Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Family Gathering

I can already imagine watching the trailer for the film. A black blank screen, the following words fading in and out (read slowly pausing between each): 14 People, 5 Nationalities, 4 Languages, Age – 2 Months... to 78 Years. One House, One Family. Guerrero.

That’s right, 14 people, 5 nationalities and 4 languages and yes all in one house in the middle of Zurich Switzerland. Fede’s family’s annual get together is truly a re-union. One brother plus family (French) flies in from Gabon, one brother plus girl friend hails from Congo (Argentine + French-Congolese), One actually does live in Zurich with his wife and 2 daughters (Swiss), then there are Fede and myself (Argentine + American) in Argentina, but bounce all over on our respective vessels. And then the parents of the Guerrero Family, who are still residing in Argentina. phew. That’s four continents covered and lots of traditions, customs, habits, all in one house

There are bits and pieces from each country that enter the family meeting ruckus. What to do when greeting someone? In Argentina its one kiss, In France its 2 and in Switzerland its 3. Being an American, kissing has no place in a casual greeting. What to do? I usually just kept kissing cheeks until the other person stopped. Being that no one really knew when to stop, the Swiss 3 seemed to be the overwhelming option of the week.

Eating times. Here the argentine custom held sway. Lunch at 1pm that segwayed into an hour siesta lasting from about 2:15 until 3:15. At 3:30 afternoon activities would begin culminating with a 9pm dinner.

National holidays. I woke up on July 4th and walked into the living / dining room. Both of Fede’s parents greeted me good morning and then started to stand up from reading their online newspapers. I said “good morning, its ok, its ok, sit sit”. Then from the kitchen I heard coming from what had the sound quality of a YouTube clip “O-ohh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light….” I entered the kitchen to find indeed a You Tube clip playing and donuts. What else represents America better than donuts? Topped off by an Argentinean Asado (BBQ) the evening (with the addition of corn on the cob specifically for the Americans present - me).

The eating times, the languages, the kissing of too many cheeks never got in the way of the main activity which was to catch up, spend time together and build relationships across all the newer parts of the family - new kids, new girlfriends, etc) and strengthen old ones. The week included lots of swimming – in the river and in the lake. Geocaching, a visit to the city of Berne, a wedding, a baptism, a hike up to a view point over Zurich, and so as not to forget their roots, a visit to the Argentina Embassy in Switzerland. My contributions to the week included the Smith favorite honey chicken and a custom made geocaching hunt / race within a 1km radius from our house.

The most important times though were the meals had together, outside, under the tarp / awning, in the little backyard surrounded by jealous apartment owners. The house seems to have come from Kansas and landed in Oz. It is an old house from the early 1700’s that is surrounded by modern apartment buildings. We have a small yard, while everyone around us has balconies. And use that yard we did - We laughed, BBQ-ed, got confused at translations, talked of future plans, of the past year, and of the events of the day.

Next year will be different. The Swiss family is moving to Granada. So Zurich is out. Granada is a bit too far for the whole family to get to. The current potential location is a house in the Pyrenees that the family in Gabon have. The adventures will be different, each of us will have become better in the other languages, we will have all grown a year, and had new adventures. But one thing I know won’t change – there will still be a siesta!

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