# To the West!

12 August 2013 travel

I don't know how many goodbyes I have said this last week.

A little less than a week ago, I left CERN. I'm not sure how I would describe this summer I spent there. It would probably be a long list of positive words about new experiences, friends, physics, travelling, mountains, photography, Ge detectors, poetry, girls, France, languages, Swiss chocolate and Swiss expenses - (well the last one is perhaps more associated with negative words).

I had my final research presentation on the day before the last - the only notable thing about it was that there was a power outage in the middle of the presentation. Guess what happened? An immediate Q&A session!

The following night went by; I did not sleep much.

The last day dawned. Finishing the departure formalities took almost the whole day - of those formalities, returning my personal dosimeter was the worst. I liked that thing, it was a reminder that I (for a while at least) was a part of something big, a sort of a "functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me. Also, among all the physics and computer science majors, it was a quite cool thing to have - believe it or not! Would it be cool to have it elsewhere? I don't know - people might think I was crazy, or paranoid; measuring radiation? - Crazyness is statistical.

Talking about crazyness - me and some of my friends decided to jump from a bridge the last day, at the river intersection in Geneva, where you can see the two rivers merge of different colour. This might sound worse than it really was, but this is actually a quite common thing to do on sunny days in Geneva, as the bridge is quite low. However, we got to the place really late, everything being almost pitch black; and we abandoned the idea. Regardless of the lack of Sun, and jumping of bridges, the night was quite full; full of friends, memories, wine, games, stories, jokes about rabbits&ducks, South-American slang, but also full of goodbyes, and promises of meeting together next year. I do hope we make it.

After solving my non-trivial problem of having my "expired" temporary access note taken away from me, and having no bike to get back (not trivial), we laughed, we laughed at the idea that tomorrow, some of us were going to our own corner of the globe.

I vaguely remember packing - a subtle thing which I had totally disregarded - at 6 am in the morning. 3 hours later my journey westward started.

I wasn't in the best condition to travel: I missed my first train to Zurich, where my first flight in a very long chain of flights would be taking off. From my stay in Switzerland I knew why they like watches so much - they are punctual people; the flight would not wait. I waited, half-patiently, for the next train.

It turned out that one of my Turkish friends was taking the train to Lausanne on the same platform. Merhaba - nasılsın?!. These greetings were quickly followed by a fitting goodbye; Hoşçakal, a goodbye, which literally says that you leave smiling. I added some more Turkish to my modest collection of Turkish words that I already learned from some of my friends during my travels the year before, but that is another story.

I somehow got on the next train, half-asleep, and half-kept going by my dread of starting a domino cascade of lost flights. I have never seen so many people in a train before: everybody was going to the festival in Zurich! A group of very stereotypic-party-types resolved to have a kind of a pre-party in the Northbound train. I didn't really mind, I kind of smiled, I think, half-asleep, while others were cursing them for their loud noises, liquor, and various different flavours of smoke.

I had a connecting flight in Paris, and from there I went to the Iceberg, North of the Wall. I saw a famous post from the airplane window; somewhat lost between its brothers carrying the electric power lines. The plane back home was filled with Parisians, all of which I noted were wearing anoracks, scarfs, and hiking boots "... you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they go, where they've been." I smiled. I slept. I got out of the plane. I was cold - I was home.

This day and a half has been strange: My travels are only starting, and I've had a tune by the lads from Liverpool ringing in my head the whole time; saying hello, and goodbye to everybody at the same time.

I'm now in the airport, again, waiting. I suspect that this tune by the lads will continue to ring in my head for quite a while.

Well,
On we sweep with threshing oar,
Our only goal will be the western shore...

#### Contact Info

Guðmundur Kári Stefánsson

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email: gws5257 [at] psu.edu

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