Seniors learn about Switzerland

Imagine taking a breathtaking tour through Switzerland and the Alps—without even having to leave your seat.
Senior citizens in Emo did just that last Thursday when Marina Gerber, whose husband is from Switzerland, offered an intriguing presentation during the third meeting of the Emo Community Country Club.
Donning an authentic dress and bonnet, Gerber taught about her husband’s homeland.
“Although I’m not actually from Switzerland, I’ve had 40 years of Swiss influence,” Gerber noted, adding she also lived in the country for one year and has many relatives there, including her sons.
She said the family came to Canada in 1961 and settled in Rainy River District, but noted Switzerland never forgets its citizens—and they never forget their heritage.
“It’s a land of beauty and charm,” Gerber read from a book. “Those are not my words, but I endorse them.”
To help those on hand learn about Switzerland, Gerber had them play a game, asking the group 10 questions.
For instance, she had them explain where the country is located (bordered by Germany, France, Austria, and Italy), describe what the flag looks like (red with a white cross), and name the currency (Swiss franc).
She also noted several of Switzerland’s exports include chocolate, cheese, and even hospital beds and medicine since the Red Cross originated there.
“There are also a lot of technologies that come from Switzerland,” Gerber remarked, citing cable cars as an example. “A lot of things that benefit the whole world.”
Gerber also brought some assistants along to help her with the presentation. Rachel Lehmann and Petra Gerber, also wearing authentic dresses, provided a demonstration of dialect.
“Every little province has a different twist on Swiss dialect,” Marina Gerber explained, as she had both her helpers say “six children” in their dialects.
A distinct difference was heard between the two, and she noted there are about 26 different dialects within the country.
Gerber also was able to show the beauty of the Alps by providing photos and showing a video.
“They [the Swiss] love their mountains so much and they always go to the mountains to breath the air,” she stressed. “They even put mountains on a lot of their product packages.”
But Gerber indicated music also is important in Switzerland, with the majority of children learning music in school.
To demonstrate, Lehmann and Petra Gerber played a few songs on the recorder, or flute, as it is called there. And then the three women sang two tunes while Marina Gerber played the accordion.
In addition, Gerber offered information about the size of the country.
“It is about 250 times smaller than Canada,” she noted, adding the population there is 7.5 million.
“To put it in perspective, both the size and shape of Switzerland is similar to Lake Superior.”
She also brought some samples of Swiss products that are found in Canada, such as Müslix cereal, Ovaltine, and Toblerone (whose shape represents the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps).
And of course, those gathered in the Emo hospital cafeteria were able to taste chocolates, Swiss cookies, tea, and a dessert made from Müslix cereal and yogurt.
“The Creator made all of this beautiful country—I just have the privilege to tell you about it,” Gerber added.
The Emo Community Country Club, hosted by the Emo-La Vallee Healthy Communities Coalition, meets about every second month to hear about a different country.
For more information on the initiative, call the Northwestern Health Unit in Emo.