Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Experience of Taizé

I won't be writing a whole four-day journal of my trip to Taizé, but I can at the very least give you a brief overview of it. It started in the airport, with thirteen of us meeting at half four in the morning on Wednesday. Tired, groggy and a little bit cranky but excited, we made our way through Terminal 2 towards tea and breakfast. Shortly thereafter, we were on a plane to Geneva.

Yes, we had to go to Switzerland to get to Taizé. This confused us for a while - not as much as getting lost in the airport confused two of us when we got there, mind you - but it soon became clear that the two hour bus journey to Taizé was still an acceptable mode of transport. By the end of the trip, it was a blessing - the Germans have to, today, take a bus home; it will take them about sixteen hours.

We stopped for lunch along the way, which really helped, considering we were too late for lunch in Taizé. If you don't know, by the way, it's a tiny little village in central France where about 100 Brothers live in simplicity, visited by thousands of people every week for prayer and work. There were only about 500 people there when we arrived, since the busiest period of the year had passed.

Our rooms held six people each: six students per room and the lecturer in a room with other people. It was literally a case of there being enough room for a single square shelf, three bunk-beds and space to walk to each bed in relative comfort. Of course, knowing we would need pillows would have helped. Pillows, knives, forks, wellies... okay, the list goes on a bit.

The daily routine was actually okay. I expected a lot worse, to be honest. We had prayer three times a day, which consisted of singing a lot of songs, mostly in languages we didn't understand, and a reading by a Brother. Following morning and afternoon prayer, there were meals. Supper was before evening prayer, but after a workshop.

Between ten and twelve, we worked. For some, it was easy - very quickly cleaning the bathrooms or making signs - and for others it was a little more strenuous - raking up ten bags' worth of leaves or putting tent floors into storage, piled ten foot high and weighing more than we would have liked. But it was fine. Except for the rain and the German splashing us with muddy water.

At three, there was a Bible study meeting. It wasn't fun, to be honest. We've already studied the Gospel of Matthew in college, and we arrived half-way through the week, so we were in a group by ourselves. Still, it was fine. We survived it.

When we weren't praying or at work or at a workshop or Bible group, we were free to do as we wished. This consisted of going to see Brother Roger's grave (the founder of Taizé, killed in August 2005 during evening prayer), visiting the Source (a very lovely lake), going to the Crypte (where there was an altar for mass), going to the two shops (one where we could buy hot drinks and chocolate, one where we could buy books and postcards and, in one case, a dozen pieces of pottery) or just resting in the dormitories. There was also a lot of music played by The Moceans, who found a lot of excited German and Swedish teenagers to adopt as fans.

Work and the hot drink shop gave us a chance to talk to new people. I got to meet a lovely American girl, Cristina, who's travelling around Europe at the moment. We're meeting up when she gets to Dublin, for milkshakes, or possibly something a little warmer. Dublin's a little colder than Taizé... There was also a friendly Canadian called Tom, who I didn't get to say goodbye to. Thankfully Cristina agreed to give him one of my business cards, so maybe we can keep in touch when he gets back home (he's going to be in France for another four weeks, though!).

Then there was the Germans. They were only outnumbered by the Swedes in Taizé, but they were a lot easier to talk to (mainly because they had befriended Cristina already and had become fans of The Moceans). So, we got to talk to a lot of them. I don't know half their names, but there's always the chance I might get an email from them, or they might add me on Facebook. I'd like that. Aside from the sign made for the band, the Germans also supplied another great memory: Haribo. They love them. Michael, Laura and Dorithia were hilarious when they got to eat them. They also sang at (yes, at) Cristina and I in German. That was hilarious! I love the Germans!

So, yes, it was a fun trip. We're all exhausted, and we had a highly emotional Friday evening prayer, but we got home safely. Now we just have to write a whole project about it. That'll be fun, too, right?

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