Switzerland – Roberta & Charlie’s Easter Dinner

I mean, we were awake before everyone left, but breakfast was just the two of us.

Damien, Emilie & Clelie decided to go for a bit of a wander down to a nearby lake to start their day off nice and lightly.

We decided that we wouldn’t start today’s work in a big rush either, so as soon as we had finished breakfast, we headed up the hill behind the house and enjoy a nice and casual start to the day, by enjoying one of the best views of our trip so far.

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Being that we are unfit, and a little bit fat, this very easily conquered hill became a bloody tough hill to try and defeat. We simply just kept putting one foot in front of the other (at times with the assistance of a waddle) until we came to the bench at the top of the hill.

I mean, no wonder the Swiss are never fat.

It seems to be a pretty normal thing for Emilie and Damien to take Clelie for a walk up to the forest. She’s probably on struggle street, thinking that this normal, driven by an illogical urge to have to keep up with her parents, and if this is the done thing at her age, then the laws of nature make it physically impossible for her to be fat when she gets older.

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That, plus the fact that her her parents are actually aware of what she eats.

She’s in good hands.

But, us on the other hand…

Kalgoorlie is largely flat. There are a few hills, but they’re more like glorified bumps, than hills, so naturally we are on the receiving end of a muscular flogging. Even, the Australian “Alps” (as it was so conveniently put in an online blog, which we laughed at) is no better. They are just bigger bumps, not mountains at all.

We reach the bench seat, and it is utterly perfect.

The valley below us is littered with trees, houses and buildings from other eras, set among the backdrop of jagged mountains, dusted with snow and summits enveloped with equal parts whispy and weightless clouds.

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Its the kind of scene that I am accustomed to seeing on book covers, office calendars, and other people’s cover photos, not in real life. We sit on the bench, and we both quickly agree that the mountains hardly seem real, even now. I actually think that it would stay that way for me, until I was to climb one of them.

I mean, the magnitude of these things is just so foreign to me, especially for it to be so close.

It’s really odd to actually say this, but the fact that the clouds are actually moving around the mountains, and not stationary is a reminder that I am looking at something that is actually in real life. Like, its one of the first times that the landscape in front of us is genuinely so awe inspiring, that it just doesn’t register.

I’m clicking away with the camera, and Bec is trying to do the same thing.

I use the word ‘try’, here intentionally, because her phone had died 5 times, while still apparently having 30% charge. Her phone has been doing this for the past few months. My phone is completely dead, and I’ll have to find a new phone when I get home, but Bec’s phone is well and truly cooked, and at this rate, Bec is going to ensure that the phone ends up in a volcano.

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We head back down and get stuck into some work.

Emilie & Damien have asked me to do some photos for them tonight, so the trade off is that we’ll only do 3 hours, instead of working 4 hours today.

I’m cool with that.

So, we get stuck into it, and spend the next 3 hours hacking apart trees, and aerating this garden bed. I’d always been taught that you should be turning the soil over, so that you mix the earth, but from what Emilie & Damien had told us, there are different bugs and creatures which exist in different levels of the soil, and you don’t necessarily want to be blending all these together.

Today’s gardening lesson #1 complete.

Its kinda funny adjusting to work again, even if it is just something menial.

But, what wasn’t menial, was the fact that we have had the most epic weather all day. Starting the day by talking some time out to admire the epicness of the landscape, and then being gifted with stunning blue skies, dotted with clouds from time to time was more than we could have asked for. By this point, Emilie & Damien are back, and lunch is pretty much ready, so we decide that we are going to have a garden lunch. This is totally ok with me. The guys join us and we get set to chill out and enjoy more home grown swiss produce.

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We spend the next half hour, sampling home grown salads, enjoyed each other’s company, chatting and sharing cultures. It was a brilliant afternoon, but it wasn’t the food that was the highlight of our time over lunch.

There was this one time where Clelie knocked a glass off the table, which inadvertently shattered on the ground. The one thing that Bec and I have noticed since we got here is how Emilie and Damien parent their daughter. It is really awesome to see people who neither coddle their child, nor are phased by the mistakes she makes.

They’re definitely active in letting her learn by her own means, and not bubble-wrapping her every move and decision.

There are a few parents that I have seen do the same thing, and from what I have seen so far, their children have grown up to be more than capable beings, and seem to be that much more equipped for the real world. I’ve often believed that kids learn best through facilitation, over instruction and its kinda cool to see a couple doing this already.

We are joining the family for an easter dinner tonight, and Bec and I are unusually knackered, so we decide to have a nap. We sneak down to the bedroom, and just as we are lying in bed, I ask Bec, “Hey… Did you set an alarm?”
“Nope”
“Do you wanna set an alarm?”
“Nope”
“You sure?”
“Nope”

What was meant to be only an hour at most, became a 3.5 hour nap. In this case, I use the term “nap” lightly.

Whats more, is that the timing was impeccable. We woke, and only had around half an hour before we were heading to Emilie’s mum’s place for dinner, so, being a little groggy, we pack up our gear, collect the camera and make our way to the house to experience a swiss festivity.

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We rock up, and get introduced to the family.

Ok.

I’m just going to throw it right out there, and say that the swiss age REALLY well.

I actually thought that Emilie’s mum was her older cousin or something. It wasn’t until we were inside, after we’d done the shoot with the family, that I realised it was her mum.

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We send everyone inside, and head out for a shoot with the family.

I’ve been watching a fair few tutorials and taking more classes of late when it comes to photography, so this was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to plan next to nothing for this shoot, and just see what comes out of what I’d been learning. Of late, I’d been pretty frustrated with the same work I was producing, and wanted to step it up a level, so this was a good chance to be able to give it a crack and see what I’d learnt of late.

We kinda just free styled most of the shoot, and I cannot tell you how good it was to finally do a shoot. It was good to create again.

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We head inside, and get stuck into dinner.

Before dinner gets underway, one of the brothers gets his phone out, and skypes their sister, and I cannot tell you how much Clelie lit up when she saw her Aunt on that little iPhone screen. She was utterly elated, and more excited than I have ever seen any child. Her arms and legs were flapping around like a fish out of water.

It was obvious that her fondness for her aunt was more than most kids. Even when the call ended, there were tears and she was genuinely upset. At the same time, though, I am not surprised. Bec and I both mentioned how we were impressed with how the family handled Clelie. Most of the time, if it’s your kid, you look after it at the dinner table. But in this case, it was the uncles in particular who pretty much looked after her all night, and did a damn good job of it too.

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I mean, even in my family, it seems a little like “Your kid, your responsibility”. Not intentionally, but thats just how it has naturally come about.

This was something else, and I am not sure if that is generally how swiss families operate, but I can tell you that I am going to be taking a leaf out of the swiss book when I get home. It’s really awesome to see such a tightly knit family.

We get dinner underway, and get to experience all sorts of intricacies in swiss celebrations. One that we really got into was this thing they do with their eggs, and not just chocolate eggs. These are hard boiled, and then painted.

Real eggs.

Back home, we couldn’t be assed actually painting real eggs. We get nicely foil wrapped chocolate eggs so that we don’t have to make them look pretty. There is an easy way for a reason.

Thats just a side note.

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The cool thing is that you turn to the person next to you and you crack your egg against the other person’s, and if you win, then you face the next challenger, and this continues until you have one man standing. Its kinda like the christmas cracker thing, but with hardboiled eggs. Whats better, is that once the egg has been cracked, then you peel it, and chuck it in your salad. Kill two birds with one stone.

You know what…

It was probably invented by some swiss mum who didn’t want to peel all the eggs, so she just turned it into a game.

We sit and indulge, and keep getting our glasses topped up by one of the brothers, who is Johnny-on-the-spot with ensuring that we have a socially lubricated evening, and that we have. I end up doing the whole “slide deeper into the chair” thing that happens when you have swiss hosts who make sure your glass doesn’t sit less than half full.

Emilie’s mum turns to me and says “Charlie, would you like some more?”, referring to dinner. I look at her a little funny, and Emilie corrects her, telling her that her my name is actually Billy. This is when she proceeds to tell me “You just look more like a Charlie”, at which point, I am notified that my name will be charlie for the remainder of the evening. It took a few goes at forgetting that for the past 24 years, I was a “Billy”.

It gets better.

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Only moments later, the younger bother who is running around constantly topping up asks if “Roberta” would like some more wine. What is second nature to any Australian kicks in, and I am in no way going to bother correcting this guy. Bec just became Roberta, and I am a Charlie. Despite the plans in my mind as to how we are going to permanently fix Bec as a Roberta in the minds of our swiss counterparts, his brother jumps in and starts telling him in their native tongue that Roberta isn’t her name.

Naturally, I cant understand French, but the widened eyes darting back and forth between us and his brother told enough of a story for us.

We taste some of the most expensive cured meats in Switzerland (which probably makes it the most expensive in Europe too), try two different red wines, both of which were utterly delicious, indulge in a 3 course meal, and watch in awe as Damien devours 5 of these liquor-filled Lindt chocolate sticks.

Everyone else maybe had 2.

Damien is at the other end of the table, just having a casual mouth-gasm each time the wrapper crinkles as he twists the chocolate free from it’s foil captor.

He’s good for a laugh.

We wrap the evening up and make our way home with Damien & Emilie.

It’s been another brilliant day in Switzerland, but not like that is all too hard, either.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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