Thursday, December 2, 2010


Today I was obligated to skip my teaching gig and go to mandatory (again) training out in Saint-Ouen-L'Aumone. That meant I had to miss probably one of my favorite parts of my job, which are my morning chats with Collette at my second school, Le Chat Perche, which is in Cergy. I normally arrive at 8:15 or so in order to print, prep, and laminate all my materials, and in the process, end up having an hour to snip flashcards while talking with this lovely woman.

I don't exactly understand what Collette's official title is at LCP, because she's not a teacher, nor is she really an office assistant, because they don't really have a "front office," with a secretary or front desk or phone of any sort. Rather, she's functions as what seems to be a jack-of-all-trades, and she does what's needed here and there. She's tall and slender, with greying platinum blonde hair, kind blue eyes, and a friendly demeanor.

She's also led a fascinating life. She spent 15 years living in Mexico, where she taught French to Mexican CEO's and heads of state. Because of this, she's fluent in Spanish, and her children, now grown adults, went to the international high school that's located here in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. She's traded in whatever well paying former career she had (let me tell you, the woman comes to school with Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses and Louis Vuitton Handbags...) for, as she's explained, something much simpler and closer to home so she can avoid the commute. My guess is that she's got good savings. Nevertheless, we always end up chatting about politics or the economy, or even about life in America versus life in France, so she ends up making me stop and think about the world and my own opinions.

It was Collette the day after American elections that asked me what I thought of the Republicans taking the lead, and if I sincerely though Barack Obama had a shot at being re-elected. I like to think of her as a blessing in disguise, since I'll be the first to admit that politics fascinate me intellectually in theory, but often their practice disheartens me. Collete makes me remember to be grateful for the fact that my country has a relatively high functioning rate in comparison to other parts of the world. One time earlier last week she was listening to proceedings in the French senate regarding the state of the economy and the retirement issue here, so we got to talking the world economy too. She forces me to be informed, and I like that.

It's often too easy for me to get lost in my pie-in-the-sky, ivory-tower reveries, and Collete is a firm reminder that life didn't end in the 17th century in France. That's something important for me to remember as I head into graduate school, where I'm going to need a counterbalance to all the literary theory and ancien regime texts I'll be swallowing. I can only hope that one day I'll meet someone who will bring this humanities brain back down to earth too and keep me in the present too, challenge me to think about life in the here and now.

For now I guess, there's Collette.

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