The Last Week in France

Owing to no downtime and lousy WiFi, I wasn’t able to blog daily about my experiences in France for the second half of my trip.  I don’t want to leave those stories untold, nor do I want to spend the next week reliving them all one at a time in blog posts. So I’m going to tell them to you now, all at once. That way I can move on to talking about what I learned while in France; learned about Deaf culture, French culture, sign language and so much more.

Let us begin where I left off.

Friday was our last day in Paris. We spent the first half of the day taking our LSF exam. The exam had three parts; a receptive, a productive, and an essay/multiple choice section. I scored a 93, 88, and 73 respectively. All things considered, I’m pretty comfortable with those grades.

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The University we studied at while in Paris.

In the afternoon we visited Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. It’s hard to describe the place because we don’t have anything like it in the states that I know of. It was like a science center, library, and children’s museum all rolled into one. We toured it because every aspect of the building is accessible to Deaf, Blind, and differently abled individuals. All the literature and interactive pieces had an LSF component. They had tactile and auditory maps and specially designed floors to assist Blind people. It was the most inclusive space I’ve ever encountered.

We had some free time during the evening that I used to return to le Louvre and replace my stolen puzzles. Traversing the metro and the Louvre all alone was fun. I then did a little blogging and pack my bags.

At 9 pm we all met across town at a crepe restaurant and had dessert with some of the local Deaf community. I enjoyed chatting with a local Deaf man and indulged in a chocolate orange crepe.

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On Saturday we took a train an hour and a half, to…..the middle of nowhere and had lunch at the train depot. We then took a chartered bus, for an hour and a half,  to Louhans where we learned about Deaf Frenchman Ferdinand Berthier who was very influential for the Deaf community in France. The rain prevented us from walking through the town so we bussed to each destination. It was a pretty area and I would have enjoyed strolling through it. The museum was really neat but I was too exhausted to enjoy it properly.  I wish we had done the trip in reverse and visited Lyon before Paris.

Afterwards we bussed, another hour and a half, to Lyon where we checked into our hotel and then went to a local pizza place for dinner as a group. I ordered a four cheese pizza, which was pretty much the last of my blatant misbehaving with food. My gut was fine most of the trip but by Sunday morning my joints, knees especially, were flaring up. Gluten and dairy, ugh.

The hotel was nice but it sported the smallest bathroom I’ve ever experienced in my many years of life. It had a sink, toilet and shower and I could literally sit on the toilet and touch every wall. It was designed like it belonged in a ship and you had to shut the door when you showered because the shower flooded the entire bathroom.

Sunday was a really nice day. We were free until 1:00, so me and my Notre-Dame companion wandered through Lyon and then had lunch a place by the train station. The menu was pure french and totally indecipherable so we ordered blind and then ended up swapping plates once the food came. The food was good even if it looked incredible foreign!

At 1:00 we bussed an hour and 20-ish minutes to Annecy where I totally fell in love with France all over again. Annecy is a beautiful historic town nestled in the Alps.

And the Alps! I’m in love.

I love the mountains and I’ve never seen mountains like the Alps before. It was all I could do to breathe. I took a little time to pray and  marvel and thank God for His amazing artistry.

We toured Annecy with a local Deaf couple. They were such an odd couple. The woman was all bubbles and sass and the husband was laid back and quiet. They were both charming and full of personality. We were allowed a bit of free time while there so I indulged in swiss chocolate ice cream (eh, it was ok) and a cup of coffee and did some shopping for the kids.

We had dinner at the same restaurant as the previous night because our group lead had to take one of the students to the hospital for an upper respiratory ailment. (Thankfully she recovered quickly and didn’t have to miss too much of the trip.) I behaved with dinner. Pain is a great motivator.

Monday was an insanely long day. We met in the morning and bussed to La Balme les Grottes where we toured a small museum dedicated to Laurent Clerc, a Frenchman known to any American familiar with deaf history.

We met two hysterical Deaf men, one of which gave me my first of many glimpses of the deaf culture in France. After a very drawn-out lunch we toured the cave  (grotte means cave). I enjoyed it even though it felt very commercialized.

Once finished we headed back to Lyon where we met the local Deaf club for a history presentation. I really enjoyed it, especially since my receptive skills have improved enough where I understand more than I don’t.

Monday evening we had our first of three silent dinners with the local Deaf community. It was a lot fun and very eye opening. It was also the longest dinner I’ve ever sat through in my life. I think we finally arrived at the restaurant around 9 and didn’t finish until almost midnight. We were all exhausted.

Which made leaving the hotel at 8:30 the next morning so much more unpleasant.  We spent tuesday at two separate bilingual schools. From what I could see and managed to understand, these schools are doing it right.  I’m not going to go into too much detail here because I’ll talk about this more in a later blog.

The kids were fantastic and they made us laugh. Such characters! We played a game, toured the school, and had lunch with the students. After lunch we had major communication breakdown that resulted in us not having transportation. Two Ubers rotating to transport 14 people from one school to the next later, we all ended up at a bilingual elementary school. We taught 7-8 year olds the ASL alphabet and numbers and the older kids showed us what they’ve already learned in ASL. Teaching the kids was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to post pictures with the kids in them.

Instead I’ll share this storytelling wall with you. It is located at the elementary school and is used to teach Deaf history and visual storytelling. So cool!

Tuesday night we had the best silent dinner of the trip. The restaurant was really fancy and the food was good but most importantly, the company was a blast. I laughed so much! I also experienced my first French “kiss-kiss” greeting and came away amazed at how much I understood and participated. I could not have communicated and participated like I did Tuesday night when I first arrived in France. The effect this trip had on my skills is unbelievable.

Wednesday was our final day. We bussed to Grenoble where we attended a lecture a the University of Grenoble and then we took the lift to the Bastille. After wandering and taking too many pictures of the same mountains we hiked back down. I enjoyed the walk, the fresh air, the view, and the conversation. (And now I’m trying to convince Shane that I need to get my Master’s in linguistics from the University of Grenoble instead of Gallaudet!)

For dinner we met some Deaf locals at a buffet style restaurant. The evening ended with several people getting up telling Deaf jokes which was too much fun. Watching Deaf Storytellers is such a treat.

I got up at 4:00 Thursday morning to begin the long journey home.  We took a two-hour train to the Paris airport where we had several hours to kill. Our Clemson group had breakfast together and discussed our plans for the summer. We wandered the airport shops and did a bit of last minute gift shopping before boarding our flight four and half hours after arriving at the airport. Roughly eight hours to Philadelphia, two hours to get through customs and security, and another two hours from Philly, I finally arrived (without my luggage) home and got to hug my family.

Almost exactly twenty-four hours after waking up, I passed out from exhaustion in my own wonderful bed!

It’s good to be home.

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