Adventures from the Isle

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So after my first week in France I am settling in well, I have learned enough French to communicate and have customised my apartment to how I like it, messy! We were welcomed into the beautiful city of Lille by Marie of Adice. As our mentor she has been the perfect host and has helped us a lot since we arrived. We've visited Roubaix and met with the rest of Adice in their office, Roubaix being incredible as well.

In Lille we've been to the city hall and met with the Department of international projects (Lille has many different international partner cities) as well as the department for youth. When I'm not exploring the sights of Lille such as the old town with its fantastic classic French architecture, I work in my host school, Michelet, in the day and youth centres at night.

It is a lot of hard work, but the life of a volunteer helps not only yourself but the community around you. So it's very much worth it! I have a lot ahead of me to look forward to, but I love my project, my host country and my support.

The ongoing adventures of Liam's project in France
So I’m back in Lille after returning home to England for Christmas and spending it with my family and friends. The project is going well so far. I missed having my own place and space to spread out and do my own thing, even if I didn't miss my own cooking. I am continuing my work in the school and I'm learning to teach various words through pictures that I draw onto my whiteboard. I’ve never had such a greater teaching tool than my portable whiteboard, if I draw an object clearly, I can tell them what it is in English and have them tell me what it is in French. This way we both learn something new. I’ve also still got quite a lot of English songs to get through, the children seem really encouraged to sing and I’ve had some of the animateurs singing along to!
I’ve still yet to receive any French lessons although I’m learning through work and on my own at home when the internet is working. I and my friends from downstairs have traded tips on the best way to utilise the internet, me having shared the ultimate technological secret with them. It was also our friend, Sophie’s birthday not long ago; to celebrate we had a snowball fight in the garden along with our newest friend Simone who is here on an EVS project for a month, similar to what I did in Poland.

As for my work in the evening, I will be moving from working with children to working with young adults soon, quite a big shift in the age range and something which I’ve not done before in my work back in England. It’s a particular challenge because they are challenging individuals each with a strong personality. But I relish the chance to challenge myself; I will also be working with someone who speaks English who can translate for me.

Soon I plan to explore the last bits of Lille I haven’t done so yet, I’m just waiting for the weather to start behaving, maybe waiting on a little sunshine if that’s not too much for spring to conjure up. I’ve been walking everywhere so far, to school, to my evening project, shopping and various outdoor activities. I’ve also memorised the bus system for when my shopping gets heavy and the metro for when I need to get somewhere as soon as possible. I am not yet missing home having just been there for Christmas, although I expect it’ll change in a few months, not for my family and friends, no, what I’ll really miss is my cat, goodness knows what she’s doing without me.

Liam's final thoughts on his project in France
It has been a while since I wrote an update for the blog, I’d almost forgotten about it if I’m to tell the truth. It’s now nearing the end of my project and I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. First of all, I’m now the only English volunteer here; my colleague unfortunately had to return back to England due to health concerns. It’s still snowing; I really feel I've seen more snow in my time here than I have done in most of my life, I can admit it loses some of its charm when you have to wade through it to work with slippery shoes for the umpteenth time. Come on sun, I know you’re out there I can see you peeking through the clouds. Nevertheless, bad weather in tow, it’s only mildly impeding my movement and makes, at least, for pretty scenery on the way to where I need to go.

Work wise, it has changed a bit, at time of writing the school is back from its holidays and getting back into the swing of things. The children see the snow as a challenge which makes for headaches in the playground but also for creative projects such as “who can build the biggest snow fort” which I’m proud to say the one I helped with was not the biggest, but it was still a fine thing to behold. Much of my work in the school seems to be making sure the kids don’t run havoc and it’s working to various degrees. I can understand and speak enough French for basic instruction and to converse in the finer things such as talking about my cat, my favourite colour and as one of my friendly colleagues tried to do; convincing them I’m both the price of England and one of the Beatles. I’m fairly sure I can fit batman in there somewhere as well.

Of an evening I’m working with Aissatou with the young adults, it’s a very good atmosphere and I enjoy it quite a lot, I have various people come in and can converse with them in basic English or very, very basic French and if all else fails the power of Google translate transcends all barriers of miscommunication. I’ve also decided, like any place with a computer room that I am in charge of said computer room. The computers are top quality with internet better than what I have at home so naturally I feel in my element. Fixing and repairing various devices including a printer which someone spilt lemonade on, that was my proudest repair job. Along with these guys I went to my first football match since I was very young, we trekked through the snow and the icy cold weather managing to catch the metro in between its downtimes somehow. It was an amazing stadium with amazing fans, apparently the team didn't play as well as they usually do, but I expect they would have said that regardless. Otherwise even when I go back home to England I hope to continue working with my friends here and keep in touch.

During the school holidays I also, along with a friend from England treated ourselves to a day in Paris, the weather couldn’t have been worse but nothing can stop the excitement of the Eifel tower and some of the best food I’ve had in any country, diving right into the heart of Paris and picking one at random seems to really pay off. I didn’t go up the tower; I have a fear of heights and being dropped from said heights so I stayed with my feet on terra firma.

Along the way I’ve also re-launched my career in writing, having some spare time lying around and without the internet I’m all but lost in an ocean of miscomprehension. This gave me the boost I needed, the spark to get the creative machine back on its feet and lurching menacingly around the nearby villages. I launched my own website along with reworked articles that I could finally sit down and edit without distraction thanks to being here and also signed up for two other sites as a volunteer writer. With the wonderful view outside my window as my muse, I actually feel quite liberated to write a lot more.


Watching this turn into an ice sculpture every other day was fun

So comes to the end of my project, I’ve petitioned to come back a month earlier for work and given my recommendations and blessings along to the next volunteers that may come. Although there’s been a few bumps in the road, I’ve had more ups than down, which is, in my experience the best way to build a roller-coaster. I'd like to thank all the people I've met and worked with, for all the people who've had to translate my meanings, for all my friends who have persevered through my consistent ramblings.

I will leave Lille in just over a week, in writing this I feel heavy with all that I’ve learnt and become here. As the rain drops delicately on my massive apartment window I look out and I can earnestly say that the city of Lille will always have a special place in my heart.


À bientôt Lille.

Liam Rooke – International volunteer
2013

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