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January 25, 2002
Back to school (Russell)

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At Grenoble's Museum of the French Résistance

When we visited Pascal Guérin's classroom in St.-Verand a month ago, he urged us to return for another visit in January, but this time leaving the boys without us there for the entire school day.  On January 25th we were able to take him up on his offer, and we returned to the school and his class.  The French children were delighted to see Cameron and Joss again, and there was much crowding and handshaking for all of the visiting World Trippers.  We left the boys at 10:00 AM and didn't return for them until 4:30 that afternoon.

Two of Pascal's students were absent that day, so Cameron and Joss were able to have their own desks and sit next to each other for security (they made sure that they brought their own cahiers and pens this time so they wouldn't have to borrow any).  The morning was spent studying poésie.  Lunch was supplied by the school, and Cameron ate the mushroom quiche but not the fish, while Joss ate the fish but not the mushroom quiche.

Pascal had particularly wanted the boys to visit today, as every Friday the class goes out for a hike in the afternoon.  Today was a wonderfully sunny day -- not nearly as cold as a month ago -- and everyone went for a long hike in the nearby valley, where they saw ponies, horses, and sheep.  Cameron and Joss were both given the special honor of recording what they saw in the weekly classroom journal (Cameron in French and Joss in English).

Meanwhile, Gail and Russell were free of children for only the third time since our travels began (the other two were also both school visits).  We set out to explore the nearby area of Vercors, famous for French Rèsistance activity during World War II.  Our first choice destination was Vassieux up in the mountains, a city that was completely destroyed in 1944 by Germans desperate to stop Résistance activity.  Unfortunately, the museum there is closed until April.  So we did the next best thing, and returned to Grenoble to visit the multi-story Musée de la Résistance et la Déportation.

The museum did not disappoint.  First, contrary to all of our tour books, it did not close for two hours in the middle of the day for lunch.  This enabled us to visit the museum at our leisure for two hours and still visit other sights in Grenoble.  Second, the exhibits themselves were fantastic.  Gail has a high interest in the Holocaust and Russell has a high interest in WW2 and the Résistance (one of his favorite authors is a WW2 French novelist who took the pen-name of Vercors).  Exhibits covered political history, the rise of the Résistance, the German occupation, and the final deportation of Jews and political prisoners.  We were particularly moved by the normal lives of the people who became heroes and martyrs of the Résistance; they included teachers, café hostesses, and village mayors.  Although the boys would have been interested, we were glad they were not there; the Holocaust exhibit was quite graphic and disturbing.

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One of the museum's most emotional exhibits: doors from a prison where victims awaited deportation -- their final messages and drawings have been preserved

Gail and Russell spent the rest of their time in Grenoble visiting the nearby FNAC to pick up some more English and children's books, as well as yet another pâtisserie to pick up some more snacks.

The family came back together at 4:30 PM at the school, where both sides declared another successful day.  Pascal reported that Cameron is a very interesting person (reiterating what Jacques, Cameron's teacher back home, had said), and that Joss does not talk a lot but is always thinking about something.  With great reluctance we said goodbye to Pascal for the last time.  As we enter our final weeks here in Crest, this is only the first of many goodbyes, and we are not looking forward to any of them.

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In the classroom: Pascal with Joss and Cameron

 

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