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Regina Alves is a commuter – she commutes between the stage and office, her mind and her soul, South America and Switzerland. She feels at home wherever a challenge awaits her.
Regina Alves measured exactly where the tattoo underneath her left wrist needed to be so that it would still be covered by the sleeve of her blouse. She hides the motif, a clef, at work – not because she has to, but because she wants to. “Everyone has two sides to their personality,” says the Brazilian native. “I live out my artistic, romantic side through my music and my serious side at work.” But these two sides don’t just come together on Regina’s wrist, but in every aspect of her life.
“The band is like a small family”, she says and adds: “Like my team at work.”
“I want to study abroad. Can I perform here?” Regina spent two years going from bar to bar in her home town of Fortaleza asking this same question weekend after weekend to raise money to study abroad. She didn’t want to just go anywhere, but to Europe, to the place where they offer the best education possible. “I quickly realised,” she says, “what I needed to study to make a career in Switzerland.”
Switzerland, Graubünden, Hamilton Bonaduz. Regina’s tasks as a production engineer include organising services and coordinating the engineers in the field. “I basically translate between them,” says Regina. “To do that, I have to understand both perspectives.” In terms of organisational structure, she is at the interface between customers and engineers. In terms of location, Regina can usually be found at her workspace on the lower level of the Hamilton building. The Swiss, US and Graubünden flags fly in front of the lobby, whipped by the wind whistling over the mountains and into the valley. “I love the view here,” she says. Regina uses her lunch break for walks, past the field where vegetables can be harvested and always within sight of the forest-lined Alps. “But I only do that when it’s warm enough,” she adds. “After all, I’m Brazilian.”
During her first few months at Hamilton, she worked in production. It was a department much like the one she had run in Brazil. “I didn’t mind the change,” she says. “That’s how I got to know the other side” – and Regina had no choice but to speak German right from the beginning. “A lot of the people in production hardly speak English,” she explains. “And anyway, it’s more polite to speak German in Switzerland.” Three times a week she attends a B2 (upper-intermediate) German course. “Usually, all the courses together take five years,” she says. “I would like to complete them within two.”
But words are not always enough, no matter how many you know. “If I can’t find the words,” says Regina, “I find a song.” Every week she takes the songs about love that result from this lack of words and practises them with her band – What the Funk – in a rehearsal room in Chur. She got to know her fellow band members after sending an e-mail to the HR department at Hamilton, saying “If you want, I’ll play a few songs”. HR responded by booking her for the company Christmas party. One of the 1,250 employees at the party approached her and said: “I play bass and have an idea for a band. Would you maybe want to jam together sometime?” At her band’s rehearsals and performances, he plays bass and another member plays the saxophone. Regina plays guitar and drums and sings. “The band is like a little family,” she says and adds: “Like my team at work.”
She left a lot behind in Brazil – friends and relatives, her contacts in the music scene, her first gigs in front of several thousand people. But she has achieved everything she could have wished for since she made the decision to come to Switzerland 10 years ago. Except for one thing: “I get the German articles wrong 90 per cent of the time,” she says. “But I just keep trying anyway.” Giving up is not an option for her.