En route to the promised land of Switzerland

The news of us finally leaving Guinea-Bissau to Switzerland, should have been welcomed with joy, excitement and jubilation. In my case, I was confused and in complete disbelief. This defined my other layer of personality: to add my defiance, stubbornness and overall strong character, I am also someone who would see it to believe it. I would also get into trouble for that when I was threatened with consequences and wouldn’t believe it until I actually get the consequence. Yes, you figured my strong and complex character was incredibly challenging to deal with. I wouldn’t be patient with someone who was like me either. 

My grandmother seemed to have run out of patience with me. She wasn’t the only one. No matter all the beatings I received while in Guinea-Bissau, it had the opposite effect on me as I simply became rebellious. Anyway, to be honest she welcomed the news with more jubilation than anyone else. As soon as she finished talking to my mum, she rushed around like a headless chicken and started to pack all our belongings. She was the speed of light and everything was packed up in seconds. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was obviously excited inside to finally be reunited with my mum and for all of us to be together again. Again, I had to see it for myself to believe it as we have been living in Guinea-Bissau for so long. Would I miss my time here though? Well, I haven’t seen my mum overall in 2 years. Those years felt like an eternity. So we were explained that in order to go to Geneva from Guinea-Bissau, we would have to transition from Lisbon, my hometown, before catching another flight to Geneva.

Unsurprisingly, the D-day arrived so quick and awaited us to leave Guinea-Bissau for good. After saying our goodbyes, we arrived at the airport. The only recommendation from my auntie was to guard my passport and ticket like a hawk. When it was time to show my passport and ticket, I refused to hand them over not only because of my defiance but also because I, for once, obeyed strict instruction. I was told unless I showed my ticket and passport, I would not be abled to board. Eventually, my auntie was called over and she disclosed that only to stewards and customs officer I am allowed and no one else. Thankfully for my auntie’s intervention otherwise I doubt I would be able to take my flight.

As I boarded the flight with my sister, we had a steward to accompany us as we were still noticeably young (I was only 4 nearly 5), I was able to convince myself it was real. I would be reunited with my parents. I slightly smiled as I was looking out of the window. This flight represented my escape, my freedom and my refuge. 

Once we arrived in Portugal, we were greeted by a familiar face, our mum. We ran as fast as cheetahs to greet our mum. The aura enveloped our reunion in such a manner that we felt it was just us in the airport. My mum looked at me and the first thing I said was you took so long or what took you so long. I spoke those words in creole, Guinea-Bissau’s official language. However, I could still speak Portuguese and with our time in Guinea-Bissau, I could equally speak creole. Anyway, we had to hurry, we had another flight to catch; en route to Geneva, Switzerland. We were still buzzing with excitement like bees, all over the place. I asked for my dad, I longed to see him again. I missed my dad so much. Dad remained in Switzerland awaiting us at the airport.

To give you a timeframe, it was April 1986 or 1987 that we landed in the promised land, Geneva. We quickly realised the sharp difference as it was way colder, I still remember. The majestic swiss mountains welcomed us, surrounding the airport. I was in such awe of amazements. I never saw such high mountains before in person if that makes sense. Inhaling this pure fresh air, I was already captivated by the beauty Geneva had to offer. My eyes were hungry for more. It wasn’t enough for me savouring the beauty Switzerland had to offer, I wanted to devour it. My mum took us away to get our luggage. Once we did that, awaiting among the sea of people in the airport was our dad. I was so ecstatic that I ran so fast and the realisation felt like I was running in slow motion. I jumped on my poor dad who was powerless to contain my joy and cries. It was the first time I saw my dad since our separation which lasted a lifetime.

We first took a bus from the airport, then a tramway to go to our new area where our home was located. At first, we lived in the area called La Servette. Our excitement was an explosion which exploded and its wave was felt throughout the whole tramway. As we were admiring more beauty of our new city, everything amazed us: the buildings, the many banks, the various chocolate shops displaying various types of mouth-watering chocolate on display. What impressed us the most, was how clean Geneva was. 

The stark contrast between Geneva and Guinea-Bissau was like day and night, no comparison. We were so excited and loud, which people did not appreciate and we kept on sensing the negative eyes on us. If looks could kill, our excitement would have died on the spot. My parents received many complaints about our behaviour, mainly our loud excitement for we just couldn’t contain it. I was only 4 for crying out loud. Why are people not compassionate that we just reunited with our parents and were simply excited about exploring Geneva? 

As you know me by now, especially my defiance including my stubbornness, didn’t stop my excitement. In fact, I was even louder to the annoyance of other passengers. I simply didn’t care and it shows in my carefree personality. Unfortunately, my excitement in the new city was short lived. The very next day, I had to go to the hospital as a matter of emergency. My time in Guinea-Bissau simply didn’t want to let me go.

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