Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 19):

One Thursday when I was about to arrive in my college, I saw large number of Europeans coming in into the campus. I was totally surprised as I’ve never seen something like this before. I know that they’re students because they have continental European appearance, instead of typical Anglo Saxon British like the average Aussies.

Upon entering the campus, I was truly surprised that the courtyard area is packed with Europeans! My campus felt like in Europe! After looking at them, I realize that all of them were Swiss. They truly dominate the courtyard, so much that other students decided to stand aside. It’s not that the Swiss whisked them aside, but because the Asian students not felt confident enough to be near the Europeans.

Large group of Swiss students is seem relaxing on the fountain on St. Mark’s courtyard. Heinz Gubler (in dark green T-shirt) can be seen chatting with new students on center right). While Denise Loher (in lime green shirt, with short hair) and Maria Lüchinger (in red t-shirt) sat on lower right of the fountain.

When Heinz arrived, he was also surprised by their presence. He didn’t expect to see his countrymen to arrive in such large number. He did socialize with some of them briefly, and can confirm that they are all indeed Swiss Germans. Some of them even live near Heinz’s hometown.

Alvin, who watched the scene commented that he finally see some proof that what is depicted in the brochure is real after all. Prior to their arrival, we often thought that the presence of Caucasian students in the brochure photos was just a promotional thing, where Australian models stood as “foreign students”.

Reiko, upon watching such large number of Europeans, teased me by saying “Oooh, lovely girls aren’t they? I hope that you get to know some of them.” Well, I eventually did. Sung Ho was equally amazed. Although not really attracted by them, he expressed his amusement in regards about the prospect of having additional Europeans as our classmate.

As soon as our class started, these new Swiss students were guided into the sports hall to start their orientation program, and also undertook their qualification exams.  A few hours later, someone knock our classroom door, and one teacher took two delightful looking Swiss ladies into our class.  They were Denise Loher and Maria Luchinger. Both of them are friends from the town of Montlingen, near St. Gallen, in eastern Switzerland. Both were 20 years old.

Maria was a part time teacher who worked on a kindergarten in the town. Her appearance is looks more like south European than Germans. She has rugged facial appearance, intense dark eyes, darker reddish skin when compared to her compatriots, and her hair is also dark. In fact, once in a while some Aussies would mistake her for Italian, despite the fact that she is a Swiss German. Her English knowledge is actually quite poor, so much that I wonder how she could qualify for advance class.

Denise was a junior postal worker in her hometown. Just like all Swiss Germans in the college, she was on a long vacation, as well as using the occasion to improve her English. Compared to Maria, her English was actually quite good.  And I have to admit, she looks gorgeous too. She have fair skin (the brightest I’ve ever seen), and short dirty blonde hair. Her wide hazel eyes gave intense look that could make a person curious. She basically has strong Germanic beauty. I can only imagine she would have looked very impressive has she worn traditional Swiss clothing.

Denise’s smooth silky skin and her baby face look truly made her looks so beautiful. Yet, at that time I wasn’t really interested with her. The fact that there were other beautiful Swiss girls in the college meant that I was also curious to know other girls.

When I told about the Swiss girls to Siraj and Shah Jehan, they laughed at me. They said “Oh…Bagus love the Swiss girls!” for jokes. Fairuz, who happened to be in our house, even said that he would love to come to my college to see the girls, although I later found out that it was a joke.

But Danny* and Erick* were less enthusiastic about it. They warned me that they might deceive me into the night life, drinking binge, or even drugs, because they have seen many Aussies doing that. Danny even scolded and reprimanded to not to get too intimate with the Swiss. Since I perceived them as being disrespectful towards me, I decided to ignore his words. Erick even said that “those people are fake!” Well, you’re a hopeless prick yourself!

On our first Friday with these new Swiss students, we went to The Queens bar. It was also the first time that I had a chance to chat with Denise and Maria. I remember we sat on a table on the outdoor part of the pub, and I sat just across the small table from these girls.

It was the first time I tries to engage conversation with the girls. At first, they were hesitant. Indeed Maria seems barely able to speak English. Denise spoke slowly and carefully, sometime she stopped and tries to think the right English words to describe whatever she wants to say. Despite of some language barrier, we were really happy to engage in conversation, and getting to know each other’s well. I was truly excited to chat with them.

But I was totally surprised by how hairy the girls are. At the distance, the girls look normal to me. But upon closer inspection (since they wore short sleeve shirt, as the weather was “warm” by their Swiss standard) I notice that they have hairy arms! Previously, I would only see hairy body on man, but it was the first times I see ladies have rather thick body hair.

Unfortunately, they didn’t last long in my class. By the following Monday, they decided to downgrade the class and move to another room. Possibly, they couldn’t keep up with the standard. And besides that, their purpose of attending this college is purely for fun. Not to prepare for higher education in Australia.

Despite of their disappearance from my class, I still could keep up with them. I always catch up with them, whenever we had lunch break. Sometime Heinz would act like “translator” just in case if they lost in translation. Some other Swiss would also love to join our conversation.

Enjoying lunch break. Heinz is eating his lunch, while Denise looking on, Maria looks somber.

Since then, my feelings towards Denise gradually grew. Every morning, I always caught with Denise (and Maria) whenever I arrive to the college. I never forget to greet them, although most of the time it was Denise who replied, while Maria simply continues. Initially she would greet me in cold manner. But gradually she became warmer.

But there was one moment that made me became infatuated with her. One day I meet her in the library. We were having library class at that time. I sat on one table, and she suddenly also sat next to me. For a person that never had relationship with girl before, this made me feel overjoyed.

If that’s not enough, between our reading sessions we also chatted. I started by asking what motivated her to come all the way to Australia to study. She said that she is keen to visit countries in faraway places, to see the world, and also wants to meet the people outside Europe. She also said that I am her first non-European friend that she ever had. Wow, that makes me feel really special. She wants to know what is so special about Indonesia. I replied that Indonesia is has diverse culture, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and also nice beaches. Denise sounds excited upon hearing that, and she said that one day she would pay visit to Indonesia.

Somehow, I notice that there is a silver ring on her finger ring. I asked whether if she is already in relationship. She replied that she did actually had boyfriend. Although she admitted that her relationship “wasn’t very serious”.

While we were chatting, my left ear was listening to earphone playing music on my Walkman. Denise asked if she could also listen to the music. I gladly said yes, so she put one earphone on her left ear, while I put the other on my right. My heart was pounding. I cannot describe how happy I was back then, sitting next to my dream girl, she listened to the song that I choose. I think back then we listened to the song like “Will You Still Love Me” from Chicago, and also “Lovefool” from The Cardigans.

It suddenly strokes me when I listen to the latter song. I remember back when I first listened to this song prior to my departure to Australia, I felt like having a chemistry with its singer, and keen to look for someone like her. And upon looking at Denise, who partly resembles the lead singer The Cardigans, I realize that she must be the girl that I’m going to fall in love with.

If that’s not enough, upon concluded listening to my Walkman, she kissed the earphone and handed it back to me. Although I didn’t watch her kissing, I can feel her cold saliva on my ear when I attach the earphone. It’s obvious sign that she too was infatuated with me. She probably wanted to kiss me, but since there were many people in library, she avoided doing that directly to me.

My heart was pounding and I got emotional. I was in love with her! Since then, I always felt excited to go to college, as I’m keen and looking forward to catch up with her as much as possible. I was truly motivated to come to college at around this time.

As the time progresses, I also get to know some other Swiss students. There was Claudia*, an athletic girl with sort and dark brunette hair who loves to play tennis every afternoon after class. And then there was Bruno*, a Swiss German with dark hair (which makes him looks a bit like Italian) and wore glasses. He was a talkative person who often became the center of attention among the Swiss student. He loves to make some jokes, and I often engage him with some silly jokes that I learned from my high school days.

There was also Marcus, a tall Swiss guy from Luzern. He was a quiet and humble person, who often engages conversation with me. He was a classmate of Denise and Maria. And unlike most Swiss in the college, he grew close to some Japanese and Korean students as well. More often than not, I would see him conversing with Sung Ho, Reiko, Nami, or many other Asian students.

Another Swiss student who was quite close to Asians (mostly Japanese and Koreans) was Klaus*. He was tall, had curly brunette hair, wore glasses, and a bit of nerd. I remember he often said that “Swiss German language is the most difficult in the world”, and also flaunting the map of Switzerland to other students. Yet, despite of the perceived chauvinistic attitude, I often found he learn and grasp some Japanese vocabularies as well. He also loves to mingle with Asian students too.

And then there is one Swiss girl with curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and skinny body named Gabriela*. She is a warm, cheerful, and outgoing girl, who love to socialize and making joke with her friends. Although I notice that most of the time, she would prefer to mingle with fellow Swiss Germans. Despite of her beautiful outlook, I never get attracted with her because her habit of underestimating Asians.

The Swiss girl that named Gabriela* (in yellow t-shirt) and her friend sat in one corner of the campus.

But the most stunning looking Swiss student of all had to be Maria* (not to be confused with Maria Luchinger). She was a tall and slim girl, with fair skin, blue eyes, blonde hair, and attractive looking face. She would truly wow everyone both on and off the campus. Even better was the fact that she was a friendly, affable, and approachable person. She was anything but arrogant; indeed she always smiled to everyone. Rumor has it that she was either a former airline stewardess, or maybe used to work as photo model back in Switzerland.

The stunning Swiss lady named Maria* bore partial resemblance with actress Tara Reid, unless she was much taller.

Interestingly, Maria spoke fluent Thai language too (aside of English, and her native Swiss dialect German). During lunch breaks, she was often seen mingled with Thai students. Because of her, the normally shy and reclusive Thais became slightly more open towards the Europeans. Once I learned that she learned how to speak Thai from her experience of staying for long duration in Thailand, probably as a foreign exchange student. There was also a rumor that she had a relationship with Thai man, although I never saw any confirmation regarding of this.

Since then, I would mostly spend my break time more with these Swiss students. The main reason was to combat my lack of confidence in dealing with westerner.  By being around with them, I feel like I’m equal to them, not an inferior being. They seem to be happy with my presence, and indeed they are curious about my country and culture, as some had never been to South East Asian countries. This makes me feel proud for being Indonesian.

I also found the Swiss rather free to express themselves. Whenever they like each other, they don’t hesitate to hug or kiss, regardless whether if they’re in intimate relationship or not. Although Heinz was already in a committed relationship back home (not married, but living with his fiancée), he didn’t hesitate to hug Denise, much to my jealousy, as at that time I also had feelings towards her. During warmer climate in spring, the Swiss didn’t hesitate to wore mini dresses, and strip down to their underwear before plunging to swimming pool.

I also began to pick up and grasp some habits of the Swiss students, mostly through Heinz. I began to learn how they implement discipline without abuse and punishment. The key is commitment. Choose whatever that can motivate you (something that you like, not what you feared) to achieve something. This is the key on how the Swiss can be a developed country. Everyone works according to their main key interest, and develop their talent and potentials into something that can be used to advance their country. Stark contrast with what I saw in Indonesia at that time where people must conform to government’s ambition with disastrous result.

Another habit that I pick up from Heinz was block hand writing. When I first come to Australia, my hand writing was akin to scribble. It was quite poor quality, and some found it hard to read. But upon knowing that Denise was interested with Heinz, I tried to emulate him as much as possible. Ranging from cleanliness, attitude, and of course writing style. I began to try to write in neat and tidy block writing. At first, my writing was wobbly. But after several days, I gain confidence to adopt block style writing permanently. Not as tidy as Heinz’s but much better than previous scribble writing style.

A few weeks later, we moved to higher class again. This time, our teacher is a male named Milo Bogdanovich. He is Australian of Macedonian descent, where his parents migrating from that country to Australia in 1960s. Although he was born and grew up in Australia, he didn’t detach himself from his roots. He spoke fluent Macedonianan and still held dual of Macedonia and Australia citizenship. Heinz, who understood some Macedonian words, occasionally joked in that language with Milo.

Relaxing on Friday afternoon at Queen’s Pub, Highgate. Left to right: Rosalina, Sung Ho Park, Milo Bogdanovic, Hudiono Handoyo, Heinz Gubler, and Woo Jae Kim.

Contrary to previous teachers who tend to stick too much to materials provided, he sometime uses real radio recording to train students in listening. His method proved truly helpful for me, as his curriculum proved tougher than IELTS. He was also an easygoing person, who gets acquainted easily with students. His teaching method can make difficult subject felt easy to understand for students.

But my effort to get acquainted with the Swiss during weekend can be real struggle for me. During weekdays, most would simply vanish after school. I tried to catch up with Denise, but most of the time, she was nowhere to be seen as her class ended earlier than mine. On the weekend, they would go to pub. Since going to pub is often associated with bad thing, back home in Surabaya, I wasn’t confident to join them. So it was quite difficult to catch up with Denise.

One Heinz habit that I struggled to emulate was his hobby of traveling during weekend. He was very adventurous. It seem that every weekend he would go to faraway destination (and doing exotic things like surfing or climbing), in places such as Geraldton, Albany, Kalgoorlie, Wave Rock, Northam, and many exotic locations that was beyond reach for me as I couldn’t drive in Australia, and did have guts to travel alone.

As usual, Heinz didn’t brag about it. And sometime he invited me to come along. At first, I was quite hesitant to go with him as it would be just two of us. I’m not keen going out with a person that I’m not too familiar with. Cultural clash was also a major concern for me. Going out to faraway and unfamiliar place, with a person whom I’m not too familiar with was enough to raise some degree of suspicion. He might be my classmate, but off the class I wasn’t too confident to go traveling with him.

But one weekend in mid-October, Heinz invited me to travel to Bunbury, Busselton, and Margaret River. This time with Denise! In addition, Maria (Luchinger) will also come along. Since we were traveling in a group of four, this sounds less risky to me. So I accepted his invitation to go. Who knows if this is a good opportunity to get closer to Denise?

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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