Université Ste-Anne is in the middle of almost nowhere. The school is right next to the ocean, on a big span of land with beach and woods. The largest wooden church in North America is right next door. It has a tall spire that you can see from anywhere nearby. Across the road you will find a cemetary, a credit union, and a small shack that sells ice cream and various fried marine animals.
It was glorious. All of it.
The ocean and the sky and the littlest bit of sun. On the last day I sat by the water and wondered why I hadn't gone there every day.
I found my tribe within the first three days. A little band of us formed and we proceeded to spend all of our time together.
The grass, where we spent 75% of our time, and the cafétéria, where we spent the remainder.
It felt exactly like high school. Like the best of high school, sitting with my rad friends talking about zines and haircuts and movies. En français.
Also, summer camp. I've never actually been to summer camp, but I'm pretty sure that this was exactly what it is like. All the fast friendships and midnight makeout sessions and rainy days watching comedies from the 90s and five week couplings and stolen cookies. And the crying on the last day. With more beer.
On the day we visited smuggler's cove the stairs down to the beach were boarded up. I think it was better that way.
One day we took a bus trip to a couple of historical sites that are important to Acadian history. We got on the bus at 8 am and didn't have time to get coffee. I hoped and hoped during the two hour drive to the first stop, Port-Royal, that there would be somewhere to buy a coffee. There wasn't. I trudged around a bit, fake (real) whining, until I got into the spirit of the reconstructed French colony. You could wander in and around all of the buildings. Pick things up. Try out the beds.
Lauren. With a gun.
Luke and Blaine in bed.
Me in the window. Smiling. Quel surprise.
It was pretty fun.
We then got on the bus for another two hours. Again, I hoped and hoped that there would be coffee. We got off the bus at Grand Pré (the site of the deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia) and I went up to the information desk to ask if there were somewhere to buy one. Nope.
So, instead of going into the park, a few of us headed off down the road, in search of a café someone had seen. It was only a few minutes away, and when we got there we had one of my favourite meals ever. The staff at the café didn't speak french, so we switched back to English for an hour and a half. We ate sandwiches and drank coffee and finished by sharing a slice of coconut cream pie. The fact that I hadn't eaten or drunk anything since getting up and getting on the bus made all of it that much better, and speaking English felt vaguely illicit and, more than anything else, comfortable.
Not that I didn't love speaking French. I did love speaking French. Most of the time. I made a very concerted effort at the beginning of the session, and I avoided all English music, all English everything. I journalled in French. I spoke in French. I was amazed at how quickly I started thinking in French.
And then I realized how very nearly impossible it is to have a deep, meaningful, emotional conversation with someone in a language that is not your own. I found people at Sainte-Anne that I loved, and respected, and found enormously interesting, and I wanted to say more to them than "Wow, this weather is amazing," "I love when there's pesto in the salad bar," "I like your sweater," and "Want to watch a movie?" So I caved, a little. Not a lot. But I did have a couple of very important, wonderful late night conversations in English.
I needed them.
I'm still a little in denial that it's over. I got back to Halifax yesterday morning, and every time I walk down the street I think I see my newest favourite people. The first bus back to civilization left Ste-Anne at 1:30 am on Friday night/Saturday morning, when almost everyone was at least a little bit drunk (pompette, rather). I thanked modern life for making it so easy for new, awesome people to find their ways into my life, but mostly I cursed it for making it so easy for them to go home again afterwards.
Because honestly (and yes, this is going to be sappy, because I am sappy), my favourite part was the people. I feel so lucky that pretty much everywhere I go I find lovely, funny, smart, awesome, inspiring people. Wow, so much earnestness there. I better make up for it with some cynicism in the near future. Must. Watch. Heathers. Now.
Not really. I'm alright with love.