(This is part one of my European Travel Review Series, “Duriba Encounters: European Gold” based in) Zurich, Switzerland (I don’t know how to put the two little dots above the u via keyboard so just imagine them. Little u smiley is watching you, friend).
We arrived in Europe without a clue of what we were to see. With sweaty palms, a leather carry on wheelie and my journal tucked safely in my purse, I stepped out of the USA for the first time in 7 years. The first thing I noticed about Switzerland was how clean it was. How picturesque, how very DDLJ and how proper it was. Reading signs at the airport was nearly impossible. Although my sister and I were very much so occupied with selfies, my mother with sleeping in public areas, and my Dad with navigating and scolding...we somehow landed across a Swiss man with long, Heath Ledger-ish curls, and a hefty frame. I was sure he could pick me up by the collar and squish me to death if he wanted to.
“English?” My father called out loudly, smiling like a cheery baby and raising his eyebrows. “Do you speak English?”
“Why, yes, sir.” he replied sweetly.
“Do you know where is Terminal 3?”
“I do not. Where do you need to go?”
“We’re looking for the shuttle to our hotel...” my Mother interrupted.
After about ten minutes in conversation with my father on directions, he heavily sighed and glanced at us...two overdressed teenagers, one balding “captain,” and a sleep baby with high heels. Finally, he spoke.
“How many of you are there?”
“Four” we all repled unanimously.
“I can take you.”
With that, we followed him into his 2003 Volvo, occasionally pinching one another’s palms. “What if he’s a serial killer?” my sister leaned in and whispered. My dad turned to give us “the look.” In five minutes or so, we were off. Gibberish played on the radio and he hummed along happily, tapping the steering wheel and smiling out the window.
The first thing I noticed was the smell of his car. It smelt heavily of cigarette smoke and protein bars. I figured it was the norm here and thought better than to pretend to cough the whole ride there. Through what seemed like natural small talk between my Father and him, we quickly learned that he worked to design airplanes, lived in the US for five years, and that his forty year old girlfriend had a baby, whose car seat occasionally banged against the trunk’s glass. He told stories about Switzerland and what was good to see, but five seconds of gazing out the window and snow caps had assured me that I had already found it.
His vehicle smoothly pulled into the hotel driveway, and he was kind enough to open the back door for me. “Thank you so much!” I chirped. I wanted to say more. The statements “YOU'RE THE NICEST GUY IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! LIKE WHY WOULD YOU HELP A BUNCH OF BROWN TOURISTS WHO YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW?” were a part of it. Instead, I watched my father hug him, exchange contacts and salute. I walked to the entry with a puzzled smiled on my face. You do not seek angels, I decided. They come to you in forms of tall, burly guys wearing button ups and shaggy beards.
“Oh, London is a man's town, there's power in the air;And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair;And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome;But when it comes to living there is no place like home.”
There is so much there. Buildings that bend this way and that way, trees that house birds..but in the sky, blue waters, assortments of accents and bazaars, castles, mountains…Europe is truly a beauty, and the time I spent there either crying about my hunger, foot ache, or off on a random curb sketching or writing...I will truly never forget. Although touring five countries in five days is no kid’s play, I have loved and lost moments. Maybe I’ve even loved my lost moments.
Through early mornings and late nights, I have learned that Europe is a medley of overbearing cultures and passions.There, you will find awe-evoking views, mismatched accents with appearances, a boundless amount of cigarette smoke, overpriced fish filets, and a (if I can say) well dressed yet extremely grumpy Duriba passed out on a park bench or train seat sleep-mumbling a punjabi mashup of “Gold Digger.”
Besides the alluring landscapes, architecture, infrastructure, and FANTASTICAL street style… some of the gems I unearthed there were not in macarons or potential profile picture locations. They were in souls: black, brown, white, olive, and caramel bodies with golden souls. Through airports, streets, aircrafts, ladies’ rooms, street benches, to bazaars...I have deemed myself qualified enough to arrive to the following conclusion: there are beautiful souls all over the world.
The following series will exhibit tales of people I have met in six countries and beyond: Switzerland, France, Italy, England, America and Germany throughout my weeklong stays there.
Below is a devised mantra I thought some of you may have needed. Memorize it. Recite it every morning in the mirror, repeat it after your prayers. It is an affirmation for solely you. It is you in characters. It is the truth.
"I am enough! I am full of sparkle and compassion. I genuinely want to make the world a better place. I love hard. I practice kindness. I am curious,stunning and I need no one to validate that. I am not afraid of the truth. I am loyal, adventurous, supportive and surprising. I am a woman. I am enough.
Thinking: What Manish Dayal is doing. Probably not thinking about me. Oh, and BURRITOS. European outfits. If I should get a bob or not. How it would feel to get stuck in a vending machine. What I would do if I was a mosquito. Joining a gym. If I'm going to get into heaven and university.Why I haven't started my summer reading. If I should start a flash mob. Of a plot for my next short. Why Hindu Desi guys seem to be more appealing than Muslim ones. If I should get my nose pierced. What I would do if I was elected into office and how ADORBS my campaign posters would be. Why more male feminists don't exist. If Hilary Clinton ever finished a large pizza by herself.
Enjoying: The view of a forty something lady with lime green specs and a boy cut eating a honey bun and furiously flipping through a packet. I wonder if her name is Rebecca. I bet she drives a GMC. OOOOHH her toe polish is ca-yoote.
Feeling: Like standing on this cafeteria table and belting "Flawless." Like a million bucks. I’m feeling good. I woke up today. Life's good. My back hurts a bit. I’m excited for the future and this new feeling of “rebirth.” Disgusted at the thought of some people’s actions. Kind of hungry. Enthusiastic too. Determined. Bring it on.
Wearing: Black jeans, a black peasant top, and a floral chiffon button up. What I wish I was wearing? Those free shirts you get at medical conventions and a cotton shalwaar.
Needing: A grip on my life. A better SAT score. Anderson Cooper to become straight. A salmon bagel. The tenacity to cut some people off who’ve handed me the scissors far too many times.
Listening: For a sound of silence. A punjabi number and my thoughts. Also, the noisy guy behind me violently chewing a salad.
Making: A blog post! Just kidding. I’m making the most of my time here.
Subdued stairways, Large windows, abnormal snapchats, familiar strangers, anomalous relatives.
These elements have summarized my summer thus far: spending days at school, and nights with my favorite people (in spirit and physical presence). But my days at school aren’t just sitting in a cold classroom next to an Asian chick with a boycut who smells like expired sunscreen while watching my weirdly cute Philosophy professor explain Moral Skepticism and occasionally, take a 3-4 second swig of his coffee (don’t tell me mum). I do a lot a school that doesn’t really involve that much, well, schooling.
I spend a lot of time in front of the vending machines, my eyes bouncing past the perfectly aligned artificially sweetened bars of colorful “chocolate,” then eventually opting for a Fiber One bar. Sometimes I turn around and ask the annoyed people behind me for an opinion if it’s becoming too difficult of a decision. I usually let them go before me, wait until they leave, and get the opposite of their choice.
Every Monday through Thursday, I spend at least two hours in the student life center. Although I have a favorite spot on the table between the three high tables to the far right, sometimes I’ll force myself to sit on another table to be fair to the rest of the tables that didn't get enough Dooby action. Sometimes I think about sitting with random strangers to make new friends, but everyone’s in their own world. Sometimes I secretly hope someone asks to sit next to me. Other times I hope they can’t see me head bobbing to The Glass Animals and devouring a veggie wrap.
There’s actually this other girl I’ve noticed there. She always wears some combination of black, red, and white, and spends much of her time dangling her legs off a neighboring chair, eyes connected to her cell phone. She has really long, black hair and shiny teeth. she reminds me of Minnie Mouse. I wonder if I remind her of anything.
I also people watch. A lot. Whether I’m outside waiting one night or returning a library book, on my way up the stairs, or as I’m seated...I watch people. Some laugh, some avoid eye contact. Some smile back, others pretend they can’t see me. Boys in miniskirts and girls in boy cuts. Some people scream into the phone, others quietly text. Some use ink pens, some pencils, and others neither. We’re all so different.
I make a point to visit the library once a week, and it isn’t because I read much. I just spend a lot of time breakdancing between aisles and hiding from people, rummaging through library titles, running my fingers over unfamiliar words, scanning indexes, editorials...it helps me humble myself. There is so much I don’t know. There is so many more things left in the world for me the experience. There is a world outside of mine.
All throughout campus, there are framed motivational posters with inscriptions that urge people to “try their best!” or “become the best version of ourselves!”. There are also infographics that inform about paramount African Americans and their civil contributions to American society that I actually relish. It’s cool to know things.
Every tile that meets my slipper, every railing that touches my cold palms tells me something. There is magic in every instance of life, every circumstance. There is light in mundane affairs, and love in polite gestures. Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone. Just change your thoughts, and you change the world.