Hot Air Balloons Galore!

So on the last Saturday of January, while Husband was off helping a colleague move, Son and i went to see the International Ballooning Festival in Château-d’Oex, Switzerland.

i had heard about this festival a couple of years ago and always wanted to go but we either had something else to do or were not here for it. So this year, i decided we just had to go. And we went.

The day started out lovely, cold but nice enough. We took the train from Montreux up to Château-d’Oex. The scenry went from this…

View from the train on the way up the mountain.

…to this in a space of 30 minutes!

About 2 or 3 stations before ours

It was lovely to be up in this winter wonderland. We haven’t had much snow at our level.

However, all that snowfall (it kept on falling in big fat flakes while we were there) means that it is bad weather and poor visibility for ballooning, the balloons were not going to take off. But they did inflate them so that the people who did come to see them will have something to see.

Here they are inflating the famous Scotsman. i was taken aback at how huge the balloons were.

See how that man could easily fit into the Balloon Scotsman’s mouth!

Here’s the Scotsman, fully inflated.

Here’s the Scotsman at full size, see the other balloons around it… lots of different colours and design.

So we stayed till they started to deflate some of the balloons and we went inside the big ‘warehouse’ and had some lunch. (Tobias got his first taste of cotton candy – he had fun but i don’t think he will be asking for one too soon.)

The whole village takes this ballooning thing very serious. They have a special display or it could be called a museum just for the sport of ballooning. We did not see this because i don’t read french and had thought it was only meant for organisers and information only. i realised too late that it was opened to public.

Here’s a little display in a bakery window which i like very much – just to show you how much they are into this ballooning thing.

Don’t you just love an edible display? :p

Tobias really enjoyed himself, even though it was cold and mummy was a little grumpy about it. So all in all it was a good day out.

Here we are, happy and smiling, glad that we braved the weather and came and saw.

i would recommend it to families with kids who are fancinated with flight and flying. Oh, people brought their little sleds with them, there was a little hill next to the launch site where kids could sled. Next time we’re bringing ours.

syc

Trip into the World of Strange & Wonderful…

A few months ago, it was the autumn school holidays and we did a couple of outings to places of interest in and around Switzerland. And seeing that there will be another school holiday in just 2 weeks, i thought it would be good to introduce people to one of the places we went to, which i found to be most interesting and would definitely be visiting again – the Technorama, Swiss Science Center.

Right from the word go, it was all hands-on, which is absolutely great for the kids & for me too (i am a tactile person, i love to be able to touch, do, experience it for myself.).

Here Tobias is having fun with the hands-on water fountain outside the centre as we waited for our friends to arrive:

Fountain outside Technorama

Tobias is turning a hand wheel which then moves a gear which works a pump which brings the water up the pipe and then it pours down a water wheel. He learnt that a small action can do big things when the right gears and pumps are in place.

The center covers so much – almost every area of science is covered. There are rooms for sound, light/vision, magnetism/electricity, mathemagic, mechanics, perception, water/nature/chaos, toy trains, and even a Youth Laboratory.

We tried to cover as much as we could – we stayed the whole day, from about 11am till closing at 5pm (they open at 10am) and i think we only covered maybe half or a little over half of all the exhibits. It was also quite slow moving as the kids wanted to try their favourites again and again. But we had so much fun.

Here we are trying out the special light effects room:

Light Projection Effects

We stood in front of some different coloured lights being projected from the ground and saw the effects on the wall opposite. i think they were not ordinary lights – not sure what they are – definitely need to go back and find out more.

Light Effects

Here we are at another light effects section:

This time it was ordinary light. This one showed how different coloured lights combined to form another colour. Sort of like the colour wheel.

There was also displays which allowed you to understand about static electricity, try out different mechanical setups, play with the pendulum effect, view the earth from space, learn about the effects of water.

Here we see the effects of water on dry ice:

The Mesmerising Dry Ice Experiment

We spent a whole lot of time here. Little bits of dry ice were transported on a little conveyor belt onto a slide which brings them gently in contact with the pool of water. Then they started to spin around wildly, like mini speed boats as the carbon dioxide inside them is released. Tobias kept wanting to watch this. He wasn’t the only one. There were a fair number of adults also mesmerised by this hypnotising experiment.

Of course there had to be a train room which house lovely toy trains. There were several large landscapes setup for the trains to run around in. The other fun thing was the bubble section where you could make, or at least try to make, giant bubbles 😉 We also got to make smoke signals and watch sand fall in lovely patterns.

My favourite section would be the puzzle section. They had set up tables with all sort of brain teaser puzzles. i was in puzzle heaven 😀

The Youth Laboratory was also a fascinating room. They had a couple of staff members who wondered around helping you understand what the experiment was about. There were experiments showing light refraction, comparing amount of light each material let in. We did not do all of them, some were just too hard for Tobias to understand or be interested in. The one which Tobias loved was the one which recorded an explosion and allowed you to play it back frame by frame and watch exactly what and how it happened.

As i said before, we only did a little over half the experiments, so we would definitely be going back. It is a most wonderful place to spend a rainy, gloomy day or any day for that matter. So if you live in Switzerland or come to visit and have curious kids, this is the place to go.

Oh i would advice going by public transport if you are going during school holidays, parking is fairly limited, unless you are the first ones there. It can be quite a walk.

syc

PS: This is not advertising for Technorama. We have in no way benefited monetarily or otherwise in writing this. Simply want to share a place where kids can have great fun and learn at the same time.

EDIT: i forgot to mention that all explanations and instructions at each exhibit is nicely displayed on little wooded cards in 4 different languages – German, French, Italian and English. So there is no need to worry about not understand or not being able to explain anything to the kids.

Christmas Letter 2011

Here’s another fond look back at 2011; this is the Christmas Letter which was sent out to some of our family & friends. This is a tradition for me (since we started writing the Christmas Letter some 5 years ago) to post this on our blog as a sort of record & reminder to myself…

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HI HI
How are you? We hope this Christmas letter finds you and your loved ones well & enjoying the Christmas season. We are delighted that it is snowing right now & we might, we just might, get a white Christmas – i think we’ve only had 2 white Christmases since we’ve lived here, so fingers crossed 😉

Last year was a year of settling for us & this year has been a year of changes and new experiences. What a change! hehheee…

The biggest change of all is that Sandra has closed her book business. Some of you would have heard about this & the whole long rather sad, frustrating process of this, in February/March of this year. It all started with rushing to yet another great bookfair & assuming that all residential roads are 50km/h. Well, to cut a long story short, Sandra got a huge fine & had been informed that the Kanton (state) will not recognise her International Driving License & she will have to take all the tests from the very beginning to get a Swiss one. She did try continuing the business without the use of a car; but getting all those heavy books to different locations by public transport was just too hard. On hindsight, which is always 6/6, it was a good thing. God had already put in Sandra’s heart a desire to slow down & focus on the family, especially as Tobias goes to 1st grade. & without this happening, Sandra would have just tried to continue juggling everything. Now it is good – Sandra has time to focus on the things which God has said are more important at the moment – it is all in God’s good plan.

So that’s the other big change – Tobias moved from Kindergarten to 1st grade & he loves it! There are more things for him to do & learn, so much more interesting for him than Kindergarten. He has German, of course, Math, Science (or general knowledge as it is translated from German), Music, Gym, Workshop & Religion. He gets to move around & switches classrooms for most of the subjects. His 1st grade teacher is lovely & patient. i’m not sure if i mentioned it before, but in Kindergarten, his teacher insisted that there was a problem & after a few different evaluations & a fair amount of money, it was concluded that he has ADHD. But now it seems that he is coping well in 1st grade – so maybe he doesn’t have this, maybe he was just bored in Kindergarten? Well, whatever it might be, we are grateful & praise the Lord that he is enjoying 1st grade & doing well & pray that he will continue to do so.

Tobias has also picked up several other activities outside of school – all of his own choosing. Judo is on every Wednesday evening – he absolutely loves it & is quite serious about this. He will be taking his half-yellow belt test this evening. He also has swimming on Fridays & has just gotten his 5th badge a few days ago. Learning the Guitar has also become part of his weekly routine – Daddy teaches him at home so lessons are as & when Daddy is home & they have time. But he really does want to play like Daddy, even thought he complains that his fingers hurt. Walter says it will take lots of training for them to not hurt so much.

So between Tobias’ school & activities, & Sandra’s own appointments. The week can get quite full. Sandra is still attending German class one evening a week & BSF one morning a week. She’s hoping to be able to get to take her B1 level test for her German (she got her A2 level certification this past July) & then will take a break from it. She has also recently joined a book club – she is very pleased about that,; she loves books so very much. & she loves words too – this year for a second time she has managed to complete the 50,000 words writing challenge in November (NaNoWriMo). She is also still involved with the Day Away Association for Women, now co-leading the Bern team.

Looking out the window now, watching the snow fall (finally, it is so late this year), reminds us of the ski trip we took in February. We finally did the Swiss thing & booked ourselves into a holiday chalet for a week in a ski resort – Laax. We normally only go skiing for 2 or 3 days. It was nice to spend a whole week there – though i think any longer would be a bit much. It was wonderful to also have a dear friend join us for that week. We all, except Walter, took classes. Our friend had his first experience on a snowboard. Tobias went to ski school with the other kids & Sandra got to go to lessons to refresh her skiing ablities. Now Sandra can hopefully keep up with Walter, who has really gotten quite good, on the slopes.

Walter still travels quite a bit for work. The travelling comes in spurts & he has been quite a few times to the US & Canada. In the months of October & November, he was gone for almost 4 weeks straight. Walter is still involved with the worship team at church, though with his travels it can get quite difficult to stick to the planned schedule. The worship team & a few members of the church recently had a jam session, just playing great music & worshipping the Lord. It was fantastic!

Of course, one trip which we all did together was our annual trip home to Singapore in July/August. As usual, it was fabulous to be back home, where we have missed our family & friends & without a doubt the amazing Singaporean food. It was a great time of catching up and renewing relationships. Last year Sandra got a new toy. This year Walter got a new toy – a tablet! He loves it & spends a fair amount of time on it. Tobias likes it too cos’ he gets to play games on it – much better than playing on mummy’s little smartphone. All in all, it was a good time of wonderful food with family & friends. We came back well-rested.

Oh, we also did an overnight stay at a farmhouse. It’s called ‘Schlaf-im-Stroh’ – Sleep-in-Hay. There are farms all over Switzerland which offer this, from about April till October. So we booked ourselves a night in October. It was rainy & cold but we still had great fun! On this farm, we got to play with bunnies & helped the farmer feed the animals. We picked eggs & fed chickens, we (actually mainly Tobias) helped milked the goats too. Tobias also got to brush down a little pony & ride on her. He loved it so much that he has asked to go back again – this time for 2 nights! hehheee… just a little side note – if you intend on going to one of these, do check that you are allowed to help out on the farm. Not all the farmstays allow that.

As the year comes to an end & we start looking to the new year ahead, we have also re-looked at our Blog – Wir Sind Ausländern @ yoongz.livejournal.com. Sandra has felt for a while now that she really needs to keep this blog more updated; she has also been inspired by other blogger mummies & desires that this blog be more than just a record of our time here. She wishes that this blog would grow to cover issues we face as individuals & as a family, to showcase our thoughts & cares, our journey throught life & also to inspire & help others, just as she has been inspired & helped by others; so to this end, our blog will be re-lauched in January 2012 under a new name & at a new internet address. So stay tuned for more.

Oh yes, i have to mention – we have new additions to our family – Gerbils! We now have 2 little gerbils, named Nox & Puddles, who are just adorable & great fun to have around. They were given to us by one of Sandras’ writer friends who had to leave for university. Tobias has been given the responsiblity of feeding them & helping mummy to clean out their cage. You can see pictures of them on our current blog.

Us in Como, Italy, Dec 2011

We pray & wish you & your family a Blessed Christmas & a Fulfilling 2012.

With lots of love,
walter, sandra & tobias