Saturday, November 27

getting out

Today a Swiss journalist confirmed what I'd thought: there was a lot of incest in eastern Switzerland where a branch of my family came from, several generations back.

The journalist was visiting my work to report about physics, and we went to lunch together in between his interviews of scientists at the lab. We got talking about the differences between the French and German parts of Switzerland, and he said he liked the French part much better.

People in the eastern, German part are much more conservative and close-minded, he said. They voted to stay out of the European Union, whereas those in the French part wanted to join up.

Then, sort of randomly, he told me that there are a lot of crippled kids in the eastern part. He wouldn't have guessed, but he once spent a few weeks there for a summer camp and that's when he found out. "Mongoloids, is that the word?" he asked me.

I told him about how I visited the graveyard in the tiny village my great-great-grandfather left in the mid 1800s to make a new life in the States. On the grave markers, many names cropped up again and again. Alig, Alig, Casanova, Alig. Some markers had hyphenated names, I guess from their father's and mother's sides. A few had names like Alig-Alig, a bad sign. All these graves are relatively recent. Because they recycle the plots there, none of the graves are more than 75 years old or so. So even relatively recently this seems to have been still going on.

"I can see why someone would want to leave there," I told him. "My family owned a small hotel and a bunch of goats."

"Yeah, there's a lot of goats there," he said, chuckling. "Goats and cows."


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