This is my new home in Nyon, Switzerland:
Between the fine Swiss cuisine of my host mom, a class full of internationally inspired peers and #GenevaLakeLife, settling in the past few weeks has been a breeze…for the most part.
Some initial thoughts in no particular order that provide a some insight into my new life:
My host mom speaks little English, and whenever we are at home we all talk in French. Let me tell you, my French is getting good. So good in fact that I have started talking to myself in French. I can’t quite peg how I feel about that.
I am happy to report that yes, bread and cheese is probably over 50% of my diet.
Most of my humor is sarcasm and I haven’t quite figured out how to integrate that into French. I’m also working out if the Swiss appreciate sarcasm because my attempts thus far have mostly led to confused looks and awkward silences where I laugh at my own joke and then move on.
I’ve been to McDonalds more in the past few weeks than in the past year. There are at times where it is for sentimental reasons reminiscent of home, but mostly it is because it’s all we can afford because Switzerland is So. Expensive.
The world knows it as Lake Geneva. But to the people who live around here, it’s Lac Lémon. They are actually quite protective about the name. Don’t test out that theory, just take my word for it unless you want a little old Swiss woman to get upset with you too.
It’s no secret that it’s hard for the United Nations to get anything done. I experienced this firsthand when it only took them three hours to print out a UN library card for me. At least they’re consistent?
If you ever find yourself in Annecy, France, hmu because I will probably be living there.
What’s Your Number?
I’ll let you think that a cute Swiss boy asked for my phone number for a few more minutes while I set up this story.
For the first time in my life, public transportation has become a part of my daily routine. Each morning, Erica and I walk, well power walk because I usually make us just almost late, to the station to catch the train heading for Geneva where our classes are held. The train is usually busy, and last Friday was no different.
When the automated voice announced that we’d arrived in Geneva, I turned and shuffled like a zombie with the crowd toward the exit doors then down the stairs until I realized that something wasn’t right. I felt naked. Where was my cell phone?
I instantly snapped out of my trance, dropped to the floor and started ripping my backpack apart. No luck. I looked back up the stairs in the direction I’d come to see a sea of people pouring toward me. I had to get back on that train, which was seconds from pulling out of the station. I reached the top of the stairs in a complete panic and dove onto what I thought was the train I had exited no more than a minute ago just as the doors were closing.
It was not the train that I had exited no more than a minute ago. Somehow in my disoriented state, I managed to get on a regional train heading in the opposite direction. I stood in the middle of the aisle eyes-wide and out of breath with a lost look on my face, not sure what to do next. My phone was gone, there was no way I was finding it now.
It was only a matter of seconds before I generated some sympathy from a middle-aged businessman who was on his way to work. He asked what was wrong and I told him I couldn’t find my phone, that I’d left it on another train on my way to school. He pulled out his iPhone and asked for my phone number to call it.
A few seconds later my phone started ringing somewhere inside my backpack, I’d forgotten to check one of my pockets.
What is going on in this picture on the right?
a) trying to take a cute new prof pic in the water with all my clothes on.
b) pretending to be a duck.
c) emerging from the water after falling in with all of my clothes on.
While I admit that both a and b are very good, very plausible guesses, they are incorrect. Which leaves c. Yes this is a photo that Erica snapped seconds after I fell into Lake Geneva fully clothed during our lunch break.
Let’s back up. As I mentioned before, everyday I attend class in Geneva. Sometimes we take a tour of one of the city’s many international organizations or meet with contacts to conduct an interview for our research projects, but mostly we meet in a classroom that welcomes a new guest speaker everyday. Our guest speakers range from security experts, to university professors who specialize in various fields of conflict, to UN spokespeople and everything in between.
After the lecture is over, we get a two-hour break for lunch where we usually make our way down to Lake Geneva and find a spot by the water to eat. Geneva is just about the most expensive place on earth, so in the interest of wanting to be able to afford anything while I am over here, I have resorted to packing my lunch everyday. The same lunch actually, everyday, down to a T. A sandwich with butter, a piece of cheese and some salami. But it’s actually more like half of a sandwich because the bread here is so small. I also pack a nectarine, which is the highlight of my meal. I don’t however pack a napkin, which Zach scolds me for on a regular basis, to wipe my hands with when I finish up.
A few days ago, I made my way down to the water with a group of friends. After I enjoyed my sandwich, I took the first bite out of my nectarine. It was a juicy one, the kind where you bite in and juice dribbles all over your hands and down your chin. This is always the part where I wish I’d listened to Zach and packed a napkin, and today was no different. Despite that, I went all out, juice everywhere, because we were right next to the water and I would be able to rinse my hands afterwards. No regrets honestly, that nectarine might have been the best one I’ve had all year.
When I was done, like I’d planned, I made my way down the bricked slope to the water’s edge to wash my hands. I really don’t know what happened next, it was all so fast. As soon as I touched the water, my feet flew out from under me and I slip-and-slided my way right into Lake Geneva with all of my clothes on. By the time I stopped sliding, I was almost completely submerged in front of my new friends and a few passerbyers that couldn’t help but stop and stare at what looked like a girl who had decided to go swimming in all of her clothes.
After some investigation, I concluded there was some very slick, very invisible algae smeared all over the rocks closest to the water. And that’s why I fell. It’s also why the sight to me, trying to climb back up the bricked slope was probably even funnier than when I initially slid in.
Overall I think that it was a good learning experience about the dangers of algae.
No Place Like Home
Earlier today Zach and I got back from Zurich after a quick weekend trip to visit Perry, another CC friend, who is also studying abroad in Switzerland for the semester. We had a hoot, as per usual.
Having spontaneously decided on Friday around noon to go, we went without much of a plan besides sleeping bags and a place reserved on Perry’s floor. Zach and I explored the city, hit the club on Friday night with Perry and some Italian heartthrobs and then on Saturday went to see deep house euro-DJ legend (so Zach tells me), Sven Väth, and danced our hearts out until 4 am.
When our train pulled up at the Nyon station, an odd sensation came over me. I’ve only been here for two weeks and one day, yet I felt like I was home. Sure a different home from the one I know in Minnesota or at CC, but for now, I think I am happy with this one.