by Ian Kelly
The day started as most do for us here in Caen—the early sunrise thrusting us out of our beds and the late time rushing us through our doors and onto the streets. As the clock nears 8:45, more and more of our small group from West Roxbury pour into the university building. Earbuds, one by one, gradually fall to our pockets. Smiles break from the morning faces that seem to plaster each of us in the early hours and conversations about various topics begin to bubble from silence.
Class begins and some choose the elevator to "cut down on the time" as others climb those two mountainous flights of stairs. Today, Wednesday, we finished stories about soldiers who we created showcasing both the Roxbury Latin boys’ sense of creativity and our comprehensive grasp of the language. In the afternoon, we learned a long list of French phrases, sayings, mannerisms, most notably touching upon onomatopoeia.
After a hearty lunch, for which a large number of us consisted of Bolognese lasagna, we made our way to our primary meeting area in the front of the University. From here we play games with the frisbee, soccer ball, and hackie sack that travel with us everywhere. Then the bus arrived, allowing the sprawled out throng to line up and rush to make our transportation.
Thirty minutes of busing and walking, and we finally arrived at the high ropes course where our afternoon would be spent. I love this stuff. Making our way through the woods, we could quickly see how truly large this place was. First off, the employees of the park—along with their small bear-sized dogs—greeted us warmly and they instructed us how to properly use the carabiner system. In the beginning, the course continued along for ten to fifteen obstacles slowly increasing in height to around 15-20 feet. Soon enough, however, we were laughing and enjoying the more difficult and higher up courses (reaching 25-35 feet). Leaping, swinging, and zip lining over larger and larger distances, many of the kids were having a blast. Then, we made it to the "black course," supposedly the "expert" track at this park. With the group beside me I remember this being the most challenging part by far. Not only were we now traversing at nearly 60 feet, but those obstacles became distinctively difficult. From a 20-foot set of monkey bars, to a log we crawled under, to multiple rope challenges that pushed my wrists to their limits, by the end of the final phase, I was ready to call it a day. The group who finished the "black course" was rewarded with a spectacular zip line that stretched almost a football field through the woods. Once we returned to the city by bus, I was able to work in a run with a few other kids and top off the evening with a nice smoothie.
The ropes course gave me interesting insight into our travels here in France. What I love about theses courses are not necessarily the slide-like zip lines (although those are amazing), but more the obstacles themselves. Requiring much attention and focus, the courses offer both extreme physical and mental challenges, as one must plan and figure out how to progress through each step. It is tough to do these and succeed, but the difficulty can be enjoyable and the experiences are always rewarding with a slide to return to the ground.
This trip has been similar in many ways. Day by day, we have struggled (and continue to), in terms of being placed into a land surrounded by foreign language, culture, and people. But as we work our way though, and have some fun with our peers traveling the Normandy coast, the rewards are incredibly beneficial. And being a group of sophomores when we left, returning and landing back on the ground, our home, some challenges we face may not seem as daunting after experiencing the immersion in Caen, France.
From the classroom to our daily adventures, Caen has treated us well and I’ll be sad leaving here soon.