Even though life in Switzerland was still not an easy ride, one person who absolutely adored Switzerland was my grandmother. She thoroughly enjoyed her visits there. I was wondering if she enjoyed the country more than actually visiting us.
The first time she came to visit was in the early stages of my parents’ divorce. My grandmother never quite liked my dad for obvious reasons. My grandmother, just like her mum, has a fierce personality and a strong character. She passed this to my mum and me. We are very strong women and also we are warriors as we fight every challenges coming our way. My grandmother had a tough life living in Guinea-Bissau all her life. She lived through the colonial stages when Portugal was still ruling Guinea-Bissau, she has seen the world change so much until the 21st century.
Obviously she grew up getting smacked and she passed this onto us. I never liked getting smacked, nor shouted at nor being forced to do things I didn’t want to do even though I was taught life skills.
My grandma taught me invaluable life lessons such as cooking, cleaning and even sewing! Needless to say, each times we went to Guinea-Bissau, it was not a holiday but it was a military camp. When she started to come to Geneva, I thought she was in my zone and couldn’t give me the same treatment she gave me in Guinea-Bissau. I was wrong. It was clear I was the black sheep of the family; every family gathering in Portugal, in Guinea-Bissau and in Switzerland, everyone was talking openly about how disobedient I was or how rude I was as well as how bad I was doing in school. This caused me a lot of shame to me and my mum. I knew I was trouble and I couldn’t even fight back. Everyone was against me. My dad would comfort me. I must say I still missed him.
So my grandma first visited us in the late 80s or early 90s. At first, she came for treatments and she obviously enjoyed how beautiful Geneva was. It must be a stark contrast between Guinea-Bissau in West Africa to Geneva in central Europe. The climate of course is different, the economic, the culture and lifestyle. One thing I remembered, my grandmother enjoyed the famous Swiss cheese and the chocolate. White chocolate was her favorite.
My grandmother enjoyed watching the programs on TV, she must have enjoyed herself so much because we forgot at times how long she was staying. One day, a custom officer came to our house to inform that my grandmother’s visa has expired. She had to return home immediately. She was receiving treatments in Switzerland, needless to say the medical care offered in Switzerland is excellent. Did that humiliation deter my grandmother to come back? Of course not, as a warrior she was determined to come back again and she did many times over. After nearly a decade of constant return to visit us, we have never seen a custom officer again.
Things were going to good as my grandmother had her feet under the table. The smacking started almost immediately when she made herself at home. The chores started, the cleaning and cooking. The sewing was the worst. I hated it! She taught me crochet and although I learned it, every mistakes I did, she would smack me. She would smack me for everything. Instead of doing like my sister, follow the rules and do as I was told, one day I did the unthinkable. I forgot what happened that day, but I but my grandmother smacked me so hard that I felt my blood boil to the point my veins were going to explode! I fought back as I was tired of the constant smacking. Wrong move as my grandmother empowered me and was on top of me. I was so powerless like a prey under this ferocious predator. All I could do was grab her hair for her to let go of me. Humiliated and destined for my mum’s looming wrath after what happened, I stormed in my room. I only came out to eat before retrieving back to my room. My mum eventually came come. The key opening the door was a ticking bomb for sure. As it was dinner, the hostility between my grandmother and me was looming all over us like a dark cloud. Eventually my mum started the talk as the silence was so deafening. My grandmother said I attacked her and I was going to kill her. I had my head down the whole time. As I finished my dinner, I excuse myself and went to my room probably reading a book. I expected the room to open anytime for my mum to storm in and shout at me or smack me. But none of that happened. My mum explained to my grandmother that as we are in Switzerland, she shouldn’t treat me this way. She also pointed out that I tried to settle in Geneva despite everything that is going on. My grandmother never smacked me again. I must say I was surprised of my mum’s reaction. I was relieved that despite what I did, I was let off slightly. It was a turning point definitely. I finished the worst year possible in Adrien Jeandin, and during my grandmother’s visit that same year, she would not smack me again. I knew I was still trouble, horrible as well as terrible. Something tells me I got it from my mum and my grandmother herself.
I was looking forward to boarding school in a way, as the new academic year loomed closer and closer. Studying and living in a private Catholic school seemed like an adventure. Well, it wasn’t quite an adventure as someone troublesome like me, trouble follows.
This post is a tribute to my beloved grandmother who passed away recently, despite our differences I still loved her.
Dear grandma, I will always be your Telminha. Despite the harsh treatments I received I know you loved me because of how you called me Telminha; your mini Telma in other words your mini you. You looked after us all ( especially your grandchildren). You particularly looked after me and my sister when our dad left. Thank you for all your life skills you have taught me as I perform them on a daily basis today, well not so much the sewing. Thank you for being there through my challenging periods and my worst periods too. When you were there, we were 4 again. You have gone through so much and witnessed so much changes in this world as you have lived through the 20th and 21st century. You have left such a strong legacy that even my daughter and you formed a strong bond. She is fierce and is a warrior like us. My niece that you saw a picture of, is equally strong like us, our mini warrior. Rest in power avo.