I don't know if it's because it's where I "lived" overseas for the first time, or because I got to teach fabulous students with a bunch of my friends there for a summer-- but for me, the town of Leysin, Switzerland exudes a powerful, benign energy. The light, the air and the water seem scrubbed clean by the snow-covered mountains and high altitude. No wonder people thought they could be cured of incurable diseases here, the place itself is intoxicating. In 1994, on my last day there, I went running on one of the many paths that wind around the town and cried real tears about leaving.
Camille has decided that she would like to go to boarding school. We are in the process of doing searches and making visits. We visited one school near London that wasn't quite perfect. I've never forgotten the Leysin American School, sister school to the one where I taught, and its great reputation. Every source I could currently contact praised the school.
So, this last week, I found myself being hauled up the mountain by the same cog-wheel train that was quaint and old-fashioned nearly 20 years ago.
As we rolled our suitcases out of the Leysin Feyday train station, looking for where we were staying, a stunning turn-of-the century building sparkled over the town. "Is that the school?" asked Camille. I stopped and looked up at it, massively wide and cupola-d and lit up like something from the Great Gatsby. "No, that must be a resort." I said.
With the help of a series of strangers, we found our funny little guest house with a big sign at the front door telling us in all caps to take off our shoes.
A Russian family built the house around the turn of the century hoping Leysin's air and light would "cure" the daughter's TB. When not visiting the school, Camille and I lounged around in the sunroom, in the clouds, like Russian invalid princesses ourselves.
I loved it that the house had a kitchen we could use--we didn't eat out at all except for one afternoon when we wandered down to the Croissanterie, one of the other things, like the train and the ancient Nicca camera shop, that haven't changed.
Up the mountain, that incredible "resort" turned out to be the Leysin American School's new IB campus. Camille found the school full of potential for a great social and academic life. The school's vibe suited Camille, especially the $1 million art studio. We will apply and see what happens.
The grocery store is still devoted to yogurt and chocolate. The mountains are still there too. Why am I surprised?
Applying for boarding schools has taken us down an interesting path. I didn't expect it to be one I loved running on almost 20 years ago.