This would be the first time that I would speak with Victor in a couple of months. I knew that he had some challenges since I was last able to see him during the summer of 2013, but I his unique perspective has always been refreshing, which is why I chose him to be my subject to interview.
I opened Skype to speak with my friend Victor as he is currently living in Paris, France and works as a barista in the 13ème arrondissement. The skype calling tone beeped and booped as our two computers connected with one another, eventually, he picked up and I saw him with his jet black hair, and gaunt face, seated in his disheveled apartment.
I waited for a second to be sure that the connection was secure and said, “salute mon ami,” which in English would translate might say Hello my friend.
And he responded by saying “ouais, salute mon amour” Yes, hello my love.
I quickly switched back to English and asked, “well darling shall we get going with this thing?”
Which he responded by rolling his eyes and in his charming yet sassy attitude said, “well if we must.”
I began this interview by asking, “what is your alma mater, and what was the last University you attended”
Victor paused, as it to reflect upon those years that had gone by and responded, “well, I went to the University of Alberta for my undergraduate degree, and then I did a year at the Sorbonne before dropping out because of financial difficulties.”
The story about Victor’s time just before, during and after the Sorbonne until today has been a turbulent one, but without the trials and tribulations that life presents we would be unable to develop into the people that we are.
Victor was born in East Germany where he was later adopted by his Canadian parents Kasper and Karolina Lewandowski who hailed from Edmonton Alberta. This well to do family would raise Victor, where he would later go to the University of Alberta and major in Anthropology. Upon his graduation in 2010 he decided to teach English in Kraków, Poland, so that he could connect with his Polish-Canadian step-father’s homeland as well as gain a better understanding of the Germany he left behind after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He would later go on to be accepted by the Université de Paris in their master’s program for, Ethnologie et anthropologie sociale, or in English the program for Ethnology and Social-Anthropology.
I asked Victor, “how did he feel about his acceptance to the Sorbonne?”
he responded by saying, “I remember the acceptance and the year and one-half that followed as one of the happiest times in my life, I was doing research that I really loved, I had my first real boyfriend, along with the emotional and financial support of my adoptive parents at the time.”
Victor paused, cracked a small smile, and raised his eyes to gaze off into the distance. I then asked him, what he was been thinking about.
He then continued, “well just what happened, and how terrible it was. You remember, the relationship I had with Marc, that summer where I met you in la Rochelle, and the fall of sorrows when I was disowned by my parents who would later be killed in a car crash, during a vacation in Banff that December. It was a dramatic time, an emotional time, especially when I realized that I could not afford to live in the 8eme and perform my studies. I would have to leave the Sorbonne move to the 13eme, find some sort of employment, and these changes were then worsened by the subsequent death of my parents. The reality that I did not receive any inheritance from them really showed how conservative they were and how much the idea of having a gay son bothered them. I miss them but I just wish that before they passed I could have reached some sort of understanding you know.”
I had heard this story before, but it is stories like these that allow us to reflect on our own hostility. It is through pain, even if it might be more specific to the Global North, but loss, especially loss at the hands of others does speak to the brutal edge of the human nature and condition.
I asked my friend, “What advice would you give to students who are just entering university, in regard to planning ahead, their writing, and could you also elaborate on the work that you had done before you experienced those series of events?”
“Well,” he said, “I would recommend that they have an idea of the future, a general direction. It is great to have dreams, but it is necessary to be flexible with those dreams, especially when you are young and do not have the same level of security that older people might have. As for writing, I believe that reading crucial as you can adopt other writing styles. I remember reading the Walrus and posted copies of McSweeny’s a lot during my university years, and they are two periodicals that I continue to read to this day. The type of analysis, the writing styles, and content that they dealt with are all very common to those that I employed as a bachelor’s student. As for the work that I did in graduate school, I had been working on a study of the Parisian sex-industry. I found the interactions, and the customs around and between prostitutes to be rather interesting. I am continually surprised how aspects of their unique sub-culture have helped me as a barista and server at Café Arobasse.”
Victor and I then went on to chit-chat and catch up on our lives as friends always do. He told me that he was doing better and that he had started to make plans to go back to the Sorbonne. I congratulated him on this, and we then went on to make false promises to go visit each other soon and eventually ended our call to return back to our lives. I left happy about the progress Victor had made and felt that his advice to be rational as well as flexible was valuable to students just entering university as well as for me who will have to plunge into reality this coming spring. Victor’s suggestions came from his own unique experiences and my current situation is markedly different than his. I hope that I might be afforded the luxury to dream, unlike Victor might have had following his parents’ disownment and death, but even so, it is good to have a direction and a rational attitude to one’s future.