“Living in a chalet in the Alps makes hunkering down liveable”
Great Britain, USA, La Tzoumaz, Switzerland, 20 March – 25 June 2020
I was born on July 5, 1963 and raised in Omaha Nebraska. I attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1981, the summer before beginning my university studies, I was an exchange student in the French speaking part of the Swiss Alps in Sion. I met my husband during that summer. We married in Omaha in March 1986, during my last semester and have always lived in La Tzoumaz, Switzerland, a ski resort in the 4 Valley ski area. I am a dual national, holding both American and Swiss passports. We have 5 children that all live in Switzerland. I first worked for the social services in Valais, creating a mediation center for political asylum seekers, and then became a researcher after obtaining my doctorate in the Social Sciences. I have worked for the Valais hospital as head of research and the University of Applied Sciences in Western Switzerland before teaching in the Medical Anthropology Program at the Department of Cultural and Social Studies at Creighton University as part-time faculty. I also teach at the Valais College of Alternative Medicine, and mediation at the University of Geneva’s Valais Campus. My recent book “Homing In: An Adopted Child’s Story Mandala of Connecting, Reunion, and Belonging” is autoethnographic. Autoethnography and duoethnography are my current research interest.
Here are my websites:
The journal entries recount travels to Great Britain and the USA, as well as homing in to La Tzoumaz, Switzerland.
Image of Savoleyres, at the top of the mountain in the 4 Valley Ski Resort. Photo taken by the author.
First Entry – March 20, 2020
My book, “Homing In: An Adopted Child’s Story Mandala of Connecting Reunion and Belonging”, came out on March 1. To promote my book, I organized several academic conference presentations. The first conference in Canterbury, England corresponded with the beginning of the virus scare. Colleagues from Milano decided not to attend, and an official British government list was sent out to all attendees that had countries whose citizens could not come to Great Britain.
I had just recovered from bacterial pneumonia and had my last day of antibiotics when I took off from Geneva to Gatwick. My doctor had assured me that I was well enough to go and not contagious. The European Society for the Education of Adults had organized its annual ESREA conference that’s theme was about activism and hard times in the context of the Life History and Auto/Biography Network. It seemed that the theme was suddenly activated by the virus, illustrating the importance of activism, and foreshadowing events to come. Activism would soon be influencing our lives as never before. The calm at the Canterbury Cathedral, where Christ Church University organized the conference asking Bishop Rose to speak to us about activism from her perspective, was a powerful holding environment. Bishop Rose is a black Jamaican woman whose previous position was in parliament.
After the conference, I travelled to London on the fast train from Canterbury with Bishop Rose, an unexpected synchronicity which allowed me to crown the event with a feeling of blessedness. Bishop Rose was on her way to a funeral for an elderly friend who had died of pneumonia. However, the government hadn’t yet decided on measures to slow the virus from spreading.
Arriving in London, I met with a friend who has a chalet in La Tzoumaz where I live in the Swiss Alps. We took the Underground to the British Museum where we saw the Egyptian exhibit.
I also attended church services and observed how the catholic priest was putting wafers directly into the mouths of elderly parishioners. In the morning, I got the newspaper with headlines announcing the seriousness of the situation with Boris Johnson’s picture and official positions reported on the front page. The following day I went to Westminster’s Abbey, and the young priest spoke of the Corona Virus and asked us not to shake hands when we said, “Peace be with you.” He also disinfected his hand before breaking the wafers for communion. After the service, I walked around the parks near the parliament building and took pictures of the statues. I especially liked the suffragette statue holding a sign that read “Courage”.
Returning from Gatwick to Switzerland, just as all travel was suspended or slowing down, gave me an increased feeling of carefulness. There were no measures in the airports. But everyone was aware of the rapid spread of the virus. Having read the morning paper in London that announced that the virus had arrived in Great Britain and the government was preparing showed that the gravity of the situation was sinking in. Leaving Switzerland 6 days beforehand, Italy seemed to be the European epicenter. As I returned home, having received the exceptional gift of a small bottle of hand disinfectant from a colleague in France who had been quarantined after his return from Japan, I began to realize that relationships were rapidly changing as well as habits.
I had left Switzerland after already changing my ways. I no longer kissed the cheeks of friends and family three times and didn’t shake hands. Having had pneumonia, I had already started social distancing weeks before so not to transmit the infection. I had observed the reaction of people joking about me having the virus when I socially distanced myself. Though I didn’t, or at least my doctor hadn’t thought that I had the virus, I became aware of the difficulties involved with changing social habits and the unpleasant reactions of social groups.
As the days sped by, I was preparing to go to the USA to present my book on a panel in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Society of Applied Anthropology, discussing female migration and care. When I got the information that the conference was cancelled just a couple of days before my flight was scheduled, I rescheduled my flights from Dallas where I was to be visiting my sister. Instead of flying from Dallas to the conference, I reserved a direct flight from Dallas to Omaha, where my birth mother and close friends live. When I arrived in Washington D.C., all those traveling from Europe became part of a risk category. The people on the plane were hoping to get back to the USA before the travel ban that President Trump had announced. I decided to travel because my ticket had been reserved for months before the travel ban, the last day out on the morning of March 13th! I saw that as synchronicity, a sign, a Jungian concept that I integrated into my book.
As I got on the plane, I observed everyone wiping down their seats and the air knobs with wipes to protect themselves from the virus. I had brought toilette wipes and copied the gestures I was observing while boarding the plane and finding my seat.
I immediately bonded with the man next to me and we began disinfecting our area for the flight. The extraordinary circumstances brought cooperation to the forefront. He had a construction mask that he first wore and then took off. I didn’t come with a mask because my university had sent out a message that masks were for health professionals and in view of the lack of masks normal citizens shouldn’t try to buy any, depleting the stock for health workers. I used my hand disinfectant from my French colleague and felt that I was doing my best under the circumstances.
On the plane from Geneva to Washington D.C., the man next to me had been skiing in a ski resort near where I live. He was worried about having a fever, as we didn’t know what kind of screening there would be in Washington D.C. I had a thermometer with me to check my temperature. But my seat mate didn’t and was worried about having a temperature. So, I promised that I would share a Tylenol or, “Dalfagon”, the name of the medicine in Switzerland, when he got off the plane to be sure he could get through customs.
Arriving in Dallas, life seemed pretty normal, but quickly, announcements were made by the government officials that stood behind President Trump to announce the management of the situation. I listened carefully to the message with my sister and her family. The next day the guidelines were communicated, limiting the number of people to be gathered together and strongly suggesting that restaurants should be avoided. While I was flying over the Atlantic the Swiss government had made an important announcement. They closed down the ski resorts and therefore my husband’s Swiss Ski School was also closed. My 16-year-old daughter’s school was also suspended.
In Texas, my sister’s daughter left the day after I arrived to go to Florida where 18 girls had rented a house. I advised them to keep a full tank of gas and shared that we had never faced this kind of situation and that they should be cautious and follow the hygiene rules. The press followed the Spring break meetings on the Florida beaches, as the virus seemed to mutate, showing that it didn’t just infect the elderly.
As I had scheduled to present my book at an event that I had organized at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, I continued my travels from Dallas to Omaha well aware that the event could be cancelled. At that point, people were getting concerned. I was coming from Europe and some friends didn’t want to see me. Others, my core faithful group of family and friends, picked me up at the airport and took me home, even though they were at risk having been in contact with me. I continued to monitor my temperature and had no symptoms, still it was worrisome! I didn’t shake hands or kiss and tried to apply social distancing. I warned my loved ones to follow and not touch their faces, something we were learning not to do.
During the 48-hour period I was in Omaha with my mother who had recently had a stroke. I had originally wanted to visit her and share my book’s publication with her, so we could share the special moment together at the conference I had organized at Creighton University with the Nebraska Children’s Home. But events were changing rapidly. The event at the university was cancelled. And the head of our department, an Austrian, told me that the Austrian border was closing, warning me about the seriousness of the situation.
I got a call from my son that Switzerland was calling all citizens home, especially because of health insurance concerns. He changed my flight and got me on one of the last flights out of Chicago to Zurich. The worry was that if I didn’t leave, I would be stuck for months in the USA with friends, far from my family and 16-year-old daughter. Originally, she had been elated to learn hours after my departure that school had been suspended till the end of April. As my husband’s ski school had also abruptly been shut down, there was a kind of looming economic uncertainty. None of these decisions were anticipated when I flew out, even though we had all watched the evolution of the spread of the virus in Italy. There seemed to be a kind of protective shield that allowed us to believe that the virus wouldn’t be able to jump over the borders and into our bodies.
The gravity of the situation hit home. My heart especially yearned to be with my young daughter who was facing this situation without me to assure her. I had two families and two nationalities and loved ones on both sides, tearing me in two. At first, there had been the disappointment that my book events were cancelled as meetings were suspended and banned on campus. But it began sinking in that I could be stranded in Omaha for months. The fear of being separated gripped me. My son successfully organized my trip home with an affordable ticket. But when I looked at my iPhone the morning of my flight, I saw that the Omaha flight to Chicago was cancelled. I quickly hit the button to reschedule my flight and saw that the flight was leaving in one hour and I was 45 minutes from the airport. My dear friend, who I was staying with, rushed me to the airport, where I begged to be able to board. Though it was closed for bordering, they made phone calls and got me on the flight. If there ever had been any doubt about where I belonged, it all became clear. I belonged in Switzerland with my husband and children. It was an intense Homing In moment, resonating with my book’s title. I called my mother to explain that I wouldn’t be able to say good-bye. She understood the gravity of the situation, hoping that I would make it on my flight.
Flying out of the Chicago airport, I learned of the rising numbers of cases in my French-speaking region in Switzerland. Walking around the almost empty international flight section, many more people had masks than 6 days before when I arrived in Washington D.C. In Dallas, people were still kissing and hugging when I arrived. But suddenly social distancing was practiced at the airport restaurants in Chicago, where there were reserved tables that were empty to keep passengers apart. On top of the mountain, I hoped we could quarantine effectively, knowing that the rapidity of the spread was out of control. I was “homing in”, to my children and family, no longer questioning where I belonged. That was all that seemed to count. Social media was showing the growing numbers of infected Swiss people and I learned that Lausanne and the Canton of Vaud was hard hit.
As I observed that outgoing flights, many were cancelled to Vienna, Heathrow, and other European countries. Zurich remained “on time”. A close family friend was informed of my situation and I was in contact with her via Messenger in case my flight might be cancelled. She had promised to come get me, and take me home.
I kept thinking about the events of the morning, before leaving from Omaha, I had luckily gotten the message that my flight was cancelled and used the technology to reschedule the proposed flight that was in less than an hour, but just the time we needed to get there. I kept thinking about how I hadn’t been able to say good-bye to my mother, but she too knew and understood the dire situation I was in and wanted me to make the plane more than anything. Good-byes were secondary. Luckily, I had been ready and my best friend from childhood got me to the airport just in time, another adventure to tell about someday. I kept replaying in my mind how even though boarding was over, I was able to explain the situation to a kind woman at the desk who called to find a way for me to board, as I was an international passenger. I said, “God bless you, thank you” to the woman who made that call and checked me in with my baggage that I had to sign for, understanding that with late boarding it risked not getting on the plane. But even that possibility was no longer important. I thought about how lucky I had been to make the plane. I felt blessed as I sat all alone in the Chicago Airport, having arrived earlier than originally planned. International passengers hadn’t yet arrived to get on their flights back to Europe.
Communicating with my children, I was told to hydrate. So, I sent a picture of my water glass with my wine glass. Both seemed important to combat the virus and the panic. I was happy to have a kind waitress to serve my last meal in the USA, imaging that it would be a long time before I could return.
All of my friends texted to get updates, and I hesitated to call my mother via Facetime to avoid the emotion of not being able to say good-bye as I sped away to the airport to make the early flight. I didn’t want to add to the emotional load I was shouldering. So, I am sitting calmly in the airport restaurant watching people and listening to their conversations, imagining what they too were going through.
I am glad that I can still run, as I have been running fast to catch the plane. I still don’t have a temperature and am not coughing. I keep taking my vitamins and applying essential oils. I take Rescue Remedy to prepare for the emotional stress. It seems good to focus on the most important concern in the present moment, not thinking too far ahead. The divide between North America and Europe seems to be widening, underscoring my books theme of belonging. To get on the plane I had to show my Swiss passport. Without a red Swiss passport, you couldn’t get on the plane.
My children had kept me abreast of the Swiss government’s measures while I watched President Trump’s task force speak to the American public on Fox News at my sister’s house. After teaching an online course this Spring semester 2020 entitled Cultural Epidemiology, it had been fascinating to watch the Surgeon General, military FIRMA, and the National Institute of Health explain the guidelines. They seemed to mirror the Swiss guidelines, but of course, the USA is a much bigger country! I also received a message from Swiss American friends that I was to visit in Washington D.C. but, having had to change my itinerary due to the circumstances, was not able to visit. They sent a document they had received, telling all Swiss nationals to get back to the country as soon as possible. That document had been what had confirmed my son’s insistence that I needed to get back home.
Home was now where my children and husband lived, and not where I had grown up. My belonging became more focused on where I was most needed, where my responsibilities called. Would this be the last trip before a major shift? My presentation in Canterbury had been about the Green New Deal and the need to create a cultural shift with Green New Deal Art and Storytelling. The virus seemed to be forcing a cultural shift, requiring all countries to focus on the care of their citizens. Possibly the cultural shift required drastic measures that humans were incapable of implementing without the virus. The animal kingdom was communicating their diseases to us with a rapidly modifying virus that was locking us all down. Anthropocene was finding a solution, though drastic, slowing air traffic and suddenly changing lifestyles and habits throughout the world. Controls were tightening for all those flying over the Atlantic. Still, life looked normal as we waited to get on the plane, flying into highly hit Corona Virus areas, but back where we had our medical insurance, which seemed to be a concern in the official communication. In my story mandala, Homing In, I tell how I was adopted the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. My book’s release now seemed to correspond with the Corona virus pandemic. I had hoped that the transformational process of autoethnography would transform the drama patterns that seemed to encircle my life story. But traveling around the world, while all my conferences and presentations fell due to the virus, brought me to the realization that forces beyond my control were acting on humanity and my approach to not waver and keep on keeping on, was being challenged. I was forced to “Home In” and reschedule each flight to ultimately make it back to my Alpine chalet. It all seemed to be part of a growing plot. The trips timing, the urgency, and the coming to terms with my home, the place I belonged, in Switzerland.
Second Entry – March 21, 2020
Waking up in Switzerland thoughts came to me about all the changes I had seen over the last 7 days. When I arrived in Texas, I had to tell them that I was practicing social distancing because no one was thinking of distancing yet. When I got to Omaha 5 days later, some friends wouldn’t see me unless I got tested, but as there were not enough tests and President Trump had announced only people with symptoms should be tested and only those that needed medical assistance, it was inappropriate for me to get a test. They were reserved for those who needed to go to the hospital.
When I had been in England, the pastor in Canterbury was still shaking everyone’s hand after Evensong at the Canterbury Cathedral. After shaking her hand, I quickly found an out of sight place to disinfect my hands. In London, at Westminster’s Cathedral, the one where I had witnessed the priest placing the wafer into the parish member’s mouths as they took communion and people were still shaking hands while saying “peace be with me”, I thought of how many might have been infected just at that mass. However, the next day at Westminster Abbey, the young pastor said there would be no shaking hands and the wafers were placed in our hands, an improvement, however I thought how going to church was a great risk for older people. Even though the young priest seemed informed, and I assumed he had disinfected his hands, I thought that I had been imprudent to take communion while kneeling in front of him. Now mass has been suspended and Pope Francis has called all believers to pray from home.
When my son picked me up at the airport yesterday in Zurich, he met me with a special wipe for my phone and a bottle of water, saying I needed to hydrate to fend off the virus. This message was being circulated – you need to hydrate.
My Swiss family was now practicing social distancing and my daughter who has asthma seemed almost worried to have me back home, dancing around me whenever she passed. I had previously had bacterial pneumonia in February and began social distancing before the virus hit Switzerland by choice. People had taken offense when I didn’t kiss them or shake their hands. Now, even my daughter was aware of the necessity of distancing.
Today, I went out looking for coltsfoot flowers to dry to make herbal tea as a remedy for coughing. I sent my husband to the store to find a strong alcohol to macerate 300 flower heads in a bottle in the sun to use the flowers as an anti-inflammatory remedy. This is the week that they usually come out and I thought that was aligned with the world’s need for their healing properties. They come out around St. Joseph’s Feast Day on March 18.
I got a message from a friend from California saying she hoped that I was not a “vector” for my family. I found it interesting how the use of vector had so quickly entered common language. My family had seen me as an outsider, coming into their closed group after isolating together for days without me. Now, my presence seemed to be creating a risk. However, in Omaha my best childhood friend’s family and my mother accepted me into their inner circle, knowing I had travelled from Europe and had been on a plane from Texas. The elders, who were most at risk, were not fearful. However, they did know that I didn’t have symptoms. It was interesting to observe the changing perceptions and practices.
My son, who had signed a contract to work at Coronet Peak in New Zealand with a Visa that had already been sent, explained that his plans had changed as New Zealand had locked down the island and were considering closing the ski slopes. There might not be a ski season. So, the connectedness that he had experienced with that region, ended with the decision to close down the borders. Our international family felt the effects of the curtain falling with more consequences than other families who lived more regional lives, and who are not double nationals.
When I got on the Swiss flight from Chicago to Zurich, everyone was speaking German. There were no French-speaking Swiss. As I don’t speak German, they quickly changed to English to communicate with me. It seemed interesting that I was let on a plane with those that I didn’t share the same language, but had the document that allowed me passage, the red Swiss passport. Again, it was an aspect of belonging to reflect upon. We all had the same passport even if we didn’t share the same language.
In Texas, we had gone out to the restaurant to continue supporting local restaurants until it was decided to close restaurants. In Omaha we had a small dinner party with home cooked corned beef, cabbage and carrots for St. Patrick’s Day. We were 8 people and three dogs, so we met the small group under 10 criteria. Now in Switzerland the rule is 5 people. We are home with two of my children and my husband and the cat. The Swiss government has asked citizens to voluntarily stay home for the next three weeks. We can go get food or medicine. But we are not to meet in parks or public places. Only the professionals that are needed to keep the country going, the essential workers, are allowed to keep working. Everyone else is doing home office.
I learned to teach online for Creighton University, so I am ahead of the curve. My online class finished before traveling to the US. My next online class will start in May. All my colleagues are scrambling to create online class resources. My friends in Omaha that I stayed with have a family business and are working to get their employees working from home office. Of course, not all can work from home. Each business and profession is rapidly adapting their way of functioning.
My family is home after my husband’s ski school was closed. His other construction job is also suspended, as construction has also been halted. The economic hardship is forcing my husband to ask to get benefits from the funds that the Swiss government has given to allow businesses to have an easy access to unemployment. However, if you are a business owner, you don’t qualify for the unemployment. So, there might be unforeseen barriers to receiving salaries.
Living in a chalet in the Alps makes hunkering down liveable. During the off-season, there are hardly any people in our village, and I am used to hiking. I enjoy picking the medicinal flowers to prepare my herbal teas and remedies. There are many activities in my home that can keep me busy.
Third Entry – March 25, 2020
Today is the fifth day after getting off my international flight that landed in Zurich. I found a scientific article saying 5 days is the average incubation time for the virus. Our family has settled into a familiar and peaceful routine. Our technologies allow our 16-year-old to follow her school lessons at a distance. Her 27-year-old brother is her coach and teacher. After doing her homework they run and do other exercises. Our youngest daughter is on the most competitive women’s soccer team in our canton. As she isn’t training with her team, her older brother is organizing her training sessions. I haven’t gone out for food yet, as I want to be sure that I can’t pass on the virus. My husband and son are getting groceries and I am making our meals. All family members help with cleaning up the kitchen. We are sitting around the fire and watching films together. I make herbal tea from plants that fight off infections each afternoon. My youngest son will join us from the city of Lausanne this weekend as his roommate is a medical doctor who has been called to work in the emergency room and will be at a high risk of getting the virus.
I am thankful that I didn’t have to be tested upon arrival in Washington D.C. as I left before the ban. The next day travelers where caught in long lines, at close distances. I saw Chicago’s mayor on television asking for immediate changes in practice to respect traveler’s safety. I remember walking through the areas that were set up to screen passengers getting off airplanes when I returned to Switzerland from Omaha. There were heaters in outdoor areas built to keep passengers warm while waiting. There were umbrellas that were available making me think that some people had been forced to wait outside. There were long metal walkways that I went through to get to the international airport sector after having taken an empty bus from the national terminal with just one female airport worker who accompanied me. I can only imagine how passengers felt while they waited to be checked.
My neighbors from Utrecht in the Netherlands are staying in their chalet as they can work from home. My good friend and neighbor is a medical doctor. She is with her companion and one of her daughters. They came on March 7 with another daughter and friends to ski. When the slopes were closed, they decided to stay. Germany closed its borders but will let citizens from the Netherlands cross the country to get back home. We will meet this evening, respecting a safe distance to catch up.
I spoke with my family in the US via Facetime. My 83-year-old mother is alone, but she can talk to her three daughters using Facetime and can go to get food at Trader Joe’s that is close to her apartment. It was planned that she moves on April 1 into a more protected environment where she has her own apartment, but has shared meals, activities and transportation. After having a stroke in November, she was diagnosed with dementia. She made the decision to move into a new setting that offers more contact, as she is now more vulnerable. My sisters have planned to move her; however, we are all wondering if that will be possible with the virus. My sister who lives the closest to Omaha in Kansas City will go pick her up and take her to her home if the situation changes or if it becomes too difficult for our mother to live alone. She is very resourceful, meets in small groups with friends for dinner and watches church on the television. She is also reading my book that came out on March 1. So, she is well occupied.
There was an article in the Valais’ cantonal newspaper that discusses the possible closure of the Val de Bagne region and Verbier that is the ski resort and valley just over the other side of the mountain from where I live in La Tzoumaz. We are connected by the ski lifts that have been closed and a rode in the summer that is currently covered with snow.
Fourth Entry – March 28, 2020
After a week of being back in Switzerland in our chalet, new communicational habits and routines are emerging. I have made it a part of my daily routine and a priority to call my mother, my mother who adopted me, via FaceTime in the afternoon my time, when she is getting up. She is very resilient and is happy to speak with me and the other family members. I also speak on FaceTime with my close friends and other family members.
My daily morning meditation starts off the day as I connect with divine presence. My mediations allow me to pray for all my dear ones and the planet and all the sick. Meditating allows me to be centered and grounded, reinforcing my sense of wellness. During these moments, I receive divine guidance, inspiration, and strength.
I communicate with my department at Creighton University on a daily basis and just downloaded MS Team to enhance my abilities to communicate within our departmental team and have access to more online learning tools. I shared a new publication, the ESREA research network book from the conference in Torino with my department and got positive feedback and recognition for my chapter.
I am on a WhatsApp group called “Ski Buddies” and keep informed through the exchanges with the English community members who have secondary residences in our village. They send out videos, jokes, and tell about their family situations. The group was made so we could all meet up on the mountain and coordinate for rides up the mountain when needed. This group is continuously communicating, and I have put it on silence, so not to be distracted. However, I check in daily to see the messages. Now, this group allows me to see how they are experiencing the lockdown in their own country, Great Britain.
During my daily walk in the forest, close to our chalet, I met 8 people. This is a definite change in habit. We kept our distances, but had nice long talks, sharing our individual situations. There were jokes about over walking dogs, as well as stories about who has fallen ill. There were exchanges about how the US is handling the situation with neighbors who have family living abroad. I explained the historic context of the Spanish Flu and told about my travel adventures and how I just made it home. My path takes me to a little chapel in the forest, surrounded by Larch trees. When I stop to pray, I am careful not to touch the door handle, using my coat sleave, because of the fear of getting the virus from metal objects.
Another communication outlet is through my blog. I created a website for my book, Homing In, and have a blog entry for each chapter. For each blog entry, I have an introductory video, a written text that discusses important tangents that are mentioned in the corresponding chapter, and links to articles, videos, and songs that provide additional information or cultural meaning. As Chapter 10: International Affairs, discusses President Woodrow Wilson, my Great Grandfather Carl Wilson’s first cousin, I wrote about the Spanish Flu pandemic and how he managed the public health crisis. He fell ill in Paris while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. The historical context of his presidency seems timely, making comparisons with the current pandemic. I found numerous websites and articles relating the Spanish Flu pandemic to the Corona virus in conjunction with governance, leadership, and public health policy.
A close group of girlfriends that came for tea to our chalet over Christmas break organized a Skype meeting on Friday at 5 p.m., which is when we usually met in La Tzoumaz for the ski school medal’s ceremony that included hot wine and often a drink at the bar. We spoke for an hour and a half on Skpe with either tea or wine, telling our stories and explaining how each region was dealing with the Corona virus situation. One friend is on the Island of Jersey, the other two are in Romandy. We explained how we got everyone home and how we are organizing home schooling and work. There is also the challenge of being international families now that the borders have closed. There is concern about taking care of elders who cannot come into the country and how it isn’t possible to go to them. There is the question of where each one of us belongs, and our most important loyalties. We decided to meet every Friday at 5 p.m. and will add the dimension of music to our next cocktail hour. One friend is from Storm Lake, Iowa, close to Omaha, Nebraska. She is married to a Dutch man. We are the same age and enjoy shared memories like Laurence Welk, who used to be on TV when we were young girls. It is nice to have a friend who shares the same cultural references. Our husbands all tried to bother us, as we connected on Skype. We laughed and carried on our conversations. Certainly, they were a bit surprised about our ability to reach out to each other and have a virtual party. We are maintaining our social circle and relational support system with the new technologies.
The day seemed to be busy, full of interesting encounters; it was even a hopeful and promising day. All the people I met were adapting and positive. They were all carrying on. They all understood the gravity of the international context and were making meaning of the situation and moving forward with the new rhythm, homing in with hopefulness. My girlfriends shared that they thought my book had come out just at the right time and that my title was a guiding metaphor.
I had the idea that I would use the Curare Corona Diary Project as part of a new online methods class on autoethnography. I will use my book, my book’s website, the Curare Corona Diary Project, and other literary references. I will propose that students engage in the autoethnographic process to write their Corona Diaries. There could be three parts: before, during, and after. They can document their personal, communal and societal transformation that was initiated by the Corona Virus. This project will be an exciting challenge, motivating me to participate and create with the other medical anthropologists dedicated to the project.
Fifth Entry – April 1, 2020
After my return to Switzerland, I was relieved to have made it home to my family. I had literally been carried through the air to visit my loved ones in the United States and then quickly back through a window of time, just in the nick of time. My 16-year-old daughter truly needed me to be with her, more than anyone else, as the world was facing the pandemic.
As she learned about her close friends getting sick, she became anxious, and had reached out to an older friend who works at the ski school with her to talk while I was in Omaha.
When I returned, we established a balanced routine. There was a feeling of normalcy as we all assumed work and schooling from home. We maintained traditional mealtimes as well as outside training sessions or walking. We established virtual meetings with friends and connected with close family to make sure they were doing well.
But in spite of all the positive things we were doing, there was an underlying current of fear that was expressed when my youngest daughter felt that she was coming down with a sore throat that was constricting. She was unable to sleep. She came to get me. As she was terribly worried, I advised her to call the Corona hotline, as her friends had done. The hotline was closed at 9 p.m., so I advised her to call the number for the generalist doctor on call in our canton. Speaking with him calmed her mind, but she was still anxious. Her allergies may have been the cause of the constriction. But the fear was palpable.
I sat with her and discussed what she was feeling. She explained that it had been so difficult to have me be far away during the Corona Crisis, as I had always been with her to face adversity. She felt unlucky to have asthma, to have recently been weakened by a throat infection that caused her to be weak and almost pass out, resulting in a trip to the emergency room in the Fall of 2019, where we were advised to see a cardiologist. As she plays on the most competitive soccer team and lives far from school, she was exhausted after falling ill with a sore throat and fever in the Fall. The school required her to do a long-distance run, even after we asked that she be exempt from the run also because in the evening she had her last soccer game that was in another canton. We judged that it was too much to do the run she had missed when she was ill. Only a few weeks had gone by and she hadn’t gotten all her strength back. After many tests, the cardiologist confirmed that she didn’t have any heart problems. This was a relief; however, the worry had taken its toll.
Her bedroom was filled with an anxiety that connected us to the reality of sickness and vulnerability. I got my rosary that was blessed by Pope Francis for her to hold, I took another rosary blessed from my great uncle, and we prayed together, saying Hail Marys aloud.
As she calmed down and was able to sleep, I changed beds to sleep across the hall. The severity of the situation hit me, and I too was feeling the anxiety. It was all fine and well to lockdown, and establish a routine in our chalet, but getting sick was scary. I was on my 9th day without symptoms after my plane ride. My young daughter had been away from her friends that had fallen ill for two weeks. Still, a sore throat and back pain resembled the Corona virus symptoms. I gave her Arsenicum Album in homeopathy for her symptoms, she continued to use the essential oils that I had gotten her before my departure and continued to take the vitamins that I had gotten for her to take daily to keep her immune system strong. Instead of doing her running and training sessions with her brothers, she rested. She recovered from her symptoms and the anxiety ebbed. However, it is just under the surface.
My son, who was working from home in Lausanne joined us on Sunday with his roommate. He will live with us so not to be exposed by his medical doctor, roommate who will be at risk working in the emergency room. His other roommate and friend will live with his father in his chalet in La Tzoumaz near our chalet. They are three roommates normally living together in an apartment in Lausanne. Their other roommate started working in the emergency room in Fribourg this week. He is doing a residency to become a hematologist but has been called to work in the front lines as the hematologist residency is currently suspended due to the Corona virus. Two of my friends’ sons have also been called to work in emergency rooms in Seattle and Lausanne. They are saddened that their sons are at risk and that they can’t pursue their residencies as planned.
I spoke with a good friend and colleague in Milano who wasn’t able to make it to Canterbury for the ESREA conference. She lives next to the Milan Central Station. She explained how she used to complain about all the noise, but now she can leave the window open and enjoy the silence that is only interrupted by the ambulance sirens that make their way down the main road to the nearby hospital. In those moments, the silence and calm in her apartment, where she lives alone, is broken, reminding her of the pandemic.
Yesterday, we learned that my son’s roommate’s mother tested positive for the virus. She works as a nurse in a nursing home. He is now concerned that he got the virus when he took her car keys to get the car. This is yet another worry, getting infected, and waiting out the new incubation period. So, we will continually be vigilant. Though, my family mocks me when I try to speak of not touching one’s face and strictly applying the rules about washing hands.
As I teach online, I can plan my work schedule, and connect via Zoom with my colleagues at Creighton University. I have courses to create and must prepare my Summer class that starts in May. I keep working on my blog for my book too. I keep thinking about using the pandemic as a teaching moment. I hope to find a way to use the Curare Corona Diaries Project for a new class using autoethnography as a method in the social sciences. I am thinking about using my autoethnographic work and blog, combined with the Corona Virus Diaries to allow students to work on “Illness Narratives” inspired by Arthur Kleinman, documenting before, during and after the pandemic. Having a project keeps me focused and gives meaning to the diary project. Still, the reality of those getting sick around us is ever present. While my husband is working to get economic aid for his ski school that was shut down, I am trying to offer good meals and a happy home to our children that are living with us. I am also doing my best to use the pandemic as an opportunity for research and teaching. What else can we do? I spend time in meditation and prayer ever morning, walking to the chapel with my daughter and saying Hail Mary’s while looking at the painting of Notre Dame de la Salette, a representation of Mary’s appearance to French peasant children in the mountains in the 1846, that brings us inspiration.
I got a newsletter from the university with an article explaining that the tradition of singing from the balconies in Italy, while facing the plague in the 1500’s came from Pope Borromeo, who became St. Charles Borromeo. This brought the people together, in a moment of celebration, while protecting them from contact. This tradition has been reactivated, as city dwellers throughout Europe sing to honor the healthcare workers from their balconies. May this tradition bring the world renewed hope!
Sixth Entry – April 2, 2020
I am a member of the Taos Institute, an international group of social constructionists. As a doctoral fellow, I found the narrative model in mediation as well as this group of scholar practitioners with whom I did my doctorate in 2009. The Taos institute organizes certifications, trainings, conferences, a newsletter, as well as virtual conversations on Zoom. On April 1st Kenneth Gergen, one of the Taos founders spoke to a group of 65 members from around the world about ‘communiverse’, in the context of facing the Corona Virus. He asked us all what we could do as a group to respond to the current planetary crisis. Here is my response to Ken and the Taos founders:
To follow-up on our conversation yesterday, I would like to share the concepts that I have developed in my recent book, “Homing In: An Adopted Child’s Story Mandala of Connecting, Reunion, and Belonging”. I am including the final e-book edition. I would be happy to share the following concepts with the Taos group in the spirit of our first ‘communiverse’ yesterday. “Homing In”, is a mechanism that has been developed by adopted children who reunite with their birth parents; however, we all have this mechanism within us. How can we cultivate the homing in mechanism and home in to our hearts, as well as a hopeful future while we are currently homing in to shelter? My story begins with the symbol of the ship hanging in the church in Drammen, Norway at the Taos Drammen conference that I used to guide our group work about how to take social constructionist practices forward. I became aware that many words end in ship, these words are vessels of transportation. We need new words to take us forward, future forming. Example: Earthship, Communiverse, as well as Fellowship, Scholarship, Mediatorship. By writing, we are setting course and manumitting, connecting to a creative force and setting ourselves free. From Kinship to Earthship, how can we live in/on Earthship while facing Anthropocene, kinning and becoming more conscious of our relation being with all creatures, life forms, and bioregions? From life-o-gram to transformagram we are activating loving intentions while engaging in healing conversations and dialogical processes that generate relational mind. Autoethnography and the cultivation of self-knowledge, or Sophia, are all transformative practices. From brokenness to linkedness: our conflict and illness narratives are the Holy Grail Way. As pathfinders, the G-rail Way opens to the walkthrough, when we are pilgrims walking through our illness narratives. Using the metaphor of stem cells in our bones, the saying « to the bone » points to the regenerative potential when we are affected or broken. It is in our brokenness that we find our linkedness. The intentional forgiveness process transforms us- wanderers and wordlings become pilgrims.
We need a new story. Green New Deal Art and Storytelling will allow us to enact the cultural shift, accompanying the American legislation as well as the European legislation and Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment to the Green New Deal. The Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si, Care for Our Common Home, also provides a framework for integral ecology and social justice. The Corona Virus is an event that is initiating us, providing an emergency crisis situation on a planetary level that forces us to home in and initiate the transformational change process. In cultural epidemiology, we know countries with the greatest inequality have the worst health outcomes. The Corona Virus has shifted the political discourses to a focus on care for citizens and the vulnerable. As we behold, we transform. Our emerald planet earth is the sacred vessel, Earthship, holding us together. It is in this embrace that we can discover our connectedness, future forming and homing in to a hopeful planetary future. For the Taos Institute, the dialogical potential between affiliates from around the world to participate in a ‘communiverse’ generating relation mind can be our G-rail Way, a pathway through this global illness narrative. Our healing conversations engender potentialities, enkindling living wisdom that allows us to collectively perceive synchronicity or divine timing. The Golden Pocket Watch, or timepiece, a metaphor in my book, is “watching over” us. It represents what we give value to and what we want to pass on to future generations. It symbolizes transmission as well as intergenerativity. In ‘communiverse’ we can find new flyways together.
My Give-Away Book on my book’s website shares steps for engaging in the autoethnographic process that can be a compass or guiding process for Homing In.
Seventh Entry – April 4, 2020
To update my course that starts next month, I am adding “Pandemics” that is streaming on Netflix to my cultural epidemiology class that starts in May. Here is an interview from one of the expert scientists involved with the film.
This week the press is covering the immunity tests and deciding how we will all gradually go back to work and school. Different countries and regions have different dates. In Switzerland, April 27 marks the date that independent workers like osteopaths, physical therapists and hairdressers can all open up their businesses. In May, the elementary schools will open. In June, high school level classes will begin for my daughter who will soon be 17. I have just been told that my grandson will be able to go back to day-care next week, starting on April 27. My daughter and her family are coming for the weekend before he goes back to day-care, knowing that he hasn’t been in contact with the virus while sheltering.
Today, I worked on a virtual course that I will offer to raise money with colleagues from h4h, an organization working with UNESCO. Here is my course proposition:
Conference Title: Homing In/ On Earthship
Autoethnography: Writing to Transform Relations: Narrative methods like autoethnography can be used to generate self-transformation as “Homing In: An Adopted Child’s Story of Connecting, Reunion and Belonging” bespeaks. The Homing In mechanism, that adopted children who reunite with their birth parents tap into, can be enkindled in all pathfinders. Intergenerativity is a transgenerational process, transporting re-searchers from kinship to Earthship. Writing to transform relations, seekers connect with living wisdom, a form of mediatorship. Connecting to our inner compass allows us to set a course, using scholarship. Storying becomes a guiding, as well as emancipatory process. We are storied beings who need a new story as we now face Anthropocene and the current pandemic.
Enacting A Culture of Care: Green New Deal art and storytelling is a form of activism that can generate a cultural shift, accompanying the American legislation as well as the European legislation and Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment to the Green New Deal. Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si, Care for Our Common Home, provides yet another framework for integral ecology and social justice. Happening within this current context of political, cultural, and social change, the Corona Virus is a global event that is initiating us, providing an emergency crisis situation on a planetary level. While the COVID-19 pandemic forces us to home in, it is also providing an opportunity to enact what has the potential of becoming a global transformational process. In medical epidemiology, we know countries with the greatest inequality have the worst health outcomes. The Corona Virus has shifted the political discourses, giving value to care for citizens and the vulnerable, while bringing a culture of care to the forefront of our planetary consciousness.
Envisioning Ways to Live In/On Earthship: As we currently home in to shelter, we can create a writing space, finding new words or meaning containers and new storylines or flyways, that are future forming. A relational approach within a social constructionist referential framework provides a backdrop for understanding transformative social processes as well as the methods that can enact change. In this meaning-making space, life-o-grams become transformagrams. Conflict and illness narratives can be understood as the Holy G-rail Way. Journeymanship becomes a pilgrimage from brokenness to linkedness. Reading and writing our lives unites us in a communiverse, engendering relational mind. As we behold, we actively transform the image, envisioning hopeful ways to live together in/on Earthship.
Hopefully, this initiative will reinforce collaboration around the world and raise funds for those in need. The colleagues that are organizing the event are members of the Taos Institute. There seems to be a movement to use online resources to link and connect in meaningful ways.
This is yet another way that I can get my book’s message out into the world. I will also be writing a monthly newsletter to promote my book. I will begin with a story about my book being born into the world during the pandemic, explaining the conference venues that I attended and those that were canceled. The pandemic is also having an influence on book sales, as Amazon isn’t focusing on books, but essentials. So, I participated with my publisher on a call with other authors about marketing our e-books. The e-book is yet another example of how humans are adapting and changing during the pandemic. So it seems that many folks still want to connect, learn, and work for a better world.
While we are still Homing In and sheltering, the debates about re-opening the economy are central. It seems that Switzerland has been effective and that their approach has paid off. However, the Swiss German regions were not hit as hard as the Italian and French-speaking regions. I listen to CNN International to learn about the situation in the United States, where regions have very different situations. Nebraska, where I come from, doesn’t force citizens to shelter.
My husband’s cousin is moving from chemotherapy to hospice. She wrote this weekend that her doctor is ending the palliative chemotherapy treatment that isn’t adding any quality to her life at this point. I wonder how hospice will go during this difficult time. Her death will be affected by the Corona virus, possibly limiting contact with her family in the last days of her life. It will also change how a funeral will be organized. Here is an article from an anthropologist working on bereavement.
My teenage daughter is happy to be home, but she is anxious. This pandemic is weighing on the hearts of our young people. Their present situation is coloring their future dreams. Though I can lovingly take care of my family, I can’t change this global situation nor the other situations like Anthropocene and climate change. In the Pandemic series, the scientists show how our increased presence in areas where wildlife and humans haven’t been in touch before, will cause future zoonotic outbreaks. As we change the face of the earth, we are modifying future scenarios, future forming in ways we need to be conscious of before the consequences cause irreparable damage to the earth and our health. How can we Home In to Earthship?
Eighth Entry – April 27, 2020
Today is Good Friday. The Swiss government has asked citizens to stay home over Easter weekend and not go to their secondary residences. However, our small grocery store was filled with shoppers from all over Switzerland. Today was my first time to do the shopping in our local store. They had spray to disinfect our hands at the entry of the store.
During my daily walk in the forest, we saw many different chalets filled with people from license plates from all over Switzerland. My oldest, son-in-law, grandson, and oldest son all live in Neuchatel. They decided not to come for Easter and celebrate together by the lake. This will be our first Easter not being together. Last year my adopted mother and sister came for my grandson’s birthday, and we had a big celebration around Easter time. Thank goodness, we had that time together! This year will be simple. We will be surrounded by the beautiful crocus in the fields. The lovely weather is an added blessing this week.
This week I connected with the Interface Commission. A group of anthropologists is organizing a new group to connect our academic work with the greater public. There were 18 people who showed interest in the commission and 9 that connected on Zoom. One of our initiatives is to organize a round table about the COVID-19 pandemic at the September Swiss Anthropology Conference. I volunteered to organize the discussion. There is a French-speaking anthropologist who is critical about the way Western Europe is handling the situation. We discussed inviting him to our future panel as well as the Curare Corona Diaries’ Project. This would allow us to look at the pandemic through the lens of medical anthropology.
A call for a special issue on the COVID-19 virus was circulated via ESREA. I sent in an abstract proposal building on the idea of a New Green Deal cultural shift using art and storytelling. I had presented a paper at the ESREA Life History and Auto/biography conference in Canterbury in February-March just when the pandemic was starting to cause cancellations. Our conference was held without our Italian colleagues. Now, academic circles are all writing about the pandemic and yesterday I got a message from a professor working with UNESCO who is a member of the Taos Institute. She is working with a group of South Americans to organize free teaching sessions online and donating the money to those who don’t have access to essential commodities like food. So, there are many projects being born online.
I continue to work on my blog for my book, adding a video, text, and links for each chapter.
My daily life continues on the mountain with my family. I cook good meals that everyone looks forward to noon and in the evening between 6 and 7 p.m. This allows us to keep a schedule that everyone looks forward to, breaking the day into meaningful moments. I make good cakes and tarts for the afternoon snack. I continue my routine meditating in the morning and working during the day. I take a late afternoon walk and watch a Netflix show or movie in the evening. Each person is finding his or her own space within the house. We are all conscious of how lucky we are to have space, a large yard around the chalet, a beautiful home environment, as well as each other. We continue to connect with our family via FaceTime. My birth family has organized a Zoom session on Easter Sunday to celebrate my book! Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet when I was in Nebraska.
I continue to meet with my girlfriends on Skype every Friday at 5 p.m. This is fun, gives us something to look forward to, and seems to be meaningful for all of us. The children are off school for two weeks. My daughter spoke with her teacher and class via Zoom yesterday before vacation started. This has been their first and only Zoom call, which is interesting. Hopefully, she is learning something by distance. We are organizing English books, piano songs, hiking, cooking, and organizing rooms and cleaning to occupy ourselves, (especially my teenager) so she won’t spend all her time on her phone. She hiked with me today and is on the slackline with her brothers in the yard now. If this becomes our life it would be fine, we have all we need. My teenage daughter seems to like being with me and we laugh and have fun together. But it must be hard on the younger people who are away from friends. Still, living secluded lives becomes comfortable with time. Meeting people again, and encountering their attitudes, words, friendliness or not, impoliteness, and making conversation, requires energy to engage and process. If the greater context didn’t involve people suffering and dying, our lives would seem peaceful, simpler than before, and slower. We spend so much time traveling to work and school. It will be a challenge getting back on track.
My husband went to Isérables, the mountain village he grew up in to meet a man about our orchard trees. He went to inspect the trees and see which ones need to be pruned. Hopefully, there will be fruit this year. Last year the trees froze, and we didn’t have any apricots. If the economic forecast that many are talking about is true, it will be like the Great Depression and the fruit will be needed! Until now, the orchard has been a way for us to continue keeping the family orchard plot taken care of. But this might be a necessary part of our provisions in the future. My husband picks the fruit and I freeze sacks of fruit for tarts and make jam.
My son went to look at a construction site and see about the possibilities of working again. The family’s ski school got money from the unemployment office that payed for the March salaries as the ski school was closed by order of the government. My husband has worked hard to apply for the financial aid to keep the business afloat during these difficult times. He is also growing a beard for the first time in his life! Our fourth child, and third son, has time off from work and his university studies that are organized on Thursdays. His office in our living area seems to suit him just fine.
Creighton University has an online journal with links to mass and articles about interesting subjects. Graduation celebrations are being organized online via Zoom. I follow the department’s communication, interested in the many ways they are adapting higher education in the face of the pandemic. There was an article in the daily newsletter talking about the Stoics philosophy in relation to pandemics, saying that we can only concentrate on the present and what we can do, not giving in to the reality of bigger situations that are out of our control. So, we are living as stoics, one day at a time, enjoying all we have together. I reached out to the Kingfisher Institute at Creighton University to propose a collaboration within the medical humanities’ department after reading an article about their work with the medical department. Hopefully, medical anthropology will become a valued discipline in the future. The pandemic underscores the importance of our discipline as well as my class content on cultural epidemiology.
Ninth Entry – April 22, 2020
As an American and Swiss citizen, I am following the developments in both countries. My oldest daughter sent me a link that covers the story of Nebraska’s meatpacking plants that are at the center of a large breakout of Corona Virus cases. Many of the workers are immigrants or refugees, one of my research topics. Last week I spoke with family from California who had applied for unemployment but had not gotten any checks. They were thankful to have savings.
In Switzerland, the lockdown is over, and we are beginning to go back to work and school. High School for my daughter will start again on June 8. My husband is back to working in construction, as is one of my sons. Some family members are still working from home but planning to go to the lab at the EPFL or the office when needed.
As I teach online at Creighton University, my summer class starts this coming week, on May 18. However, I was told that adjunct faculty would not be used for the Fall semester, as student enrollment numbers are expected to be lower than usual. As I have been working on a new class that is full with 20 students for Fall, I asked if the dean would make an exception. The exception was granted; however, I will not be teaching the introductory class that I was planning to teach. Full-time faculty will be taking on all the classes to reduce costs. This shows just how vulnerable I am as adjunct faculty. It also underscores the difficulties higher education will be facing with all the uncertainty about returning to campus, unemployment, and financial viability.
I have continued to make good family meals, pies and cakes for the afternoon, and have special family birthday celebrations on the weekends for the birthdays that have happened during this confinement period. This has allowed us to keep close and live well, even though we have been in a semi-lockdown. As we live in the Alps, we can hike, run on paths, and work out in the garden. Then children have been working out together after their work/school days are over. I enjoy watching them doing their exercises together. I am proud of them and how they have bonded and remained strong and united.
I have been busy taking care of the family and working on my writing projects and course development. I have also been working on my book’s blog, which has provided me with a creative outlet. There have been numerous Zoom calls that have allowed me to stay in contact with friends and colleagues. Still, it is overwhelming to do it all and stay concentrated and focused on my writing. I am writing an article to be published that stems from my ESREA presentation on the Green New Deal.
I have to change beds, do laundry, shopping and cooking for the whole family. They love my cooking and are happy to come home or be home, so I make it a priority to have a nice table set with fresh mountain flowers and candles. Our birthday celebrations require lots of planning and cooking, but when everyone is so happy to be together, it is worth the time and effort.
We have been Homing In, like my book title, to shelter and be together, supporting each other as we work through the confinement. The title seems to have a life of its own, continuously revealing new meanings like “Homing In to Shelter”, a form of homing in I never could have imagined months ago.
The children play cards together in the evening, which is a new development. I watch Christiane Amanpour on CNN who invites the world’s experts to speak about the world situation while they play. I walk in the afternoon with my daughter from our house on a circular path that takes us to the chapel to pray and then home. We keep meeting people on our walk that normally wouldn’t be here. So, it is fascinating to see the changes in such a short time. This weekend, we did a long family hike up to the waterfall. There is still snow, so it was a challenging hike. We played in the river at the foot of the waterfall, trying out the new recreational activities that allow you to walk in the river and feel the cold, balancing on a bar or walking across large stones. It was good fun! It resembles Hildegard von Bingen therapies and Sebastian Kneipp hydrotherapy approaches which is one of my medical anthropology subjects. I just got a new book “Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky, Hildegard of Bingen and Premodern Medicine. I will use it to prepare my Fall course on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
I have participated with the Interface Commission of Swiss anthropologist, working on a website, a roundtable about Corona Virus for our next national meeting, and the conception of a group mission that shows action anthropology or engaged anthropology in the field. I hope that we will be able to decide on a generative project together.
My adopted mother, who raised me was getting lonely and was able to go down to my sister’s house for Mother’s Day. She lives in Omaha, and my sister lives in Kansas City, so there is a distance by car that hasn’t allowed them to be together. Still, my mother was alone for 5 weeks, and I could hear in her voice she needed to be with family. There was a kind of desolation in her voice.
My oldest daughter’s birthday corresponded with our Mother’s Day celebration last weekend. I received flowers and all the children were present. We had a Zoom session with my birth family in the evening. So, I keep in touch with all my family members. This too takes time!
I have disciplined myself to run, hike and do yoga, so much that my knee is sore! I finished an article for publication and I am working on another article for a UNESCO lifelong learning journal, transforming my ESREA conference paper into an article. I went from desolation to consolation, waiting for the dean’s decision. This brought me to the realization that all my articles, books, and future publications won’t protect me from my professional vulnerability. Life trajectories are being transformed, no one is untouched.
I think that for me at 57 it is acceptable but wonder about all my children. My youngest daughter spends all her time with me. She appears happy and doesn’t even want to return to school. This is so different from what I experienced at her age. I am thankful that I can offer her my mothering and a safe and comfortable home. She is on a competitive cantonal soccer team that hasn’t been training together with her teammates, but she has been asked to be a member of the starting group of players, or first team for the coming season. The break has allowed her to discover other interests and she has been learning beautiful piano pieces. She plays with great passion and it is heartwarming.
I took her out of the house for the first time this week to bring all our geranium flowerpots to the ‘Pont Vert’ store where we have the flowers planted and choose the hanging baskets. She was observing how difficult it was to respect social distancing! The man kept moving close to me as I explained which flowers I wanted. I tried to keep a distance, but it was complicated. We used our disinfectant gel in the car and drove home, not even stopping at the larger grocery stores. The stores are open now as well as the restaurants, but we aren’t tempted to go yet. Our quiet life seems to fit us now for the time being. I have so many things… so many clothes, so many beautiful pieces of jewelry. And yet there is nowhere to dress up and go out to feel what it is to be part of society.
I watched the new film presented by Michael Moore and directed by Jeff Gibbs, “Planet of the Humans”, that criticizes the Green Energy Industry and the different environmental organizations that are collaborating with large corporations. This has allowed me to take a good look, with a more critical regard for the Green New Deal activating a cultural shift that I am writing about in my current article. The Corona Virus is underscoring medical anthropology themes, and the Green New Deal and Jeremy Rifkin’s new book and vision was a hopeful way forward that I must now question too! My friend who is a psychiatrist and member of Extinction Rebellion sent me the link to the film. I am thankful to be in a network of deep-thinking friends sensitive to the Earth’s changes. I am using this time to create my book’s website, reaching out to my readership using virtual space. This “glovircal” lifeworld allows me to connect, local and glocal realities linked through virtual connectivity.
Tenth Entry – May 16, 2020
As the Swiss Federal Government closed down the ski lifts and ski schools throughout the country because of the virus, my husband’s ski school needed to ask for unemployment compensation for himself, my son, who was also working full-time, and the other instructors. This was the first time in history that ski lifts and businesses were closed by a government decree. The unchartered waters were destabilizing not only for our family, but for the whole regional economy.
My husband filled out all the paperwork and applied for unemployment not knowing if the money would actually come in or if there would be unseen barriers to eligibility. But he was happily surprised to receive the money and be able to pay his instructors and have an income himself during the winter ski season period. He wrote to the different Federal Counsel member ‘Conseil Federal’ to thank them for supporting small businesses and making funds available. They all responded by e-mail to his messages. However, Guy Parmelin wrote a signed letter.
The social contract was reinforced by the Swiss government ministers who found practical solutions, showing themselves to be trustworthy and efficient leaders. This will not be forgotten by the people. When government responds to the people’s needs with real solutions and a proximity that the letter and messages testify to, democracy emerges from a global pandemic crisis reinforced. Our family will never forget the Minister of Economics letter and dedication to the people he serves.
Eleventh Entry – June 25, 2020
School started for my teenage daughter on June 8. She went back to school with half of her classmates on one schedule and half on another. She passed her school year, the second year at the bi-lingual business school in Sierre. She also began soccer training with FC Sion, though soccer matches will only be scheduled in July. During her time at home, she learned to play a beautiful piano piece, “Fly”, from the film “The Untouchables”. When asked by her teachers how she experienced the confinement she responded, “It was the best time of my life.” She told me that her best friend in school actually gave the same response unbeknownst to her, as they weren’t in class together. This makes me wonder about the fast pace of life that we lead and the competition that children face at school and in sports. Having time to play the piano and develop other skills while walking in the forest and spending time with family seemed to offer a resting time that we all needed. Her memories of this period are happy ones, and I am grateful for our time together.
I got a letter from Donald Trump that I am including in my diary to document the economic stimulus plan that the American government has put in place.
I was able to cash the check and receive the money.
I continue to teach online for Creighton University and am preparing a new Fall 2020 class entitled “An Anthropological and Transformational Approach to Alternative and Complementary Medicine.” So, I can work from home and have an important occupation with a deadline to have the course completed at the end of July.
I also participated in the H4H Global Movement that is a fundraising platform with lecturers from scholar practitioners from around the world. Making the video and writing the supporting text allowed me to integrate themes from my book, applying my concepts to the pandemic situation. The funds collected from the project will go to international aid organizations. The initiators have UNESCO support.
I have become more aware of all the energy that it takes to relate with others in public as well as all the time lost traveling away from home to go to the supermarket and other stores in the cities, after having made do with my mountain village lifestyle. I have discovered how much I simply prefer to be in the mountains, spending my time in nature. I have transitioned into virtual meetings with friends and colleagues without any difficulties. My writing has taken up a big space over the past few months. I have published one article in the Jesuit Higher Education Journal and sent an article to be considered for the Journal of Lifelong Learning connected with UNESCO.
Our region has three clusters of COVID-19 that have come to the attention of public health authorities. So, the virus is still alive and spreading. There is still need for caution. I am organizing a medical anthropology panel at the next Swiss Anthropology and Ethnology Conference with the Interface Commission in Ticino in 2021, April 22-24. The conference has been re-scheduled. I have reached out to the Curare Corona Diaries project to invite them to participate. I hope that this will give the Curare Corona Diaries a space of recognition! Documenting the pandemic and participating with academic networks has allowed the confinement period to be full of inspiring activities.
My geraniums pots and hanging baskets are on the balcony and life looks so beautiful when I look outside my windows. Maybe I don’t need other landscapes for now!
In conclusion, this period will be remembered as “The Great Pause”, a sign on our walking path at “La Croix de Coeur” put up by a Verbier artist’s group that usually organizes exhibits on the along path. During this period that slowed down the earth’s population, I not only traveled, but homed in to shelter.
I discovered the activities that I most enjoy, being outdoors and cooking, writing, running, meditating, and taking care of my family. My Cultural Epidemiology class has gained importance, as I actually teach about what we have all been facing. This synchronicity has reinforced my dedication to medical anthropology. This period has allowed me to connect in new ways. And it has allowed my teenage daughter to rest and recover from exhaustion. I hope that the connections that I was able to make and watch others make between Anthropocene, pandemics, the historical patterns that have erupted with racial tensions just like during the Spanish Flu epidemic will ultimately bring us to a better place. The pandemic has allowed us to see inequality and social injustice in a new light as we compare healthcare systems, national responses, and discover the concept of syndemics that can help explain why poor minorities with vulnerabilities are dying at greater rates than others.
I am grateful that I was able to home in and be close to my family in Switzerland for the confinement. My authored-self took on a previous pattern, coming into the world during a crisis. When I was adopted, I arrived in my adopted family’s home on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination. My book was released many years later during this current pandemic. In my story, I talk about the walkthrough. I pray that we may we all walk through the door of mercy having gained a greater sense of compassion for all life on earth.
Here is a mural that a good friend, Lauren Possa, painted on the Sion hospital outer wall. In the painting the word “Merci”, becomes “Mercy”. This was his way of thanking all the healthcare workers for their dedication to all who needed care. May this experience allow us to co-construct a “Culture of Care”.