France Language & Leadership 2018
July 8, 2018
Our first 30-ish hours together have been quite the trip! Flying in from across the US, most of us met in New York before picking up the rest of the group in Paris. The flight itself was uneventful, but the rest of the travel day wasn’t so much. Our bus driver met us at l’aéroport Charles de Gaulle, but once we’d finally left the bus immediately broke down. We were waiting for a replacement while we played a mixture of French and American card games for quite a while. Once the new bus came, we dropped off our luggage at l’Ermitage before visiting les Jardins de Versailles, with varying degrees of sleep deprivation. By the time we went back, most of us were so tired that we fell asleep instantly!
July 9, 2018
Waking up from my first sleep in over 30 hours felt excellent. I was refreshed and ready to embark on the second day of the trip. After a satisfactory breakfast that consisted of cereal, bread, and hot chocolate, we did a language exercise to prepare us for the rest of the trip. As I’m not the strongest of French speakers, I struggled at times. Still, I found it useful, as it refreshed my knowledge. After that, we boarded a bus that took us through Paris, and to the train station. We all marveled at the small glimpse that we got of the Eiffel Tower as we went. After an enjoyable train ride through the lush, green suburbs of Paris, we then took another bus to our final destination of Mizoën. I am very happy to be here, as it is indescribably beautiful; the small town is overshadowed by towering mountains, and slim, curving roads. I am very excited for what’s ahead of us: hiking and white water rafting!
July 10, 2018
After settling into our new lodging in France’s western commune of Mizoën, we woke up in anticipation of white water rafting in the crisp, pristine river waters of the Romanche River. We ate a quick breakfast of granola, yogurt, and bread, and soon departed for the rafting site. Although our ride to the rafting site wasn’t long, it gave us time to admire the striking scenery of the French Alps. Our driver quickly whisked us along the windy mountain road with agility and comfort, and we soon found ourselves being greeted by a pair of cheerful rafting guides. Not knowing what to expect, I was compelled by the professionalism of the staff as we were speedily outfitted in wetsuits and safety vests. As we were quickly briefed on paddle technique and safety procedures, I couldn’t help but notice that the water had an alluring, turquoise hue unlike anything I had ever seen before. We soon descended a set of stairs, boarded our colorful rafts, and went off on our way. We stopped at several sites down the riverbank to walk under a waterfall, bob downstream for a section of the river, and eventually load the rafts back onto a trailer to be towed back to the site. Invigorated by the exhilarating descent down the river and the icy, rejuvenating waters of the Alps, we finally returned to our cozy lodging to eat a delicious lunch of hearty vegetable quiche, tomato and corn salad, and bread.
Soon after our enticing meal, we were informed by Trip Leader Camille Z. that we would be restoring mountain trails. Assisted by our guides Laurent and Max, we worked for hours clearing the trails of overgrown bushes and shrubs. Along the way, we met a native family who expressed their gratefulness for our efforts as they followed us. Tired but happy that our work had purpose in benefiting the community, we returned to Mizoën to eat a dinner consisting of the French rice dish, Tien, a crisp, fresh green salad, and the renowned desert île flottante. The prevalent theme was the upcoming World Cup game between France and Belgium. We quickly finished our desserts and rushed to see whether the nation we were visiting would prevail. After a many nail biting minutes during which neither team had much success, the deciding point was scored by France and the outcome was determined. France had won. We winded down after celebrating their success and had a final group reflection activity before going to sleep. This third day of our trip was an immensely enjoyable experience during which I was able to further bond with the group and have a great time.
by Ray Z.
July 11, 2018
Today we woke up at around 7:30 and some of us (me, Malachy, and Dominic [but not Beechie]) drank coffee out of bowls–the French way! After sufficiently nourishing ourselves, we drove to Puy le Haut, where we worked to restore a dry stone wall supporting the road. Though it was both physically and mentally exhausting, we took solace in the fact that we were helping a thriving summer hamlet. Despite the physical challenge we actually found time to make a difference within the community by sorting fallen rocks by size and building two new walls entirely out of rocks, pebbles, dust, and dirt. At lunch, we listened to music and ate sandwiches until we had to go finish our respective rock walls. Katie and I were planning on playing foosball upon returning to the gite, but we were too tired and settled on what was supposed to be a placid game of Allez-Poisson, but it turned out, inevitably, to be a heated match, followed by an equally heated game of UNO (Beechie won, Xoey got 2nd, and Rasul 3rd). Before dinner, we revisited some French phrases we used during the day (caillou, pierre, roche, pioche, pelle, berger) before we could eat our delicious meal of chicken and frites (yum). It was Greer’s birthday, so we celebrated with a small muffin-cake, a candle, a handwritten card from all of us, and our best rendition of “Joyeux anniversaire”.
All my love,
July 12, 2018
As I woke up in Mizoen, finally feeling adjusted to the time zone, I ate a meal of granola and buttered bread. After breakfast, I played a few games of B.S. (all of which I did not win) and listened to Laurent and Clotilde’s briefing about the service plan for the day. I learned that we would be going to help a shepherd named Nicolas and his family to make adjustments to their lodge. Originally, Nicolas and his family owned cows on the land and they had recently started farming sheep instead. This meant that the old water troughs would need to be replaced with lower water troughs that were accessible to the 1,300 sheep that resided on the land. As I made my way to the shepherd’s lodge in a car with Beechie, a local named Jean-Baptiste, and his 4 and a half year old son, Antoine, I began to notice the scenery. We passed incredible mountains, some covered in grass and others with glaciers. Eventually, after following the thin dirt road to the summit of a mountain, we arrived at the lodge. We then split into groups and began to hike along a trail that led us to our first task of the day. As I walked along the thin and treacherous trail, I began to hear the bleating of Nicolas’ flock and looked up to see the sheep balancing on a hillside as they were herded by 3 dogs. I also noticed the several thousand locusts and other insects that lived beneath the long grass we hiked through. I arrived at a small clearing in the center of a valley and saw several planks of wood that were brought there by a helicopter for construction. It was then that we were told to bring the planks of wood back to the road. After going back and forth on the path, bringing both the planks of wood and fragments of an old water trough to the road, we breaked for lunch. We sat on a hillside overlooking 2 large mountains and a valley to enjoy our lunch of sandwiches and snickers bars we continued our work until coming home to our gite for dinner. We played cards, ate a dinner of incredible lasagna and a strawberry tart, and then reflected on the day all looking forward to the rest of our time together.
July 13, 2018
As I sit cross-legged in what could essentially be described as a “lazy man’s hammock,” listening to the faint noises of our guide, Maxime, soulfully playing the guitar and watching the pink clouds pass over the ice capped mountains, the day’s events flash through my mind—specifically the main event: hiking. Seven kilometers uphill in the Alps began with a beautiful view of Mizoën nestled just above a flat turquoise lake surrounded by rock and trees on all sides. As we continued what many considered a challenging ascent, Mizoën disappeared into the rolling hills. The scenery was replaced by a narrow path and fragile rock that—with a single touch—would plummet into the waters below. Laurent pointed out fool’s gold to us, as well as differences in plant biology above 2000 mètres. Many footsteps and quite a few songs later, our group came upon yet another change in scenery. With tough grass brushing our ankles and the lake a distant memory, the second phase of our trip began: a steep uphill voyage through loose rock and bright sun bore the incredible view of waterfalls cascading down petrified rock and into the valley below. Papillons crowded the damp rocks in search of fresh spring water, and as we reached the crest of the falls we too crowded by the crystal clear water to refill our rapidly empty water bottles. There are few words one could use to describe water that comes directly from a fresh spring high in the Alps, untouched by humans or animals, but the closest I may come is to say that the water itself was sweet. Not in that artificial way some carbonated drinks would be, but in the way that the water remained cool, fresh, natural, and clean for hours after we left the waterfall and surrounding butterflies. Once the steep ascent was over, however, the hike continued. Strange plants native to Europe passed under my fingers as we finally reached a winding gravel road that eventually brought us to a beautifully designed, classically European home into our view. We were able to rest our feet and our eyes before having an amazing dinner followed by quiet conversations and a beautiful sunset; and me, in my lazy man’s hammock, watching the stars.
July 14, 2018
This morning we woke up at 8 and went downstairs for a nice French breakfast prepared by our hosts, Stéphanie and Raphaël. We ate cereal, bread, and some of us had bowls of coffee (the French way). After finishing breakfast, we all got ready for a short community service project. Nearby the refuge, there is a lake hidden by millions of reeds. Our job was to help the owners clear this vegetation in order to allow for guests to enjoy a swimming area closer to the refuge and the beautiful reflections of the snow-capped mountains. After pulling weeds for an hour, we could see a lot more of the lake and felt very accomplished. Once back at the refuge, we all gathered our things and put on our bathing suits so we could hike to “le Lac noir.” Though the hike was challenging at times, the views were breathtaking. We arrived at the lake and all jumped in (or carefully waded into) the freezing waters of the lake. After about five minutes in the water, we all got out and remained cold for a long time after. We ate a lunch of bread and salami while taking in the landscape. Stomachs full, we began our hike back. It began to rain, but it stopped and we were lucky enough to see a marmot! When we got back, we ate a delicious dinner of hamburgers, potatoes, and salad. After dinner, us girls listened to Riley’s 90s/00s pop playlist and had a dance party. While some of us listened to Maxime play guitar, some friends and I walked over to the cliff nearby the refuge and listened to music while looking at the snow-capped mountains. We then returned back to watch Bastille Day fireworks, but after a 15 minute walk, we only managed to see the single last display. It was amazing and worth it anyway. Afterwards, we walked back to the refuge and stargazed as Rasul told stories.
July 15, 2018
Today we were awoken by the glorious sun coming through the now open window at the Refuge les mouterres. We went downstairs to eat the breakfast of homemade jam and chocolate cereal. We were then set out to depart from Refuge les mouterres in the thunder and rain. After about 15 minutes the rain was gone, then it was just the wind that was a problem but even that did not last long as it soon turned sunny and warm. We stopped for picnics prepared by our Refuge les mouterres hostess. We then took a short walk to the nearby village of Besse where we stopped into a museum that showed us what it was like to live in Besse when it was still being developed. On our way out of town we stopped for ice cream, which was very good and was exactly what we needed on this hot day. We then finished our six hour hike by going farther down the mountain back to the town of Mizoën. All of us then hurriedly took a shower, as we had not showered in three days, and we wanted not to miss a single moment of the World Cup. Woo hoo, go France!! We then had to say goodbye to our amazing guides Laurent and Max. They have been with us since arriving to Mizoën, taking us on service projects and being our guides through the confusing Alp trails. They were truly a joy to be with and it was very sad to have to say goodbye to them. We finished our evening with another wonderfully cooked meal made by our hostess, Anne. A group gathering finished off our evening as we were then sent off to pack of our bags for a day of traveling to Carcassonne to meet our host families.
July 16, 2018
Unfortunately, today was the last day we were waking up in Mizoen. We headed downstairs to enjoy our last mountain breakfast: a selection of granola, fruit, bread, and juice. Just before 9, we gathered our things and said goodbye to our kind hosts, Anne, Pascal, and Sam. We filed into the bus and prepared for the three hour ride to Pont du Gard. The first hour was music-free for those who needed more time to rest. During the remaining two hours, music filled the air from Riley’s Mighty. After three hours, we made a quick stop for lunch, but hadn’t quite made it to Pont du Gard yet. Anne and Pascal had made us ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches which we ate in delight. We hopped back on the bus for one more hour, and upon arriving everyone desperately needed a walk. We entered the Pont du Gard preserve and headed towards the big Roman aqueduct that spanned a river many of us hoped to swim in. We all sat in a circle on rocks near the river to talk about our homestay families. We each learned who our families were, if we were alone or with another member of the group, and what they were like. Stephanie and I got partnered up for the homestay in the Blanc family. Some people chose to swim in the river afterwards, while others got ice cream and visited the gift shop. Not much time had passed before we again had to board the bus for another two hours. Those hours went by as some of us started getting nervous about meeting our new families. We arrived in Carcassonne and drove to a motel where the introductions would happen. It started to rain as we said bonjour, so we moved indoors to continue our meetings. Stephanie and I were directed towards a woman named Natalie, my homestay mother. She had black hair and was about the same height as me. We talked for a while, then grabbed our suitcases and said our goodbyes to everyone, including the group leaders. As we drove back to her house, we became more familiar with her by asking and answering many questions. Once we got to her house, she gave us a tour. There are three bedrooms: hers, her daughter’s, and her son’s. Her son is in the Navy and isn’t currently here, so that’s our room for a week. Natalie and her boyfriend Christophe made us a dinner of steak hashe and a zucchini-cheese plate. It was really good and both of them seem very nice. She has three dogs: one deaf, one blind, and one perfectly fine; two cats, some chickens, and two turtles named Ken and Barbie. Natalie seems like a very nice woman. Since we had a long dinner due to all the talking and laughing, Stephanie and I felt tired after such a long travel day. We said bonne nuit, took showers, and fell into a deep sleep in our new homestay that we were already fond of.
I finished my book!
July 17, 2018
We woke up this morning for the first time in our homestays after a night of getting to know our families. They each prepared us breakfast, whether that was a baguette with jam or tea and crepes, before driving us to the group meeting point at 8h30. Once people began arriving we immediately started sharing stories from each of our homestays each day. Then the whole group was there, and we made our way to the castle in the middle of Carcassonne. But first, we all sat down and told each other about our homestay families with the whole group. Before we went inside the castle, we had a little bit of time to go to the shops that were right there. Most of us went right to the candy store. Then it was time to tour the inside of the castle. We were given a worksheet to fill out while we walked through the castle with our French audio guides. The group that got the most questions right won a prize and it ended up being Mark and Rasul. We ate lunch outside the cite, which our homestay families had prepared for us. Then it was time to start the service project we’re doing in the area, involving a trail that’s used for a pilgrimage that ends in Spain. We helped clear the vegetation that had grown after a very rainy season and also began to make a small bridge that is part of the trail. It was really hot and there were a lot of bugs. After the service, we all drove back to the meeting place and were picked up by our families. Zoe and I went out to our family’s pool when we got home, before going to have dinner with Ray and Bruno’s family (our homestay families are in-laws). They told us they had a music-related surprise, which turned out to be an Alt-J concert inside the castle! Zoe and I both know and enjoy their music, so it was really amazing to get to see them. After the concert we went right home and fell asleep immediately.
July 18, 2018
Today was Riley’s birthday! After meeting up and driving to our project site, while blasting the French radio, we said bonjour to Bernard again. We cleared the trees and vegetation on the ancient path. Then we had a little history lesson, and each presented poster boards of various subjects related to our service work. After that we drove to a pretty river, ate lunch, and went swimming. We got gelato at a nearby shop, then played a teambuilding game involving a twine spiderweb and lifting people through it! We sang Riley happy birthday and reflected on the day, then we met up with our host families again. In my host family, we came back for a quick snack and went to a Judo lesson! It was really fun, and we learned a lot (including how to flip our host family’s dad and mom onto their backs)! We drove back home and had an amazing dinner.
Greer G. & Simone N.
July 19, 2018
Day 12. Where do I start? First, I can say that France is so pretty. I’m really enjoying staying at my homestay–their food is amazing! It’s quite funny: these past few days Riley and I have thought that we were saying we were full (j’ai fini) while they kept feeding us because we were actually saying we were hungry (j’ai faim)! We each ate six crepes this morning because they kept giving us more. What’s more, all the kids in our homestay sleep in tents, and our bed is in between them (not in a tent). The mother is an architect and plans to install sleeping cubes in the familial dormitory, but for now they’re camping indoors. The dad, Freddy, is hilarious. Every night at dinner he pulls out a selfie stick and we all take pictures together. We’ve noticed that he’s always playing music and that he has a particular mix in the car, but today we found out that he’s actually a DJ who mixes music for a bunch of popular musicians; learning new things every day. I think the weirdest thing I’ve ever done was yesterday, where I had to try to pee standing up in the bathrooms at a community pool. All the stalls were the same but it did say women on the door! I was so confused, but apparently it’s called a Turkish bathroom and it’s a thing. Off to the beach tomorrow!
Blog entry by Global Works leader Clotilde about July 19: Today was our last day of community service. We worked on the camin romieu, a trail that used to be used by the pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostella. We cleared vegetation and started to rebuild a bridge that had been taken down by the recent flooding. We worked alongside 4 French teenagers from the nearby town of Narbonne. They come from “quartiers prioritaires” which are low income neighborhoods and our guide Bernard works with this organization which helps them. They’re doing community service in order to go on a vacation planned by the organization: a week-long sailing trip along the coast of Marseille.
At lunch we were joined by another group of students. They came from Palestine and were at the end of a two-week trip in France as part of a partnership between their town and a town near Narbonne. It was too hot to work but we enjoyed good conversations, learning about their life under occupation. For most of them it was the first time leaving their country and they explained how they had to go through Jordania because there’s no airport in Palestine and because they can’t go to Israel. We then played a short game of pétanque and decided to finish the afternoon at the local river to cool off.
July 20, 2018
With last night’s humidity, I woke up this morning ready to get into the Mediterranean and cool off. Isabelle and I met everyone at our usual spot. We waited for everyone to arrive and then we departed to the beach, which took about an hour and a half. When we got there we started exploring the shops near the beach. After about two hours circulating we all had lunch, and it was finally time to get in the water! As I shuffled my feet through the hot sand into the cool water, I saw everyone smiling and running into the sea—everyone except Arielle and Rasul, who were less sure about trying out the water. They finally joined in after a few minutes of me telling them about how nice the Mediterranean was. We were at the beach practically the whole day, but at 4 it was time to head home. Back at Natalie’s house Isabelle and I met her daughter, who had been at her father’s house all week. Natalie, our host mother, went out to a concert with a few of her friends, so Isabelle, the daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend, and I had dinner together. Afterwards Isabelle signed on to her Netflix account on their television and we enjoyed a night full of comedy and laughter.
July 21, 2018
Today started off in an interesting way, as the group met at a place that I would consider to be a jungle gym minus the jungle, in more of a forest. Straying from our daily Global Works group, we had the chance to spend time with the members of our host families. This acrobatic tree adventure began with a practice course in how to use the equipment. Then began the real journey with a plethora of activities consisting of zip-lines connecting each tree and mid-air obstacles testing our bravery. After several hours of that high stakes tree hopping, I left with my host family to experience lunch with them for the first time. As each dish was placed on the table I was awed more, unsure where to start. The pork was seasoned just right, and the odd snack of crab with French mayonnaise really added to the meal. After that delicious experience, and another couple hours, I was onto the next adventure: a French birthday party. Greeting one person after another, kissing one cheek at a time, we finally began to talk. For the first hour it was mostly awkward sitting and members of the family pointing out the Américaines, but then other people closer to my age arrived and I had the best time laughing about so many things, getting to know a sweet little girl, and enjoying the time with my host family.
July 22, 2018
Today was the one day where we had a full day with our host families and no contact with our other Global Works friends—daunting! I think we all had a really enjoyable time immersing ourselves in the southern French experience, which for me was not so different from my time in the southern United States (love to Meyercord, Mom)! Greer and I got to sleep in until 9h30, and about three hours later we found ourselves at a ten year old named Lola’s birthday party, whose family is close to our homestay’s. After talking (or at least attempting to) with family friends and eating lots of good food, we went for a swim and hung out with some French teenagers. I’ve realized that some French families may be more similar to mine that I realized, and that when they get together they love to eat a lot, enjoy each other’s company, and dance together! I was a bit worried going into the event but I ended up having so much fun: at 11h15 pm when we were thrown into the pool I was fully enjoying myself, and by the time we left I knew that we’d been to one twelve hour party I wouldn’t forget.
July 23, 2018
Today we woke up for the second to last time in our homestays. After a great breakfast of eggs from the chickens in our backyard, we all met at the usual parking lot and drove to the local daycare at the lake. We separated into groups of six to do activities with the different age groups of kids. I was in the 10-12 year old group and we all made paper airplanes, though the counselors modified them with paper clip tips and we all aimed them at some balloons. We then all went outside and played soccer for our break. For lunch, we ate at a park, then went back to play some of our own games with the kids, including freeze tag, ping pong, musical chairs, and more. One group had baked cookies for everyone, so after enjoying those with the children it was time to go. Everyone went back home to get ready for that night’s farewell potluck at the lake once again. Each family brought a dish and we had a great time talking, eating, swimming, and playing soccer. After saying goodbye to all the families, we went home and settled in for the night.
July 24, 2018
Today we got to sleep in a little before waking up for a final time to the church bells and stray cats meowing. For breakfast our family treated us to croissants in addition to the regular bread and cereal. Leaving our homestays for the last time, we met the neighbors who told Beechie and I about their son who visited the United States a few years ago. The thirty minute drive seemed much shorter than usual as we pulled up to the Lycee Jules Fil. As we exchanged stories about our last night with our families and gave them a final hug goodbye, we got into the three limo vans waiting for us. During the drive, Rasul handed us all candies he found in the van. At the gare (train station) we had an hour to kill so we bought some snacks and talked for a little. Beechie dared Riley to buy a jar of nutella, and she couldn’t refuse because she said “it was an easy dare”. We boarded the train at 11:30 and endured a 5 hour ride to Paris. On the train I had to switch seats a couple times to accommodate the other passengers, but for the most part just slept. In Paris we broke into three groups for taking the metro to the Mije. I was in a group with Greer, Rasul, Zoe, Ray, Makenna, and Dominique. Dominique told us that we could just let our suitcases go down this metal slide thing next to the metro stairs so Zoe and I did before we realized he was being sarcastic (so they sort of slid and crashed at the bottom). Arriving at the hostel, Riley, Simone, Beechie, Zoe, and I decided to share a room After settling in, we went back downstairs, took some pictures, then went back to the metro station. Rasul, being leader of the day, gave us the metro directions in a very confusing way, but we still made it to the Sacre Coeur area. At the restaurant, we could order pasta, chicken, or steak with either sprite, fanta, or schweppes.. After eating, we got to try escargot (most people including me did not find it to be as bad as it was made out to be). Finally, we slowly walked over to the Sacre Coeur and made our way up the steps to take a group picture. We got an hour of free time so Katie, Greer, Riley, Malachy, Beechie, Saxon, and I walked around and got some ice cream at Amorino’s. Riley tried to order an iced coffee but there was some confusion so she got a tiny mediocre coffee instead. Later, meeting back up with the group, we took the metro back to the hostel all while speaking in some bloody wonderful British accents. After a group meeting and some well needed showers we went to sleep.
July 25, 2018
We started our day with a great breakfast consisting of bread and more bread. Besides that, we also had some jus d’orange et d’eau. The next destination for the day was the Louvre. We took the metro to the louvre, and we saw beautiful buildings and paintings. Throughout the louvre we stayed in a large group at first but then we broke up later. I was with 3 of my other Global work friends, and we had our own little adventure talking about our futures, the paintings and just the fact of being next to each other. Next we ate lunch. There were a bunch of designer stores to shop, from Gucci to Versace, you could get anything you want. I got some versace slides, in case you wanted to know. Next we did a French activity next to the Eiffel tower. After that we ate dinner within a 5 min radius of the Global work leaders. Me and a bunch of other of my Global work friends ate together at this great place that sold burgers, sandwiches, etc. I happened to mistake smoke salmon as salmon getting smoked, like on a grill so I suffered through that salty meal. Though this was all expensive, we payed and made our way to the Eifell tower and it was a beautiful site. I had a great slushy while there and had great laughs with my Global work friends. The tower sparkled and it was a great way to end the night off. Can’t wait for what’s in store the last day of our trip.
– Rasul R.