I had the privilege to be an educator exchange delegate this summer in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France. Daniel, Isabelle and Camille Hoessly were superb hosts and took me to places I would most likely never see as a tourist. My exchange with Isabelle was unique as it was the first for Beaulieu. I was able to visit schools in both France and Monaco since Isabelle is a Monegasque citizen and teaches in Monaco.
Lucky for me, she teaches English! The French and Monegasque children were adorable. They all practiced their English skills with me and even proudly helped me with my French. They wanted to know how big my house was, if I had a pool, a dog, children, and how old I am! I was impressed by the compassion shown to one of the students at the school struggling with an illness. A rummage sale was set up in the lobby for families to donate money to help this little girl in need. This sense of community and outreach reminded me of Tempe!
On my first night, we attended a school performance in Monaco and were excited and surprised by the arrival of Princess Caroline. On another day, I attended a faculty meeting with Isabelle. This was one of my favorite days as it allowed me to hear the challenges these teachers face in education. We all struggle with budget issues, textbook shortages, and ways to improve student achievement. Our issues are universal!
Two of the most interesting differences I observed in the schools were the smaller class sizes and tall five story school buildings. Recess was held on the 5th floor indoors with enough space for cartwheels and kickball. During recess, I could look out the window with a perfect view of the Palace and the bay. Additionally, the schools in Monaco have a two- hour lunch period for both teachers and students. The school observations were priceless as I will probably never have an opportunity again to learn from teachers and students in quite the same manner.
Every significant trip includes a little adventure. My biggest thrill was riding to work on the back of Isabelle’s scooter from Beaulieu to Monaco in rush hour traffic! There are two lanes and then the imaginary lane scooters create in the middle to pass the cars stuck in gridlock.
You have not lived until you ride a scooter through the south of France!
I’m already looking for my new mode of transportation -don’t be surprised if you see me cruising to Corona on my new vespa!
Being a foodie, I was excited to try everything put in front of me: Sea bass, calamari, socca, pissaladiere, gnocci, farcie, escargot and barbajiuan to name a few. Fresh eggs came from the hens at the country house and we had crisp greens and radishes from Isabelle’s garden. Daniel and I had a standing appointment for Rosé before dinner and when friends were over we celebrated with homemade limoncello. It was a culinary extravaganza! One day in particular, I had breakfast in France, lunch in Monaco, and dinner in Italy!
What I didn’t expect was the change of landscape being so close to different countries. Every morning I looked out over the med sea from the terrace in Eze. We spent time in the mountains at Isabelle’s country house in Sospel enjoying the creek, tall trees and expansive garden. We spent a day power shopping at the market in Ventimiglia, Italy (and had the most delicious nutella espresso). We drove along the coast past Cannes and St. Tropez on our road trip to the Var region. There, Isabelle’s friends hosted us with a magnificent meal looking over the countryside. The miles of vineyards in this area were spectacular. We even went to Brad Pitt’s new winery to have a look! I thought he might drive down the hill to say “Bonjour” but no such luck! Our last night was a very special dinner in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat with both French and American friends.
What can I bring back to Tempe (besides the beautiful handbags I bought in Italy!)? I have an increased motivation to improve sustainability practices in my home. Compost bins, solar panels and retractable window shades are the norm in this region of France. I will return to work with renewed energy and a worldly view of best practices in education. I have a dozen new recipes to try and six hundred pictures to remind me of this incredible experience. But most of all, I have made lasting friendships within Tempe Sister Cities.
I am very appreciative of this tremendous experience. ~Dawn Milovich, Corona High School Teacher