Week 4: Produce Picking and Retreating Glaciers

Welcome back! I hope you had a fantastic weekend and were able to get out and enjoy nature a little; I know I most certainly did! We started our week of SLS activities by going on a trip to a local farm to go fruit and vegetable picking. This activity was perfect for me because I had not had a chance to go grocery shopping for the week and was all out of food! I love fresh produce, but sometimes it can get quite pricy when purchasing it from the markets, so getting to pick my fruits and veggies right from the source was super exciting. Once we arrived at the farm, I was shocked by the variety of produce they were growing. They had everything from flowers and apples to kale and tomatoes of all sorts. The fan-favorite of the group was most definitely the strawberries! We searched through the leaves for the bright red treats until we could not eat anymore. After filling our bags with strawberries, Ida and I made our way to the apple orchard, where we decided to wander down the lane where the gala apples were growing. The orchard arched over a hill and had a beautiful view of some mountains in the distance! The second to last stop was the greenhouse with the cherry tomatoes. I have never liked cherry tomatoes; in fact, I have been a cherry tomato hater for my whole life! However, after much convincing from my fellow students and the environment of new experiences, I decided to try one right off the branch. I LOVED it! Seriously, I have never tasted a tomato so flavorful in my whole life! I am not the only one who has converted to a tomato lover; Ngari was also convinced to try them and was pleasantly surprised. I am so glad that I can finally join the tomato lover club, but no guarantees I will feel the same way once I return to the states!

Ngari trying a fresh tomato
Dr. Boulard and Megan in the strawberry/tomato field

For our second outing of the week, we had the opportunity to meet with the Carrefour association located in the city center, rue des Trinitaires. We got to hear all about the association when and why it was created, its mission, and the volunteer positions. The goal of the Carrefour association is to take in young people who may not have a place to live or the means to support themselves due to immigration, familial struggles, or any other situation. The association wants to help these children-young adults, for the most part migrants, integrate into society smoothly by providing them with valuable social and educational opportunities. This is where we get to step in and get involved! The association presented a wide range of volunteer opportunities, including everything from helping teach the younger residences to assisting in art and music classes. This organization provides a unique environment that allows us to directly bond with young adults who are most likely very close to our age! I am looking forward to seeing which avenues my classmates may pursue within this organization. Personally, I think it would be super fascinating to help facilitate an art class of some sort!

Entrance to the Carrefour association

This weekend I had one of my most nature-filled weekends yet! I visited the French Alps in the town of Annecy and Chamonix. Annecy is a beautiful little town on a lake and surrounded by mountains and truly one of the most serene places I have ever been. After arriving at my hotel, I quickly noticed the many efforts towards sustainability, such as providing cards to skip towel washing, automatic electricity cut-off, and solar collectors. So, I decided to do some research, and I found out that the place I was staying has been awarded the “Green Key Label,” one of the first international eco-labels for sustainable tourism. To be awarded this label, the hotel must reduce the impact of water, energy, and waste management on the environment. I think that this is a fantastic initiative that is so applicable to our current situation as we travel abroad. I will most definitely be looking for this label as I plan for my future trips.

Mer de Glace depicted in an old postcard
Mer de Glace today

In Chamonix, I witnessed the great Mont-Blanc, the highest peak in France at a staggering 4,808.72 m! I was able to take a cable car all the way up to 3842 m, where the views were breathtaking (quite literally) because, at that elevation, you only have approximately 60% of your standard breathing capacity. While the peak of Mont-Blanc is impressive, the real stars of the show for me were the two massive glaciers I saw. The Mer de Glace (sea of ice) is a glacier that gets its name because it covers an entire valley between the mountains. However, when I saw an old postcard of the same glacier, I was absolutely shocked at how much has melted over time. It was one of the most blatant signs of climate change I have ever personally seen. The second glacier I saw was on Mont-Blac, and I got to see it from the sky as I paraglided over it. Glaciers truly are works of art that are perishing so fast from human’s lack of regard for the environment. My hope is that the world may make collective efforts to stop this destruction before these glaciers are gone forever; nonetheless, I am so thankful I got to witness them while they are still here.

Paragliding over the Mont-Blanc glacier
Peak and glacier of Mont-Blanc from a footbridge in Chamonix
Lake Annecy
Me in an ice cavern at the top of Mont-Blanc