Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Begard, France- Summer 2003

Although I have spent a great deal of time in France in the past, it was still quite nerve-wracking arriving on the train into Guingamp for my first ever work camp. However, my fears were allayed when I met up with the group and we set off in a rickety old minibus to the ‘sports field’. Well, we were all expecting a football pitch, maybe a bit of astro-turf and as ‘swimming costumes’ was on the list of things to bring, we all hoped for a pool. We were wrong! Our ‘sports field’ was a bit of mowed grass on the edge of a small village! We soon made it our home though, setting up our campsite and getting to know each other.

There were eleven of us, all of different nationalities with the common languages of French and English. Our enthusiastic leader Eckaert spent a day showing us around before we were welcomed by the mayor and residents of the village. Our project was the rebuilding of a pigeon house that had just been bought by the community as part of their heritage. We spent the first few days erecting scaffolding and learning about the history of the 500-year-old site that we were working on, then the work started: clearing branches from and rebuilding the roof and building a flight of steps. Small jobs like this took such a long time, as we had to be very careful not to damage the structure.

It wasn’t all work though! Mealtimes were quite an event and we took it in turns to cook, sampling Indian, Turkish, German and French cuisine as well as some that was less recognisable! We spent an afternoon bringing in hay with a local farmer and his horse and cart, then sampled some of his homemade cider! The campfire in the evenings became our centre of entertainment and it was so hot that some nights we slept out under the stars. We visited local monuments, churches and towns and spent a day at the coast followed by a night of reggae music at a local bar!

I was sad to leave when my week was up, as most of the others were all there for longer. However, I made some good friends whilst I was there and now have invitations to all corners of the globe! For anyone wondering whether or not to take the plunge with their first work camp - go for it! I had a great time and I’m looking forward to next summer now, when I’ll be going further afield.

Charlotte Baker, France

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