Village Life II

I spent my childhood and adolescence in a small village and I ended up hating it.
I constantly felt observed and commented, having to play a role I had not chosen myself and that I was not happy with. Besides that, it was awfully boring. As soon as possible – right after high school – I left and returned only when visiting my parents.
Four years ago, after living my life in different European cities, I suddenly felt the urge to move to the countryside again. That decision actually came as much as a surprise to myself as to my family and friends! Somewhere along the way I had just started to feel fed up with all the hurry, noises, shops, and cars in cities and developed the need to move closer to simplicity and nature. To breathe fresher air and to live among people I recognised when I met them in the street.
When I moved to St-Martin in the Swiss Alps, I knew nobody and had to start from scratch socially. It was not the first time I did that so it didn’t worry me, because I knew that if you are just open and interested in others you always succeed in weaving a social net, even if it takes a little while.
I must say that people are very open and friendly up here, and even if I will forever remain a foreigner to the other locals, they are quick to acknowledge me with a smile. The second or third time I come across people in the village street or at the little food store we start greeting each other, and soon after we will stop and chat when we meet. Nowadays I often get spontaneously invited over for a coffee or glass of wine (after all, we’re in canton Valais! 😉 and I have them over for a glass or a meal, since I love cooking for more than just one person.
However, a village stays a village, and of course people keep an eye on each other. I’m pretty sure there is some talking going on about me behind my back (“All alone up there?”, “No husband?”, “Hiking every day?”), but there’s a positive side to their curiosity, too: if something would happen to me or if I’d have a serious problem, most of them would help me out without hesitation.
In a village you are not anonymous to each other. I recognise Madame Fournier and Monsieur Beytrison when I meet them outside the bistrot. We acknowledge each others’ existence by greeting each other and we show that we care by asking “Ça va?” and wishing each other a “Bonne journée!”. That is exactly what I have come to appreciate in living in such a small community: I know who the people that surround me are, we exchange little friendly comments, we try to cheer each other up if the other seems sad or offer a helping hand if they look tired. After all, that’s what life is about, isn’t it? To care about and be there for each other. “Man is a social animal”, Aristotle said, and yes, it’s good to know that you are not alone.

The Village Street on a sunny Tuesday in September

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