Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

It's hard to believe, but we're already well into our third week here in Saumur! This past weekend, we took several students on an optional excursion to Angers, a city whose metropolitan population is about 300,000 (a large city compared to Saumur's 30,000).  Students had the opportunity to either visit the château or do some shopping (or a little of both).  Once again, we put them in small groups to explore the city together, and it went just as smoothly as last time.

Tonight, of course, was a very special occasion for our students and their families as they celebrated the 4th of July together.  This year, we celebrated the 4th at a town nearby called Turquant.  The mayor of Turquant very kindly offered us the use of a large covered picnic shelter, so we asked families to each bring their own picnic and, if they wished, a dessert to share.  This is one of my favorite parts of the program since we get to see all the families together.  It gives us the opportunity to visit with each of them, and it gives the stagiaires a chance to share a piece of their culture with the families.  We again asked two of our students to give a small speech--and of course they did us proud.  They talked about what this day means to us and why it's an important celebration.  This resonates very easily with the French--in ten days France will celebrate its own independence.  The French Revolution occurred just thirteen years after our own, and the two have important historical ties--the French assisted the Americans during our revolution, and the result inspired other revolutions, including that of France.  To symbolize this strong tie, we had the students sing both countries' national anthems, which the families greatly appreciated and found very touching.

The mayor of Turquant said a few words, thanking the families and the stagiaires for sharing this celebration with him.  Also present at the party was a journalist for the regional newspaper, which encompasses both Turquant and Saumur.  She spoke with me about the program as well as a few students about their experiences in the program.  I can't wait to see their pictures in the paper!

We also were fortunate to have several bottles of Crémant, a sparkling wine particular to the region, offered to us from a local winery, as well as a non-alcoholic version for the stagiaires, which they call Festillant.  I find this to be a very kind gesture, especially considering that it gives the stagiaires the opportunity to experience a part of the Saumur culture that is otherwise not allowed!

The evening continued with tastings of desserts, games, and music.  Such festivities in France could continue well into the night, but since it is a weeknight and also because of our big trip tomorrow, families left somewhat early so that their stagiaires could finish packing and get some rest.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Normandy, and we will return Friday evening.  There are many visits scheduled--Mont Saint Michel, Omaha Beach, the Caen Memorial, etc.--which I'll describe in detail when we return.  For now, however, I need to get my own packing done!  I wish you all a very happy 4th of July, and I look forward to sharing more stories and photos with you very soon.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Kelly! You do a very nice job of balancing reporting with your own lovely sentiments. The blog is a pleasure to read!