A few days ago, as I was preparing to leave the house for groceries, I peeked out the window and saw that the sky was a deep, dusty yellow. It was bright and early in the morning, yet all of Geneva looked as though it were coated in one of those yellow filters that they use on Breaking Bad to show that a scene is taking place in Mexico. I pulled up Twitter and immediately saw a tweet from a local news anchor that I followed: “Saharan day in Geneva,” he said. Weird choice of adjective, I thought.
It turns out the word “Saharan” was spot on. Sands from the Sahara Desert had literally been picked up and blown halfway across the world, dumping a big ole cloud of orange-yellow dust across western Switzerland and southern France. As I walked home from the store, literally every car I saw parked on the street was dirty, covered in small rust-colored streaks and stains. Multiple people drily remarked that the Sahara had decided to pick up and come visit us, given that we couldn’t travel to see it for the time being.
It was impossible to use my phone to capture an accurate photo of how the sky looked, because the phone automatically corrected the white balance. Here are two photos shared by Switzerland Tourism that show what it looked like in real life.
In more recent days, the weather took a sharp turn, and temperatures fell to 27 degrees and even 19 degrees over night (don’t ask me how much it is in Celsius; I still have no idea how it works!). Then it snowed this past weekend. It wasn’t the first snow that we’d seen this year, but it was snow that stuck around overnight and turned our sidewalks into slushy, slippery messes.
I think snow like this isn’t super common in Geneva, because everyone on the street was struggling to walk on the sidewalk like newborn calves testing out their legs. If I recall correctly, it didn’t snow at all last winter, and I only needed to pull out the space heater for about two or three weeks in my old apartment. But this winter has been much colder, and with everyone stuck inside under a mandatory telework order, that certainly hasn’t helped with spirits. There are some days where I am on the verge of taking my laptop to work at a cafe or on a grassy hill outside, and then it’s like, oh wait, never mind.
On Chinese New Year’s, my mom sent me a photo of their new year’s eve dinner. My family is pretty small and low-key, but other Chinese families usually go all out and make a whole table of luxurious dishes — lobster, crabs, meat and poultry of every variety. Of course, this year’s celebrations were muted; there is a lot of anxiety in the Asian-American community over a recent spike in random, vicious attacks against people who look like us, especially elders.
In the absence of family, it’s always nice to see friends. I went with a coworker to visit another coworker who lived on the French-Swiss border, and we had a romp at the little farm nearby.
We took a bus to the border, which went off route and dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, and our cell reception went haywire. So we were lost for a solid half-hour, but it’s hard to be upset when you’re lost in an idyllic place like this.
Ending with a different topic this month: zero waste. I am always on a journey towards reducing my plastic usage, and I’ve made two big breakthroughs in the past few months.
The first was eliminating disposable products from my periods. For over a year, I’ve been using reusable fabric menstrual pads. They work quite well and are highly absorbent, but I only have five of them, and it’s a pain in the butt to hand-wash and hang dry them day in, day out for seven days, but that’s sort of the price you have to pay for wanting to be more environmentally responsible. The drawback was that they do not work well for travel, and they’re kind of an overkill for the last two days of the cycle (I think I just really dislike the hand washing aspect because the pads are suuuper thick). As a long-term investment, I recently decided to buy two pairs of period underwear from Thinx. The texture feels like a bathing suit, but so far they’re comfortable, light and absorb well. I’m hoping they will be a big help when I’m traveling and have to hand-wash clothes in the hotel bathroom. They’ll also be useful when I have to go back to work in an office again. I might get more the next time I’m back in the States, whenever that will be.
The second was making my own natural all-purpose cleanser. There are a million tutorials for this on the internet. After I finished a spray bottle of some weirdly strong-smelling chemical stuff from my local organic store, I filled it with roughly half white vinegar, half water, and a big scoop of baking soda. I also sometimes add a bit of black soap. This solution works like magic. I use it for everything — windows, mirrors, countertops, bathrooms, floors. The only thing to watch out for is to not use it with bleach. I didn’t know any better and sprayed my toilet with the vinegar mixture after first applying a bleach bowl cleanser. It created an awful smell that gave me a cough and a huge headache for an hour. Turned out I had accidentally exposed myself to chlorine gas. Oops!