This week I returned from a lovely, 19-day getaway to Virginia and Switzerland. I was able to spend everyday time with beloved friends and family in addition to absorbing how life is lived in these gorgeous locations. It got me to thinking…
Switzerland is a lush country. It truly is the most picturesque place I have ever seen, for it is even more appealing than the well-known postcards and calendars that seek to capture its beauty. The pictures cannot emit the sounds and smells that enhance the panorama of this tiny land. The Swiss people are connected to their land; they gain their strength from its unique geography and heritage of hard work, punctuality, and cleanliness. The production of quality is a timeless value of the Swiss heart. The Swiss strive to be efficient, thorough, and adventurous in all they do.
Yet I was saddened to see even more grafitti than before, splattered across the weathered stone buildings bordering the train tracks. I saw garbage spewed along the sidewalks and streets. Houses were beginning to look neglected, and the people had a wary look in their eye when approached by a stranger. Prices for train tickets and simple items had soared from the last time I visited and I noticed an increase in the number of raucous loiterers on the streets. When I inquired into these changes I was informed that the Swiss government is having difficulty managing the flood of immigrants from the Muslim countries in eastern Europe and Africa. These people come in with an entitlement attitude versus a desire to assimilate to the Swiss culture. They take, use, and discard whatever the Swiss provide for them.
Virginia exuded the aroma of history of the past and in the making. I could nearly smell the yellowed pages of the ancient documents or hear the clink of metal hitting stone as the words of our foundation were chiseled into time. Each day I saw street names that bore testimony to the monumental events that shaped our nation’s character. As I passed under the vibrantly green trees I could almost imagine them having waved their branches at the great people of the past as they rode by on horseback. It caused me to think about myself and the people with whom I was spending time with: adults who worked in the Pentagon or the Secret Service or negotiated multi-million dollar international business deals; children cheering about the end of school and the beginning of hot summer days spent at camp and the pool; parents faithfully providing a secure and loving home for their young ones. These are the people who, along with their peers throughout the States, are making tomorrow’s past.
My island home greeted me with a plumeria-scented breeze and a long walk to the baggage claim. It was a refreshment to be back and able to settle into my apartment and routine. I realized how much I do appreciate a small corner of the world that I can call my own (even if I do have to pay rent for it). My critters took their time investigating my luggage and laying claim to my souvenirs. Bills, housecleaning, and work welcomed me back with open arms. But I really didn’t mind. The time away and my many observations of the lands and people I visited had settled something in my heart, something that helped me to make better sense of myself: I belong.
There and here are apart of me, and who I am. When I came home I realized that I brought Switzerland and America back with me, and when I went abroad the Island came too. Switzerland and the USA are battling many of the same issues: a saturation of immigration; high taxes; crime; broken homes; moral debt; the challenge to keep tradition valuable to the younger generation, as the old pass away. I want to help both countries; I want to do my part in making a difference in both places that I cherish. At first I was torn between the two, thinking I needed to move to one so I could help, causing me to abandon the other. However, that is not true. I am connecting one with the other. There and here are in my heart and I will help both by being myself.