I think I must be, despite the great company of my colleagues. I woke up one day humming a fragment of a song, and later in the day I found myself singing out loud in my head the lyrics. They go like this.
景色依旧良辰不在，人儿几时回来。 [The scenery is as it was, but the good times are past; when will he come back?]
I don’t think I consciously meant to remember the rest of the song; at least, I don’t remember trying to recall the rest of the lyrics as actively as I sometimes did when I genuinely wanted to remember a song; but, all through the day, at odd moments, I would catch my mind turning these lyrics over and over; the sense was that there was more to look for.
Then today, I found myself singing another part of the song.
我有诉不尽的悲凄，寄托在梦里带给你，[I have uncountable sorrows, which I entrust to dreams to bring to you.]
虽然千山万水隔离，但愿在梦里相依。[Although mountains and seas separate us, I hope we can lean against each other in dreams.]
And immediately I realised (maybe it was an after-the-fact rationalisation; it occurred too quickly for me to tell the difference; our minds are mysterious things) that I had been singing that song because of the line “although mountains and seas separate us”, because that vast immutable distance from a certain bedrock of familiarity was what I had been feeling through all those colourless meetings, even though the meals have been uniformly good to excellent and despite the great company.*,**
I prescribed a call back home for my homesickness, and I am happy to report that it’s abated, a bit :)
*Ok, not totally colourless – the meetings have been enlivened by a brusque Indian who breaks iron-clad protocol at his will and stands out like a caveman would in genteel society.
**A recent “fruits of the sea” pasta – mussels, squid and shrimp tossed together with al dente spaghetti in olive oil and white wine – and the second prawn buffet in a week were particular highlights. A galling episode occurred after the pasta meal: we went to a restaurant in the Old Town part of Geneva for warm chocolate cake – we had heard from a colleague who was stationed here that it was good, the warm chocolate cake – but when we ordered, the proprietess of the establishment (known for its roast chicken, which smelled delicious) told us that she had many customers and could not serve us if we didn’t order anything else. The thing is, this was at 9-something pm, by which time all reasonable folk would have had their dinner, don’t you think?!***
***Ah well, it was really her perogative. And the restaurant was crowded. *grudgingly, still fuming a bit* I guess in these times she would have an added reason to squeeze as much profit out of her operations as she can, and that’s what she did.