Extended Family and Friends
What makes Switzerland so special? Besides the scenery, the cows, cheese, chocolate, watches and banks, Switzerland is special for the same reason ANYplace is special to me: the people! We have made many friends during these twenty-one years of traveling there every other year. Each time we go, we have the opportunity to make new friends! What a blessing it is to enjoy the country as family members … rather than simply being tourists!
Our daughter, DeAna, her husband, Andre’, and our three grandsons are the nucleus of our family there, but the relationship didn’t start with them. It began with Andre’s first cousin, Christian Zufferey, who was our AFS exchange student in 1981-82 in central California. AFS has a symbol… a heart-shaped world globe. It’s motto has something to do with changing the shape of our world, one person at a time. That’s what student exchange programs are all about. I am so glad that we were inspired to bring foreign students into our home when our kids were high-school aged. What a difference it has made in our family!
Andre’ wasn’t the first one who got the ball rolling, however. My mom’s oldest sister, Evelyn, married a Swiss way back in the early 1930s. It was Uncle Hans who caused us to want to invite a Swiss kid to come and live with us. Even though Christian was not the German-Swiss yodler that I anticipated, he captured our hearts and gave us an appreciation of the French-Swiss culture that has lasted a life-time.
After his return to Sierre, we were invited to go there and spend a Christmas with his family. As an impressionable, romantic high school freshman, DeAna fell in love with their suave and humorous first cousin, Andre’. At the same time, we fell in love with Christian’s sister, Sylviane (Syli), and invited her to live with us in California for a year when she finished school. After DeAna graduated from high school, she lived for a year with the Zufferey family. Not surprising, the romance between her and Andre’ picked up where it left off. At the year’s end, Andre’ Solioz returned to California with DeDe. The rest is history. What a fairytale!
Now, when we visit the Solioz family, of course we spend time also with the Zuffereys. Christian’s mom (Marcelle) and Andre’s mother (Denise) are sisters. Denise and her husband, Marin, are wonderful friends who always welcome us to their home when we visit. Marin is suffering this year with emphezyma, so we had to limit our talking time with him. How I wish we could speak French to communicate more easily with him! I imagine that working to understand Bob’s pantomiming is exhausting.
Marcelle’s husband, Antoine, died tragically of a blood clot that traveled to his heart several years ago. Marcelle is a gracious hostess – and we always enjoy seeing her in her lovely home.
Christian has three children (aged 18 to 22) and Sylviane has five children ranging in age from 15 to 23. We were able to spend a Friday afternoon with Syli in her apartment in Sion and a weekend with Christian in the chalet in Arnouvaz that has been in his partner’s family for three generations. It was built by Celia’s grandfather and great-uncle in 1892.
ZuZu and Celia’s chalet above Crans-Montana, Valais in Arnouvaz
The extended family also includes several cousins. One very special one is Chantal Fornier who lived with us as a recent high school graduate in the early 1990s. She was such a blessing in our lives at that time because she has the gift of love and compassion for the elderly. I am eternally grateful to her. My dad was not well at that time, and she was so very kind to him. And she is grateful to us – because through that experience, she found her calling. Chantal works in the Nursing Home in Sierre and continues to spread her gentle kindness to the elderly.
Our circle of Swiss friends spread to include a couple of De’s girlfriends this year. Perky and fit, a soul-sister for sure, Kad Giromini invited us to her home for dinner one night.
Another Chantal (a new friend of De’s) and her husband, Pierre-Andre’, invited us to their home when we returned from a week-long trip to Spain. We had a delicious barbecue in their backyard with this phenomenal view:
Our two oldest grandsons, Mike and Nick, made it possible to add their girlfriends to the circle of our new Swiss friends. They treated us to lunch in Sierre on our second day there. I posted their photos on Parts One and Two of these blog stories. After lunch, Nick walked through the fountains in the street display. He is such a character! Yes, it is the people of Switzerland that make it so special…
Stay tuned for Part Four, “A Time to Celebrate” and Part Five – “A Week in Spain”