Joining the TPS France Trip in the summer of 2019, Sterling Gleeson never guessed that she would have such memorable adventures. It was her first trip with TPS, and she was obviously very excited. The plan was to stay at a church in the small southern town of Carcassonne for the first week, then travel to Marseille on the coast for another week’s stay. At both places her group would be hosting a VBS.
Sterling’s adventures began almost as soon as they arrived at their first stop, the small church in Carcassonne. The girls needed blankets and sheets for their beds. They set off to make a thorough search, but after circling the building several times over, still hadn’t found anything. Then, they noticed a stack of what looked like blankets. Jet-lagged and eager to complete their task, the girls carried their find upstairs to make the beds.
Upon unfolding the blankets, however, they were puzzled to find that all of them were square! They resembled tablecloths, with fancy designs decorating some and buttons placed on the corners. Each one also had a matching pillowcase—at least, they assumed it was a pillowcase – it could just as easily have been a seat cover the way things were going. The girls searched the building once again for their trip leader, confused by but amused over their odd discovery. Eventually, the situation was sorted out. The girls realized that what they had really found were just decorative coverlets. They made their beds without any further incident, but after that every time Sterling crawled into bed she couldn’t help but giggle, remembering the first trial they survived as a team and the hilarity that ensued.
The first week passed quickly and enjoyably, although by the end Sterling was worn out. As they prepared to move on, all the sheets were collected and piled on one of the beds on the first floor of the church. Then Sterling’s trip leader, Becca, directed her to “collect mattresses and put them back in the storage room.” Sterling assumed that Becca meant all the mattresses, so she and one of the boys on the trip went through a very long and trying ordeal attempting to wrestle a troublesome mattress out of the lower level of a bunk bed. At last freeing it, they dragged it downstairs and left it at the bottom of the staircase before returning to fetch the mattress from the top bunk as well. They had just pulled that mattress down when Becca appeared and inquired with evident surprise why in the world they were pulling the mattresses off the beds. There had obviously been a misunderstanding. Once things were explained in clearer terms, Sterling had to drag the bottom bunk mattress up the narrow staircase and shove both mattresses back into place. The experience taught her to pay closer attention to instructions—especially when dealing with bunk beds.
During the second week of the trip, the team stayed in a military fort in Marseille and drove to a church every morning for the VBS. In the afternoons and on the weekends, they dispersed throughout the area to explore, shop, and sample any delicious-looking foods they might come across. They went to a Huguenot museum, where they learned about the history of Christianity in France with the wonderful Madame Starosciak acting as tour guide.
The team also went to the small beach town of Cassis, a very picturesque destination on the Mediterranean. One day, Sterling and three friends went wandering around town, each with a certain number of euros to spend on lunch. Instead of paying for separate lunches, they decided to get two large Panini sandwiches and split them. After that, however, they had quite a bit of money left and opted to get gelato. While standing in line at the sandwich shop, the four realized that ordering an entire liter of gelato would be less expensive than getting one for each of them. Despite the daunting size of the liter, they ordered it without hesitation, requesting half tiramisu flavor and half apricot. The woman behind the counter obligingly packed down the gelato to get in as much as possible. Having paid for their treat, the four girls sat down on a bench by the water and, wielding four spoons, finished it off in less than fifteen minutes. Sterling remembers that gelato as one of the best parts of the trip—and afterward they still had enough room in their stomachs to share a chocolate crêpe.
After enjoying her first TPS trip so much, Sterling would “8,000% recommend” it, and now has quite a few hilarious and memorable experiences to recall in years to come.