Monday, August 18, 2008

Which way to Evian? Aug 16. (-41 days)

The big silver Peugeot with the French number-plate slows down, the passenger window comes down and the male driver leans over this woman and says: “Excusez-moi, pour aller au Evian?”

Now, how many of you have been in the situation where you are asked to give directions to someone and just because you are not from that country or because it’s not your neighborhood you raise your hands and answer: “sorry I am not from this place”? Well it used to happen to me quite often before. Geneva is a “transit place” anyway (more on this one some other time) both figuratively but also literally. You see the cars with the different number plates, expats, diplomats, tourists, whatever. You can notice early in the morning when you go running the Japanese with their little hats and big cameras and tripods chasing that perfect shot, you can notice it in the group of people walking by with the bags full of designer goods and the occasional "rouge Suisse" t-shirt… So yes I was also asked, it happened to me as well, and I answered back, either in English, French, Spanish or mime language that I am not from here, I am a tourist/visitor as well…

Well that’s not the case anymore… There are still tourists in the city and you still get the occasional question. What has changed is the fact that I can answer. And most of the times accurately. It’s something you realize only when you’ve been in a place long enough. It’s been 5 years this month. All right, you can argue that you can get to know a place in a couple of years but given the complete lack of orientation or memory skills I have, I think I am doing pretty well. You don't believe me? Try going on a hike with me as platoon leader in the forest when you do your military service and you'll understand what I mean…

So gradually you realize that this starts being “your place”. You can feel uneasy about it or actually enjoy it. And I think I’m more in the second category. Not because I was ever aspiring to call Geneva “home” but it actually happened. It did. After a long flight (or night) you just say, “I want to go home” and I mean my apartment in Geneva not Athens. Even on the occasional holiday break to Greece, it’s more “Athina RE” not Spiti RE” that I would shout in the middle of the office floor (RE being an exclamation of joy, pain, excitement whatever, for the non-Greeks that are reading this).

So what is “home”? One of you said: “Home is the place where you create your childhood memories”. I like that. That’s nice. It places you in a comfortable, fuzzy environment, full of people and places that you might not entirely remember or even liked at that time but they are all “safe”. Or at least that’s what you remember. For me home is now something slightly different. Home is where I also fell comfortable now. And I know that it might not include too many familiar faces or places from the past but it is still like that. If this is a place where you are happy to return to, if it’s a place you enjoy being in then why shouldn’t you call it home? Let me know what you think… I am curious.

There are nights when I take the 20minute walk back home from La SIP (yes, that one out of two decent [?] clubs that exist in this city...) and as I walk back, even if it’s August and it's 18 degrees and drizzling and I know that the car windows in Athens would be down, the girls would be wearing light dresses and Capri trousers, I still stop on that "emerald green-lit" bridge and look. I look both sides: once towards the brightly lit, yellowish Batiment de Force Motrices and once towards the north east across the immense dark water volume of Lac Leman and I think: “I like this place. I really do”. Maybe it’s the alcohol impairing my judgment, maybe it’s because I like anything surrounded by water but it is not important. What really matters is how I feel being here.

And if you are not feeling as well where you are, well maybe it’s time to change that as well.

2 comments:

George "Teriax" T. said...

Being far away from my birth place as well, I fully understand your point of view...I fully understand the feeling of flyinh back and saying "just let me go back to my flat..."

However I always said that for me home was Athens while my house was in Dubai...Thats where I lived after all, the place I felt comfortable, where i had my memories, friends, knew the place (now that i left i reached a point when almost everyone was asking me, just as in the villages they ask the old granddad sitting in the wooden chair outside the cafeneio!)...it was where i had my life at that time !!!

At the end of the day, we live a life now and have our memories (childhood ones, parents, school etc) and that is what define us at the end of the day...

The place you live in actually is NOTHING unless you manage to make it something; make some memories out of it...

Kostas Around The World said...

I like that George.. and agree!
See you in athens 5-7Sep!