Five weeks have already passed since I first came to Les Roches. Besides some occasional nostalgic longing for friends and family back home, life here is almost surreal. Picturesque sceneries of mountains softly layered with snow, invigorating sunshine upon the nascent grapes in the vineyards, and the sky stretching for miles across everlasting serenity. And yet in such a short amount of time, I have been able to experience the ubiquitous spirit of hospitality from unexpected places.
Traveler’s side effects
Like many travelers, I quickly caught a cold after my first weekend of settling in. Coughs, sniffles, nausea, and fatigue overwhelmed me as I struggled to pay attention in class. As my other cold symptoms subsided over the week, my coughing worsened rapidly to the point where I could only inhale shallow breaths. Having depleted all of my Robitussin and Tylenol supplies without seeing much improvement, I was already praying for my immunity to kick up a notch. Then, in one of my coughing fits, a colleague walked over and handed me some medicine that she had brought from her home country. It was a nice gesture in itself, but the fact that she was still coughing and that there were only three tablets left really touched me. Or maybe she just thought my wheezing noise was irritating. Either way, I was nevertheless thankful.
Also, like many of my Asian male colleagues, I had my hair trimmed to a decent length before coming here. I must first clarify that there is no shortage of talented barbers in Switzerland, but there’s an acute phobia over hair appearance that I’m sure most Asian male colleagues can relate to. When you’re getting your hair cut by someone who presumably has had no experience with your coarse and rough hair, you know you’re taking a gamble with your appearance as well as self-confidence for the next four weeks. Long story short, I had the fortune of befriending someone who had some experience, patience, and kindness to fiddle with my hair. Two hours and three attempts later, I knew I could not have asked for a better barbering experience! She was attentive to minutiae, held a professional demeanor, and maintained an angelic smile the entire time, which actually made me wonder whether she used to do it as a living in the past.
Hospitable Southeast Asian culture
Two weeks ago, I was wandering around campus when a surprising text invitation brought me to PF4, one of the residential buildings with a kitchen. Upon walking in, I thought I had entered the studio for a new kitchen series, which might bear the name Abhi’s Homemade Brigade. There were around six guys operating in a traditional partie system – chopping, peeling, stewing, frying, and microwaving, which is a great alternative to a rice cooker if properly used. Then in the lobby, people huddled together to watch soccer and basketball, talked about their days, and cheered with their beers and wines. The whole ambiance could be described as festive with an undertone of familial warmth, which is quite reflective of the very hospitable Southeast Asian culture. After two hours of labor, Abhi’s brigade brought to existence pots of authentic home-style egg curry, chicken tandoori, pan-fried, buttered toasts, and other amazing, delicious dishes that I can’t remember the names of. As a surprised guest who was invited to join, relax, and eat everything, I felt for the first time being at Les Roches that I was being taken care of by family in a foreign land. So if you are reading this, thank you Abhi and your brigade for creating this sentimental chapter in my life here.