Doing and Seeing
There is so much joy in seeing a sparkle in someone’s eyes and knowing that you have given them memories to cherish. That childlike feeling of not knowing what you want to do next, everything looks like fun – let’s do it all. That’s the way it was when my parents visited us in Switzerland, for them and me. They had never been to Europe before. The chance to see and do things they never dreamt of seeing or doing was thrilling.
Absolutely everything here was different than what they knew in America: the food, the language and the housing to name a few. It was my chance to let them experience my new world. It also made me realize, yet again, how lucky I am to be able to live here.
Sometimes their expectation of the food they ordered was completely different than what turned up on their plates. My dad ordered a “Wurst-salad”, I’m not sure what he was expecting but what he got he likened to a bologna salad.
When in Italy once my mom was feeling adventurous and ordered “tomatoes and mozzarella” from the menu for dinner. She was expecting something along the lines of baked tomatoes covered with melted mozzarella. She envisioned it possibly with some other vegetables and a sauce, after all, it was dinner. What she got was cold, sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella cheese, with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Good, but not at all what she expected.
It can go the other way around, too. Once we went to what looked like an ordinary restaurant on the lake of Murten and were expecting a good dinner but were served an exquisite (and huge) meal.
As far as language goes, just coming over for 4 weeks isn’t really enough time to learn much of anything. All our friends and Ben’s family speak English so communication was not a problem. In spite of that, they were emerged in Swiss German. They tried as best they could to say things like ‘hello’ or ‘thank you very much’. My dad was especially resourceful and was able to remember ‘thank you very much’ (merci viumaus) by thinking ‘Marcie field mouse’.
He liked saying ‘farmer’s bread’ in Swiss (Burebrot). Once he went to the bakery all by himself and came home with a ‘Burebrot’! I like to think that he pronounced it correctly, but it was probably a combination of saying and pointing. Hey, whatever works. One evening we went to the marionette-theater in Berne and saw Mozart’s Magic Flute. My parents neither knew the story-line of the opera nor understood the language but still enjoyed it to the fullest because they made up a story as it went along.
One of the things that really made my parents stop and look was the age of the buildings in Europe. When we went to Florence and stayed in a hotel that was build around 1636 which was fantastic for them. It was a beautiful hotel with huge rooms complete with stucco ceilings and frescos. Dad said that he almost couldn’t sleep at all that night, just knowing he was in such an old building. There is no comparison in America; go out west and see a historic building from 1910. The declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
Being placed in history can be an overwhelming feeling that I know well. I lived in Berne for many years and the city dates from way back. I’ve been inside two completely different apartments in the old town of Berne. One was large, renovated and beautiful and I thought that would be cool to live there. Our friends said it had belonged to a patrician family; “people of better birth” and more money. The other apartment I saw wasn’t renovated and was small, narrow and dark. Absolutely nothing like what I thought would be nice to live in.
Often, just walking into Berne I let my mind wander and wonder what it was like ‘back then’. People living in the old houses, probably the majority living in the small, dark, narrow apartments. The inhabitants doing their wash in the 15th century fountains. It does joggle your mind a bit.