Ils m’ont dit beaucoup de fois “c’est une ville sensible”.
“On doit faire attention.”
“Pourquoi Méru ?”
Again, and again these phrases urged caution and warnings to the assistante de langue before arriving as well as throughout her term of teaching in the small town of Méru.
“Une jeune fille? À Méru?”
She was left to imagine the students in the collège and lycée as figures of peril even before the first day of class arrived, and to her the town’s hills then posed as a twisting wag of the finger upon the first train ride pulling past the station. Méru is situated in the department of Oise in the region of Picardie. Its placement leaves it not necessarily identifiable to any outsider, but to those in and around Méru, the sentiments are bleak. An hour train ride north from Paris leaves it potentially interacting with notions of Parisian banlieues. But, the fields of green and hay that quickly fly by during the ride from gare du nord will tell you you’re wrong to connect the two. Instead, Méru sits in a category of la compagne without any of the pleasant stories of what a trip to the countryside brings. Interactions amongst colleagues, students (pupils), foreigners, and workers only become more clouded from here with constraining means and lesser than ends.
And what she found–students who would perhaps benefit most from the opportunity for cultural exchange–students who would possibly have little to no other opportunities to work with a native English speaker for the rest of their language learning careers–a unique and genuine place–an opportunity for an ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances. Fear-monger no more, there’s no use when she’s determined to finish what she’s started with her placement, and make it worth the while.