Desserts! Desserts! Today another group of students brought in a new batch of desserts that they’d made over the weekend with their host families. Today we had an apple tart, caramel macaroons, chocolate cake, cookies, among other things! Here’s a photo from today’s batch (it looks like Luis is front and center ready to take advantage of first helpings, no?):
Not only are the students benefiting from making desserts with their host families on the weekend, but they are also spending time with their host families. For example, one thing that’s rather common among families is to spend days on the weekend visiting with other friends and families. Sunday afternoon lunches can last especially long. For example, Eva mentioned how she went to an “eight hour picnic” last weekend! Wow!
Some of the benefits of living with host families include having the opportunity to develop French language skills, learn other ways of living and thinking, and integrate into the culture first-hand. While the host parents themselves know that they should speak slowly and articulate well when speaking with students, others – such as friends and family – aren’t used to adapting for the students. This seemed particularly frustrating and difficult the first week. I spoke with a few students today, however, who mentioned how after these past two weeks they feel they have become “more independent.” Chelsea and Monica, for example, were excited to share that they were beginning to better understand when listening to conversations that were not especially tailored to their language level. They shared that they no longer felt the “need” to ask their parents what was going on or to explain a conversation. Others expressed that they had successful communication with people in town, such as at shops and the post office. Overall, this is a shared sentiment among the students. It’s truly exciting that they’re sensing their French improve so much!
Speaking of shops, last week marked the beginning of “Les Soldes,” or “The Sales.” I’m leaving that in capital letters because it’s a pretty big deal here. Twice a year, all stores in France have huge sales that last for a few weeks. I think of it like a prolonged “Black Friday” with discounts all around and intense anticipation. Many students took advantage of the first day and got shoes, clothing, scarves, you name it! So far most shops have marked things down anywhere from 10 - 60%, but it's sure to go lower as the days go on. Here’s an example of a store window that has a huge poster advertising the sales:
In other news, today we went on a guided historic tour of the city of Saumur after school that lasted about an hour and a half. Among several historical facts, the students had the opportunity to learn about the construction of the original bridge that crossed the Loire river to Saumur, the history of the city center, how medieval shops were constructed (and how to recognize them in the present day), why many people were imprisoned for trafficking salt, and the origins of the name “Saumur.” It was a beautiful day for our visit and the students seemed to enjoy it. Here’s a picture with our guide:
Tuesday will be a “normal” day – meaning classes and afternoon activities. Then on Wednesday we’ll be leaving at 7:30am to go to St. Malo, le Mont St. Michel, and Normandy. We’re anticipating the trip to be especially moving because we’ll be in Normandy on the 4th. We’re also planning on giving the students the opportunity to sing the National Anthem together as a group on the beaches. But shhh...that’s a secret as of now!
I’ll update again after the excursion! In the meantime, I just want to say once again how delightful every student is. We’re really luck to have a group where every student is willing to learn new things, adapt to and openly learn about a different lifestyle, and explore language and culture!