September 23, 2011

Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis

Today was an amazing day with the lil'uns. I accompanied the elementary school students (that I help out with every Friday) on their field trip– therefore skipping school to go visit a farm full of cows, sheep, pastures, and milk. Very Northern France and very Ch'tis (only a few of you will understand that). However, I got up at a killer early hour and managed to fall asleep on the bus full of twenty screaming children– that's how tired I was. When I woke up, I found myself in the middle of practically nowhere on a beautiful farm. I grew up in a town with a lot of cow pastures, but I never got up close and personal with one. They are actually enormous and super cute in person. This farm makes butter, milk, and other dairy products so therefore they had a lot of cows :) The first thing we all did was taste some fresh cow milk mixed with chocolate. The best hot chocolate comes straight from the udder to your glass.

After our snack we went into the barn and listened to the farm lady talk about her dear animals. First, she talked about this darling little 8-day-old calf, Gabriella, who sucked on the lady's fingers the entire time. It's eyes were insanely large and rather frightening.

And next to this baby was the momma. The kids were so excited to see the big cow. They acted like it was a gift sent from the heavens: the fat, spotted creature with a fly-covered back.

What a celebrity.
I could actually understand what the farm lady said and learned some new things about cows today. For one, dairy cows can't make milk if they haven't had a baby, haven't had enough to eat, or haven't had enough to drink. Also, dairy cows can make milk ten months out of the year while the other two months are "vacation months." The farm lady was very well informed about this cow-business. I kept thinking the whole time how funny this situation was contrasted with my anticipated experiences back in America. I didn't really picture myself sitting among twenty 10-year-olds in the hay listening to facts about cows...

Explaining the life of a dairy cow
... and I also really didn't expect to milk a cow within my first month in France.

But there I am– milking a cow. It was really strange and I kept thinking that I was hurting the cow. I imagine that the poor thing wasn't doing too well with twenty kids attempting to milk her. :P After our little tour of the animals, we went outside and saw that the cow-simulator guy was there. I wasn't sure what he did until he went over to the boy-cow and stuck a needle up its... well, you know, to get some stuff for reproduction. It was super gross, but the kids were intrigued. There was even a catalog to choose what kind of cow you want to have produced.

"I'll have Cow #3 please."
Then we retreated back to the farm house for a lesson about milk. Milk is very important. I learned more about milk today than I would have ever thought was necessary. The farm lady even had a huge poster board about milk. Here it is:

Then we watched the farm lady make some butter. It was surprisingly interesting and fun. You could say I've got a little farmer's instinct within me. :) There are five steps involved in making butter ( I forgot them) and all you need is cream. First the farm lady showed us the machine that separates the milk from the cream (the crème fraise :D).

Can you guess which side is the milk and which side is the cream? ;)
And then she took out a separate bucket full of pure cream and dumped it all into a butter making box that churned it.

And then she dumped four buckets of cold water in it to clean out the butter juices. Here's her demonstration... 

Voilà!!! This farm fresh butter has a picture of a little cow on it :)
After watching her make the butter we got a chance to mold it into the pretty squares. We had to wash our hands for an incredibly long amount of time before we could touch the butter.

Me and the kiddos
Butter molding geniuses.
We got to keep the butter and that evening I tasted it. So good. After our butter/milk/dairy schmooz, we had lunch outside. A lot of the kids brought big bags of candy to pass around to everyone. I got a stomach later because of it. After lunch, the kids had so much more energy for the siesta. They ran around in circles and tackled each other like maniacs. I miss those days of siestas and examining the glass with magnifying glasses to search for bugs. Everything is so interesting and new when you're young. It's like being little again, here in France for me. Everything I do and say is strange and foreign. I imitate the things people say. I am amazed by the little things that everyone else is used to. I try everything without thinking about saying no. Life is a game and everyday is an adventure.

The afternoon wasn't as much fun for me as the morning. We went on a big scavenger hunt around the property to look for different trees, leaves, bugs, plants, etc. However, it was a nice chance to meet some of the little ones. One girl sort of clung to my side and kept talking to me and asking questions the whole time. I was glad that most of them used the "tutoyer" (familiar version of the pronoun 'you') instead of the formal version that they use with teachers and strangers. The pastures were filled with really long grass so we all had to waddle around in boots. The best part was when we went into a pasture with some sheep grazing in it. The kids went insane. They had all brought dry bread with them to feed the sheep, but they all wanted to feed them at once. The poor lambs. I've never seen a sheep run before, but they can go pretty fast when trying to escape a mob of excited little kids.

Run sheep, run!

The sheep fluff was soooo soft.

Up close and personal.
I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day and slept again on the bus ride home. I really like helping out with the class... mostly because I still adore field trips. :D It's a nice thought that tomorrow is Friday and then the weekend! Saturday marks my one-month anniversary of being in France. Absolutely insane. I have a feeling that when June rolls around, I'm going to be dumbstruck at how fast time has flown by. But now, one month already. Phew. I don't want to leave. I love it here.

This blog was very hard to write with inserting pictures, so I hope you all appreciate it :P My blog is like my public diary. I'm about to fall asleep over my keyboard so good night, dear diary. :)


  1. True french country life for you:) So far away yet so close to home:) Life is beautiful1. What about the museum thing? is it the Matisse museum? Love your blog, thank you:) much love.

  2. Happy one month anniversary in France ! Went to post office to send you a package:) watch out for those candies for your tummy:) great story with pictures. Really really likeed it. Love you!

  3. I miss you so much! Your field trip sounds awesome! Yeah, I appreciated the picture inserts. :) I wish I could have been at the farm with you! I haven't been able to read all of your blogs, but I really liked this one! Thanks for blogging about your experiences and adding pictures! It makes me feel closer to you even though we're thousands of miles apart! We should go see the Gum Wall when you get back! I hope you continue to have fun! I miss you!

  4. I miss you so much too, Brynn!!! <3 We are so going to the Gum Wall when I get back (that was a bit random, but okay).

  5. Hey Aja! :D
    My name is Ophélie and I'd like to go on exchange in 2012 with rotary. I saw that your host town is Cambrai, which is so close from where I live, only 30 minutes away. It's crazy! I'm gonna follow your blog by now, you have a talent for writing. I just hope you're enjoying your time in France. xx, Ophélie.

  6. Hey Ophélie!
    That's so great that you want to go on an exchange too! What country do you want to go to and what is your town in France called?

    Thank you, yes I'm having an amazing time here so far :D

    P.S. Your English is really good!

    xoxo Aja

  7. Hi Aja,
    I've been enjoying your adventures from here in rainy (already?) Portland. I used to teach ESL and have a suggestion for a fun activity. How about teaching your friends an English song? My daughter Lindsay just recorded Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" @

    I can send you the lyrics if you email me @

    Lindsay will be applying for the French Teaching Assistantship Program next month and hopes to be working in France at a school next year.

    Glad you're doing so well in France!

  8. Hi Pam,
    Thank you! That's a great suggestion. I don't know that particular song, but I will look into one that I can teach to my French friends :)

    I hope Lindsay succeeds!


  9. Sounds like you're having fun! Time has been slower here than in France, because it feels like you've been gone much longer! Love you :)

  10. Just play Lindsay singing this song. Catchy melody, simple, funny lyrics. Repetition for good practice and common sound changes in English, such as "want to" changing into "wanna" in informal speech. You might play this for your English teacher, who would probably appreciate the free teaching material.


  11. My 3 country choices are: 1. The USA, 2. Canada and 3. Brazil.
    My town is called Valenciennes but I often go to Lille. If you want to hang out or something, just ask!
    So you are in district 1670, am I right? I guess we will see each other at meetings soon, I can't wait! :D

  12. Ophélie: Yes, I'm in district 1670 like you. I would love to hang out in Lille or Valenciennes sometime! Do you have a Facebook, email, or cell phone that I can contact you by?

  13. Yes sure, you can add me on facebook: Ophélie Bartosiewicz. :)