June 25, 2010
Geneva, My Love
My mother had packed for me her hand -me -down winter clothes from the 1960s. It was 1985 and I had never experienced a winter in my life. I didn't own any coats or sweaters. I was heading for my first year at boarding school in Geneva.
I had seen Desperatly Seeking Susan a dozen times the summer before school. I was a total Madonna wannabe, with my black rubber bracelets and my fluoresent nail polish. I wish I had timed it better and started boarding school when I had been in my Lady Diana phase instead! I was thrust into a boarding school that was preppy to the max, all Ralph Lauren and Faconnable, and my only snow boots were Moon boots!! Seriously, what were my parents thinking?
I was homesick, culture shocked and determined not to give in to peer pressure. I didn't smoke or drink. I read all the time and since my mom thougt walkmans were bad for my ears, I used to walk with a boom box, blaring Depeche Mode. I tried chanelling all my energy into studying, making up for my many years of daydreaming in Dubai. I was lucky to be seated next to a handsome guy, Alex, in Premiere, or 11th grade, and gradually, my popularity ratings went up in proportion to my grade improvements and I was buddies with the some of the coolest guys (Mark, Tobias). My girlfriends (Dalia, Nawal, Karima) were quite cute too!
But when I graduated three years later with a "bac en poche", I slammed the door, excited for my escape to the USA for college. I never thought I would live in Geneva again. Twelve years later, my husband had a great job offer there and it became my newlywed home. It took me a long time to disassociate Geneva with my boarding school days. I would get on the public bus and my heart would squeeze anxiously remembering the homesickness and stress of preparing for major exams.
However, no sooner did I realize that I had no curfew hours, bad cafeteria food or lonely sundays (Geneva is notoriously quiet on Sundays), I fell in love with the little city. In Switzerland, we lived our own nuclear life, with no family and only a handful of friends. We bonded as a couple and started a family.
Five years later, when my husband made a career move that would take us further back into my own personal trajectory, to Dubai, I held on tight to our island of privacy in Geneva. We made it our secondary home. We spend vacation time there. I drop all my social activities (and even trade my pilates training for walking and swimming) and dedicate 99% of my time to the kids (the other 1% of the time I am catching artsy films, reading French classics and taking a train to an artistic destination).
Geneva, my love. An oasis of Swiss tranquility.