Who has time to update the blog when you are working in places with views like this? This is actually taken from our trip to the ETH Conference Center in Ascona, which is close to the Italian border. The conference center is called the Centro Setfano Franscini at Monte Verita and is has an interesting history involving anarchists, vegetarianism, psychoanalysis, and nudism. Now it hosts conferences and workshops organized through the ETH and you don’t have to partake in any of the former practices to be welcomed there.
In April, Jo had to give a talk at a workshop there and we both went down for a long weekend to see another region. It was one of the first beautiful weather weekends and everything looked pretty stunning. For reference, the nearest train station town is Locarno, and the trip took about 3.5 hours. The scenery on the way down was beautiful too, so when you come to visit, you might want to put this put this region on your “to do” list.
While we were there, it was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and while walking around, I really got to thinking about what the highly-valued “Quality of Life” means here. When talking about Switzerland and why it is a desirable place to live, people mention the possibility of enjoying a high quality of life all the time. It sounds straightforward enough, but the longer we live here, the more I understand what the Swiss mean with this.
For sure, it is about privilege, but it is more than that, because you can see it even across the different strata of the Swiss society. Walking along the lake in Locarno, we must have been two of several thousands of people who were spending the afternoon not working, in this little town. Most things are closed, so most people are not obligated to work on Sundays. In fact, it seems, Sundays are days when you are supposed to spend time with friends and family, not working. Not doing laundry or catching up on housework, not shopping or running errands either.
It’s actually hard to describe the feeling you get when you’re out but it really feels different than a lazy Sunday in the US does. There were thousands of people from infants to elders, walking, biking, rollerblading, running… stopping for a coffee or a picnic, or ice cream given the sunny, warm day. Every time we go out and about on a Sunday, I feel like I understand this quality time better.
With minimum wages being living wages, many people really seem to have choices about how to spend time that truly is free time. Many people I have met say they choose to work part-time, often 60% or 80%. The idea seems to be, why work all the time if I don’t have to do so to live comfortably? And, that desired comfort is not nearly as material as I have imagined. [I still think there are some surprisingly traditional gender roles that are deeply rooted in this advanced capitalist culture but that’s another post for another time. Reconciling all of this with our location in the middle of one of the major financial capitals in the world is also a mind-bender to me, maybe one day a post can explore that one too.]
So, as we learn to take advantage of this high quality of life, it is interesting to find out how “inconvenient” it can feel sometimes, and how our habits don’t always align with this way of life. I’m sure I am breaking some norms when I eat lunch at my desk at work… and it does take some thinking ahead to not be caught at home with no bread, juice or dinner to cook on a Sunday or public holiday. But we’re getting there and it’s definitely interesting figuring it all out.