On Sunday May 1st we celebrated World Laughter Day in two locations in California: our Laguna Laughter Club session in the morning (25 attended on a sparkling, sunny day), and then the first (of two offered) festivities by Sheila Horowitz in Irvine (with 8 joyful souls). The next day, our beloved laughter buddy Kathy Burns hauled me over to the L.A. airport, where your writer hopped onto a British Airways plane. By May 3 (after a few hours’ stop in London) I was in Basel, Switzerland. A city bus takes me to the train station; then the familiar ride to Interlaken.
Gudrun Aeschlimann fetches me at the train station in Interlaken. She and husband Michael recently moved to a nice home just a few dozen blocks from the train! Michael can now ride his bicycle to work. Smart. I get a few lessons in pronouncing the number 20 (“tzwantzich – isch – icch –ick”) in German, and some token hours of sleep. Perhaps the day will come when I find a method to overcome jet lag which actually works. Ha ha ha ha ha…
MAY 4 : Around 7am, it’s a short ride to Wilderswil and the Villa Unspunnen, to assist at Dr. Kataria’s Teacher Training and make a batch of new friends. I am the only American; others are from Israel, Lebanon, Finland, England; a few from Germany and Switzerland, nine from Italy (with one serving as translator), and a few from Austria (my buddy Thomas serving as translator for our pal Christian). There are even 3 who live in the local (Interlaken) area. Zeina (from Lebanon) is inspired by the Laughter Club Bus Tour idea and proposes we do one which will visit Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan on a mission for peace. I’m on board!
MAY 6, Friday: The Laughter Club Bus Tour Prelude-Event.
Our original intention (to have a seminar hall rented with a Laughter Session and Piano Concert) had to be scrapped due to the untimely demise of the local organizer, my cherished friend Girish Dave. I stay in Interlaken, while Anne Timpany (co-producer of the Laughter Club Bus Tour) meets the other bus-riders in Basel and improvises an evening program with dinner-laughing and city-sightseeing.
MAY 7, Saturday: The Laughter Bus Takes Off! (Day One On-The-Road)
Anne’s mom, Beth, was held up for a day in the USA due to adverse runway conditions. The other five (who are: Anne, Dave Sullenger of Laguna Beach, my mom Ruthe Gluckson of Laguna Beach, Celeste Greene from Atlanta Georgia USA, and Marisa Pulcini from Rome Italy) wait at the bottom of the escalator, doing Laughter Exercises of Greeting to the people descending the escalator – hoping they will be there at just the right moment when Beth appears. Unbeknownst to them, Beth was a few hundred yards away, having a coffee in a nice quiet café. Apparently the café was too quiet for her to hear the five people laughing nearby – alas!
By the time everyone finds each other, and everyone gets to the bus waiting at the train station, it has become too late for the first planned stop (at the H.R. Giger Bar/Museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland) so the bus and five passengers will come directly to Interlaken. I walk into the village streets to meet them, and see that the restaurant (where I’d hoped for the Laughter Busriders to have dinner and connect with Kataria’s Teacher Trainees) does not have tables set up for outside dining. I go into the restaurant to ask if they might set up a table-for-eight on the desirable side. As the restaurant staff discusses how to accomplish this, the fateful moment arrives: the bus turns the corner on the street in front of us. At that crucial moment, however, I don’t see this happen, as I am inside with the restaurant staff. A call comes on my mobilephone’ it’s Anne. “We’re here! Where are you?” I step outside, dash up the street leading to the Villa Unpsunnen, and then see it: our bus! Lovely paintings of horses on the side… but the creature is HUGE! Two meters wide, and 30 meters long. Yeow! I greet each person quickly, including our driver David Ness (who does not speak much English – nicht gutt!) and we confront one sizable problem: where can we park this goliath-of-a-bus? The overflow hotel – 100 yards from Villa Unspunnen - allows us to use a decently-gargantuan space and we haul up the baggage (to both this hotel, for four bodies; and to the Villa, where the other four of us will stay).
We unpack hastily, bump into a handful of the Teacher Trainees, and then head down the street to that restaurant. Inside is Karyn Giger, who lives just a few kilometers away (and was part of my first Teacher Training here in 2005). She is now with her husband, beaming young son, and two friends from Spain. They continue their dinner inside as The Laughter Busriders assemble at our table outdoors. We also meet up with two young college student-sisters, Sarah and Elisabeth, who we had met on the sand in Laguna Beach about 10 days earlier. They are living in Geneva for a some months as part of a study Abroad program, and took the train east for about 2 hours in order to join us. It is a real thrill to see them, now 6,000 miles away, and share this extraordinary joy-adventure
At the restaurant, the table service is what most Americans would describe as “rather slow” – after an hour, we still have not placed our food orders. Kataria’s gaily-decorated mob comes lumbering down the street and we interact with them, playing in gibberish and laughter. They continue on as we eventually order and dine, watching the Laughter Teachers return shortly after our food arrived (this dinner took nearly 3 hours from first seating to departure from our table).
When we finally arrive back at Villa Unspunnen, the Fun/Talent Night Show has been going for quite some time. The Laughter Bus folks join in. Anne and I do an act we call “Laughter Yoga – Not!” where we assume a few fairly-challenging Yoga Poses and then laugh heartily when we are in them. Our Finale of “Double Headstand” is an audience-pleaser. I also do my Musical Melodrama (words in gibberish). Sarah (from Orange County / Geneva) sings a nifty ballad and I play piano. Ruthe does a few rounds of Gibberish Punchlines - I coach the audience to be particularly expressive (this should make for some inspiring video). The formal show ends, and dancing to recorded music starts for the next hour or so. The Laughter Club Magic begins to appear: the newbies (Marisa, Beth, Sarah and Elisabeth –all have had virtually no experience with Laughter Yoga) are dancing, playing and laughing with everyone, regardless of their nationality, culture, age, language... And everyone is sober. (!) Tired and happy, we all head off to sleep.