Landschlacht, Switzerland: 23 March 2016
It has been a time that has tested me both personally and professionally.
It has been a time that has discouraged me, that has made me withdraw silently into myself.
I have written little for over a month.
I have wanted to write, not to say something, but because I had something to say.
But what can I say when so much is so uncertain, so much is felt so deeply, that expression of it feels so revealing, as if writing would open a window to the soul?
As those who know me well, there are times that I find myself fighting periods of depression and, of course, recent events – some personal, some public – have not helped.
Skies seem overcast too often lately.
The newspapers are filled with stories of carnage and suffering.
Site of Ankara bombing, 13 March 2016
Site of Istanbul bombing, 19 March 2016
People gathering, chalk drawings and flowers for the victims of the Brussels bombings of 21 March 2016.
The largest message says “Brussels is beautiful”, with further inscriptions of “Stop violence”, “Stop war”, “Unity” and “Humanity”.
Of my work life, Starbucks will soon close while the SBB remodels the train station.
After all, taxpayers´ money must be used or next year the same amounts won´t be allocated.
So, to hell with those who might be inconvenienced by it all.
At the end of April, one of my schools closes as the owner has decided to focus on her family´s needs.
At the end of June, another might be closed as the owner died and whose funeral I attended this Monday.
A third and fourth school promise work that never seems to materialise.
Despite being one of the world´s wealthiest countries Switzerland seems to be a difficult place to survive and thrive in unless you came into the country with money or are one of the fortunate few to have landed a job that pays exceedingly well.
It helps if you are Swiss.
Since I moved here in 2010, I have seen three schools fade out of existence.
The local corner grocery in Landschlacht has changed hands three times to finally close its doors forever.
And politically the country remains in the hands of the SVP (Swiss People´s Party) whose sole method of garnering votes is to encourage Swiss nationalism by focusing on those pesky Ausländers who are by their very natures criminal and a threat to the Swiss way of life.
I find myself intrigued by the thought of escape to another land, another life.
I thought of Turkey, the most accessible Asian country to Switzerland, with similar teaching arrangements as I had enjoyed in South Korea: accommodation, visas, taxes, insurance, flights to and fro, all paid for the school by whom one is employed.
Then bombings in Ankara and Istanbul bring pause…
As for home life, the wife works too much and is stressed out.
We live apart most of the week while she strives for qualifications that only Switzerland recognizes.
Regardless of the threat to marital harmony or the blow to the pocketbook, we follow the scent of security in a land where qualifications mean more than character or experience.
And all is money, money, money.
We must be austere with our money.
And, of course, she is right.
Possessions possess the possessor.
I wonder: what is the going price for one´s soul?
Outside in the world, people have died in attacks in Ankara, Istanbul and Brussels.
Brussels gets the headlines as white Christians are more newsworthy than Turkish Muslims.
And the truth is the first victim.
The mainstream media tells us nothing of what would make young men commit acts of suicidal carnage.
Could it be the bombing of their villages?
Could it be mass starvation and disease caused by sanctions that won´t allow even the most basic of necessities to reach dying families?
Could it be persecution by militia forces, government sponsored and funded, against civilian populations?
It is simpler to label them as criminals, madmen, fanatics.
Meanwhile wars continue in faraway places and remain ignored by the mainstream media.
Folks die in streets and fields faraway.
Without media attention, they go unmourned and forgotten – unpersons.
Children die in faraway places lacking food, clean water, medicine, yet little is reported and nothing is done to assist them.
Infant mortality (under 1 year) rates, 2013
They too are unpersons of little consequence, because they are not in our neighbourhood.
The voices of hate and division seem louder these days and everyone is encouraged to live in a climate of fear and distrust.
But, don´t worry, violence will respond to violence and everyone will be safe and secure.
At least until the next attack…
Donald Trump is only one of many political leaders in the world who use fear and flags to manipulate people.
Yet I presevere.
Yet we must presevere.
In a little village, a stone´s throw away from Heiden, is a 4-year-old boy named Alex who loves his teacher.
In a school devoted to teaching German, I teach an actor how to speak English to qualify as a flight attendant and whose company is more entertaining than an episode of Friends.
In a café where clients are ever impatient and problematic I work with a fine crew of individuals from various ends of the Earth and local yokels who work their hearts out to do the best possible job they can even if it is done in the shadows of obscurity.
They are a damn fine bunch of people.
It is for Alex, it is for the actor, it is for the Starbucks crew, that I find within myself the strength of mind to yet again stumble out my door and face the world.
Yes, the world is not a Utopia.
Yes, it seems that every day the world is becoming more and more of a dystopia.
But it is for them that I presevere.
I live in the moment.
I may distract myself too often electronically, but I always come back to my responsibilities to others and by focusing on them I forget to be depressed.
And this is my message to you who may be reading this:
Focus on others and this love will multiply.
Work on what you can control and leave the rest.
Bad things may happen to good people, but if we stick together we can survive anything.
Refuse to hate those whom you do not understand.
Refuse to live a life in fear of consequence, but simply try to do what´s right.
If anything this past week has taught me is that there are no guarantees in life.
Death can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere.
Poverty or sickness or madness can strike anyone anytime anywhere.
And the bomber will always get through.
We are fools to think that we can truly protect ourselves from the future.
But we have now, this moment.
Love, laugh, celebrate life, help others where and when you can, and speak truth to power when you have the chance, for only our silence gives them power over us.
Otherwise those in the pursuit of power and the greed for gold will make our lives meaningless.
And there is a 4-year-old boy in the tiny hamlet of Zelg who in his innocence shows me that my life does indeed have meaning and purpose.
And there is a woman who has shared my life for 20 years who makes me weak and strong both at the same time.
Every life has meaning.
Our lives touch others.
Make each moment count.