Delicious Meal in Vienne

Reflections from Camp

It’s our last week at American Village, and with approximately 5 long days left on our contract, I find myself attempting to reflect on the last 5 weeks of craziness that has become my life and sort it all out. It’s been a fascinating, frustrating, at times funny, and at most times frantic experience (Jon wants me to insert f^&*cked in to my ‘f’ adjective list…). So here are some thoughts on where we’ve been and perhaps what’s next.

“Being” in France

Yes, it’s true, the phrase, “I’m working in France” sounds sooo romantic and exciting and wonderful all at the same time. We’ve also been pretty good I’d say at sharing some enticing photos from where we’ve been. But it’s time for us to come clean. In the last 5.5 weeks, we’ve had 4 days off, with the addition of a 3 day break when we moved work locations. ALL of the adventuring, eating and yes, drinking, we’ve been boasting about has happened on those short days. That should tell you that we do a lot of the following things when we’re not at camp:

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Walk (usually 5-10 miles in a day)
  • Think about eating and drinking
  • Think about and subsequently search for patisseries and chocolatiers (that’s usually JStern-driven)
  • Walk
  • Get ourselves to and from our work site.
  • Oh yeah, we usually spend a lot of time griping about camp…

I will say that in our short and few days off in the last month or so, the best part about where we’ve been in France is that we would NEVER come to these small towns and villages. Most likely we would pass through Vienne on the way to somewhere else, and we certainly would not have stopped in Marmande or even remotely thought about going to Eymet – which was truly a highlight. We would probably not have quite the exposure to the different regional flavors and wines as we are having, and we certainly wouldn’t be seeing so much rural farmland. So although the time we’re spending experiencing France as opposed to working in the bizarre little microcosm that is American Village is short, those days off have been really great.

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Cultural Lessons from Camp

The fascinating ‘f’ adjective in my introduction stems from the fact that being around French adolescents for 5+ weeks really has been quite interesting. It’s a great way to experience French culture and see how different (and sometimes similar) French kids are from American kids. For me, although I am not permitted to speak French with the kids (full on English immersion) it’s been an excellent way to improve my comprehension of the language, as well as learn vocab and take in colloquialisms. I also realized today that it really wasn’t my fault I can’t understand anyone here back at Vienne, their accent is so much thicker than the folks that live near Bordeaux. It’s as though they really do have marbles in their mouths! Some observations about the kids are:

  • Although incredibly competitive – much more than American kids – French children will support and encourage their peers in such uplifting ways.
  • French kids are pretty whiny
  • As a result of an education system that teaches by repetition rather than problem solving and critical thinking – French kids have a really hard time with creative projects and open ended questions for which they have no model. (Insert a plug for the need for quality arts education HERE!)
  • As language learners, they say incredibly funny things. For example, we had a super cute kid last week try and ask to pass the bread at the table, but what came out was (think of a strong french accent here), “can uhh you uhhhh shit bread?” What?!? Awesome. Of course he wasn’t saying ‘shit’ but whatever he was trying to say certainly sounded like it.

Life After Camp

At the end of our American Village experience what will we do? SLEEP. I will also be certain to never work a job that pays less than $3/hour and requires me to work 6 days per week for over 15 hours per day. It’s just dumb.

We’re thinking of heading back to the South of France, but it’s super expensive so we’re looking at other options to spend time here until May 10. On said date, we’re flying all the way to Jacksonville, Florida for the fabulous celebration of my brother’s (heeeyy Jeremy) wedding. Let me tell you, we have NEVER been more thrilled to go to Florida. 3 months of various illness, exhaustion, ups, downs, stress from this crazy job and so on, makes us happy to spend a relaxing 2 weeks soaking in the sun and doing nothing but celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, travel is AWESOME, and I feel blessed and so fortunate to have been able to make the decision to take my life in this direction. Wouldn’t change a thing. A little break will be nice, that’s all.

Signing off for now – have you ever needed a break from something really super awesome?

About the Author : Jess SternJessica has an insatiable appetite for travel. She loves experiencing culture in every way. She loves art, music, food and sharing stories.View all posts by Jess Stern

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