It's been a week or so since I've cranked out a blog on the experience and it's been a whole lot of fun telling the story. This is one that's been in the works since the first day. As you can expect, a monastery in the south of France that intentionally hosts 500 to 5,000 young adults from across the planet is going to have some quirks.
Here's a dish on some of the finer experiences of travelling to Taizé. Here are some Taizé To Do's, and some Taizé To Don'ts.
1. Don't grab the microphones in the floor of the Church of Reconciliation.
Before worship one night we sat in our usual spot in the church to find one of the teacher's microphones left in the floor. All the mics that the brothers used to teach and lead worship are wired directly into jacks in the floor. When one was left out, one of my fellow Texans decided to goof around and grab it and sing in to it. We were quite surprised to find that the mic was live! We heard our friend quite loudly through the speakers around us ... Before he could even drop the mic on the floor one of the permanent volunteers on patrol swooped in like a silent ninja and grabbed it, chastised all of us, unhooked the mic and ran away.
It was embarrassing ... But oh, so funny.
2. Do check the weather.
Yeah, so it was freezing while we were there. Literally. We checked the weather, but didn't believe it. I brought three sweaters and a hoodie with me. I wore all of them the whole time we were there, just rotating layers to try and keep things fresh. I even wore them to bed, people. Yes. So, check the weather before you go - and believe it.
3. Do bring American medicine with you.
I got bad sick while we were there with a sinus infection. And medicine at the community, well, it was a bit primitive. The nurse on staff there had some of the best hospitality I've ever experienced. But, if I'd had some Dayquil it would have nipped the whole thing in the bud. The nurse ended up taking me and my wife into town to the pharmacy to get some medicine. I ended up getting some kind of homeopathic antibiotic over the counter - yeah, I'm not really sure that's a thing. But I took it and a day later I was 100% better. Most medicine over there was of the homeopathic variety (apparently), just FYI.
4. Don't leave Germans in charge of the windows.
So, I got sick. It wasn't bad until our super great German roommates decided it would be a great idea to open our windows in the middle of the coldest night of the pilgrimage. It was below freezing, but it was "too stuffy" for them in the room with our half-time working radiator going.
We had a great chat about that the next day. Thank God Europeans love languages and everybody knows English. It saves lives.
5. Don't wear nice shoes.
Just don't. It may be France, but the place is not a fashion show. There's mud. And if you walk out side the community, there's a lot of livestock around.
And the best for last ...
6. Do clean up after yourself.
See the picture above? There was one of those delightful notes inside the door of every single stall at the community complete with a toilet brush. The toilets in Taizé were some of the cleanest toilets in Europe. And I say this with all sincerity. It might actually be one of the more important aspects of hospitality in the community. The bathrooms weren't spa quality, but they were clean.
For more on the Central Texas Conference epic pilgrimage to Taizé, check out what I've written here, and Bishop Mike Lowry's blog here.