Summer of 2009 was like no other. I was one of 36 students from Vermont, Quebec and France to spend a spectacular 6 weeks together on a common purpose; to sing and learn. France was one of our destinations. As our plane approached Paris, I remember looking out of the window of the plane and gazing down at the intertwining streets and suddenly realizing that a new chapter of my life was about to unfold once the plane landed. The streets of Paris seemed majestic and new to me and while walking across the cobblestone streets, I felt like a little kid as I aimed for all the taller cobblestones so that when I stepped on it, the rock comfortably fit into the arch of my foot.
After Paris, we journeyed north to Honfleur where I got to spend a wonderful week staying with my French host family who were extremely bright and kindhearted. Honfleur was where we had our first concert while in France and it is one that I will never forget. I remember as we were singing an old French tune, I looked at the faces of those listening and picked out an elderly lady whose eyes had a slight smile to them and were gazing off to a spot far above our heads, yet while she gazed, her head gently swayed back and forth as she subtly mouthed the words of the song we were singing. Her eyes looked as though they were gazing into the past and remembering the days that she learned the same song that we were singing now, and that look had suddenly lifted my spirit and gave me joy to what I sang.
Each student I spent my days with had their own outstanding personalities. At first it was hard to understand each other at times because most of the Vermonters knew only a little of French while most of the students from France knew only a little of English, but by the time we were in France we got the hang of things. We slowly spoke to each other like when we were 4 years old and just learning a language. I noticed that the simplest of words we were able to get out, brought us closer together because those little words have such a larger meaning in itself than one might realize.
The bus rides through France’s countryside to new locations and historic sites were beautiful because of the number of wheat fields there were. When the sun and wind hit the wheat just right, it became a golden silk cloth rippling across the ground faster than the bus was moving. Each house we past looked as if it was forgotten years ago because of the outstretched vines clinging onto the bumps of the stucco that covered their walls. On the early morning rides I would often notice how sad the sunflower fields looked because you would see thousands upon thousands of sunflowers with their heads drooped down mourning all night for the loss of their sun.
Celebrating the history of Lake Champlain through Vermont, Quebec, and France’s quadricentennial singing group Heritage in Harmony was one of the greatest things I have ever done. France added onto my love of life, my love of meeting new people and my love for experiencing the beauty of a different country and someplace knew. From its majestic land to its grandiose cities I will never forget how each moment of it was spent doing something worthwhile.
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