I am Pratibha, member in Youth Development Program of FSL India. I Volunteer as “Operations Head” for Youth Development Program, Bangalore. I got the opportunity to participate in the work camp organized by SJ France at Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur from 26th September to 16th October 2016.
“Men may come and men may go but I go on forever!”, She’d whisper in my ears every day when we went to work along her banks. Le Buech is a river that flows from the Dauphiné Alps for a stretch of 90km. At Work Camp, it was our job to strengthen her banks in the village Le Saix and work on speeding the flow of water at one of her tributaries that ran through the little town of Aspremont. This project revolved around the betterment of the river’s quality to breed trout and protect the neighbouring villages on its banks from possible floods after winter.
A usual Work day would begin at 8am after breakfast. The birds are still waking all our sleepy heads and the trees sway in the cold wind. This is around the time when we had to channelize all the heat in our body and bring in the will to put on our work boots and gloves. After this, we’d get into a van and drive to the destination we had to work at for that day.
The drive down to the village was always a morning blessing. Winding down this mountain into the valleys blew my mind, every single day. The sun always rose late because he had to climb beyond the high mountains before he could get to a high enough point to reach us. He cast golden spotlights through the valley at different points leaving us little human beings a sight to see like a ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’. The van was almost so quiet, you could hear us chattering from the cold. ‘Well, If the mountains and the deer can stand the cold, So will I.’ To our joy, when the sun did finally manage to rise above the Hautes-Alps, he would shine upon our skin so gloriously for the next few hours or so before he disappeared again behind the opposite set of mountains, leaving us eagerly waiting for him another day!
In a week or so, the team(that consisted of French, Germans, Spanish, Turkish, Costa Rican, Mexican, Indian and Danish) and I had settled in pretty well and had started working on bonds I’m sure will last for years and years to come.
Weekends were amazing with trips to neighbouring towns and villages and a Music festival organized at the grounds where we were staying. Coming from a diverse country like India, with so many folkways, norms, geographical differences and varied terrain, had engraved a certain type of sight in my head. I was now not at home with my parents’ to help me with my daily gainsay. I was in a new place filled with new people but surprisingly, a city bred girl like me didn’t even feel a cultural shock and felt more home than ever in the lap of the Alps.
‘The mountains speak to you if you listen hard enough’
It’s true. The high walls ,descends of stone and hidden fossils are a living testament of time and weather through the ages and are here to stay for much longer. They’re almost a little frightening, so huge, gigantic, bold and strong but have a subtle innocence to them as well, living in oblivion of the world around. A perfect state of peace and calm. Their purity almost childlike which is ironic when compared to their age and past. Have the Mountains changed me? Not really, but truly brought out a side of me I never knew existed within. This opportunity to experience the world with a humble purpose is something I’m ever thankful for and would recommend to absolutely anyone.