My First Times Summer

It is not what you are thinking. What causes Herr and Frau Swiss to demand change? It's not politics.

It was a first’s summer. It was my first in Switzerland, my first picnic with my new extended Swiss family and my first visit to a mountain lake. I wanted to make an impression – preferably good.

The drive up the one lane mountain road wasn’t so bad after I  sat on the passenger floorboard.  Our  Opel was too old to have an air conditioner, so I experienced another first – rolling down the car windows is verboten - “es zucht.”  The Vicki translation of draft is an opening allowing air to circulate in a space so one might breathe and not suffocate. How do the Swiss define draft? A draft is any movement of air. This plague causes stiff necks, colds, flu and every ailment known to humanity.  Forget politics; a draft is what causes the meekest Swiss natives to revolt and demand change.

So let me summarize: I was sick because we were circling the mountain; scared because I could see the 1000 meter drop-off since there were no guard rails; terrified that a car would come towards us and we would have to back up, and I could not breathe.

We parked, and I could already see the lake. My sister-in-law and I had the same thoughts. The car had barely stopped before she escaped into a running strip-tease down to her bathing suit and crashed into the water.  I was not going to be outdone; after all, I was from Miami. I would impress my Swiss relatives with my aquatic skills. I dove headfirst into the crystal clear Klöntalersee.  My head broke the surface, and I thought it would implode. It is a good thing my favorite color is blue. My lips, fingers, and toes looked as though they were dipped in blue Easter egg color.

“Are you crazy, that water’s freezing?” said my husband. My in-laws were less than impressed. I didn’t understand much German, but I believe they said, “Wie blöd”.  "How stupid" is a question that has been my companion throughout my integration journey.

I learned my lesson. I developed the “zeechala” technique: dip your toes into the water, when they stop throbbing, move upward to your ankles and stop. If you are brave - wade. Never dive in head first unless you want to clear your head for good. Sometimes just taking off my shoes, sitting next to the water and enjoying the scenery is refreshing enough to keep me content and a lot warmer.  Try it sometime. 

Dip your feet into one of my ten favorite lakes in East Switzerland and enjoy the last days of summer.
© Copyright Vicki Gabathuler 2017


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