This weekend, we had a visitor, an American who is currently an English assistant in Chauny. As some of you may remember from the old days, I spent three years in Chauny as an assistant. The town, people, and former colleagues hold a very special place in my heart. Anyway, since I know how small the town can feel at times, I invited the new assistant to come spend a few days in Lille. It also proved to be a fun way to spend a few days of my otherwise uneventful vacation.
We spent the weekend exploring the city, eating good food (complete with stinky cheese), playing with Elliot and taking him for walks, drinking far too much beer, and exchanging Chauny stories.
We also took advantage of some of the events happening around town. We went to see the “Mapping de Notre Dame de la Treille“, which we had seen last year during Fantastic. We also checked out the exhibit at Gare St Sauveur and “Dada is Not Dead” at La Maison de la Folie. I think I preferred the Dada exhibit. It was interesting and very original. If you’re in Lille between now and the beginning of December, I highly recommend it. Plus, it’s free.
Unfortunately, the good weekend ended on a bit of a sour note when we were coming back from the market in Vieux Lille. We were harassed (more like attacked) by a group of young Roma girls. They were trying to get money from us (surprise surprise) and actually stole the money my friend was buying her ticket with. There were like 7 or 8 of them. They started jumping on us. Grabbing our bags. Trying to grab our arms. We decided to go without a ticket, and they followed us all the way down to metro. They grabbed my bag so hard one time I almost fell down the stairs. Thank god the metro was there when we got down or I really don’t know what would have happened. I should add that this was a Sunday afternoon in the best area of town.
I’m not a stranger to the Roma (kids and adults) asking for money. The kids are often sticking their hands in your face as you try to buy metro tickets. That’s even the way it started here. I told the girl forcefully “No”, and she left me be (I was also using a card, not cash). But this is the first time I’ve had this happen. I don’t think it helped that other than a few older woman, no one else came through the station as this was going on. Once they got a hold of the change, I think they felt they could get more despite the fact that I was telling them firmly to “dégagez” (go away), a word they are very familiar with in French.
After something like this happens, it’s hard not to agree with the many French people who think the Roma should get out of town.