Hello to all! Today I sit happily at my computer unencumbered with studies or other obligations. It is such a nice feeling to be finished with school for a while, surviving yet another week of finals. Bittersweet too. I will most likely work with other classmates, new teachers, and many of the friends I’ve made so far are heading home if they’re not already on their way. I wonder if we’ll meet again. Each little passing of time is magnified here as I acknowledge its brief window in my life. And I am thankful. Bon voyage mes amies!
The past few weeks have been amazing! The cultural portion of my program (the field trips portion) invited us to a farewell dinner Tuesday for those heading home or onto other destinations. I was proud to have outlasted a table of natives as we sat for hours indulging in traditional Savoyard (the name of our territory or state rather if they had states here in France and the appropriately named restaurant) dishes. We had Raclette, which long ago was a meal for cow or sheepherders in the mountains. They would warm semi-soft cheese on rocks surrounding a fire to scrape over potatoes, dried meat, and bread. We were served family style plates filled with massive amounts of meats, fresh baby potatoes, and pickles. Now the Raclette is prepared electrically, with a heater to melt the cheese right at the table. Warm and delicious goodness! Fondue was served, a giant vat of a melted cheese, butter, and wine concoction. The people sitting closest were instructed to keep it stirred while baskets of bite-sized bread were passed and forked on long skewers. Tradition goes if you drop your morsel in the fondue a joke or story is to be told in order for you to continue your fishing. We had beaucoup du vin (wine) and for desert were served a berry tart with Génépi (a regional liqueur) flavored ice cream, and then of course espresso. It was an experience Collin and I will never forget!
Thursday we hopped on a bus at 4:30 for an hour ride to Lyon for the annual Fêtes des Lumières! It was magical! Thousands of people meandered through the bright streets of Lyon until well after midnight. Block after block lit with beaming butterflies, a square illuminated with fighting stick men, and fire breathers! There were ancient cathedrals with magnificent light shows performed on their intricate architecture. Street venders everywhere selling vin chaud (spiced hot wine), gauffre (hot waffles), and a dish we can only describe as a jambalaya. Collin and I spread out our meals and shared them so we could try small amounts of lots of things! My favorite exhibit was along the Rhône River titled “seaweed”. There were bright green slightly-bigger-than-a-beach-ball balls, stacked one on-top of each other anywhere from twenty to thirty high. Rows of them staggering in height, swaying in the breeze, reflecting on the river, dancing a seaweed dance. We were mesmerized. We got back on the bus at 00h30 drifting in and out of a glowing sleep. http://www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/
Friday, yet another bus, this one a two-hour ride into the Alps for a ski weekend at Deux Alpes, elevation 1350m at the base and 3568m at the glaciered peak. That’s 4429 ft to 11,706 ft!!! It quite literally took my breath away. The first gondola we took held 20 people! We even rode an eight-seater chairlift! The snow was amazing, crystal clear blue skies, and I will never forget my first views of Mont Blanc from a neighboring glacier as we peered across the occasional cloud and snow covered peaks into Italy! Saturday was the full moon so as our tradition holds Collin and I ventured out into the ski village after dark. We found a snow packed trail at the base of the mountain away from the lit streets and saw the alps silhouetted against the starry night sky. Two days of snowboarding and I was completely spent!! We got home late Sunday night and I slept the sleep of the dead as my mind and body processed my overloaded senses.
As we prepare for our Christmas away from friends and family we choose to dwell on our ever-present gratitude for the gifts of their love and that we are blessed to have so many to miss. We are constantly thankful for our opportunity to experience the world here and now and wish each of you the same. I will end again with my brother’s quote today.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. “ -Anne Bradstreet
Joyeux Noël toute le monde!
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