Bonjour/Buon giorno/Grutzi/Bun di!

Hello, however you want to say it!

Switzerland’s four official languages (French, Italian, Swiss German, & Romansch) divide the cantons so sharply in the country that it almost feels like traveling across international borders when you leave one language area for another. French is the official language in Geneva, where I am spending a semester at the Graduate Institute of International and Development studies.

The language confusion is most apparent at the Italian restaurants in Geneva. The waiter greets in Italian, “Buon giorno” and then asks what you want in French, “Que voulez-vous, madame” and if you look confused, like I normally do, they move onto asking what you want in German, and then revert back to Italian when you continue to stare blankly. Meanwhile, the whole menu is in Italian because no world language has changed the word for “spaghetti” while menu item descriptions are in English- which is not an official language at all- but relatively a safe bet to assume most people know it considering pretty much everyone in Geneva is foreign.

Regardless, I only know a little Italian, a fair bit of Spanish and German swears… none of which is that helpful in a French speaking city! So English it is and I’m trying my hardest (or trying quite moderately) to learn some French! It’s a matter of respect, not necessity. Classes are in English and the student body, not counting lowly exchange students like myself, is largely tri-lingual with French and English being two of the non-mother-tongue languages that everyone speaks. Impressive right? Us Americans really need to get with the program on this language- learning business.

That aside, Geneva week 1 has been wonderful. I rented a bike, that I’ve named Oscar, it’s the little bike that could. It’s a Migros bike, which is a supermarket here, and it has a label on it the length of it’s cross bar that says “budget budget budget budget” in green and white. Classy. Most bikes say something encouraging on their labels, like my mountain bike at home says “rock hopper,” but Oscar, well I guess he’s a man of few words and just tells it as it is. His front tire is warped so the brake is always sort of on and I’m just thankful Geneva is not hilly. If you count “stopped” as a gear, Oscar is only a 7 speed bike and the easiest hill-climbing speed is probably really like the 10th gear on most non-supermarket-brand-budget bikes.

Anywho, I’ve had a great month here so far climbing the Alps with chocolate, cheese and wine firmly in hand. I left Boston August 25 and spent the first 3 weeks backpacking in Switzerland with my boyfriend where we hiked and climbed via ferratas to the tune of cowbells jingling and among a backdrop too beautiful for words to describe -which I recognize is a cop out, but see the photo, I think you’ll agree and to follow one cliche with another, a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand words that i don’t want to string together for you! ;)

Too beautiful for words, alpine lake at the toe of the Eiger. Above, alpine lake at the toe of the Eiger.

Au revoire for now! More to come soon!