With only two weeks left in the program, time is really flying by now. Even though this was just a regular week, there were quite a few events for the stagiaires. The biggest event of the week was of course the 14th of July, the day France celebrates its independence from the monarchy. Here, it is called "La Fête Nationale" (the national celebration), while in the anglophone world, it's known as Bastille Day because it's the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, a symbolic moment in the beginning of the French Revolution. The entire day is full of festivity. In Saumur, there is a large military parade that pays tribute to the town's significant military history (which was actually held on the 13th this year so as not to interfere with the outdoor market that is set up every Saturday). At night, there is a large fireworks display, and we were very lucky to get a break in our unusually rainy weather in order to see it.
After the fireworks, there was a large concert in the plaza in front of the Mairie, and it seemed like all of Saumur was there. Despite the large crowd, we still managed to bump into a few stagiaires. They're everywhere!
We also had a couple of optional activities this week. On Monday, we went to the municipal pool for a swim, but do to a little... uh... accident... it was closed early for a cleaning, so we will be going again tomorrow. Hopefully there will be fewer small children this time! On Friday night, we organized a "soirée discothèque" at the school amphitheater in order to give the students a chance to blow off some steam in an alcohol-free environment (since real discothèques are not allowed for them). Students brought treats and music, and even some of the host families stuck around in order to dance a little bit.
Since we had a five-day week this week, we used Friday as a sort of exceptional day. In the morning, we got to visit the castle in Saumur. Last year, it was closed for an ongoing restoration process, but now parts of it are back open to the public. The Mairie kindly offered us the visit during our official reception a couple weeks ago. The castle visit was followed by some sort of play involving pirates, a sorcerer, and other things that had nothing to do with the castle, but it was fun to watch anyway.
After lunch we went back to the school, and the profs played a bit of a prank on the students. It actually started the day before, when we told them they would be taking a mid-session test on Friday afternoon. For the last week, several students had been worried that they might not be making any progress, and they weren't sure how to tell if they had, so we told them we'd give them a test. Of course, the students have all progressed enormously, and we eventually got them to realize it by thinking about how much easier it is for them to communicate, to understand conversations, and even to understand jokes (a rather difficult task in a new language). Instead of an exam, though, we brought out candy as well as a movie (The City of Lost Children, a very artsy French film that we will be discussing in the culture class tomorrow). We even got one of the stagiaires in on the joke--before we returned to the school, we pulled her aside and told her about the prank, then asked her to pretend to get very upset about it when we were about to begin the "exam." So, when we got back to the school, we announced that we would be beginning the exam and asked our insider to distribute the copies. She took the pile of fake exams (just scratch paper), went on for a minute or so about how unfair it was, and threw them in the air. The others were quite surprised, then happy to find out they won't have to take an extra exam. At the very end of the program, of course, they will retake the exam we gave them on our first day so that they can see how much progress they've made, but on Friday they got to relax a little bit.
This coming week is just as full of activity, culminating in our third excursion. This time, we'll be going to l'Ile de Ré on the coast of western France. We'll also start practicing intensely for our farewell show, which will include acting, singing, dancing, and more, but I'll describe all that in more detail later.
Wishing you all a pleasant week on behalf of Team Saumur!