Lac Du Bois

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I was immersed in the French language from the moment we pulled our car into the lot. Even when the camp employees gave my parents directions on where to park, they spoke in French. I was encouraged by my parents attempts to communicate with the employees. If they could do it, I could do it. This immersion is probably the best way to describe my feelings walking into camp on that hot July afternoon. At first I was, to say the least, hesitant to immerse my self. But, with encouragement from my parents, my new friends, the staff, and the organization, at the end of that first day I was in love with the camp.
The first thing that we -my mom and dad stayed during the first part of the day to help me get settled into my new ‘home’- had to do after getting out of the car, was complete a series of nine stations that would help me get ready for my stay at Lac du Bois. I started with Prenoms Francais translated as French First Names. At this station I chose the name I would be called at camp. I picked Madeleine. Next I had to make a sort of wooden name tag called an étiquette. My parents helped when they could, but they also knew when to take a step back and let me go on my own. The other stations included: finding out what cabin I was in (Marrakech), ‘customs’, a bank station (to exchange currency), a table where they figured out how much French you knew (so they could put you in activities with people at the same level), and a trip to the nurse to check on my medical needs. Mom and Dad also stayed to help me setup my bunk. Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to Mom and Dad, and hello to my new cabinmates.
I met my cabinmates in waves, some I met while setting up my bunk, but most while the whole cabin did some ‘get to know you’ activities. There were a total of ten of us, and we had two supervisors who stayed in the cabin with us. Once we had all arrived at the cabin, our supervisors brought us outside to get to know each other. We sat in a circle on the grass, and most of us were very excited to meet our cabinmates. These supervisors, and all the other camp employees, only spoke French to us during the day. Nearly all of us were new to the language and in general had no idea what was going on. It was nice to know that we were all in the same boat. The twelve of us, counting the supervisors, took turns introducing ourselves and saying something that we liked to do (in French of course!). We sat in this circle until dinnertime just getting to know each other while we played games. After only about an hour I felt as if I had connected with these girls, and I was really excited to learn more about them. Too soon, though, it was time for dinner, and as a group we made our way to the mess hall for the first time.
To get to the mess hall, we followed a well worn path and a group of kids who had already been at camp for three weeks, and knew where they were going. We were a happy bunch, all excited and ready to eat! In her slow, easy tone, one of our supervisors started speaking to us in French. I could barely comprehend what she was saying, but she encouraged me along with gestures (and quite a bit of patience) explaining that we would have to do something in order to get into the mess hall. As we walked we started planning a clapping thing, which we could sing along to. I was unfamiliar with it, but some of the other girls knew it pretty well, so before I knew what was happening, we were admitted into the mess hall and trying to find our table. Dinner at camp was always confusing, this first night more than others. There was a whole series of steps that had to be taken in order to get the food to your table. However, once the food made it to the table, everything made a little more sense. Eating, of course, makes sense no matter what language you speak. During the meal our supervisors taught us what the food was called in French. The meal was absolutely amazing! While we finished eating, the camp director introduced herself, and continued to talk for a while (in French!) after we ate. This happened every night I was at camp, and always left me thoroughly confused and frustrated. Although she continually found different ways to help us understand her speech, I was relieved when it was over, and I got to go out and get some fresh air.
We didn’t do much after dinner that first night. Most of the camp gathered and we learned a song about saying bonsoir (goodnight) to the wolves. As I sat there, singing my first song in French along with the other campers, I really started to feel as if I belonged there. At night in our cabin the supervisors would switch to English so that we could discuss the day. This might have been one of my favorite times at camp, I always felt very relaxed after those talks. They reminded me that everyone there could still communicate with me, and that everything would be alright. I was really homesick that first night, but I eventually got over that and was able to truly enjoy and understand the amazing experience that was Lac du Bois.

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