After a year of waiting to learn if I had been accepted into the ranks of the State Department Foreign Service as an Office Management Specialist, I did make the "list" around Easter of 1984, and in August received the telephone call from State that I was offered a position (where I would be posted would be revealed to me later if I accepted the employment), and I immediately said "Yes!." I was told to rather "dismantle my life" and report for training in Washington, D.C. in one month, which I did.
Coincidentally, and to the joy of each of us, my best friend at the San Jose Office of Appeals who applied concurrently with me, also was placed on the list, and about an hour after I received my offer, she received an offer of employment as well, so, for the first time in my entire life, I left all I loved in California and flew off into the "unknown," but with the consolation that my "best friend" would be by my side in Washington, D.C. for our five weeks of training. Two weeks later I was advised I would go to Geneva, Switzerland, to work in the political section of the Mission to the UN and my friend was to go to Paramaribo, Suriname, where she would work for the Deputy Chief of Mission at that small Embassy. The training was often grueling, but exciting, and my friend and I enjoyed experiencing the wonders of Washington, D.C. together for the first time together in our off hours.
November 1, 1984: I departed for Geneva, and as I circled the airport the thought passed through my mind "what in the world have I done on purpose," as the fear of the unknown became prominent in my mind, but I was met at the airport by my new boss, the political officer, who delivered me to my temporary hotel quarters in downtown Geneva with the promise he would be back to pick me up in early evening to have dinner with him and his family in his home. After I settled my belongings the first experience I remember was going out for a little walk, spotting a "boulangerie" (Geneva is a French-speaking city), walking out with a warm baguette, and, with a maiden name of "LaPoint" thinking, I have arrived in yet another "home”!
Memorable highlights of my two years in Geneva, working in a seven-story Mission and living in “old town” In a second floor flat of a very old building abound. I made three lifetime friends during that posting, John, who became a traveling companion and my “soul mate” was a “communicator” (one who receives and disburses “cable traffic,” which I learned in training is the way the Foreign Service communicates from one Embassy, Consulate, etc. to another); Deb, an office management specialist, and Anita, a Swedish woman who I met over coffee who had lived and worked in Geneva for many years. These three people became lifelong friends to this day (however, sadly, John died, at the age of 60 at the end of 2016, and I shall miss him forever).
I enjoyed strolling the streets of the city, listening to street musicians along the way, shopping at meat markets, bakeries, groceries, and fruit and vegetable stands, candy shops, flower stands which lined the area, and marveled at how the Swiss, who ate ice cream throughout the entire year, could retain their slim figures. There was the beautiful Lake Geneva and fetes. I ate fillet de perches with pommes frites caught fresh from the lake, raclette (a Swiss dish of melted cheese served with tiny boiled potatoes and dill pickles), drank many, many cafes which were always served with a little wrapped piece of Swiss chocolate, and delighted in the many culinary delights of the city and country.
Two memories stand out: a drive up to the mountains with my friend Anita, so she could ski and just as we climbed at one point appeared the top of a mountain with the sun shining on the snow which looked like “gilded gold”; and another day while on a bus tour through the city it was the first snowfall and the small branches on the trees were etched with snow as if by the careful stroke of a painter had occurred to create this beautiful sight. I was simply “at the right place at the right time” on these two occasions. I could go on forever but it is time to complete this article. In another article, I shall describe some of my travels in and out of Switzerland which I was fortunate to do in my two years posting so, until then…………………………….Joan