It's not exactly down the street

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The Grand Canyon in the United States. (Quinn Nietfield, via and used under Creative Commons zero)

Recently I was chatting with a work colleague who was born in Switzerland but who got her doctorate in the United States and has lived and worked in our country for at least 15 years. We got on the topic of family and where ours reside. My siblings and I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and none of us has strayed far from our Ohio roots. I asked the colleague if she still has family in Switzerland and, if so, whether she was able to go back there often.

There was a resounding "yes" to all questions. Indeed, her parents and one sibling still live in her Swiss home town. Indeed, she gets back to Switzerland at least annually. Indeed, she likes living in the USA, and occasionally her parents have come to visit in this country.

It was the first visit to the States by her family that my colleague found very telling. Switzerland is only the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, making it quite small in comparison to the contiguous 48 states. However, her first-time USA visitors didn't know that.

Once plans came together for this visit, a phone call was next to finalize everything. A breathless parent in Switzerland said, "Yes, of course we can't wait to see you and to see where you live. But we also want to see the Grand Canyon, New Orleans and the San Francisco cable cars." Laughing hysterically, my colleague told her mother, "Those places aren't exactly down the street from Cincinnati … ."

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]