Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Exiting France and arriving at the Swiss Border

A town by the Swiss border
It was difficult getting out of the mountains. My French host nearly cried when I left the Alps.

My host drove me to a secluded village an hour away. He had fun driving through the twisted and serpentine road in the fog and the rain.

He said it was like driving through a race course. There, I stayed at a hippy community for one night. The people were happy to have me, and they fed me good food and nice red wine and gave me free housing.

The leader of the commune asked me to come to his place and to have a drink of sherry he made with green walnuts.

The next day, we threshed seeds from radishes.

After, the lady who invited me took me to the next village.

I had to get to the largest town by 4PM, because there, I had a ride I paid for, who would take me to the Swiss border. And at the Swiss border, I had a French friend - who nobody knows about. I feel so fortunate to have some friends in Europe - how I know them and how I met them - only God knows.

I hitchhiked. But there were no cars. It was so difficult. Even though I gave myself an hour of being late, it looked like I wasn't going to make it.

No one was traveling through the Alps. One car took me to the next village. Then I waited for 30 minutes there. No one took me. I had someone take me to the village after that.

I waited by a bridge, and a retired French couple took pity on me and said they would take me rather far. I requested they take me to the large town, because I was running late.

They were from Paris but retired in the Alps. They felt bad for me and agreed. They called my ride and told them I'd be late.

It turns out he was late too. I made it to the large town. They gave me their email. I would email them later and thank them.

My ride was late. Very late. He took me to the border of France and Switzerland. My driver found me a hostel at the border of Switzerland. He said there was no way I was going to hitchhike to see my friend tonight, because he was in the middle of the French Alps - where nobody goes.

Several people wanted to talk to me at the hostel. But I wasn't in the mood. I was tired, especially from the stress of almost missing my ride.

For dinner - I ordered a kebab. I asked the cashier if he spoke English. He said, "No." So, I ordered in French, which made them smile. (I mean - of course I can order a kebab now in French. I've been here for over 2 months.)

It came out perfect. He smiled, and so did the owners.

I emailed my friend and said I wouldn't be able to see him tonight. It was late, and no car picks up a hitchhiker at night.

The next day, I got lunch in the village. I had a bit of culture shock, because I wasn't used to seeing traffic lights, cars, or even a shopping center. I was in the mountains for too long.

At lunch, I found a traditional French restaurant. The people next to me were locals, but I couldn't eat all the food next to me. So, I gave some of it to them, even they were strangers. They both thanked me, but it made everyone around me happier, as they watched me share my food.

The Grandmothers behind me asked if I wanted to try their dessert. I declined, but I said, "You look really happy," in English. And she said, "Always, when I'm eating good food." The old lady was talking about how she was tending her garden, and how much she enjoyed it.

Because, I didn't eat enough food, I felt tipsy from the wine. So, I rested at the hostel, before I had to hitchhike to see my friend.

I was very worried, because he was in the middle of nowhere, at the top of the Alps. And I had no idea how I was going to get there, especially because there was no public transport. I wrote down all the villages I had to pass through.

I hitchhiked for 10-20 minutes, when a car got me and took me to my first point. They were a young couple, and when they had such happy and bright smiles. They were going to the Alps for a wedding.

Then I hitchhiked for another 10 minutes, and then a car took me to the point after that. She was a middle age lady returning from work to the village.

Then, 10 minutes later, a guy got me, but he felt bad for me and took me all the way to my friend's village. He was a divorcee, who was picking up his son as per their custody deal.

He dropped me off at the local village bar. There, I told the bar owner I'm looking for my friend. The bar owner called, and my friend came with children! Then he took me in his car to his friend's place.

They had a big party that night. Everybody was impressed I had come to see him. It was really a mission. Maybe I'm the first person that visited from Los Angeles.

It was good seeing him and his family again, especially after 7 years. For dinner, his friends made a Thai dish. We drank wine and ate salami and nuts to wait. A lady friend of his sat next to me for dinner. We talked a lot.

The next day, after eating a wonderful breakfast, my host took me to the river with his children, and we swam in the river of the forest, with mountains behind us, and people fly fishing in the river.

It's been a long and hard journey. But I'm glad I made it to see my friend. He seems to appreciate and know how hard it was for me. I wish I could tell everybody who picked me up - how much it meant for this family that I made the effort to see them.

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