We went to Chamonix so that we could stand on the slopes of Mont Blanc. When we stepped off the cable car at Brevent, I was surprised that we were standing in snow. Lynn gave me that pitying, affectionate look she displays when I'm being particularly obtuse. "November? The Alps? And you weren't expecting snow?" Yes, well, I'd been pretty focused on the Global Health Library meeting.
We'd been uncertain, from the forecasts, what the weather would be like, but it could not have been more beautiful. Bright sunshine, crisp blue skies with just a few picturesque clouds kissing the mountain tops. We spent an hour or so there, pushing our way through the snow toward 6500 feet, and then in the afternoon, another hour near the Mer de Glace, on the other side of the valley.
The concierge at our hotel had said that Saturday would be a good day to get out of town, because there were anti-WTO demonstrations planned. When our bus was pulling back into the station in Geneva at the end of the day, our tour guide, Simon, said that there had been "an incident" that afternoon and we should "be careful" if we were going to be out walking through the central city that evening. We found out later that the demonstrations had turned violent and there were smashed windows and cars lit afire a block from our hotel. By the time we went out for lunch the next day, the cars had been cleared away and many, though not all, of the broken windows were boarded up.
For several years now, I've kept a travel journal separate from the notebook that I write in every morning when I'm at home. In the front of each I write the date range that it covers and list the cities that I've taken it to. The one that I'm just finishing up starts August 7, 2009 and lists the following: Washington DC, North Little Rock, Brisbane QLD, Lancaster MA, Birmingham, Breckenridge CO, Frankfurt, Memphis, Boston and Geneva. Even for me, that's an extraordinary amount of travel for a four month stretch.
Without ubiquitous internet access and the trusty laptop it wouldn't be possible. But I manage to get at the email everyday and I can get a lot of work done on those long airplane flights. Some projects don't get done quite as soon as I would like, but I manage to get to it all eventually. And I think that the work that I've done on these journeys is worthwhile and important. Certainly it is endlessly interesting.
I'm glad to be home now for awhile, though. At the moment, there's nothing on the calendar until early February, although there are one or two things in the offing that might call me out of town before then. But for now I'm just looking forward to going to the library every day, and getting into something that feels like a routine.
Tomorrow Marian and Josie will be coming over to help us trim the Christmas tree. That's more exciting to me than standing on the side of a mountain.