Finally, we get to Geneva, the fifth Swiss city in a year, for me.
I was supposed to go to Geneva in May 2011, almost two years ago, but due to some clumsiness in planning, I had to cancel the trip last-minute. Of course having the training school in Annecy this year meant that a Geneva stopover was inevitable since well…the return tickets were from Bordeaux to Geneva (go Easyjet!)
I gotta say, compared to the other Swiss cities I’ve been to (Basel, Interlaken, Zurich, and Lausanne), Geneva did seem lacking in characteristic. I partly blame the weather for this – not a fair evaluation of a city but…oh well. Anyway, the unique memory in Geneva was not in exploring the city itself, but being with my IDS-FunMates one last time and experiencing collaboration in a big group…at our hostel! You’ll see.
(Full photo album is on Facebook, as usual 😉 Catch up on the entire series – part 1 in Lausanne, part 2 and part 3 in Annecy.)
Unlike Annecy, Geneva was met with gray skies 😦 I was so tired by the time I arrived in Geneva, after a whole week of running around. The combination of weather and fatigue dampened my energy quite a bit, which was why I missed quite a few places in Geneva – I was too tired to explore so I stayed back to rest while some of the others headed to the Flower Clock and the Reformation Wall. (By the way, yes that IS the Jet d’Eau behind the flowers, if you were wondering.)
We’re scientists, and where do scientists go in Geneva? CERN – Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire (I always thought the “C” was for “centre”). Well, of course we couldn’t get into the labs, but there was a permanent exhibition, perfect for the science nerds. Here goes Jiang thinking he could lift all of science on his shoulders. You go boy! The future of science is in your hands…or rather, on your arms!
Inside the “Universe of Particles” exhibition, Yi-Shiang found himself a little comfortable while sitting in this pod with a built-in audioguide, which provides descriptions of various subjects in English, French, and Spanish. Lookin’ badass, Yi-Shiang! Wouldn’t want to mess with him.
CERN decided to show us how the universe came into existence by playing a spectacular video about its history, from the Big Bang up till now. I don’t buy this Big Bang business – sounds too extravagant. Then again, I’ve always been convinced that physicists are crazy, including my nuclear physicist friend Yihua. Please don’t take offense if you’re a physicist, I know we’re all crazy in one way or another 😉
While Brussels houses the European Union headquarters, in Geneva we find one of the United Nations offices, the second largest after the headquarters in New York. Though the skies were gloomy, there was no wind to make the flags dance. Imagine a day with a gentle breeze and a hundred waving flags…
As the group continued to stroll along the streets of Geneva, we stumbled upon a cute band of cute men in suits playing cute instruments – double bass, clarinet, guitar, fiddle, trumpet, accordion…did I miss anything? It turns out that they were med school students from Porto…all the way from Portugal, to perform in Switzerland? Impressive. And the music – the singing and the dancing – was amazing, so entertaining! What a pleasant surprise 😉
Food was too expensive (everything was, actually) in Switzerland, so we settled for McDonald’s for one of our meals. It seems like Mathilde, Yi-Shiang, and Jiang were holding a very important meeting that would decide where we’d go next. Let’s ignore the fact that Yi-Shiang was holding the map in the wrong direction…or someone pinned it onto him incorrectly, as he seemed to be the “wall”. Jiang was our advisor, and his cleverly devised plan certainly gained Mathilde’s seal of approval.
Tired of expensive dining, what did the group decide to do? Cook, of course! We were in a hostel with a well-equipped kitchen, so why not take advantage of it? The mission of buying food was left up to Yi-Shiang, Tomin, and me, and trust me, it was no simple task! After buying a roasted chicken, some sausages, and some fresh vegetables from a vendor – I looked like a married woman in her 40s, haggling with the guy – we needed more food…but most supermarkets were closed by 6:30pm! Hmph. After running around the area quite a bit, the search for a supermarket that was still open led us to the train station, where hallelujah, APERTO was open! So we grabbed a bunch of food – pasta, bread, chicken, pork, beef, butter, pizzas, among others – and dashed back to the hostel. Just look at the smile of triumph on Tomin’s and my face! 😀
So, with the vegetable that was already bought, that should be enough food…for 11 people?! And who was gonna cook all of this food, and how are they going to cook it? Of course, this challenge was given to…
…our two amazing Chinese boys! Heh, I know I shouldn’t call them boys anymore, but I want to anyway ^_^ I’m not sure if they were forced to cook, or they volunteered, but both of them emitted the spirit of “NO PROBLEMO”, so the show began. It’s time to let loose some of your legendary Chinese cooking skills, Xuesong and Jiang. With 11 people waiting with hungry stomachs, what will you make with limited ingredients and time?
Our chefs didn’t disappoint! I peeked inside the kitchen from time to time, and I swear if I didn’t force myself to leave, that bowl of beef and onions, made by Xuesong, would have disappeared before anyone even knew it existed (they probably closed the kitchen door for a very good reason). Then we had the mushroom soup by Jiang and the carrot chicken…I don’t know who made what anymore, but everything was so delicious! Pictured above is only about a third of our meal, because of course we had the roasted chicken, the sausages, the pizzas, some pasta, some salad, some potatoes, and some bread. But wow, the guests were definitely impressed and satisfied, and I was certainly surprised that they could cook so well under pressure. Our only home-cooked meal during the entire trip turned out to be the best meal…how amazing was that! So proud of the boys 😉
A Thai friend we met at the hostel took this photo of the entire IDS group that was present at the dinner – Alex, Annie, An, Hanbin, Jiang, Vusala, Tomin, Xuesong, Yi-Shiang, Erin, and Mathilde. My hostel experience before this entire IDS trip consisted of at most one companion, so being with so many people at once was a first for me, and what a fantastic time we had!
I am so glad to have been part of the organization for our pre- and post-training school trips, and I thank each and every one of my colleagues and friends for their continuous support and patience and most importantly, their participation! This sounds very cliché, but I mean it – it’s been one of the best trips during my entire two and a half years in Europe. I don’t know when (and if) I’ll get the chance to be with these lovely IDS-FunMates again, but I sincerely miss them all and wish them the best in the remainder of their PhD. Let’s start hearing those news of PhD defenses! Charge on, friends!