There are so many positive aspects of international friendships. They open your eyes to sides of the world you never considered, and often open homes and hearts as well, introducing food, culture, art… But, there is a downside to international friendships that sometimes makes me wonder if we should ever leave our hometowns at all: the goodbye.
When I interned here two years ago, I remember realizing halfway through the session that I would be leaving, and that the magic of that beautiful month would soon be over. I swore I would never return to Caux, because it was already breaking my heart to anticipate that goodbye. Five of us took that train down together, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the group. Sometimes just walking through the Montreux train station takes me back to that moment, the tearful hugs and kisses, and I remember looking into those eyes and wondering if I would ever see them again, if I would ever love that deeply again.
My train to Milan was so lonely, so sterile and underwhelming, after a month of intense discussions, tears and laughter. I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way from that summer, that the past two years have taught me something, that not every goodbye is forever. Caux has become a home away from home, a place where I know the boys in washup and the village bartender and most of the staff by name. Since that first summer traveling, I have actually stayed in contact with some of the hostel friends I picked up along the way. But, despite all of this, the goodbyes haven’t become any easier.
Because for every friendship re-ignited, for every person I go to visit, there are so many more that get lost, forgotten. The notion that you may legitimately never see someone again, ever, is all too real. Sometimes I feel that the internet and Skype are a horrific trap, a trick of modernity, because you may see someone’s face and hear their voice every day, but that doesn’t mean you will ever see them again. Facebook allows you to re-live those moments, keeping the memories so much fresher than a faded box of snapshots that you lose under your bed two months after you return to reality, and slowly forget.
Last night, as some friends and I were going for a late-night dip in the lake, it hit me that this may be my last summer here, and that I could very well be saying goodbye to this place, these friends, and this wonderful country for years, if not forever. I’ve already become nostalgic for this summer, the friendships made, the wine drunk and mountains explored, this castle that feels so much like home.
We have something of a tradition here at Caux. When someone gets on the train to go down the mountain for the final time, we all gather to see them off. We wait with them as they put their luggage on board, and then stand and stare at them until the train starts to move (which always takes longer than you expect), blowing kisses and waving, trying to talk through the thick window. And then we run– as if we can somehow change their mind, their plans, their plane tickets– and we watch them disappear. We know we can’t change these things, but we try anyhow. Maybe it’s for them- so they depart laughing at the image of their friends futilely running after them- but it might be more for us, for those wishing safe travels, so that we know we did everything within our power to make them stay.