Monday, August 3, 2009

Last week in Geneva

It is my last week in Geneva! I can NOT believe how fast this summer went.

I am not going to lie - I am SOO ready to go home. Three months is a very long time to be away from the beautiful, wonderful, amazing, awesome, fabulous United States.

I love Switzerland and Europe in general, but Dorothy from The Wizard of OZ says it best when she says, "There is no place like home."
It is funny how you do not realize the things that you miss about America, until you are not there anymore. Such things as - a car (I am sooo sick of taking the tram...lets be real.), CVS, 7 eleven being open 24/7, sweatshirts and tennis shoes (people here basically go to the gym in heals and NEVER wear sweats in public), talking really loud and being super annoying in public places, people who use deodorant and shave on a regular basis, dairy queen blizzards (I heard through the grapevine that there is a new Girl Scout cookie blizzard....I am soo trying that when I get home!), people who smile at you on the street even if you do not know them (aka. friendly people), Whale Wars on Animal Planet...

um this list could go on for a while - but those are just a few of the many things that I miss about America.

I had a great last weekend here in Geneva. Saturday August 1st was Switzerland Independence Day. There is a HUGE festival going on - it is actually going on for 3 weeks. big deal friends. big deal. It is like a carnival type thing all around the lake. In front of the park that I go to basically everyday there is a big green roller coaster. So it is a bit distracting when I am reading because all I hear are people screaming. haha. I however, am getting used to it.

Work is going well I guess. I mean, if you count having nothing to do as going well then it is GREAT! haha. My entire department is on holiday until after I leave. I finished all the work my boss left me within an hour of getting to the office today. Thus, I decided to leave a little early and get some things done (aka. go to the park and read). It was super fabulous.

I do not have too much planned for my last days here. I am just packing things up. I have NO clue how I got all of this stuff over here. I am having some serious problems. ahh too many clothes! haha. I am going to have to do some major re-packing in the coming days. but I will make it work.

I am getting a bit nostalgic about leaving Geneva - I have become very attached certain things about the city and also really random things. like grapefruit 7up. and plain yogurt. and hot chocolate for breakfast being normal. and the stray cat that lives here. I named him Neville Longbottom. I feed him cheese and bring him inside to eat dinner with me. That is super weird, I know.

I will miss the park that I go to everyday. It is my place to think and read and escape. I will miss people speaking to me in French on the tram and me nodding and pretending that I understand them by just saying "d'accord" (ok in French). I will miss how people here treat their yippy yappy little dogs better than children. I will most certainly miss having the ability to hop on a train to anywhere in Europe that my heart could ever desire. I will miss working at the International AIDS Society - and all the wonderful people that I have meet along the way.

This is making me sad. so I am going to stop now.

I am going to do one last blog when I get home to fully wrap up this amazing experience. I think being home will help me to put it together in a better perspective.

Talk to you all soon :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

IAS 2009, Cape Town, SA

Africa was absolutely amazing. I have so much to say and could talk for hours. But I will not do that to you. haha.
Cape Town is such a beautiful city - it is surrounded by mountains and the coast is unreal. So pretty! I unfortunately did not get a chance to tour the city that much because I was working a ton - but I did get a chance to go to the top of Table Mountain with my friend Clare (in the pic). As indicated by the title, the mountain has a giant square top that has many trails to walk on, and you can see the coast of the city and Robben Island.
Robben Island is the prison that Nelson Mandela was held at. I was going to go with my friend Jenny on Thursday because I had heard that it was a really emotional and historical place to visit (clearly). However, after I had bought tickets online they canceled the tours because it was too windy for the ferry boats. We were sad - but went to the Aquarium instead. I LOVE aquariums - like they are probably my favorite places in the world.
Anyway - on to the CONFERENCE!!! It was such an amazing experience to work at a huge International Conference. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to participate in it. Before I left my boss Emily told me that it was going to be ridiculously busy, and I would at one point have a mental breakdown, and get no sleep, and my feet would hurt really bad - but it would be worth it.
She was right. haha. It was INSANE! We all worked so hard - As I previously mentioned I was in charge of putting on the engagement tours, which proved to be really, really successful! Everyone wanted to go on the tours - with over 6,000 delegates and only 80 slots - I had alot of people mad at me. And people do/say really stupid things when they are mad. Yea- basically I got yelled at alot. In many different languages. It was actually kind of funny.
But those that did go on the tours absolutely loved it! One of the tours went to the Ubuntu ARV Clinic - in the township of Khayelitsha. Khayelitsha is the largest township in South Africa. A township is basically miles upon miles of tin shacks. Within the townships they have all necessities that they need - butcher, barber shop, stores, people selling home grown fruits and veggies and even a small bed and breakfast. haha, not kidding - it is called Vicky's B & B. I really wanted to stay there. The HIV and TB rates in Khayelitsha are through the roof. However, Ubuntu ARV has had so much success with in the past few years in providing treatments.
In South Africa - there is this "rule" that states that HIV and TB treatments should be separate. However, if you know anything about how these diseases work - you would know that is counter productive and unsuccessful. Thus, the doctors at the Ubuntu Clinic do not follow it, and as a result have saved many more lives and had higher rates of success. The head nurse Mpumi, who I became close with through our correspondence in setting up the tours, said jokingly that she is waiting to be arrested for doing this.
During the conference I was also in charge of the International AIDS Society's Community Advisory Group. This is a group of 6 people from all over the world who are in charge of overlooking the community activities at the conference. At IAS 2009 we had a positive lounge (for positive delegates), a community office (for activists to use to print materials for protests and stuff), a community exposition booth (with displays of local community information), we held a community forum (in the governmental chambers in SA), and a community orientation programme (to help first time conference attendees). As I am sure you can tell, these activities kept me really busy. I had crazy blisters on my feet from all of the running around.
To give you another example of how amazing my boss is - on the first day, my feet were bleeding like hard core and she saw them and started to freak out. She took me back to her hotel room and soaked my feet in her bathtub, then she continued to wash my disgusting feet, and towel dry them and apply blister guards. This is not a joke - that actually happened. haha. i love her.
I am really going to miss everyone on my office- this internship truly has been such a wonderful, eye opening, worthwhile experience. It has been really hard, and a TON of work, but as Emily said- it was worth it. It still have two more weeks of work - probably just finishing up projects and working on AIDS 2010 in Vienna.
I do not have work on Monday - so it will be nice to have a relaxing weekend off. I am going to the Red Cross Museum today with my friend Jenny. She is leaving on Monday :( and is then off to Boston to finish up medical school at Harvard. Tomorrow Jenny and I are going to finally see Harry Potter. I am really really excited!! haha.
I hope you are all doing well - I can't wait to come home and see everyone and tell my stories, (in more detail, lol)!
Drop me a line sometime :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I survived flying on an Airbus.


I got back to Geneva this morning from a wonderful weekend in Nice, Eze and Monaco. It was a great relaxing weekend, although I am sad that my Mom is no longer with me. She is on to Spain for a week!

I am going to miss having her to clean my messy room and cook me food and do my laundry. haha. j/k. but not really. I had a wondeful time showing her around Geneva and traveling to Nice!

Did you know that the beaches in Nice are all rock? it was so strange, and it hurt a bit to walk on. The reflection of the rocks under the water give Nice that famous bright blue water. It was beautiful, and now i can say that I have swam in the Mediterranean.

On Saturday we took a bus tour to Monaco and Monte Carlo. It was really nice having someone else drive us on those crazy roads. If we had rented a car I am pretty sure we would be dead, especially if I was driving. bad idea.

On the way to Monaco, we stopped in the little medieval village of Eze. It was really neat, it reminded my of Harry Potter! Speaking of...3 days!!!! Eze actually only has 40 people that still live there, it is so small. It is built on the tip top of a mountain, because back in the day that was the safest place because they could see enemies coming in from the sea and from other mountains. It was sweet.

After Eze we took a tour of a perfumery. It smelt soo good, it was actually the oldest perfumery in the world. perfume was like originated there. It was neat to see how it is actually made, it takes to long and so many flowers to make perfume. I now understand why it is so expensive! We bought some only life once!

Then we were off to Monaco! I was truly beautiful, and it is crazy to think that the country itself is only 2 miles long and had 30,000 people living there. it is really crowded. obviously, and to get the cheapest crappiest apartment it is only a mean 2 million dollars. i do not understand, there are so many more things that i would do with a million dollars. like buy a whole island or something.

We saw the changing of the guard at the Palace which was really cool. The guards had nice outfits. they were white. We found a restaurant that served American Classics like Milkshakes!!! I had a strawberry one and it made my day. After, we walked around the gardens, everything is so lush. I am pretty positive that Monaco is a secret Utopian society. For every 50 people that live there there is one police officer. There is like no crime, or trash......and we did not see one bug! Also, the ducks in the pond had tags to keep them from getting overpopulated.

Monaco was like a little fake, pretend world. like Barbie land. haha. but seriously, it was so pathetic to see these people who only care about silly materialistic possessions. It was certainly a great place to visit for the day....but you would have to kill me before I would ever live there.

It was a wonderful, relaxing weekend, but I am glad to be back in Geneva. I need some time to recoup before i leave for Cape Town on Wednesday. I can't believe the time is almost here! I am going to Africa :)))) I am really excited, if you can't tell. haha.

Next time I update I will be in South Africa!

Now, I am going to take a nap, as I woke up at 5:30 to get to the airport.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Geneva Lake Parade = Not Normal

Hello All.

My mom arrived safely on Friday night! We were lame and went straight to bed. Saturday was the forth of July!!!! YEAH! We had so much fun! We went to the French market in the morning and got some more fruit and CHEESE!
On Saturday there was the Geneva Lake Parade. It is a huge deal with thousands of people. It was not at all what I expected. Coming from a small town the only parades I know have firetrucks and clowns. The Geneva Lake Parade had lots of half naked people and drag queens. It was AWESOME!!!!!
There were tons of floats that just consisted of a truck bed with lots of crazy people dancing with barely any clothes on to very loud techno music. In between every float there was a beer truck. Yes, that is correct. There were beer trucks.
We stayed out late waiting for the fireworks....and they never came. sad. It was my first forth of July without fireworks :( but the crazy parade made up for it.
On Sunday I took my mom to my favourite park (the one with the roses) and we had a picnic. It was really fun and totally lame. I started my first Danielle Steel book. Such a classic author, it is riveting. haha. No really, it is about identical twins so it interesting to me even if it is just brain mush.
After the picnic we tried to go see Angels and Demons at the theatre. But we missed it. So, we walked all around Old Town in Geneva. I have only been there a few times, and I discovered last night that it is alot bigger than I originally thought. It was a wonderful end to a great weekend.
I am so jealous, today my mom went to the Montreux Jazz Festival! I want to go soo bad, but it closes on July 18 (Prince is closing this year -120 CHF a pop. bummer) and I will not have a chance to go. She said that it was amazing and Montreux is a really beautiful city. Chad Smith, the lead drummer for the Red Hott Chili Peppers was there on the Forth - apparently my mom went to school with him. They were in band class together....figures. haha.
Anywhoo, again work is really busy as usual. I am leaving for Africa in one week and two days! I am pumped, it is going to be an amazing trip! I cannot wait to see all of my hard work paid off at the conference.
Right now my mom is going to make me some delicious food for dinner. yumm.
On Thursday we are off to Nice, Eze and Monaco for the weekend! I cannot wait to lay on the beach by the Med. It is going to be awesome. I love the sun.
I hope you are all have a wonderful summer!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sicklicious with a capital S

Have you ever been so sick that you just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and die? Yea, that was me yesterday. I got the worst Altitude sickness ever, I can honestly not remember the last time I was that sick. Oh man it was terrible, I have never wanted my mom more. haha. After I got some really strong medicine in me, and lots and lots of sleep I was better by this morning. I have just been really drowsy from all the medicine.

But despite my sickness, I still managed to scale my way down a canyon. Canyoning was such a cool experience! This is not to say that I wasn't scared out of my mind the whole time, (there might have been 1 or 2, or maybe 12 foul words streaming from my mouth all the way down, haha) but I definitely have no regrets about doing it. It was such a rush jumping off cliffs into raging rapids, not to mention that the water was cold enough to numb you to death. Looking back I can't believe I actually did some of those one point our guide said,

"Ok, you are going to jump off this cliff, however there is only a one foot space to jump into because there are rocks. Also, the water current is really strong, so if you get stuck just hold your breath and raise your hand and we will pull you out. Ready? Go."

Yea, I'm pretty sure I wet myself on that one.

Overall, it was an amazing experience. We had planned on going hiking today, but my sickness, and our sore bodies strayed us from that plan. This morning we got some shopping in (of course) and walked around the village. Then we hopped on the train, and decided to stop off in Bern (Capital of Switzerland) for lunch. After some good pizza we hopped back on the train home to Geneva.

It was a good weekend get-away, even if I swore by my premature death. I am just getting ready to start the work week. The office is soooo busy right now. It is a bit stressful, as I still have alot of plans to finalize in the next two weeks. But, overall we are getting excited for Cape Town!

My mom is coming to visit on Friday!!! and Saturday is the 4th (obviously), but apparently it is a big deal here in Geneva. So, I am going to take her "out" the bars. haha. It should be fun!

Anyway, I will keep you updated with some more of my (and my mom's) schenanigans later!

Claire :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dance Dance


This week has just flown by....I can't believe that my time in Geneva is almost half over! Crazy!

The work week went really well. I found out that I am going to have a special job at the upcoming conference in July. I am working on the planning of the "engagement tours" part of our conference. We are planning for delegates to go out to three local organizations that are involved one way of another with HIV/AIDS. It is a great opportunity for delegates to network as well as see other approaches and solutions for HIV/AIDS.

We had great weather this weekend even though it was predicted to rain! I was really excited to have sun! On Friday I went on a long walk by the water and stood under the jet d'eau (big water fountain thing that Geneva is known for). Geneva truly is a beautiful city...

On Saturday morning I went to France to the local market. I cannot get over the cheese selection here. oh my gosh. I love cheese. I always go up to all of the different vendors and ask for samples. I honestly could not tell you what kind of cheese I am eating, but it is delicious.

After the market a bunch of us went to the park and layed out. I am starting to get a nice golden tan! The park that we go was actually donated to the city of Geneva by this man when he passed away. There is a beautiful house on the property, and an amazing rose garden. It is my favorite park in Geneva, because I can walk there and it is right on the water and it is FREE! yea!

During the Summer Geneva has a bunch of different music festivals. This weekend was "Fete de la Musique". There were different venues all throughout the entire city, and there was every type of music possible represented. On Saturday night, we went to the biggest venue which had many different stages. It was soooo much fun! There was so much pot (it is legal here, not that I did it....duh) and hippies with dreadlocks. It was awesome. There was a really sweet techno artist, so we danced to him for a long while.

Today, I am hoping to plan my trip to Interlochen for next weekend! oh, and I found out that Nessy the Loch Ness Monster is in Scotland. bummer man. There is always next time!

Hope you have a wonderful day :)


Monday, June 15, 2009



I got home late last night from Venice, Italy! I traveled with my friends Sarah and Haley and we left Geneva early Friday morning and arrived in Venice around 2:30 and left around 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday. It was a perfect weekend, and it was great to get out of rainy Switzerland!

Even though it was a long 8 hour train ride, it was worth it because the views were spectacular. The snow capped alps are gorgeous, and we saw a few castles and lakes along the way. When we walked out of the train station, all of our jaws dropped, Venice was exactly what I expected, maybe even better!

anyone know the movie Italian Job?? Well, that is what I was expecting from Venice, and it was like that, except without the boat chasing scene, and handsome Rob. haha. The cool thing about Venice is that there are not that many "touristy" things to see, mainly just the Piazza San Marco. Which was amazing by the way. However, just because there are not that many touristy things, does not mean there are no tourists....cuz there are. I heard more English this weekend than I have heard since Detroit. I am not ashamed to say that it was a bit refreshing. We had a great time just walking around in the alleys, getting lost. It is amazing how you can just walk around a corner and right in front of you is a giant beautiful building or statue. It is like the seeing the Trevi Fountain in Rome. So cool.

The church in the Piazza, (don't remember the name right now...) is probably the most amazing church I have even been in, and I have been in alot of churches. I was unfortunately not aloud to take pictures, but it had huge dome ceilings that were covered in Mosaic tiles with lots of Gold. aka very Roman Catholic.

My favorite part about Venice was the water buses...they are exactly like what they sound. It is a great way to see the buildings of the Grand Canal, and it is on a boat, therefore it is super fun! (I'm on a boat....haha, now it is stuck in your head) We took a water bus up to the small island of Moreno, which is known for Venetian glass blowing. We went to the factory and got to see a demonstration, and this guy made a horse out of glass in front of us. I was impressed.

Of course we ate alot. mostly pizza and gelato. sooo good!!!! Plus, they had pastries for 1 euro....that is unheard of in Switzerland. Thus, were were pretty excited. I spent way too much money shopping...but that is nothing new. haha. My favourite purchase is a hand painted water color, it is beautiful.

now onto our hostel......ok, so I was the one who found the hostel, therefore I was a little worried that is was going to be terrible and Sarah and Haley were going to kill me. And considering it was called "Camp Jolly" and it was a camp ground outside of the city and the directions to get there were a bit sketch, I had alot to be worried about. During part of our journey to the camp ground we had to take a public was here where I realized why deodorant is such a fabulous invention. learn it. use it. love it.

After that festive experience, we had to walk about "10 minutes" according the directions that I was given. yea they were wrong. haha. However, as we got off the bus, we meet a nice lad named Thomas who was going to Camp Jolly too. He was a really nice guy from England, and lead us there safely. It actually ended up being a great turned out to be half the price that we had originally thought, and us three girls had our own half of a double wide trailer. haha. The shower was actually nicer than the one here in Le Cenacle. We signed up for an adventure, and that we got! The first night I got very little sleep due to the .....wait for it....toga party going on a few trailers down. I kid you not. The following night there was a "doctors and patients party". so legit.

Ok...onto the job. I worked really hard last week getting invitation letters ready to go out to members of the IAS. I was also in charge of editing and writing up "special invitation" letters for select people. Among those people were.....Michelle Obama, Bono, and Navi Pillay. I felt special. Overall, it is really busy in the office as we prepare for the conference, tomorrow I have my first meeting of "what to expect at the conference", I have a strange feeling that it will turn into more of a "what we expect from you" type of meeting.....but I guess that is what being an intern is all about! haha. I am excited either way!

This coming weekend I think I am going to try and hit up the beach in Geneva....I am praying for some good weather! It is still raining here!!! The following weekend I am going to Interlochen! Haley and I have decided that we want to go "Canyoning". Sounds extreme doesn't it? That is because it is.....we are so hardcore.

I hope that you all are doing well. If you have a chance, send me a quick e-mail/fb message/ skype...whatever other means of technology there is.....I would love to hear what you are all up to these days!

Claire :)