Monday, July 30, 2018

Epilogue Part 2

Wednesday was museum day. In the morning, we had a guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay, thought of as the museum of Impressionism (although there is so much more). Our guide was exceptional and spoke in French slowly enough for us all to understand and explained difficult concepts simply.

We then picnicked in the Tuileries Gardens outside the Louvre Museum.

Our visit to the Louvre was a bit difficult, as their rules required us to stay in our group of 23 with Victoria as our guide when the museum was packed tight with tourists and the air conditioning wasn’t working all that well. Victoria is Parisian, but Parisians don’t go to the Louvre. So we were here and there. The students did get to see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, the Coronation of Josephine, the Raft of the Medusa and the Rape of the Sabine Women - all important artworks that they had studied in Culture Class.

But we cut our visit short because it was simply hot and miserable. We ended by passing through the foundations of the original fortress, which are interesting and cool.

From there, we saw the courtyard of the Palais Royale, with its striped columns and the wonderful gardens. The Palais was the home of Louis XIV as a child, when he was king but too young to rule. Afterwards, it was the home of Cardinal Richelieu, the second most powerful man in France after Louis XIV.

We lingered in a quiet square that had shopping and cafés. Our Parisian, Victoria knew of it, just off Rue de la Paix, a very touristy district.

After that, we saw the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera House, which is today home to the National Ballet.

Considering the state of the Métro in the late afternoon, we decided to walk to the Concorde Square with its Egyptian Obelisk covered in hieroglyphics and its famous fountains. From there, it was on to the Champs de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower. We picnicked there as our last meal together in France. It was fun and happy and sad.

Luc, Abby, Esti and Ava left us Wednesday evening to continue travels in Europe with their families. It was great when Abby couldn’t figure out how to speak English with her family!

Thursday morning we climbed aboard our coaches and headed for Charles de Gaulle airport to begin our trek home. The rule is that once the wheels leave French soil, the students can then speak English. Once we took off, a cheer went up…and they went back to speaking French. It was just too weird for them to make the switch that quickly.

Even when we arrived in Indianapolis, the students were still speaking French among one another and their teachers, while trying to speak in English with their families. I expect even now, the students open their mouths and have no idea what language will come out of their mouths.
This is my third year of teaching in this program. This group was the most dedicated to the honor code I have had. When English words slipped out, they were horrified and immediately apologized. They believed in the honor code and lived by it.

This was a truly special group of young people. My life is enriched by having had the opportunity to live and work with them. Their advancement in their language skills was amazing. But what I found truly amazing was their growth as people. They became citizens of the world. They now have friends and family on the other side of the world. And I believe that these kids will keep those links alive. They will go back to Brest. They will share their lives on social media with their host families and their friends from the program.

Thank you to parents for sharing your children with us. And thank you, stagiaires, for being the being the absolutely wonderful people that you are and for sharing a bit of you with me. Vous avez pris mon coeur.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Epilogue, Part 1

In the last two posts, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to go into detail about our experiences. I’d like to do so now.

Monday morning, students, host families and teachers met to board the bus to Paris. This was the final farewell. Of course, there were tears. The host parents are accustomed to the departure rituals. But the students and the host children are not so jaded. Embraces lasted minutes and were repeated.

Lili’s family has three daughters who are 13, 10 and 7. Those girls wormed their way into the hearts of many of our students. I think our departure was harder on Amandine and Alizé, the two oldest, than it was even on our students. Davia picked up and held Valentine, the youngest for a long time.

Finally, we had to insist that it was time to go. The students climbed into the motor coach, and we were off with waves back at the families in the car park for the beach at Moulin Blanc. The sniffles continued for quite a while.

We arrived in Paris at the beginning of rush hour(s), so it took a while to arrive at the hostel. It is located in an area just adjacent to the Marché aux Puces, the flea market. It’s kind of a wild area.

But we arrived at a wonderful facility. As it turned out, it was much more like an hotel than a youth hostel. Each room had its own bathroom complete with shower. Towels and soap were provided - unheard in a typical youth hostel. We were all most pleasantly surprised.

Victoria had booked us reservations at a restaurant not terribly far. But we still had lots of time. So we decided to visit the Montmartre area first. Looking online told us that it was just 10 more minutes walking than taking the Métro (subway). So we walked.

We walked the length of the Marché aux Puces, which was an experience. There were people from all over the world selling everything and more than you can imagine. (Two Pierre Cardin shirts for €10 - I’m sure that was legal!)

And it was a hot late afternoon in Paris. There isn’t hot like hot in a big city. The kids didn’t seem to mind, but I was sweating and had to find a bottle of water when we arrived at Montmartre. We sure climbed a lot of stairs to get there.

Montmartre is the big hill that overlooks the entire city of Paris. It is the site of the basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was this area where the Impressionist painters lived and worked while they were poor. There are cafés and shops and crêperies in abundance.

This time, I photographed Lili’s tears because she was so happy to be in Paris, and Cendy’s tears because she was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the church.

We actually arrived about 40 minutes early for our dinner reservation. But they good-naturedly accepted us a bit early. We were a larger group than they were used to having, but were obviously happy to have us. We had lots of choices, and the waiter was quite gracious.

The walk back to the hotel seemed to take a long time, but we were tired. In the end, it was just 30 minutes. It was quickly to bed on arrival.

Somebody knows how to make a good
first impression on Versailles.

City Hall, Versailles

I don't think they quite understand.

The Luxembourg Gardens

Tuesday morning, we took a five minute walk to the Métro station. The Métro would take us to the Montparnasse station where we would catch the train for Versailles.

Our group of Indiana high school students was not prepared for rush hour on the Paris subway. Since our hotel was located pretty far from central Paris, we joined the crush of commuters coming in from the suburbs to go to work. When the train pulled in, it looked as if there was no more room in the cars for us. But we squeezed in. We were packed tight.

I think our students were surprised when more people packed in at subsequent stations. Luckily, quite a number of people disembarked at the stop for the Saint Lazare train station. It was easier after that.
Versailles is an interesting place. We speak of the 1% here in the USA. Versailles is a demonstration of .01% of the population controlling 99% of the wealth of the country in the 18th century, from Louis XIV to his great-great grandson Louis XVI. Seeing this incredible palace, one understands why there was a French Revolution.

During the summer months, it is incredibly crowded with tourists from all over the world. So many people pack into this amazing edifice, it is impossible to stay together as a large group. So we sent the students in groups of three to six. I parked myself at the entrance to the Hall of Mirrors to try to get a photo of each of our groups as they passed. I did not catch them all.

After viewing the majesty of this amazing building, that has almost no furniture because of the Revolution, we intended to picnic in the gardens. However, during the summer there is an additional charge of €11 (almost $14) to tour the gardens. So Victoria found a beautiful garden behind the city hall for us to have our picnic. And it was free.

Once back in Paris proper, we went to the Montparnasse Tower, the only skyscraper within the center of Paris. We went to the top viewing deck to enjoy the vast views of Paris.

The Montparnasse Tower was Paris’ only experiment with skyscrapers in the 1960s, when New York and London were going crazy with them. Parisians hated it. As recently as 2015, it was voted the second ugliest building in the world by Lonely Planet subscribers. So by going to the top, there is no wait (with our reservation), and you can see all of Paris without having to see the Montparnasse Tower since you are on it. (We couldn’t get an advance reservation for going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so the wait would have been three hours.)

The Montparnasse Tower will be receiving a facelift over the next couple of years, so she may not be thought of as so ugly.

It was after the ascent that we divided into two different groups just because of the logistics of maneuvering a group of 23 people through the Latin Quarter. Refer to the earlier post for a description of our differing strolls through the Latin Quarter and Île de la Cité.

That night was our boat tour of Paris on the Seine River. This is the absolutely coolest thing to do at sunset on a summer night. We saw all the amazing sites from river level. The students loved it!
Abby on hearing English