Zurich with Nostalgia

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary, World YWCA

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and Marlies Petrig

On 10 August, Ana Villanueva and I took the train to Zurich. To meet us at the station were Marlies Petrig, Marion Schmid and Julia Diener from the YWCA YMCA Switzerland, and they were not wearing the Helping Hands T-shirts! We hugged and laughed about it, because on the previous journey to Zurich they had met us at the same spot in their red t-shirts. Wednesday was such a beautiful day and there was an open farmers’ market at the train station. We enjoyed a stroll around the market, the fresh vegetables, special tomatoes and the big cherries that looked like plums. We did not buy anything but we relished another trip around Switzerland ~ as if it was another “Swiss Night”, but this time at the market! We were just happy to be in the company of great sisters who had been at the helm of the 27th World YWCA Council as leaders of the host association.

As we walked towards the river Limmat, our sisters asked about everyone in the office, and especially Fiona! We could sense the bonding that had happened in the last few years as we prepared for World Council. We queued for a little bit, as the day was to start with a cruise along the river. The boat was full so we had to wait another 30 minutes. While waiting we took a walk in the park reminiscing on the opening worship, the Glockenhoff, the amazing team of volunteers, the thank you letters we have received. We had to remind ourselves to go back and catch the boat on time, as we learnt about the history of the park, and how the City of Zurich had to clean it up to make sure that people could enjoy it and feel safe.

Later in the afternoon, we talked as the boat cruised along the river. It was good to have a feel of the two sides of the city with the old town on one side. We delved into some reflections on IWS and the logistics, the speakers, the participants, and just the joy of seeing it happen. We re-lived the special World Council opening ceremony and the costumes. Marlies told us about her traditional costume and the family tradition, and on her Iphone showed us the beautiful photo of the occasion. With surprise and gratitude we talked about the special newsletter produced in French by the local YWCA of Vaud, which carried the full story of World Council. We know that this Council has strengthened the spirit of volunteerism in many within this country and had such an impact for movement building and affirmation of the volunteer spirit the YWCA stands for.

We got off the boat, and walked to the Women’s Bath. What a special safe, exclusive space it is. We enjoyed the history of the place and celebrated women’s creativity in history and in our time, Women have always been seeking to create safe spaces. The Swiss Apero was recounted, the lighting, the food, the guests, the atmosphere, the warmth. In our imagination we were transported back to that day, almost a month ago! Women were enjoying bathing, others just basking in the sun, and others simply reading and spending time with themselves. We had to move on, and we knew that friendship and history was made that evening when the YWCA women gathered in this place.

We climbed the stairs, crossed the street and walked a little bit up the road, towards the Fraumünster. There was the City Hall. Why not go in and look around? We still had a little bit of time. It was such a special decision in many ways. We talked and reflected on the contributions of the city of Zurich, Zurich Tourism, the friends and others who had rallied around the Council. In the hall, we felt like we belonged because the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch had been with us at World Council. Instinctively, we wanted to meet her. We asked for her but unfortunately that day she was not in! Oh, but we had a thank you card with us, a special one… Julia is full of surprises. We sat down, wrote and all signed this wonderful card to our sister, Corine, a leader, the Mayor of Zurich; the one who cycled in the rain to come and greet us during Swiss Night at the Albisgutli! Women’s leadership.

We left the City Hall, and just on the corner was “our” church, the Fraumünster. We relived the whole opening worship, we could see the YWCA faces, hear the music and the singing; listen to the story of the Chagall windows. We navigated through the church in silent appreciation, silent prayer of thanksgiving and remembrance. Sitting on the pews and looking at those windows, we could just feel the presence of the past, the richness of the present and the possibilities of the future. We could all feel the official opening of the World Council, the handing over and ringing of the gong and God’s inspiration to the Movement. Not many words, and yet a collective sense of reflection and sharing. Getting a few post cards was the best way of again sharing the spirit of the Fraumünster with our ecumenical brothers and sisters across the world.

As we crossed the bridge and made our way along the streets of the old town, we were still talking. The day was still beautiful, the Council still very present with us and with no stress or pressure we continued our reflection. The outdoor restaurant in Marion’s neighborhood was beautiful. We just had to give a toast, at the earliest moment, to all! As the evening progressed, with food and great company, we looked back at the high and low moments in our preparation of World Council; the theme selection and what it meant for the host association; the timeliness of decision making and impact on logistics; the exchange processes between the host association and the World Office. We laughed, were serious, and it was clear to all of us that we could again hold a World Council! Through the ideas of the day, we knew that this would always be part of a special moment in the history of the movement, and our own individual history. This Council has been a turning point for each one of us personally in either small or big ways, expressed or unexpressed. Its an experience we will live with and talk about for many years to come. There is still so much to think about, discuss and evaluate with the host association, which hopefully will enrich the planning of World Council in 2015.

We had to run for the 9pm train back to Geneva. It was a brisk walk, and we managed to be on time. We left uplifted and happy that we had again been to Zurich and thankful to Marlies, Marion and Julia for their hospitality.

We thought after such an afternoon of reflection, food and laughter, we would sleep all the way to Geneva. Not necessarily, we just enjoyed our ride back and continued with the reflection, and maybe more so the planning, for the next World Council and the next World Board meeting. It was midnight when we said good night, and each retired for the evening.