Week 6 in Saumur is officially behind us, and we went out with a bang. Saturday night, we celebrated our time together with the farewell show for the host families. The students have been preparing skits and songs all summer long, with intense rehearsals the last few days of the week, and on Saturday we finally put on the big show. The skits included first a Christmas Carol inspired tale about an unhappy stagiaire who is visited by ghosts of other stagiaires who convince her to stay in France. Then, a group presented a skit about the first day with the host family, and the kind of funny misunderstandings that can take place. The third was a presentation of ten ways to become more French, which included eating as though you have three stomachs and spending three hours at the dinner table. The fourth was a parody of the professors and our habits, which we enjoyed thoroughly. The final skit was about a stagiaire who is kidnapped by aliens and is rescued by his friends who wander throughoutSaumur looking for him. The families were all very impressed by the quality of the skits, both in their comedy and their level of language. The stagiaires themselves were also incredibly animated and gave top-notch performances. The songs were also very well done, and included a traditional, 4-part chorus, as well as a very famous song by the beloved Edith Piaf, Non, je ne regrette rien (No, I regret nothing). The farewell show is already a very emotional event for the host families, but considering the emotion of this song and the fact that it was the end of the show, we thought we would really amp it up by having the stagiaires join their host families halfway through the song so that they could tell their host families that they don't regret anything during their stay. Sure enough, sobs could be heard from the audience as the students sung to their families, and it turned out to be a very touching moment.
After all, the families have invited the students into their homes and their lives, sharing a part of the culture that is so important, and they've become quite attached. When we left Saumur on Monday morning, it became evident just how much the students have touched their lives. The new host families had the hardest time since they hadn't yet had to experience the final farewell at the bus, and though they know they will continue to hear from the students and most likely see them again, there's still a feeling of something that has ended, which must be incredibly difficult. The same feeling loomed in the bus as the stagiaires climbed in after saying their last goodbyes. As excited as they had been to go to Paris, and as anxious as they are to see their real families back home (don't worry, they haven't forgotten about you), they too felt the sting of having to leave the people they've gotten to know so well, their new second families that they've become a part of. The bus ride was a bit quiet at first, but the students did finally start to look forward again to the Paris trip, and they picked up energy once again.
Our excursion began with a visit to Chartres, a city situated an hour and a half outside of Paris, where the students ate their picnics and visited the cathedral, a very famous one in the region. It is an enormous structure with incredible stonework detail on both the exterior and interior. The cathedral is also well known for its many intricate stained-glass windows, which surround the entire building. Then we headed into Paris for our first day of activities. After checking into the hotel, we took the stagiaires to the cemetery Père Lachaise,
where several famous people are buried, such as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Proust, etc. After dinner at the hotel, we all went to the Arc de Triomphe, situated on the Champs Elysées, where students were able to take pictures and stroll down the famous street. Of course, to get everywhere, we're using the Paris metro, which for some students is a whole new experience altogether. While intimidating at first, students have found that it is really fairly simple to use, and have quickly gotten the hang of it.
Yesterday, students had time to explore the city in groups of four so that they could see the things most exciting to them. The groups had all been given time long beforehand to decide on an itinerary and map out each destination. We gave the groups a rendez-vous location to check in with us during the day, and then we all met up in the evening for a group visit to the Eiffel Tower. The structure that was detested by many Parisians immediately after its construction is now the undeniable symbol of the city, and students were able to take an elevator about halfway up for a beautiful panorama of Paris. As it became dark, the tower was lit up, and every hour it even sparkled. Students took pictures both on top and below, and as we headed back to the metro, we took the opportunity for one last group photo.
In our last full day here today, we started with a visit to the Louvre early in the morning to beat the crowds. While we only had two hours, which isn't nearly enough to see everything, students were able to see some of the most famous pieces of art, such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Liberty Guiding the People, and so on. Then, after a quick visit to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, students took off again in their small groups to finish seeing the sights. Tonight, we'll be taking a boat down the Seine before heading back to the hotel to try to get a little sleep before our early flight tomorrow. I can hardly believe it, but tomorrow we'll be back in the States. Your students will have such great stories to share with you. They've learned so much during their time here, and I'm sure they're anxious to tell you all about it. They've been a great group, and it has been an honor to be a part of their experience here.
We will see you very soon!