Thank you, Geneva. We are grateful for our time here. We have learned many valuable lessons.
We have struggled with a new language, cursing it, shedding tears, and jumping for joy when finally mastering a phrase or actually starting to form these foreign sentences in our own heads. While we still are far from French speakers, we value what it has taught us. Humiliation (ourselves). Appreciation (those who are kind to us even when we butcher the pronunciation). Admiration (that the Europeans know so many languages).
We realized a language barrier isn’t always the biggest roadblock. Most of the time, we delighted at the cultural differences. Other days, we didn’t. We judged when to bend the rules (still running at crosswalks sometimes) and when to really respect them (Bonjour, Madame. Bonjour Monsieur).
We met truly interesting people. The small table, 3 serving dishes, and 6-place setting we brought thinking we wouldn’t meet any true friends here, soon became a laugh. We were fortunate and met oodles of fantastic people. We learned from them. We traveled with them. We taught them about Halloween, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving. They generously shared their customs with us. Our way of thinking and understanding the world broadened and became different because of them.
At work and through my volunteering, we got exposure to having a professional relationship with different nationalities. At first, we languished the difference in speed and approach, yet walked away later thinking maybe our workaholic mentality has a lot to learn from other countries.
We fell into the pace. While we once spent life apart in different cities, we enjoyed precious evenings together. Just us. No obligations. No dozens of activities to consider and balance. We only had a working TV for half the time and didn’t miss it a bit (maybe had to do with my VT football team having such a cruddy season!). We walked to the market on Saturdays we were here, just to buy a fresh chicken and some vegetables. We attended every festival Geneva had to offer and came to really adore the fabulous street food that came with it…roasted boar anyone? We embraced a leisurely during-the-week lifestyle with less stress and chaos.
We got healthy. We enjoyed not eating steroid-induced, processed foods. Gabe ate full fat yogurt every day (that tasted more like ice cream) for breakfast or a “pain au chocolat” which is like a croissant stuffed with chocolate. He still lost 15 pounds over here. I loved the bread, getting fresh baguettes a few times a week. I went from needing chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage weekly for chronic back pain, to having a body free of any maladies. When I went home, my masseuse, she said that my back…it wasn’t the same one she used to treat back then.
We became weekend warriors, soaking up all Switzerland and the neighboring countries had to offer. We learned to adore France and eat our way through most of Italy, traveling to each country over 10 times. We also made it to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Turkey, The Vatican, Monaco, Greece, Spain, Thailand, and Cambodia. And visited over 30 UNESCO world heritage sites. What I never dreamed I’d see in a lifetime became a reality in less than 2 years.
We fortunately skied on the Alps many times. And we watched it snow almost every single day the December before we had to move. We continually witnessed amazing winter wonderlands that continually took our breath away. Long periods spent in the car became a delight instead of a dread….just seeing the snow on those Alps and those tall pines…I always got giddy. God did amazing work here in this part of the world.
We built our first home here. Having moved a few days after the wedding, we are honored to have spent the first year and a half of our marriage in this place. We are grateful for the strong foundation that this expat experience brought to us. We wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
Genève: Merci beaucoup, toujours. Au revoir, ma chère ville.