Saturday, February 16, 2013

L’Hiver Partie 1: Genève

Between my trip to Vienna and Christmas break, I didn’t go on any trips, due to finals and exhaustion from traveling all semester. Christmas came as a much-needed break from school. Though I didn’t go home, I was excited for my family to come visit me in Switzerland (and for them to pay for my meals, let’s be real here.).

The week before my family arrived in Geneva, I stayed with the family of another Pepperdine student studying abroad in Shanghai. Though I didn’t know him, I had met his family in September when I visited their house in Geneva and went to the Bodmer Museum with them and several other Pepperdine Lausanne students. I got in contact with them in the middle/end of November, and they graciously accepted me into their home for a week!

Getting to Geneva was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I’ve had in quite a while. Let’s just say that I’m not the most independent person in the practical world, and independent situations like having to figure out the entire bus system of a city (okay I didn’t have to navigate the whole system, but I had never used it before, and I had to figure that out on my own) cause me stress. I know that if I make a mistake it’s my own fault and it’s my own responsibility to figure out how to work out how to get around. Knowing this, I lingered around the Lausanne house the day we had to leave the house, hoping I wouldn’t actually have to leave and be independent.

But then the time came. I left the house with my suitcase filled with a weeks’ worth of clothes, and made my way to the train station, a smile on my face, because I was being independent! The train ride there was relaxed, but I kept looking at my maps of the city’s bus system and memorizing how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C without getting lost. Thankfully, this work paid off and I arrived at the house safely, albeit an hour and a half after I was supposed to. I was shown my living quarters in the family’s guesthouse and conversed with the maid in French until Mrs. de Planta arrived home with her other two sons. I got to meet them and spent dinner, then went to their weekly bible study with them. I got to practice my French speaking and listening skills there. Thankfully, their pastor was understanding of my amateur skills, and helped me out a lot with my pronunciation and phrasing.

The following day I spent sleeping in, cooking my breakfast, and taking a bath (a rare commodity here!) before spending lunch (sushi!) at the house with Mrs. de Planta and going out shopping with the de Plantas’ youngest son, Alexi, after picking him up from tennis practice, at which he had received a bloody nose (we walked around with a cotton wad sticking out of his nose all afternoon – it was quite comical). He and I walked around the main shopping street of Geneva and he bought various video games and we evaluated the different Nerf guns for sale in the toy stores, discussing which would be the best for a Nerf gun war. Once done, we met with his mom at work, and then drove back for dinner.

After a nice and delicious dinner and tea, I went back to the guesthouse and spent the evening reading (read: attempting to read) a French novella and getting a lot of sleep.

The following day I spent no more than four hours out of bed. I woke up late (around 11) and made myself some scrambled eggs for brunch before getting back in bed and working on organizing my photos and videos before napping a little. At around three in the afternoon, I decided that staying in bed all day probably wasn’t the best way to spend my break, so I went to the café down the road and got myself a pastry and tea and finished Pride and Prejudice (which I hadn’t read since October…). Then, I stopped by the guesthouse and picked up a letter I wrote, and walked to the nearest post office – an errand I had been avoiding the whole week. Getting out and doing stuff on my own was so liberating! I even promised myself I’d go into town and go window shopping the next day. I had a quick dinner with the family, then immediately went back to bed.

The next day I finally went into town. I looked around different stores and enjoyed my time out of the house, even though it was chilly outside. While I didn’t buy any clothes, I did get some macaroons from Ladurée and a coffee from Starbs. Of course. Leave it to me to buy food instead of clothes!

That evening, when I arrived back at the house, I had dinner with the family (Mr. de Planta had just arrived back from a business trip in London), and then watched most of a documentary in French about earth and how humans are impacting the environment. Though I only understood about 20-25% of it, the visuals helped, and it was a really interesting film. Sadly, we didn’t watch the whole thing because we were all tired, and it was getting late. Plus Romain, their other son, was flying home from Shanghai the next day and their day was filled with packing for their vacation to their chalet. So I went back to the guesthouse to sleep.

My final day in Geneva with the de Planta family passed almost as the others had: laziness. My productivity was found in washing my clothes and packing (for the most part) those which were dry. Like planned, I arrived at the house around four to attend a play at the de Plantas’ church. I also got to officially meet Romain! We drove over to the church, and I got to re-meet some of the members I had met when I visited in September. Pepperdine’s Church of Christ contacts in Lausanne were also there, so I got to talk to them. Again, the pastor helped me with my speaking. We watched the skit, which had something to do with reading the Bible.

After we departed from church, we returned to the de Plantas’ house, and Romain and I hung out at a park overlooking the city lights. After a week cooped up in a guesthouse occasionally talking with some of my friends and family, it was nice to be able to talk with someone my age. We talked about everything from our programs to Malibu to what plans we have for our lives. Though we had never met before that night, I found him surprisingly easy to talk to and to open up to, which doesn’t happen very easily, or quickly, for me. So the night ended up being a nice break from the norm I’d begun in Geneva.

We returned to the house and I went to the guesthouse and finished my packing in preparation for picking my family up the next morning. As soon as everything was packed and ready to go, I went to sleep – or at least tried to. I was so anxious for my family to come that sleeping came as a challenge.

Overall, my week in Geneva was pretty much the perfect way to begin my break – I got well rested and recovered from a long semester filled with a roller coaster of emotions, from homesickness to joy, too much travel, and the like. Though I did feel like my unproductivity wasn’t the best way to begin break, I would now argue that it was the perfect recipe! I headed into the rest of my family-filled break well-rested and ready to travel Switzerland and Italy more. 

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