I Told You So!

It has happened exactly as I have feared. My newly reacquired profession as a classroom teacher has absorbed me so completely that very simply there has been no spare time to write about my many interesting experiences. And interesting experiences I certainly had, plenty of them! But now that we have once again crossed the threshold into a new year, there must be somewhere a quick opportunity to take a breath or two, and let you in on what has been happening here in the tidy and highly controlled garden of Switzerland.

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First in the order of all things I have to tell you that this teaching business is very simply a task impossible to do right. You can certainly always do your best at any given time and that might be enough if you’re a person easily satisfied. But if you accept your duty to prepare today’s youth at least somewhat adequately for tomorrow’s world, there’s just no way you can achieve perceivable results within the rigid framework of the classroom! So you’re faced with that eternal and extremely beautiful task of making it possible for the impossible to become possible.

It is a familiar chore and for me it means I’m constantly rolling grave doubts around in my head, feverishly working my imagination through a string of scenarios, depicting possible solutions for the many problems that manifest before my eyes persistently every day anew. The bewildered eyes of sixteen students are staring at me like outstretched arms of drowning souls in the tumultuous sea of modern times, and constantly I find myself having to choose. Which one am I able to help, and which ones must I abandon and let them wither away?

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In many ways it is a situation very similar to sailing the oceans. Just like out there at sea only calm nerves can efficiently hold a course, and I’m learning to explain complicated problems in very simple terms. My students, of course, want to know nothing of change. They have achieved a first level of personal autonomy by fighting their way through the grinding mill of an education system that without much mercy forms its citizens to be obedient and well adapted. Very understandably they are not willing to give the slightest inch of it away. Any intent of turning their heads toward the real problems around them is resisted fiercely with varying degrees of violence. It is a challenging cat and mouse game where only very agile dancing allows for the tiny opening of little windows here and there.

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I’m able to hold on to one important thing, however, and this is something I have learned while building our sailboat Aluna, our floating home, which at this time is taking a good and well-earned break from the ups and downs of the gruesome life on the ocean. In a nutshell it is simply this: Persistence can eat its way through many a sizeable adversary, it is the brain that moves the brawn, the David that fells the Goliath, and it is how what seemed impossible at first, slowly but surely comes into shape, takes its natural course and begins the inevitable transformation towards a healthier future. Only time however will show the fruits of my labor, if there are any at all. We shall have to wait and see, to find out whatever might have been my practical contribution to the shape and form of this new next generation, those very same people that are going to be in charge of calling the shots in our societies once you and I will be old and weary.

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The good side of this extreme situation is of course that this impossible task holds me upright, proudly facing the wind, standing up to the fading times, being active at the frontlines of the present civilized life forms that crawl like cybernetic ants all over the planet Earth. And boy, crawl they do! I am observing my fellow citizens here in Switzerland with intense curiosity. In their slightly stiff twists and turns I manage to see what would have happened to me, had I not left my country thirty years ago. How important it is, I realize amazed, that you take your own life into your own hands at the earliest possible age! Had I not run away the chances of reaching escape velocity would have slowly faded away over the years of dutifully accumulating the needed wealth to secure the painful eons of life as a useless pensioner. Steady droplets of bittersweet comfort would have hollowed the stone of my practical wisdom. I would be a humble little wheel in the mill of globalized commerce and my soul a strangulated bundle of hurt.

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Many stereotypes fall away when you spend some time with the people they try to characterize. Some of them though they stick, like perfectly shaped to represent the species. One of the stereotypes that refuses to loosen its grip on the Swiss and does not even dissolve by closer and more detailed observation, is these mountain folk’s proverbial dedication. Whatever they do, and wherever they are, they do their things with a furious fervor second to none in the world, and their tireless drive for perfection could well be cause for very cautious admiration to the uncritical eye.

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The fact is, of course, I have not spent each and every minute of my life in the classroom during the past couple of months. The ‘Pensum’, the term used here in the Canton of Bern for the amount of time I am obliged to dedicate professionally to the school, is generously ‘locker’, or loose, with some free time available for social activities. I have been fortunate enough to meet with a string of very interesting personalities. Most of them I had retraced from my roots, or at least from where I last remember tearing them out all around me some thirty years ago, during those distant times of upheaval on my early way to adulthood. Some have gotten wind of our return from others or through newspaper articles, some I have run into by chance on a stroll through town, and some I have looked up myself, wanting to check up on them out of my own curiosity. I will try to work on a couple portraits to present them to you over the few months that are left for us here in this country of unbound riches.

The return flight that will bring us back on the adventurous track has been recently changed. You might remember that originally we had planned to be on board a commercial flying machine for the passing into the new year. Now that flight has been postponed and the flight half way across the planet back to our maritime home is set for the second of the merry month of May. We hope that this will give us enough time to clean the barnacles off Aluna’s underbellies and pressure clean the layers of guano from her decks, and then be able to leave the rugged shores of New Zealand just before the onset of the austral winter months with its deteriorating weather. Where to? There is no need to decide that yet. Planning only leads to places we have already seen!

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One Response to “I Told You So!”

  1. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    The good seeds need time to grow… you are doing excellent job with the students and soon we will be with Aluna challenging new adventures. The sea is waiting for us!!!!!

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