Monday, February 04, 2008

Switzerland checks in

Crest of the City of Rüschlikon, Switzerland
[Source: Wikipedia]


This evening I note that we have had a visitor from Switzerland. Way cool. Welcome, friend.

I chose a photo of Zürich in the winter for the graphic this time around, though I was in Zürich in the summer of 1969. A group of freshly graduated American Baptist high school students had a grand adventure: three weeks in Europe. I went along as the translator and junior chaperone along with some grown-ups.

We spent a week in Roubaix (northern French city near Lille) helping to build a Baptist church. There were Brits and Germans joining in the project as well and the mason who was helping out, Giovanni, was Italian. It was a polyglot romp with me switching back and forth between French and English, my very rudimentary German (one year of it in college) and Italian (only phrases I had picked up aided by my knowledge of Spanish, Latin, and French).

Next we headed to the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, overlooking the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich). The IBM Zurich Research Laboratory is also located there though I have no memory of it. The seminary, founded in Switzerland in 1949, moved to Prague following the collapse of Communism. The Rüschlikon facilities are now inhabited and used by the International Baptist Church of Zürich. The seminary, back in 1969, occupied a nice little estate (lovely humble chateau architecture) and made me think how very homely was the campus I had gone to in the States.

We attended a conference on music and worship that was being held at the seminary. The conference was held in English but I still was pressed to serve as a translator--in the most challenging manner. We had two sisters from Paris and three young men from Barcelona who did not speak English. The Catalonians spoke French. I found myself recruited to sit in the interpreting booth, listening with headphones to the speakers and doing "simultaneous translation" into French in the microphone so the francophones could follow what was being said. I was terrified. To my great surprise, I somewhat got the hang of it. One must fully engage some parts of the brain and simply shut others down (especially the Judge that says you simply cannot do this). Because one speaks at about a one-sentence time lag, it is true multi-tasking: listening in English and speaking with a time lapse in French. My awe of UN interpreters, which was already considerable, leaped off the charts after this. In this process I think I was only catching 90% of what was said and transmitting a slightly condensed 60% of what was said, but even so I was as proud as I was surprised at the whole process.

The group on this adventure, all teen leaders in their own churches, also formed a choir. We learned several numbers and sang them (yes, in costume). White slacks and shirt and blue blazers for the guys, white above-the-knee dresses with red scarves for the gals. (Can you imagine 18-year-old males trying to keep white slacks clean? Or, in my case, a 23-y.o. male whose life was mostly spend in blue jeans.) How many of you remember "Pass it on" (It only takes a spark to get a fire going....)?

The rest of the trip was of the "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium" sort; a different city almost every day. At the beginning were a couple of days in Paris (and I could be a guide there, having lived in Paris the whole month of December 1967). While in Roubaix we had one day trip to the beach in De Panne ("the green seaside of the Belgian coast"). There was also a one-day bus ride around Switzerland, including Lüzern/Lucerne, the William Tell monument in Altdorf, and the Rhone Glacier (source of the Rhône River--and all those lovely wines I love). At the end of out time we journeyed down the Rhine, then went from Köln to Amsterdam to London and home.

So, once again, a kind visit from someone leads to endless reminiscence. Thanks for your gracious indulgence, everyone. (Fran and I must be related somehow.)

In sum, the time in Switzerland was one surrounded by incredible beauty. I very much want to see it again.

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

I just had a Switzerland too!