Unless you're a Rotary exchange student, I don't think you have any idea what that really means.
To explain it in one sentence, it means spending time with people who, in an extremely short amount of time, have become my family, despite having grown up in different corners of the world.
However, this weekend was special. It wasn't just with District 1510; there were other districts as well, which equates to about 200 exchange students, all invading Mont St. Michel for the weekend.
Imagine - 200 crazy teenagers all compiled into one space, 200 teenagers with similar stories to share, 200 teenagers who all understand each other better than anyone else in the country does.
The weekend was way too short!
Here are some highlights -
It was a sweet reunion. There were hugs all around when I saw my Rotary friends again, and I was just EXTREMELY happy. Despite spending hours on a bus driving up north, the journey there was full of laughter, and it was very pleasant. I hate to keep bringing up the French countryside, but it's just so gorgeous! I'm always in awe when we drive through it, it's like living in a movie.
We didn't stay at a youth hostel like we did in Le Pouliguen, we stayed in a hotel. Yup. It was really nice. We were three to a room, and I was with Brooke from Canada and Maya from Turkey. Our room had two floors! The stairs were more like a ladder though, they were so steep. The first floor had a queen sized bed and a TV, and the second had two twin sized beds. Brooke and I took the second floor.
Mont St. Michel itself was absolutely spectacular.
There were a lot of stairs to get to the top, but it was all worth it. Also, on the way, we just kept taking pictures of everything (because it's one of the many particular habits we exchange students have, especially so for the Asians). France is so incredibly rich in its history, and Mont St. Michel enforces that supposition. It blows my mind how human beings just like us today used to live so differently only several centuries ago, having routines, technology, and habits so unlike those of modern society. Yet they were still human beings, and yet their architecture still stands as proof of their existence. (I mean, I live in a medieval town, hahhahahaha...) One of the reasons I love France, it makes me reflect on things like this, when I see all this preserved antiquity. It makes all my worries and problems seem so trivial, thinking of people across the centuries and how they somehow managed their lives as well. Before dinner, live medieval music played and there were some dancers in costume. After their initial presentation, some exchange students got up and joined them in their circle and line dances (myself included, of course)!
Saturday night, we all had a dinner together - exchange students and Rotarians. Before dinner, we spent about an hour going through all the countries represented, with every exchange student going up when their country was called to sing their national anthem. It was beautiful. So many nationalities were represented in one small space, and we were all united, one big family. Each one of us shared our own national identity while also being part of a larger group, the human race. It is moments like that where I remember why I do exchange.
Heheh, when Philippines was called, I decided to go up and sing the Lupang Hinirang because I still remembered the words to it, and the Filipino girl (who just came into my district!) wanted me to go up with her. There were only three other Filipinos; I joined them proudly. Of course, I also went up during the American national anthem and sang it just as proudly, only I was in a large group of about 40. Later that night, from 11:30 - 1:30, there was a dance party, and I stayed the entire time having fun with my friends, the only thing on my mind the amazing time I was having.
On Sunday, Brooke and I returned to Mont St. Michel to look for souvenirs. In one shop, the cashier looked very Filipina to me, so I asked her:
"Vous êtes de quelle origine?"
She replied, "Je suis Philippine."
I freaked out and exclaimed, "Moi aussi!" before I added, "Taga saan ka?"
She replied, "Bisaya ako."
I freaked out and exclaimed again, "Ako din!"
One of the other employees in the store was amused and remarked, "Ça fait longtemps que tu parles comme ça!"
Before I left, I told the Filipina, "Bonne journée!" and in return she told me, "Au revoir!"
Short as it may have been, I did enjoy this multilingual conversation. And it didn't even include English.
Throughout the weekend, I was able to speak four languages! English took up the majority of it of course, but now that the Filipino girl is here, I was able to speak in Tagalog with her. I spoke French with the Rotarians, and I spoke a very minimal amount of Chinese with my Taiwanese friends. Minimal, but it still counts!
As a random note before I sign off, we took a geography test. I didn't know we'd be taking it until two days before we took it, so I frantically tried to memorize all the European countries and capitals. One thing that really helped was a site called Sporcle.com. Shout-out to my friend Sarah Lemieux for showing it to me before sophomore year ended; it helped so much! It turns out I didn't need to know all 47 European countries; I only had to identify on a map and name the capitals of 38. Check out my score!