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Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! to Geneva

- Justine

On July 14th, the day of the storming of the Bastille, everything in France closes for the celebrations. There are lots of festivities by night, but not much to do during the day, so I went to Geneva! I’m fortunate enough that Divonne les Bains is right on the border of Switzerland– I actually biked to Crassier, Switzerland the other day just for fun. Geneva is like Divonne’s New York City. A lot of adults work there, teens spend the day there, and kids go on school field trips there.

I spent the day in the oldest part of Geneva seeing an exhibit on John Calvin at the Musée International de la Réforme (the Protestant Reformation). I happen to be interested in historical theology and the Reformation, so I loved the exhibit. However, it could quite likely not be your thing, and there are plenty of other things to do in Geneva.

In Geneva, everyone speaks French, many people speak English, and some people speak German, so the exhibit was in all three languages. It takes you through eight moments of a day in the life of John Calvin, from when he woke up at four in the morning to his bedtime at nine o’ clock. Each station has an oral and visual presentation of John Calvin’s daily interactions, prayers, lectures, etc., all bursting at the seams with references to the Reformation, life in Geneva 500 years ago, and Calvin’s achievements. There are also leaflets at each station containing information on some aspect of Genevan culture at the time, such as food, music, and, of course, religion.

This incredibly modern exhibit (having three-dimensional animations with well-written scripts) on such an ancient person’s life was one of the most informative ones I’ve ever visited. Unfortunately, it closes November 1st. If you’re in France or Switzerland this summer or autumn, definitely stop by Geneva and see it. For more information, visit www.musee-reforme.ch.

For the second half of my holiday, I attended the Divonne nighttime festivities with some kids my age. In France, the way they celebrate July 14th is a little different than the way we celebrate July 4th. There is much barbecuing– that’s the main similarity. However, because I don’t eat pork, my dinner consisted of fries and a Coke. Pork is very big in France, so if you’re Muslim, a vegetarian, or just someone who chooses not to eat pork, always be prepared for what’s available.

Unlike July 4th, July 14th is largely celebrated as a community instead of individual parties. The celebration is centralized in some part of town, with lots of music and couples dancing. The firework presentation from the Divonne lake was more of a show than the fireworks I’ve seen for Independence Day. There was ambient background music that accompanied the tone of the fireworks. When they became gold and glittery, the music became majestic. When they glowed red and exploded with more resonance, the music turned sinister. On the whole, it was very enjoyable, and yet another opportunity to experience French culture.

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