As it turns out, the family of my former student owns a large farm up on a hill above the tiny village. They not only own fields, but also animals, including sheep, which needed to be brought into the barn from the pasture for the evening. The dad needed some help, so my coworker's daughter, her friend, and I were recruited to go help herd the sheep into the barn.
A farm linked to an abbey was first built on the site back in the 5th century. The entire farm was destroyed during fighting along the Chemin des Dames during WWI; it was being used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and when the Germans discovered it they bombed it. It was rebuilt in the 1930s. The view is gorgeous:
These are some of the sheep we had to herd
Over to this barn
It started out okay. The other girls and I had to try to keep the sheep assembled along the path behind my student's father and not wander off into the grain and the tractors. At first most of the herd followed my student's father into the barn, but there were about six stragglers that kind of wandered around confusedly and then went back into the pasture. When they finally came out of the pasture they ran all over the yard, into the tractors, into the grain.... but they were finally pushed towards the now reopened barn dooor ... and all the sheep we had already driven in ran back out again! Now we really had our work cut out for us, rounding up all the sheep who were wreaking havoc in the yard.
My student's father trying to round up rebellious sheep
After running around after the sheep, which included getting them unstuck from behind farm equipment (luckily that wasn't my job!) we finally got them all more or less willingly into the barn, with the door firmly shut.
I don't think I have much of a future as a sheep herder, but it was pretty fun, and I would do it again if needed!
The dinner itself was nice, although I was definitely the odd wheel among a group of people who were all married with children ranging from 15 to 3 years old, but it was a nice evening.
My coworker drove me back again afterwards, and in the car she of course asked me if I had a good time and all, and then she says "yes, I've wanted to invite you over for a while because I know it must be hard to make friends in France, and you're so far away from your family."
Seriously? I've already been here for two years, my contract is over in ten days, and now she's worried about me making friends and being lonely? Sheesh. I have gotten used to the fact that the French are very private people and aren't prone to inviting strangers over just to "make them feel welcome" like we do in the US, but I will never understand it.