Honeoye students show visitors from France how to carve pumpkins, and much more

HONEOYE — France does not celebrate Halloween, so exchange students visiting Honeoye Middle-High School this month were in for a special treat Thursday.

Art students of Jane Alden and Tim Williams annually carve pumpkins donated by local farmers for the Ontario Pathways Great Pumpkin Walk. This year, they invited the 9-12 French classes, knowing they had special visitors from overseas.

“They thought it was really fun,” said French teacher Penny Hensler. “They were really getting into it. They love the events; dressing up, Halloween decorations.”

The Honeoye Central School District is hosting 34 students from Rennes, France — the sister city of Rochester — along with the Gananda Central School District, which is hosting 18.

The American students had a great time too.

“Madame, this is so cute, isn't it?” Lucia Samuel asked Hensler, holding up her finished pumpkin.

“What happened to your nose?” Hensler asked. “Your guy doesn't have a nose.”

“They breathe through their mouths,” Samuel said of her pumpkin and another lacking a nose.

Hensler asked sophomore Claire Davis if the spots on her pumpkin were acne.

“It's freckles, Madame," Davis said.

The French traveled to Montreal where they caught a bus to western New York, arriving in Honeoye Wednesday evening. Earlier Thursday, they toured Honeoye and Bristol before the pumpkin-decorating event.

“It was all so big,” said Emma Chouarbi, 17, who is being hosted by junior Quentin Sacchitella and her family. “The city, the houses, the cars. This is not at all like the old cities.”

Sacchitella, who previously hosted a Costa Rican girl as part of her Spanish class, said she never thought about how different her town might seem to someone else.

“Everything doesn't seem that big to me,” she said. “It just seems like normal.”

They two were looking forward to a Sunday trip to Niagara Falls. Sacchitella has seen itonce before, but that was in the winter.

“I definitely want to see (the falls) when it's not frozen over and see it at its whole potential,” Sacchitella said. “Then, I kind of just want to show Emma what it's like; I'm really excited to see how she's going to react to it.”

Chouarbi knew the Falls as one of the wonders of the world for its beauty and “how stately it is.”

“Stately?” questioned Sacchitella. “I don't know what that means. How pretty, like beautiful? Sort of?”

In less than 24 hours, the two girls really hit it off and were learning a great deal about the differences in their schools and how France is more formal. Chouarbi thought the Honeoye teachers were quite friendly.

“Our lifestyle, I guess, is really different,” Chouarbi said. “I just can't wait for her (Quentin) to come to France because there are so many things that she will discover about our school, our city, about how we live, how we eat.”

She will get to sample plenty of American food when Williams hosts a joint picnic for the two schools at his Henrietta home during one of their trips to Rochester. French cuisine will not be on the menu.

“I do American,” he said. “They love cheeseburgers and hot dogs. I'll do a big sliced fruit display, baked beans and macaroni salad.”

Hensler said Honeoye will also host a high school dance for students from both districts to entertain their French guests.

“That's one of their highlights because they don't have high school dances in France,” she said. “I just love watching the kids bond. That makes my day. Then, I received a note last night from one of the girls. She text messaged me, 'I love my girl, Madame,' It's working. I just love to see the friendships and I have kids who go back years after and visit their pen pals. When they say goodbye, most of them know they will see each other again, which is kind of nice. Then, when we go to France, it's not as scary. They're reunited with a friend."

Students from Honeoye, Gananda and the Wayne Central School District will visit France in March. Hensler said Wayne is just starting its program and was not hosting this time around.

The French will be in town until Oct. 23, packing in a host of experiences, including trips to the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Eastview Mall, Letchworth State Park, the George Eastman House and Rochester City Hall.

Behind the federal building on State Street, they will visit the Pont de Rennes Bridge, named in honor of their hometown.

“We always take pictures on that,” said Hensler. “That's why we're going to City Hall — to welcome them. When we go to Rennes, they do the same thing for us. We go to City Hall and they welcome us.”

Hensler, whose family will host the French teacher, said the visits impact the whole community.

“The families learn all about France,” she said. “My whole family benefits from it. It's just learning about other cultures, how to see the world in a different way and learning that we're similar in many ways. I think that's important.”

She said Principal Wayne Ackles, that morning, welcomed the kids, telling all of them so much focus in the world today seems to be on people's differences, but people really need to realize more of how similar we are.

Hensler said this is the first year the districts hosted and will visit foreign students from the same country in the same school year. They will host and visit students from Costa Rica in the 2018-19 school year, alternating visits from and to the two countries every other year.


If you go

WHAT: Great Pumpkin Walk, a walk in the moonlight along the Ontario Pathways trail illuminated by hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 14, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

WHERE: Ontario County Fairgrounds, County Road 10, Canandaigua

DETAILS: The round-trip distance is about 1 mile with a stop for refreshments. The walk is suitable for all ages. Strollers allowed, but no pets. Admission is $4 per person, children 2 and under free. Free parking. Rain date is Sunday.

INFO: www.facebook.com/OntarioPathways or www.ontariopathways.org