Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Category

Arrival in Geneva

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Here’s something I wrote while waiting to register for the Prepcom yesterday afternoon…. -andy
My flight to Paris was one of the easiest overnight flights I’ve experienced, no doubt because I was upgraded by Air France to business class. After countless transatlantic flights in coach class, I marveled at the luxury of personal space. I stretched out in my comfortable seat and listened to Air France radio. The first song I heard was by Edith Piaf — or so I thought. Listening to the song for a few minutes, it took me a while to realize that the chanteuse in question was singing in Portuguese — a dead giveaway of it not being the urchin sparrow herself.
Not long after dinner, I leaned back my seat as far as it would go, raised the foot rest, and did my best to sleep. At first I twisted and turned like I usually do on overnight flights, but at some point I must have fallen asleep, because suddenly I was woken by a flight attendant trying to serve me breakfast before the plane exited Irish air space. Watching the in-flight navigation system, it seemed we were going to arrive on schedule. But for some reason we circled the airport, round and round, eating up the precious minutes I had between flights. If the flight had arrived on time, I would have had 55 minutes to catch my next fight; by the time I stepped off the plane, I had 25 minutes — and somehow I had to get to the right terminal.
Usually, navigating Paris CDG airport is easy, but that’s because most of my connecting flights have always been in the same terminal. This time, in my rush to get to the right place, I found myself in the wrong place, exiting the terminal at the taxi stand rather than the shuttle connection that goes directly to the other terminal. I frantically asked a policeman how to get to the terminal; he said I would have my best chance of making it if I went on foot. I charged through the concourse and along the moving walkways to terminal 2F. Within 10 minutes, I was at the terminal’s security entrance. The queue was short, but it was my luck that I got to be the one subjected to a random search. A policeman went through my computer bag, and all the little bags contained within it: the outlet adapter bag, computer cords bag, allergy medicine bag, you name it. Fortunately the policeman’s fingers were nimble and swift, and he completed his task in a couple of minutes. I darted through the terminal, arriving at the appropriate gate with 10 minutes to spare.
I collapsed in my seat, exhausted and cramped — particularly after being spoiled by the plush surroundings of business class on my previous flight. I didn’t have to wait too long, though, as the flight from Paris to Geneva was only 50 minutes. It gave me just enough time to ponder whether my luggage had made the flight as well.
On the ground in Geneva, I soon discovered my concerns were justified — my green Samsonite suit bag was not waiting for me on the carousel. I went to the Air France lost luggage desk, where they confirmed my bag was still sitting in Paris. “It should be on the 2 o’clock flight,” the agent told me. “You should have it by late afternoon.”
Unencumbered by most of my belongings, I exited the arrivals area and caught the next train to downtown Geneva, 15 minutes away. I remembered the train station as soon as I arrived, having spent a week here 14 months ago. Outside the station, I could see my hotel directly across the street: Hotel Bernina. Given that it was 12:15pm, I didn’t expect them to let me check in so early, but the man at the front desk took mercy on me and gave me my room key, allowing me to kick off my shoes, shower, and wonder when my luggage would actually arrive. At best, my bag would show up in at least three or four hours. This meant I’d have to head over to the UN in the clothes I wore on my flight — not exactly my idea of a stellar first impression.
Outside the hotel I caught a tram towards Palais des Nations, the UN’s home in Geneva. As was the case the last time I was here, I was totally baffled by the tram’s ticketing system. There didn’t seem to be a simple, one-way ticket option, and the machine kept vomiting my Swiss francs back at me. Fortunately, a good Samaritan offered to use his smartcard to buy me a ticket, keeping my small change in exchange.
I arrived at the Palais des Nations 10 minutes later, standing at the tram terminus, trying to figure out where to go next. The palais itself was just to my right, but my registration information said I needed to go to the Montbrillant building first to pick up my badge. A guard at the entrance of the palais sent me in the right direction, cutting back through the tram stop towards a nondescript office building with the letters ITU / UIT emblazoned across the top.
Inside the building, a sign with the words “Prepcom badges” pointed towards an empty desk. I asked a man working at the information kiosk if I was in the right place.
“Yes, it is over there, at 2o’clock,” he said, pointing behind me. I turned and looked in the direction of 2 o’clock — ahead and to the right.
“But there’s nothing there,” I replied.
“The desk is there,” he said. “There are no people because they are at lunch. You must wait until 2 o’clock.”
So now I’ve had the last 55 minutes to write this. Better go register now… -ac

How to Pack for Geneva and Mumbai in the Same Suitcase

Sunday, February 20th, 2005
dizzy sleeps

Dizzy sleeps on my suit bag

It’s just before 3pm Boston time, and I’m off to the airport in less than two hours. My suit bag is sprawled across the bed right now, with layers of clothes on one side of it, and our cat Dizzy fast asleep on the other side of it. Meanwhile, our other cat Winston has decided to sleep on top of my winter coat, which I had folded up in anticipation of seeing if I could fit it into the bag as well. Both of the cats will soon have a rude awakening if I’m ever going to figure it out.
Packing for this trip has been more stressful than other business trips, since I will experience two temperature extremes on this trip: cold, occasionally wet Geneva and Paris, and hot, steamy India. Additionally, the dress code for India is somewhat more casual than the dress code for Geneva, leaving me with another layer of fashion algorithms to compute while packing. So unless I want to pack two separate suitcase for this trip (which I refuse on principal), I’m compromising and packing a lot of dress shirts and ties, leaving behind the suits I’d typically bring to a United Nations meeting and the lightest clothes I’d usually bring to an India meeting. The result, of course, may run counter to the fashion sense of everyone I meet on this trip, but at least I can still fit it all in one giant suit bag.
So if all goes well, I’ll get everything packed (except the cats, who will have to find other places to sleep), catch my flights to Paris and Geneva, and check into the Hotel Bernina before 12pm tomorrow. This should allow me to arrive at the WSIS Prepcom meeting just in time for tomorrow’s afternoon sessions. I just hope I manage to get some sleep on the plane; otherwise I will be a zombie tomorrow… -andy

Whirlwind Winter Tour: Geneva, Paris, India

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Tomorrow afternoon I’m going to hit the road for a couple of weeks. I’ll spend all of next week in Geneva at the planning meeting, or “prepcom,” for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). I’ll be participating as a civil society delegate, but also plan to blog and podcast as often as I can. Then over the weekend of the 27th, I’ll head to Paris briefly before flying to Mumbai for the Baramati conference in Baramati, India. Hopefully the bandwidth in Baramati will be robust enough to upload podcasts; otherwise I’ll post blogs and save the multimedia for later.
As always, you’ll be able to find my blogs and podcasts here on my Waste of Bandwidth. If you use podcasting software, you can receive the podcasts automatically with this RSS feed:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/carvin
The RSS feed for my blog remains http://www.andycarvin.com/index.xml, but I’ve set up the second feed because it’s more podcast-friendly than my blog feed, which has had a few problems that make it difficult for people trying to get my podcasts automatically.
Lastly, if you’re interested in following everything else going on at the Prepcom, I’m experimenting with a web page that aggregates blogs from half a dozen bloggers attending the event. You can find that page here:
http://www.edwebproject.org/wsisblogs
It’s still a work in progress, but hopefully might be useful to some of you.
Meanwhile, if you plan to be in any of the aforementioned cities, please let me know; I’d love to say hello in person if I get a chance…

Tel Aviv to London, by way of Zurich

Saturday, November 11th, 1995

Despite the fact that it wasn’t even 5am yet, we managed to gather up our belongings and take the cab ride to the airport. Susanne, to no surprise, slept the entire 30 minute ride. At the airport, though, we were greeted with extremely troubling news – our flight had been delayed for 10 hours due to a sick pilot, and we would miss our day in London, and most possibly our night at the Barbican Theatre. We were furious but too ill to show it, so we stood in line waiting for security to process us in the hopes of catching an earlier flight.
For over two hours, we queued along at a snail’s pace. Fortunately, because there were two of us, one of us could leave and walk around while the other watched our bags. Other people traveling alone would leave their luggage for a minute to grab a cup of coffee or something, and each time this occurred, a plainclothes security officer swooped down on the queue, wanting to know whose bags they were and where the owners went. At least there were no terrorist incidents while we waited for our turn with security.
When we reached the security area, two young women, neither older than 20 or 21, began to ask us repetitious questions about our whereabouts, what we bought, who we met, who we knew in Israel, how long had we been planning the trip, etc. They even asked me to dig out my copy of Let’s Go to show them on a map where we had visited. One of them asked for the receipts of the day tour we took, which we were never given, and they seemed annoyed by the fact that we didn’t physically document our every move.
After 15 or 20 minutes of this, they covered us with security seals of approval and sent us to the counter, where the British Air rep once again said that the flight had been delayed. I was quite dismayed at this point, because it was now past 8:30am and according to the departure monitors, the last flight bound for Europe left at 8:20, and there would be no others before 2pm. But then, the British Air rep told us to run to the next counter and get seats on a delayed flight to Zurich. So we ran as fast as our fatigue and backpack-burdened bodies would let us and managed to get two seats on an Israeli Arkia flight.
By the time we exited passport control and had dropped off our bags, the flight to Zurich was ready to begin boarding. We entered the plane feeling quite relieved, but still not very positive we’d have a flight to London when we got there. And that’s where I am right now, 30,000 feet over Serbia. We passed Mount Olympus about 45 minutes ago, and we should be on the ground in less than three hours. After that, we’ll see what happens.
We landed in Zurich around 1pm local time. It turns out we needed to go through immigration to get our bags, but the passport officer just smiled when he saw our US passports and waved us through. Susanne was annoyed and asked if he would stamp our passports, which he did, laughing his way through each stamp.
The British Air folks then told us we were booked on a 3:30pm flight to Heathrow that would put us in the gate at 4:20 GMT. That should be enough time for us to get to London, check into our hotel, change, and get to the Barbican Theatre by 6:30. Maybe. For now, though, we had two hours to kill on the ground in Zurich, so we went to a shopping court, bought french bread and some cheese, grabbed some soda, and picnicked on a bench outside. Eating brie and baguettes in Zurich was the last thing I thought we’d be doing when I woke up that morning, but now that I knew we’d be in London by late afternoon, I was able to sit back and enjoy it.
Having finished lunch, Susanne and I decided to spend our last francs at a gift shop, where we got some chocolates and postcards. We then boarded the plane and started the 80-minute flight to Heathrow. In the air, our view of the Alps wasn’t as clear as it had been on the flight into Zurich. We landed a bit early, around 4pm, cruised through customs, and caught the tube to Paddington, Westminster, in central London.
At Paddington, it was drizzling outside, but our hotel at Sussex Gardens was less than a five minute walk from the tube station. At the hotel, the receptionist said the room hadn’t been held for us, since I didn’t leave a credit card number when I made the reservation, which was absolutely false. I threw a minor fit, summing up the day’s events, so she promptly apologized and got us a room down the street for 30 pounds, 20 quid cheaper than what we were supposed to pay. The room was more austere than any place we stayed in the Middle East (and more expensive), but it still seemed rather British in a plain, ironic way.
We quickly changed clothes, doing our best to appear as nice as possible for the British theatre scene, with our ragtag assortment of soiled shirts and dusty jeans. Eventually, we caught the tube to Barbican Centre, a post-war cultural citadel, packed with cinemas, theatres, exhibition halls, and other venues for the arts and gatherings. We went to the main theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Co.’s latest production of Henry V.
Though we weren’t familiar with any of the individual performers that night, the overall production was solid and entertaining. Susanne and I have seen numerous interpretations of Henry V over the years, and we were both pleased to see that this version didn’t seem to steal its overall style from any of the more well known arrangements. In particular, it was interesting to see the differences between it and Kenneth Branagh’s film version, which was based on his original RSC stage production. That night’s performance was much less cynical and introspective than Branagh’s – though he was clearly attempting to convey a cautious, pessimistic view of the value of war in his interpretation. Not so in this show – our valiant King Harry is a bold, almost arrogant politician and soldier, who knows his subjects well enough to get what he wants without ever exploiting them outright.
The stage production was superb. RSC’s budget allows them to put on sets not unlike a major Broadway show. The stage featured spectacular flashpots and cannon shot, as well as several dozen link chains that were raised up and down over the stage for a variety of functions, from the lifting of the king’s cargo at Southampton to the serving of swords, which were lowered over the battlefield into the hands of the soldiers. One last note about the play – I enjoyed the interpretation of the bawdy bunch of Pistol, Nym and Bardolfe. Though they always serve as some of the funniest characters in the play, the actors’ mastery of body movement and physical humor accentuated the characters in ways that I have rarely seen on stage or film.
We left the play before it was over, for we were exhausted from our 18-hour day and time zone change. Our flights the next day were in the late morning, which meant we could take our time and work our way out to Gatwick Airport.