Friday, 15 October 2010

Project Invercargill-Lille 2010

Project Invercargill-Lille 2010 – Kiwis on Tour (SBHS, SGHS, JHC, VC) – these words and logo appeared on the teeshirts of 19 students and three teachers from the Invercargill high schools who recently spent four weeks in Paris and Lille.

It was the other side of an exchange from Lycee Kernanec in Lille, fourth largest city in France. An entire English class spent three weeks in Invercargill in February and this was our return visit.

We spent the first week in Paris and visited all the major tourist attractions – Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, the Louvre, Pantheon, Sainte-Chapelle church, Arc de Triomphe, the Pere Lachaise cemetery, the shopping centres of Les Halles, La Defense and the Champs-Elysees. Up and down stairs and metro stations, we got quite fit (and blisters), and got to know the metro system well enough to participate in an Amazing Race event.

After a week, it was north to Parc Asterix where we met up with our host brothers and sisters from Lille. It is a huge amusement park similar to Disneyland, but with the Asterix theme. Everyone had a wonderful time there before heading further north to Lille to meet the parents and families and to begin the three-week stay there.

School on the following Monday began at 8.00am and ended for some at 6.15pm, albeit with some time off in the middle. Lunch at the sit-down canteen always consists of a three-course meal – a salad, a main course of either fish, meat or pasta dish and some vegetables or chips, and a dessert or fruit or cheese.

It was different not to wear a uniform, to be locked out of the school until just before classes started, to have free time if the teacher was absent, to be able to leave or go to a study room if you didn’t have a class, and it was horrifying to see the large numbers of students outside the gates smoking. Classes were not always easy to follow, but we had our own work to do and we gradually were able to understand more and more. French students do work a lot harder than us. Wednesday afternoon is free, but Saturday morning classes are held.

At the weekends some students were lucky to be taken by their families to London, or Belgium or other parts of France. We also spent a day at Arras and Le Quesnoy, two places which have connections to NZ with the war – Nzers were partly responsible for tunnels in Arras and a NZ battalion scaled the city walls and freed Le Quesnoy from the Germans, so they show a great deal of respect for NZ.

We also went to Bruges, chocolate capital of Belgium and also famous for its lace and its canal. We visited a museum and a church there too. Another outing was a tour of the city of Lille with commentary from their Visitor Centre and a foot rally around the old part of the city, some of which dates from the 13th century.

The group was welcomed by the Mayor of Marcq-en-Baroeul, the suburb of Lille where the school is based, and gifts were given to the students and teachers. They were also responsible for organizing a rugby match between the “All Blacks” and a local team, and donated a trophy which has come back to Invercargill – couldn’t be brought back as hand luggage because it could have been used as a weapon on the plane!
The trip was a hugely enjoyable experience and many friendships were cemented and a lot learnt about ourselves. It is certainly worth the time spent fundraising and getting prepared for it, and our knowledge and understanding of the language improved. The Lille students are certainly looking forward to hosting us again in 2012, and it would be great for present Year 10 or 11 students to consider. There will be an information evening and photo presentation from this trip on Thursday 28 October at 7.30pm at SGHS staffroom for those interested