Unexpectedly, I had very contrasting experiences with children in Basel. On the one hand, there were these two little brothers who were introduced to their scooters. The older one, about five or six, had this giant grin on his face as he buzzed past us. His brother, maybe three, started crying and kept one foot on the ground for safe measure. Jenna and I cooed over the adorable personalities already being exhibited in these young lives.
On the other hand, as we approached the bridge over the Rhine, another young boy shot me point-blank in the head with his two fingers. “BANG!” he yelled. I was torn between laughing and shock. I laughed.
I hate to say it, but I was pretty shaken by that. Silly kid.
The Rhine separates the ritz from the work. I honestly didn’t see much difference; both sides of Basel were busy and had old architecture. However, there were a few subtleties: the oldest buildings, the biggest churches, and the most diverse architecture were on the side of the once-aristocrats. Mr. James explained how Basel was originally well-known for their dye industry, and the aristocrats put the dye factories on the other side of the river, and later on made the immigrants also live on that side.
Nonetheless, “slum” as they used to call it didn’t exactly seem to fit. I guess in Switzerland even the poorer side looks pretty fancy.
To cross the Rhine, we took a motorless ferry ride, which traversed the river through rudder and current only.
The man who owned the ferry was a tall, white-haired gentleman with a charming smile and a disposition for conversation. (and he wore one of those awesome Scandinavian knit sweaters!)
We asked him about his job. It turns out he had graduated, earned a degree and a place in the rat race, but grew tired of it all. Eventually, the ferry position opened up, and he seized his chance. For twenty years, he has ferried visitors across the Rhine, occasionally in the company of his brother (who was with us today). And yet, according to him, he’s still new to the career. With a smile on his face, he added “When you find a job that’s beautiful, you keep it.”
The next day I would leave for Freiburg and a new life of studying in another country. His words were a fitting send-off and an unintended blessing; even though the next few months will be emotionally and physically hard, they will also be beautiful. I wouldn’t change this life for the world.
Travelling the world is treasure enough.