Way back in February, Josh and I sat down for the first time to actually start making concrete plans for this trip. We went online, bought tickets to see Jack Johnson in Paris, and considered our trip planning done! In my excitement, I did what I so rarely do and updated my status on Facebook. The next day, there was something even more engaging than the morale-boosting “likes” from all my friends: a comment posted by Andréanne, my exchange partner from a 2004 Québec trip. Although Andréanne and I had connected incredibly well during the exchange and became fast friends, we had lost touch upon returning home and had not spoken to each other in 10 years. And yet here was her comment: “Just so you know, I’m living in Switzerland ;)”
To backpackers, Switzerland is like the steak section in a restaurant menu. It’s smack in the middle of all the other options, tempting you with its decadence, but you force your eyes to roam around it because it’s so prohibitively expensive. However, as stated so many times before, our whole goal for this trip was to pursue any connections we had across this continent. So, one sunny afternoon in July, Josh and I hopped off the Lausanne metro at the hospital where Andréanne was working as a nurse. Leaving Josh in the waiting room, I nervously rode the elevator up to the Urology department (this was thankfully a travel experience new to me), found the nurses’ desk… And there was Andréanne jumping up to meet me, looking so familiar I refused to believe it had been 10 years since I had hugged her goodbye at the airport!
We had a wonderful few days reconnecting and wandering over beautiful Lausanne, making ourselves “comme chez nous!” as Andréanne insisted.
Our lovely tour guide
From Lausanne, we caught a train to Bern, where my uncle’s sister Irene and her husband Martin had offered to host us for the weekend.
The next day, Irene & Martin took us hiking up to Mürren, a village nestled at the feet of the Schilthorn Mountain. We spent a wonderful day admiring the Alpine wildflowers, wildlife and, of course, the majestic Alps themselves.
Our evenings were spent not only devouring raclette, but also learning more about Irene’s work in raising awareness and fighting against human trafficking. Compounded with what we had learned about human trafficking in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, it was both empowering and humbling to hear Irene’s stories of horror and courage, and then to have her ask us (and expect an answer), “And what are you planning to do about it?”
There is so much injustice, exploitation, and tragedy in the world that there is a lot to talk about. But I know I can get carried away with rhetoric and forget that merely talking about injustice takes time away from actually working to alleviate it.
Hold me accountable to this! In spring, I started volunteering with the WISH (Winnipeg Interprofessional Student-Run Health) Clinic. WISH acknowledges that health is affected by social as well as physical determinants, and thus works to provide “non-judgmental, socially responsible, holistic health care to a population that struggles with poorer health than the rest of the city.” WISH is an incredible community of students, healthcare professionals, and the Point Douglas residents who together want to learn to care for each other better. I can think of no better place to lay aside my rhetoric, so feel free to hold me accountable to continuing to volunteer with these guys this fall.
A huge thank you to Andréanne, Martin & Irene for opening up their homes to us and giving us so much to think about. However, our time in Switzerland was not over yet…