Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More notes from the road...sort of

I was in the process of putting together a follow-up to my wildly successful "Notes from the road" whilst in Geneva, Switzerland when a microbial interloper interloped. My guess it was the bouillabaisse I had at the cafeteria that did it, and having ignored my own cardinal rule of no sea-based foods in cafeterias, come Thursday night (two Thursdays ago) things started to go south. By that Friday morning, it became pretty evident that I had eaten something that didn't like me very much, and it was tearing me up. My flight was set for the next day, Saturday, and as the day wore on it became pretty evident that wasn't going to happen, so I had to change it to Sunday, which cost me about $200. Of course, what guarantee did I have that I'd be ready for a 15-hour day of air travel with no control over what I could eat? So, for another $200 or so, I had a Swiss doctor call on my hotel room and check me over for about a half hour. She told me I probably had bacterial food poisoning and it had set up camp in my intestines. Pretty sweet stuff. She gave me a prescription for 3 different meds, one of which was a strong antibiotic which ended up killing the bugs off. Of course, getting to the pharmacy, which isn't 24-hours like CVS by the way, was a bit of an ordeal itself, considering my state. She also told me what I could only eat bread, plain rice, and plain pasta for the next few days. If I could find a brothy soup, that would be okay too, but good luck finding a non-cream-based soup in a city that borders France. Anyway, I was able to find a Vietnamese place that had a chicken noodle soup, and get my meds, without too much issue. My ritual of getting Wingos the minute I get back home from a trip had to be put off a week, and I lived on soup and crackers for about 2 more days after getting back. It's amazing how much you miss solid food and things that taste like things after only a few days.

Anyway, there's a few more little tales I wanted to share while in Geneva that were either pretty funny or interesting.

Auf gut Gl├╝ck!

So the first night I'm at the hotel I call down before I get to sleep to ask for a wake-up call at 7:00am. The standard practice of performing the wake-up call is to call said hotel occupant at the requested time in order to wake him/her up. Around 5:05am I woke up in the middle of a dream about Erika Christensen (just kidding) to a repetitive knock on the door. It was still pitch black outside, and I thought the cleaning crew was going around a bit too early. It's Europe, so you never really know what's going to happen in hotels. After throwing on my jeans to cover up my huge dong I go and open the door and there's this hotel employee who says, "Bonjour! Bonjour! Wake up call! Wake up call!"
Naturally, I'm perplexed, I look at my watch, and sure enough it's 7:00am. But seriously, what the fuck? How confusing is that for someone who just woke up? Couldn't they just have called me, as the name "wake up call" implies? Silly Swiss. Of course I couldn't have that weird scene happening every day, so I had to rely on just waking up on my own and therefore ended up being about an hour late every day.

A big 450-foot jet of water coming out of Lake Geneva known as "Jet d'Eau," or "Jet of Water."

Another little observation of mine was that no matter where I went, I was known and referred to as "the American." At a restaurant, one waiter told another that "blah blah blah the American blah blah blah blah." At the hotel, "the receptionist told the other that "blah blah blah the American blah blah blah blah." When the doctor came to my hotel room, she called someone and asked a question because "the American blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." Obviously I don't speak any French whatsoever, Spanish is my game, but no matter the language the word "American" is still pretty much the same. Take note, my Swedish friends!

This is not Epcot Center, actually, this tram is part of Geneva's excellent public transit system. The woman in white ended up getting hit by the tram, by the way.

At the conference I went to I met people from all over the world. The most memorable interactions were with representatives of Lesotho, one of two countries enclaved within South Africa (just because of novelty), Iran, Syria, Palestine, and North Korea. I was particularly amazed to see anyone from the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" at all. You hear and read so much about these places, so that when you actually meet someone on a personal basis a lot of your preconceptions are challenged. Of course, the people I met aren't responsible for the massive human rights abuses in most of the countries I listed, so it wasn't too difficult to have a conversation with them. In general, I did notice that most of the Arab countries' reps never said "thank you" for the complementary materials they took, they just kinda walked away. Having sat in on one of the general sessions, which looked exactly like a UN meeting with translators in overhead booths and earpieces so you can understand what everyone is saying, I was able to pick up that "shokala" or similar meant "thank you" in Arabic. So even a simple "shokala" would have done.

A big, fancy, important building somewhere near Lake Geneva.


Arlene said...

I believe the french invented the clear broth otherwise known as consomme. You could've asked for that.

Brice Lord said...

I asked what kind of soup they had. They said vegetable. I asked if that was a broth soup. They said "no, cream soup." I then shot everyone, but everything around me still had cream in it, despite the bloodshed.

Seriously, every "local" menu item was cream-based. Bad place to go if you're lactose intolerant.

Anonymous said...

note to self, don't trust seafood from landlocked mountainous countries?

Anonymous said...

Man, that sucks being sick while away from home, sorry to hear that!
But wait a minute....let's back up, tell us more about the huge dong?

Jenn N said...

That sucks you got sick. I got really sick on my last trip too. I had some Cipro with me, and that stuff is amazing. Don't leave home without it!

DAN said...

Why in FSM's name is the wake up call for 7am at 5am?

Dan said...

oh wait i guess you misspoke. i was so vicariously angry i couldn't focus.