International and Interpersonal OR Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places (but that’s a little too cliché)
In this increasingly interconnected world, I don’t think I’m unique to experiences like this, but it really made me stop and reflect when I considered everyone and everything I was lucky enough to see the past week and a half during France’s version of Fall Break, “les vacances de Touissant.”
I start off by seeing a friend from Finland, whom I met in Toulouse for a brief second last summer, and with whom I had coffee in the Toulouse airport an hour and a half before our respective flights left, the first back home to Finland (with the requisite stop in Paris) and the second to Geneva. (When did I imagine I would even know one person from Finland, let alone two?)
Proceed to Geneva, where I hung out with my dad’s cousin and her family, a Colombian family through-and-through, but one who has lived in Geneva for ten years, and whose two younger sons speak (practically?) perfect Swiss French. Include a weekday lunch at the WTO (or “OMC” in French; could that be any more confusing?), where we converse in English with the self-dubbed “African representatives” of the Statistics division—one from Mauritius and one from Morocco.
Continue on to Lausanne and Bern, two French- and German-speaking cities, respectively, within Switzerland, where I met up with a friend who is from Louisiana, but whom I met at Georgia, and who is currently living in Lyon. And who do we talk with at a bar (called “The Great Escape,” no less) than people from Greece, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Ecuador?
Next go to a little town called Nyon, in between Geneva and Lausanne, where I met up with a friend who is French but whom I met when I was doing an academic exchange in Brazil. Can you manage to have conversation flow in four different languages, in a neutral (pun intended!) country? Apparently so! (And how cool is that?)
Return back to France and follow through to Lyon (now that’s a real city!), where I met up again with my friend from Georgia. If food is a place or a language, I definitely visited and learned it in Lyon, where I ate the most decadent meal I’ve ever had in my life. This was a meal that spanned two hours, not because Sara eats slowly but because that is how much I was savoring every single bite. Delicious doesn’t even begin to cut it (ha!).
Whether it’s looking out over Lake Geneva, with the bright lights of luxury houses reflecting off the giant Jet d’Eau; gazing at the sunset (cloudy and all) from the overlook beside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Lausanne; taking in the city’s astonishingly bright fall colors from the Rosengarten in Bern; seeing little kids trick-or-treat (but more like Easter egg hunt?) in a thirteenth-century castle in Nyon, or just watching the Rhône flow through the city under a drizzly sky in Lyon, I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity of seeing new sights and experiencing new places, but in doing so, meeting up with familiar faces all along the way.