This weekend was an interesting one to say the least. Saturday I didn’t even do all that much for most of the day– waited around for Simon to pick up the borrowed mattress but he didn’t show, then going down to buy my mother her wooden cow Mothers Day present, then just wandering around until I made my way to the multilingual bookstore. Then that evening, a German girl from CouchSurfing called Nancy phoned and asked me if I wanted to get together for a few drinks. I said certainly! We went to the Reitschule and then to the Mexican bar where Antoine and I had hung out. I stuck to the house beer, but Nancy (and most of the other women there) got a floursecently coloured, very tasty, 13-dollar cocktail. We talked about travelling and other CouchSurfing-type topics, and it turned out that one time in Prague, she had surfed with a guy who edited an English-language newspaper where my radio journalism TA had worked! Honestly, sometimes the world is so small it can really screw with your mind.
Nancy had asked if she could sleep over, and just for this one particular night, thanks to Simon not coming, I had two mattresses! So I said be my guest! The next morning we got up, had breakfast, and went to check out all the plants at the Botanical Gardens. On the way back, she was loading up her car to go to work and she said, “I work not all that far from the Callier Chocolate Factory; I can drop you off there if you want!” So I checked one major thing off my Swiss bucket list– go to a chocolate factory! At the beginning you get taken through a little automated show on the history of chocolate, then they take you on a tour of the glassed-in assembly line, where you see the workers pouring the chocolate into big silver machines, four long tubes of gooey chocolate coming out of the machine onto the conveyor belt, a machine pouring nuts onto the chocolate, another machine cutting the hardened chocolate into squares…it was fascinating, but I would not want to work there. People gawping at you and taking pictures all the time…must be like working in a fishbowl!
At the end of the tour we could have as much chocolate from the tasting room as we wanted! I took one little piece of every single kind. My favourite was a dark chocolate with a gooey filling inside that tasted like brown sugar. My two favourite sweets in one glorious combination! I kind of wanted to load my pockets, but it would have melted…
Afterward I wandered around the quaint little village of Broc, where the factory is located. Just past the toylike little train station there was a large, steep hill with a narrow pedestrian walkway. Despite the fact that I was wearing sandals, I thought, “OK hill, do your worst.” and started to climb. At the top of the original steep hill the climb levelled out into soft curves and I found myself hiking up a winding mountain road in the foothills of the Alps. Twenty minutes after I’d started to climb, the only sounds around me were crickets and the sound of dozens and dozens of clanging cowbells. I kept going up for about an hour, shot pictures until my camera battery died, and then turned around and headed down. I had to take a train to Bulle (a slightly larger village) then a looooong local bus to Fribourg. It had taken Nancy and I less than ten minutes to get from Fribourg to Broc, but back from Broc to Fribourg took well over an hour. People got on and off at each pocket-sized little viallages, and I wondered (like Trudeau) whatever do they do? Where do teenagers go to party? Where do educated adults go to work? Where do people who are a bit different go to find others like them? It occurred to me that these were the kind of places where people wore “traditional” costumes until not so long ago.
I got home and the first thing I read on Facebook–my sort of boyfriend (I’ll call him Roger, it’s not his real name but he’ll like that, if he ever reads this). had to go to hospital. He originally was told it was peritonitis, which could be fatal without emergency surgery. My blood ran cold, It really did. I now know the meaning of that expression. I got goosebumps.
Let me give you a bit of background. Almost exactly three years ago, I had just gotten back from an amazing weekend of swing dancing in Ukraine. I’d met some amazing people, danced my feet off, fallen in love with Ukraine, and I was generally on a cloud.
I check my Facebook– and Devan has just learned about the mysterious death of Melissa, his one-time girlfriend and a close member of our circle. At first I couldn’t believe it– she was only 22! And she gave the best hugs in the world. She had taken care of me the morning after the first time I ever got drunk, found me quivering in the middle of a walkway when I’d been accosted in the street, and helped to diffuse the terrible situation at my abortive going-away party (the guy I was dating at the time and two other guys who had asked me out were the first people to show up, it was just the three of them for ages and all they were doing was staring daggers at each other). And just a month or so before that we were going to hang out but she could not be there! Now she was dead, Devan was hurting, and I. couldn’t. go. anywhere. or. do. anything. That sense of paralysis was probably the worst feeling I ever felt, and here it was coming back. I sat at my computer, talking with my one-time girlfriend, current friend and source of infinite wisdom, Emily. Then Roger called, and I was so relieved to hear his voice. He didn’t have peritonitis or any other kind of ominous inflammation– he “just” had a tube that was implanted in his body when he was a small child shift around in his stomach.
Simon and I were actually talking about that. He is from New Brunswick, as I’ve probably mentioned, and he has been away from “home” for 17 years. He’s also dealing with that situation right now, and we agree that it’s the single biggest drawback of this trans-Atlantic life of ours.