Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thanksgiving +

Since I last wrote on 12-Oct-07, things have been equally busy. Folks at work are taking leave in waves, so those who remain are filling in (I find myself presently in the latter group); though I will be taking off at the end of December for two weeks to visit DC (29-Dec) and Cincinnati (2-Jan), also, there have been several exciting cases, so I am happy to be picking up on new developments. I will be working the 24th, and hope to skip out in time for church, but in any event will have Christmas dinner with the Vargas' (from home group) after a Christmas-day ride. Today we served vin chaud and hot apple cider after both Christmas eve-eve services. Now to backtrack a bit.

After Oktoberfest, it was back to things as usual. Since the weather started to turn, I shifted gears to run more (about 25 miles a week) and bike less, though weather permitting I do still get bike rides in on the weekends, and random weekdays. UN-wide, we had last Thursday off, so I decided to head out to the Saléve to ride the face up to Croisette which I haven't done in a few weeks. It was a beautiful day with a high of about 40 (which lasts for about 5 minutes on its way back to 30). Still, riding up was a good bit of work, since I hadn’t been climbing much lately and this is a mildly step ascent. (I did try to climb a new hill last weekend, La Dôle in the Jura mountains above the town of Divonne les Bains – on the other side of the lake, but about 1/3 of the way up was met with unplowed roads). Hill work means elevated heart rate and body heat, so despite the cold, it was time to unzip the jacket and shed the helmet. It was surreal. Finding myself in thick fog right from the base of the climb, it only got thicker as I climbed with the sun poking through to create very limited visibility of about 100 meters. It was cold in the fog, the grass and trees were coated with ice, like an eerily quiet forest of pristine ice statutes (which happened in Cincinnati about 12 years ago and netted us a week off of school). As I ascended further, the ice turned to snow, the roads were wet, so I continuously checked for black ice - thankfully there was none. Then as the top of the tree line appeared, I left the fog behind meeting with a spectacularly calm sky and crystal clear view of Mont Blanc. Dense billowy fog covered the entire valley, without the perspective of distance, Mont Blanc looked like it was in my backyard – and it the fog was so dense it looked as if you could just step right off the Saléve and walk across to Mont Blanc.

Back in the beginning of November, I went hiking again with some Geneva locals folks to a mountain out near the Col de Joux Plane, to the Lac de Vogele. It was a great hike, quite cold in the early hours of the morning, so I started off with a good base layer head-to-toe. As the sun rose, it started to warm, so off came the leg warmers and vest. The hike up was beautiful. There were a few spots with mini rock scrambles with ropes anchored in for tricky parts. Getting to the top, we were greeted with a dried-up lake. Oh yea, didn’t I mention, says one guy, it is one of the few lakes that actually dries up in the winter. Not that knowing that would have caused us to not hike it, and still, it was a great view with jagged peaks in every direction. We sat down for lunch, and had to move about every five minutes to stay in the sun. It was fading fast over one of the peaks. During lunch, I noticed a little rock scramble to what looked like the summit, so I decided to go see. It was steep, and took me longer than I thought. Plus there was another equally far off summit I couldn't see until I got up there. The view was great, but it was time to head out to beat the sun. And we just did. By the time we got to the village about 10 minutes from the base, it was pitch black. A quick beer to recuperate, and back to Geneva.

Following that, I had not one, but two Thanksgiving dinners. One with folks from Crossroads, the other with Jason and Kelly’s friends, mostly Alcoa expats. It was so nice to have a little slice of home. At the dinner with Crossroads folks, a Mexican fellow asked me if this was typical: the hosts Jay and Libby (P&G folks who did a brief stint in Cincinnati) had a satellite with college football which was a magnet for some of the guys, kids running around the kid table, people telling you how full they were right before they got up for seconds, 10 different side dishes, yes, I told him, it was the scene you’d expect to see if you were to drop in just about any house in the States on Thanksgiving, and it was great.

I also was able to call home and talk to Samuel who hit quite a rough patch with a throat infection. He was amazingly upbeat despite being in the hospital for a week (he made the most of it, and had his own car / iv rack to ride around in). After he got home, we spoke again and he was so excited to tell me that he got bunk beds for his room – and he even offered to let Brad and I stay in them when we come to town. Brad, Mike, my Mom and I sent him the Lightning Storm McQueen for his birthday which coincided roughly with his going home. As expected, he remembered it from one quick visit to Target – I told him at the time that it was too expensive, and he was so happy he wrote us all an email with a picture of him and Lightning.

In other news, Jason (with whom I went to Amsterdam city of bike highways, Van Gogh, leaning houses, canals, the closed Heineken factory, red lights, coffee shops, and Wii two weeks ago – to visit his friend, and I.T. guy from Tennessee who had just returned from a stint in Baghdad) is going to bring my mountain bike back to Geneva for me. I am super excited, we found a huge huge mountain bike park on the other side of the lake in the Champery / Valais region (serviced by lifts from the Portes du Soleil ski area). It was featured in a magazine recently. We are also training for a 121km+ mountain bike race this fall – which would require my staying here post-WIPO (and also plan to do Alp D'Huez among other road rides). With mountains on both sides of us, there have to be lots of MTB trails; I never thought I’d mountain bike in Switzerland or France, can't wait.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Move over WHEATIES...

The last few weeks have been as busy as those preceding. Since I last posted, I participated in “Net Leman” – a volunteer cleanup of Lake Geneva and its shores with Alcoa employees including my friend Vivienne from Crossroads and my new friends Jason, Kelly, and their daughter Lily. (I’m 4th from left with my super short haircut).

The following day, Jason, myself, and about 18 other Geneva-living expats headed to Mont Chauffé near the village of Abondance, France for a day hike. It was a nice fairly leisurely hike of about 5 hours. The lot of us headed back to a small outdoor café in Abondance near the river coming out of the mountains for a post-hike beer.

The following weekend, after going out to Annecy to look at old bikes for Jason and Kelly, Jason and I rode out to the Col de la Croisette; he was on a full-suspension mountain bike. It was the clearest I’ve seen the area since moving here; I could see Mont Blanc like it was in my backyard from the top since there was virtually no fog at the summit.

Fast forward to this past weekend (5-Oct-07 to 7-Oct-07) when Alex, Rodolfo and I headed to Munich for Oktoberfest. Barely making our train after a meeting at work on Thursday, we arrived in Munich at 1a.m. Friday. Alex’s boyfriend Tobias had to work Friday, so we were on our own. I woke up early on Friday to go for a run. Less than 1km from Tobias’ house there was a beautiful, expansive park with loads of jogging trails, green areas, trees, ponds, beer gardens, flower gardens, etc. It stretched over different parts of the town with several bridges linking the different areas. It was a great run. It started to rain about 5 minutes into my 1 hour run, but once you’re wet, you just keep going. It was very refreshing, rewarding even. Besides, I had to earn my right to drink the following day at Oktoberfest. Getting back to the apartment, I found Alex and Rodolfo still sleeping. Once I roused them, we headed to the city center where we walked around the open-air mall. Rodolfo got some Birkenstocks, Alex an iPod. Then we had sushi. Sushi in Munich, go figure. Later that evening, we met Tobias for a drink at a Mexican joint. So far, I was wondering if I was in Munich or back home. Then we went to a Ratskeller: a traditional Bavarian (Bavarian, not German as I was consistently reminded) restaurant in the basement of the New Rat House (city hall) located in MarienPlatz. Rodolfo and Tobias ordered a shank of pork that was about as big as the Maß' (pronounced Mäss – the ß is a double “s”) we would drink from the next day. After dinner, we headed back home, time rest up for Saturday’s Oktoberfest. Waking up in waves from 7a.m., we had our Bavarian breakfast of Weißwurst (white sausages made from very finely minced veal and fresh bacon with parsley) sans skin - you peel it off, sweet mustard, and pretzels. Oh, and beer too. Becks Gold. Move over Wheaties, we have a new contender, a new breakfast of champions. Not surprisingly, it was quite delicious. Finally on our way by 9:30, we rushed to try to get to Oktoberfest in time to make it into one of the 15 tents before they all filled up. No such luck. When we arrived, not only were all of the tents full (each holds thousands), but the beer gardens outside the tents were all full…except for the four seats in the Paulaner beer garden, which we promptly claimed as ours. Thus the festivities began about 10:30 with radlers (half beer, half lemonade) for each of us. Not bad, but not what we came to Munich for. So, after that, down to business, it was beer for us from then on. The Paulaner beer garden was fun. Crowded, loud, full of exuberant (translation: thoroughly entertaining, but ever-so close to annoying) Italians. Admittedly they livened up the atmosphere to everyone’s enjoyment, but they kept trying to slam their Maß’ together in an all-but futile effort to break them. They actually did break two. But, they were so drunk they were replaced by a new wave of Italians about every hour. We hung out in the Paulaner beer garden for several hours. Everyone had a ½ chicken; except me. I was not to be bothered by lunch at this point in the day. I had beer to drink. After all, that is what I came to Munich for; to have 5 Maß’. (For a point of perspective, these Maß’ are 1 Liter: think ½ of a 2 Liter of soda). Having had enough of the Paulaner beer garden (and myself having had 4 Maß’), we proceeded to try to get in the tent. No such luck. Sadly it took over an hour to find out that we would not get in the tent. Plan B, or was it C or D, who knows, the day was very dynamic; so again, we set out to walk around and try to get in a tent. No luck again. They were all full, and there was no getting in unless you had a reservation (they open reservations 10 months in advance). Figuring that we were not going to get in a tent, we decided to head to a new beer garden to have the 5th Maß I had much earlier set out to consume. This time around we were not so lucky. All of the beer gardens seemed to be full too. Scheiße, what to do? Not quick to give up, we did find one garden: the Spaten House with again, 4 empty seats (this time way in the back) which we promptly occupied. Along with my 5th Maß, I did order a ½ chicken this time. It was delicious. Delicious I tell you. So having accomplished what I set out to do, my day felt…mmm, complete? Far from it. We had to get in a tent! So we tried again, only to learn once more that they were all full (we had hoped some of the thousands who had been there since 9a.m. would leave freeing up space for us to get in – yet again, no such luck). On the verge of calling it quits, we heard from Tobias’ friends that they could get us in the Spatenbräeu tent. No luck at the front door. Again feeling defeated, we walked around the side where we discovered the reservation entrance. Tobias was sure we would not get in since we did not have reservations, but what did we have to lose? Nothing right. And so we proceeded to walk right in the back door. Everyone except Rodolfo, who was stopped by the guard. Where are you from, they asked him. Mexico. Sing a Mexican song then. After a few off-key bars, they took pity on him and let him in. So now we were all four inside the allusive tent. We could breathe a collective sigh of relief, smile a collective smile, and join Tobias’ friends at their table. And join them we did. Singing, dancing, drinking more beer. It was all I expected and more. It was a blast. I’m quite certain I’ve never seen so many people getting along, having a good time, celebrating, singing, dancing, laughing; to say it was unique is an understatement. The band played a mix of traditional Bavarian songs (e.g., "Ein Prosit" / or: Cheers) and 70’s American rock. Working on getting up a video of our table during “Smoke on the Water”. After hours of signing, dancing, etc., it was time to call it quits. I had 8 confirmed Maß’. Maybe 9. Who was counting anyway? Headed back home, Rodolfo and I found two Maß’ outside the tents (you were not allowed to take them outside of the tents), and walking past the roller-coaters, Ferris wheel, etc. (who rides these things I kept thinking to myself) we thought, cool, free souvenirs. Just at the gate of the festival, two cops stopped us, politely thanked us for hand-delivering the Maß’ to them, and proceeded to reclaim them. We eventually ended up with our souvenir Maß’ at the end of the night. (I actually got one from – ironically enough – a group of drunk Italians who left one behind at a McDonald’s outside of the festival grounds). Miraculously I felt fine the next day. Someone must have been praying for me. Sunday was another long day of travel back to Geneva.

This week we had a great fondue at Church last night (Thursday) and all-in-all the week has been uneventful until today (Friday) at lunch. I went out for one of my many daily lunch-time bike rides. Only this time I got two flats. In one ride! Unheard of. I’ve flatted once ever prior to this in all my years of road cycling. What are the chances? Anyhow, the long and short of it is that I didn’t have enough patches, tubes, or air to fix the second one. I had to walk 8km back to work; in my socks (you can’t walk that far in cycling shoes, especially carbon-fiber soled ones). Needless to say I arrived back at work a few minutes late, tired, and with very sore feet. In fact I had to cancel a hike planned for this weekend as I have a huge blister on my left foot; I will still go biking tomorrow though. Reminds me of the time I went for a “quick 50 mile ride” with Wray and his friends after about my second week of work at G&G only to end up being picked up by Tim at about 1p.m. in Maryland about 30 miles from work, fearing the worst, changing into Tim's old golf clothes in the parking garage, working all day without having taken a shower, then heading to Athens in the midst of D.C. Friday night traffic for a mountain bike race the next morning.

This coming week we have a big week at work as there are meetings all week with Panelists and other attorneys involved in the domain name game. Should be fun, tiring to be sure since work does not stop despite our attending many meetings, but fun nonetheless to finally meet some of the people we correspond with via email in person. A plus tard. - B

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mont Ventoux

Two weekends ago (1-Sep-07), Rodolfo and I went to neighboring Annecy France to look for old beater bikes at a thrift store. We both found vintage racers for €30 each (just over USD $40). I bough what appears to be a 1972 Liberia bicycle. It has 10 gears, half of the 20 gears I enjoy on my “real” bike. Though it is surprisingly not too much heavier than my 2004 Look KX Light which cost a few more dollars.

Last Thursday (6-Sep-07) was the Jeune Genevois; a local Geneva-only holiday (thought to be a holiday commemorating a public fast in the canton of Geneva, dating from the late 16th Century signifying solidarity with the Protestants being persecuted in nearby Lyon, France). Since I had the day off of work, I decided to do a local bike race, a team time trial (a team of 2 riders each going off in 1 minute intervals ride together against the clock, drafting off of each other) with Jessica. We met up with Monica (from the states and Geneva) and her husband Jean-Marc who also participated. We accomplished both of my goals: finish the 29km course in under 58 minutes (we did it in 52 minutes), and not finish in last place. Only afterwards did we find out that it was one race in a series put on by the Swiss police in which some super strong riders compete in 8 races throughout Switzerland, the Coupe Romande de Cyclisme Des Polices – I suppose that explains the guys with time trial bikes that looked like professionals – and why the winning team beat us by nearly 18 minutes.

This past weekend (8,9-Sep-07), I traveled with 7 guys and gals from Velo Club Lancy to the town of Carpentras in the south of France to ride in Les Routes du Ventoux; a 101km group ride about 30 minutes from the Côte D’Azur of a few hundred people (although it was technically “not a race,” I’m not sure anyone actually rode as if it were anything but). Once there on Saturday, we rode 34km round trip to pick up our dossards (numbers) for the race. It was windy. Ventoux means windy in French. The reason being Mont Ventoux is bombarded from top to bottom with the Mistral wind. (We did not experience the full strength of the Mistral, but on Sunday, during our descent of Mont Ventoux, if you were not holding on to your bike, you could easily get blown off). We had a great Italian dinner with local Provencal wine Saturday night in an old feeding barn. Saturday night was topped off by my roommate Steve and I shaving our (our own that is) legs in preparation for the ride the next day. (o.k., o.k., it makes you feel faster – which incidentally for me, counted for a lot it turns out) Sunday we were up before 7. At the race by 8 for the 8:30 start. At 8:30, the near 4 hours of suffering began. I started in the very back of the pack (so I would have some fellow English-speakers to talk to pre-race). Once the starting gun went off though, I decided to do my best to make my way to the front. Since I actually crossed the start line 3-5 minutes after the other starters, that meant riding with one pack at a time and bridging gaps to the next groups ahead. Most of the gaps I had to bridge on my own. I did find one strong guy I rode behind for about 5 minutes, but he was too fast, and even drafting behind him was too much for my legs. I did this for about the first 25km. Then the climb began. 22km up Mont Ventoux. Surprisingly, I was feeling good and was passing people and groups one-by-one up the mountain. I was feeling a little winded, and once or twice had to back off because I could feel my heartbeat spiking beyond max, but I kept a pretty good tempo. I traded off and on with Florida Gator man (some guy who was wearing orange and blue) on the way up. About half way up I ran into Steve – which I definitely did not expect. I rode with him for a minute, then kept climbing. I took a page out of Trevor’s book from the JFK 50 miler where everyone kept telling him “slow down,” “wall up ahead,” “you’re going to crash,” etc., and just went with it, I was feeling o.k., so just kept riding – even though I “knew” I should probably back off the pace a bit. Somewhere about 6km from the top I hit the feed zone, grabbed some cake, a banana, an apple, and some water, and headed back up. I filled my water bottle with Gatorade power as I rode (in retrospect it would have been worth the 10 seconds it would have taken to fill up and not spill all over my hands and handlebar) up to the summit. The last 2km were tough, where is the top I kept asking myself? The view made the pain bearable, you could see for miles, all of the valleys, the surrounding hills, it was truly spectacular. I could see the weather station, where is the crest? Finally, I hit the top. Then I saw what I came to France for, a monstrous descent with only a few switchbacks the first 2 or 3km – which would allow me to go really fast. Not as fast as I would have liked (after all, this was my first time on this hill), but I did reach 75kmph on the descent, and was passing people left and right. I was having a field day. I had a huge grin on my face. I was blowing the other riders away. No one even tried to hang on my wheel. I was flying. Like a train around the corners (I don’t think I took a corner at less than 50kmph). Then about 5km down, I took a wrong turn. I kind of suspected it, so didn’t get too far. But I was upset. I went from cruising 70+ kmph down the hill to climbing again. Talk about agony. Back on course, I began to pass the riders again whom I had passed on the way down before my wrong turn. I could hear a few of them commenting. I was really cruising. Over 20km of pure descending bliss. Then back on to a flat/mildly uphill section for about 5km. That was when it hit me. A cramp. Not a bad one, but then again, there is no such thing as a good one. A guy I caught on my way down saw that I was rubbing my leg and asked me if I had a cramp. I laughed and said yes, I think I laughed because I was partly delirious. He was good enough to let me coast on his wheel for the next km. Then he looked back. Crap, I thought, he wants me to get out front. I am too tired I thought. I may cramp, the last thing I need is to work really hard. But, there is not much arguing at this point, he let me draft, now it was my turn. I got out front for maybe 500m, the pace slowed a bit (we were still cruising and never dropped below 33kmph – about 20mph), and he decided it was time to get back out front and crank it up a bit. I’m not sure if he was trying to drop me, or was just racing, either way, he almost did drop me. Still after another km, I was obliged to take another turn. Finally we caught up with two other riders. Great, I thought, now we are four. Only one guy stayed on with us though. So we were three. Then we hit the next descent. Even though I was obviously more tired than either of these two (I barely held on for the 2km before the descent as they took turns out front; I was afraid they would think I was sandbagging only to fly by them later, and make me get out front, but I think between my intentionally heavy breaths, and saying Scheiße under my breath, they got the picture that I was in no shape to take a turn out front), I was a stronger descender than either of them. After finally catching my breath and settling my heart rate back down on the first couple kms of the descent, I took over. The strong guy I rode from the base of Mont Ventoux with and I eventually set too fast a tempo for the third guy and dropped him about 5km into the descent. We were cruising again. It was the opposite of the uphill/flat section, I took bigger turns out front. I was in near disbelief because I was so tired, but I had better lines and pushed the descent faster than the other guy. He took his fair share of turns, but whereas he took 2/3 of the uphill/flat work, I did 2/3 of the downhill work. We were cruising, passed a couple of other duos, and finally latched onto a group of four. So we were six going into the last 15km. Then we were five. Then four. We were not going slow, especially after riding 90+ kms. Then about 2km from the finish, the strong guy and another guy kicked up the tempo; myself and another guy rode in together. I came in at 3:56:36. Average speed of 26kmph. I was tired, but not too tired to head to the winery at which we had parked and do a little wine tasting. Ciao.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alsace and Black Forest with the Obitts'

This past weekend I took off Friday to head north-east from Geneva by train to Basel, Switzerland where I met Tim, Krista, Samuel, and Amelia Obitts (my VA family/friends) who were with family in Germany. We journeyed to the vineyards of Alsace, France (still part of Germany depending on whom you ask). We toured many of the towns dotting the hills of the region, such as “les plus beaux villages viticoles de la route des vins” (i.e., the beautiful wine-producing villages on the wine road): Beblenheim, Bennwihr, Mittelwihr, Riquewihr (1st picture with Brian and Samuel at Riquewihr gate; 2nd picture Amelia sliding; 3rd picture, Samuel at park right outside town walls), Hunawihr, Zellenberg, Bergheim, Ribeauvillé, Rodern, Rorschwihr and Saint-Hippolyte. We settled in a small pension at the vineyard of the Earl Kress-Bleger family in Rodern, France where Samuel found the forklift of the viticulturist (Guido from the "Cars" movie was a forklift who saved the day with an uber-quick Pit-Stop during the Piston Cup; Samuel made sure there were no Piston Cups hiding in the garage at the vineyard). We stumbled onto a festival in the next village (it was the holiday weekend for seemingly all of Europe (5 points if you can tell what's wrong with this picture of the cellar) The next morning we went to visit the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg; the castle was reclaimed by Kaiser Wilhelm II as part of the re-Germanization of Alsace (later re-re-claimed by the French after the war), and restored at the beginning of the 20th century. Heading over toward the Black Forest across the valley in Germany, we found another B&B (Samuel told me several times he was collecting rocks for me to give to Miss Diane [mom] when I go home) to rest at before we went hiking the next day finding fresh blackberries along the route on the way to a small town where Tim ran 5km back to the car while the rest of us enjoyed ice cream and a drink.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Col de Joux Plane

(At the "Place des Nations" promenade at the U.N.)

Now as settled in as I will likely get at my apartment, this weekend I headed out for a hard day of biking. A few weeks ago, I met and rode with Tom, a tri-athlete from L.A. through a co-worker. This past week, Tom introduced me to Jessica who just arrived in Geneva and was looking for some local riders, and mentioned she wanted to do Alp D’Huez, one of the more famous climbs in the Tour (where Armstrong solidified his Tour victory in 2004 when the individual time trial was held there). Since the famous 21 switchbacks of Alp D’Huez are a considerable distance from Geneva even by train, I suggested another hill with some tour folklore a bit closer to Geneva (i.e., within riding distance), the Col de Joux Plane; the (in)famous hill where Floyd Landis made his miraculous comeback to secure his win in the 2006 Tour. (I remember this incredible day quite well as I was home sick with exhaustion/dehydration from a tough ride in D.C. last year during a code orange ozone day – admittedly I should have stayed in, but as I lay on the couch recovering, I cheered Floyd on as he laid waste to the field that fateful day). The base of the Col de Joux Plane is 56km from Geneva (approx. 40 miles). The Col itself is pretty tough too. Nevertheless, we made our way out Saturday morning for Joux Plane. Needing water and a bite to eat, we stopped at Samoens, a small picturesque town near the base – where incidentally, it was strangely difficult to find water (we had not anticipated this as in Geneva, public fountains with drinkable water abound). Refueled, we headed to tackle the days hill. It tackled us. It was a tough climb, well worth it. There was an impressive, view of relatively nearby Mont Blanc from the top. Not too long, about 12km, but steep, and after riding for over two hours to get there, very tough. Descending was mildly crazy, the road is not the best paved one I’ve met. The ride back to Geneva was tough as well, but for the first time I tried Coke in my water bottle (sort of a desperation move), which proved most beneficial. We actually made a very good pace on the way back, quite surprising considering the day’s effort (about 135km /80+ miles total). Switzerland living has its pros and cons; riding famous tour climbs is a pro. Saturday night Rodolfo and I had dinner at Maria Alejandra (Alex)’s house where we met her boyfriend Tobias and discussed visiting him in Munich for Oktoberfest. I think I will have to accept. Sunday, got back on the bike somehow and climbed the back side of the Col de la Croisette (in the Saleve mountains on the south side of Geneva) having lunch at the top.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Locarno Film Festival

Ciao. With three weeks of work under my belt, a healthy caseload, and several other arbitration projects going on, having moved/unpacked, cleaned, and attempting to organize on Thursday and Friday, this weekend felt an apt time for an adventure. So, along with my new friend and co-worker, Rodolfo, I headed out of Geneva at 5:00 a.m. this Saturday for Locarno, a Swiss “post card town” for the 60th annual Locarno Film Festival (; somewhere near the Switzerland /Italy border. Among other films, we eagerly anticipated viewing the European premiere of the Bourne Ultimatum outside on the Grand Piazza just after the sun set. Arriving before noon, we watched several films including Bleak Moments (1971), a film about the unspoken, unrealized desires and uncomfortable silences that often seem to carry us from moment to moments in life. Admittedly I thought the film a bit odd, and painfully slow until the Q&A afterwards with director Mike Leigh at which point the poignancy of the film revealed itself. Next we watched La Comunidad, a Spanish film about the tenants of an apartment complex in Spain fighting over the hidden lottery winnings of a former tenant. It was sort of Quentin Tarantino / Four Rooms-esque. Strange, gruesome, a tad cheesy, light-hearted (as evidenced by the late-revealed star: a man in his 30s living at home with his mother gallivanting about in life-sized Darth Vader and Storm Trooper outfits, the laughing stock of the complex), but all-around entertaining. Following that was Contre Toute Esperance (in English, roughly: “without hope”) a French film in the International competition about the once idyllically happy wife of a stroke victim and the struggles they endure. This film was mildly dry (e.g., no soundtrack), but riveting (the wife snaps after being laid off, her husband recovering, then having a second stroke, and finally committing suicide). These viewings put us towards evening, so with the Bourne Ultimatum fast approaching (showing at 9:15; 6:30 then), we headed for a beer and then to find seats on the Piazza. We got there as the crowds were just beginning to gather, so found incredible seats; middle, center. As the sun set, the excitement building, the crowds gathered. And did they gather, there were people all over making it difficult to get around. The Bourne Ultimatum on the big screen, outdoors, in the Piazza in Locarno was worth the trip alone; once the film finished, we proceeded to try (fruitlessly) to find a place to rest until our train back to Geneva at 5:00 a.m., or so we thought – turns out the train left at 8:30 a.m., so we spent a very long night moving from place to place trying to find a table, grassy area, anything, anywhere to rest our heads (normally this might be out of the question, but we were two among many many people doing precisely the same thing, sleeping at the train stop, in phone booths, etc.). Once we boarded the train, we passed the hills and vineyards intil we approached the lake. What a sight for sore eyes anticipating a rest in one’s bed. The festival was a blast, work is shaping up, and I am adjusting (as much as one possibly can) to life, virtually non-existent business hours (e.g., everything is open 8:30 to 6, and closed Sunday with the exception of late night shopping to 9 on Thursdays), and apparent general disdain for customers that makes Geneva (and Europe from what I am told), that much more far from home. I look forward to seeing the Obitts’ next weekend. Arrivederci.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

1st week of work; 2nd week in Geneva

(This picture is the sunflower field I pass on my way to work every morning at the France/Switzerland border; always makes me smile. I’ll miss it when I move next week).

With one week of work finished, bit-by-bit, I am feeling more familiar with my new surroundings. I’ve already been assigned cases, and am learning the ropes. I am excited for what this year will bring, both personally and professionally. My co-workers are from many different countries and cultures; I enjoy the fusion of colleagues from all over the globe. WIPO handles cases involving domain name disputes (out-of-court disputes over website addresses). The cases I am presently handling are only recently filed; I am eager to track them to completion. An answered prayer, I am also pleased to report that my apartment hunt is over. I will be living in a furnished studio in the Petit-Sacconex area of Geneva. A bonus, I am within 15 minutes walk to work; 10 minutes walk from the Lake. I’ve also found a church I think will be my home for this next year, an English speaking one called Crossroads in Ferney-Voltaire, France. A number of people I’ve met there work for P&G out here, which is interesting as P&G has their headquarters in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Yesterday I decided to go exploring and ride the mountains on the other side of the Lake, Le Saleve, to the Col de la Croisette. This hill was very difficult as it ranged between 8% to 12.5% (steep even to walk up) the entire way. At the top, as with the Jura on the other side of the Lake (the mountains on one side are the Jura, the other side are the La Saleve), the view of Geneva was spectacular. Easily the most difficult hill I’ve ridden yet. Tired at the top, I decided to attempt to break my cycling speed record down the backside but to no avail. Back up to the top was tiring, but the only way I knew home; made it home just in time to see the last hour of the individual time trial of the Tour. My friends Nick and Kerri are expecting their first baby this week, please keep them in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

J'aime Le Tour

Saturday, with the help of some new friends, I made my way out of Geneva to the Col de la Colombiere to watch stage 7 of the Tour de France. After scurrying about the airport to find my rental car (unlike in the States, here they simply give you the keys and tell you it’s in the parking lot) and rushing home to get my gear, I ended up driving around Geneva, lost, fearing that I would miss the Tour (for a foreign first timer Geneva makes D.C. seem easy to navigate). Eventually I found my way to the proper exit where I met Will and Doreen. Parking at the bottom, we climbed the Col amid the crowds to the summit. What a climb! The last 2 km are brutal (12%), and even the Tour riders suffered there (alas, they are human). Meeting up with Scott and Barry at the 1 km banner, we had some time to kill. Since the vendors at the top were out of drinks hours before the Tour passed by, as the group domestique, I rode back down towards the valley to try to find us some cold beverages. After descending what felt like the entire mountain (o.k., it was maybe halfway), no vendors were to be found, so I decided to head back up so as not to miss the Tour. As luck would have it, I saw two German guys with a ton of gear in the back of their car. After chatting for a bit, they were kind enough to spare 10 beers for our group. So, with a sack full of beer on my back, I proceeded to climb back to the top. Just around that turn up there I kept telling myself; how do these guys ride this stuff day in and day out; where is the top? After what seemed like half the day (probably less than an hour), I reached the group at the 1km banner. Cheers! The publicity caravan was fun, highlighted by the Homer Simpson float. Then after hours in the hot sun, the helicopters arrived, signaling the lead riders. Mostly a blur, I did manage to find Michael Rasmussen (the current leader, and a former world champ mountain biker - notice Tour winner Alberto Contador of Disco right next to Rasmussen - who was later kicked off his team for missing doping controls in this year's Tour de Farce). Word on the street is that we did make it on TV too. What a fun day. Hope to catch many a Tour in the future.

(Note / Update: After riding up Col de la Faucille Sunday afternoon (for the first time sans rain), I realize the first pictures I posted of the lake and mountains in the background are a far cry from the vista on a clear day. (I will have to take my camera on a clear day to do the view of Mont Blanc across the lake its due justice. I will also have to find some new routes as I saw a motorcyclist laid out and being attended to by paramedics on the side of the road after he got tangled up with a car.)