I have two siblings at home. A sister and a brother, and coming to France, I was expecting to really miss that bond we share. There are few relationships greater than those between siblings. It’s an equal friendship we have, despite age differences, along with that deep love that can only exist amongst family members.
I knew my host family would have three grown children, all married or almost married and living elsewhere. But, what I didn’t know, was that the family hosts, for one or two weeks at a time, Suisse-Alémaniques, or German-speaking Swiss students (sometimes they’re also from Austria). Soon, I found myself sharing a house with siblings again. My latest Swiss host sister, Carol, is 17, going on 18, and already working in the Swiss Bank. Despite her relative youth compared to my ancient 20 years, I learned so much from Carol.
Carol lives in a valley in Switzerland on a cow farm. But this pastoral upbringing did not hold her back from pursuing one of the most rigorous apprenticeships. She works weekdays, rotating through roles at UBS, the Swiss Bank, yet maintains a vegetable garden on her farm and runs through the valleys. On weekends, she cooks for her family every single day and hangs out with her boyfriend.
I swear, she does it all, but remains the most cool-headed, easygoing, and patient person. Naturally, Carol wanted to maintain her daily runs in France. My host dad suggested we run together, and I heard myself say, ouais, c’est une bonne idée. My asthmatic, on a good day eight minute mile, hadn’t-exercised-in-France self was definitely questioning this agreement.
So, I ran with Carol and a little part of me died inside trying to keep up with her high-altitude endurance. But, we grew closer through running, and I learned so much about her lifestyle.
In Switzerland, even though her work is rigorous, she takes things slow. She exercises moderately but eats what she wants. She goes out but doesn’t drink too much. Carol is content with the way things are. She was dreams to study nutrition after her apprenticeship but says she loves her home and doesn’t want to stray far.
I don’t have the same dreams as Carol, but I am so inspired by her peace of being. She embodies the phrase my mom always tells me to live by: everything in moderation. You can work hard, but take time for yourself and take in the surroundings. When Carol relaxes, it’s not a Netflix binge sesh or getting lost in her phone. She gardens or talks to others. (She runs too, but I’m not the kind of person who can find meditation through running.)
I think I spend too much time getting lost in a world that’s not real or possible for me. I peruse Instagram, but what is in that for me? I return to my life with expectations that I can live like someone with more money and fame than me; I set expectations to live a life that it not exactly likely for the majority of people and has problems that I cannot understand.
You can have dreams to be an Instagram star, or a politician, or a doctor, but you can’t forget to take in what exists in your life now. You may not have the green Swiss valleys to enjoy, but I’m sure someone like Carol would see the incredible in something pretty trivial to me. I am the first American she has ever met. Can you imagine? I’m not exotic, but an American is so foreign to so many people, I realize. The fact that I can have stores that sell clothes, fertilizer, and apples, all at the same time, is remarkable to many.
So now I’ve learned the French Bonheur and the Swiss moderation. I don’t know what my host family will teach me next, but, in the meantime, I’ll be watching with a keen eye. I don’t want to miss one second of the passing time abroad, and Carol definitely helped me see that.
Photos courtesy of:
http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.myswitzerland.com%2Fmys%2Fn64559%2Fimages%2Fbuehne%2F07-steinegg-1005p_klein.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myswitzerland.com%2Fen%2Fappenzell2.html&h=365&w=650&tbnid=_Vt8EV5m3OACzM%3A&docid=mU_wVPqTDkicwM&ei=TYr3V5b1NcLoUpmgmJgO&tbm=isch&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=1100&page=0&start=0&ndsp=24&ved=0ahUKEwjWz-vQzsjPAhVCtBQKHRkQBuMQMwgeKAAwAA&bih=770&biw=1600 (Switzerland pic)
http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia1.giphy.com%2Fmedia%2FJLR1E4LuAr5XW%2F200_s.gif&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fgiphy.com%2Fsearch%2Flost-phone&h=200&w=278&tbnid=gelh66vhpbHvUM%3A&docid=-jnsnk2TaTszDM&ei=YZD3V7XMM4GgUfGMvMAB&tbm=isch&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=4905&page=0&start=0&ndsp=26&ved=0ahUKEwj1gOS21MjPAhUBUBQKHXEGDxgQMwgfKAEwAQ&bih=770&biw=1600 (phone gif)