I rode the train to a peak called Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe.
I thought I heard a wave of wind chimes. In actuality, we were passing by a couple of cows. They were, evidently, wearing cowbells. At first, I didn’t quite believe my eyes and ears. I never thought I would see cowbells outside of a classical music context. Those bells I always picked up whenever I walked passed the percussion section during orchestra rehearsal — I never thought that the same bells would actually belong on a live animal.
On the way up, I listened to a conversation behind me. A woman in my tour group was recalling a time in another European country when she tried calling an Uber, only to have the driver hang up on her when she couldn’t communicate her location through her accent.
When the train had reached its last stop, we exited to walk towards the elevator to the stop. It was a Swiss holiday, but there were a couple of shops opened. Most of them sold watches, including Rolex, Cartier, and Tissot, as well as a couple of other brands I had never heard of. All of them had a short note next to the Swiss flag on the tag: Made in Switzerland. There were a couple of white workers, but most of them seemed to have eastern Asian descent. It’s funny; I had never seen any non-tourist Asians in Switzerland until now.
“你在找什么样的手表,” approached one worker.
“I’m not interested in buying,” I replied. She moved onto another tourist in my group.
I walked outside to the blinding of the thin atmosphere and reflective snow. I started to tear. The mere act of opening my eyes seemed to be a struggle. I recalled less pain than when I squinted at the partial solar eclipse on a hill in New Hope during my freshman summer. I put on my sunglasses to prevent my eyes from melting. My surroundings were hazy, probably because I had been literally standing within a cloud. I wanted to take off my jacket because it had become a sort of ultraviolet furnace, but I knew better. The temperature outside still remained a frosty 26 degrees (F).
I waited in line to take a picture with my family next to the Swiss flag. It seemed like it was what everyone else had been waiting for. When it had finally gotten to my turn, I heard a feminine voice behind me, “Hurry up. We’re freezing over here.” I turned around to find exactly the type of person I had envisioned the voice had belonged to. I briefly thought about calling her out. After all, I was one of the few members of my tour group who even had the ability to argue with a native English speaker. But I decided against it. She seemed like the type of person that would fit nicely in a sorority, although I found it hard to believe that she could feel cold from her matching black Canada Goose with her friend. After all, aren’t Canada Gooses bought for warmth?
I rode the train back down from the mountain to the sweet smell of cow manure. It’s the smell of nature, except, of course, among countries without a scenic train ride to the top of a snowy mountain. Then, it’s known as the smell of poverty. The church bells rang loudly on Sunday.
This piece was written on the train down from Jungfraujoch.