Thursday, July 2, 2015

Vines, vines, and more vines

Hello all! I am writing this post from my new home with my host family in Bordeaux, France! Yes, I am working on a vineyard in one of the best, if not the best, wine regions in the world. Oh but it gets even better… My family is the most wonderful family I could have ever imagined!! I have been here for a little more than three days now and already I feel right at home and a part of the family! I am already learning so much about vineyard management, wine, and most of all the French culture. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this month has in store for me! But before I get ahead of myself, here is what I have been up to the last four days:

Sunday was a travel day. I began in Toulouse and was able to actually go to a Catholic mass for the first time in almost four weeks due to traveling with groups and it was even in English!! I was so happy and excited, I was practically skipping to the church in the morning. It was just so nice to be back somewhere that will always be familiar and feel God's love. I was especially happy that I could make this Sunday before I moved to my family in order to calm and center myself again. After mass, it was last minute packing and cleaning before checking out of my dorm and heading off to the train station with two of the other students that happened to be on my same train. The whole time I was just so excited to meet my host family and did not start getting nervous until about 30 minutes out. At that point also the train for some reason got stopped on the tracks and was delayed 30 minutes. With a stomach full of both excitement and nerves and a bit of worry for how I was going to even find my family, I arrived at my stop and lugged my huge suitcase of the train and to the main train station. Luckily, my host father (Willfred) was standing there waiting and could pick me out due to my abnormally large suitcase and lack of looking very French.

It was about a 40 minute drive through the countryside then to get to the house… I mean Chateau. The house is gorgeous both inside and out! Half of it is run as a bed and breakfast and the other half is the families private house which is where my room is. They have two amazing kitchens and my room is darling. Outside there is a huge terrace that overlooks a little pond and a garden next to a pool. There are flowers everywhere and a lovely tea room that they call the "Glass House" and is open on Sundays. The house sits right next to the vineyard and also their cow pastures, chicken coop, and winery. The whole property is so lovely and I feel like I am living in a dream.

The family welcomed me immediately and made me feel so at home with tea and cake and wonderful conversation. Living here right now is me, Jackie (the mom), Wilfred (the dad), Pierre (the son who is 24 and just graduated from Purpan), Louisa (a German 20 year old who is interning with Jackie for the bed and breakfast who I get along with very well), and the always full house of guests at the B&B that are from all over! Not to mention the consistent visitors that seem to always pop in and say hello or share a meal with us. (Even met an American family today that lived in Germany for 10 years but grew up in Detroit and now living in San Francisco!) They also have two cats (one whose name is Carter and is mischievous and the friendliest and happiest dog I have ever met named Donut. It is a  very fun and welcoming bunch and they have made me feel so welcomed and just like a part of the family.

That night I had my first meal with the family and I thought I was dreaming… three courses including the most amazing dessert ever. Lousia quickly told me also that this was the normal every day and  that we ate the same as the guests every night. It was all home made and many of the foods where straight from what they produce on the property. I think I can get used to that.

The work day on the vineyard begins at 6am which calls for a lovely 5:45 alarm clock everyday. I generally work from 6am until lunch around 1 with a breakfast break at 8. Monday we began a processes called ET POM POUGE (that is not at all how you spell it but I cannot find it anywhere so that is a phonetic spelling) which is essentially  pruning the vines to remove all the extra non-grape producing vines so the growth is concentrated in the grapes. It is a long and laboring process… you walk up and down each row and hit the vines with this spade like tool. I have been doing this for four mornings now and my hands, back, and forearms are burning. It has also been incredibly hot with highs up to 104F (40C). It has been tough and humbling and really makes me appreciate the wine I drink even more. These menial tasks also really has me appreciating my education so that I never have to do this again. I also got to help heard the heifers from one field to the next which was new and interesting.

Piere had a friend that was staying with us that he met on his study abroad a few years back from New York so after work on Monday, Pierre, Jason, Louise, Two of Pierre's neighbors around our age, and I went canoeing on the Dordogne River. It was a lot of fun and Louise and I were champions of the canoe! After canoeing, we went over to the neighbors house for a barbecue where I met two South Africans that are my age and here working and an older American couple that are here on vacation and are originally from Finneytown. It was a fun night getting to know everyone and seeing all the different cultures converge into one.

I began with the usually 6-1 shift in the fields followed by lunch, a swim to cool down, and then a quick nap. Tuesday evening brought a string of errands to be run with Wilfred which included the Tractor store, the hardware store and the little grocery in town. I sat in a giant grape harvester that was at least two stories tall, learned the French word for glue in the hardware store, and listened to multiple conversations in French that I had not a clue what was being said… it was fun. After dinner, I helped Wilfred to catch the chickens and put them into their house for the night so the foxes don’t get them…. So I held a chicken for the first time!

Today was a very long day. I was already so exhausted from waking up at 6am everyday to work in the fields and not being able to go to bed until after 11 due to dinner being at 9:30 every night, so that 5:45 alarm clock came really early. It was field work in the morning, then after lunch and an accidental 2.5 hour nap, we worked for another 4 hours labeling and then making a delivery. I was getting very frustrated since I was so tired and currently am a little down and very homesick thinking about a whole month of these long days of work without getting paid. It is frustrating to me to be in Europe and not be able to really see very much of it while I am here. I do really enjoy living with the family and seeing their way of life, but the lack of sleep and the long days are already getting to me. This will be an interesting month.


Today I worked in the fields by myself… just me and the vines and my shovel for 6 hours. Luckily I brought music along to keep me company. This time in the fields has really given me time to think about anything and everything. It's kinda nice, kinda scary. After lunch I was off for the rest of the day which was amazing and what I really needed! I took a nap and read by the pool and finally got this blog posted! Just dinner and one more day of work and then we will see what the weekend brings…

the view from my bedroom window

some vines I have been working on

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