Seeking a child free seat ,using nonverbal cues i ask the man reading the paper to remove his bagpack so i can sit down with the dog in a bag,as required by the swiss train service.
The man’e eyes when i look at them are reptilian like ;cold showing no emotion,a closed door.

I look foreward to rebooting the hikes we used to take on a regular basis during the era before the flu,before the dog got tumors and had one removed ,before i began to realize that groups are just too much of a trauma;too much adjusting to a fast pace of walking,too much compromising on whatever the group decides,yes it makes life easier but it also makes life a compromise settling for what others want.An individualist all the way,the dog has another point of view;she seeks a group and a leader.
We get off at the train station and the man with the reptile eyes of grey like the sky today,also gets off. I keep a polite distant. I seek the yellow  signs indicitating a   direction in the various hiking routes with one particular in mind.
The man with the reptile eyes is looking up a destination.I smile at him starting to speak then feel a cold icy wind block my sunny disposition,i walk away following the yellow sign and stop to ask a young  mediterranian(spanish/Turkish/Italian/Albanian/Serbian/Portugese)couple carrying groceries in paper bags the direction of the mountain.
“Straight and to the right at the supermarket”,the woman answers politely and kindly.
I forget,as i tend to do,the directions immediately after having thanked her. Did she say left or right?
Somehow i manage to find the mountain ,we have to cross  over a highway though,a thin elderly woman with a small growling dog  feeding an orange cat tells me how to get there,we start a conversation,the dog is from a shelter ,the same shelter as my dog,the woman updates me on the animal shelter’s owner,she is 90 years old,who knows how long she will still run the shelter.. i was there 11 years ago to adopt my dog who was a puppy then.
We discuss the shelter,then my life in a nutshell,and the woman recalls having to be somewhere as we conclude the times are a changing,i regret not learning more about the woman except that she feeds the orange cat despite the farmer’s insistance it is unnecessary.
The cat’s previous feeder died and since then the woman has taken her place.
I ask why she does not take the cat home but the woman says the cat is used to the farm.
The ginger cat is quite large and looks well fed,in fact it is almost as large as my dog but i just nod my head in agreement that mice are not enough,especially as winter is approaching slowly but surely.

We climb the stone stairs. At a red bench half way to the top i see three figures all holding a blue can of local beer and the female figure is also holding the hand of a young blond toddler.
I exchange words with the woman  starting  with “the dog doesn’t do anything.she likes children.”
The little girl,i discover,is almost two years old.
I sit on the red bench watching the three  beer carrying figures walk down holding on to the hand of the little blond girl in blue jeans.
At one point a tall  man i assume is the father lifts the little girl up and carries her upon his shoulders.I worry he might fall but the three figures make their way towards a hidden horizon.
I open a can of dog food and eat a red apple on the red bench.
A man running down is startled by the dog whom i inform him,does nothing..only barks a warning.
we are left with some light browm dark faced  sheep .
We walk up the mountain,i  face a decision of walking on a road where cars drive or head back.
We head back down the mountain.The sun is out,the rain clouds turn from angry steel grey to fluffy sheep clouds floating in a blue sea of sky.
We make our way down towards the train station and notice a ship sign and follow that with the idea of returning home part way  with a ship .
On the way to the  ship there is a farm,grey cows stand in a crowd following each other towards an enclosure. A farmer waving a stick is directing them like a sad tragic orchestra with a bad end.
I want to take a photo but my phone battery died. I watch the trusting beasts walk inside and immediately think of the holocaust.
Dehumanizing  is the only thought i have.
At the lake i ask a woman when the ship is coming.She says only on sundays as this is now winter schedule.We talk about how lovely the  lake side is .Free of entry price in summer ,she says.
Summer,i think,had so few warm enough for swimming days
August had about ten good days.
A young man attempts swimming as i recall summer.
“it’s warm.17  degrees  celcius”
says the woman.
I cringe. The mediterranian sea was about 28 degrees celcius last time i entered the sea in a hot  July that promised stable temperature not surprising as the European constant change in every season.
A conversation begins with the woman ,a bit older than me and not in a hurry. She offers to show me a path towards a pretty town along the lake ,an hour’s walk,we see a young  blond bride in a  white shoulder less bridal gown posing for photos with a young groom,then we pass an old stone church with another wedding taking place ,also a bride wearing a summer’s white gown with her shoulders exposed. It  must be 18 degrees at the most,i am wearing a sweater and a jacket but the brides don ‘t seem to mind. “this is my third wedding today”i remark as i had witnessed  one on the way to the lake.
The woman says she herself had never been married before but had been  in a long relationship. I don’t pry. I thank the woman for the direction and talk and head towards the pretty town along the lake where i have been before and know what to expect,a quiet cobble stone street leading to the old city and a “starbucks”where i know to expect a place to load my mobile phone and internet connection and a soya based indian tea and no issues with a  dog who tends to bark when strangers approach.but not to bite.
The road is gorgeous. I walk behind two young  thin women speaking a solemn German .I long for yet another exchange of words to share the impressions of the lake at sunset but keep a dignified silence. The women head towards another path.I notice an Asian lady wearing a pink jacket and dark sun glasses. She seems scared of the dog.The dog is always an ice breaker whether to apologize or explain or to socialize and accept a compliment.
I ask the woman what language she speaks.her accent is heavy .she says she is from Japan from a city by the ocean.I forget the name.starts with an “H”
She shares many  more details than my previous conversations with local swiss
She is married  to a German engineer and lives in the city i just walked from .She wanted to live in Switzerland but now wants to maybe live in France. south of France. She misses Japan .The Swiss people are not friendly neither are Austrians or south Germans. I mention a name of a Japanese writer i like whose book i just finished reading. Banana Yoshimoto. The woman laughs.
She has been married for six years .I mention someone i know ,a Japanese lady who lives near me who seems to have a drinking problem. “I drink a lot  too”says the Japanese lady and apologizes but must had back.She bows to me with her head and says her name. Before i manage to say my name too she has vanished and i wonder whether she was real or like those ghost figures in Japanese  No theater i had studied once upon a time.
The sky is pink like the Japanese lady’s jacket.
The lake is pale blue and the mountains are purple.
I walk towards a wooden bridge the Japanese lady recommended.
Walking on the bridge i see seagulls on an island.This is a wildlife sanctuary,the Japanese lady clarified earlier on.
A large yellow moon is climbing up the ink blue sky behind the purple mountains. The  hand full of  people walking take photos with the mobile phone. My phone’s batteries have died since the red bench.
I attempt to remember the screaming ducks ,the white  swan skipping noisily across the lake,the family of swans ,grey brown young swans between two white parents,a  swan’s back side sticking out of the water.
The night falls as we enter the city.
A sign i can barely read proclaims the bridge going back to  3,500 years ago.Renovated.I assume.
The Starbucks are about to close but not before a warm artificial soya based indian chai has been consumed and the dog drinks cool faucette water and eats some dog food.
At the train station i once again seek a place to recharge my mobile phone at a coffee shop exchanging words with “Munni”the name tag says,a smiling young woman from Bangladesh.She is a Buddhist,she says,when i ask for a vegeterian sandwhich ,and so is she but she expresses her opinion that eating meat is alright too and so she must be tolerant since the coffee shop also offers  meat sandwhiches.
“Meditation is the most important “Munni leaves me with wise words.
A quiet Tibetian man ,she points out to me ,sits reading a local Swiss  newspaper with a glass of beer.
Yes,Tibetian eat meat,
no,he has not been to see the Dali Lama speak in Bern.He is now in the big sport stadium,he says recomending a Tibetian center called Rikon.Dogs might be allowed,he thinks.
I sit reading “The New York Times”online,two articles about Donald Trump;one about his past not unlike his disturbing (to most)present,another article speaks of a possible fascist future,comparing  the rise of the Nazis in Germany to the rise of Trump ‘s supporters.I cringe in agreement.
A group of African man  stand in the train station watching people through a window and commenting in gutteral language similar ro Arabic,i assume they are refugees from Somalia or Eritheria. The group stands completely by themselves,it was like being alone but in  multitudes.
As a person who seeks contact with strangers constantly ,as if to erase alienation however impossible,i find it difficult to understand how it is possible to live in an isolated group and yet i find myself rushing past sour faced locals ,maintaining a discreet distance from almost all my swiss neighbors with  exceptions of one married to a Turk,another to an Egyptian who seem nonjudgemental,the rest of the swiss seem like my dog to growl at strangers but unlike my dog seem to never befriend and stop the growling fearful distance.
If truth be told i am afraid of my swiss neighbors,afraid they might call the police if the dog barks or write the landlord if i leave my wash out too long or break a rule.
Not all Swiss are the same but cultural cultivation seems to have taught the Swiss Germans caution when approaching strangers.
The Swiss landscape is almost obscenly gorgeous;mountains,flora ,hiking paths,farm animals grazing peacefully ,streams of water,lakes but the scared to step beyond personal  borders too.
As a daughter of a woman who would start a conversation with every supermarket cashier ,schmusing *  the market place ,i used to find it uncomfortably embarrassing as a young person but as i grow older i find the ability of building bridges of communication with strangers a life saver when you live in a foreign land. Yes,you might lose a few potential conversation partners but think of how many  you might gain!

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About seagullsea

a seagull flying over the great ocean of life observing.
This entry was posted in a stranger in paradise, daily life in the swiss alps, European eyes, hiking hounds, people watching, roaming, social critique, survival, swiss life, understanding ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

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