Life lately: an alpine village, zero waste shopping in Geneva, and learning Indonesian

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October has felt like the longest month, for whatever reason. Work has been piling up and the weekends are just zooming by. I got to take a breather with a weekend trip to Basel, and also a small work trip to Verbier, a French-speaking village in the southwestern canton of Valais.

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It was not the easiest, trying to get there without a car. I took two trains, and then waited for over an hour at a small train station in the middle of nowhere for the next bus to town. Something about this experience felt very American. All the customers at the kiosk I was waiting at appeared to be locals; people would pull up in their trucks, run in for a coffee to go, then pop back out again. There were a couple of dudes in denim overalls and baseball hats smoking and just hanging around.

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Once the bus came and took us up the mountain, the views were out of this world.

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This is the type of life I used to dream about when I was a kid. I never thought I’d get to actually live it.

The hotel was great. Free masks in the room and a balcony with a sweeping view.

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It was cold enough that I left a half-eaten pizza out for two days, and the weather basically functioned as a fridge.

It was nice being out in nature during the times I wasn’t working.

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Also got to take a gondola lift for the first time in forever. It was shoulder season, so nobody else was around.

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On the mountain, I realized it had been almost two years since I last touched snow. It didn’t snow in Geneva at all last winter.

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This is so funny, but I had no idea picnic was just pique-nique in French. It’s just so stereotypically French, I love it.

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Coming back to Geneva on the train was pretty spectacular, as always.

What else?

My wake-up light for treating seasonal affective disorder came in. It’s an upgrade from the model I had in DC; this lamp wakes me up with an FM radio. I’ve been listening to a station that plays predominantly Arabic music.

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I also bought reusable grocery bags — the sheer kind that you need for small and/or delicate products that need to be kept apart from the rest.

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I also started checking out zero waste shops in Geneva, starting with Nature & Découvertes in Old Town. It is really hard to walk into a shop like this and not buy something, just because the products are so cute and diverse. They’ve got organic cleaning products, physical wellness, candles, locally made honey, zero waste books for kids… There was even a chair where you could sit and get a massage on the spot.

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I got a water bottle to replace my previous one, which unfortunately gave out after only 10 months. This one has been great so far: lightweight, travels well, and keeps the water temperature super consistent.

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I also went to Globus, a famous high-end department store, just to see what a famous high-end department store is like. I saw fondue pots retailing for 200 francs.

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These socks are USD 20 a pair.

High-end masks and hand sanitizer.

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At the end of September, I got the loveliest present in the mail — postcards from one of my favorite YouTube channels, Half-Asleep Chris. He creates videos about interesting but obscure facts, the history of currency, travel, and pet projects like building castles for his cats. It’s all so warm, whimsical and wholesome. The postcards are perks from subscribing to his Patreon.

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Immediately freshened up the display on my tiny refrigerator, along with some of my favorite souvenirs.

I also started Indonesian classes over Zoom this month. I’m the oldest student in the class by a mile — even the teacher is a college student. I joked to my coworkers that I might have to start dressing younger and putting my hair in pigtails to fit in with my Fellow Kids.

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And lastly, this was the supermarket the other day. Halloween decorations right next to Christmas, I had to laugh… this year has been so nuts, what is time even anymore?

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Some interesting things I read / watched / listened to this month

How to be an anti-casteist. How does India’s caste system affect you, even after you’ve immigrated to the US? Very informative episode from NPR’s Code Switch podcast.

Labor: a new podcast on women, work and motherhood. The first season just wrapped up, and I’ve been absolutely loving this. I have no children and may never have them, but this has been so helpful in understanding how the pandemic has disproportionately affected working mothers and how I can better support my female colleagues with children.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Communications gets kicked off Twitter. On October 6, the Swiss government posted a very salty official announcement complaining that it had been suspended from Twitter since late September, with no explanation or response. For some reason, this tickled my funny bone extra hard.

Wake up on Mars. This new documentary follows the story of a Kosovan refugee family in Sweden, whose two teenage daughters fall into a coma called ‘resignation syndrome’ when their application for asylum is denied. I am still kind of stunned that something like this is real — and has happened to hundreds of refugee children in Sweden.

A Black Belgian student who died trying to get into a white fraternity. This happened two years ago, but disturbing new evidence has recently emerged, painting a clearer picture of the racist backdrop and the coverups that ensued.

Working from home is making a lot of people miserable. Yes! Thank you, finally, somebody who understands.

The contact tracers of Geneva at work. This little video (in French) follows public health workers in Geneva as they race to keep up with the climbing positivity rates and contact tracing.

A most unsurprising superspreader event. Schwyz, a canton in central Switzerland, is reporting a steep climb in new cases — with “a cluster [that] is thought to have come from a yodelling concert.” Never change, Switzerland.

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