Ch. 3 - La Vie en Rose

This week was the most special of all, primarily because my boyfriend Colin arrived on Saturday from the States. After meeting him at the Geneva airport, we dropped off his bags at Cité Universitaire and spent a casual afternoon walking around the Palais neighborhood. We meandered through the remaining stalls still open from the neighborhood market, picking through piles of unpolished 

houses cooling partymetal antiques that burned under the heat of the blistering 5 PM sun. Afterwards, we stopped by Coop to pick up the necessaries to fix a caprese salad for a friend of mine’s “house-cooling party” (because “it’s too hot for house-warming”). After stopping at home to prepare the salad, grab ingredients for mojitos, and pick up Kyle, the three of us made our way to the gathering. We spent the evening with new friends, sitting in the parlor and drinking warm mojitos while playing an intense game of charades.


An accidental overnight in Annecy


On Sunday, Colin and I took a BlaBla car to Annecy. We arrived at the height of the Sunday market and strolled around the lively city known as the Venice of the Alps. After getting cocktails to cool Annecyourselves down and buying swimsuits (which we forgot) from a tourist shop, we walked down to Lake Annecy and hired a paddle boat for an hour and a half. All around us, tourists and locals alike escaped from the sun and bathed in the crystal-clear and ice-cold lake water. Around 8, we stopped for dinner at a small restaurant alongside a canal, where I ate Venice of the Alps tartiflette, the regional potato and cheese dish that is the foundation the upon which Annecy’s food pedestal rests. As dessert came (around 9 PM), we decided to start looking at transport to go back to Geneva, and unsurprisingly, there were none left that day. Thus, we booked a room at a sweet little inn about a 20 minute walk from the city center. The next day, we trekked 30 minutes at  5:00 AM to the Annecy bus station so I could change at home and make it to work for 9. Unsurprisingly, it was a long Monday. 

At Work 

At IBJ, I continued to work on ensuring that everything went smoothly for the visit from the US State Department, one of the funders for our China projects. The in-person visit was set to take place on Friday, when I’d be out of the office, so I wanted to make sure that everything that was needed for the visit was in one place so my superiors would be able to find any information requested of them. I assembled  a binder containing all of our policies and procedures, and since Kyle and I completed a checklist the week prior with notes indicating where certain language could be found, I felt confident that our team would be able to answer any questions about language that the agents might request. Our China Program Director, Paula, flew in from Canada early in the week to partake in the visit. On Wednesday, Kyle and I met with Karen (IBJ’s CEO), some of IBJ’s directors, and Paula.  We reviewed the last report given to us by the State Department five years prior and verified that all of the requested organizational changes had been accomplished. I stayed at the office later that usual to make sure I had passed along anything necessary for the meeting (and complete a few remaining tasks for Karen and Paula). Afterwards, I met with Colin at the train station by my work. He was just arriving back to Geneva after taking a day trip to Montreaux while I was at work. 

7 Cities in the Bern Region

Colin and I had been planning a weekend in the Bernese Oferland (or Highlands) for months. To our
luck, I was able to get an extra day off, so on Thursday morning, we packed our bags, picked up a rental car, and drove to Bern. Switzerland’s capital city is a completely different world from Geneva; I stepped out of our car and my French became immediately useless in this Germanic hub.
We stopped by Bern’s famous clocktower, took a tour of Einstein’s old apartment, and sneezed our way through the rose garden that overlooks the city. Just as the sky broke and torrents of rain started
to pour down on the city, we left the for Merligen, a small town on lake Thon where we booked a last-minute cabin on the side of a mountain overlooking the lake. The quiet village proved to be the perfect place to escape the rain. 


Friday was spent driving around the region, stopping in small Germanic towns in the mountains and
on the lake. In Grindelwald, we took a gondola up to the mountain, where we rode a toboggan (alpine slide) three times each, screeching like the children ahead of us. 

Me on the alpine slide

During our visit to the picturesque Lauterbrunnen, we hiked into the caves behind Staubbach Falls, where we watched  and waited for the sheets of rain covering the valley below us to slow.

Colin in a ponchoAfter buying a bright-red poncho for an already-soaked Colin, we boarded a steep cogwheel train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, one portion of the
world’s longest cog railway. The views from quick ride (around 12 minutes) were mystical—the “Valley of 72 Waterfalls” was partially covered by a thick, post-rain fog. That same fog covered all of Wengen, a tiny carless town nested high in the mountains at over 4,000 feet. Misty Wengen As the temperature dropped several degrees from Lauterbrunnen and we were both still damp, Colin and I stopped in a pub for a drink and some chicken schnitzel sandwiches to warm ourselves up.

After taking the train back to Lauterbrunnen, we decided to check ourselves into our AirBnB in another small town called Leissigen. Almost directly across the lake from our BnB in Merligen, we again had an incredible view of Lake Thon and the town below us. In the evening, we went on a short walk around tLeissiganown and stopped at a local restaurant for dinner, where we communicated with our waiter through pointed fingers and smiles.  Unlike the small (but touristy towns) we saw that day, this town was 100% German-speaking. We had the feeling that we had entered a tourist-free, authentic Switzerland. 

Panoramic Bridge

On our last full day, I suggested we begin the day with what I 

thought was a quick hike to a panoramic suspension bridge. I played myself—we fully hiked up a mountain, me out of breath the entire way and refusing to turn back because we were “so close”. In the end, the result was worth it… for me. Colin, who had been my hero for the entire hike, decided to let his courage rest when he saw the 350 foot-long suspension bridge above a steep 200 foot drop.
He had faced his fear of heights enough the last couple of days in a series of inclines, viewpoints, and gondolas, and was perfectly content with sitting this one out.

View from Interlaken

Following our hike, we went to the beautiful town of Interlaken situated between Lakes Thon and
Brienz. After some shopping, we were sweating and ready for water activities, so we headed to Spiez. Once again, we rented a paddle boat (with a huge slide!) and spent an hour and a half on the lake—with views of the the Spiez Castle, vineyards, and different chateaus peppering the shoreline. We ate dinner there, with a double rainbow appearing from behind the mountains: Switzerland boding Colin farewell.Colin










In my few short weeks here, Switzerland has repeatedly taken my breath away—its terrain as diverse as its citizens, simple moments become dream-like. I am incredibly fortunate to be spending my summer here, doing fulfilling work that contributes to the global proliferation of access to justice. International Bridges to Justice has, in this short time, become my favorite non-profit ever. The organization’s mission, transparency, and actual effectiveness all serve as a call to action for me to continue my career in the path of service to others. 

With feelings of humility and tranquility—I will now sign off. Until next time.