and drink and most importantly, company.

It is now 1:30am. The running club is taking the morning off tomorrow to recover from our last 3 days, but we will run after class.

I now have an album I’m keeping photos in on Shutterfly. If you need in, let me know. They may wind up in other places as well at the start of next week. As we say in the broadcast business, stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Today is easy to sum up. We spent most of the day in class...then it rained all day.


When we were all downtown for the concert last night, we decided to run as a group this morning. At 7:20am, about 6 of us (Jennie, Karyn, Robert, Joachim, Tony and I) went for a 30 minute run. One word: HILLS!

Other than that, we all basically hung out most of the day. We got a video assignment and are working in groups. My partner is Diane. Since I am a video whiz (well, I should be after 15 years in the business!), I'm making her do most of the work. With a little guidance, of course!

Short and sweet blog, tomorrow should bring more! By the way, I'm working on a photo album to share with all of you. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day Two

After getting our first good night's sleep since we arrived, Jennie and I were ready to see more Swiss sites. The day before, we purchased an alarm clock for the low low cost of 2.5o (swiss francs.) This morning, we knew why it was so cheap. Our 8:30am wake up alarm never went off, so we didn't get up until about 10:30.

Since this was our last day before class, we didn't want to get too crazy, but we wanted to do something! At the time, we had no idea how long our classes would run each day, plus it looked like rain over the next couple of days and our travels may only be on weekends.

It was highly suggested that we first stay at the center for lunch, since the cooks were coming in to prepare meals, but many students were out and about during lunch. We had some chicken and mixed vegetables and then teamed up with Maxine to go to the Museum of Art and History in the Old Town part of Geneva.

We used our bus pass to hop aboard Bus #5 and headed into the city. The museum was nice, albeit a little warm inside.

We took a stroll throuh Old Town until we found a park (near Place Neuve) that had life-sized chess boards and ice cream! We sat for a little while and took in the scenery.

We were back in time for dinner and then headed back out around 8:30 to take in the music festival along the lake. Jennie, Karyn, Meghan, Robert, Tony, Joachim and I stayed out until about midnight, enjoying the balmy evening.

What a fun day!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Salut, Les Amis!

As I stepped off the airplane in Geneva, Switzerland early this morning, I once again became the world travler I once was--or that I once considered myself to be. Okay, I'm only 30, but my global travels have slowed down in the last 3 or 4 years. As I'm finding out, growing up also means working full time, which is a change from the fancy-free college student mentality. But here I am in Switzerland. For those of you who need to catch up, Jennie and I are in a Masters program at University of Michigan - Flint. We are working on a Masters in Education with a Technology in Education specialization. We're fortunate to have found this program with a global component. More on that here.

Walking through the terminal this morning, I was suddenly surrounded by both billboards and bystanders sending me messages in French. A language with which I am familiar with, at least as far as three years of high school French can take you.

"'Au-desses', I know that word...oh...what does it mean? Hmm...I know this!"

My mind flashes back to my French classes at St. Clair High.

"Salut, Les Amis!"

This was the title of the circa 1980 textbook we used during my entire high school Francais education. We used to love to make fun of the funny caricatures used by the author to illustrate vocabulary words and concepts. If only I had that book now!

I know enough to get by, but I was never really a fluent French speaker. Vocab - yes. Long two way conversations - no. But, it is amazing how much you can remember by suddenly being immersed in a language. There are actually fewer fluent English speakers here in Geneva than you'd think. At least seems to be the case thus far. Probably a good thing, since I've been inspired to re-connect with the Language. I think being here for a month will help. Then, as I told Jennie, I want private lessons 3 times a week. Sure, like I have time for that. But seriously, I'm into brushing up.

Okay, back to our first day here. As soon as we got situated at the John Knox center, Jennie and I took a 4 hour nap in our room. Our flight left Detroit at 1:45pm Friday, stopping in Newark before our 5:55 departure from there to Geneva. Add up the 7 hours in the plane and the 6 hour time change, and we got in at 8am.

When we woke up from our little nap, the few University of Michigan people we had seen earlier that morning were gone to lunch. So, Jennie and I ventured out on our own. In search of two things: #1 - Adventure. #2 - A SIM card for my cell phone.

After a few indecisive minutes trying to decide which way to head out, we took a right and walked down to a nearby (2 km) bus stop. We hopped off at the Jardin Botanique (Botannical Garden) and walked the rest of the way into town. It's Saturday, and most of the shops on the outskirts of town were closed. However, as we continued to make our way towards the city-centre and once we got nearer to the lake, the stores were open a bit longer. Jennie got her 'chocolat' and I found the SIM card I needed for my cell phone. By the way, if you miss me (or jennie) and you want to call, email me and I will give you the number!

So, after a delicious pizza dinner on the lake, we made our way the rain.

Right now (9:41pm GMT+1,) my goal is to stay awake another two hours to help cure my jet-lag. That way, we'll be able to sleep through the night soundly.

To wrap up, I'm thrilled to be here. Especially with Jennie! In the hustle and bustle of my everyday existence, it is all-to-difficult to make time to slow down and Picking up and leaving not only Michigan, but North America should help me take a break. If only there was not all this class work to do!

Oh, photos are coming soon. We took a few on our walk today, but neither Jennie nor I remembered to make sure we had the cable to connect the camera to our computers! So, sorry for all the text on the first day!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Safety First...

...that's Daisy's motto!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Great White North

The one thing I have found so far is that it is hard to blog in the car! So, I'll catch you up later...