by Nathan ’17
Today, I woke up to the faint voices of my new host family coming from downstairs, commencing my first full day living with them. That is if you can call it a full day, exhausted from our busy trip to Paris, I had slept in until almost one in the afternoon. However there was still plenty of time for me to spend getting to know my new host family. After showering and eating lunch, we packed in their car, ready to tour Alsace.
First we went to a nearby mountain, which was 1. really cold and 2. very windy, but the view from the top was incredible. My host family pointed out the various places of interest: Westhalten where they live, Guebwiller, where we work in our schools, and Colmar and also distant mountains of both Germany and Switzerland. My host dad told me that we could drive to Germany in only half an hour from where we were, which is about how far away I live from George School. To think that my daily commute to school is the same length of time that it would take my host family to drive to a completely different country was somewhat mind blowing for me and ultimately helped me appreciate that countries are not entirely independent entities but are geographically connected. This seems like an incredibly simple concept (because it is), but in that moment, the fact that countries are really just political boundaries gained a new authenticity for me, which I will not soon forget.
Next we toured various towns in Alsace, including Colmar, a place with some interesting historical attractions. We saw a miniature Statue of Liberty, as the man behind the famous monument was born in Colmar. I also learned that the symbol of Alsace, so to speak, is a type of stork that lives there, and we saw some at various times throughout the day. Seeing these towns was interesting because all of the buildings are in general much older than those of the United States. In fact, one building had been built before North America was even settled by Europeans, which really put the young age of the United States into perspective: everything there is much more new looking than in France, even the older buildings. It was a culturally enlightening afternoon, which helped me to comprehend some of the major differences between French and American cities.
At the end of the day, my host family took me to a nice restaurant in the mountains for dinner. After a filling meal, we returned home. As I expect was the case with all of the other members of the trip, it was both an educational and a restful day. I had gotten to know my new host family better through interacting with them throughout the day and I had also added to my knowledge of French culture, specifically that of Alsace. I went to bed feeling as though it had been a day well spent, ready to return to my service the next day.