Ch. 4 - Not My Best Week

A Week in Misery....

Remember last week, when I talked about panting my way up the mountain to the panoramic bridge in Leissigen? Or perhaps my ending note about Switzerland constantly taking my breath away? Yeah, that was foreshadowing. I have had many firsts in Switzerland, and now I can add contracting Covid to that list. 

On Monday, I woke up feeling extremely ill, so I called out of work, and scheduled a covid test at the university pharmacy near me. Not more than 45 seconds passed after the swab came out of my nose than the pharmacist looked at me and gave me a cheerful “Oui! C’est postitif!” 

As a Type 1 Diabetic, I’m incredibly fortunate that my only symptoms were persistent sneezes, coughs, and a slightly out-of-range blood sugar. Not to mention, of course, the “I could sleep for the rest of my life” level of fatigue. Accordingly, I spent the remainder of my week sleeping and binge-watching “Better Call Saul.” I logged in to IBJ’s remote server a couple of times, but that was truly as far as I got in terms of work except for a meeting and some messages regarding a new project—The India Defender’s Manual. 

International Bridges to Justice creates Defender’s Manuals for its country programs. These in-depth booklets give local attorneys the resources they need to provide a comprehensive  defense to people in conflict with the law. They summarize the criminal procedure of each country and give insight into the fundamental rights and potential defenses that attorneys may use to bolster the case of their client. Our India program’s manual has remained the same since 2008. While legal procedures have not changed substantially in that time, justice system reform has led to the reinterpretation of certain fundamental rights and a change in the way certain crimes are prosecuted. Siddarth, who works for the India program, asked Kyle, myself, and Kedhar to tackle the revamp of the Defense Manual. While I was out on Monday, the three of them had a Zoom call with Ajay, the India Country Program Director. We had a follow up virtual call on Wednesday to look over the manual together, divide up work, and create a deadline for ourselves. 

I took my second Covid test on Wednesday, and although with a nearly invisible second line—it was still positive. This upset me, as Karen was having a long-awaited get-together at her house on Friday for IBJ staff and interns, and I knew I likely wouldn’t be able to attend. Even more, Talia, an intern from Geneva, invited the rest of us to her chalet in the French alps for the weekend. With Colin being gone and not having seen anyone in three days, my situation was feeling increasingly desolate.

Followed by a Weekend in Heaven

But ALAS! Thursday afternoon, with little hope, I took the characteristic covid brain-swab, swirled it around in the test tube, and waited with my eyes glued to the test. I finally had my “AHA” moment as my timer sounded that fifteen minutes had passed, and no second line had appeared.

Starting a workweek on a Friday feels odd, but I was just excited to be out of my apartment and actually interact with people. There were two additional interns, Eoin and Pauline, who (although I didn’t know it yet) I would become fast friends with. I worked on a couple of ongoing projects I was involved with, but the energy of the office was buzzing with excitement and preparation for Karen’s barbecue. At around 2:30, we left the office early and took a train to her house, nestled in the magical forest of Versoix, where Karen says the Celtics used to have spiritualistic rituals. While there, we ate egregious amounts of food and then a group of 6 of us joined Karen in the icy river that flows through the forest. I know I have described every body of water I have been in as glacial, but this was undoubtedly the coldest. 

IBJ Interns at Karen's House

After a group of hornets assaulted half of the interns (poor Pauline getting stung over 12 times), we walked outside to Karen’s stone labyrinth. After reading a poem, she instructed us to set an intention, walk through the labyrinth, and place something into the fire burning in the middle. Afterwards, we hung colorful ribbons on the “Wishing Tree,” which was decorated with the dreams of the many IBJ employees that came before us. After lightening the mood with some karaoke, a group of us set off for Samoëns. 

We made it to the top of the mountain, where the chalet rests, at around 11. After spending some time outside, spraining our necks to mesmerize ourselves at the vastest array of stars I have ever seen, we crawled into our beds and went to sleep. 

Because I am so proud of my multi-age and multinational little group of intern friends, I will explain who all attended this trip. 

Kyle and I, of course.

Talia- This is her family’s chalet. Swiss, born in US, goes to UCLondon

Youssef- Swiss, already graduated, lives in Versoix near Karen. Interning for a full year at IBJ 

Kedhar- Indian to Canada to America, a law student at ASU

Maryam - Windy city proud, rising sophomore at Harvard undergrad

Monique- goes to Yale undergrad, originally from Connecticut

Carmen- Swiss, goes to Boston University

Eoin - Irish-Californian at Harvard Divinity School

Noah - Karen’s son, raised in Switzerland now goes to Stanford

James - Noah’s best friend, also goes to Stanford. 

Youseff, Maryam, Kedhar, Monique, Talia, Kyle & I

On Saturday, a few people drove to town and picked up croissants and pain au chocolat for the group. We ate breakfast and then headed to our first adventure- Accrobranche (a ropes course in the trees). We picked up some lunch and ended up eating it by the lake while we were waiting for the facility to open. Once it did, all eleven of us harnessed-up, did a quick 15 minute training session with the guides, and spent the next two hours swinging from tree to tree. A couple sections of the accrobranche allowed you to hang-glide over the nearby lake. At the end of our session, I was ready to be done. My hands were sore and bleeding (I had a mishap on one of the black courses), my arms sore, and my knees weak from shaking on tightropes. We loaded up the two cars and went to Samoëns town center. That weekend in town was special, as they were holding their annual American Festival. The expositions, biker shops, and costumes I saw do not merit a mention in this sacred blog post. 

We decided on making a dinner for the group at home and split up to buy groceries. Monique and I went to a small produce store and bought the necessities for a cucumber-tomato salad to go along with the pasta we’d be having. We met back up with everyone, stopped back at the lack to cool off, and went back to the chalet. For dinner, we made two types of pasta and a cucumber-tomato salad with desserts from a local patisserie. 

Horse on Mountain

As the sun began to start its descent, a few people wandered outside on the mountain to take pictures. It was only about 5 minutes before someone from within the chalet (where I was as well) shouted “They found horses!” At that point, everyone joined. Now I am sure these horses belong to someone and are somehow contained on this mountain, but to us it was a mystery where they came from. After around 15 minutes of us petting and feeding them, they grew tired of us and walked off, so we proceeded down the mountain for better views of the deepening sunset. We took pictures in a prairie next to a cow field (the cows were a little more suspicious of us than the horses were). As we were frolicking, we looked up to see the herd of horses galloping down the mountain straight towards us. Simultaneously awestruck and frozen in terror, we watched as the the herd parted less than 3 meters before us, encircling the prairie before slowing and finding a place to graze. By this point, pink shadows were cast upon the mountains above us with Mont Blanc’s imposing white peak behind them. The whole hour had the essence of a dream. 

The next day, we picked up croissants and went home. Kyle and I went to Jonction to float down thesunset river a couple of times and have a picnic. I went to bed with heavy eyes, my body absolutely exhausted from the accrobranching. Until next week, thanks for reading.