July 1, 2016

This One Time, at French Camp...

As you may already know, Nova Scotia is an eastern maritime province of Canada. It is also home to Pointe-de-l'Église, which translates to the town of Church Point. Pointe-de-l'Église received its name because it's home to the tallest wooden church in North America at 190 feet, Église Sainte-Marie. But another reason the town of Pointe-de-l'Église is famous is for its French-language post-secondary institution (the only such college in Nova Scotia): the Université Sainte-Anne.

And in the summer of 2011 (a year before my future trip to France), I attended their infamous five-week immersion program - which was nothing like anything I'd ever done prior for two reasons:

  1. No English was allowed - like, I'm-not-playing, if you were caught doing so too many times, they could send you home and keep your money kind of strict. You could, of course, call home during certain times of day in a designated area - but that's it. 
  2. Being a teacher's kid, my mom was home in the summer, and we weren't wealthy, so I never went to any kind of summer camp like a lot of kids get to. Talk about the semi-adult summer camp that's about to unfold... 
Having said that, there weren't a lot of Americans in attendance, especially during the first session of the summer (which is technically called "spring" session, but speaking as an Arkansan, June ain't spring). With over a fifth of Canada's population speaking French (the majority living in Quebec), ~18 year old students from all over the country travel to Eastern Canada to learn or improve their French every summer - and to party

At Université Sainte-Anne, they keep you busy. No time to spend homesick or talking to outsiders in English busy. No time to be bored... you definitely get your money's worth. With two formal classes in the morning aside (plus homework too), there is still very little downtime. 

In the afternoon, everyone attends a (mandatory) workshop of their choosing. I don't know what I was thinking but I decided to really challenge myself by taking a salsa & African dance class (if you don't know me, I have zero rhythm, and just when I start to get something right and someone applauds me, I mess up all over again). My friend Catherine (whom I had dragged with me) selected my second-choice: poi, where performers swing tethered weights to form hypnotic patterns, and are often glow in the dark (sometimes even on fire!). At the very end, all of the workshops put on a big talent show so they could share their newly learned skills. 




While not required, there are planned social events every single night - and again, while not required, they're always too fun and tempting to not attend. Whether it was a casino night or team-building competition, a musical or comedic performance, or something else entirely, it was always entertaining and a way to learn the French language while having a blast. And on the weekends, oh on the weekends, there were themed soirees (like Toga) at night and outings and field trips during the days.

Did I mention the food? The food was normally cafeteria-style, save a few special nights or restaurant trips, and it may not have been impressive to the Canadians - but as an American who grew up on frozen pizza served with corn and hamburgers that were bland as cotton (how does that even happen?), I was very content. They offered everything from poutine and Acadian casseroles to healthy build-your-own-wraps, which I did a lot of - good job, previous self! I should also mention the drinking age in Canada was 18, and all but a couple of students were under said limit. 
Where much of the homework took place when audio was involved.
Now, there was a small amount of downtime for simply relaxing, calling home, doing homework, getting to know your housemates, and exercising at the gym for some (my daily dance class was my exercise) - but even after all of that was said and done, the campus was on a beach, guys. Granted, not a sweltering Florida or California beach, it was definitely the windy Atlantic, but it was beautiful nonetheless. 

My very first night the houses divided up for Olimpiques Comiques - which is basically what it (hopefully?) sounds like: everyone dressed in funny, themed costumes to win a sort of "house cup" by competing in a series of races and team-building games. Our team (Belliloise [bell-ee-lu-wos]) was the Ninjas - and as you might be able to tell, costumes could be...creative. You either had to make something out of what you brought, or plan ahead for a weekly trip to what was basically the local Goodwill and cross your fingers you'd find something for that weekend's themed soiree. 
Over the next few days there was also Café Théâtre (usually a funny play of sorts put on by the staff) and a French version of The Price is Right (Misez juste). You'll have to forgive my memory some... it has been five years. [Sidebar: I know this is old material. I'm trying to partially use this blog as an encouragement to go make more memories (by having a need to curate content), in addition to preserve them... but I don't want not having fresh content to slow me down, so when things are slow, I plan on looking back on memories of the past like this one.]

Throughout the program, there were also two Open Mics called La Boite à Chansons. I didn't know I was going to summer school with a bunch of American Idols or anything.
There were also a variety of professional/non-student performances like Radio Radio, Luc Tardiff (staff), Twin Fiddle, and comedian Ryan Doucette. 

I also made several friends, one of whom worked with a company that helped at-risk youth stay out of trouble by preoccupying their time with circus skills. She taught many people how to juggle and do different types of stands by mounting other human beings (one of which I performed at the end of our Salsa/African dance class! - she was my partner and I pitied her because she was so good and I was so... not naturally good). 
I still creep on Tiara all the time because she's always going on such fascinating adventures. 

We had Sunday night campfires by the ocean...

Had (frequent) parties on the balcony... 

Explored the woods and beaches...

Wandering through historical sites... 

Learned how to eat a whole lobster...with forks and butter knives...
                   
                   
Rescued people out of duct-tape when they were finished with their shenanigans...

Went on magnificent hikes...

Ah, just looking back on all of these memories makes me badly want to go back. PLUS there were things like canoeing and whale watching where previously mentioned new-camera was not taken as we were out on open water. Foam parties and a few other places too...I know. Those are two pretty impressive things that would've made for great pictures and I wish I had some. I wouldn't let that stop me these days ;) BUT I did steal a few photos from my friends... it doesn't cover all the stuff I missed, but it will do for a few!

My teacher during the whale watching tour.
Hey, I rode in one of those ;)
My very first foam party experience. Felt like a right Hendrix student.
The ice cream spot.
Just a really cool POV on this tree in our woods.
Casino Night
I LIED.

Well, I didn't lie, but I found pictures I took on the whale watching outing!





I guess to bring this all to an end, I stumbled upon a bunch of photos I hadn't seen in a long time on my external hard drive when looking for pictures to put in this post. It took me a while, because I knew there was a day Cat and I were all alone on the campus beach when we saw a seal. And I knew I had taken photos, but I eventually found that particular day's photos.
I had forgotten the reason we were ever out there to see the seal was because we wrote a message in a bottle on our last day. 
Ah. I remember it now. Took a few throws. ;)
I don't remember what we wrote at all. But if it ever made it anywhere... won't you tell us?

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