You know, I really should go back to Geneva one day, because I feel like I just had weird luck while I was there. First I got really lost and found myself almost completely unable to communicate with anyone.

Then I feel like I almost got kidnapped by a giant chess player.

A what?

Yeah, that’s totally the reaction I wanted.

Okay, so I was wandering around Geneva during my visit, taking photos and getting a feel for the city, when I came across this cool park:

Neat! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Neat! Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

It was near the main theatre/opera house, and when I saw it, it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, so I hurried to see what was going on.

It was totally enchanting. And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous colours. I got lost in the moment and started taking tons of photos.

“Hey – adkjdhaskgdajhdwjugfeyvfbbkajbakxzzhUKGEVASHGhbkbqwudbakjda.”

That was French, spoken too quickly for me to catch any of it. But I could glean from tone and hand gestures that the Giant Chess Player speaking to me was curious as to why I was taking photos. I tried to mime to him that I was just photographing the game pieces, and not their faces or anything.

Because come on, it was so cool. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.
Because come on, it was so cool. Photo Copyright Andrea Beça.

“Uh, no, it’s – the game – je ne parle pas Français – pardon…er – ” I started to walk away.

“No, no!” shouted the Giant Chess Player, “You can – eh – watch? The game? You watch, that’s fine.”

“Okay, thanks.”

And then I felt obligated to stay and watch the whole thing. Now, as I’ve said before, I can understand quite a bit of French (when it’s being spoken at a reasonable pace), so while I stood there, I listened to the Giant Chess Player’s friends egg him on about a girl watching his game. They started calling me ‘Oiseau’ because of the bird tattoo on my neck, and then there was some word play I didn’t catch, but it sounded saucy. It made me a little nervous.

When the game ended, I smiled and waved and started to leave the park.

“Hey – wait! Wait!” The Giant Chess Player was after me again.

I stopped to look at him. His friends laughed and made comments. I felt nervous again. The Giant Chess Player straightened his tweed blazer and reached out to touch my arm.

“Eh – I would like to take you for a walk maybe? Around the park – if you like?”

(My internal thoughts: STRANGER DANGER!)

“Oh, I have to get going – my friend is waiting for me!”

(For the record, my “friend” was my BFF Margaret – and at the time, she was in Morocco with her boyfriend, Tim.)

“Please, come – we will – eh – walk? Together? I would very much like to – er – spend time with you?”

“That’s very nice of you, but I can’t. I’m sorry! My friend, she’s waiting. I have to go now.”

“Can I take your number? I would very much like to take you out – er – later? Maybe this evening?”

The Giant Chess Player was getting pushy. But he was very kind.

I assessed the situation.

I was in Geneva – a city I wasn’t having much luck in – and I was by myself. I considered the logistics of telling Margaret that I was going on a date and making her call me later to check in. I considered telling her to call the police if she didn’t hear back from me by a set time tonight.

Then I realized I was thinking about what my friend would have to do if I were kidnapped and/or murdered in a foreign country and I thought, “Hmm, better not.”

What followed was an extremely long conversation, in which I tried to convince the Giant Chess Player that my phone didn’t work in Geneva, so I had no number to give him, and that I really had to go because my friend was waiting for me, and we were leaving Geneva the following day for our next trip. He asked where I was headed, and when I told him (WHY DID I TELL HIM?!) he suggested we meet up in Portugal in a couple weeks. He said he could come find me, and maybe meet my family.

That’s weird, right? I don’t think it’s just me. I think that’s weird.

The Giant Chess Player was getting very pushy, and I was getting very uncomfortable. I finally got him to leave me alone by accepting his phone number and promising – PROMISING – to call him that night.

When I left, he followed me down the street for a while. Then someone he knew called his name and he reluctantly took off in the other direction down the street.

I never called.

That was the day I learned that maybe my paranoia is the reason I don’t tend to meet many people while I’m travelling, but with my track record, it’s best to trust my instincts.


P.S. Maybe the Giant Chess Player was a really nice guy, but he wanted to meet my family after knowing me for less than an hour. That’s way too much for me.