Maya Walters-Geissmann from Prince George B.C.
Cowgirl loves it hot!
It is a well established fact that a lot of girls all over the world dream of horses. (Don’t ask me about the psychological interpretation, please.)
Maya, originally from Münchenstein in the canton Basel Land, is one of them. She started at the tender age of six with ponies.
It is not so common, though, that little Swiss girls dream of Canada.
Maya has no idea why.
Well, there was that legendary Canadian TV series “The Beachcombers” which also aired in Switzerland (under the title “Strandpiraten”). But it was all about boats and whales and not horses.
Sometimes, we have these vagues ideas in our heads, and low and behold – they come true. Be careful what you wish for.
In 1987, Maya booked a trip to Canada – for horse riding, of course – and came to Chilco Lake, west of Williams Lake B.C. She rode in the mountains and camped under the stars.
When she saw the Chilcotin region, she fell in love with the entire country. Maya is the living proof that these things happen. “Chilcotin was exactly how I envisioned Canada”, she says.
Maya (50) makes no half hearted decisions. She emigrated to Canada, all alone. She did not stay alone forever. She met her husband, an immigrant from England, in Nanaimo B.C. But Vancouver Island reminded her too much of Europe: “Too crowded, too much shopping.”
She and her husband bought a house on 11 acres near Alexis Creek on the Chilcotin Plateau. There, her husband became a cowboy (quite a change from the floorlayer that he used to be; cowboys like it up, they don`t want to be on the ground) and Maya became a cowgirl. And then she became pregnant.
They moved to a 10-acre-property 25 minutes from Prince George, even further up North. “I don`t really like the cold and I don`t like snow”, Maya says.
And she does not like mosquitos in the summer, “they are a pain in the butt.”
It is common knowledge that there are 2 seasons in Prince George: the snow and the bug season.
(Wow! How I do not want to live there! Already one mosquito in my bedroom drives me crazy.)
Well, what does Maya like up there? Her horses, of course. She has two. And she likes solitude, she does not want to see her neighbours` barbecue and their garage.
She ventures out on horseback all alone and frequently encounters black bears. (For horse experts – which I am definitely not – she prefers Western riding which seems to be rougher and wilder).
What is it with these Swiss that so many of them crave solitude and the vast open spaces? “Small country, small minds”, Maya says. “I always wanted to live somewhere else than in Switzerland.”
It is not that she does not like her home country. It is just a bit too small for her. But she sometimes feels nostalgic about her wonderful Swiss childhood. Again and again she returns there for a short visit. Two to three weeks, and then she is ready to go back to Canada. “I never regret having emigrated”, she says.
Once these Swiss are far away from their home country, they celebrate all kinds of things Swiss. For instance baking the traditional onion and cheese pie (Zwiebel- und Käsewähe) during the carnival, the famous Fasnacht, in the Swiss city of Basel. Not that Maya is in Basel, she does it in Prince George of all places.
Around Easter, this self-declared cowgirl bakes an Osterfladen (I cannot translate it, look at the photo instead).
At Christmas, she puts real wax candles on her Christmas tree, like they do in Switzerland, although everybody in Canada thinks it is dangerous. “I am possibly the only person in British Columbia with real wax candles at Christmas”, she says. Her mother sends her the halters from Switzerland.
For her husband and two sons (16 and 13), Maya also bakes Zopf (according to Wikipedia, Zopf or Züpfe is a type of Swiss bread made from white flour, milk, eggs, butter and yeast. The dough is brushed with egg yolk before baking, lending it its golden crust. It is baked in the form of a plait and traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings.)
I think Maya has mellowed a bit during the many years she has been away from Switzerland. She told me that she used to tell her husband that he should not speak German in Switzerland: In her eyes, the Swiss are nicer when you are a foreigner.
Today – listen, Switzerland! – Maya thinks that the Swiss are more friendly! “They have become much more open”, she says. Although she thinks, that Canadians are not so different from the Swiss: “They are both very conservative.”
Only that, according to her, in some things, Canadians are 30 years behind. There is still an open garbage dump near where she lives. Something that the Swiss have gotten rid of a long time ago.
What the cowgirl is concerned, it might be a little misleading: Maya has no cows.
Maybe cows are too Swiss for her after all…
Here is the infamous Can-Swiss Quiz with Maya Walters-Geissmann:
What gift do you bring home from Switzerland?
I usually bring T-shirts, sometimes Swiss Army knives and Kirsch back from Switzerland
What gift do you take from Canada to Switzerland?
I usually take some smoked salmon, sometimes a native wood carving for a special present.
What Swiss products do you miss most in Canada?
I miss a really good cup of coffee, grilled Bratwurst (speciality sausage) and Raclette (cheese table grill) or cheese fondue, and Schokiweggli (chocolate buns).
Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Swiss men or women?
Swiss men or women are more likely to speak other
languages and are more culturally interested/educated.
Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Canadian men or women?
I think most Canadian men are more handy, they can fix things, build things a.s.o.
Canadian women can drive big trucks, work in the bush a.s.o.
What triggered a culture shock for you in Switzerland or Canada?
The Swiss take everything very seriously, Canadians take things much more lightly and are more relaxed about life and I think they are therefore more generous and tolerant.
Which Canadian or Swiss personality fascinates you?
Swiss personality: Roger Federer (maybe because he’s from Muenchenstein like me?!)
Canadian personality: the late Jack Layton (RIP Jack)
P.S. If you would like to fill in a Can-Swiss Quiz, you are very welcome! Send it to info@Swiss100Canada.com