Tuesday, March 29, 2011

La Semaine Sociale

The week after Carnaval, I did my Social Week, a requirement for my AFS program. As the idea of this "Semaine Sociale" was to branch out and become more a part of my community, I decided to work in Beckerich, where I live with my host family. As I go to school in Arlon, I never really spent much time in the village, and I only just started to learn my way around. I took a few walks earlier in the year, but this Social Week gave me the opportunity to learn about my community by working as part of it.

Day 1: The Tour

Although the village of Beckerich is quite small (about 600 inhabitants), the Commune of Beckerich includes several small surrounding villages (around 2300 inhabitants in all). Despite our size, the commune tries to keep up the small population by securing jobs in the area. One of our main claims to fame is that Beckerich is on the way to Energy autonomy, meaning that we are trying to use green energy in hopes of eventually becoming energetically independent. We also have very clean natural springs in the village, so we have a factory for bottling the water, which is then sold throughout southern Belgium.

So, that first day, I woke up a little later than I usually do on Mondays and I headed down to d'Millen, an old renovated mill in the village that currently serves as a restaurant and meeting place. We had a powerpoint presentation about the renewable energy here and we spent the day seeing them. First, we took a short walk to see three different types of photovoltaic and solar panels on a few of the homes in Beckerich, we visited the biogas center (which smelled quite strongly) and learned about the heating of homes throughout the commune, and we visited the building next door that houses the wood chips we burn to provide additional heating (the biogas doesn't produce enough heat to provide for the whole commune). We also took a tour of the water plant and went outdoors to see some of the open springs.

So I spent my first day learning about Beckerich.

Here's a shot from the water plant:

Day 2: The Office

On Tuesday, I went to the office of ASBL Millen at 9...and I was the first one there. I spent the morning translating the guided tour that I took on Monday into English, and then in the afternoon I went with Isabelle (not my host mom, one of the women I was working with) to take pictures of the mill, since it was a beautiful day. Afterwards, I did some work in the office.

Here's the office. Soon they will be moving their office to the mill itself, so they won't have to go between the two (the mill is on the other side of Beckerich).

This is a pond, but on the far left (behind the trees) is one of the open springs. And the buildings on the right are parts of the old mill, which is in the process of being renovated (though part of it is already done).
Day 3:

First, I worked on the translation for a little while:

If there was ever any doubt that this was not a good fit for me, one look at this wall would have gotten rid of that. A poster of Rosie the Riveter right next to a frog that says "It's easy being green" ? Perfect.

More office work.

Folders for the guided tour. These include descriptions of our heating system, biogas, photovoltaic and solar panels system, and water plant.

Day 4: Journée de l'eau

The day of water! I spent this day at the mill. I helped to set up the exhibition hall and prepare food for the opening in the evening. Since everything was water-themed, I took a little creativity with the napkins...
Getting set up...
All ready! There are three parts to the exhibit: the children's paintings, the paintings done by local artist Nathalie Clément, and the book about water by Isabelle and Olmic.

Here is Isabelle explaining the steps taken to publish her book about water. She worked with Olmic (a local illustrator) to create it, though it hasn't been published yet. When it is, it will be available in French and in Luxembourgish. Isabelle is in the blue scarf on the right. And the second person from the left (in the back) is the mayor of Beckerich.

Here are some of the water-themed paintings done by children in Beckerich.

This one is of the estuary of the St. Lawrence River, from when the artist visited Canada.

That evening, there was the opening of the exhibit and also an activity for children. They made little wish boats with sticks and leaves found near the small pond, and when it was dark out, they lit candles on top and set them afloat in the water. I played photographer for the evening with the d'Millen camera, so I don't have many pictures myself.

Day 5: The English

On my last day, we had another group visit. The group consisted of three people from England, on from Germany, one from Croatia, and two from Luxembourg. For the morning, they used one of the rooms in the mill as a reunion room. They had a meeting to share the ideas of their respective organizations. The main one was ECOVAST, but each organization dealt with green energy and localization. The entire thing was in English...and I got to sit in and listen.

My task for this day was mainly to make conversation. In my mother language.

So, for the morning, I listened to the meeting. The only time I really had to converse was during the breaks, and then during lunch. We ate in the mill attic, which isn't really much of an attic. For the moment, it is being used for the water exhibit, so we ate surrounded by the paintings of water. I sat across from an older English gentleman who talked to me about going abroad and my plans for the future.

I translated for Isabelle once, and then we cleaned up the lunch table while the group went on the guided visit. It was a really nice way to end a wonderful week.

Plus, I got to share the leftovers.

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