Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A whirlwind of travels

Since I had last written, so much has happened: I finished my stay in Montpellier, I traveled to a few different countries, and I finally moved into Geneva. Whew! I have barely had a moment to breathe! But let me start from the beginning.

My entire stay in Montpellier was a good learning experience. I unfortunately was still having a lot of trouble adjusting to life in a country other than Ghana, but nevertheless, I truly enjoyed the challenge of my class, living with a host family, and adjusting to a new culture. My time in Montpellier came to an end on February 5, and (as per usual), I had to hurriedly finish packing. Even though I was pressed for time, I ran to a boulangerie/patisserie to buy my last meal (pizza avec chevre, fruit tart, and of course, pain au chocolate) and then rushed off to the train station. I made it. :)

I got off the train at Geneva to be greeted in one of the loveliest possible ways: to the smiling face of my dearest Emma Little! We had a fantastic dinner of cheese fondu at Emmy’s host mom’s house (YUM) along with a great conversation in French, but the best part of my night was catching up with Emmy while exploring the outskirts of Geneva where Em lives. After sleeping for an hour, we barely woke up in time for my ridiculously early train back to Geneva so I could venture off to Rome.

I arrived in Rome Saturday afternoon, checked into my hostel, and set right off to explore Rome. The next three days were filled with the Vatican City, gelato, pizza, spaghetti, ruins, the urge to speak French and sunshine.

On Tuesday, I made my way over to Florence. I kept dozing in an out on the train ride during which I woke up to see fog and snow outside my window. I thought I must have been dreaming, but alas, I left the short-sleeve weather in Rome for a real winter in Florence (at least it’s not Colgate…). Luckily, my heart was instantly warmed when I saw my beautiful Lily Sehn! We were able to spend a lovely, albeit short, time together. I was super lucky in that there was a chocolate festival going on in Florence at the time of my stay. Mhmmm. :)

Wednesday night, I took the night train (couchettes are… weird) to Paris. I wish I understood Italian because at one point during this ride, the police boarded and began interrogating with one of the men in a neighboring room; I think they argued about his visa and him possibly being in Europe illegally… I was really scared for the man being interrogated.

I got into Paris Thursday morning. I went to see the Eiffel Tower at night: gorgeous. The walk was great too, but a combination of factors (meaning the fact that Paris is actually super confusing and well, we all know about my directional skills) got me SUPER lost. The next day, I went to the Louvre in the morning: this is one place I actually did not mind getting lost in (because needless to say, that was easily accomplished)! I then hopped on over to the Notre Dame and amidst the crowd of people relaxing, I found myself a Claire Healy. :) We spent time by the Seine, at Père Lachaisse (including Chopin’s grave and a lot of relatively new WWII memorials – France has only recently begun recognizing its real role in WWII), and at the Catacombs (which houses bunny’s namesake, Robespierre; however, the bones are not even remotely labeled… I must admit, this was quite… frightening…)!

Unfortunately, I only had a short few days in Paris. I took a train to Lourdes, which was a fascinating and beautiful place to be. The people were so wonderful and genuine and nice here. For example, when I got off the train, a fellow traveler made sure I got to my hostel before heading off to hers even though it was almost midnight. And the owner of the hostel was fantastic! As I was waiting for my train, I was doing some work. All of a sudden, the owner comes over with a fruit tart and tea for me! I was so pleasantly surprised. I just love genuinely kind people like that.

That night, I took an overnight train back to Geneva and got in Monday morning. I shoved my belongings in my room (rather, the few belongings I had), went straight to class, and then hopped on the train over to my Emmy again to pick up the other half of my stuff and, of course, see my Emmy. It is always so great seeing her, but time simply flies whenever we are together and before I knew it, over an hour had gone by and I unfortunately needed to head back to prepare for the week’s classes.

Classes are fantastic. They are so interesting! I am taking classes on nationalism, (European) security, and international institutions. I also had the fortune of visiting the UN offices, which were spectacular!

Without getting a moment to breathe, I had decided to go to Budapest for the weekend with a couple of friends, leaving on Thursday and returning Sunday. Everything about this trip was breathtaking: the train ride, the city itself, the hostel, everything. One major perk: Budapest was cheap. Especially in comparison to Geneva…

I barely got settled back into life in Geneva, with a visit to WHO and PATH in between classes, and now I am about to head off to another great adventure to visit some familiar faces! :)

I am so lucky.

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