The Pilgrim and the Politician

A man begins a pilgrimage to Rome in Canterbury, England, and eventually arrives at the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard. As he walks, he carries 88 years of joy, sorrow, and a rather large backpack on his back.

Traveling from Bern to the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard is another man, who is also on a journey. As he makes his way, he carries the arrival of a new baby and the weight of his country’s future on his back.

Pilgrims walk for different reasons. Our pilgrim walked, but he did not know why. He only knew he was called to walk and was uninterested in “why.” Politicians attend events for a myriad of reasons. Our politician attended an event in late June because he knew he should be there. He didn’t pay much attention to “why.” Both men were answering a call.

Nationality separated them. Language separated them. Normal, everyday differences separated them.

Why did Brian walk? Why did Christophe attend that concert?

Perhaps one of the many reasons Brian walked and Christophe attended that concert could be this blog post and the mere fact that you are reading it.

It’s 2014 and we can be jaded and cynical. Most of us see politicians as untouchable and most of us do not pay any attention to pilgrims. A politician would never waste his time talking to a pilgrim and they certainly would not be at the same event because politicians go to fancy places and pilgrims do not.


There are still places in this world that transcend language, nationality, age, religious beliefs, socio-economic differences. There are still places that bring people together for a common purpose, known or yet unknown. There are still places where two men from completely different walks of life can be brought together to share things – ideas, music, Raclette. There are places where the sting of cynicism is made weak.

We have to treasure these places and nourish them. We must feed them with our time, with our resources, and with our very best intentions. We have to look at these places as true sanctuaries because that is what they are.

They are places where the shoes on your feet do not matter. They are places where the color of your hair, your skin, your coat…none of it matters. They are places where a pilgrim and a politician are both seen as exactly what they are:  God’s children – truly equal and worthy of unconditional love and acceptance.

We must give our best to these places and the people walking into them. Both are deserving of our adoration.

I could say many things about the pilgrim and the politician. They are two of the finest men I have met in a very long time. It is not the point. The point is much simpler than that.

There is a place on the border between Switzerland and Italy where a pilgrim and a politician sat together and shared an important life moment.

That place is the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard.

You should go there and give it your best. If you cannot go there, you can still give it your best.

Donate 5 dollars, 10 Euro, 20 CHF, or 100,000£. What is your best? Give that.

Hospice du Gd-St-Bernard – 1946 Bourg-St-Pierre – Suisse
Union de Banque Suisse – 1920 Martigny
IBAN        CH50 0026 4264 6946 8001 X
BIC          UBSWCHZH80A

If we don’t give these places our best, how can this happen?

The Pilgrim and the Politician
The Pilgrim and the Politician



Lost in translation? I don’t think so.

I remember the day very clearly (it’s in my book). About four years ago, I was standing in front of someone and trying desperately to communicate in German – my 6th language.

“Ich weiss mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut,” I said.

“Ja und nicht gut genug.”

I know my German is not so good….to which he responded, “yes and not good enough.”

I refrained from saying, “Oh really? How’s your English? Tell me your thoughts on the Oxford comma? Passé?”

Today, I was dealing with a Swisscom employee. I am already a day behind because of Swisscom and also 400CHF poorer. This to say nothing of the pounding headache I have had since purchasing their product that would make my life “einfacher.” #itdidnt

Go on a little “with me” trip, as I call it. Especially those of you who get frustrated by non-native English speakers.

Picture yourself as a technical idiot trying to explain, in your sixth language, something said to you the night before on the Swisscom hotline by an actual technical expert. Imagine while this is happening, you are watching the minutes slowly tick toward the departure of your train.

Then, imagine the manager telling you in Swiss dialect “kein Englisch nur Tüütsch” (no English, only German), even though English is one of the working languages for Swisscom. Next, imagine missing both trains and still there is no solution from the people who sold you the mountain & the gold for 400CHF. You there? Great.

Now, add on to it that you, like everyone else in the world, have your own issues to deal with.

Really. Imagine all that.

It’s more than a headache. It’s the problem, in a global sense, with customer service and general apathy toward others – in particular, those who are foreign to us in some way.

Again, I’m not Mother Teresa (read the post entitled “I’m not Mother Teresa,” you’ll see), but when I see someone is struggling, for any reason, I go where they are. I can attempt other languages (including Latin and sign language) if I have to. Why? Because it’s not about me. It’s about the other person needing the help I can give.

I really don’t care if we are talking about a 5G connection cockpit username upgrade or directions to the bathroom or even spiritual discernment. Egal (I know that one…it means, “it’s all the same” like “equal” but super-sized). I am going to try my damnedest to be there and to help.

If I were in Texas and someone walked up to me (as a customer or a mere human) in need of my help and said, “passt Deutsch?” I would never say, “huh uh.” See, that’s the Texas (dialect) version of English (official language). Why would I do that? I have no need to make another person feel small, stupid, or subordinate. I would say “natürlich passt das, wie kann ich helfen?”

One of my favorite quotes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We should all make sure we commit that one to memory.

In every language.

Need a good laugh? Read this.

Running thoughts during a German Certification 6-hour test I know I will fail

(Typed into my computer from 9AM-4PM and transferred directly to this post.)

It’s 9:00AM- ten minutes before the test starts- Q&A time

Girl 1 asks- “Does anyone have a pen I can borrow?” (I think of Rich, who would say, “I do. It’s at my home, which is in Zug. Go get it.”)

Girl 2 asks- “Can I use my dictionary?” (I think of Liv, who would say, “No, but I will throw it at your face.”)

Guy asks moderator a question that has been answered, twice, and is also answered in large letters on the board. (I think of Chris, who would respond as the moderator by writing the following on the board “k”)

Reading part of test (only part I know I will ace)

I finished that part of the test 30 minutes early. There was a section on what will happen to Switzerland in 2030 if there are such tough immigration laws.

I think made around 90% (27/30) on this part. I am exhausted and my eyes hurt from a week of constant crying. I want to check what Marten said about “Recipe” in German because I already forgot. I don’t want to turn on my phone because people b straight trippin in this hood aiight?

This might be a good time to study since I haven’t in one week. Instead of studying? I am writing these notes.

A guy from the test just asked me what I thought of the test. In German, I told him it was a big party in my head. He laughed.

Hearing part of test (hope I don’t zone out) starts now, it’s 11:00 and it feels like it’s only been 45 minutes.

Hearing part is over. I was doing really well until I, of course, totally zoned out in the middle of the part that is only played once. I never have trouble…con…concentra…concen…right. I think I only got 70% right (21/30).

I zoned out because the guy sitting two rows in front of me reminded me of Fuschli which made me remember Fuchsli and think about his death last week. Why did this happen? Before I started to ugly cry, I heard the little bells saying that dialogue was over. Whatever.  “Mach neut.” It doesn’t matter.


Break time for 30 minutes. Again, don’t care to study. Can’t focus anyway. Will anyone see if I turned on one of the Essex episodes?

The proctor of the exam just walked past me. She has a cool green skirt on.

The first two parts (reading and hearing) were the easiest. Next? Writing. That’ll be fun.

I should be like the idiot that asked if we can use a dictionary. I’ll ask, “Excuse me, my internet connection isn’t working. How do I use Google Translate?”

Writing part (hell)


That was fun. I have two hours to kill so I am hiding in a Starbucks. The weird guy from breaktime asked me if I wanted to go to Kennedys, which is next door. Uh…no.

In section one of writing, I wrote an email to Liv, I wrote a Zeitung opinion about Luzern needing to be named the capital of Switzerland because it was so pretty, and another email this time to my new employer, Dickie Wasserhaus (not kidding) at UBS. I told him that I am looking forward to my new job and thanked him for hiring me even though I speak horrible German.

I thought number one was the most real, number two was the most charming, and three was the most butt-kissing. All three of them were very me. I wish I had a copy of them.

I think I’ll drink a shot of something. The next part is the spoken thing.

AUGH-I TURNED ON MY PHONE TO CHECK MESSAGES, which was a huge International mistake.

Back at the testing place for the spoken part (double hell)

Before the spoken part, I was so shocked at the nonsense going on around me that I ran, head first, into a closed, glass door. With a full cup of Latte Macchiato.

I am sitting on the floor looking at the door, texting Liv, and crying/laughing my ass off.IMG_1451


Spoken part was ridiculous. My head was aching because I ran into the door, I talked about the following topic (again, not joking): “Do you think the Internet is a good source for factual information?”

When we walked out of the test room, the moderator looked at the door (still dripping with my coffee) and tsked. “Someone should clean this up, what is this?”

“Stimmt! Wie schrecklich!” I agree, how horrible.

To add a few brownie points I told her I liked her skirt.

Don’t think it worked, we’ll see.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Damen und Herrn, that is how you fail a German test.