Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not one, not two but three projects in France! Summer 2004

In what other context could you participate in a sheep festival, learn to play the pan pipes or spend three weeks attending Armagnac tasting?!

I started off in the Alps on a project renovating a small chapel high in the mountains. Highlights were various hikes in the Alps and taking part in the annual transhumance. We got up at 5am and were driven down to a farm at the bottom of the mountain. We then helped to guide the 1500 sheep up to their summer pastures and then spent the rest of the day partying! The partying theme was continued in style on my second project in the Gascony, where the fĂȘte hardly let up during the three weeks. A tiny village with 15 inhabitants was invaded by two groups, one which helped in the organisation of a festival and the other renovated the primary school. I was in the latter and we spent the mornings working on the

walls, followed by siesta then fiesta! The region is very rural, yet almost every village had its

own festival so street parties became the norm! The villagers were really welcoming and we

were invited to many of their houses to taste their pride and joy: the region's famous Armagnac!

I then moved on to the Auvergne where I worked at an international music and dance festival. The work was very varied and good fun as we were staying with groups from Mexico, Columbia, Belarus, Dagestan, South Africa and the Republic of Touva (a part of Russia near Mongolia), as well as our own international group. We spent much of our free time with a musician from France who played hundreds of instruments from all over the world. He taught us to play the pan pipes, and we also learnt several songs, and then performed our programme to an unsuspecting public!

I had an unforgettable summer and would do it over and over again. Most people looked at me in amazement when I told them I was doing three projects in a row, but it was a fantastic experience, and one of the best ways to improve my language skills and see a large area of such a beautiful and fascinating country. I made many lasting friendships and flights are already booked to meet up soon!

Claire Goddard

Click here for more pictures of projects in France

Click here for a country profile of France

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