Tourist in Switzerland This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I am a citizen of Switzerland. The beautiful memories of my childhood are Swiss. For nine years of my life, I lived in a fairy tale. I was outside every day stealing raspberries, gathering insects and playing games with my friends. We didn’t have school Wednesday afternoons and went home for lunch daily. I would walk the same steep path four times a day, memorizing details on the way.

After a rain storm the road would have a distinct smell and the snails, with shells the size of a plum, would take the opportunity to travel, leaving sticky trails. Sometimes, the farmer would walk cows down the street to the fields next to my house. I remember watching their parade, with bells announcing their arrival.

I was happiest at night; nighttime was stunning. From my bunk bed I would look down the mountainside at the illuminated cities around Lake Geneva, and my gaze would flow across the lake to the French mountain facing me. I would fall asleep imagining who lit each light, all the individual bulbs that together took my breath away.

I remember fighting that could not be kept secret, the divorce, and my mother’s decision to move to her hometown in New York. I remember telling Pierrine and Priscilla, Louis and Julia, Alex and my beloved Kevin, that I was leaving.

I knew I was moving, but did not know what awaited me. Though I had been to New York for vacation several times, I couldn’t imagine leaving Switzerland. I recall my mother packing for me. I barely brought anything. The day after my ninth birthday, we drove to the airport, and I said farewell to each telephone post and each building, each landmark and each view, getting dizzy with sadness. I remember that my dad was wearing sunglasses in the airport so we wouldn’t see him cry, but how could I not notice the tears crashing down from under the frames? Will I ever forget the hug he gave me, the sobs of failure, the kiss of guilt? How did I ever manage to say good-bye?

When the opportunity to return to Switzerland arose years later, I was beside myself with excitement. I was going home! But, when I finally arrived, I was shocked at my disappointment. Nothing felt the way it had before. My anticipation led to the disillusionment of the utopia I had created.

My memory of Switzerland was childish; everything I had loved growing up had less value. How could I expect to see out of the same eyes that I had years before? I had been assimilated into American culture, I had grown up. The country I identified as home didn’t recognize me. Everything seemed so small. My friends had grown and time had erased me from their memories. I had abandoned the land that raised me, moved too far away. With only a memory of my past to guide me, I had no idea how to act as a teenager in my hometown. Without my consent, I became a tourist in Switzerland.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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