(An important note before reading: I had the directions printed out, but had lost the map that had accompanied it. I am technically not doing a study abroad program, but an internship that doesn't require French language skills.)
After travelling a day and a half from Honolulu, to Los Angeles, and London I finally reached my final destination in Geneva. With no knowledge of the French language, the predominant language in Geneva; however due to presence of the United Nations in the city most people possess some knowledge of speaking other languages, this weary traveler had to get to the main train station to get to his hostel. Thankfully a nice worker directed me in the direction of where the train line was.
With luggage in tow and a extremely overstuffed carry-on and personal item I made it to the station, but everything was in French. Luckily there were two very helpful TPG (the transportation company) workers who not only helped me purchase my ticket, but also personally used their own coins to make change to break my larger bill, as the machine only took coins. Arriving at the main station I had a vague sense of which direction I needed to go to reach my hostel for the night. Except a few things stood in my way: the cold, heavy luggage, the zombie like trance of sleep deprivation, and the dark. To tired to care, I sought a cab (Geneva is an expensive city to live in and cab fares are quite high; public transportation is the best option) to take me to my hostel. Instead the cabby said that the location was "quite close" and that I could get there in the direction I thought I had to go in. "Go straight down this street for 500 meters and then take a right and keep going straight", he said. The only problem was that in my sleep deprived state, cold, tired, and lugging luggage, I took that right turn a little bit too early and accidentally stumbled into the "red light" district.
There are police cars on each street, perhaps I could ask them for directions. Except the police weren't there and I continued to blindly walk straight down a pretty sketchy street. I realized that I was in the wrong part of the city when I saw the women of the night, so I decided to get the hell out of there as soon as I could. Taking a left turn I found myself at a cafe where an older lady was having a drink. I asked her for direction and I got them, but they were in French. She did the best she could using international sign language and I thanked her and was on my blind journey yet again. I assumed my destination was two streets over and then another left turn from what the lady had said and described. An even sketchier alley awaited me with a couple of tough looking gentlemen and a smell of "medicinal" herbs.
I backtracked and made it to the next street over. Giving up hope and looking for a cab I heard a French conversation quickly being switched into an English one; I was saved. Three girls from the US, who work at the UN office in Geneva, happened to be coming up the same street and upon hearing my story and where I was from they not only helped me out, but led into the right direction to where I needed to go. Despite my first view of the city being the "red light" district in its functioning hour of operations, the people of Geneva are nice and very friendly people who will be more than willing to help lost weary travelers.