Life lately: return to Lyon and my first sensory deprivation float experience


This month I celebrated two years living in Geneva. While this is only my third summer here, it’s been oddly rainy and gloomy compared to the previous two summers. Weather patterns have been strange all around: take the horrendous flooding in Germany and Belgium only a few weeks ago, as well as in China just last week. We’re fortunate that the most we’ve gotten here is an extra bit of rain.


I got a third plant — a peace lily, widely known as one of the more low-maintenance plants. I am extraordinarily bad at taking care of plants. Only a day after this lily arrived, she began wilting and the petals were scorched, and I realized that I shouldn’t have left her in the direct path of the sun. I’ve since moved her to a shadier spot near the window without direct sunlight.

I also printed a couple more photographs to hang around the apartment. All are from Etsy except for the one of the boats, which I took in Beijing a decade ago.


This month entry requirements between France and Switzerland were eased, and so I went back to Lyon for the first time in around a year. There were absolutely no checks for anything — passports, QR codes, attestations, nothing. The uniformed personnel working customs at the train station simply stood there with menacing looks.


It rained all day in Lyon.

My haul from Supermarché International in Lyon, the only decent Asian store in the area. It’s nice to have a place to go to where I can speak Mandarin with another person!

Some more miscellaneous moments from the camera roll this month….

Outside Geneva’s main train station, Gare Cornavin
The water level on the lake rose a few feet during the flood days….
I went to the cinema for the first time in over a year. Masks are still required, obviously, and there was a cap on capacity.

Making kimbap-inspired rolls at home was a success.


I also tried out a sensory deprivation floating tank for the first time. I actually found out about this place (Namaka Spa) from my health insurance, which fully reimburses this experience as a form of wellness treatment. (Update August 2021: Swica refused to reimburse this expense without giving an explanation. I am SO done with Swica and am very thankful that I won’t be renewing with them at the end of this year.)

I arrived at the spa 15 minutes prior to the appointment, and the very kind receptionist gave me a tour of the facility, followed by a cup of tea in a cozily furnished relaxation lounge-type area while she explained the ground rules to me. I would have 75 minutes total in the chamber, including one shower prior to and after the float. I could turn off the lights in the tank if I wished. There was also a button I could press in case of emergency.

This was the chamber. There was a private wetroom-type shower attached.


The lights changed colors every few seconds.


They also provided amenities such as earplugs, towels, cotton pads, makeover remover, etc.

Overall, I liked the floating experience, and it did help take my mind off the intrusive thoughts that tend to pop up when there aren’t any distractions. However, there were also some physical challenges that detracted from the experience. I had slightly sprained my neck the night before, and when I tried to relax my head and shoulders in the water, the lack of support in the neck area was palpable.

The discomfort meant that I was only able to float for about 40 minutes instead of 60. Afterwards, when I arrived at home, I felt chill and relaxed, especially in my legs and feet.

If the float weren’t reimbursed, I don’t think I would have done it, as a single 60-minute floating experience comes out to over 100 francs (!). When I paid, the receptionist told me it was actually their one-year anniversary that day and thus gave me a discount on the price, so I had to pay around 85. (Update: This was NOT reimbursed, which is a real bummer.)

What I consumed lately

I’ve been a slow reader lately. I only finished one book, The Moment of Lift, by Melinda French Gates. It’s a practical, case study-heavy analysis of how investing in women’s health, education and general wellbeing empowers the world.

The other book I am currently reading is Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money by Diccon Bewes. I am taking my time and enjoying this book because never had I EVER read anything that captured so accurately what it’s like to be an English-speaking expat in Switzerland. Every stray observation I’ve ever had about the nuances of life here, the author makes a note of it as well.

In terms of films, I saw The Father at the cinema. It stars Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman as a man living with dementia and his daughter struggling to take care of her aging father. It was absolutely heartbreaking and I walked out of the cinema with tears streaming down my face, thinking about my grandfather in the last year of his life. I’m so glad I traveled to Urumqi in December 2019 to visit him, when he still remembered me.

I also saw Jojo Rabbit, which was also heartbreaking but just a really lovely film. It tells the story of a little boy in Germany — right before the war ended — who discovers his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl in their house.

I watched a couple episodes of Kevin Can F*** Himself, the new show about a woman unhappily playing the role of a sitcom wife. I’m not sure if I’m motivated to finish the rest of the episodes — it’s just so bleak and hopeless. Extremely depressing with no end in sight, like the Handmaid’s Tale.

The second season of Never Have I Ever dropped and of course I binged that in two days.

Lastly, Ted Lasso is back! So happy to see my AFC Richmond wankers back in action. Football is life!

Lastly, a bit of good news

I got my COVID certificate! Recently, France announced that starting in August it will require a pass sanitaire, or health pass, to enter establishments such as restaurants and cinemas. Italy is taking similar steps. The EU digital certificate has already been in place for weeks, and while Switzerland is not part of the EU, its certificate is designed to be compatible with the EU one.

In Switzerland, the certificate of vaccination is generated automatically after you get your shot in the country. I, however, had gotten vaccinated in the US. So for a while I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get the certificate here. My boss’s boss joked that I would have to get a third shot in Switzerland and possibly develop mutant superpowers from the excess dosage.

Fortunately, the Canton of Geneva has since rolled out an application form for people who were vaccinated abroad to submit their credentials. My US passport, CDC vaccination card, and residency permit were all that was needed. It took about a week, and then I received the digital certificate via text. It’s a QR code stored on my phone, and I will probably need to show it to border control when I travel to another country soon.

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