The past week was, predictably, busy, but in an entirely different way than the first 9 weeks of my journey, filled with more firsts and farewells than ever.
The weekend marked my departure from Caux; as always, I was absurdly nostalgic to see the Caux Palace fade into the distance, but was happy to be making the journey down the mountain with Dorothea, one of my fellow Communications Assistants, and Shawn, an Australian conference participant we had gotten to know. The three of us stayed at Dorothea’s apartment in Geneva and celebrated the end of the Fetes de Geneve (two weeks of Swiss National Day celebration) together. We arrived in Geneva around 10, at the beginning of the fireworks show, which lasted for an hour. It was the sort of show that was so loud and so big, you could feel the echoes in your chest. We celebrated our departure from Caux with a round of mojitos on the river, and then wandered into the ethnic district, where I was treated to my first ever sighting of prostitutes. I don’t really know how I’ve gone 23 years without ever seeing one, but the street corners of Geneva were my first encounter. On our way home, we stopped for a drink in what appeared to be a regular sports bar, but was actually a Thai Karaoke bar, called Jame’s Pub (not James or James’, but Jame’s).
The next day, we departed for brunch, eating in the sunshine, before wandering a street market, riding a ferris wheel, eating delicious gelato, and finally settling into chairs on a lawn, where they showed Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind on an enormous, inflatable screen, Lake Geneva in the background. Now, before I begin on the next part of the story, I’d like to point out that I had to pee an hour before the movie started; by the time it ended at 1130, we had to rush to our first of three buses, since they don’t run very late on Sundays. By this time, all three of us were in need of the facilities, and when we reached our final bus stop, we realized we had a half hour to wait before the next bus arrived. I was beginning to get desperate; Geneva isn’t the sort of city that offers private bushes or wooded areas, and few cafes and bars are open late on Sundays. Finally, we ran into a pair of women who directed us to ‘the Palace,’ a pub that was apparently always open. We should have been warned by the first glance that something was awry – there were two bouncers outside, and after some discussion, they permitted us to enter one at a time, but instructed us to go straight upstairs to the bathroom. Since I was incredibly uncomfortable at this point, I ran upstairs, not looking left or right. I did find it a little odd that the place was full of pounding music and mirrors, but didn’t question anything until I returned outside, at which point Dorothea grabbed my arm and apologized profusely for sending me in alone. As it turns out, I had had my first glimpse of a strip club without even realizing it. If we had approached it from the opposite direction, we probably would have noticed the red lights and the fact that it was actually called “Petit Palace,” though ‘petit’ was spelled backwards so it shared the ‘p’ with palace – ‘titePalace’ – get it? Tit palace? Anyhow, after this minor trauma, Dorothea and Shawn opted to find a private garden, and we made our way homewards, feeling exceptionally lucky that I had been so goal-oriented that I didn’t notice the activity of the bar.
We returned to Dorothea’s apartment for a final night in Switzerland before heading east, to Lebanon, on Monday.