This weekend was chuck-full of wonderfulness (I just had to stop and stare at the word ‘wonderful’ and wonder if I should spell it wonderfle. This is becoming a common occurrence. And wonderfle makes sense because it is spelled like waffle, which is another way to say wonderful).
Our class was recruited to work at a cross-country race for the elementary schools, so we didn’t have any classes Friday. Instead, I got to try to help control hundreds of rowdy, infantile francophones. Oh la la. I worked in the warm up station, so after a day full of jumping jacks and encouraging small children I was pretty whipped. With the help of friends and some chocolate, I made it home and to the train station, where I set off on a 3 hour train trip with Benjamin (a friend from school) for Libramont and Soul Quest!
Soul Quest, a Christian youth festival, was really a blessed time. There were around 300 youth there, plus 10 or so different Catholic communities (including Marie Jeunesse). I got to meet the Texan brother who had invited me and discovered that quite a few of the brothers and sisters in the communities are Americans and Canadians. I loved hearing the familiar American accents! I also laughed to see how they would speak French and pause and say the very American ‘um’ (Francophones say ‘euh’). What’s more, they offered translation! I took advantage of that for the first speaker and then discovered that I could understand most of what was going on. How absolutely marvelous to comprehend! This has got to be one of the most satisfying parts of being an exchange student.
Out of this enormous Christian community, I am pretty sure I was the only Protestant. They welcomed me with open arms and answered my questions patiently. I also found that most people didn’t know much about Protestants either (and the different braches of Protestants---definitely not.) so we got to compare notes and teach each other at the same time. I learned what was going on during the mass, the biblical reasons for praying to saints, about the sacrament of confession, and about other facets of a rich and powerful Christian tradition I had never really understood before. I found their style to be much much more physical and concrete than other churches I have seen, and I find that element of their worship to be a positive way to focus the whole being on interaction with God. That said, I also disagree with some elements, but I understand their point of view better now. I had a very rich glimpse into the lives and faith of fellow Christians and came away with a new perspective---it was great!
Last Friday we got our ‘bulletins’; our report cards. Both Julia and I are doing just fine. I definitely met my goal of passing all my classes, and when the principal called Marianne to talk about our grades he had only smiley faces to report. It was a good way to kick off our week vacation from school! November first is the festival of Toussaint (All Saints) and the second is the Jour de Morts (Day of the Dead). Most businesses were closed down for All Saints day, but Jour de Morts had things back to normal. Halloween was also this weekend, but Halloween is not a big thing here. There are a few people who actually dress up and eat candy, and there’s a teensy bit of trick or treating, but mostly it is an American holiday that they are trying to market here. Like popcorn and peanut butter, it hasn’t really taken off. Jean really likes Halloween however, so he and Gilles spent the weekend at two Halloween parties and actually dressed up. I am anticipating seeing the photos!
Another story to recount: Marianne had to pay her architect last week, and she normally writes him a poem or some kind of joke to go with the payment. This time she ran out of literary inspiration, so instead she went to the bank and asked for several hundred euros---in coins. Then she took off the wrappings of the different types of coins and mixed them up in a box (it would’ve been just too easy otherwise). He opened the box and called her a bad name and they had a good laugh. Our house is full of laughter.
I am going to be a busy girl this week; I want to make a Thanksgiving dinner AND my French teacher expects us to read an entire 100+ page play (La Nuit de Valognes) over the break. I am getting ready to delve into it with the aid of my two dictionaries and a pencil, and Benjamin has offered to help me too, so I think I will make it. Hopefully. And by the end I will be oh so proud to have read an entire play in French. Wonderfle.