Welcome to France

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I’m not even sure how to go about writing what my first week in France has been like, but I guess if I were to liken it to anything it would be like being chucked in at the deep end, but with plenty of armbands, goggles, and a rubber ring for good measure.

I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck into things with my internship at Bless. I’ve met so many people in this first week but it’s surprising how much easier it is to retain those names when most of them are in English.

I could go into meticulous detail about what I’ve been up to, but that might get a bit introspective and weird, as well as boring. So to give you a run down:

Saturday was spent unpacking and getting to know my host family a bit. The host Carmen is super hospitable as you would expect from her Colombian roots, and only speaks to me in Spanish when I initiate it (or when she wants to talk about fit builders…) so it’s been great for someone to remind me of the missing vocab which needs dusting off from the corner in the back of my mind where it’s been hiding. We then had a barbecue at Béthanie where church is, to welcome some guests who had come to speak at the service on Sunday. The evening ended circled around a fire pit with hot chocolate chatting and chilling with some of the others involved in the community around bless.

Sunday was my first church service. Church here is only once every two weeks, which makes sense when it’s such a big do, as we do a big lunch afterwards as well. I threw myself into helping with the catering stuff, probably in an attempt to feel less awkward about introducing myself over and over. In the evening the woman who’d come to speak also gave a really interesting talk to myself and the two other interns about what prayer is, which was really insightful and a good lead into the personally analytical week we ended up having.

Monday, Tuesday, Friday and most of Thursday were spent at Béthanie doing training (basically seminars and chats inviting us to look into aspects of our faith) and odd jobs helping the every day running of the place. I can happily report that a lot of that time was spent getting to know various animals, but I report less happily that the Normandy farmland doesn’t have such a positive impact on my hay fever.

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Wednesday was spent in Caen, which I had only seen briefly when I arrived, so I was eager to see the curious city I’d already had good impressions of. We started the morning with a prayer walk around an area of the city called the presqu’île which means ‘almost island’. This rather accurately describes the oddly disturbing atmosphere there.
I’m not going to lie, it was a bleak place.
It’s a place in the city where you can almost see people wandering through the commercial streets, lined with quirky cafes and views of historic buildings with spire towers. You can almost see it, yet it feels so far away.
The presqu’île is a place where trafficked women do their “business” in white vans, parked just outside a day centre providing meals to anyone in need. This centre faces an abandoned warehouse where a lot of refugees are living in order to try and get to the day centre in time before it runs out of supplies; with the migration of refugees managing to escape from the jungle in Calais, there are times when the centre simply can’t cope with the amount of people in need coming in search of help.
Bless are really eager to plant a church near here and try and help shed some light of faith in this dark place. I mean, really what they’re looking to do is pretty self-explanatory; it’s in their name after all – Bless.

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Does anyone know what ‘tala maku’ means?

As I write this I’m currently on the coach to Paris (if it weren’t for the strikes I would be on the train I’d booked but tant pis) for the interns’ weekend off. I’ll probably have some more light-hearted stories to tell the next time I update you all!

Bon weekend !

 

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