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France Language & Leadership

July 7-8, 2019

For our first blog post, we decided for everyone to write one or two sentences about our first impressions. Here they are!

I have never eaten so much bread in my life!

I hope to come back using exclusively passé simple.

Yesterday was the first time in like 4 years that I went to bed at a decent time.
– Milla

I made like 9 friends in one day which is very exciting.

I was always told that picturing French towns only having yellow buildings, blue window shutters, and Vespas was stereotypical. Turns out that’s exactly what Versailles was like.

I enjoyed walking in Versailles a lot, the statues were really cool and so were the flower plots.

I’ve had a fun time exploring Versailles and meeting new friends.

The amount of cheese and bread I’ve eaten so far is insane.

I lived off of 5 hours of sleep the past 2 days. You could say I’m pretty jet-lagged, but other than that, Versailles was fun!

When we were in Versailles we visited some beautiful gardens and learned about the history of Château Versailles.

July 9, 2019

Today our goal was to get to Mìzoën, a village near Grenoble, where we would stay for 6 days. We woke up at 7:30 ish so that we could go to our first French market. Kiara, Evan, Nana, and I stayed as a group. We walked through the market with a goal to find baguette. We failed, however we bought cheese, mangos, watermelon, passion fruit, and raspberries. We than went back to our hostile in Versailles so that we could collect our bags and head to the train station.
We made our rain to Grenoble. On the train we ate our lunches from Paul. And our purchases from the market. We then played Uno for the remaining time. Evan chested literally every time, but it’s ok because I did too. After the train we took s bus to our gïte in Mìzoën where we met Anne and Pascal. We walked through the town before an amazing dinner of gratin and strawberry tarts. With our tummies full we all walked off to sleep.

July 10, 2019
The 10th of July dawned bright and early in Mìzoën, the small alpine village in which we were lodged. The village of perhaps 150 people was tucked precariously half way up the slope of a mountain, and faced an azure reservoir on the floor of the valley formed by the mountains amongst which we are nestled.  These mountains rise like vast grey spikes towards the blue ceiling of the sky, blanketed in green that gradually fades to grey at the tree-line, which in turn turns to patchy white on the highest peaks. We rose some time after the sun, and proceeded to the dining hall to eat the wonderful breakfast prepared by Pascale and Anne, the proprietors of the lodge at which we stay. Breakfast proceeded with the hearty and energetic conversation that has come to typify our group dynamics. Stomachs full and faces fresh, we proceeded downwards toward the bus, and our fist Alpine adventure; white water rafting.
Rafting is truly an experience that’s hard to describe; something about the mixture of credibly imagined risk and total safety makes it a uniquely sublime experience. The water was so cold that it physically hurt, sending fiery arrows of pain up the foot that were soon overwhelmed by adrenaline. At one point, we felt the relative safety of our boats and rafted down a strong current to reach a rolling matrix of currents that first forced you forward and than threw you up to the surface, all in all making for a thrilling experience. We spent nearly an hour on the water but to us, it seemed like the experience ended far too soon, as we disembarked for the shore, wet, cold, and thoroughly thrilled.
After returning to the Gîte, we dined on bacon quiche and salad, before embarking on, by far, the most important part of our trip; the community service projects.  Directed by the expert guides, Laurent and Yann, we went to the upper mountains to the village of Puy Le Haute, where we began work on our task; repairing parts of the hiking trails (and certain portions of wall) that snakes through the mountains. Two hours of hard, but useful work followed and we performed a variety of tasks, including path clearance, raking, rock digging, and the cutting off of overgrown trees. We returned to the Gîte (fast becoming a home-away from home) to find dinner, chicken, ratatouille, and l’ile flottante (for dessert) waiting for us   We were exhausted, sweaty, and hungry, but one hundred percent satisfied with what we had accomplished. Sleep came calling.
-Aniketan aka Ankletan/AK

July 11, 2019
Today was hard but savory. After sleeping in for 15 minutes , we headed to breakfast for a 12th helping of delicious bread and yogurt. We headed to the hiking trail for a second day of rock removal. Evan ‘lead’ the group as Roma carried Xavier Belle Armine (une barreàmine/steel bar) . The highlight of the day was definitely the  bus ride on the way to the site as the ‘Oui Oui Baguette’ sang French songs. After a fantastic lunch consisting of bolognese, chips,  and sandwiches, we continued working until about 5pm. Parting with Xavier was difficult, but satisfying nonetheless.
Overall, the day was filled with screaming, baguettes, music, and ‘quirky moments’. For this group…pretty normal.

July 12, 2019

Today we helped a shepherd carry fences. I honestly thought that we would be carrying fences from the base to the top and I also thought we would help build the fence. It ended up being nothing like that. After breakfast, we drove in 2 vans up to the base of our hike. We were already pretty high up in the mountain, so the idea of going higher was frightening, but exciting. Before we started hiking, we filled up our water bottles with water from a waterfall. We started our hike with energy; Anna even started running up the mountain. Evan, our leader for the day, lead us up toward the sheep. After crossing many streams, we began to hear the sheep. Than we met Francine, the shepherd. Aeryn and I helped (well, sort of) Francine feed the sheep. Apparently, there are 1,900 of them.  Than, we continued up. None of us were really talking because we were trying to save our breath. We reached a tiny house that a shepherd lives in and we got to rest. I also filled up my water bottle.
Half an hour later we reached our lunch spot. I had a sandwich, a nectarine, and a donut with apple sauce. Milla and I went pee behind a rock. Terra took forever to eat her sandwich…again. We all took a nap, but Kiara took advantage of the situation to tan in the sun. Then, we helped move around fences, then we carried fences back to the shepherd’s house and headed down the mountain. Kenny ran down the mountain.
On the way back to the lodge, we stopped for ice cream. It was delicious. We got going again, and when we finally arrived, I took a shower because I felt gross. For dinner we had croziflette and for dessert we had fromage blanc. Overall it was a great day with unforgettable views.

July 13, 2019

Today we hiked for 7 hours to get from Mîzöen up to a small lodge high in the Alps. We will spend a few days here. The hike tested our physical fitness, and our ability to be patient about how much of the hike was left. At the beginning of the hike we started all together, and were optimistic. As the hike progressed we gradually slipped into 3 groups. Kiara, Aeryn, Aniktan, Evan, and Roma at the front. Jake and I in the middle. And Nanna, Kenny, and Milla in the back. The trail was consistently steep, with many switch backs. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were actually climbing a mountain. We paused for lunch at a tiny restaurant called les Clots, where Milla tried to help me get over my fear of chickens. She was not successful and I ended up ripping my pants in the process. Later we stopped at the top of a waterfall to have a snack, and regain our strength. By the end of the hike we all felt like falling over. Some of us felt a sense of accomplishment, while others were just grumpy. Our reward for the hike was a large meal of couscous and stew, with vanilla custard for dessert.
After dinner, most of the group stayed in our room talking, but Jake, Terra, AK, and I took a walk to the edge of the cliff in front of the lodge, where we just caught the end of the sunset. We also saw a few mountain goats with large horns, which made Jake extremely excited. Although the hike was extremely difficult, I know that everyone learned something from it, even if it was just that they would never make the mistake of hiking again. 😉

July 14, 2019

Today, during our first full day at the lodge in the Alps, we did a number of activities. After breakfast, we sanded the lodge and repainted it. It was freezing but we managed to complete the job by singing songs like Fireflies and Rolling in the Deep. Nanna, Anna, and I were painting the top railing and Nanna accidentally kicked the paint bucket and it almost spilled on Evan and AK’s head. For lunch we had baguettes, like always, with a few other foods, including chocolate that melted before we could remember to eat it. We all went on a hike to swim in the Lac Noir while Jake and Kai helped make the lasagna for dinner. I didn’t go into the lake but judging by how bad everybody was shivering, it was definitely freezing. The hike there was tough for Kenny, Nanna, Mila, and I because we were already exhausted from yesterday’s 7 hour hike. But once we got to the lake, skipping rocks and making fun of how cold everyone was lightened our spirits.
After the hike, half of us played an outdated version of French Monopoly, while the other half huddled for warmth with a nap in their beds. For dinner we had lasagna and Kenny ate half of it. I was proud of him because he made it very clear how much he hates cheese. Roma also tried it even though she shared Kenny’s dislike for cheese. Our curfew was pushed a bit so we could celebrate Bastille Day next to a fire right outside of the lodge. We watched fireworks and sang more songs in front of the campfire. Some of us created a mosh-pit a few feet away and sang some of our favorite songs. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night.

July 15, 2019

If I could describe today with one word it would be ‘mountain’, and that’s because we did a lot of hiking. We started at the Refuge des Mouterres, where we ate breakfast and packed up. I forget like 8 things a day, so I was stressed because I wanted to make sure I had everything. Fortunately, I have everything (I think). We started the descent to Mizoën, and I was in the front for the majority of it. We met a shepherd with 2 dogs and it was incredibly hard to resist the urge to pet them. I let them sniff me and then we continued. We saw a dead sheep and it was pretty gross. Eventually, we made it to the place where we ate lunch. We played ninja, and it eventually got down to me and AK. He gave up because I am a karate master. After lunch, we visited a town called Besse and visited a museum about sheep. We watched a video about wolves hunting in the alps, and then we went to the shop. Nanna bought a little sheep backpack for us to wear around Paris. I proposed we named the sheep ‘coquillage’, the French word for shellfish. The group unanimously agreed in it. When we got back to Mìzoën, we we had some free time. We did an activity where we reflected on the past week, as tonight is our last night in the alps. After that, we went to dinner where we ate a dish called Tian, and I tried to convince Nanna that 8 was a prime number and that 2X4=7. As I am writing this, they are eating paper. Send help.

July 16, 2019

Today was filled with a lot of overwhelming and underwhelming moments. Six hours were spent in the bus, traveling from the Alpes to Carcassonne, for our homestays. We made a stop halfway through the trip at Pont du Gard to visit a Roman aqueduct. In all honesty, I felt like I was in a picture in my World History textbook. We took a dip in the cool waters of river that ran under the aqueduct. Touristes from all over surrounded us; there were people speaking all different kinds of languages. After we soaked up some of the Southern France sun, we parted from the aqueduct and headed back to the bus for the next few hours. Finally, the bus parked near some hotel in Carcassonne and we hulled our heavy bags from the compartment under the car. We met our host families and gave (very awkward) bisous (kisses) to everyone! After some snacks, we said <<À demain!>> to our friends and went home with our new families for the week.

July 17, 2019
Today was definitely one of the best days of my life. I woke up to orange juice, bread, and Nutella, then I was on my way. We visited La Citè de Carcassonne, which had a fascinating history and many fun shops. I bought some presents for my friends in LA, such as soap, cookies and necklaces. After our visit to La Citè was overs we ate lunch and headed to the vineyards for our service work. My job was to cut the flat parts of rocks so we could line them up in paths.
After service work I went back home and swam with my two little brothers from my host family. Thomas has an underwater camera and he used to film me helping bugs out of the pool. After swimming, we had a really delicious dinner of sausage and fries, with chocolate cupcakes and ice cream for dessert. After dinner we watched Stranger Things in French. I’m on season 3 while my family is on season 1, so we re-watched an episode from the first season, which allowed me to pick up on a lot of new words. I had a lot of fun today and can’t wait for tomorrow!

July 18, 2019
The night before had only been the second with our homestay families, and I slept well on a dinner of duck fillets and baguettes. I showered and changed, and polished off a breakfast of more baguette with caramel-macadamia confiture, washed down with a cup of tea. Max, my Pére d’Accueille, drove me to our meeting place, an unassuming parking lot near the charmingly built local Lysée. Saying goodbye to our homestay families, we embarked from there on the (always slightly longer than expected) journey towards the worksite. The journey gives us ample opportunities to admire both the natural and architectural beauty of the area around the Aude River. First, we passed through the city of Carcassonne, and watched as it’s cute, little Spanish style roofs were bathed by the yellow-white inferno of morning. The canal glinted as the rising sun scattered flecks of gold among the green-blue waters. Soon, we clear the  city, and drive for a good hour across the endless emerald green vineyards and baked brown-gold plains of rural Mediterranean France. The sun continues to beat down on the earth, warming the area towards its midday high of 90°F. Among the endless vineyards, we caught brief glimpses of gothic architecture and soaring church spires among small villages. Finally, we arrived at the worksite. I will not dwell overmuch on what we did, (my word-limit has likely already been exceeded), but it suffices to say that it consisted of planting lavender plants and building walls around the course of the ancient trail that leads like a long brown snake towards the shrine of Santiago de Compostella in Spanish Galicia, and that has funneled pilgrims towards that holy site for uncountable centuries that stretch back into the mists of the Dark Age. After working for a good 5 hours, we moved on towards Beize-Minervois, a down with a charming riviera that we swam in and adventured around for the better part of three hours. However, we soon had to return to Carcassone, Spanish roofs now gently blanketed by the setting sun’s rays, and we rendezvoused at the same parking lot. I returned home to my homestay family, eagerly awaiting the next days work and adventure.

July 19, 2019
Hello everyone I know you’ve been waiting to hear from me (Nanna.) As the only person who hasn’t  blogged, this will be the greatest blog. Today July 19 started off wonderfully. Terra purchased a large carton of coconut water for me– as all of you know I adore coconut water. Anyway. I chugged it and that was the end.
Service work took place on the Camino de Santiago in Pouzol-Minervois once again. We split into three groups and worked on planting lavender, building the “capitelle” (dry stone shelter) and breaking/ molding rocks for future construction.  After a long history lesson on the region and lunch break, we headed off to the Oulibo olive factory where we learned that olives are older than Jesus from the 20 minute video while devious Terminator lightning pointed at every single surface in the factory related to the production of my newest addiction, olive oil. We had a beautiful olive and olive oil tasting (degustation) which had lots of us like Kenny, Evan, and Anna opting for no more olives and Aaron, Milla, and I gasping for more.  We then proceeded to the store where we bought souvenirs and snacks.

Extra paragraph by leader Jake- After the taking refuge from the 95 degree Languedoc heat at the olive factory, we made a quick stop once again in the medieval village of Bize Minervois where we joined local and foreign families swimming in the local swimming spot before heading back to another evening in our homestays.

July 20, 2019

I especially reserved writing the blog today because we were scheduled to go zip lining at a ropes course (I absolutely love zip lining). With high expectations, Nanna and I piled into our car with our homestay mother. After a short, winding car ride we arrived at the ropes course. The moment we stepped put of them car, I’m sure all of you can guess what happened. The sky grew dark, the clouds rumbled, and Carcassonne’s drought, decided to end. My dreams of zip lining were crushed.
Jake and Clotilde sent all of the people whose families were still at the ropes course home. Eryn, Nana, Roma, and I we’re left with the leaders, who took us to the market in the heart of Carcassonne. The olive, jams, dried fruit, and coffee we bought soon made me forget about the mornings disappointments. After the market we ate lunch with our homestay families. Then, Fabienne (my homestay mother) took me and Nanna to a medieval town, where I took way too many pictures. We ran into Eryn and Roma and a reggae concert in the village and spent the afternoon eating and shopping with them. The evening finished the competitive game of Wii bowling between Fabienne’s family, and Nanna and I. What started off to be a rainy disappointing morning, turned into “une journée incroyable!”

July 21, 2019
I’m going to start this blog post from the beginning of the day. Like 12 AM. So there I was, sitting on the couch at a party falling asleep. My day really started though, at like 10 AM that morning because I slept a lot. I had a breakfast of delicious crepes and then my homestay family and I left for the beach. We picked up Terra on the way there and after a long drive we were at the Mediterranean Sea. At the beach, our homestay family was peacefully enjoying our time while Terra, Kenny, and I acted like the Americans we are. We buried Timothèe (my homestay brother), Kenny, and Terra in the sand. At around 5 o’clock we packed up and started heading towards the car. On the way we stopped for ice cream. I got raspberry in a cone. Not important, but whatever. Once we got home, Kenny cooked an authentic American meal: cheeseburgers. After dinner, we watched The Hunger Games, but in French, and Katnis had a really high voice. After the movie, I was pretty tired so I read for a bit and then passed out.

July 22, 2019
At 8:30, we met at our meeting spot and drove to this park/lake thing we were going to do our language exchange with 4 to 12-year-olds. When we got inside the preschool building, we were assigned age groups. Age range ended up being 3 to 11 years old, and Kiara and I were signed the four-year-olds. After a rough 30 minutes of no one talking to us, and me making a child cry when I complemented his T-shirt, we finally started to have some fun.
After lunch, since the four-year-olds were still napping, we went to the six through 11-year-olds. A seven-year-old named Roman decided that she loved me, so for the rest of the day I carried her in my arms. Once we got home I took a shower and called my mom. Today we actually ate dinner early (before 9pm) because were going out to ice cream in the city. At 9, we (Aeryn and I) met up with Anna, Nanna, and AK and ate our ice cream. Then, for two hours we walked around the medieval city of Carcassonne. At midnight we left, and now here I am, writing at 12:30 AM when I should be sleeping.

July 23, 2019

After a hot, humid, and sticky week in Carcassonne, the Global Works group finally went on the beach. That’s right, THE MEDITERRANEAN. My Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants dreams are coming true (yes, I know it wasn’t in France, but still).
Anyways, I went to a rather not so appealing beach the weekend before and was pleasantly surprised today. The drive was an hour and a half, and in the beautiful Clotilde’s car, we listened to some bangin’ tunes. We escaped the 40C heat with a cool sea breeze. Everyone split off into groups to to go gift shopping. I’d tell you all what I got, but Mom I know you’re reading this ?.
Anywho, after lunch, we went swimming! We all swam out to a platform off the shore and the bravest jumped off. We cycled shopping and swimming until 5. Then we gathered our things and drove to the goodbye picnic with everyone’s families. There were 4 quiches. Kiara threw a rock at Kenny, displaying her perfect aim. We took photos and went home to pack our bags for our final days in Paris!
P.S. Mom, I miss ANY food that isn’t French. I’m turning into ham, tomatoes, and bread.

July 24, 2019
Word of the day, stitches (yes stitches). We started our morning by saying goodbye to our homestay families at the train station. I already miss my sisters and my brother ?. We then took 2 trains to get to Paris. Our first tourist stop was the LOUVRE, cuz we Frenching like that hehe. SO….. it didn’t really go as planned. Aeryn, Roma, and I took a nice stroll through the museum looking through all our favorite exhibits (including the Mona Lisa [even though she over rated] because were you really in France if you didn’t say hi to Da Vinci’s great friend. While we wandered the other groups had some technical difficulties.  Oh I almost forgot, Ky fell on the stairs and cut her knee (but like big booboo cut). Once all the groups rejoined we headed off to get some yummy falafel at a restaurant by our hostile, meanwhile Jake and Ky had a fun visit at the hospital. She even left with a goody bag, 3 stitches. After a long day we all went back and tried to sleep, it didn’t work BECAUSE IT WAS SO HOT T.H.A.N.K Y.O.U. GLOBAL WARMING. Ok that is the end of my rant, also apparently I was yelling at Kenny in my sleep. OH HI MOM!!!❤