Round Two

This morning I was skimming through some old pages on my Facebook account when I came across something unsettling. Hidden on my “About” page among a collection of cheesy inspirational quotes and details about my family and relationship status is a timeline Facebook has kept of my life. It states from 2014 to 2016 in underwhelming gray lettering, “No life events to show”.

My first response to this was vehement denial, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t exactly wrong. It’s easy to let expectation and indifference drag you through your late teens and early twenties. You’ve heard the checklist before: Graduate high school. Go to university. Find a job. Be an adult.

This conveyor belt, while admittedly necessary, has kept me disproportionately uninvolved in my own life. It makes me lazy. It makes it simple to sit back, study hard, and let life unfurl before me. But lately, discomfort with this feeling of apathetic automation has been gnawing at the back of my mind.

So, I made the decision to take matters into my own hands.

Around the time I wrote my ‘Halfway’ blog post it started occurring to me that the two remaining months I had in Switzerland were not going to be enough. There were still so many places to go. So many experiences I’d yet to have. I wanted to stay in Leysin. Badly. So, fueled by my eternal optimism, the encouragement of some very wonderful people, and a deep-seated unwillingness to leave, I came up with a plan.

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I emailed my boss to let him know I had come up with an idea for a new social media-oriented position at LAS and that, if the school was interested, I would love to be the one to implement it this summer. I received a quick, kind reply less than an hour later; he would be very interested in hearing my pitch but unfortunately I had just missed the hiring season and housing wouldn’t have any extra room to accommodate me.

So, that was that.

In 60 short days I was to pack up my belongings and return to Waterloo. I had begun to prepare myself mentally and had nearly arrived at a place of reluctant acceptance. But then, motivated by an unexpected pep talk and some Google searches of Switzerland in the summertime, I was convinced to give staying on one last shot. It took several meetings and some careful coordination with LAS and Waterloo to make it happen, but in exactly one week I will be jetting off to Switzerland and rejoining LAS as their first ever Social Media and Content Strategist co-op.

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can’t wait to wake up to this view again

It’s surreal to be given the opportunity to bring to life a job that, two months ago, used to only exist on paper. It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. And I definitely don’t know what the next three months will hold. The liminal space is more real now than ever.

So reader, with that, I’m bringing my blog back for this unexpected second leg of my Swiss adventure. Thanks for following along so far. I hope you’ll stick around for round two!

Emily

PS. I’ve been at home for the past couple of weeks, reunited with my extensive tea collection and surrounded by all my old high school belongings. This is what cozying up in my own bed with a cup of blueberry tea on a Wednesday evening sounds like:

  • Cool Blue – The Japanese House
  • Cherry Wine – Hozier
  • Georgia – Vance Joy
  • You Won’t Know Where You Stand – Aquilo
  • Above The Clouds of Pompeii – Bear’s Den
  • My Old Man – Mac Demarco
  • All The Sad Young Men – Spector
  • Without You – Oh Wonder

Three Months / Four Countries

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditions that accompany them. My family always goes for brunch on January 1st. We start off our outing with the ceremonial opening of an envelope containing all of last year’s aspirations, reading them off one by one and casting accusatory, teasing glances each time somebody falls short. We spend the rest of the meal coming up with a new list of goals and laughing at the inevitable amnesia we know will hit us in six months when we try to remember the ambitions of our earlier selves. It’s great.

But, traditions aside, I’ve always been a firm believer that if there’s something in your life you really want to change, you can’t wait around for a trivial shift in numbers on the calendar to make it happen. Before this year resolutions always felt forced and the goals I chose never seemed to stick. Forgetfulness would kick in and I’d end up crossing my fingers at our New Year’s brunch hoping I’d accomplished something by accident. This year, though, New Year’s happened to coincide with my pre-departure preparation for Switzerland. So, bags packed and mind spinning with thoughts of travel, I resolved to make the most of my work term by starting a blog and visiting at least three new countries while I was away.

You’re here and reading this post, dear reader, so you already know I’ve checked off one of the two. But, as of late March, I have also successfully visited my fourth new country of 2017. Mid-March marked the start of Spring break at LAS, so on the 18th I (over)filled my backpack and hopped on a plane with Poland and the Czech Republic awaiting me.

My first stop: Warsaw. I arrived in Poland’s rainy capital at four in the evening, tired, demotivated by the torrential downpour, and mentally drained from traveling alone for the first time. It was tempting to deflate into my hostel bed but, determined to be a “good” traveler, I forced myself to trek off into the night to take in Warsaw and track down some vegan pizza.

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old town, warsaw

I filled up the rest of my three days in Warsaw hunting for pierogi, going on some free tours, visiting the Warsaw Uprising museum, searching for the best photography vantage point, and getting to know other voyagers staying in my hostel.

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love lock bridges made an appearance in every polish city i visited

Next up on my list was Kraków. After spending time in Warsaw traveling solo, I was glad to be meeting up with Anthony for a few days.

As a city which is very tailored towards young adults, I couldn’t help but love Kraków. Anthony and I spent most of our time seeking out the best local hangouts including ‘kiełbaski pod hala targowa’, a spot where sausage is prepared outside an old Communist van over an open fire. The two men who run it don’t start serving up food until eight at night until about four in the morning, but locals flock to it at all hours in the evening. We also came across some cool cafes, explored the Salt Mines, tried Obwarzanek (a type of bagel that can only be found in Kraków), and wandered the Jewish Quarter.

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old town, krakow

The most memorable part of my stay in Kraków, though, was the day trip we took to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Standing at the site of  one of the largest mass murders in history isn’t something I know how to easily put into words.

Shocking.

Nauseating.

Heart-wrenching.

All of these come to mind, but even at their best they fall short. A sign reading “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work sets you free) hangs heavily over the entrance gate of Auschwitz. The old housing blocks, once ‘home’ to the persecuted, are now filled with pictures, stories, quotes, and staff offices that feel busy and misplaced in the stillness. Scratch marks tear at the concrete walls of the gas chambers.

Being in Auschwitz is being surrounded by remnants of human cruelty that are impossible to make sense of entirely. It’s an overwhelming visit, but a must if you’re spending any time in Poland in the future.

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auschwitz-birkenau memorial and museum

My last stop in Poland was Wrocław (which I learnt embarrassingly late is actually pronounced ‘Vrot-swav’). After Anthony and I parted ways I was excited to check myself into my next hostel and meet some new people. Much to my dismay, however, I quickly discovered I had the massive six-bunk room I booked all to myself. During my first hour in Wrocław I was hit hard by loneliness; it was jarring being on my own after the high expectations Warsaw and Kraków set out for me for meeting fellow travelers.

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cathedral of st. john the baptist

So, I hastily unpacked my things, eager to make my way into the city, find some dinner, and shake the feeling of isolation. And let me tell you, dear reader, Wrocław didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t heard much about the city before I visited so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I soon discovered just how full of culture and charm it is. Wrocław is made up of rivers and bridges, so my days involved a lot of island-hopping and photographing cathedrals and colourful buildings. Buskers also line the streets, serenading tourists with music, small gnome statues (commemorative of Poland’s anti-communist movement) are hidden everywhere, and marketplaces and restaurants are scattered all around. By the end of my stay I was completely taken by Wrocław and, loneliness forgotten, found myself only wishing I could spend more time there.

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plac solny

The last stop on my itinerary brought me to Prague, making the Czech Republic my fourth and final new country. After a rough start navigating public transport I was so glad to arrive at my hostel (which was built into a beautiful old palace from the 17th century) and be greeted by Jessie’s smiling face.

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st. vitus cathedral

Jessie, having visited Prague before and being infinitely more directionally-savvy than I, was the best tour guide I could have asked for. She and I picked out the top places we wanted to see (Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Petřín Lookout Tower, Strahov Monastery, and Old Town) and were able to fit them all in with several spontaneous gelato-outings and nighttime wanderings mixed in.

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a hunt for starbucks led me to this view

On the way back to Leysin Jessie and I had decided to stop in Zurich, but our time there was cut short. After a brief stop at the hospital and a general feeling of unwellness for both Jessie and me, we figured Zurich was best left to be discovered at another time. Despite the rough ending though, my March break travels proved to be a great experience. It forced me to learn how to plan my own trip, be by myself, navigate foreign public transport, ask for help when I need it, make new friends from all around the world (Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, England), and embrace different cultures.

It’s good to be home in Leysin again and back to some routine, but March break definitely left me itching for more adventures…

On that note, stay tuned friends, I have some exciting news coming up! But until then, do widzenia / na shledanou!

Emily

P.S. The past few weeks haven’t been narrated by any playlist in particular, so for now you should just give “twelvefour” by The Paper Kites a listen because:

  1. It was written and recorded exclusively between twelve and four in the morning because Sam Bentley, the band’s lead singer, wanted to test the theory that those hours are when the human mind is at its most creative. Which is super cool.
  2. The. Lyrics. Are. Gold.
  3. The music videos tell the stories of what people get up to after midnight. They’re all based on simple concepts, but each is unique and well worth watching.
  4. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like “Electric Indigo” or “Holes”.

Church Bells and Fatalism

If you turn left outside the front doors of Beau Réveil and walk for a couple of hundred metres, just past the Swiss Hotel Management School, you reach the Stairs of Death. The stairs aren’t anything special on their own. Crumbling. Uneven. Obnoxiously long and notoriously difficult to descend. But, if you follow them to the bottom and continue on, walking through the lower village, you can feel the exact moment you leave the LAS bubble. The frequency of familiar faces lessens and you start to come across beautiful wooden buildings and houses with bright red and green shutters. It’s one of my favourite walks to take in Leysin.

I’m telling you this, reader, mostly because I often forget that Leysin isn’t familiar to you. I spend a lot of time talking about the big things. The adventuring, the museum-going, the galavanting in different countries. With the exception of a couple of cool expeditions though, the first two weeks following my last blog post were extremely quiet. It’s reminded me of all the things that made me first fall in love with this little town. Leysin is skiing and a vast expanse of mountains and hiking. Yes. But it is also made up of subtleties. It is Dan who works in the kitchen and is the guardian angel of my lactose-intolerant self. It’s saying ‘bonjour’ to passing strangers on the streets and buying Swiss chocolate on the way home from work with Jessie. It’s the big stone water fountains at the bottom of the Stairs of Death and hearing church bells chime every half hour. It’s being a part of a staff where I can get caught up in talking about vertigo and fatalism at 3pm on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere. And it feels important that I tell you about these things. Leysin wouldn’t be home without them.

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view from the cafeteria. no colour edits, just some cool window reflections and perfect weather conditions.

Understated aspects of Switzerland aside, there has been some excitement mixed into the past few weeks. Anthony invited me to join his faculty family for a night at a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in a town called Gstaad. Gstaad – brimming with high-end stores, stuck in a seemingly permanent Christmas state, and boasting one of the highest millionaires per capita in the world – is anything but understated. We pulled up to the parking lot of the restaurant, Megu, and parked our chunky school van in a corner far away from all the sleek luxury cars. The restaurant itself was warm and ambient. We walked to our table, following a runway of stalactite lights, and took our seats amidst the cologne and fur coats. I felt undeniably out of place, but successfully managed to avoid making a scene until the first round of chef’s sushi arrived… at which time I managed to drop my sushi from up high into the soy sauce, sending it splattering all across the (fancy) white table cloth. The waiter behind me (thankfully) quickly brought in our next plate of sushi and strategically placed it to hide the worst of the stain and the rest of the evening continued without a hitch. The food  was amazing. Of course. I forgot to take pictures, but I’ll let your imagination (or Google) do the work. I promise it was exactly as fancy as you think.

The rest of the week was simple and perfect. I spent the Sunday in Martigny chaperoning a school art trip and took a short hike to Prafandaz with Jessie for some wine and rösti (a classic Swiss dish made of grated potatoes with different toppings) and a fantastic lookout point.

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on the way to prafandaz

And with that you have almost been brought up to speed, dear reader. This week has marked the first half of my March break and I, in nervousness and excitement, have experienced my first taste of solo travel in Poland. I’ve meandered my way through Warsaw, Kraków, and Wrocław, and in two short days I’ll be meeting up with Jessie and we’ll take on the Czech Republic together. In an effort to keep this post readably short though, I’ll save the details of my country-hopping adventures for next time.

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I’ll do my best to update Liminal Space again by this time next week, but until then, wish me luck!

Emily

PS. The kitchen staff at Belle Epoque love to dance while they serve up lunch. Dan (my aforementioned guardian angel) asked me to put together a playlist to introduce him to some new music. So, this is what the kitchen staff will be grooving to at lunch when I return from March break:

  • Better Than – Lake Street Drive
  • I Got You – KJ Apa and Hayley Law
  • hold on – Flor
  • Electric Indigo – The Paper Kites
  • Waves – Dean Lewis
  • All Day All Night – Moon Taxi
  • Dreamers – Mighty Oaks
  • Swim – Fickle Friends
  • Fall – Family of Things
  • Back to Your Love – Night Riots
  • Never Going Home – Hazel English

Halfway

I don’t want to write this blog post.

In fact I’ve been doing pretty much everything I can to avoid it (including binge-watching my guilty pleasure on Netflix and hosting an impromptu photoshoot with an unwilling cat I found in my building).

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(his name is tigger)

But here I am grudgingly writing again. ‘Grudgingly’ because this isn’t just a blog post. It’s a big, ugly flag marking the halfway point. Blog number four of eight in the Switzerland series.

Where has the time gone?

Despite my reluctance to write this post in particular, blogging has actually been a really cool experience. My original intent was to create Liminal Space as a way to keep in contact with people back home and develop a storehouse for my memories. Maybe allow myself to tack “blogger” onto my resume if things turned out really well. As time has gone on though, I’ve also noticed it slowly becoming a means of emboldening myself.

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Full disclosure: putting myself out there doesn’t always come easily to me. I can be tentative. I overuse diminishing words like “just”, “only”, and “probably”. I beat around the bush, I overthink, I preface. The first time I wrote a blog entry, it took about an hour of staring at my screen before I was able to convince myself to post it onto Facebook. Something about it felt so presumptuous – assuming everyone would want my thoughts headlining their newsfeeds.

What I’ve been noticing though is that with each blog I post, the hesitation lessens. Being intentional about spending time with and sifting through my thoughts forces me to be present. It urges me to be more self-assured in my unique perspective. And most importantly it’s been teaching me to attribute my own thoughts with more validity. It’s not always easy. But Liminal Space has helped me to realize just how much I needlessly doubt myself and how ready I am to change that.

If I’m being honest, reader, I’m not sure exactly when or how this change will take place or what it will even look like. But in the spirit of continued separation from my hesitant self, here are the details that have built up the last two weeks of my life:

The week before last began quite unremarkably, with the exception of a soirée hosted by LAS midway through the week. The entire school gathered in Belle Epoque, dressed to the nines, to mingle and eat delicious food. It was a fantastic evening, but the real fun didn’t begin until the next day. On Thursday afternoon Jessie, Rahul, Leo and I skipped out on work early and ran to the train station to begin our much-anticipated trip to Italy.

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milan-bound

After five short hours of travel, we arrived in mountainless, bustling Milan. It was a totally different world from quiet Leysin and Leo, back in his hometown, was totally in his element.  As we wove through the train station crowds he looked back occasionally to give us valuable pieces of advice: check your pockets to make sure you still have your wallets; walk slowly, but aggressively; don’t use your bus ticket unless there’s transit security there to check for it. I nodded vaguely, trying to take all of it in. The motorcycles, trams, and traffic filling up the streets. The restaurants and gelato stores at every corner. The indecipherable Italian chatter buzzing all around us.

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duomo di milano

The next three days in Italy flew by faster than I could comprehend. We weren’t able to make it to Venice, and pasta-making lessons weren’t in the cards as I had guessed, but our time in Milan was incredible all the same. We exhausted the weekend visiting museums, exploring Sforza Castle and the Piazza del Duomo,  meeting some of Leo’s family and friends, and eating as much pasta and gelato as we could manage. We stayed in Milan until the last possible minute, and arrived back in Leysin, bleary-eyed but content, at 10:30 on Sunday evening.

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museo del novecento

Since Italy, life has been mercifully calm. Following an easy-going workweek, the co-ops and I joined some of the other LAS staff at the Top Pub for a Friday night of live music and dancing.

Saturday was spent on the ski slopes of Verbier with Jessie and James, another LAS faculty member. Anthony had warned me previously that Verbier was “one of the most intense places” to go skiing, and I had not so much as picked up a ski pole in two weeks, so to say that I was intimidated would be an understatement. With the exception of the excruciatingly long lines however, we had an amazing day with blue bird skies and an unexpected beautiful view of the Matterhorn!

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verbier – perhaps my favourite place in switzerland so far (pc: james davidson)

Sunday was comprised of resting my post-ski jello muscles and planning out the intricacies of my upcoming March Break trip to Poland and the Czech Republic. The week ahead will likely (hopefully) be similarly quiet, mostly consisting of a few ski days in Leysin and further March Break planning!

Anyhow reader, it’s getting late and I’m still hoping to get this blog out before Monday reaches its end, so I’ll leave things there for now.

Until next time, ciao!

Emily

PS. While we navigated through the hoards of tourists and fended off selfie-stick vendors in the Piazza del Duomo we passed by a street musician several times. Most of his setlist consisted of Italian songs, but a handful of English acoustic covers made the cut as well. This is what Milan sounded like that Friday afternoon:

  • All of Me – John Legend
  • Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis
  • Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
  • Someone Like You – Adele

Life Above the Clouds

Well, reader. Familiarity is finally starting to set in. I have each peak of the Dents du Midi mountain memorized. My legs are growing accustomed to the permanent ache left over from skiing and taking the “Stairs of Death” to and from the lower village. I know the ins and outs of my job like the back of my hand.

Yet thankfully…  this doesn’t feel like a bad thing.

It’s funny. Two years ago, or even two months ago, familiarity, habit, and routine were three words that would have sent me running. After graduating from high school I spent a year traveling across Canada and South Africa with a group of 36 young adults. During this time we were presented with a cool opportunity to participate in an activity that helps you to determine what your top values in life are.  At the end of the session, after sifting through hundreds of different options, mine were narrowed down to three: authenticity, love, and variety.

The last one surprised me. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A craving for variety is what led me to take a gap year to travel in the first place. It’s probably also what brought me here to Leysin. I’m in constant want of more places. More people. More experiences. I say this without discrediting the places, people, and experiences that have made up my life at home. I love the quirky hidden gems of Waterloo, I adore my friends and family who have been with me through thick and thin,  and I wouldn’t trade my time in school or university for the world.

But everything can start to feel too comfortable. Too familiar. At home it can be easy to fall into routine, and routine antagonizes my search for newness. I become lazy. I get bored. Life goes on being ordinary.

Of course, in Switzerland many opportunities for newness present themselves: the multicultural student body and faculty constantly provide new life outlooks and insights, and there are school trips and activities planned on most weekends. But this constant busyness has been like an electric charge to my brain – it keeps me active and searching for ways to find novelty, not only in extremes, but in the familiar. I’m hiking new paths to see the Dents du Midi from different angles. I’m finding new restaurants (post Stairs-of-Death-descent) in the lower valley. I’ve helped to start a creative writing contest for the students at work.

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that one delightful february day where it was eleven degrees and we hiked to eagle’s nest without winter coats on

I don’t deny for a second that this quest for novelty is easier to embrace while I’m relocated, living life in a little Swiss town above the clouds. But it has served as inspiration for me to try and keep things up in Waterloo. To not get bogged down with routine. To remember to continually seek out new places. New people. New experiences. I know opportunities are readily available, but I need to remember to take the time to look for them.

All being well, I’ll continue to update this blog when I move back to Waterloo, and I’ll keep you posted on how the quest is going. Until that time comes though, here is what has been keeping me busy in Switzerland:

Two weekends ago Jessie and I were able to chaperone a school trip to Zermatt. We got some great skiing in, had a massive plate of fries for brunch (which has accidentally become an all-too-frequent ski day tradition), and stopped for a beer and some good conversation at the Brown Cow Pub in the town below. Written out, it sounds like a perfect day, and for the most part it was. But, in the name of maintaining total transparency with you, dear reader, I feel obligated to mention that not everything went smoothly: strong winds meant that whiteouts were frequent, we couldn’t see the mountains surrounding us for most of the afternoon (including the Matterhorn), and I concluded the day by making a spectacle of myself while walking back to the train station. I’ll spare the vivid details in an effort to preserve my dignity, but let’s just say the incident involved ski boots slipping, ski poles flying, and innocent passersby ducking. Despite the day’s shortcomings though, Zermatt has been one of my favourite day trips yet.

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a quick snapshot of zermatt between whiteouts

This past weekend was equally adventure-filled. I spent Saturday wandering the winding streets of Lausanne alongside Anthony, my fellow LAS faculty member and gracious tour guide for the day. We passed by a number of outdoor marketplaces, stopped by a very hipster cafe for lunch, and weaved in and out of a few different stores.

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the streets of lausanne

After a short break at home, I went with the school to Lavey les Bains, which is essentially a wonderland of indoor and outdoor thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms and sensory rooms. Aside from a brief, mysterious dizzy spell, my time at Lavey was incredibly relaxing, and I have every intention of returning there before I leave. Sunday was much quieter, thankfully, largely occupied by catching up on sleep, blog-brainstorming, and a rock climbing lesson on campus in the evening.

This coming weekend is one I’ve been anticipating since I arrived at LAS. Leo, another Waterloo co-op, is taking Rahul, Jessie, and me for an insider’s tour around his hometown, Milan. I don’t have the full scoop on the weekend itinerary yet, but I have a feeling it may involve going to see The Last Supper and a pasta-making lesson. If everything goes to plan, we should also be able to fit in a day of exploration in Venice! Exciting!

Stay tuned, dear reader, and have a wonderful week!

Emily

PS. Winter is a lot kinder in Switzerland than it is in Canada. I’m currently seated on the edge of my bed with the windows wide open, and the air smells like rainwater and clean sheets. This is what spring weather in the middle of winter sounds like:

  • Love Like This – Kodaline
  • Young Blood – The Naked and Famous
  • How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep – Bombay Bicycle Club
  • Angela – The Lumineers
  • Wildfire – Seafret
  • Ireland – Liza Anne
  • Coming Up Roses – Keira Knightly
  • Growing Up – Run River North
  • Hearts on Fire – Ed Sheeran and Passenger
  • Pierre – Ryn Weaver
  • Sympathy – Goo Goo Dolls

We’ve Been Swissed!

Three important facts I have learnt about Leysin:

  1. The water here is the same water they bottle up for Evian. There is literally Evian water coming from my tap. What?!
  2. Greetings are three cheek kisses, not two (trust me – things get awkward if you pause after the second).
  3. When you least expect it, you’re going to get Swissed.

Until last Sunday, “getting Swissed” is something I had assumed was a myth. My coworkers told me that it would happen when I least expected it: something about Swiss culture would catch me off guard, inconvenience me, or leave me scratching my head. I took their wide eyes as exaggeration and met their claims with skepticism; but, on January 15th, Jessie, Rahul (two fellow co-ops) and I hopped on the Leysin cog train and made our way down to a city called Montreux… and Swissed we were.

monrtreux

After an hour of travel we were welcomed into Montreux by beautiful old buildings, a tolling church bell, and the curious sight of snow-covered palm trees. Everything was perfect. We walked along a path around lake Geneva and occupied most of the morning outdoors, sightseeing and taking photos. It wasn’t until lunch time that we realized something wasn’t quite right. As we searched for a place to warm up and grab some lunch, we discovered that every single store and restaurant was closed – apparently a common trend on Sundays throughout Switzerland. For the better half of the afternoon we meandered in aimless circles, until we were finally graced with the presence of a local restaurant called Café du Globe. Though dingy and poorly lit, the café was open and seemed like our best bet at warmth and food; we were surprised to find that, despite its dodgy exterior, the café offered a delicious lunch menu and a hostess who was more than happy to let us practice our disjointed franglais on her. We left the café feeling full, toasty, and a touch more optimistic than before.

Although Montreux as a whole was, for all intents and purposes, closed to the public, some good luck and the high spirits of my fellow adventurers helped us to keep busy and laughing for the rest of the afternoon. We were able to spend time wandering the stone-walled corridors of Château de Chillon, and unabashedly posing alongside the famous Freddie Mercury statue that overlooks lake Geneva.

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pretending we’re not freezing cold

Following my time in Montreux I’ve managed to keep my wits about me and avoid getting severely Swissed again. I’ve since spent my days hunting for the best places to eat in Leysin, rock climbing, skiing, and experiencing my first “Poya des Neiges” – a weekly evening tradition in which staff and faculty snowshoe, ski, or hike up a mountain to a restaurant called Les Fers. It was a grueling 40 minutes of walking up ski slopes but the views were amazing (think: bright stars, silhouettes of ski lifts etched across the mountains, and an incandescent glow coming from the town below) and the food and hot tea at the top made it well worth it.

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first day graduating from the bunny hill

Lastly before I go, dear reader, let me just say I am so thankful to be in the here and now, in this place with these people. I look at the last 365 days with a hint of regret because I spent so much energy wishing and wasting away time. But there’s something about the mountain air and the wide open unknowns here that make breathing come a little bit easier. I feel present. I feel expectant. I feel hopeful.

Here’s to all the adventures of the future that are yet to be written.

Until then, bonsoir.

Emily

PS. Last weekend I woke up early on Saturday, put my headphones in, and walked around the lower village of Leysin. The shopkeepers were just setting up, the sun was beginning to chase away the evening chill, and I was greeted with a multitude of “bonjours” (making me feel vaguely as though I was in the opening musical number of Beauty and the Beast). This is what Leysin sounded like that morning:

  • Next of Kin – Alvvays
  • Hymn for the Weekend – Coldplay
  • Girl – Jukebox the Ghost
  • Right Place – Nathan Ball
  • I’m Lying to You Cause I’m Lost – The Paper Kites
  • Angela – The Lumineers
  • Pen to Paper – Modern Space
  • Wishing Well – The Airborne Toxic Event
  • Paul Simon – Wild Rivers

Beau Réveil

I am in Switzerland.

I have repeated this to myself every morning for the past nine days, mostly because it hasn’t sunk in yet. I am in Switzerland, I’m cozied up in a little Alpine ski village called Leysin, and for the next four months I get to call these beautiful snow-covered mountains my home.

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view from the lower village in leysin

It’s surreal.

So far I’ve been lucky enough to have already met some fantastic people and visited postcard-worthy places. But before I delve further into my time here let me backtrack a little. In case I haven’t had the chance to explain to you in person, dear reader, I’m a co-op student at the University of Waterloo; this means that for the duration of my university education, every other term is a work term. This winter I was lucky enough to land a job working as a library assistant at Leysin American School, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the world.

Cue the creation of this blog.

“Liminal space” is a really neat concept; even before I had any semblance of a concrete plan for my blog, I knew that I wanted to incorporate it somehow. In case you don’t have your dictionary handy, liminality is a state of being; it has to do with a period in your life in which you’ve left the old behind and you are standing at the threshold of something new. This past year has been undeniably difficult, at times leaving me feeling exhausted, directionless, and stuck. But, as I start a new year in a new country, I can feel things shifting. I’m standing at the threshold of undiscovered territory and I want to document the change.

So. Let’s do this.

The first week here has been brilliantly hectic. Following eleven sleepless hours of travel, myself and two of the three other co-op students working at Leysin were picked up from Geneva Airport and driven to the LAS campus. Mountain driving, as we quickly discovered, is something of an extreme sport. The roads are narrow, the ice is plentiful and the cars drive fast. Mild panic aside, the views during my first drive up the mountain were amazing and I loved every moment of it.

Once we arrived, we unpacked and were given tour of the campus. The Leysin campus is fairly large and divided up into a number of different buildings where classes are held and faculty and students live. The other co-op students and I are staying in building called Beau Réveil which, according to my eleventh grade level french, translates roughly to “beautiful awakening”, and is close to most of the other buildings on campus (save for the one I work in, which is a 15 minute hike up the mountain). After dinner with our boss at a local restaurant called The Station we returned to our dorm and I fell into what was probably the deepest sleep I’ve ever had. We spent the rest of the weekend fending off jet-lag and exploring the lower village of Leysin.

On Tuesday the work week officially began. LAS has two libraries, and I have been spending my days working in a building called Belle Epoque. Belle Epoque was originally built in 1890 as a lavish hotel and clinic for people suffering from tuberculosis, as the fresh Swiss air and sunlight was thought to be vital for improving their health. Now as a school, a great deal of the original architecture is still in place, making it one of my favourite buildings by far.

Evenings in Leysin up until this point have consisted of visiting The Top Pub down the street with other faculty members, a late night snowball fight… and a lot of cozying up in bed and reading.

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post 2am snowball fight

I’m not entirely sure what to expect for the upcoming weeks, but I’m certain the next time I write to you, reader, I will be completely worn out. Starting this week, every Tuesday and Thursday, all faculty and students will finish classes early to go out skiing and snowboarding on the Leysin slopes. I can’t wait!

Until next time,

Emily

PS. In case you’d like to relive my first drive up the mountain with me, picture clear skies, bright sunlight, and these exact songs being played in the background on the van stereo:

  • Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran
  • Island in the Sun – Weezer
  • The Way I Am – Ingrid Michaelson
  • The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
  • You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse
  • Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
  • Black Horse and the Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
  • Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
  • Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  • Dog Days are Over – Florence + The Machine
  • Little Lion Man – Mumford and Sons