Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The International Expedition: Reflections on Latin Culture

After settling in Zurich for a few days, we moved to Basel then Riva San Vitale. Moving from the predominantly german, french, then italian parts of Switzerland offered many insights. The most striking contrasts were found in Swiss-Italy.

The train trip through the Alps from Basel to Riva is a visual spectacle. Scenic mountains, nestled towns, and modern engineering converged providing majestic views. Upon moving into the Lugano valley the passenger density and speaking volume clearly increased. Two drunk men embarked with a dog. They were engaged in a heated argument and were playing music with a cell-phone. One stumbled and stepped on his dog, who schreeked in pain. My mind immediately turned to Latin America. Personal discipline comes secondary to animated exchange, and epicurean delights. The Latin cultural influences persisted upon arrival in Riva.

Contrary to the norm of pedestrian right-of-way found in Zurich, drivers rely on an interpersonal, laissez-faire system. Pedestrians presuppose right-of-way at their own peril. Yes everyone besides the new-comers at the Steger center seem content with this system. night life proved much more lively and less structure than Zurich too. While Zurich has world-class bars and restaurants, I only saw young people drinking in public. By contrast, people in Riva freely spill into public space as festivities continue past midnight. Similarly, I saw drinking in the afternoon on campus at SUPSI, and by Lake Lugano. The heavy drinkers intermingled with families. Naked children ran care-free. Mutual suspicion and fear evaporated in the warm valley air.

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