Yesterday, my final day in France before travelling home, I watched a Basque Improvised Poetry event.
The morning started with us continuing the baking and cooking for the event - a lot of food had been made yesterday, I made two carrot cakes and there were salads and pizzas and couscous. Today, I made the cheese cake (the best part is always getting to lick the spoon afterwards ...!!) Then we made lots of "pinxos" which is Spanish for "pinchers" meaning finger food (I learnt this while in San Sebastian the day before!)
The event ran very smoothly! Unfortunately, I do not speak any Basque, so I could not mingle as much with the audience members. Plus, I didn't understand what the poetry was about! Apparently it was very funny though! One of the highlights for me was when a goat from a nearby field decided to pipe in with the poetry with impeccable timing to match the rhythm of the poet on stage. It was incredibly entertaining and the whole audience burst out laughing. Well done to the performer, though, who carried on.
The food was disappearing rapidly, but I still managed to have some pinxos, cheese cake, a little cube of cheese cake, and some roasted chickpea stew. I love all this vegetarian food, and it is also freshly made from produce from the garden, which makes it even tastier!!
After a lot of preparing yesterday, today finally came to help Jane teach English to French primary school children. I was very nervous - as you can imagine! I wanted to use my experience of Drama Games and techniques of learning to be able to teach English.
I came up with a lesson plan, yesterday, and showed it to Jane, she loved it so much that she asked me to come along today. The lesson consisted of greeting each other in basic English, practicing animals, number and time, and colours. Today, we did not use all my games, as we are keeping some that work better for the younger children on Thursday and Friday.
Jane grabbed the children's focus by singing "Head, Shoulders, Kees and Toes", then we went around the circle and introduced ourselves and asking "what is your name?" the mispronunciation of some words was adorable! Then we learned some colours, and played with coloured balls. My idea was to pass the ball around the circle - encouraging eye contact, which builds team work and confidence - while repeating "I have a blue ball, I have a red ball" ... etc. This taught the children to recognise colours and build team work. To get the children used to eye contact and colours, we went around the circle describing eye colour "I have blue eyes, you have brown eyes ... I have brown eyes, you have brown eyes ...." etc. Then we went to the gym hall and played "What's the time Mr. Wolf?" Every time a number was called from Mr. Wolf, the children replied "big or small" referencing the size of step they should take. This taught the children sizes and numbers.
It was a wonderful afternoon, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed practicing my French with the children and helping them with their English; they responded very well to repeating what I had said or asking me questions - which was great. Plus, they were very understanding that I am not fluent in French!
After a very stressful and tough few months, I am about to embark on my new adventure!!! I am heading to the Basque Country of France, Hasparren to be exact - where it's currently 30 degrees - to volunteer in Santa Maria Hélette (a theatre and arts centre) for a couple of weeks!!! I'll be able to learn some French, see French performances, and be surrounded by theatre and culture! I am so incredibly excited!!
Mainly, I hope to get out of this a sense of reassurance and a way to live life harmoniously. I hope to discover a new culture and a new way of living life so I can live each day to the fullest.
The past few months, I have been dealing with a lot of detrimental anxiety - I hope it goes away.
I am finally on the plane to France. I have just been handed a complimentary goats cheese, honey and roquette roll, David Bowie is playing through my headphones, and the clouds have covered the view of the land below. There is no one sitting beside me, so I am enjoying taking advantage of the extra space around me, which is great because I keep getting little waves of anxiety. I am proud of myself so far, I have got on the plane, by myself. After the struggles that I have endured the past few months, this is a massive step.
It’s beautiful up here. We are soaring above the clouds with bright blue sky above us and the sun is making the clouds glow a beautiful white. It is rather impressive, especially with Bowie telling me “we can be heroes”!!
Writing is a wonderful distraction for anything, even anxiety.
When I looked out my window as the plane took off, I could not make out a single human being, only land and buildings. It made me think about how small we are, and yet how much of an impact we have on other people’s lives. I had a sense of relief – oddly – when I looked out the window and could not see anyone. It is nice to escape the manic energy that humans give off. When I look at the land and see peace and stillness it is quite remarkable and I laugh at the fact that I have let people effect me negatively.
Already, my hands are becoming more relaxed – which is great because it means I can type quicker without constantly having to delete loads of typos. I am not in a rush or anything it’s just nice to hear a voice in my head that isn’t freaking out. My stomach has stopped cramping now. Now that I feel better, I think I might go for a nap.
Attachez votre ceinture de securite – bon voyage!!!
So, I have managed to get to Bayonne!! What a beautiful city. I spoke to a couple of the locals and everyone is very friendly – I walked into a bar and was greeted straight away by customers with “Bon Soir!” and one guy even helped me get on my next bus to Hasparren. I have stopped stammering when I start to speak to people, which is fantastic! I get very nervous – especially with a different language – so I am very proud of myself!! Two very common languages here are French and Spanish. Some people speak a bit of English but most people I have met I have only spoken to them in French. Some nerves are coming back as I am finding it a little difficult to type again, but that will calm down soon. I sat on some grass and looked out over the canal with the evening sun coming in. Two girls drove along the bridge on a pink moped, which was so awesome. I have managed to buy lunch and water and have (brief) conversations so far so I am picking up the language rather well.
Everyone here is so beautiful and tanned … I can’t wait to get a bit of colour while I am here!!
It is now the 2 September. Last night, I visited Les Tilleuls and it was lovely.
The entire menu was in French, so I picked a wine - it genuinely tastes like maple syrup in a glass, fuck my life. I don't eat meat but for health reasons I occasionally have some fish, so with this in mind I order a starter - a croissant on salad ... Covered in bacon. Then I order a main ... I think it is scallops, but a massive slab of blooming turkey arrives in front of me. It's great having to send back a dish in a language you're not 100% on and with weird dietary requirements. Then I had an espresso coffee - at least I got that one right! I spoke French for 90% of my time in that restaurant – très bien!! I noticed every customer said Au Revoir to every other customer as they left. I thought this was fantastic, and incredibly friendly, and it made me eager and more comfortable to speak French to people.
I arrived at the Maison Santa Maria around 10:30pm, and met Dani (Brazil) and Pablo (Spain) – as well as our Hosts Tony and Jane. They are all incredibly friendly. For dinner we had some crusty bread with a home made spread, aubergine and anchovies, made by Pablo, it was so delicious. Then we had some wine and a dessert wine afterwards – it tasted slightly like cough medicine but I liked it!!
Today, was incredible!! It is my first day in this beautiful part of the South of France. I had some coffee and bread with some homemade Fig and Apple Jam for breakfast, then after I showered I headed outside to do some chores around the Theatre Centre; collecting and moving wood used for the enormous fireplace, weeding the cabbage patch, making tomato sauce from scratch, and then finally lunch!! We had some salads in the garden. I walked around the grounds and found their outdoor Amphitheatre – it is absolutely beautiful and adorable! Then we all went to a river on the other side of the mountains near us. It was so beautiful!! The water was so clear – however it was very cold and there were fish in it, so I decided against swimming. We then had some beers (me, a herbal chai iced tea with cinnamon) beside the river, before heading back home for dinner – Jane made us goat’s cheese and tomato crepes!!
I spoke with my family on Skype before bed, that was lovely!!
Today has been beautiful, relaxing, educational, and I cannot wait for tomorrow!
I woke up at 10am again today – 9am British time – to the church bells going off (they are so loud!). The bells chime on the hour and then again exactly two minutes after, and at 7am they chime a lot for about 10 minutes (I don’t know why). Today, we went straight to the market in the morning. There was French cheese, fish, and jams – it was lovely! I bought some postcards for my photo album. Then we headed to the beach, picking up two new volunteers – Katya (Germany) and Myra (Argentina). The waves were huge – très sauvage!! I saw a very large Hornet as well – bloody scary, basically a massive harmful wasp! Today was wonderfully relaxed, as there was no work to be done, but on Monday we will start work again. Jane has asked me to help her prepare workshops to teach English – I am extremely excited to start working on this.
It is now Sunday 4th September. Today has been excellent. I played with the kittens this morning, even gave one of the bigger cats a belly rub - baring in mine that I get very nervous around cats, this is a great thing!!! Tony, Jane, Dani and I went to a "Hippie Market" - it was so cool. This market only happens once a year in Mendione. There were so many stalls. I bought a book about a man and an elephant. It's all in French and has a Basque translation - wow!! I also treated myself to a pair of earrings! Everyone was so friendly and I practiced my French a bit but I was really nervous about trying it today. I dressed in my patchwork dungarees and felt very much at home there. We bought some wine and cheese and then headed back to the house after having a few conversations with people. I got to speak to my boyfriend and tell him all about my time here.
I have been thinking about the workshops for teaching English, and I am very excited to start working on them properly tomorrow.
Tony and Jane's friends arrived; Jill and Philip. They are so friendly and very interesting people.
While they all had a catch up, I sat by the Amphitheatre in the grounds and started writing up a sketch for a clown that I would like to start practicing. I am nervous about trying it out, but I love a challenge and I love learning!!
I made some fresh apple juice - delicious - then, Jane, Katya, Myra, Jill and I all went bramble picking. It was a very long walk - two hours - but we got so many brambles and saw so much beautiful scenery!! It has been wonderful!
We came back and started to cook dinner; ratatouille in buckwheat pancakes made by Jane and her own batter mix - I thoroughly recommend it!! Also, buckwheat is great for those who prefer gluten free! Then we sat around the table and had very deep wonderful chats.
The past few days have opened my eyes to a new lease of life. I wake up and I'm motivated, and happy, and I eat and I'm happy, I am not sitting bloated or feeling sick or unsatisfied. I eat only fresh produce from the garden or bread from the local bakery (boulangerie). We walk, we experience, we have philosophical talks, we have astronomy conversations, and learn constantly! I really think I can turn myself around and stop having panic attacks, and stop falling into just really super low moods, and stop feeling paranoid about other people. I had a great chat with Katya and Jane about my career plans and they were so positive and supportive, it was amazing to talk about them and not have someone looking at me with a disheartening expression.
Already, I am feeling better. A lot better.