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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.