An Introspective: Co-op and the Juno Beach Centre, France

 

I arrived in France on Saturday, January 25th and was picked up at the train station in Caen by my new supervisor, Marie-Josée Lafond. She took me to the guide house that I would be sharing with three guide teams throughout the year and gave me a quick (jet-lag friendly!) tour of the place. My training started the next day, as I received an extra day of Head Guide training before the rest of the spring team arrived. This proved to be very educational and gave the chance to get to know my supervisor, Marie-Josée, and Rebecca, the Customer Service Representative. Marie-Josée was in charge of our training week, after which I would work more closely with Rebecca on a daily basis. I was given essential information, such as emergency contacts and health services, as well as guidelines on how to be a part of the guide team while at the same time exercising leadership skills in the guide house and ensuring smooth communication between the guides and the JBC’s permanent staff members.

The impression that I got from my Head Guide training was that my main objective in the spring term is to learn how to be a good guide along with my team members. My responsibilities in the guide house are to start immediately and include organizing the cleaning schedule and planning group activities. The team was given a model weekly cleaning schedule which other guides have found helpful in the past, so we have now adopted this system as it seems to be very fair. Since there are only three of us in the spring guide team, our days off are inevitably not the same, but we have been able to work in a few activities in the evenings. So far we have been out for dinner in Courseulles and also done a movie night at the cinema, both of which I would like to make weekly events. For a small town, Courseulles has an impressive selection of excellent and reasonably priced restaurants, which should keep us busy for quite a while! It is a popular resort town, though in low season we have to make our own fun!

Our training week consisted of five days of presentations, activities, visits to D-Day landmarks and test tours. It was an intense experience, as we would spend the entire work day at the museum or on the road and then come home to study for our test tours the next morning, but it certainly helped to bond the team. I prefer to do reading on my own, but would join the others for quizzing sessions afterwards, which we found to be very effective. We also discovered a complete box set of “The O.C. – Season 1” and so alternated studying with some well-deserved escapism! We spent a day and a half visiting Canadian, British and American D-Day sights that visitors will expect us to know and that are not easily accessible to us by public transit. We visited the war cemeteries at Ranville, Bény-sur-Mer, Omaha and La Cambe, as well as the Pegasus Bridge Museum, l’Abbaye d’Ardenne (where we met a member of the French Resistance), la Pointe du Hoc and the coastal battery at Longues-sur-Mer. This was very enjoyable because it gave us the chance to start exploring Normandy and made the history that we had been studying feel real.

The team has been working full-time, both in the main hall and the museum’s boutique, for the past couple of weeks and it seems that we are getting used to our positions. The true test will be to see if we can survive the invasion of Canadian secondary schools at spring break!


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