We disembarked from the airplane at around 7:30am local Geneva time, which is 1:30am Eastern Standard time. I was one of the many group members who did not get much or any sleep on the airplane, which, when flying across time-zones like that, means that we effectively lost out on a night of sleep. Many of us did not sleep well the night before the trip either, due to the anticipation of it. The fatigue that set in, combined with the excitement of us finally being there provided a slap-happy group of American travelers. We made our way through the Passport/Visa check, picked up our bags, and went through Swiss Customs, which had no personnel and was nothing more than two metal queue dividers leading out to the arrivals terminal. Our chartered bus driver begrudgingly loaded the endless pieces of luggage into the bus' storage and drove us the 20 minutes to our new home in downtown Geneva.
When we arrived and began to unload our luggage, it began to snow. Not a lot, but enough to dust everything and give the Christmas lights that line our street a magical presence. We were given our room assignments which meant for the men in the group, a hike up four flights of stairs with luggage -- no easy feat with sleep deprivation. We all halfheartedly began to unpack, but one by one, suitcases were pushed to the side and naps became the number-one priority. I unpacked half of my belongings, showered, put on fresh clothes, and made my way through our residence hall to see if anyone was awake and wanting to explore. Fortunately, I had not lost everyone to sleep, so Ellen and I headed out into the Geneva morning.
Our residence hall/dining hall/classroom facility is situated two blocks from the Rhone River, which is one of the prominent waterways of Europe. Through Geneva, however, it is so narrow that it could be confused with a canal. The first thing we did was walk into a Starbucks, which we promptly left when we realized that neither of us knew any French. I have since learned how to order a Venti coffee. We walked across a bridge that led us across the Rhone, and through the downtown city streets lined with banks, creditors, and other financial institutions that could just as well have been in any American city. That was until we veered off onto a brick road that led us up a steep hill, and suddenly we found Europe, or at least what an American's idea of Europe is. A narrow street, barely wide enough for two cars and with a drainage ditch that was designed for rain and sewage, with store fronts opening directly out to it. No sidewalks here. The buildings were tall and connected, and not a single one looked like it had been built after the second Industrial Revolution in the 1880's. Absolutely beautiful and absolutely functional architecture. We passed by shop after shop, jeweler after jeweler, until we finally got to the top of the hill which led us back out to modern-day Europe, and an overlook of the city which was blocked by trees. Never have I seen so many trees in the downtown area of a city.
We carefully stepped our way down a path that led to another public park, which had giant chess and checker boards. We played a good-natured game of checkers, which I lost (Ellen is a hustler). There was a couple next to us that looked like military generals commanding their chess pieces across the board, and I marveled at their level of focus and determination. After the game we headed back towards our dormitory, which took us about thirty minutes longer than it should of because of my lack of navigational skills. We got back and I immediately passed out for the next 3 hours.
Tomorrow, we go out and about as a group to explore a bit more of the city. More to come!