Walking in Another’s Footsteps 16 June 2015

by Andrew Song

Having finally grown accustomed to Caen, we spent another day exploring and enjoying the various attractions of the city. As usual, I woke up around 7 o’clock in the morning (no later than a regular RL day) to find some classic French bread and yaourt (yogurt) waiting for me at breakfast. After finishing such a delicious meal, my mom brought me to the university where the whole class participated in a game of hacky-sack (a game where you use your legs and feet to keep a small, soft "sack" in the air) before our classes started. In the first half of class, Prof. Laurent asked us to create imaginary scenes between our made-up characters who had supposedly fought in WWII. We were to pretend that our characters had had conversations in a camp before "D-Day" when the Americans stormed the beaches of Normandy. Our group’s (Devin, Chris, Nick, and I) character, "Malik Jean-Claude," (6’9" 285 lbs) spoke deeply about his concerns and his fears about the intense, brutal combat that was sure to happen in the coming battle. Once the groups had finished their abstract conversations, we all practiced how we would them act them out. We then decided to present them to each other on the following day and proceeded to the next part of class.

In the second part of class, we moved on to talk about various events and experiences from WWII. We focused on the pain and suffering that the war had caused on everyone, especially on the French and on their children. We discussed the war’s great influence on daily life, showing that clearly no one would have been able to lead an ordinary life during those times. By acquainting ourselves with the severe circumstances of WWII, we continued to deepen our understanding of the importance of "D-Day" as well as to preview our trip this Saturday to the beach where the battle took place.

After eating lunch at the university restaurant, we watched "Saving Private Ryan" in French with French subtitles. Although it was difficult at first to get used to Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel, and Matt Damon speaking in foreign voices, we eventually managed and appreciated the film greatly. Through Spielberg’s adaptation of "D-Day," we were able to obtain a better sense of the atrocities and the sacrifices that occurred on the beach that day. As a class, we understood the movie pretty well, although at some points the characters used expressions that were completely unknown to us.

Once we finished the film, we had a lot of free time before we had to be home for dinner. Part of the group went into the center of town to look through the plethora of little shops and cafés. The other group (Hamilton, Chris, Devin, Ryan, and I) finally found a gym after a long search through the city. Everyone returned home exhausted having spent a long day filled with activities. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that both speaking and understanding the language have become much easier as we spend more time in France. We are all having less trouble speaking to our parents and to strangers, as we do not just simply nod or say "oui" to everything they say. Our goal now is to perfect the voice inflection which the French use so effortlessly. We look forward to spending another few weeks enjoying the exquisite culture in France.

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L’Abbaye aux Hommes 15 June 2015

by Mitchell Garvey

On Monday morning we continued our classes with Laurent and discussed various photos that the class had taken over the weekend. In the afternoon, we visited the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, a monastery built by Guillaume le Conquérant between 1065 and 1083. We walked around the different rooms of the monastery which were decorated with beautiful wood carvings and paintings. We visited where the monks ate, talked, and greeted visitors. Along the way, we learned the long history of the building. It was built by the Duke of Normandy for the Pope in the 11th century, and it originally served as a church for pilgrims on their way to Mont Saint Michel. But during the Second World War, it became a shelter and hospital for the people of Caen during the bombing of the city. After the tour, we had some free time which we used exploring the city and playing basketball at a nearby park.

Crossing the Bay and Mont St. Michel 13 June 2015

by Ryan Lareau

Today we visited the famous Mont Saint-Michel, an island you can only walk to at low tide. The day started with a 7:30 bus ride which is apparently very early for the French since the city was practically empty at that time. After about an hour and a half bus ride for which most of us slept, we arrived at the coast. From there we began the long walk across the sand, some of wearing tanks and bucket hats in our attempts to look as American as possible. Our guide took us over the sand flats careful to avoid the dangerous parts where the quicksand is very deep. About an hour in, our guide found an edible clam and offered it to me. It tasted like any other clams I’ve had in America. When our guide told us the word for "clam" in French, Mr. Diop found it amusing that I had just eaten a "coque." We also looked for seals, known as "phoques." We continued our walk with Liam bumping some music that Mr. Diop found questionable. Before reaching Mont Saint-Michel, we passed a another island that is maintained as a bird sanctuary. With Mont Saint-Michel in sight, our guide found a large area of quicksand that was safe to walk on. He showed us how to jump on the top layer of quicksand so that you you don’t break the surface and sink. The sand bounced like Jello after a while. After breaking through the surface most of us quickly sank up to our knees. Getting yourself out of the sand is quite a struggle and can only be done one leg at a time. Before reaching our destination our guide stopped us to try to catch some of the fish swimming in the small tidal rivers. We all locked arms to make a giant net and pushed the fish towards the shore. However, none of us were able to actually grab one of the fish and they quickly swam off. We arrived at Mont Saint-Michel around 12 o’clock. After washing the sand off our feet, we all found our own spots to eat our picnic lunches. After a couple of hours of free time we went on a tour of the abbey. Our tour guide showed us the progression of the abbey from the eighth century to the present day. The tour was great because we were able to go into some rooms that were closed off to everyone else. Our tour also took us through what was the abbey in the eleventh century. At the end of a long day, we boarded the bus and promptly fell asleep.

Market Day, Farm Visit, and M. Diop’s Birthday 12 June 2015

by Chris Bulger

Yesterday, our class went to the market in the morning and later visited a farm. At the market, we were split into four groups and each assigned certain groceries to find. While looking for the groceries, the smell of all the cheese stands was unbearable but that did not stop me from eating later at lunch. Andy, Hamilton, Nick and I met a woman at a chicken stand whose daughter works at Mass General Hospital. After a few hours of searching for our food, our class met back up at the university to eat lunch. Our lunch was mostly bread and butter but there was also smoked ham, different kinds of sausage, and lots of cheese. For dessert, we had strawberries and a cream sauce from the market, and more bread with a caramel sauce. At the farm, we were able to watch the process of making cream, milk, and butter. Each of us tried milking a cow and churning butter. After we made the butter we tried it and ate more bread and butter. The farm was also a great place to celebrate Mr. Diop’s birthday because we sang to him and ate cake there. Overall, it was a very fun day and all of us were able to learn more about the culture here.

Bayeux 11 June 2015

by Hari Kothapalli

This morning, we continued our classes at the university. In our first class, we talked about the artifacts we had seen at theMusée de Normandie (the museum we visited yesterday).In our second class, which is more of a history class, we discussed "La Tapisserie de Bayeux" – a tapestry measuring about 50 cm x 70 m, which we later saw in person. For the last 30 minutes of the class, however, we debated a little about the importance of history in our everyday lives. After our classes, we left by bus for Bayeux, a little town about 20 miles from Caen. There we saw the beautiful and quite large Bayeux Cathedral, before going to the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (the museum where the tapestry is preserved). The tapestry recounts the events leading up to the Norman invasion of England by Guillaume le Conquérant (William the Conquerer). Guillaume is a very important figure in Normandy’s history – in the eleventh century, he was both the Duke of Normandy and eventually the King of England (a title he claimed rightfully following the aforementioned invasion). Today, the castle he built, called the Château de Caen, still stands in the center of Caen. After our visit to the museum, we were given some free time to explore the town center of Bayeux, before returning to Caen to dine with our host families.

The Chateau de Caen

by Devin Quinlin

This morning we had our second day of classes at the university of Caen. We started our morning with the same teacher from yesterday, Laurent. We did an exercise where we created a fictional character who was a soldier in World War Two who took part in D-Day at the Normandy Beaches. The exercise was based around the question "why do we remember events such as D-Day and other wars?" After creating the character, each group did a short presentation about their character’s physical traits, their disposition, and their interests before the war. Overall I thought the exercise was successful because we were able to have fun with the exercise by giving the characters ridiculous names, heights, and interests, but we also added a serious element to each character that showed the respect for the sacrifices that soldiers made back then, and also now.

After having lunch at the university, we had some free time and we went out to look for a sports store to get a soccer ball and anything else we could find. We found it, but it was closed, so we ended up going to a nearby park and playing hackysack, which is something we’ve done as a whole group since our first day here.

For our afternoon activity, we went to the Normandy Museum. The museum is located in a part of the castle, and it features artifacts and other things from Caen in different time periods. We took a tour and we started with things from about 550 BC and we finished our tour with the dresses worn by the women in the 19th century. Along the way, we saw weapons, like spears and swords, we saw the tomb of a leader of a group of nomads, and we saw tools used to make butter and cream. After the tour finished, we watched a video that showed the progression of the castle over time. It started as just a small village of farmers, but over time the village grew and they built walls to protect the small town. Today, it’s used as a tourism site and only part of it remains because it was badly damaged on D-Day, but we were able to get some great views this afternoon.

After the video, we all had about two hours of free time and we went back to the sports store. It was open this time, so we got a soccer ball, a basketball, and a frisbee, and after we all went to the park and played a game of soccer and then a game of basketball. It was great to have a place to go and hang out as a group and everyone had fun blowing off some steam.

Overall today was a very successful day and we had a lot of fun.

First Day of Classes 10 June 2015

by Jim McCoy

Today we started taking our morning classes in French. Today’s classes were a history class about "D-day" and a French phonetics course about when to pronounce "e’s" in colloquial French. After these classes in the morning, we spent the afternoon on a scavenger hunt of sorts. In this scavenger hunt, we were grouped together with French high-schoolers our age, and we had to answer English questions about Caen’s landmarks in French while taking a picture of each landmark. The evening we had free to explore Caen, browsing and buying from various shops. After dinner at a restaurant as a group, we found our way home and spent the evening with our host families.