Saturday, 6 July 2013

Half way through my stay in Lausanne...

So this is the beginning of my year abroad. I am happy to be doing something different. Though an enjoyable and enriching experience, I didn't want to spend another summer at a language summer school, and had to decline a scholarship offer for a new school in Recanati. I also felt as though I should spend a little bit of my summer gaining both work expenses and making money instead of spending it.

As mentioned in a previous post, Switzerland is very expensive. Fortunately for me, the minimum wage is also much higher than in most European countries, standing at 15 Swiss Francs per hour, about 11 pounds. As an au pair, my minimum wage is inevitably lower than that, but double the amount my friends are receiving in France and Italy. I have also been able to experience day-to-day life in a busy Swiss household, accompany the family to the mountains, and the eldest girl on her weekly ride. This next week my programme will be slightly more intense, given that the children are on holiday, and I need to keep them occupied so as to allow the father precious quiet time to write his dissertation. This will involve taking the children on picnics, to the cinema, the swimming pool, a creperie in town... I think I will also need to start thinking creatively. Teaching the children about a typical British afternoon tea, baking and eating in the garden? Showing them how flowers can be used to provide natural pigment and painting with roses and violets? Sneakily managing to teach English to the youngest girl who, unlike the other two, does not seem motivated to absorb anything may prove difficult, but not impossible.

During the week I do have plenty of free time between intervals, though often do not feel it is sufficient for a long walk or a rendez-vous with couchsurfers in the park... My weekend time however is almost limitless, the dinner hours being my only constraints, as I do not fancy being hungry and tempted by the extortionate gastronomic delights of Lausanne. Even a petty soup or sandwich could set me back by the equivalent of 10 pounds. 

Though not the ideal job for an independent traveller who wants freedom, I have been able to explore and direct things a little in my way. Two days ago, after lunch on Thursday afternoon I walked briskly down the hill past the by-now familiar Migros and the tempting Durig chocolate shop with the objective to finally reach the lake. I was armed only with my camera phone, but still managed to take a few pictures on the way down, and in the cute little town called Ouchy. There were a few surprises on the way down the hill, like this traditional Swiss chalet which the Swedish author Strindberg apparently stayed in several times:

One kind of expects another mini Monaco-like suburb to waiting at the foot of the hill. I was pleasantly surprised instead to find a quaint street which had a very different character to Lausanne. I like Lausanne, but it is always nice to find a different kind of architecture in the same city. 

Sure, there was still a great number of expensive restaurants and plush hotels, but also a few individual boutiques and cafés which seemed to ooze in real class. Then of course, you are greeted by the great lake and the misty alps on the horizon... 

Aside from my beautiful ride on the lovely thoroughbred Laudan yesterday through an alpine wood, on Thursday I also discovered a "free" yoga class taught near the gare de Lausanne, which is taught by a really great teacher called Rania. I took the eldest girl with me, as thought it would be a good opportunity for her to hear some more English, and her parents wanted her to do more stuff "outside her room". When I say free, it is actually by donation, but Rania says it is for people who cannot usually afford yoga. The school is lovely inside, with relaxing music, free yoga mat hire and a soft smell of incense. It was a hatha class, so the sequence was not so familiar with me, even though the actually postures were similar to those in ashtanga. 

After lunch, I plan to head up to Lausanne to take photos while the weather is nice again. Last weekend I picked the only rainy day, of course. There is a park in the centre which is supposed to be a great place to read and relax when the weather is like this. I also plan to check out the famous chocolate shop, Blondel, and potentially sample some of their produce.

This sounds like the ideal job, right? In theory, it is. I get to ride horses, teach English and practice my French, spend some time in a really beautiful country/town, experience a slightly different culture, and spend my spare time reading/exploring. Whilst I very much enjoy doing these things, there is one aspect  you don't really consider when applying for the job: loneliness. I am surrounded by people, but they are mainly under the age of 13 if not my employers, and whilst I have a good relationship with these people, I feel a distinct barrier; they, like I, need precious family time and privacy at times. If I were here on a long term basis I think I would put more effort into meeting people in the local area, but given that my contract is so short, this seems unlikely... So, 3 Asterisk comics, 2 novels and a half down, and I am just over half way through my stay. Here's to hoping to I will have a successful last week and a half!

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