Life lately: Malta, finishing my biggest project yet, and shiba inus


In which I did almost nothing in Malta

A perk of working in Switzerland is that we always get both Friday and Monday off for Easter, which makes for a nice long weekend. This year, because I was suffering from seasonal depression and yearned for sunshine, I booked a trip to Malta.

Thanks to my ongoing physical issues, it was the least prepared I’d ever been for a trip. Aside from booking the plane tickets and hotel, I did almost no research. I just showed up and did whatever I was in the mood for.

During those three days, I stayed at a hotel in the ancient city of Mdina and walked a few laps around the city each day. I also took the bus to the capital, Valletta, for one afternoon. Other than that, I mostly just sat around at the hotel.

In one sense, it was kind of a waste of time and money. My entire travel philosophy had been to see as many places and do as many things during a trip as possible; it’s why I bounced around 4 countries in 3 weeks when I went to Southeast Asia in December. And when I moved to Europe in 2019, I thought that I’d be on a train every other weekend, hence the name of this blog.

But in this new year, I’ve slowed down. And I’ve sort of lost interest in travelling — at least within Europe. I don’t know if it’s a temporary thing, or if it’s a mindset change. I’m just rolling with it for now.

In another sense, the trip wasn’t a waste, because during those 3 days, as I sat in the lounge of the hotel in Mdina, I was able to make significant progress on writing my novel, even with all the noise and people coming and going. And after I came back, I was still on a creative high. I continued to write feverishly, and in mid-April, I finished writing the novel.

My writing

Even though the idea for this novel had been in my head since summer 2021, and I’d been writing steadily since January 2022, I had never mentioned it on this blog until now. I’m the type of person who’s always had trouble finishing the things they start. Musical instruments, art and video projects, online courses, other novel ideas — I’ve abandoned so many projects over the years that I knew there was a decent chance that I’d let this one fall away, too.

So I kept my head down and just wrote, quietly, consistently, occasionally taking breaks when the chronic fatigue became too overwhelming. But I never stopped. And so here I am in April 2023, with a finished work of just over 118,000 words (!).

Of course, after finishing the novel, the next goal is to get it published, which feels incredibly daunting. To do that, I have to first find a literary agent who will agree to represent the book and shop it around to different publishing houses. So this week, I sent out queries to nine different agents. Believe it or not, hitting the ‘Submit’ button on those queries was even more stress-inducing than applying for a job. Because somehow, this feels more personal.

For me at least, when I’m applying for a job, it’s more about my CV, the places I’ve worked, the projects I’ve led, whether I can interview well. Whereas a creative work — that’s all of me. It’s my heart distilled in the form of a book. It felt excruciatingly vulnerable to put myself out there. My stomach still hurts from the stress, and I had trouble sleeping for a couple of nights.

I don’t know when I’ll start to hear back; according to the agents’ websites, it could take as long as four to six weeks. Months, even. So for now, I’m just going to try to sit back, relax, and focus on other things in my life.

The most pressing of which is finding a new apartment.

Apartment search

The lease for my current apartment ends in July. Coincidentally, my work contract ends in June. While its renewal is guaranteed and imminent — thank God — it is currently somewhere in the labyrinth of HR, and I have no idea when the new contract will come.

In the meantime, I tried to search for a new place on my own, and it quickly became a nightmare. As if the housing situation in Geneva wasn’t already dire enough, it seems to have become even worse since the last time I tried to look for a place. It’s not just that the process is competitive — it’s that there’s almost nothing on the market anymore.

After about a month, I gave up and have hired a professional agent to conduct the search for me. She came highly recommended, having worked with at least five of my colleagues, and seemed friendly, professional, and non-pushy when we met for coffee. Her commission is one month’s rent, which, while steep, will be worth it if she can save me the headache of navigating Geneva’s housing market for the third time.

Other more fun things

When my friend M came back from South Korea earlier this year, she surprised me with a gift bag full of shiba-themed trinkets, including socks, a mirror, a pen, and a palm rest! I was absolutely blown away.


But wait, there’s more — a few weeks later, someone introduced me to another person who has an actual shiba. So we met for a morning walk at the park, I got to know C, who is a lovely human, and I got to pet a shiba inu for the first time in my life. Lifelong dream fulfilled.


Friend G came over for dinner and brought a bouquet of flowers.


I organized a hot pot dinner for my coworkers at a local Chinese restaurant, and eleven people came! We had a meat table and a veggie table. The final bill was 65 francs per person, which feels insane, even if it is Switzerland.


Saw Friend E’s choir perform at a local church. They performed about 10 different renditions of Ave Maria. It was lovely to be in this space on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by the local Genevois community.


And finally, here’s me playing the latest piece I’ve learned on the guqin. It’s a thousand-year-old song about saying goodbye to a friend who is about to embark on a long journey. In those times, if someone took a trip like that, there was a good chance that you’d never see them again. I can still feel that sadness, even today.

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