A window inside life at Augustana College

Memories of summer and France

As the trees change and the acorns fall (I’ve almost gotten hit on the head a few times!) the memories of this past summer still linger in my mind.  It’s still hard to believe that I’ve been over 4,000 miles away from home to the beautiful countryside of France and climbed the Eiffel Tower.  If you know me, you know my room (both at home and at school) are filled to the brim with posters and replicas of the Eiffel Tower.  My dream was finally fulfilled this summer.  I went with Pastor Priggie, Sister Marilyn, 3 other Augie students, and 5 adults.  If you ever get the chance to go abroad, DO IT!!!  If I could do it all over again I would.  Augustana has this awesome thing called Augie Choice which is $2,000 that you can use toward a study abroad, internship, or reseach project. 

We weren’t just going to France to go to France.  We were going on a spiritual journey to Taize, France, which is located in the southern region.  Taize is a religious community where you can spend anywhere from 1 week to even a year or two.  People come from all over the world.  It’s something that’s hard to describe.  You really have to experience it yourself.

 

This wonderful journey began on June 23.  I don’t think it really sunk it that I was going to France until the plane took off.  After the 8 hour plane ride (I managed to get about an hour and a half of sleep) we arrived in Paris where we caught the TGV train (fast train) to Cluny where we would be spending the next couple of days before heading to Taize.  Cluny was absolutely beautiful.  It was so nice to relax from our jet lag and wander around town.

As you can see from the picture, everywhere you look is breathtaking.  I would seriously love to move to Cluny someday.  The people there were so friendly and tried their hardest to speak English.  It didn’t always work out, but as long as you pointed to things or made gestures they usually understood you.

After spending Friday afternoon and all of Sunday it was time to load the bus (only about a 15 minute ride) Sunday afternoon to head to Taize!  I was full of emotions as the group and I arrived in Taize.  There were hundreds of young people already there and they all looked so happy.  I am a very shy person and I was afraid I wouldn’t open up while I was there.  After waiting around for a bit we met our roommates…they were from Portugal!  They are the sweetest girls you can ever meet and so cute (about 14 years old)!

Every day in Taize is basically the same so I’ll give you a run down:

7:00a.m.- wake up

7:45a.m.- eat breakfast…prayer happens before breakfast but everyone has to do a job in Taize because that is how it can stay open.  My job was to collect the garbage and we had to do it right after breakfast.

8:15a.m.- morning prayer…hymns (I love the songs we sang!  They were translated in all different languages so everyone could sing along!) and a short sermon

9:00a.m.- garbage duty…wasn’t the most glamorous job but I met some really awesome people form Norway, Germany, Sweden, and Poland.

10:30a.m- down time until lunch (chat in the barracks, go to the gift shop, nap, etc.)

12:20p.m.- midday prayer…hymns, sermon, communion

1:00p.m.- Lunch!  (the lines for meals were insane!)

3:30p.m.- Bible study

Here I am with my group!  Two of us are from Augustana, one from Hong Kong, one from Poland, and the rest from Sweden.  This group was awesome and I loved spending every day with them worshipping God.

5:15p.m.- snack (some type of drink and cookies usually)

5:45p.m.- relaxing time!

7:00p.m.- Dinner…the meals in Taize were pretty decent but sometimes I really wondered how they came up with the meal!  We drank out of bowls, yes bowls.  So that was something I had to get used to after leaving Taize.

8:30p.m.- Evening prayer…hymns and sermon.  You could stay as long as you like to sing more songs.  I fell in love with the songs and would usually stay longer.

9:30p.m.- either head to Oyak (a cafe where you could get a drink or snack and hang out with the other young people) or head back to your barrack.  One of the last nights we were there a huge group of people got together and started singing songs at Oyak.  To my surprise, they were all popular songs in the U.S.!  It was so much fun and a great ending to the week.

Leaving Taize was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  I’ve never been to summer camp but this was extremely hard because I never knew if I would see these people again.  In a weeks time I had no idea the friends I would make.  I had tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to all of my friends.  But thanks to the wonderful invention of Facebook I stay in touch with many of the people I met :)

Here I am standing in front of the church with my friend Therese (Tess) from Sweden!  I became the closest to Tess and we talk all of the time on Facebook.  We are in the process of planning a Skype session but the 7 hour time differrence has proved to be very challenging.  I felt like we were long lost best friends.  One of the first days we met we sat and talked for a couple of hours.  I had the hardest time saying goodbye to Tess but she is currently planning a trip to the United States!!! :)  

 Well, since this post is already very long (kudos to whoever is still reading!) I will save Paris for my next blog.  Sorry for the cliffhanger!  As you can tell, Taize was an experience that I will never forget and I am so grateful I got the chance to go.  A shoutout to my parents who made this trip possible :)   Love you guys!

I will leave you will the symbol of Taize…

 

 This is a necklace that I bought at the gift shop in Taize.  It is one of the most precious pieces of jewlery I own.  Everytime I wear it memories come flooding back and all I can do is smile :)   The meaning of this symbol is said best in a book I bought in Taize, titled A Community Called Taize by Brian Santos…”The symbol contains both the dove- a universal sign for peace- and the cross, which from Judeo-Christian perspective embodies the reconciliation that we received though Christ’s death.  Second, because the pendant looks a bit more like a dove than a cross, many Eastern Europeans could wear the Christian cross in countries that forbade anyone to wear one.  If asked what was around their neck, they could simply reply, ‘A dove’ ”

 

Until next time,

Jen

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