Our teacher’s name was Kiki, but this was actually her professional name.
Marivic and I knew her then — as now — as Margherita.
She was an artist and art teacher who lived in Milan and who spent the month of August every year in Switzerland, holding art workshops in the village of Soazza, which is about an hour’s drive from Bellinzona.
BEAUTY IN THE TINIEST THINGS
Each morning we would gather in the atelier and Margherita would demonstrate a particular watercolor technique and create a painting on the spot.
Then we would all go off on our own all over the village — which was not very big — to find a spot to sit and paint or an interesting view to paint.
Being from Asia, it wasn’t difficult to find subjects to paint in this quite ordinary village (at least “ordinary” by European standards!) as every single thing was interesting to us.
I remember painting a scene of tea cups on the window sill of a house that looked like it was about to fall apart from age.
And then also doing one of a rocky pathway in between two wooden sheds. The colors and the light were different, and the weather was just absolutely beautiful every day.
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A FILIPINA IN THE LITTLE TOWN OF SOAZZA
It was on one of these forays that one of us bumped into a Filipina living in the village, married to a local engineer.
We were of course very surprised to find a Filipina living in these parts, but were quite glad for a bit of home.
We’d been living at the hotel and subsisting everyday on a mixture of Italian and German food — and the Italian food was on the heavy side since this part of Switzerland is close to Milan.
So there was a lot of meat and heavy pasta and risotto — and one night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible tummy ache.
This Filipina very kindly cooked us some Philippine food and rice in her compact and simple apartment.
ART LESSONS IN GERMAN
Interestingly, Margherita was from Italy and she only spoke Italian, German and a bit of French.
Most of our fellow students spoke German, so everyone else got along fine.
But Marivic and I spoke neither Italian nor German, and my French at that time was more of the shopping and restaurant variety.
So even now I still don’t know how we got through lectures and one-on-one tutorials. But perhaps art is a universal language that needs little translation.
MEMORIES OF A SWISS SUMMER
I have so many memories of that wonderful summer in Switzerland and Italy.
We’d walked through the flea markets of Zurich and dined in a lakeside trattoria on Lake Maggiore.
Then we even crossed over to Italy for shopping in Milan and an evening at Verona’s open-air coliseum for a magical performance of the Aida.
STILL ONE OF MY FAVORITE TRIPS
I’ve been to so many places since then, and even returned to many of our haunts.
And since then, lots of people have also asked me which of my hundreds, or thousands of trips perhaps, is my favorite. I have to say that this girls’ trip remains one of my favorite holidays to date.
Thinking about that summer in Switzerland, already living a never-endingly eventful Travelife, really makes me smile.