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The Melting Pot!

The Melting Pot!

Christmas Day

 

The sun is shining and the weather is warm so I can’t wait to finish lunch and go outside.  For once there are no chemtrails to turn the blue sky grey.  We also have the luck to live near a beautiful park and the building at the main entrance, in which the school of horticulture was once housed, is a fine example of the sober Protestant architecture that typified Geneva in the 19th century.  The trees are beautiful in every season and the rose garden in summer is an absolute joy.

 

Not today, though.  The roses are bedded down for the winter and the paddling pool has been emptied.  Still, ti’s Christmas Day and the park is full of mums and dads with babies and toddlers; the swings are busy too as small bundles in woolly hats, thick coats and sturdy boots, shouting with delight are being pushed back and forth.

 

Thoughts of the past

The back entrance to the park is opposite a retirement home so there are one or two small groups with grandma or grandpa in a wheelchair.  Where I’m sitting I can watch the dogs being walked, one even being run as its owner tows his dog on a lead as he rides his bike.

 

An elderly couple arrives, the man pushing a walker, his wife in a smart coat and elegant shoes walking behind him.  They sit down and start chatting in Italian.  The first wave of foreigners to arrive in Geneva came from Italy after the Second World War and my neighbour who is now over 80, came with them.  Marrying a Swiss girl, he became a Swiss citizen in the 1960s and his two daughters are French teachers in the public school system.

 

A view of the future

As I’m sitting thinking about the Italians I know, sons and daughters of the first immigrants who are grandparents themselves, a young African man comes to sit at the other end of my bench.  Dressed in cheap clothes, he is probably either a migrant or an asylum seeker.  He looks Ethiopian, his handsome classic profile coppery in the sunlight.

 

A couple stroll by with a little girl, the lady in a hijab, her husband bearded; also part of the new wave.  And I reflect on the changes I’ve seen in what has now become my city.  In the English evening class I teach I can have 15 students and, say, 13 different nationalities.  A real melting pot, although we don’t tend to think of Geneva in that way; we think of the banks and the luxury boutiques which fill the town centre and which have rendered it completely soulless.  The cafés, restaurants and cinemas have all been chased out by the exorbitant rents and when the shops shut there is nothing to do and nobody around.

 

Living together

A lot of people talk about waves of foreigners and we probably have more than our share.  However, although there are cultural misunderstandings and certainly racism, I haven’t seen much of it.  My students and the people I meet at work or elsewhere have their personal preferences as do we all but I rarely hear people complaining about someone because of his or her nationality and students in my class from countries that are not exactly friendly sit and work together without any difficulty.

 

I think the basis is respect.  Respect for ourselves and our culture and respect for other people and their cultures.  Living cheek-by-jowl In small apartments we have to be considerate towards our neighbours.  Sharing our cities means that we and the newcomers must find a middle way that suits all of us so that we can learn from each other instead of sniping on the side-lines.  It is up to all of us to choose whether we want to live in peace and harmony or add to the hatred that is far too prevalent in today’s world.

 

©Jili Hamilton 2015

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