Memories

There are more memories from my 3 month stay in Geneva, after my marriage with Peter in the winter of 1975. He was so excited about his new job at UNHCR and busy with his orientation. When we drove by the headquarters on Monday, on our way to ICRC’s headquarters I realized that he never took me to meet his new colleagues and see the inside of that building that would be his anchor in Europe for years to come.

While he was away I roamed the streets of Geneva, bored out of my mind and very unhappy, having given up my former life as a psychology student and a highly coveted internship place at a prestigious family therapy clinic in Leiden. We stayed at an international place catering to foreign students, a high rise on Rue des Paquis, with tiny apartments with just the basics for living: two small burners for cooking, to small rooms with  narrow twin beds, and 2 cups, plates, saucers, forks, spoons and knives, 2 pans and sets of flimsy towels. Downstairs was a cafeteria where I would take my meals, feeling lost in a crowd.

I bought a bike and explored Geneva until I had covered each centimeter of the city. Soon I had visited all the musea, watched all the movies, but such lonely excursions just made me more depressed. A Czech refugee who also lived in the place took me under her wing once she discovered that I was a fellow, albeit not quite legitimate, psychologist. It was thanks to her that my last few weeks in Geneva were bearable. She took me along to a lecture by Jean Piaget at the university of Geneva, and other classes. Watching Jean Piaget in Geneva and meeting Anna Freud in London are still one of the highlights of my early psychology days.

Eventually I returned to Holland after Peter left with his best friend, by car, to Beirut. This was to have been our honeymoon but Beirut was no longer a family post and spouses were not allowed. At least, that is how we both took it. Thirty three years later, when I was posted in another non-family post, I realized that we probably could have gone together, with me unofficially, and paying my own way. I think I cried all the way home; and then I was back in Leiden, picking up the thread I had dropped earlier.  Now, looking back, I can see that the marriage was doomed, already then.

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