Friday, October 28, 2011

A Heavenly Experience, to be continued....

How do you get to paradise? It starts with a shuttle, then there is an airplane, then a train, then a boat, then a walk and it ends at Stella Matutina in Hertenstein Switzerland :)
I arrived back in Maastricht last night at about 11pm. Back to reality! Well, my reality for this year abroad. I've been in Switzerland since Thursday of last week at school for my third year of Osteopathy. I've been very lucky that I have been able to continue my studies in Osteopathy because the CCO has a sister campus in Switzerland, SICO. I really felt like this week I unplugged from the world and got rid of all the background noise. No television, no phone and being at one with nature. I was able
to immerse myself in my studies and the experience of Stella Matutina.
As I mentioned I had a lot of traveling to do to get there and numerous connections and switches in modes of transportation. I felt a bit like Harry Potter trying to get to Hogwarts :) The trip was beautiful, almost as beautiful as the destination. Flying into Geneva is my favorite. The snow capped mountains and the lake views blow me away every time I see them, 3rd and 4th time, no big deal :) The train ride from Geneva to Lucern takes you along the edge of cliffs and along lake Geneva, AMAZING! and the ferry boat ride to my school is, UNREAL!
When you arrive in Hertenstein, Isabel the school administrator said, "just call a nun to pick you up", just call a nun?!?!
I was advised that it was only a 10-min walk from the dock to the school so I decided to walk instead. My legs needed a stretch after all the sitting anyway. The ferry dropped me off at the Hertenstein dock and as it pulled away I had a real feeling of being deserted. I watched as the ferry pulled out and continued on it's trip across lake Lucern. I was in the middle of no where and I mean no where! Well, I thought to myself, my phone doesn't work here and there doesn't seem to be one around so I should just start walking. I wandered through the countryside; cows, sheep, forrest, fields, real countryside! After about 10-min I stumbled upon a small hotel and I used what little french I have to ask for directions. They said "Stella Matutina??" and I said "No SICO (Swiss International College of Osteopathy), I think??", they gave me a map and it was at this point a bit of fear lumped in my throat. Where the heck am I going? What am I going to do if I get lost on this island? The rest of the trip had been so straight forward. I've come so close.
Thank goodness the women at the hotel was right! About 10-minutes later; more open fields, woods, nature, following the road as it bends around a hill on the horizon I spot it, Stella Matutina, a truly heavenly place. Stella Matutina is a monastery that is cared for by a group of nuns and is where our courses are held. When I arrived at Stella Matutina I couldn't
believe my eyes. It is unlike any place that I have ever been before. The architecture is so well
planned - they think of everything, it is so clean and well cared for and they have done an amazing job of keeping the old world feel with all the modern amenities. When I approach the office in the entry hall to ask for assistance there is only one nun at the desk in her habit and customary dress. This is too cool! She really did look like a much older version of Mary Poppins. When I say I have a reservation she has a puzzled look on her face. She runs off and again the lump forms in the back of my throat. She quickly returns with a nun who kind of speaks English and when I say this I mean she spoke in French and I spoke in English. They speak Swiss German here which apparently is very different then German, neither of which I have any understanding. They were so kind and caring....I love the nuns! They gave me a tour which I got very little from aside from what I could see but appreciated the effort none the less. They showed me to my room which was humble, yet very comfortable, and I joined all the guests for dinner in the dining room. For the week I was spoiled with delicious meals.
All of the guests eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together in the dining room and it is served by the nuns at specific times of day. The food was very hearty and always in 4-courses at lunch and dinner; a salad, a soup, a main dish and desert. They were great about providing me with vegetarian options and food that I have never tried before but really liked. I was well taken care of. I arrived a day before the majority of my classmates because I was participating in a clinical day and had the opportunity to meet my teacher, Paul Wagner. We had meals together and walked around the village as well. He is from Vancouver and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about many things. It was nice to spend time with a fellow Canadian. For the clinical day I treated a nun :) She didn't speak English so some fellow students did the interview portion of the treatment. People in Switzerland speak many languages. When I say many I'm talking about somewhere in the neighbor hood of 4-languages and often jumping from language to language in a single conversation. I really need to work on that. I was told I need at least two by my teachers. I speak 1 and a 1/2 on a good day. It was a really great experience to team treat like this and to see how gifted the Swiss are with language. Arrival and Clinical Day were amazing and I will report on the remainder of my stay throughout the week. There is just too much to say for a single blog entry :)

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