I slept the entire two-hour flight from London to Geneva. My entire system had yielded to the accumulated exhaustion of two weeks of continuous flying between three continents, with the associated assaults on my circadian clock and my stomach’s occasional unwillingness to keep up with the conveyor belt of cuisines. I even managed to pick up an annoying cold on the 11-hour flight from Beijing to London, caught in the Chinese capital not from the Beijing’s eponymous smog (clear skies prevailed throughout my time there), but from my American friend who had a chronic bout of the sniffles. Perhaps it was due to the sudden deprivation of kimchi that had been a staple at every meal during my eight days in North Korea. Perhaps it was the delayed hangover from my old best friend’s wedding in London two weeks earlier beginning to creep up on me like . As the plane gently thudded onto the runway at Geneva airport, I could barely muster the strength to draw my eyelids and squint out of the window at my home for the rest of the summer.
My summer had kicked off with some bravado on the 14th of May. Pulling up at New York’s JFK airport 45 minutes before my London-bound fight was scheduled to depart (thanks to a monstrous 3-hour traffic jam caused by a surprise Obama visit to NYC), I was rushed by pitying British Airways ground staff through the First Class security queue and chaperoned right into my packed airplane just as the doors were being sealed and the pilot was putting the plane through the push-back motions. As we exited American airspace and noodled through the mundane collection of Canadian islands that empty out into the vastness of the northern Atlantic, I contemplated the summer ahead. A little over three months in Switzerland as an intern at the United Nations, my third such stint with the organization. This was it, I mused to myself: the summer of grad school, the mighty summer of 2014, was finally here.
God had I waited so long for you.
Geneva. I first fell in love with the francophone Swiss city while doing a short summer program on international trade policy at the Graduate Institute in the summer of 2012. I was a junior economic analyst in the Australian foreign service, and had been thrown into the deep end of multilateral free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and 11 other countries engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A lawyer by training and a political analyst by vocation, I was a virgin thrown into a Roman orgy, confounded by the . Halfway through my job, I
Geneva was the citadel of the international trade world,
But career isn’t the only reason I had fought so hard to come to Geneva for the summer of 2014. Ani, my better half, was six months into her new job at a large investment bank in Paris. We met in the hazy summer of 2005, when I was a freshman in law school in England, and she was going into her final year of the French baccalaureate in Luxembourg. A British-born Asian like myself, we hit the ground running in the worst possible way: mildly ,each other’s diametrically opposite approach to life and , and needing to sieve any awkwardness . But as we started chatting, and as the conversations , we quickly discovered that the more we annoyed each other, the more we found warmth and comfort in . Friends ask me what our secret . I tell them: arguing. d A month before the Christmas of 2005, she came up to London and . As we sat on a bench in Lincoln’s Inn Fields , . We were young and we were terrified of what a long-distance relationship would mean for the both of us. But in the blur of the moment, our paths seemed to perfectly intersect, and , . Coming to Geneva wasn’t going to
Champel is a leafy neighborhood perched on Geneva’s . Like many other Genevois neighborhoods, it is tidy, quiet, practically sterile.
I was sitting in the lobby of my Beijing hotel a week earlier, and found myself conversing with a smartly dressed . I . He told me that whether one finds a place loud or not depends on how