Okay – we have had DSL problems at home – but I have managed to write some chapters still. I posted my word count from my mother’s computer yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner, and wrote a whopping 3,300 words last night! My count is at 43,227 right now! I am going to try and write a little more this morning, then go shopping with the family. Here are some chapters that I haven’t posted yet. The other chapters from last night are on my laptop, and I will post them tonight!
Ch. 31 – The Ugly Americans
I hope that you have had a good vacation and that you are ready to face your semester final exams with renewed energy.
I would like to tell you three things:
1. Some of your schools (in the United States) have received a “transcript” of your grades. This is not correct. We had to send a grade on December 1st that corresponded to the quality of work that you had completed up to that date, which is only one-third of our semester here. This was to accommodate semester system, and to assure that you would remain registered there. This note is not definitive – your final grades will be sent in mid-February.
2. The France-Louisiane organization of La Fleche is planning another weekend for you on February 16th and 17th. Please save these dates. You will receive more details later.
3. This last item is not pleasant for me to write about. I have to warn you that the director of CLOUS and the director of the Cite Universitaire Pavot have received from the other non-Louisianan students that you are disturbing by your noise at the dormitory. You need to know that, in France, students study much more in their private rooms and not in the public library. Dorm rooms must not therefore be places where parties and social gatherings are organized – even on the weekends. And, I must add that, after 10:00 at night, silence is the rule. The sad thing is that, if there is no change in this behavior from this moment on, the director – who is doing you a favor in allowing foreign students to reside in the dorms – will no longer allow Louisianans to lodge there in future years. Mr. Broussard has been told this. It is important that, by your attitude, you will affect the future of next year’s students. I hope that I will not have to mention this subject again.
So that I don’t end this letter on a negative note, I will remind you of the
invitation issued by the Angers chapter of France-Etats-Unis to partake in a Kings Cake with a country buffet next week. Please respond enthusiastically to this invitation.
There you have it. According to the grapevine (Nathalie), the Louisiana students living in the residence universitaire were more hated than the Moroccans – and the Moroccans could be pretty vicious. One of them had actually backed Nathalie up against the wall of the common room when she asked her if she could hurry up so that she could use the ironing board. To be place below the Moroccan students was a low blow.
This also illustrates the fundamental difference between the French university student and the American university student. Apparently, the only thing that young French people do until they reach the age of twenty-one (or higher, if pursuing advanced degrees) is go to school and study. We had heard about the infamous baccalaureate exam that sealed the fate of all French high school students, but we didn’t know that they didn’t relax after that. University study was serious business there.
The Americans, on the other hand, had (to our mind) an appropriate sense of balance. We could study hard when necessary – but even the most dedicated student would be considered a complete nerd or social misfit if he or she didn’t take a break. The weekends were for forgetting about school. We didn’t have a problem – the French did.
It all started innocently enough. After spending so much time downstairs at Chuck and Alan’s rooms – where most of our meals and gatherings were executed, I thought it only polite to welcome the guys to my room. I must say that Chuck – even if he couldn’t carry a tune – had a resonant deep voice that an operatic baritone would have envied. It had the effect of a foghorn and could be heard down the hall upon entering our floor. Alan, on the other hand, had a manic, whooping laugh – and we all laughed a lot. Hey, we were in France – we were not only there to learn French, we were there to have fun!
There was a young French student who came to our door one night, and politely asked us to keep it down. We apologized, and did our best, but we didn’t realize that this request would extend to the weekend nights as well. Who the hell studied on the weekends? The French, that’s who. This girl – that’s who. As I said before, I had made an attempt to introduce myself to our neighbors, but they made no effort to reciprocate. I actually thought that this girl was that neighbor (I had barely seen her) – it seems, from the cryptic note left on my door by Nathalie that this was actually the girl in 311 – the room above me.
In our defense, the French students had not been very friendly. Nathalie and Jean-Noel were the exception to the rule. The French students had not been friendly, even before we became “a nuisance,” so we didn’t particularly feel inclined to be nice back. We had already been jostled and bruised in the French cafeteria “line” and had been defeated countless times by the French at “sidewalk chicken.” We were forced to communicate on their terms and suffer through the absence of Mexican food. We would be damned if we would not make ourselves at home in our own dorm rooms.
After a while, the resident of room 311 began to come down on a regular basis, and she was no longer polite. She began to his French invective at us – yelling that she had had enough! “J’en ai marre!” she would shout. “J’en ai marre” means, “I’ve had it up to here!” in French. We knew that. But, after she made her exit, leaving us speechless, Chuck said, “Johnny marre!” “Johnny’s back in town!” Get it? It is pronounced “Johnny mar.”
That became our name for her. I personally would not have called her that, but we never saw her when we were alone, quietly hanging out in our room. It was always when Chuck and Alan were visiting. Soon, we would anticipate it. She would come storming down, and Chuck would greet her with a “Here’s Johnny!” worthy of Ed McMahon – or Jack Nicholson in The Shining, for that matter. No wonder she hated us. We – they – were meanies.
I really don’t know if the director was good for his threat to not let Louisiana students room in the Residence Pavot in the future. I visited the dorms in 1992, and am pretty sure that Americans were living there – I don’t know if they were from Louisiana.