Monday, November 20, 2006

The Setting

I was heading for a workshop of "Young Scholars of the Global South" organised by the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. We, 'young scholars' were expected to share our phd research and findings with each other and provide comments over a period of five working days. It was an informal setting and we had people from all parts of the world in the group of 13. Some of the countries where the participants came from were Brazil, Mexico, Uganda, India and Phillipines.

So this was the setting. Being an aspirant traveller, Western Europe worked as a heady charm in applying for the workshop and being selected was an exultant feeling. I decided to use the workshop to launch myself in the select group of people who have travelled through bits of Europe. The Swiss Visa (Switzerland is not part of the Schengen or the common European Union Visa) was not a difficult process owing to the organisational abilities of the GIIS. However, to see the countries bordering Switzerland, I would need a second visa, the Schengen or the common European Union visa. Staying true to my penchant for being late, I secured the Schengen Visa (Schengener Staaten) from the German Embassy in New Delhi five days before my departure. There were moments of panic, when I was certain that I would not be granted the Schengen visa owing to my poor documenting abilities as well as my skills at being badly organised. In times like these, I felt a surge of pity for myself at being so close to the 'promised land' and yet so far. In my mind Geneva, which was surrounded by France from three directions and Switzerland, which was closely bordered by Italy and Germany, was a box in which I was enclosed and while I could stand on my tip toe and peer into the above countries, I would not be able to visit them due to the absence of a visa!

Promised Land

But all's well that ends well. And so I was on the Air Canada flight to Zurich, enroute to Geneva. I have been told that premier airlines use their worst aircrafts/services for the South Asian sector, I havent travelled much so I cannot vouch for the veracity of that claim. But compared to my last outing abroad on Singapore Airlines, Air Canada was a poor cousin. I wanted a moniter to watch my own movies on the flight, something I was really looking forward too. But the aircraft had no back of seat personal moniters but rather shared ones in front of the respective cabins and a bigger projection screen with bad resolution and worse choice of movies. Mercifully, it was a night flight and I could sleep most of the 8 hours of the flight to Zurich.

Never mind the airports my motherland offers to visitors but last year an eight hour transit in Singapore airport had made airports a fetish from me and everything was judged by such high standards. The transit lounge at Changi Airport in Singapore is huge with bars, cafes, resturants and shopping malls. Zurich Flughaufen (German for airport) was not dissapointing for me in the three hours I spent there. Then there was the heady feeling of being part of the an International/global travelling population. And so I boarded my flight to Geneva, a short 30 mins Swiss Air flight with chocolates as refreshment and when I ate it on the train to the main station in Geneva from Geneva airport, I realized that it was ummm gorgeous.

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