Last week, I went on a 5-hour hike with a good friend of mine. Switzerland sure has beautiful corners everywhere. We walked from Schoenenberg to Sihlbrugg, along this incredibly tranquil trail. For the longest time, it felt as if we were somewhere far away in the wilderness. We barely met anyone else. Plus, following the water is one of my favorite pastimes anyways.
It felt good to be away from my laptop for a little bit. I’ve been incredibly busy these past few weeks, studying French, studying Psychology, and writing dozens of applications. I want to stay. I want to be able to fully arrive, let out a deep breath, and settle into a comfortable routine. Things have shifted massively for me. Sometimes trauma is a good thing. It has shown me more than ever before how important it is for me to belong somewhere, to have a home base. Many of my closest friends are here in Zurich. Some of us go back decades. We know practically everything about each other and no matter how long I’ve been gone in between, we always pick up right where we left off. It’s family in the truest sense of the word. It’s my happy place. My comfort zone.
Zurich is also my true birth place. It was here all the puzzle pieces fell into place thirty years ago. It was here I found myself. I guess that’s why I have returned time and time again over the years and why I have spent the majority of my time here. Seventeen years so far. No matter how much I searched for home elsewhere, life kept returning me here. It’s time to stop running and relax into this simple and quite beautiful truth: Zurich is home. In some ways, it took all the often extreme and painful life experiences of the last years for me to finally fully see and understand this.
In the end, my big hike last summer, my five months in Montpellier, and now the last three months here in Zurich have been about sorting through things, about decluttering, about spring cleaning my life, about slowing down, and about re-discovering and focusing on what is truly important.
As we are nearing the end of this year, I’d like to say thank you to all of my friends near and far, old and new, for their support. Thank you for believing in me. There were so many acts of kindness… ranging from that little “like” of support for one of my posts, to sending notes and messages enquiring how I am, to chatting and trusting each other with our latest news and developments, to actively lending assistance. Thank you for caring and being there.
Special thanks go to all those of you who went out of your way to help me survive and find a fresh start this year. To protect people’s privacy, I won’t name anyone, but you know who you are.
Thank you for the many messages I received with links to job offers across the globe. I applied to all of them. No luck yet, but I so appreciate all your efforts and pointers.
Thank you to all those who gave me shelter for hours, days, or even weeks and who invited me to the odd free meal. It meant a lot and I just hope one day I will be in a position again to pay it forward and be able to do the same for someone in need.
Thank you to my parents for helping me on their already tight budget with the costs of studying and staying in Montpellier.
Thank you to the wonderful team at Alliance Francaise Montpellier, who were rather friends than teachers. They chauffeured me around to buy cat provisions, kept their eyes open for job and apartment opportunities, and never gave up on me no matter how slowly my French progressed.
Thank you to my good friend and almost-room mate for being there and also for spoiling JoJo et moi with the coolest impromptu Christmas buffet ever.
Thank you to old and new friends alike for offering to help me survive financially. To that regard, I want to thank two people especially. One is one of my best and oldest friends who is struggling herself this year but still lent me part of her savings. The other is a new friend who has never even had a real face-to-face conversation with me but still entrusted me with some of her hard-earned money. I am in awe and forever grateful to you both. Thank you for your trust. And thank you for being patient with my clumsiness. I am not used to need to ask for so much help.
Thank you to so many of you around the world who contacted me and offered me shelter whenever things got a bit hairy this year. Were it not for Covid travel restrictions and now being responsible for an elderly street cat, I might haven taken some of you up on your offer.
As it so happens, I did take one of you up on your offer and want to thank you so much for your help with little old JoJo as well as for letting us come stay with you soon. As for plan B, thank you to yet another dear friend who might have a whole house for us to take shelter in, should JoJo and I not be able to cross the border from France to Switzerland in January.
Thank you in general to the surprisingly overwhelming amount of people who were true to their word in every regard.
I apologize if I have not mentioned everyone and everything. The list of incredible kindnesses this year is a long one and will most likely fill an entire book. I will always remember.
Even the kindnesses of strangers were enchanting on a daily basis.
One memorable encounter was a cashier at the Carrefour supermarket around the corner who sent me twice to get a new box of mandarins. The second box still met her disapproval. When I looked at her, my eyes above the face mask big orbs of confusion, she opened both packages, and fished out the moldy mandarins I hadn’t seen hidden at the bottom. Then she began rearranging both boxes (with a long line of patient customers waiting behind me). I ended up with one box overflowing with Vitamin C goodness, while she kept the almost empty second box with the moldy remains. “Au revoir et bonne soirée” she said, eyes above her face mask twinkling, and sent me on my way.
One very special thank you goes to the little street cat who has chosen me as his new family. Your gentle purring at night soothed my nightmares which before you arrived disturbed my sleep so profoundly. Now, it is you disturbing my sleep, which I greatly prefer. Also, your paws trampling all over my face in the morning put a smile on my face and into my heart. You are a bit rough around the edges but you help me appreciate the things that ARE instead of mourning and feeling the loss of things that were. Thank you my little lion.
Et voilà, many hugs around the world from JoJo et moi!
And… lockdown continues… Yesterday’s election results in the US were an unexpected boost. I was so happy to see democracy in action. People voting and making their voices and needs heard. So now, hopefully, finally, one of the largest countries on Earth won’t be governed by a raving narcissist anymore. I am usually not voicing my opinions on politics much. And, honestly, I don’t want to give a monster like Trump any space in my head… because we created him. We gave him way too much space in our collective heads as well as in all the media, even though he doesn’t deserve a second of our attention.
On a personal level, lockdown is proving hard for me yet again. I have too much time on my own again. I am alone with too much pain again. And, as I try to process an accumulation of trauma, I need to stay alert so as not to be consumed by it. As I work through it all, I realize I have spent way too much time throughout my life smiling, taking care of others, being the strong one, and being ok, whilst inside of me turmoil was raging. In order to overcome, I need to have the courage to be vulnerable. I need to allow myself to have needs, too. And there has to be the honest admission: Yes, I can function. Yes, I am strong enough to weather through it all. But, no, I’m not ok. I will be some day. But, right at this moment, I’m not ok.
However, I am also lucky and so thankful for all the kindnesses I’m experiencing. Like my dad, who always has my back. Like my therapist, who knows I currently have no money and who has offered to do weekly sessions with me for free. “You need this right now. I’m worried about you. And I trust you. You can pay me when you’re back on your feet again. And I know you will be soon.” Her faith in me as well as coming to my aid means more than I will ever be able to express in words. Then there are my friends who embrace me as I am, and let me know they’re happy to have me in their lives. There is my current employer and friend who trusts me and always lets me know she values my input. There is my teacher at Alliance Francaise who writes me a worried message to see how I’m doing when I don’t show up for Zoom class. There is the entire team at Alliance Francaise, who are so helpful and human. They do and care far more for their students than their job description requires. And then there are my “neighbors”, the pigeon couple. They fly back into a little alcove across from my balcony every evening to cuddle with each other and spend the night together. The sight of them loving each other so deeply and authentically always warms my heart.
In the meantime, I’m not idle either and try as best as possible to give myself a kick in the butt every day. I don’t always succeed. But mostly I do. I aim to give myself a healthy structure. Every day, I go out for that one hour we’re allowed to, and walk. I write articles for TheatreArtLife. I photograph. And I try to pamper myself a bit whenever I have the chance. When I just need to collapse on the bed and do nothing at all, I let myself do that, too. I study French intensively. Zoom lessons, mountains of homework, plus additional grammar books, Duolingo, novels, and graphic novels. Thankfully, I stocked up on books just before lockdown. I miss the weekly book flea market underneath the sycamore trees, in the Esplanade Charles de Gaulles in Montpellier. And can’t wait for it to reopen. There is something magical in the way the light reflects off the sycamore leaves onto the literature beneath. There is a reflective calm as well, as people browse through the knowledge of the ages, as they enjoy the cover designs and imagine the worlds waiting behind those covers.
One such world I brought with me into lockdown: “Le Petit Prince.” I’m enjoying it all over again in French, the third language I’m reading it in. “C’est une folie de haïr toutes les roses parce que une épine vous a piqué, d’abandonner tous les rêves parce que l’un d’entre eux ne s’est pas réalisé, de renoncer à toutes les tentatives parce qu’on a échoué… C‘est une folie de condamner toutes les amitiés parce qu’une d’elles vous a trahi, de ne croire plus en l’amour juste parce qu’un d’entre eux a été infidèle, de jeter toutes les chances d’être heureux juste parce que quelque chose n’est pas allé dans la bonne direction. Il y aura toujours une autre occasion, un autre ami, un autre amour, une force nouvelle. Pour chaque fin il y a toujours un nouveau départ.” So very true.
Here a little map again to show the leg of my journey from Geneva to Grenoble. It took almost 2 weeks. Approx. 150 km. 370 km altogether since I started in Brugg 6 weeks ago. First the Swiss Jura Crest Trail, then the French Jura mountains, on to the Rhone River valley, then through the Massif de la Chartreuse.
Now in Grenoble, with (as always) rebelling feet, sore muscles, and a head full of thoughts. I’ll explain more in my next post.
It’s been super lonely this last week in the mountains. On the one hand, I really enjoyed having the forests all to myself. On the other hand, I missed having some company. Missed having people around me, hearing laughter, and conversations. And I missed hugs. Actually, ever since we got into this whole Covid19 crisis, I’ve missed hugs. I am a teddy bear and I am definitely suffering from hug withdrawal. Tried to hug a few trees along the way. But, it’s just not the same. Just saying. Hope you are all well my dear friends around the world. I am thinking of you and I miss you x
Yayyyy, my toe is finally getting better! It went on for weeks, and turned out to be an ingrown toe nail which got more and more infected and hurt like hell. I tried every ointment known to man. Nothing worked. It just kept feeling like someone stuck a knife in my toe. I got seriously worried that maybe I might have to stop hiking. But, since yesterday, I am trying yet another cream. This time an antibiotics cream and, now, the pain is already gone and the toe doesn’t look like a cherry anymore!
I am so happy and relieved. A few more days to let it heal just a bit more, then I will finally be back on the trail again.
In the meantime it’s wonderful to spend time with my friends here in Geneva. I’ll always remember the relaxed, fun, and uncomplicated time we had together. Thank you for sharing your home with me!
Time flies. It’s my 5th day in Geneva already. The idea was to only stay for two days and continue on, but it’s all about the journey and the moment, isn’t it? To appreciate it, and enjoy it…
I feel so comfortable here with my friend Jonathan. Geneva seen through his eyes is surprising me in many ways. And the little toe on my right foot is still infected. So, I have extended my stay a bit more every day…
Yup, that damn toe is still acting up. It’s been two weeks now and I’m frankly a bit worried. I have tried a lot, and put so many creams and ointments on it… Currently, I am trying a new tip I just received yesterday: bathing the toe in camomile tea and then putting Betadine on it afterwards. If this won’t help either, I’ll go and see a doctor on Monday to get some antibiotics.
At least those toes are now getting a lot of freedom and sunshine in Geneva, as I am slowly walking through town in my flip flops.
It’s wonderful to see Jonathan again. We met while we worked for a circus show in Macau ten years ago. Even back then, his boundless positive energy blew me away. And his easy, relaxed smile often made my day. Especially, since we went through often hard times back then. He left after a year, I stayed a few years longer, and since then we’ve always tried to get together for a beer in Geneva, but it took me a whole decade to finally make it there ☀️.
He lives right next to CERN and it is ominous as well as exciting to think that the large Hadron Collider is operating underneath us as we sit on the couch watching Netflix. Who knows, one evening we just might end up in another dimension…
Yesterday, I had a chance to go sailing for the first time in my life. Like all good things, it was over way too quickly. But, ahhh, what a moment!!!
Other than that, I have spent a lot of time in the Bains des Paquis, Geneva’s favorite outdoor bath at the lake. I have watched Mont Blanc turn a soft pink at sunset whilst sitting at the pier and have enjoyed the uncomplicated international atmosphere of this special place.
I have picnicked on the banks of the river Arve. In the middle of the city. And it felt as if I was far away from any metropolis. In general, I keep getting surprised by just how much nature there is in Geneva. So much water. And so much green.
At the end of the day though, it’s never really the place, isn’t it? It’s all about the people you meet. And, so far, I’ve met wonderful people here in Geneva.
Oh, and I am shoe hunting… again. It turns out regular hiking boots, no matter how good, just don’t work for my feet on a long distance hike. They are too heavy and rigid. I will aim to find some comfortable trekking shoes before I continue on the trail beginning of next week.
For now, happy weekend to you all! Seize the day ☀️⛰🇨🇭
Yesterday evening the sky turned into this, my weather app giving us severe rain storm and lightning warnings. So we legged it to Balsthal in Canton Solothurn where we took shelter in a cozy old hotel. We are staying here today. The sky still looks pretty much the same with occassional showers. Good chance to rest our legs, treat our blisters, and I bought new boots (but that’s a story for another day)
Yesterday, we came through beautiful landscapes. However, we gave it a rest after half a day to sort through our baggage to see if we can leave a bit more behind. When that was done we went to a pharmacy and bought some more Compeeds. Good to make use of civilization while we’re still so close to it. Today we’re heading out on the trail again. Seems it’ll be the last sunny day before rain will hit this region…
Dreaming of my days traveling and exploring the oceans. Like here in Palau, getting ready to submerge for a night dive with one of my best friends. Underwater, you are profoundly yourself. You rely on your skills, on the integrity of your mind. There are no doubts. There is only peace and focus. Your buddy and you are side by side, enveloped by the sea. Trusting each other. Living intensely in the moment. Together.