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Archive for the ‘Leaving’ Category

You don’t always realize that things are old until they break, and it may take time before you even notice that they are no longer there. A few weeks ago, as I was getting ready to move to Geneva, I saw through the window of my parents’ house that a piece of our street sign was lying on the ground. I went out under the morning rain and casually took it home, hoping that the neighbours would fail to notice my illicit act of uncivility. I enjoy looking at it, although I’m not sure what “Derri” might signify on its own. One night, my brother and I subrepticiously attempted to steal the remaining part, but the screws were too old and rusty to give in to our efforts. The stubborn sign still stands there, in the street corner, proudly proclaiming: “ère Montet” – the Montet era.

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Over the last few months I visited a number of exhibitions and sites related to Celtic culture in the three lakes region. Though I haven’t yet acquired my own dagger and sickle, I’m considering building a mud hut with thatched roof under the trees somewhere. You know it’s time to move on when 1) there still isn’t space for you in the fridge after two months and you have to smuggle your stuff into a corner 2) your host keeps things in your room that she regularly has to come and get 3) she tends to forget you live there so you have to lock the door 4) her contractors use your toilet and you’re asked to clean it 5) in fact she doesn’t even share her own bathroom with her boyfriend, so yours is open to the whole community 6) when you’re away for the week-end she has guests sleep in your bed 7) she thinks she knows what you want or need much better than you ever will 8.) you find her crying over her journal in the kitchen 9) she uses you as an audience for her biased monologues 10) you told yourself: “well, at least I love the garden” but then she had trees cut down and you can’t even build your mud house close to the pond anymore.

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After being unemployed for four months, during which I worked quietly for myself at my own rythm, the recent change of pace came as a bit of a shock. Suddenly my PhD proposal deadline arrived, I started having job interviews, and after the Berlitz school of languages selected me for their initial training I only had a few days to find a new place to live. This means that after six weeks here in Prêles, I’m leaving again and will (temporarily?) take a room in a posh village named Coppet, by the lake near Geneva. Even though it all seems sorted now – I am a PhD student at the university of Geneva, I teach French at Berlitz, I live in Coppet during the week – I have yet to become comfortable with my new situation before I can feel settled. After all, in one year, I have lived in Canterbury, Yverdon, Bienne, Prêles, and Coppet. No wonder it’s a little distabilizing.

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Room of one’s own

Even though I’m fed up with moving around, I am considering Neuchâtel quite seriously now. It would be my fourth move in less than a year but my current studio flat is only a temporary solution as it is a little on the expensive side and I don’t know many people in Bienne. The flat I visited yesterday, on the other hand, seems like a good solution to many of my problems. It’s close to the train station and the forest, relatively quiet, and the three other housemates are around thirty years old. You can even see the lake and the Alps from the window! Even more incredibly, all my furniture would fit into the available space according to my plan (but I’m so bad at maths, I cannot trust my own judgement). Now I have to wait until Sunday in order to know if my housemates-to-be will choose me as the worthy new tenant of the room.

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October boxing days

4rthPageTomorrow I’m establishing quarters at my sister’s single-room apartment in Bienne. She’s just vacated it, which saves me from going back to my parents’, a dire prospect for someone who’s lived independantly for nearly eight years. There has recently been quite a lot of sorting stuff and putting it all in boxes and moving out then moving in and moving things around only to move out again. All of that should be over until spring now, and that’s good to know. Also, no more cable car to take each morning on my way to work, only civilized buses and trains. Trips to IKEA (or phone calls to people shopping there for me) were running the risk of becoming routine. I know all about opening-hour rush, have visions of the shop swarming with early risers whose minds are fixed on IKEA’s free 8:45 AM coffee as I try to fall asleep at night. Finally, I’ll be able to have coffee whenever I wish at my own place.

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Page52Souvenirs are strange objects indeed. You try to find comfort in stereotypical representations of the place you’re visiting, in spite of their having very little to do with your own experience of the place, or that of the people who live there, for that matter. And yet, they do say something about local culture, or an ideal version of it. So I say, who wouldn’t like a country where you can buy tiny miniature cakes? They’re absolutely useless and, I have to say, quite ridiculous, but I like these cakes. They remind me of the little details I loved as a child when I first discovered England and, well… I just wish I could eat them.

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Shipping costs

Page48On the day before I left, I sent a parcel full of books to myself because there was way too much in my room for me to carry home. I had to go to town to buy the box at the Post office, then go back to campus, pack my books and secure the parcel, then call a taxi to drive me to another Post office where I could send it. These operations had a cost, so I walked back to campus without the help of the taxi driver. The parcel took a whole week to arrive in Switzerland, and it was a bit strange to see it again. Firstly, because customs had very obviously ripped it open to check the contents and taped it again. And secondly, because with the two addresses on it – same name, different countries – it represents my coming home better than anything else.

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