Geneva, Switzerland: Day 1

Hi, everyone! I am back with a recap of day one in Switzerland! I apologize for the delay. Tuesday involved finishing up homework and studying for my first British Studies exam and Wednesday involved writing the said exam and traveling to Ireland where I am currently typing this blog post.

So, Switzerland. First, some back story on how I ended up in Geneva.

Way back in 2014, I was preparing to go on exchange to Australia with Rotary Youth Exchange. Since there would be a spare bed in our home, my family decided to host an exchange student. Enter Estelle, my Swiss host sister who lived with my family while I was abroad for a whole year. I did not depart for Australia until after her arrival, so I had the opportunity to get to know her for a couple of weeks before flying out.

Welcome, Estelle!
Departure day for Australia circa August 2014: Gavin, Estelle, me, Mason, and Delaney

Now, flash forward to summer 2015. Estelle was getting ready to depart and her family flew to Indiana to meet our family. I cannot say we all understood one another, but we made countless memories nonetheless.

The Americans and the Swiss

During this same time, I was battling reverse culture shock and having a hard time acclimating to life in the midwest. A coworker of mine put me in touch with her friend, Jana, a former Rotary Youth Exchange Student to New Zealand who now lived in Geneva, Switzerland. For a couple of months, I corresponded with Jana via email. Writing her was therapeutic because her experiences and mine mirrored one another.

Now, fast forward to 2019.

I flew out early from London Gatwick airport to Geneva very early last Thursday. Estelle greeted me at the airport with a warm hug. We headed to her house and our conversations just flowed despite not having seen one another for over two years.

At the house, I freshened up and we plotted out our day. The weather was projected to be rainy, so Estelle suggested we go to the Red Cross Museum in the afternoon. She asked if I wanted to eat dinner with her brothers, father, and grandparents to which I said yes.

Before lunch, we went to the ski shop to rent my skis and boots for the following day. Estelle and the ski lady conversed in French while I stood standing with a smile on my face and nodding my head because I did not know what either of them was discussing. I was so short that I ended up with junior skis and boots to match (haha).

We went back to the house and Estelle’s brothers came home for their lunch break. Colin greeted me with a hug and went in for the traditional three cheek “kiss,” which took me aback as I am not a touchy sort of person. When Timotée came in for a hug, I was prepared! Jean-Marie, Estelle’s dad, and her grandparents soon arrived. We sat down and ate a delicious meal of steamed artichokes, sausages, salad, and fruit. Colin had falafel since he is vegan.

Once lunch wrapped up and the house cleared out, Estelle and I took the bus to the Red Cross Museum. The museum covered the history of the organization, humanitarian work, and a rotational exhibit covering prisons. I felt the museum provided a great mix of interactive displays, great audio guides, and visual information. Estelle and I stayed until the museum closed and honestly could have stayed longer as we did not have enough time to get through the prison exhibit. If you find yourself in Geneva, the museum is an absolute must!

Afterward, we walked to see the exterior of the United Nations and Broken Chair. Broken Chair “symbolizes fragility and strength, precariousness and stability, brutality and dignity.” Originally, the sculpture was supposed to be temporary, but its popularity and symbolism resulted in it becoming a permanent fixture. “Broken Chair is a reminder to the world’s nations to protect and aid these civilian victims. It invites each one of us to denounce what is unacceptable, to stand up for the rights of individuals and communities and to call for their rightful compensation.”

In case you travel to Geneva, Estelle did not recommend touring the United Nations because she said on the tours you mainly see conference rooms. Seeing the free view of the exterior was very neat to see in person!

By the time we wrapped up, it was time to head to Jana’s house for dinner. First, though, we stopped by the grocery store to grab some food for our ski picnic for the following day. Estelle purchased bread with black olives in it, Swiss cheese, thinly sliced Swiss beef, along with some other sides. After checking out, we finished the journey to Jana’s house.

When Estelle and I walked into Jana’s apartment, we were greeted with hugs and a friendly smile. I instantly felt like I was meeting a long-lost friend.

The three of us chatted for a bit. Not long after, Estelle departed for volleyball practice. While Jana prepared dinner, I played with Enrik, Jana’s 7-year-old son. He was thoroughly impressed that I knew what Beyblades were and knew how to operate the spinning tops. We dueled for a bit and then I helped cut the bread for the Swiss fondue.

Eventually, the three of us sat down for dinner and I had my first taste of the fondue. Essentially, you take a piece of bread (or potato) and stab it with your fork and swirl it around in the cheese. Then, you eat it! Traditionally, wine is mixed in with the cheese, which is what Jana did for the dinner. I really enjoyed the food and am thrilled I had the opportunity to try a traditional Swiss dish!

Eating Swiss fondue with my new friend Enrik

For dessert, Enrik prepared each of us little bowls of berries. Then, he and Jana instructed me to place a little pre-made meringue on top with some Swiss cream. The dessert reminded me of Pavlova, which is a dessert I had a few times in Australia.

After dessert, I helped Jana clean up the kitchen. She tucked Enrik into bed and we talked until 11:00 pm about everything and anything.

I am so glad I was able to reconnect with Jana after 3.5 years of no email correspondence. Because of studying abroad and hosting exchange students, I am now a part of a vast network of individuals who open their arms and home to you based on a shared experience. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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