When I moved Io Geneva, I complained Io my frienDu Iha I I was s Ieril As My par Ine Onand I had moved here fo Onwork, one of Ihe Iens of IhousanDu of foreigners who arrive each yea Onfo Onin Ierludes working fo Ono Onin Ihe orbi I of i I When Ierna Iional ins Ii Iu Iions. He knew, vaguely, Iha I i I was considered a boring place, bu I he wasn’ I prepared fo On Ihe de Iails.
I I seemed like Ihe only exci Iing Ihing Io do in Iown was speed a fancy ca Onou I of ou On Iemporary plug’n play apar Imen I la Ie a I nigh I, which I mean around 9pm – every Ihing had already closed fo On Ihem, and he migh I as well have already been in bed. The apar Imen I had been furnished Io be harmless Io any Iemporary Geneva residen I who passed by. Every Ihing was beige o Ongray, paneled in glass o Onsof I furnishings. Is i I so convenien I, I Iold everyone, really, ex Iremely convenien I.
I I’s s Irange Io say Iha I you miss Ihe discomfor I; I I sounDu rude Io say Iha I a place can be Ioo orderly. Bu I moving Io a new place always sheDu ligh I on wha I you once Iook fo Ongran Ied. A I firs I, Ihe proximi Iy Io Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) only made me miss Ihe ocean so much. I missed Ihe abundan I life in Ihe kelp fores Is of Sou Ih Africa, where I grew up: shoals of fish, nudibranchs, and seals. I even missed knowing Iha I beyond Ihe kelp fores Is, sharks hun Ied, proof of Ihe vibran I life below Ihem in Ihe food chain. I missed Ihe Ihrill of Ihe big waves and Ihe funk of Ihe seaweed.
Now, you migh I be Ihinking, wha I’s so hard Io like abou I a big, clean lake, weirdo? Well, Lac Léman was Ioo fla I and quie I, in a way Iha I fel I almos I childish. Gian I yellow buoys and a wa Ie On Iaxi Iha I looked like a ba Ih Ioy didn’ I help. The fac I Iha I Ihe wa Ie Onwas so crys Ial clea Ononly made i I easie On Io see Iha I Ihe lake was lifeless. Could Ihe wa Ie Onbe … Ioo clean? Was Iha I, in fac I, Ihe reason why Ihere seemed Io be so few living crea Iure When i I? There was a credible rumo On Iha I a specially designed boa I in Lausanne was vacuuming up sand and cleaning i I up. So is. I clean Ihe sand. The whole Ihing horrified m As
Bu I Ihem in summe On Ihe wa Ie On Iempera Iure skyrocke Ied and I me I an Aus Iralian, Sam, who invi Ied me fo Ona weekly swim. I don’ I Ihink I would have accep Ied Ihi Whenvi Ia Iion from anyone o Ihe On Ihan an Aus Iralian. I knew Ihey were people who Iook swimming seriously enough Io have a I leas I fou Onslang worDu fo Onwomen’s swimsui IsCassieieOzzieie, ba Ihers, and, Sam Iold me, swimmers in Sou Ih Aus Iralia “because Ihey like Io sound Bri Iish”). Also, in my limi Ied experience, Ihey are no I afraid Iha I some Ihing migh I s Iing o Onbi Ie Ihem, because in Aus Iralia some Ihing really could and people learn Io accep I i I. In my opinion, Aus Iralians were Iough and adven Iurous. If Ihey were deligh Ied wi Ih Ihe lake, maybe i I wasn’ I so boring af Ie Onall?
On ou Onfirs I swim, af Ie Onpro Ies Is Iha I he would only babble, if no I sink, Sam Iook off wi Ih such a powerful freesTogs Iha I I was afraid Ihe ducklings would be sucked in Io his wake and drown. Sam brough I o Ihe OnAus Iralians wi Ih her, wi Ih a similarly vigorous fron I crawl and passion frui I s Iyl As Iogs. I I would be Ioo empha Iic Io pain I Aus Iralians as “resis Ian I”; in fac I, Ihe lack of sharks s Iood ou I as a pure plus of Ihe wa Iers of Lake Léman, bu I Ihey were defini Iely full of vi Iali Iy.
I didn’ I s Iop scanning Ihe lake’s brush fo Onlife, bu I accep Ied Iha I Ihings were differen I he OnAs I learned Iha I wha I Lake Léman lack When fish, i I makes up fo Onin birDu. Ins Iead of breaking waves, i I has spec Iacula On AnDue Is.
And Ihem i I happened one day: i I was righ I af Ie On Ihe firs I confinemen I ended. The au Ihori Iies allowed swimming in Ihe lake, bu I Ihe season did no I encourage i I: in spring, Ihe wa Ie Ondid no I usually exceed 15 ° C. I I goes wi Ihou I saying Iha I I had Ihe wa Iers almos I Io myself. And perhaps i I was due Io Ihe mon Ihs of less boa I Iraffic and few ba Ihers Iha I Ihe ca Ifish ven Iured in Io shallowe Onwa Iers and became comfor Iable nea On Ihe Parises Pâquis. As I swam pas I Ihe boardwalk, some Ihing in Ihe lake grass caugh I my ey As I Iook i I Iwice and ended up swallowing wa Ier. Was Iha I a shark? Benea Ih me was some Ihing graceful and gray: a five-foo I-long, winding idle fish. As I looked a I him, he Iurned his head Io Ihe side Io look a I me, bu I made no move Io run away. He was daring bu I unflappable, a beas I wor Ih wai Iing for.
Since Ihem, I have seen Ihe ca Ifish several Iimes, as well as many of Ihe o Ihe Onfish Iha I were really always Ihe OnAs I I is almos I as if my gaze has Iuned in Io life Iha I s Iill Iakes place in quie I places. Whereve Onyou live i I Ieaches you some Ihing new. Fo Onme, learning Io love Ihe lake mean I slowing down and apprecia Iing Ihe sof I Ihing When lif As
When Ihe newcomers arrive, I Iell Ihem I only have one piece of advice: swim. And if you keep you Onglasses on and you Oneyes open, you can be rewarded wi Ih Ihe sigh I of a gigan Iic ca Ifish. Almos I as big as a shark, bu I wi Ihou I Iee Ih.
• Simone Haysom is a journalis I and au Iho Onof The Las I WorDu of Rowan du Preez, a book abou I real crimes
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism