In this week’s brief post, we have only two days of real class, we find a place to patinage sur glace, and I make a brief aside to explore Switzerland’s paprika fascination. Oh, and Dan and I went to Paris! But you’ll have to wait a couple days to hear that story….
On Monday morning, a few friends and I attended our RA Gordy’s thesis defense (he passed with highest honors and earned his second Master’s degree!) Later, Amina tried some very average prepackaged flan. Dan and I made another batch of our kickass pork stir-fry (see photo).
On Tuesday, our French instructor brought us more food! This time, we were spoiled with a full spread of French treats: three different types of fresh bread (including two grainy loaves, to my delight), five cheeses (Camembert, a soft Swiss cheese, Brie, chèvre au piment d’Espelette [goat cheese with paprika], and a Boursin-esque herb-and-garlic log), and Lipton iced tea. The goat cheese was her attempt to appease our requests for spicy cheese; but alas, its mild bite proved disappointing. Delicious, but not really spicy.
Later that day, I met with a potential research adviser to discuss the possibility working on an antimatter project. Admittedly, most of what he explained to me went over my head. I’m not sure if any of the projects he proposed match my interests, so I will continue exploring. But I did get to visit his experiment, located in a building literally called “Antimatter Factory”, so that’s pretty sweet.
Without class on Wednesday, hump day felt like the weekend. To add to the pleasant mood, it was sunny (only the third time since we arrived here!) and the temperature climbed up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit! It was practically a spring day; the Jet d’eau in Lake Geneva, a geyser that has come to represent the city, finally came on after weeks of dormancy due to cold weather.
Despite the unseasonable warmth, a group of us decided to go ice skating, or patinage sur glace in French. Most rinks here are free to use, charging only CHF 2 for renting skates. The demographic was approximately 95% youth under 14 years old, and—as is the norm at American rinks—the adolescents seemed to have little-to-no regard for safety or personal space, skating circles around everyone in startlingly-close proximity. (Ah, to be young, carefree, and made of rubber!) Still, we had a lot of fun and Kavi, who grew up in Malaysia, got to experience ice skating for the first time!
On Thursday, we had our first French test and our instructor passed around chocolate-covered marshmallows “to help us focus.” We shall see whether or not that worked when we get our scores back this week….
That evening, Dan and I left for Paris. With three days’ worth of pictures and stories, that trip warrants its own blog post (that hopefully will be landing soon!) We were there until Sunday evening, returning to Geneva last night close to 11pm. The only thing we wanted to do more than watch the Patriots win the Super Bowl was sleep, so sleep we did. Sounds like Tom Brady did just fine without us.
I really enjoy the social atmosphere of our building. Mina, Casey, and I keep our door open at most hours, permitting a free-flow of friends who wander in and out of our room throughout the day. Our room has become the unofficial physics watering hole. Getting people out at the end of the night feels like trying to shoo moths out of our room. And when we’ve finally gotten everyone out and closed the door, someone knocks or we open the door for half a second and more people flow back in again. But I really can’t complain too much; I love our tightly-knit program and the nucleus that is our room.
The restrooms at UniGe, in lieu of air dryers or paper towel dispensers, have these odd contraptions that feed a reusable towel to dry your hands. You simply pull the towel from the top and dry towel unfurls. I am still unsure (and slightly unsettled) about the sanitariness of this alternative but I’m willing to give it a chance.
I have no idea what these weird-looking trees are but they’re everywhere.
Black beans are not common in Switzerland, apparently. Our chili has greatly suffered as a consequence.
In addition, only one grocery store in the area sells chili powder. This has proven to be inconvenient for Dan and me as our diets consist 40% of chili. (I wish this were an exaggeration but I think that ratio is pretty much accurate.)
Spicy cheese is also nonexistent in Europe, as we discovered on Tuesday. Our wonderful French instructor tried her best, but the paprika-coated goat cheese just didn’t have the same zest as our beloved pepper jack. I’ve scoured many a cheese aisle in both Switzerland and France to no avail. This is especially painful for me because at home, my snack of choice is crackers with Cabot Creamery’s Hot Habanero Cheddar Cheese, aka The Best Cheese in the Entire World. Just a dime-sized slice has enough kick to knock your socks off and get you grabbing for the nearest water. That cheese is such a vital part of my identity that I literally wrote a college application essay about it. Maybe the Swiss can’t handle spice like we Americans? (P.S. Thank you Mom for feeding me Taco Bell volcano tacos whilst in the womb so that I would grow up to have a better aptitude for spice; I know that was your plan all along.) The point is, I’m serious about my spicy cheddar and Europe so far isn’t cutting it.
The entire lack-of-spiciness ordeal has manifested itself in Switzerland’s bizarre obsession with paprika. I’ve been on a quest to find Flamin’ Hot Cheetos because, despite my intentions to eat better this semester, I have a fever and the only prescription is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I have found Cheetos knock-offs here, but never flamin’. The closest thing I’ve found is paprika. There is paprika-flavored everything here: Pringles, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, other snacks that start with P….
And for whatever ungodly reason, there’s even a hashtag:
Dan and I took tons of pictures in Paris and had a lot of amazing experiences, so expect a full report in a blog post later this week! (But I have homework and another French exam on Thursday, so it may be up later than I would like it to be.)
We’ve only been here for three weeks and it already feels like forever. I can’t believe how much I’ve done in my short time in Europe so far! I am almost totally oriented in Geneva and feel fairly comfortable in the city. Not being able to easily call my family has been tough, but I’ll hopefully be amending that issue very soon.