First impressions (October 24, 2005)
Disconnection. When I arrived here I had zero keys in my pocket.
No house, no car, no office. I arrived on a Sunday, with the
university closed, so I couldn't just drop into the lab and get my
local contacts to help out. It's a really strange feeling being in a
foreign place, not belonging anywhere, not yet knowing how to do any
of the basic day to day things, bootstrapping from nothing but some
suitcases, a passport, and a pocket full of plastic.
For future reference, I highly recommend trying to have a local
acquaintance greet you when you arrive in town. Then you have someone
to lean on for all of the little things in life (where to eat, where
is good to stay, what services and bureaucracies you should
concentrate on first, where can you get Internet access, how do people
get around town, and on and on). Olin picked me up when I visited
Denmark in the past, and it was a tremendous help.
Here are some first impressions:
- The area is gorgeous. The countryside is semi-rural hills rolling
in every direction. The city is more of a village with old
architecture and pleasant windy roads everywhere. And in many places
you can look out at the Alps rising over Lake Geneva. It's a mild
fall, and the trees are turning colors, so it feels nice just walking
around. Fay would call it football weather, but there's no football
- The above notwithstanding, it's still a modern city. It's surreal
to see a sunset over the mountains, a magical scene straight out of a
fantasy drawing, and yet also see cars rushing by with impatient
people ignoring all that beauty.
- Watch out for busses! Many are driven by madmen.
- Smoking is common.
- English is uncommon but does exist.
- Graffiti is abundant.
- Hip hop is in and lags the States. Eminimem, for example, gets a
lot of air time.
- The major train announces things in 4 languages, just like Michael
told me. French, German, Italian, English. It takes forever to
say, "next Stop, Geneva".
- Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like people I see in
public are careful about their clothes, that they try harder to be
exciting and stylish. Or, maybe it's just that there are more people
casually wandering about in this town instead of rushing to do
business. I don't know--it's just an impression, so it doesn't have to
actually be correct, right?