The MacGuffin

Can’t Catch a Break

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 19, 2011

I know most of you own (or know someone who owns) a little book called A Piece of Mind. Go find it.

Now turn to the page about Rugani vacations and read it.

Read it again.

Done? Good. Now multiply that by a hundred. That is what this experience has been like for me since day one.

Don’t get me wrong, I am having an absolute blast. I’ve been to beautiful cities and the scenery is breathtaking. I’ve met a small group of people to share these experiences with. I really love my work.

But I feel like the Karma Gods really don’t want me here. Let me start from the beginning.

October 2010 – Received verbal offer for position at CERN. Tentative start date: November 15, 2010.

November 29, 2010 – Received written offer for position at CERN. Tentative start date: January 17, 2011.

December 2010 – Swiss visa secured.

January 2011 – French visa denied, because someone filled out the paperwork in Paris incorrectly. Instead of asking for the correct information, it sat on someone’s desk for almost 2 months. Solution: wait 4-6 weeks to reprocess, or travel to Switzerland anyway. Took option B. Start date: TBD.

February 2011 – Travel authorization from U.S. denied, pending completion of online safety training course. I followed the directions to create an account and could not log in. Again because someone failed to submit paperwork properly, there was no foreign travel request in my name so I was unauthorized to participate in said online safety training course.

Account set up. Safety training completed. Second request for travel.

I cannot travel because my payroll is not set up. Fed-Exed my passport to Chicago because they would not accept scanned copies of ID documents.

Passport returned. Travel booked. Official start date: February 21, 2011. 4 months after initial offer.

February 18, 2011 – Flight delayed.

February 21, 2011 – First day of work. Went to the user’s office to apply for CERN ID. The person legally allowed to sign the paper and the three people below him who could sign in his absence were all conveniently out of work that day.

Second attempt  – Signature acquired. They saw I had no French visa, would not issue a CERN ID. Thanks to my boss, who gently but firmly reminded them that it was their fault I had no French visa, and that someone in their office told me I could come without one, they agreed to issue my ID.

Ongoing, February/March 2011 – Impossible to open a bank account in Switzerland as an American citizen. Solution: Open a bank account in France. Problem: Without a French visa, I cannot live in France. French banks are in euros. If I had a French bank I would have to pay to exchange USD to euros, and again to exchange euros to Swiss francs. Plus I would have to find a way to get to France while the banks were open. Not a reasonable solution.

Ongoing, February/March 2011 – Housing is impossible to find in Geneva. I visited at least 2 or 3 apartments after work each week. Finally I found one that was within my budget. A bit far from work, but doable.

March 13, 2011 – Moved from CERN hostel to new apartment. There was no bed. I slept on the floor.

March 15, 2011 – Roommate/landlady sent email informing me that her sick mother would be coming to live with her, and in fact I could no longer stay there. Update: there was now a bed in the room.

March 16, 2011 – Found a new place to live. Higher rent, but more convenient commute.

March 17-18, 2011 – Withdrew large sum of money from the bank so I could pay rent when I moved into the new place. (I did not, thankfully, pay anything up front to the first place.) Said large sum of money went missing from my wallet. Several suspects, no proof. Must withdraw the same amount again, costing me nearly one month’s salary in a span of 3 days. (Not to mention 3 weeks of salary for the 3 weeks I spent in the hostel. I’m losing money by the second here.)

Today – moving day. It is pouring rain.

The End.

Epilogue: Somehow, despite all of these things, I have remained relatively calm. I am trying to maintain the attitude that what is beyond my control is not worth getting upset over. Despite the ridiculous regulations, Geneva is a beautiful city and I manage to keep discovering new things and places. In fact, now that I’m broke I’ll probably spend a lot of my time just wandering around with my camera, discovering even more. Losing all that money will set me back for awhile, but it’s just money. I’m not starving, freezing or without shelter. I prayed that whoever has the money now took it because they were starving, freezing, or without shelter. I prayed that they will realize it was wrong and ask for forgiveness, and I prayed for their forgiveness.

However, if some rich douchebag took the money and used it to by an Armani suit or a bottle of champagne, the Irish in me prayed that the fleas of a thousand camels infest his nether regions.


3 Responses to “Can’t Catch a Break”

  1. Diana Rugani said


    That is a great attitude you have.. I commend you for it.

    Thank goodness that the “Bruce Rugani family” has not had vacation dilemmas, we have always had wonderful, dilemma free vacations.. Hopefully I just did not curse ourselves by mentioning that.

    Aunt Diana

  2. Kathie Rugani said

    Arrrggggg! You are right, EVERYTHING about this experience has been a headache! Some might call it “character building”. If so, then you are someone of high character. Glad to see that you still have compassion for someone who might be needy, and equally glad that you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Guess your visit to Zurich was cancelled??

    • Lauren Rugani said

      No, still going to Zurich, next weekend. Chris and I agreed that the weekend will consist primarily of walking and photography since we are both on tight budgets 🙂

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