In this week’s episode: an average (yet warm) few days in Geneva, and a five-day adventure back to sweet home Chicago.
Dan S. and I enjoyed Monday afternoon’s perfect weather by going for a walk through the vineyard behind our building at CERN. It was a stupidly-clear day and the mountains on either side of us were stunning in their rare full-visibility.
Tuesday was equally lovely. With no homework to finish, I relaxed and read in the Jardin Anglais after class. [Currently reading: this issue of science magazine Nautilus and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.]
No class on Wednesday! I did some CERN work and did more reading outside. We watched Moana in the basement that night. (I wasn’t very impressed, found the story a bit too little-kid silly and cliché. 6/10.) (Sorry to Mina and Casey and everyone else who really likes it!)
On Thursday morning I departed for Chicago! My 15 hours of travel began with a short flight to Warsaw, Poland; from there, I took a 10-hour flight to Chicago, during which I switched between listening to podcasts, reading, and trying to sleep in my middle-of-the-middle seat. (One good thing about LOT airlines: the headrests have wings so your head doesn’t roll around as you nod off!) I also watched the 2015 movie Victor Frankenstein which was nothing special but had an impressively star-studded cast (Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, for one) and a satisfying ending.
The main reason for my return to Chicago was to be there for my brother Liam’s high school graduation. I was cutting it very close with my flight: I was scheduled to land shortly after 5pm and the ceremony started at 7pm. The venue was about an hour’s drive from the airport so I had very little time for delay.
Once the plane touched down in Chicago it seemed to take forever to taxi to the gate and even longer for me to deplane. Customs, shockingly, took no more than five minutes. The biggest delay turned out to be waiting for my suitcase at baggage claim. I had purposefully brought a carry-on sized suitcase so I could keep it with me the entire time and get out of the airport as quickly as possible, but the flight attendants in Geneva checked it for me at the gate because it was a “full flight” and “there would be no room.” (There was definitely room, just sayin’.)
My bag took about half an hour to arrive on the carousel, and at that point I had 40 minutes to make an hour-long drive to the venue for graduation. My Lyft driver, bless his soul, was sympathetic to my situation and made the trip in 45 minutes (using maneuvers of questionable legality). At the school, I found my family’s car, did a quick-change into a nicer outfit, and jogged the two blocks to the auditorium.
Of course, I got to watch Liam receive his diploma (I only missed a speech or two in the beginning). I had bought a souvenir Swiss cowbell for the occasion and made sure to ring it obnoxiously as he walked the stage.
After the ceremony, we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant as I fought to stay awake (it was close to 6am Swiss time at this point). The vibrant flavors and spicy cuisine—the spiciest I’ve had all semester, probably—was worth the loss of sleep, though.
I spent the rest of my weekend home relaxing, reading (I finished Curious Incident, very good book) eating my favorite spicy cheese, and trying to keep up with my track-star sister on runs through the neighborhood. While I was at first a little apprehensive about being gone from school and work for so long, it was nice to be back and I’m glad I went home. The biggest culture shocks upon my return to the US were (1) the walking men on crosswalk signals were white and (2) the bathtub was NOT two feet high!!
The trip back to Geneva started with a minor hiccup… Air travel turns me into a travel beast, meaning I’m anxious and on-edge until I’m safely at the gate and any wrinkle in the check-in process sends me into an over-dramatic spiral of anger and despair. An example of such a wrinkle: at the security checkpoint, the TSA confiscated my perfectly-good, brand new, unopened jar of peanut butter because it “counts as a liquid”!? I fumed about the waste for the next two hours.
Aside from that travesty, my flights back to Geneva were smooth enough. I slept through most of the first leg (where I somehow scored a window seat in the 10th row!) and podcasted through the second leg (another ideal seat in the first row of the non-business section). I arrived safely back at my building by 8 o’clock Monday night.
Meet my new friend, my new Swiss watch! My old watch ran out of batteries just a few days before I left for America and, since a new watch is more exciting than a new battery, I bought this one in the airport for about $70 (not bad for being Swiss-made!)
I started listening to some news/politics podcasts a few months ago. I’ve never cared for politics or current events but I’m ~obsessed~ with podcasts, so when a friend gave me some politics podcast recommendations, I figured I’d give them a try. Now—I’m surprised to admit—I’m often more excited to see the political episodes pop up on my feed than my previous favorites.
So if anyone is interested in what I’ve been listening to lately, here’s a quick list (in order of preference):
- NPR’s Up First: This one is tentatively my current “favorite”. The team puts together a 10-15 minute episode every morning and releases it around 7am EST (so, like 1pm Swiss time). It’s quick, digestible, and informative. It’s a morning briefing that I can “read” while walking to class or doing my workout.
- New York Times’ The Daily: Another daily politics/news podcast. These episodes are a bit longer, usually 20-25 minutes, and often focus on one issue of the day rather than exploring all the big stories. Still, quite informative and a relatively quick daily listen!
- NPR Politics Podcast: The NPR politics show that publishes every few days and (usually) ends the week with a Weekly Roundup episode. Nice, casual discussion between some of NPR’s political correspondents that sounds more like a fun dinner conversation with friends than a ~super serious~ news podcast.
- NPR’s Planet Money: It’s described on their website as Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” I think that pretty accurately sums up the podcast, but it’s even more interesting than that; they go beyond just our economy and explore all sorts of money-related topics around, well, the planet. They recently published a very thought-provoking duality called “When India’s Cash Disappeared” (Part One, Part Two) that I highly recommend.
- BBC’s Global News Podcast: This one is more of a ~super serious~ news podcast. It’s like the vegetables of my podcast feed; I listen to it almost out of necessity, because I feel obligated to be aware of world news. They publish two half-hour episodes daily, which is just way too much for me, so I usually skim the descriptions and listen to the one that sounds most interesting. The format is very formal and scripted and I’ll sometimes skip stories that I don’t find compelling.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been reading Nautilus (a fantastic science writing magazine, by the way), but I wanted to share this article that I found really fascinating. It’s from the July/August 2016 issue (so it’s relatively “old”) and it’s about how studying woodpeckers can help keep football players safe from head injury.
This is our last week of classes at UniGe! Finals start in two weeks. My final for our quantum mechanics course isn’t until June 27th, so I have quite some time to study….
Next Monday, Dan and I are headed to London! Recommendations are welcome in the comments. 🙂
Tiredly, but with love,