Christmas Market at La Giraudiere Brossac France
First day of a new year,2014, also a good day to ‘pen’ down my thoughts after 3 weeks at La Giraudiere (LG) volunteering which included creating a Christmas Market
Wintery & meaningful Christmas plus the long time wish to visit France– that was what brought me to Brossac this December. My name is Jacqueline; I am from Singapore and this is my first visit to France.
After a weekend in Paris, I arrived at Chalais train station to meet Paul (the project director at LG), who for some reason thought my name was Elizabeth. Funnily, I had been reading a book of Queen Elizabeth I on the train journey so I wondered if Paul read my mine. Sounded like a good start?!
The other Christmas international volunteers were Christine from Canada, Ten from UK & Ann from Ireland who arrived a day after me. All of whom are pretty fluent in French, unlike me. I also met some of the local volunteers including Niko and Ameryic, part of the association named “Les Amis de Giraudiere”, who were getting the old house ready for the Christmas Market that weekend.
The Dinner Rota– The volunteers and Paul took turn to cook dinner for one evening each week. I was a bit nervy upon knowing this. While I was familiar cooking for a big group back home, cooking for international crowd – that’s a first! I was relieved and glad when my stir-fried vegetables and fried rice received good response. But what I enjoyed the most was the Chilli that Ten made the day before. It was hot, delicious and comforting that I was actually quite thrilled when she made it again this week. The taking of turns to cook is a great idea as we get to experience international cuisine and add team spirit of the group.
Marché Noël – This is the first time LG organized a Christmas Market and it was a pretty grand affair. Preparation commenced weeks before that also includes the call for volunteers like me via the website. Besides getting the old house ready, there was also a marquee set up on the outside grounds. Promotion sign boards were placed around strategic locations such as supermarkets in the nearby area. Posters were also placed in public bulletin boards and shops too for awareness. There were about 30 stall sign-ups by the time I was here which was impressive!
Most of the time in the week leading that weekend was spent decorating the place, cleaning up, arranging the tables and setting up our food stall and bar. Paul normally discussed the work needed and we split up the duties accordingly. I must say everyone adapted pretty quickly and things were moving rather smoothly.
One highlight of the week was the visit by the local papers, not 1 but 2 reporters from the Charente Libre and Sud Ouest! La Giraudiere Marché Noël was featured on the 22 Dec edition and also a couple of entries Charente Libre blog page.
I was assigned mainly to ‘administrative’ job, starting with doing up a flyer for Les Amis de Giraudiere in both English & French! There were tiny mistakes discovered after print which was a jab to my pride. That was when I began to feel my impossible French was becoming a handicap. Nonetheless, at no juncture throughout my stay did anyone make me feel left out. Thankfully, my adaptness with the computer came in handy when creating the events collaterals. I suppose I am also fortunate and grateful that fellow volunteers were encouraging and the locals were friendly and understanding.
On the day of the market exhibitors begun to stream in from 8am on Saturday for the stalls set up. Coffee was served around while we helped around. I was tasked with photo taking and distributing the flyers with the only phrase I was taught ‘Si vous voulez’!
The experience was intriguing, besides getting a little shopping done I got to interact with the local residents (with some translation help, of course) and listening to their stories and advice offered. It actually got me thinking – how I was so warped up with the insignificance in the past and how to ‘live a life’ meaningfully.
Being the first time a market was held, we started to improvise as the day moved along. Warming up the marquee area, adding directional signs, increase food item for sale. I was running back and fro the house to print things off the computer.
The Christmas mood peaked when the choir started to fill the house with their melodious and festive carols. Even Paul joined in with his rendition of ‘White Christmas’. The first day slowly comes to the end with chit chat at the bar while some attempted the raffle game.
We ended the long first market day with an awesome dinner at Saint Bernard, which coincidentally was also the last day of operations for the restaurant owner.
Day 2 was marked with an increase of visitors, from the good weather and Sunday mass. Although there was no Christmas caroling that day, children were largely entertained by our Santa Claus and Santarina! alias Aymeric and Betty
I am incredibly amazed by the community spirit within LG and the village, how everyone part of or knew the association participated the market enthusiastically – manning the bar, roasting the chestnuts, decorations work shop, making the fries, sandwich and hot wine, dressed up as the Santa Claus, Christmas caroling or simply by turning up to support market!
Like everything else, all good things have to come to an end and we did it the joyous way. The guys started to dismantle the marquee before the skies got darker while the volunteers worked together on the Thank You dinner for the friends of LG who helped out at this market.
While many of us were exhausted from the long hard week, it was worthwhile as the night ended in good music, good wine, fun and laughter.
More photos here - http://youtu.be/0LdoNFujUu0
Different events are planned for 2014 and If you would like to volunteer at La Giraudiere in France then for further information at Volunteer In France we look forward to seeing you at La Giraudiere.