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Life is a Box of Swiss Chocolates: Wrestling with Leaving

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Life is a Box of Swiss Chocolates is a recurring column showcasing the life of a UFV student studying abroad. Jennifer is in Lucerne, Switzerland at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts this semester, and documenting the process as she goes.

I have two more weeks left here in Switzerland, and I’m getting kind of anxious about going home. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I first arrived, mostly because I didn’t know any German, and wasn’t sure how to navigate the culture. Now I’ve started to pick up on words and am able to maneuver a bit more confidently. When people first asked me if I would stay I said no way, I couldn’t live here long term. I sing a much different tune now. Yes, things are expensive here, and yes, the culture is a bit more “cold” or impersonal than I’m used to, but if someone offered me a job I would totally come back.

The quality of life here is incredible; things are clean, and the quality of food is great. There are no waxed apples that last for 4 weeks in your pantry or prepackaged noodle and powder cheese meals. I find a lot of value here and I will try to find more valuable aspects of Canada when I return. Life is different here, I don’t know if I could properly articulate it. It’s just something you have to experience.

I’m trying to study for exams, but also cram as many last minute things in the next couple weeks as I can. Last night I did one of the most Swiss things a person could possibly do: I attended a traditional Swiss wrestling tournament called Schwingen in Swiss German. I met my Swiss friend Sam at the train station in a small town called Baar. As I waited for his train to arrive, I cracked open an Eichhof beer and bags of Zweifel chips. So Swiss. We eventually found each other and wandered around the town trying to find the match. We decided we were lost and randomly stumbled across some of his rugby friends who guided us to the right part of town. Not all Swiss people are as coordinated as you may think.

We arrived at the pitch that was set up with four raised wood chip circles, four sets of scorekeepers, and four referees. This was the junior version, but the men were still very large. They wore a traditional outfit which included black dress pants and a blue button-up t-shirt, and before the match they put on a pair of shorts made of potato sacks with a built-in leather belt. There is no weight class either, so it’s possible that one wrestler could be twice as big as the other.

The goal is to flip the other wrestler onto their back. As soon as their shoulder blades hit the wood chips, the match is won. Both wrestlers must keep their hands on the opponent’s shorts at all times. Once both wrestlers have let go of each other’s shorts, they restart from the centre. The most points you can get is 10, and that’s for a perfect flip. If the opponent is able to squirm, then the winner is awarded fewer points. I would say it is like sumo wrestling meets strongman competition. One of the aspects I found interesting is that the winner brushes the wood chips off the loser’s shoulders. I think that demonstrated great sportsmanship and integrity.

We enjoyed some nice beers and sausages with mustard while we watched the matches. All four pitches are going at the same time so it can be kind of tough to see everything. The crowd was so excited! It’s such a fun experience to participate in something the locals put so much value in. The atmosphere was really relaxed, there was music, and everyone was having a great time socializing and enjoying the matches.

I have made some amazing friends and had some incredible experiences these past months. I can’t emphasize enough how much this experience has changed my life and helped me to find focus again. If you have the chance, you need to do this! I’m sad to be leaving this amazing country soon, but I’ll be on to the next adventure shortly! The next time you hear from me I will be in Athens, Greece.

Tchüss!

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