Hello, once again, from Switzerland. A few weeks have passed since my last journey outside of the country, which means that recently my time has been spent en profitant de la Suisse. The title of this blog, Profiter (pronounced like prof-eet-ay), is the French verb to mean to benefit from, or to take advantage of. In adding de la Suisse, I mean to say that I have spent the past few weeks in Switzerland taking part in more of what my European home has to offer. From bake sales to road races and group hikes, the past few weeks have been pretty action packed, but I am not complaining one bit.
Two weeks following the Monument 10k in Richmond–a race I have always wanted to partake in–I ran in the Lausanne 20km, which I ran instead as my first road race. It is called the 20km because the main race is that distance, however I only ran 10km because I was running it with my University team, the Social Erasmus Committee. If you are like me and thought at first that Social Erasmus meant organizing social events, well, this is only partially correct. I serve on this committee here in Lausanne, which is responsible for organizing community service and volunteering events for exchange students. Together, we decided to run as a fundraiser, and it turned out to be a great event. While this was my first time ever competing as a runner, I grew up a swimmer, so I am very familiar with racing. What I wasn’t familiar with were French motivational expressions, since I had never heard any before. That changed during the race when I heard spectators who lined the streets shouting out to everyone, “Allez! Voici! Allez!” It was a shock at first to hear my name called out several times, but then I remembered people could read it from my number on my shirt! I must say, I quite enjoyed hearing the cheers in a foreign language.
The weekend following the race, the committee put together a bake sale, or vente de patisseries as it is called in French. We sold different desserts and delicacies from all around the world, and collected money for a children’s association here in Lausanne. I must say, we had quite the spread before us. We had fresh, homemade tiramisu, a “tarte aux pommes,” which is basically an apple pie of sorts, but different from our American version, and my contribution of chocolate chip cookies, just to name a few. Since I am quite accustomed to at least saying hello to people as they pass by when I am working a stand, a few of the other volunteers and I began to say bonjour to people in the streets. We were quickly stopped by our Swiss friend who was working with us. She explained that she felt like it wasn’t a good idea because she thought it would be bothersome to people and make them feel uncomfortable rather than more willing to stop and look at what we had. This wasn’t really something that people did in Switzerland, she told us. Instead, we ended up gathering everyone’s attention with, I kid you not, a mix of amateur musical performances orchestrated by our iPods and own voices with words on the screen, which was met with many laughs, and smiles, and even the participation of some kids who passed us. At first I was puzzled by the idea that we couldn’t say hi to people, but instead could dance in the streets. But, because we were all having so much fun and bringing people to our stand, I didn’t question it.
While still staying in Switzerland, it was about time to take a quick journey out of Lausanne. The following weekend the exchange association had organized a hiking trip to a location north of Lausanne. We headed up to a place called Creux du Van, a rocky circular formation that was cut into what appeared to be some form of a mountain that became a complete plateau on top. We would stand just along the edge and be able to look down into what was an abyss of trees and straight, vertical rock from the top, in addition to seeing the valley and surrounding villages and very small cities in the distance. It was absolutely gorgeous. Although we weren’t very high up by the standards of other Swiss mountains, there was still some snow at the top in the middle of May. It was an incredible sight for me to see snow this late in the year. I did learn that this winter has been particularly snowy and cold across Europe (much like I read happened in the United States), so this too was abnormal. However, being the winter enthusiast that I am, I was not saddened by the sight.
While exams are now beginning to approach, my time in Switzerland is still not complete. I have about two more months here, as my exam schedule extends pretty late in the semester. I guess this means only one thing: I will have more time to continue exploring this wonderful country I have come to love so much. I will be sure to profite bien from every opportunity that comes my way, as a reward for getting school work and studying done. Until next time…