Hi friends! This is a very long and rambling post about my experience in Taizé, France, this summer, 2014. If you prefer videos, please check this one out! I hope you enjoy if you actually read it all! 😀
An experience I will never forget is that of Taizé. I’m not just saying that. Trust me, I’d be the most honest person to talk about my opinion. I, for one, was originally dreading ‘Christian camp’. How wrong I was. My aunt had tried to get anyone in my family to go to Taizé for YEARS. None of my older cousins ever wanted to, and looked at me like I had three heads when I told them I was going. Apparently I was “taking one for the team” by agreeing to go with my aunt to pray ten times a day and scrub the toilet for the rest of the day. I didn’t go alone, obviously. I brought my friend with me. So herself, myself, my aunt and about 20 others set off to the airport to Taizé on Sunday morning.
We checked in and mingled a little bit with the people we were travelling with. We had previously briefly met them at a talk about Taize about two weeks previously. Otherwise than that we were just on our own. The plane over was fun. My friend (K) and I were sitting together, and we basically laughed the whole way to France! We arrived in Lyon airport and collected our baggage (mine was last) and followed a bus driver to her bus. We sat down the back with two brothers, and three girls. K was super sleepy so I chit chatted with the others while she slept. We arrived to Taize and two very good looking Swedish boys came to greet one of the boys in our group. It was the beginning of a great week.
We dragged our suitcases to a room where we got introduced to the village and received our jobs. K and I had to clean the infirmary each day at ten. We were also told our times of bible group study. After this, my aunt sorted us all into rooms. Following a map, I managed to lead my whole bedroom to a sign that said “Leaving Taize”! We actually found our room after that and I claimed a bottom bunk bed. K claimed the bed over me. My aunt came around to sort us all out and told us about evening prayer happening. Some of the girls were too tired to go, but K and I went. It was completely different to what I was expecting. Everyone was sitting on the floor and just singing. No prayers, no lectures, no ceremonies. Just beautiful harmonious singing. My butt did hurt afterwards though from sitting so long! After prayer, we headed down to the Oyak. This is a tiny shop which has tables, tents and fairy lights surrounding it where people can meet.
Don’t ask me how, because to this day I still have no idea how K and I ended up playing “the foot game” with about 10 good looking Swedish boys. One of those amazing happenings I guess. We also played “ninja”, “samauri” and something about a bus. It was quite funny though. At half eleven, the Oyak closes and Taizé turns into a completely quiet village where we are meant to sleep until the next morning. But for some reason K and I decided to follow these strange Swedish boys into the dark side entrance of the church. It seemed harmless at the time, but looking back it sounds so dodgy. At the church more songs were sang between a smaller group of people. At about half one in the morning K and myself, along with two of our friends walked back to our room. We laughed the whole way home about how weird our night was. Our roommates were still up, and had no idea where we were. It was the beginning of an amazing week.
K and I got up nice and early at 7am for showers. And let me tell you, being in a common bathroom with tanned Europeans can really lower a pale and freckley Irishs self esteem! We headed to morning prayer, which was the same as evening except we received holy communion. Breakfast was served afterwards. Every morning it was a bread roll, butter, two chocolate sticks and a bowl of hot chocolate.
Image from taizefrance.tumblr.com
Our work started at 10am with a scary little nun. In the infirmary, we had to clean three bedrooms, wash the sinks, wipe the chairs and shelves, mop the floors and change the bins. It sounds long, but eventually we got the hang of things and were finished most days in forty minutes. K and I were usually finished earlier than everyone else, so we mostly strolled around for a bit before meeting up with others.
The Swedish boys invited us to play more games and we met a group of English girls who soon became our amazing friends. We ate lunch together. Lunch was my least favourite meal of the day. It was never as nice. I usually only ate the fruit given. We would form circles when we all stood around talking which would either turn into history lessons, or games. Either option was loads of fun. At 3 o clock, we sat in an hour long lecture about I-forget-what and we got sorted into smaller groups. An Irish girl who we made great friends with and myself were put together in a group with two Germans, two French and two Sweeds. They were all such lovely people, even if we did have nothing in common with them! We usually had tea in our little groups before meeting back with our friends. Tea was bowls of sweet tea and a little pastry. It was cute. Personally I didn’t like the tea, but I know a lot of people who would drink five bowls of it! I think I’ll stick to my Barry’s! We would have about two hours before dinner. The Oyak briefly opened for this time so we usually played more games down there.
One day we had a giant game of frisbee. It started off with a few of us clumsy, no eye coordination Irish and a few of the Swedish lads we knew who were quite good at the game. They mainly just laughed at K and myself trying to catch the frisbee in some way. We usually always failed. But then a couple of Germans wanted to join us. They were gorgeous, of course we said yes. But it was such a hot day. As Irish natives, we were not used to sun. Or frisbees as it’s usually too windy in Ireland to play. HOWEVER, all the Swedes and all the Germans effortlessly caught the frisbee with one hand and the other hand in the pocket and passed it on again whilst K and I lost all of our dignity by attempting to play. At one point we both just watched as the frisbee flew past us as we thought the other would go get it. We were wrong. It was hilarious. We were pretty awful, but we made good friends! Speaking of that frisbee, it got stuck on the top of one of the rooms and the lads had to lift each other up to go and get it back. It was a victorious day!
Dinner was served at seven and we always queued in the last row because that’s where the cutest Swedish boys were. Oh Christian camp priorities! Evening prayer was after this, and after that everyone headed to the Oyak. Besides from playing games, there would be musicians playing their instruments, shops open, and other various activities happening. We mainly just started all the games and all the sing songs. Everyone loved us Irish by the time we left! And of course we were the REAL Irish there.
There was a group of students from Northern Ireland who weren’t the nicest bunch of people. They had aftersun though, so we befriended them. There was like three that I would tolerate talking to again. Their leaders were really strict. They always had to be in groups of 3, they had to earn privileges, and got isolated from everyone if they disobeyed any rules. Originally we felt sorry for them and their matching GAA jerseys, but by the end of the week we purposely got them isolated because they annoyed us so much! There was one time that basically they stole ball from a girl I knew, and wouldnt give it back to her. So I, being the stubborn head of the group, went over and asked for it back. However, the two guys I asked just laughed and kicked it to the others, so I went over to the others and asked for it back and they didn’t say anything so one of the Nordies from the first group was like “she’z noh tew impressed wit cha” and I was like “No, I’m not. Can I have the ball back?” so the boy with the ball tried to kick it away but I just put my foot on it to stop it, which was when a guy like a foot smaller than me with braces said “yur gonna hav ta tackle meh four it” and I was like “Hah, good one” and handed the ball back to my friend. I’ve said it many times, but Northern Irish aren’t Irish.
The group of Swedish boys were most definitely our closest friends for the week. One of the boys from our group met them all last year, and when they greeted him at the bus stop, we were all amazed about how gorgeous they were. As K said, “It’s going to be a good week.” The first night down at the Oyak, we got properly introduced to them. It was even one of their birthdays. They invited us to play many games, and it was a brilliant night. We usually spent most of our day with them. A lot of our conversation topics would be about the differences in our cultures. All students in Sweden get PAID to go to school. How unfair is that? “Potatis” is potatoes in Swedish. Some cow licked a rock and the universe was created. The literal translation for “Under the sea” is “The ocean is deep”. Seven is the hardest word to pronounce in Swedish, but fem is quite easy. My friend had a romance with one of the Sweeds, so saying goodbye was harder for her than expected. I spent my last day comforting her all the way home. We were both so emotional, but she literally couldn’t stop crying. Unfortunately the other Swedish had girlfriends, so no more romances happened for the rest of us! But I have to say, they were all such flirts! And they didn’t even have to try! I seem to be talking about only boys here, and that’s because none of the Swedish girls talked to us for the week except one! She was so lovely, so maybe there are other nice Swedish girls out there! Haha! Well whatever their reason was, they didn’t like us anyway! The boys definitely made our week so much better than expected, and I know I’ll always thank them for that.
The other group we got along with so well, were a group of English girls! Although we mainly bonded with two of them, their whole school group was so lovely and friendly. On our last day of bible group, I left my own group to go play games with all of them and my Irish friends. (Don’t worry, I didn’t just abandon my group! It was all sorted out!) The majority of our time spent with them was in the evening playing games and making more friends. One of our two new best friends claimed the boys in Taize by claiming they were her ‘boyfriend’. (Even if the guy didn’t know yet!) It was all very hilarious! We’re still in full contact, and they’re hopefully coming to visit us in October! We’ve vowed to get matching fanny packs for next year!
To conclude, it was an amazing week. I know I’m not doing it justice, but Taize is so hard to explain to anyone who has never set foot there before. Yes, there is a religious aspect to it, of course. But everything is optional- meaning that everyone who was there, wanted to be there. This made the atmosphere so amazing. It was a very casual week, but it was definitely one of the best weeks of my life.
Our Group 🙂
Two of my Irish friends who I love dearly!
At The Oyak 🙂