(This is a second, more imaginative take of a previous blog post. Historical events here derive more from my own imagination than facts. For more concise, factual information check out my blog post “On the other side of a Different Sea”)
“We are not makers of history, we are made by history.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
When we arrived at Saint-Malo it seemed like any other ordinary IES Abroad Field Trip. My friends and I crowded around the bus, gawking over the ice rink on the harbor and its cool French rock music. As we talked, however, a chill wind seemed to blow around us, ruffling our coats and blowing back the tour guide I had clutched in my hand. I had spent the bus-ride reading it, trying to memorize as much as possible - now, its information circled in my thoughts, and as I listened, curiously, to the wind - I thought for a second that I heard something… was it a splash? There - I could be sure that was the sound of a chain rattling, lifting, clanking onto a wooden surface. Then, a man's voice - loud, calling out from the harbor to my right - a name - “CARTIEERR!” The voices of my friends disappear.
The misty haze now drifted all around me - I whirled my hands around in it, trying to clear it like muck in a pond. Misty spirals, upset, spun around my fingertips and around my arms, hair, and face, clearing slightly in front of me so that I could make out the surrounding pier. Shadowed figures crowded around me, and in the mist, I couldn't tell if they were familiar IES Abroad students or strangers. After spotting a few billowing patterned whales around me that, after squinting, became very poofy, billowing dresses and some overhead birds that, wait, were actually large feathers posed on tall black hats - my guess leaned towards “strangers”. At least I don’t remember any IES Abroad students with such flamboyant fashion sense.
All the patterned whales and birds seemed to be facing the same direction - I turned to see whatever all the fuss was and there - gliding away in the ever swirling mist was two giant dark masts, rising towards the dimmed white light of the sun above. “Look at her go” whispered in awe several whales and birds around me along with echoes of the same mysterious names over and over… “Jacques Cartier” and “ The Grand Hermine”.
“A mighty sturdy ship,” one said.
“A captain with a good head on him,” mentioned another.
On the smallest ship, just 20 meters away from me, breaking out of the arms of the harbor and towards the large sea, I could make out the small figure of a man with a pointed, grizzly brown beard and piercing eyes undoubtedly staring off across the great Atlantic towards unknown shores…Anticipating…All of a sudden I remembered the paper tour guide still clutched in my hand, and the story of Jacques Cartier… discoverer of Canada.
And I’m back on the pier with my friends. They are pulling me away to the ramparts of Saint-Malo, laughing at my distracted state, wondering if I had slept enough last night. “No, not at all, apparently…”
It happens again, on the ramparts. We are walking, enjoying sights of the large harbor, taking pictures of each other in front of every wall post, boat, and corner. “This wind is CRAZY” one of my friends exclaims. It sure was - hammering us icily over the rampart walls, battering hair and coats back and forth from all angles. Slowly I notice - joining the wind - the same haze creeping up slowly over the walls in drifting tendrils, growing thicker. Then, I’m stumbling, hands spread out in front of me, shouting out in fear as the sharp winds turn into real artillery - which hammers against the rampart walls with a force that vibrates the ground, throwing me off my feet and onto the hard cobblestone. I rest there, out of the way of the bombardment, watching armored feet rush past me, clanging against the cold, hard ground, accompanied by the harsh shouting of men.
“Where are the Pirates when you need them?”
Oh my goodness, I’m thinking. I’ve gotten myself in the middle of French-English warfare. And the pirates…I remember them from the brochure… Saint-Malo was in fact known as a city of Pirates, which was useful English-protection for a rich, coastal city. Except during the year 1693… when the English decided to try their hand against the ramparts…
As soon as I come to this realization the mist is gone. My muscles slowly unclench themselves as I realize I’m only in mortal danger of falling behind from my friends. I run to catch up with them.
Next, I’m looking out at a group of islands of the coast, squinting my eyes against the growing haze. Oh no…not again…
All I can see is white.
Slowly, the complete whiteness gives way to instead a gentle sunlight. I rub my eyes and look around me, surprised to find myself far outside of the ramparts, one rocky outcrop that seems to be one of the islands - but where did the water go? Sudden laughter peals out from afar, coming closer. Quickly, I duck into a small tide-pool, and, peering just over its edge, I see something bizarre. A young boy runs alone up over the barren sand from Saint-Malo, bare feet making thin footprints all the way up to the rocky outcrop where I am sitting. Upon arrival at the rocky base, he makes three seemingly well-practiced leaps onto the highest point of the island and stands, smiling, staring out towards the horizon. A wild tumble of hair on his head blows lightly with the sea breeze.
Another bright flash of white blinds me momentary - when I open my eye again the scene is much changed. Thunder echoes from the last white flash, with similar flashes, zig-zagging throughout the sky as lightning. I’m crouched in the same tide-pool, but now I’m soaked by huge black waves that collide into the outcrop from all sides. Struggling on the slippery rocks, I pull myself up to the top, where the young boy had just been standing - in his place is a large, grey cross. It faces peacefully out over the stormy seas, towards the horizon. Next to the cross is a name...
Chateaubriand…the name leaps out from my memory…great french poet and politician. He who grew up at Saint-Malo, entombed on the very island where he would play as a child…
I am entranced by this discovery, but my stomach still manages to call me back to reality. My friends and I debate the lunch options.
It's past 12, well-time for a hearty lunch for hungry travelers. In a coastal town in Brittany, this means large plates of galettes/crepes and “les moules et les frites” (mussels and fries).
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<p>My name is Miah Chu Won Tapper. I come from a large family with two younger brothers and three younger step-siblings, whom I live with on the small island of Oahu, Hawaii. I’ve always had a passion for traveling but until now I’ve only traveled the world in books. As a French major, I’m so excited to be able to continue the adventure in Nantes, France. </p>