Also known as: The little city of Geneva
Our first stop for the mission was Geneva, not only because the mission volunteer for YFC Europe was based there, but also because the cheapest plane fare we could get was from Madrid to Geneva. After another day of “shopping” and booking tickets (for me to go to Vienna), two of the three mission groups headed to the Madrid Barajas airport for our flight to Geneva. As if to excite us further, we also met another WYD delegate in the airport who was going back home to Geneva and she started telling us about the different things we should do in the city. :)
Our Swiss Air flight was delayed, which I kind of didn’t mind even if I was separated from the group again (I have the worst luck with plane seats). I managed to get some reading done and also a nap, which helped a lot because we arrived in Geneva around midnight because of the delay. It was a short flight, but because of the travel stress, we were glad to get there. :)
We were all expecting it to be cold there — at least, colder than Madrid was — but alas, it wasn’t. Oh well.
The YFCs in Geneva picked us up from the airport and the couple coordinators for the area gave us a ride to go to our host home. Here’s an interesting part of our journey there. We arrived at Geneva, but our host home was actually across the French border. So in one night, we managed to be in three countries: Spain, Switzerland and France. Awesome. :)
We had late, late dinner at our host’s house, and I must say: Filipino hospitality extends even to the other side of the world. :) We were happy and full that night, even if I ended up sleeping by two in the morning to finalize the rest of the mission details. I also ended up rebooking my flight back from Geneva to Madrid so I can stay longer in Vienna — I thought it was only a 6-hour train ride from Vienna to Geneva…turns out it was 13. Heh. Ouch on the wallet!
Our mission teams only had a day in Geneva. The other team will head first to Vienna first while we our team had a day to go around Geneva before we head to Paris that night, so we wanted to make the most of out this.
Funny anecdote: when everyone was ready and complete, we headed towards the nearest tram station to get our tickets. Switzerland’s main currency is Swiss Francs, but they also accept Euros. The tickets were good for the next 8 hours, enough for us to go around and tour the city whether with the metro, tram or even the boats at the lake. The thing with these ticket booths is this: they only accept coins.
And we kind of didn’t have enough coins to cover everyone’s tickets.
So this was us while we tried to get all the coins we have in all our bags:
Eventually, we all managed to get our coins, and we rode the tram towards our other host’s house to drop our bags and we were off our merry way. It was just an interesting — and a bit stressful — way to start our mission. :)
So, our mission team started the city tour, and our first stop was the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
This is the Nations Plaza in front of the UNOG. Apparently, there were no fountains there before, but protesters often held rallies there so they decided to put water jets to prevent rallies. When we were there, there were kids running around the area, enjoying the water. We’d join them if we didn’t have our cameras and if we were keen on getting wet. It seemed very refreshing for a hot day though.
Right in front of the Nations Plaza is a gigantic structure called Broken Chair. According to Wikipedia, the Broken Chair “…symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva. “Â Interesting, one a side note, that chair looks uncomfortable, after you have been used to a lumbar support chair. That’s me with our hosts and tour guides. :)
Of course, we need photo-ops at the UNOG sign. :)
We were contemplating if we wanted to do the paid tour inside the UN Office — one, if we can afford it all, and two, if we had enough time. Good thing Ate Badette, our host and YFC Geneva’s couple coordinator, who works at UNHCR saw us and got us inside for free. :)
Being inside the UN is just like having all those social studies classes coming true. You know it exists, but it’s not real until you see it. That was the same feeling we had while we were in the UN Office. Plus, hearing Ate Badette’s story of how she got her job there was also very inspiring. While I’m not sure if I am made for the UN, I thought it would be a good place to be. And my best friend would love to be there. :)
Since it wasn’t a paid tour, we only got to see several places in the office. The compound is huge, and we didn’t have much time, so we just tried to see (and take photos) of as many things as we can. :)
After UN, we headed for lunch, courtesy of the Bendo family. I love how God provides for us — we were all wishing for Filipino food for lunch. Or at least, something similar, like sinigang or something. When we got there, one of our viands for lunch was indeed sinigang. :)
After lunch, we headed for another walking tour, this time to the other famous sites in Geneva that we had to see within the day. We rode another tram and headed for the old city in Geneva. I’ll let the photos do the talking.1 :)
Okay, honest moment? I’ve heard of the flower clock, but I thought it was not in Geneva. Someplace else, like Denmark or Holland or something. Oops, geography fail. But anyway, the flower clock is different every year — check out other photos on Google. :) I wonder if they use sunflowers here? Or it’s probably too big. :D
Our final stop was at the Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s landmark. Giant! Fountain! We walked got as close to it as we can and managed to take photos there without getting really wet. The water looked beautiful, too, and if we weren’t out of time, I would’ve wanted to stay there longer.
Now this is where the fun part of our Geneva trip really happened. After Jet d’Eau, we had an ice cream break by the lake while waiting for the boat that will take us to the other side of the lake, since it’s closer to where we will get our bags. We planned to go back to the house, say our proper good bye, get our bags and head towards the train station for our train to Paris. Our train leaves at 5:41pm, and these trains do not wait for anyone.
5:00pm, and we were still at the boat.
We still look relaxed here. But after the boat, we had to walk, ride a tram to the house, get our stuff and then ride the same tram back to the train station. Geneva is pretty small and it wouldn’t have been much of a stressful thing for us to do all that if we had a little bit more than 30 minutes to get to the train station, where we still had to find our platform.
So when we got off the boat, we started speed walking to the tram. We rode the tram, then speed-walked to the house, up the third floor to get our bags, some to get a quick drink of water and say goodbye to Tita Vivian. Then we ran downstairs, all the way to the tram. When we got to the train station, we only had about 10 minutes left, and we still had to look for our platform. Which turns out, was kind of far from the entrance. So we had to run all the way to the platform, and when our hosts cannot follow us anymore, they told us to have our tickets validated first before riding the train or else we won’t get in at all. We all said our hasty goodbyes and thanks, and ran all the way to the platform, where we made it with about, oh, three minutes to spare?
Talk about stress. It was exciting in an Amazing Race type of way, but I am never subjecting myself to that kind of stress again. EVER.
And so that is why we didn’t have proper group photos with our hosts. :(
I remember writing this on my Facebook soon after we arrived in Geneva:
I never even thought of putting Geneva in my bucket list. But God is amazing in ways I would never understand – here I am in a part of the world I never even dreamed about. :)
And it’s true: I never even thought of Geneva. But my less than 24 hour stay there just amazed me because I never even asked for this, yet God gave it to me. And He gave me not just the experience, but also new friends who I hope to see again — and by again, I mean going back to Geneva, yes?2
So, because I wasn’t able to thank everyone there properly, here’s my chance. To Katia, Reij, Trez, Kuya Pete and Ate Badette, Ralph, Vibelle, Tita Vivian and Tito Wency and the rest of CFC Community in Geneva (that we didn’t get to meet): MARAMING SALAMAT! :)
Up next, Paris! â™¥
- Some photos from En and Ayana. Thanks! [↩]
- Okay, actually, I had a short stay in Geneva after our Vienna trip — we did ride a train from Vienna to Geneva and my return trip to Madrid was from Geneva too. However, we arrived there at night and only got to stay over at our host for a night to eat and rest (and watch TFC) before flying back to Madrid. It’s very Amazing Race. :P [↩]