Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fête des familles

Last night we had our Farewell Show for the host families, the Fête des Familles.  All of the stagiaires performed either as a part of the theater group, the choir or the improv group. Some also gave individual performances.  After the show we had a dinner and party to mark the end of the program with the host families.

Tomorrow we leave for Paris for a few days and then its back to the USA on Saturday.  My how time flies!

Some photos of the stagiaires dancing to their favorite song at the party are posted at the link below. As well as a couple of photos/videos from the actual show and the party.  (There are more videos but the Internet is too slow right now to upload them. I will add them if I can.)

Fête des familles

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last Week in Brest

Today marks the end of our last full week in Brest.  Wednesday morning we leave for a few days in Paris and then its back to the United States on Saturday.

This week we had our last classes, prepared for our Fête des Familles (a party and show being held with the host families Monday) and the stagiaires participated in two optional activities.

Thursday, we were invited to a play put on by a traveling troupe of young performers from the city of Rennes (the capital of Brittany).  The actors ranged in age from 15 to 19 and were performing a modern adaptation of a classic French folktale "La Barbe Bleue".  The story seems a little gruesome but it is well known in France and the modern adaptation of the tale made it quite comical.  Our stagiaires as well as the elementary school children in the audience all enjoyed the show.

Friday night, many of the stagiaires and their host families went Bowling.  Everyone had a good time and some of the stagiaires even demonstrated themselves to be quite proficient bowlers.  A few photos from the night are below and the rest can be viewed at the link.

Barbe Bleue and Bowling Photos

Another fun activity we had in the last few weeks was the Concours de desserts (dessert competition).  For the last three weeks, once a week a group of the stagiaires made a dessert with their host family and brought it in to class for everyone to taste.  This meant that once a week for the last three weeks everyone ate A LOT of dessert. But of course no one complained :)  Photos from the Concours de dessert can be viewed at the link below.

Concours de dessert photos

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Joyeux Anniversaire Caroline et La Danse Bretonne!

Thursday we celebrated Caroline Bedwell's birthday.  The cooks at the cafeteria where we have lunch made a lovely mille feuille (What's a mille feuille?) cake filled with apricots and peaches.  It was decorated with candied fruit and various flavors of macarons (What's a macaron?). All of the stagiaires sang and rapidly devoured the cake.

As you can see there wasn't much left once everyone had had their fill of dessert.

Thursday night was La Danse Bretonne.  The city of Brest is located in the region of Brittany.  One of the strongest cultural influences in this region is that of the Bretons who are a Celtic group, with a language and history separate from those of France.  The language is maintained in the region as well as other cultural practices, most notably, the traditional dancing.  Thanks to our coordinator, Jean-Paul, and a host mother, Fabienne, all of the stagiaires had the opportunity to learn and dance traditional Breton dances.

We all danced for about two hours Thursday night and worked up quite a sweat. Everyone had a lot of fun, stagiaires and instructors alike. Here are a few photos from the night, but there is also some video at the link below.

More photos!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Excursion #3

The last few days we've been pretty busy. Over the weekend, several of the stagiaires joined Loïc and me on a trip to Océanopolis, the local aquarium.  It was a nice visit and the aquarium had a lot of information about sea life that one finds off of the coasts of Brittany as well as in tropical and arctic environments.  Many of the stagiaires enjoyed touching the giant ice wall on display in the Arctic Pavilion.

On Tuesday we had our final excursion in Brittany to la Pointe des Espagnols, la Pointe de Pen-Hir, Camaret-sur-mer and Quimper.

At la Pointe des Espagnols, the stagiaires were able to get a view of the city of Brest from the other side of the bay.

While at la Pointe de Pen-Hir, the stagiaires posed for photos on the rocks and admired the scenic view of the sea.

After exploring the rocks and admiring the ocean view, we headed to the town of Camaret-sur-mer for lunch.  After everyone had eaten, the stagaires played on the beach and explored the town.

Our final destination on this excursion was the city of Quimper.  We first visited the Regional Breton Museum (Musée Departmental Breton) so that the stagiaires could fully engage with the history of the region they are spending their summer in.  

The museum included artifacts dating from prehistoric times to modern day.  It provided glimpses into all aspects of Breton life including traditions, festivals, folklore, clothing, religion, etc.  Below are just a few of the artifacts found in the museum.

Textiles and fabrics used in traditional Breton clothing

A closed bed
After the museum, we headed to the Cathedral Saint Corentin, which was just next door. 

Waiting to walk to the cathedral

La Cathédrale Saint Corentin - View from the museum
After touring the cathedral, the stagiaires were free to explore the city of Quimper. We are still in the midst of "les soldes" (semi-annual sales) so many chose shopping as their activity of choice.

Overall it was a great excursion. The weather was warm and sunny and we were able to take advantage of it by being outdoors as much as possible. It was a great final excursion in Brittany.

The rest of the photos from the excursion can be viewed at the link below:

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

For Independence Day, we had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an official ceremony commemorating the 4th of July and the relationship between the city of Brest and the United States that has existed since before Second World War.  The city of Brest was liberated by American troops and a ceremony is held annually at the American Monument to remember the links between our two countries.

This year, the ceremony was extra special because the American Consul for Western France, Mr. Robert Tate, was in attendance.  All of the stagiaires participated in the ceremony at the monument with Clare Mumford, Nicolas Wernert and Amy LoBue placing flowers at the base of the monument along with other representatives of US and French military, the Brest Mayor's office and the Consul himself.

After the ceremonial placing of the flowers, all of the stagiaires sang the Star-Spangled Banner and the French national anthem "La Marseillaise"(which we had been rehearsing since the start of the program) for the large crowd gathered for the event.  The stagiaires sang beautifully and we received numerous compliments on their performance.

Following the ceremony the stagiaires had the opportunity to enter the American Monument, a large tower, which is usually closed to the public.  Everyone climbed the 123 steps to the top to take in the breathtaking view of the sea and the city of Brest.

Following the ceremony and the brief visit of the monument, we were invited to a private concert by the Brittany Symphony Orchestra sponsored by the American Consul.  The orchestra performed two pieces by American composers and two by French composers to reflect the relationship that we were celebrating that day.  The first piece was "En Resonance" composed by Benoît Menut, a Brest local, followed by "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copeland. The third piece was "Heliotrope" by Daren Hagen, a piece inspired by the various jazz traditions in the United States. And finally "Symphony in C Major" by French composer Georges Bizet.

The concert was followed by a reception at the Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) also sponsored by the American Consul. Here host families, stagiaires, musicians and government representatives mingled, snacked and chatted until nearly 11pm.

The day was a challenge for the stagiaires and reflected all of their commitment to the Honor Code and Language Commitment as everyone wanted to speak English to them.  But they were all consistent in their use of French even when surrounded by native English speakers and other Americans without the same pledge.

It was a long day, but a very memorable way to celebrate our national holiday and all were glad to have taken part in it.

Some photos from the event are posted at the link below. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any during the ceremony as we were a part of it. But I hope to collect some photos from host families this weekend and add them to the album if possible.

The 4th of July

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Normandy Excursion and Other Activities

This week was a busy week for the program. We had our first overnight excursion to Normandy on Thursday and Friday and then on Saturday some of the stagiaires joined Mark and played football with Brest's American Football team "Les Tonnerres de Brest".

But before all of those activities, we took time out of our morning routine on Tuesday to draw and color a giant fish for the grandson of the host mother of Kristin and Amy.  The girls sharedwith the group that the boy has cancer and his favorite bedtime story was about a fish.  Other friends and family had been drawing fish to decorate the boy's room and Kristin and Amy thought that the group could contribute as well. Everyone was more than willing.  Lauren and Kat drew the body of the fish and the rest of the stagiaires and the instructors all helped to fill in the colors.

Kristin and Amy told us that their host mother was very surprised and very touched to receive the fish for her grandson.

On Thursday we boarded our bus at 7:30am to leave for our overnight excursion to Normandy.  Our first stop was the coastal city of Saint Malo.  Here the stagiaires were left to explore the walled city and soak in the sea air.
Walking to Saint Malo from the bus
Ocean view from Saint Malo
After exploring the city. We all met just outside the city walls for a picnic lunch before boarding the bus for our next destination.

Our next stop after Saint Malo was Mont Saint Michel.  As you can guess from its name, this stop on the excursion required us all to "climb" a mountain.

At Mont St. Michel, the stagiaires toured the Abbey located at its peak and explored the shops and restaurants that lay below it.

Once everyone was sufficiently tired from climbing and descending the "thousands" of stairs at Mont St. Michel, we re-boarded the bus and headed to our hostel for the evening.

Everyone was surprised and excited to see that we arrived at the hostel at the exact same time as the group from St. Brieuc.  Stagiaires and instructors alike were very happy to see all of their friends.  We all had dinner together and then headed to the beach afterwards.

With the St. Brieuc group, we played frisbee, pétanque, and some even learned to Charleston!  The outdoor activities continued until it got too cold/began to rain. Then it was back to the hostel and to bed, as everyone had a very early morning ahead of them.

On Friday, we continued our Normandy excursion with a first stop at the Caen Memorial which is actually a museum dedicated to WWII.  After taking a group photo, the stagiaires viewed the museum and watched a film on the landings at Normandy.

We followed up the museum with a trip to the American Cemetery where the stagiaires were able to get a sense of the impact of the war on the region and its connection with the United States.

After the cemetery, we walked down to Omaha beach, one of the sites of the landings at Normandy.  The beach no longer resembles what the stagiaires had viewed in the film at the Caen Memorial.  At Omaha beach, everyone took one last opportunity to feel the sand beneath their feet and play a little in the (cold) ocean water.

After the beach, we got back on the bus and began our 5 hour ride back to Brest.  Everyone was tired, but not too tired to sing along and dance to a song lead by instructor Loïc.  The video wouldn't upload to the blog, but you can find it at the link below with the other photos.

Normandy Excursion and Other Activities

After this trip, everyone went home and got a good night's sleep. But some stagiaires were "recovered" enough from the trip to join Mark and Les Tonnerres de Brest for a little football Saturday afternoon.  Thanks a lot to Kristin for the photos!

Woo! So that was quite a week for us all.  Upcoming this week we have the 4th of July celebration and ceremony and then classes and activities as usual. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reception at City Hall

Today the stagiaires were welcomed to the city of Brest with a reception at the Mairie (City Hall).  The host families, our coordinators and all those involved in making this program happen in Brest were invited.  The ceremony began with a short speech by our Literature instructor and Student Coordinator Loïc Lerme.  His speech was followed by two students speeches given by Lauren Philips and Leland Nelson. Both speeches were well prepared and well received.  Finally the Mayor's representative welcomed the group to Brest and informed us that we are all invited to a special concert on the Fourth of July hosted by the American Consul to Rennes.  The speeches were followed by light refreshments.  Below is a photo of the group on the steps of the Mairie.

Tuesday and Wednesday are normal class days. But Thursday we leave for our second excursion to Normandy and we will return late Friday night.  Keep a look out for a new blog post on that trip once we've all returned and recovered.