In 1985 I traveled for a month in Europe with my boyfriend.

When we arrived in Interlaken Switzerland, we found a small guesthaus that served rolls and coffee for breakfast (included in the price of the room) and a menu of home cooked meals for dinner for a very reasonable price. With my limited high school German, I was able to ask for directions, where the bathroom was and order dinner, although ordering the meal consisted more of pointing than talking.

We stayed a night and packed our bags the next morning. As we sat in the car ready to move on to our next destination, we decided that we wanted to explore the area more. We went back inside and asked to check in again. The house mother smiled and gave us our key back. We hauled our bags upstairs, went out for the day and came back for dinner. We repeated this whole scenario again the next day. And the next. On the fourth morning as we sat in the car, laughing at ourselves that we were still not quite ready to leave, we sheepishly re-entered the guesthaus. There she was, waiting with key in hand, prepared for us, again. We laughed and repeated the scene of hauling our bags up to the third floor.

When we arrived back for dinner that night, we sat down at the same table we had eaten at every night. We jumped up and went to another table when we noticed the "reserved" sign on the table. As the house mother came into the dining room, she came running over and saying "NO, NO, NO!" We did not understand what was wrong. Finally, she took my hand and led me to the reserved table. Even though we had not told her we would be there for dinner, she reserved our "usual" table for us. Through our many gestures, smiles and limited language the house mother and I formed a bond.

Throughout our days there, she would pull out the map and point to things we should see. She showed me around her house and even quelled our fears when the Swiss military began training drills on the road in front of the guesthaus. She treated us as if we were her own children, and I was so grateful for her care that I presented her with a pressed edelweiss decoration that I originally purchased for my mother (I went back to the store and bought another to give to my mother). She hugged me and then showed me where she would hang it in the guesthaus. It has been over 25 years since we were her guests and I can still feel the warmth of her smile, the caring in her gestures and the comfort she offered me as a 19 year old traveler.

In the absence of a common language, we discovered a connection to each other because we opened our minds and our hearts to another inhabitant of this planet. We chose to accept each other instead of drawing distinctions between us.

submitted by Bernadette