C'est Saint Amand Qui Crie le Plus Fort!!!

We got back from Diekirch, Luxembourg 6:30 Sunday evening exhausted, over-heated, and with out voices, but contented. We actually did pretty poorly in terms of Sports, but we by far cheered the loudest, and thus had the most fun of any of the teams.
Our host this year was the Lycee Classiques de Diekirch, who put on quite a show. First of all their school is enormous, and amazing!!! They have a large building, that is a reconstructed military building (just offices I think) that is now a three part complex, and very state of the art, and then across the river (about ten blocks away, apparently some use bikes to get to classes) there is a huge sports complex with three volley ball courts, a full-sized pool, two soccer fields, and a track. For basketball we were actually in an elementary school about five blocks north of the school, which was too bad because we couldn't get all the way over to the sports complex to watch the others in time to be back for our next match, and because we only had one court we finished last, but the court and the locker rooms we very nice. All the buildings in we saw in Luxembourg were candy colored, stuccoed in hues of cantaloupe, lemon drop, kool aid, and very, very clean. There were trees with pretty popcorn blossoms in pink and white all over the place. In short what they say about Luxembourg being a fiscal paradise is true. We arrived in fine style: an hour late, and thus we missed the opening ceremony. However, according to my host family that was more of a blessing as the opening ceremony consisted of re-interpretations of all five national anthems by a student band. Personally, the doubts usually coming right around the word re-interpretation, so I'll take their word for it. I was housed with another girl from the basketball team, Lorine, and we got on very well, so that was fun. Our hostess, Lexy, was the same age as us, and a handball player, but she was too old to compete on the Diekirch team this year. In Luxembourg they speak three languages, French from the age of 7, german from the age of 6, and then Luxembourgeoise, which is an interesting mix of French, German and English. We arrived Friday evening, got a paper license and a little booklet with a program and a map, and then vamoosed off to our host homes. Then that night we went out after dinner in a little town on the german border, (they live about 3 kilometers from Germany), to the little cafe across the street from the high school. Pretty much everyone was there, so all the french students got together and sang encouraging french songs at the top of their voices into the small hours of the morning. All the germans, belgians, Luxembourgeoisies (?), and the dutch got together in groups too, but if they sang no one heard them over our voices. The title of this blog is a reference to my favorite song which means "It's Saint Amand that yells/screeches the loudest." We also sang one about a cricket who fell in a river, and the Marseillaise among others. By Saturday morning everyone had started to loose their voice.
Saturday bright and early we were at the basket ball court. We played four games one against each of the other schools. In between each game there was a boys game, so we got to cheer on the boys from St. A as well. We one three out of four games so we places second over all, which was very exciting because we were on of the few teams to do well. Luxembourg, who beat us, was an excellent team, and they had been practicing together after school everyday so we were proud to have put up a decent fight. That night after a nice shower and a bit or rest, we headed over to the Big hall where they had planned the student party. Lexy had planned it all out so that she could get a ride home with her brother, and that way Lorine and I could call her Dad to come pick us at any time we wanted. The party they'd set up for us wasn't great, it was packed and they were playing only german music, so a large group of French students headed over to the cafe where we'd been the night before. It was too early, so the cafe was empty, but we were a large enough group that we could amuse ourselves. Unfortunately, everyone was exhausted so there wasn't much going on, and it started to cool down around midnight, so we decided to go back to the house and sleep, at 12:30.
Sunday was nice too, because it was super hot, and not a cloud in the sky. Plus we were all together so it felt more like a festival. We had a chance to interact with the other students, and watch the shows, dance, choral, orchestral, and theatrical (pantomime). There was even a relay race with mixed teams. We sat outside on the grass and drank Fanta, and sun bathed, before the ending ceremony. After the closing we all said goodbye and hoped back on the bus.
Rewind to Friday morning. Because all three of us were originally supposed to go to the games, Gilles and Isabelle opted to extend a business trip they had scheduled that weekend into a three day mini-vacation just the two of them. By the time they found out there wasn't enough space in the track team to take everyone, and that priority was by age, so Sarah wouldn't be able to attend, it was too late and they were unwilling to change their plans so Sarah stayed two nights (they cams back a bit early) with their friends Christelle and Olivier, which I think she rather enjoyed.
That morning, we were all to take the bus as usual, Thomas and I would have classes until 11:15 and then we would eat lunch and leave for Luxembourg, while Sarah would stay the full say and then head over to Christelle and Olivier's house which is in Saint Amand. However, after twenty minutes of waiting for the bus (it often comes late) we began to worry, there weren't any cars going to N.D.A. except one boy, but it was a two seater car, so there wasn't any space us. Gilles and Isabelle were already out of town, and there are no other buses that go from Marchiennes to St. Amand. Thomas and another boy from premier, Gabin, wanted to take bicycles, and and ride from Marchiennes to Saint Amand, but as its fifteen minutes by and Thomas and I had our suitcases for the games that seemed like it probably wouldn't work. Then at about 8:30 (the bus passes at 7:50) another bus from the same company, but on a different route pulled up at the stop, so we asked her about our bus, did she know if it would pass, would she take us, r would she call HQ and ask them to send a bus. She was very nice aobut the whole thing and offered to call and get info for us, she got back on the bus and started radioing the HQ, but then never told us what they said, and when we got impatient and went to ask her, she said she didn't know but that she didn think a bus was coming and then she left.
Just when desperation was swetting in another much bigger car than the two-seater pulled up to take a couple of girls, but it tourned out the Dad didn't have time to drive all the way to St. Amand, and was just moving the girls to his mother's house in Marchiennes for the day.
That's when we started to think about trains. We still had just under three hours to get to St. Amand before the bus for the games left. The closest train station was in Orchies, about 7 minutes away by car, but there are buses that go from Marchiennes to the station every two hours or so. The times are written on the side of the sign for the bus company that marks every stop, so we were able to discern that there was a bus at 9:38. The only problem was we had no way of knowing the times for the trains which pass every hour. If we'd got to the train station and had missed the train for 10:00 hour, then we would miss the bus for Luxembourg, and be stuck at N.D.A. humiliated, with our useless suitcases. Luckily, it was only 8:40, so I sugested we walk the 5-10 minutes or so back to the house, check the times for the trains on the computer then a. the train passes and we walk back to catch the bus, or b. the train doesn't pass and I change out my suitcase for a duffle bag, and my shoes for sneakers, and we brave it on the bikes. So Sarah, Thomas, Gabin, his sister, Suzanne, and I, plus our suitcases/book bags, all headed out, as soon as it was determined Sarah had the key.
Along the way however we ran across the Dad from earlier at the bus stop, and he offered to drive us just to the train station which would save us about an hour than if we took the bus, and thus we would have time to wait for the next train, whenever it passed. We thanked him and our lucky stars profusely for this happy change of plans, and piled in the car.
10 minutes later we were all buying tickets as fast as we could in the little train station because the train was due to pass at 9:03. We ran under the train tracks to the platform on the other side and waited out of breath but very pleased with ourselves. At about five mintues past 9:03 (the trains pass almost on the minute) we again grew nervous. However when we asked the girl nest to us if our train has already passed, she reassured us that no it had not, as she was waiting for the same one. So when the train disappeared from the arrivals board Gabin and I went back to the reception desk to get answers. It turns out that the workers' strike from the last week was still rippling through the system, and that our train would pass as promised at 9:26. And so we waited. But sure enough at 9:30 the train passed, we got to St. Amand at 9:45, and we were asfe and sound in study hall at ten, after a wuick walk, and a fewe explinations. It was quite an adventure for a Friday morningbut it was a bit unfortunate that the one day we have gotten to stay home due to a bus malfunction, was the one day we were willing to go to all ends to get to N.D.A. Drats, foiled again!


Basket Ball, Bac Blanc, and Bunnies

I know its been ages (more than a month to be specific) since I've blogged, and honestly I have no excuses. I've had subjects to write about (as you can probably tell from the title of this blog) and while I've had more homework than usual I've still had the time. Really I think it all comes back to the fact that I'm a terrible correspondent, I just can't always work up the courage to express myself in writing, I'm not good at writing letters, or journals, and I guess I'm not good at blogging either, I'm just too quick to drop the pen (or close the laptop I guess), and too long in coming back. Okay, enough analyses for one day, back to blogging.
My first subject is basket ball (feel free to laugh, yes I do mean the game with the large ball that requires acute hand-eye-coordination). The 'Jeux Europeens' or the European Games is a festival of sorts between several highschools from various European countries: France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Each high school takes a turn hosting and it rotates every year. Last year it was hosted right here at Notre Dame Des Anges a Saint Amand Les Euax, but this year its in Dietrich, Luxembourg. Its meant to be a friendly competition between neighboring countries to show sportsman ship and the spirit of a united Europe. There are competitions in all sorts of sports such as karate, soccer, swimming, ping pong, etc. but also 'cultural activities' such as dance, theatre, and music. Because the games are hosted in another country this year there is a limited number of spaces available. Each sport is designated a certain number of spots and then the students are chosen or petition for the spots. They fill up very quickly. My host family thought I ought to participate, since I'm an exchange student and the whole point of the games is to bring students of different nationalities together in a common activity. The problem is I don't really play any sports. Well, that was the obvious problem, the real underlying problem was that I had no idea how the games really worked. Everyone kept talking about them, so I'd get hints here and there, but I had no idea for example that you could go sign up if you weren't enrolled in an after school club with NDA all year long (NDA is my high school. NDA is a tiny bit shorter to say than Notre Dame des Anges a Saint Amand les Eaux, but hey if you want to attempt the full name, then I say go for the gold). It turns out however, that you can sign up for just about anything you think you can pul off, provided there's still space. Unfortunately, by the time I'd gained this enlightening information, all the spots were full. About two weeks after I'd given up all hope of attending the games Monsieur Marcant found me on my way to class and asked i fI would like to go to the games. I said yes of course, though I admit I was a bit confused, not to mention wary, because I was afraid going to the games might include participating in some embarrassing and public spectacle in the name of sportsmanship, but he followed up quickly by telling me he thought I could go for dance. Wonderful I thought, though of course I'd already tried to sign up for dance but it was full, still I figured he's the director of the school he can probably pull some strings. Gilles and Isabelle were thrilled as they were hoping to get all three of us (Sarah, Thomas, and I) to go, as they have a business trip the same weekend. Near the end of the following week I hadn't heard anything more about the games, and Thomas and I had tried several times to contact the teacher in charge of dance, but our schedules were too different and we never got a chance to talk. Then, Friday in study a nice woman with a very large folder and a nice long list found me and asked if I was indeed Emma, l'americaine and if I was interested in the games. "Yes, that's me," I said
"Oh good, how do you feel about singing a solo,"
"I'm sorry!?"
"Singing, a solo, are you interested, there's one spot left."
"Um, no, I'm sorry, that's definitely not the spot for me, thank you, but I'm afraid I can't do that."
"Oh, ok. Well, can you play chess by any chance? There's space on the chess team."
"Oh, no I can't play chess either, oh well..."
Well, I thought thats that. Of course this simple thought took three more meetings, several telephone calls and an entire weekend to take on the weight of a veritable fact, due to a couple misunderstandings and a few straggling last hopes, but by Wednesday afternoon it was certain. Just when I'd resigned myself to a weekend at a friends house with Sarah (because while Sarah really does play sports, she only plays popular sports and as she's only in 8th grade all the spots were given by priority to the older students), My swimming coach, with whom I'd been discussing my drama, came up during break and happily announced they'd found a slot for the games, would I like it?
"Why yes, what sport?"
"Basket ball!"
I'm sure the shock, disgust, fear, disapointment, and utter horror that I experienced at that precise moment must have been slapped on my face like clown paint, because everyone started laughing, including me, and the coach.
"Um, oh...I can't really play basket ball, but thanks anyway."
"Well you don't have to be good, the coach said it really doesn't matter. They just lost a player and they need a substitute. Have you ever played before?"
"I played in P.E. with school, a few times...?!"
"Thats fine, I mean you might as wel, try, and then you get to the games."
"Would I have to play a real game?!"
"Uh, ... well yes if you go to the games,...?"
"Oh, ok, well, I guess I could ... try...?"
"Great, there's a practice tonight but as you don't have your stuff then I guess you won't go, but if you could find the coach and talk to him some time today."
And that was that. I ran around like an idiot the rest of the day, trying to find the coach, and get all the papers. At 5:30 on Friday I was standing in the gym with a signed permission slip, a check for 30 euros, a basket ball, and two teams full (boys and girls) of trained athletes. Let me tell you it was a terrifying experience, but I've already had two practice sessions and there's only one left before the games, and I think I can fake it, provided they stop trying to pass me the ball!!!! We leave friday, April 23 at 8:30 in the morning for Dietrich and then we compete I suppose until Sunday when we will return, in time to be home around 5:30. THere is apparently I very fun, international party Saturday night, and pretty much all of my friends are going to one thing or another, so I'm excited despite the discouraging fact that I faced the wrong direction the entire first scrimmage I played.