Bruno: Salut Gilbert. Thank you for doing this interview. I think that kids would want to know: is that your real name or your “Lac du Bois” name?
Gilbert: It’s a pleasure to see you here today. Yes, Gilbert is my real name, given to me by my father.
Bruno: Tell us, were you ever a villager yourself?
Gilbert: At Lac du Bois? No. I didn’t have that opportunity.
Bruno: What was the first year you ever went to Lac du Bois?
Gilbert: Well, at that time there was only the traditional camp site at Hackensack, Minn. I think my first time must have been in 1984 or 1985.
Bruno: How many times have you been there?
Gilbert: Well, there was a big gap in the middle, between when I started working and when I became the Dean.
I guess that I have been there 10 times, or more… Maybe even closer to 15. I don’t even know! I might have to ask my sister!
Bruno: Why did you go there the first time?
Gilbert: Funny enough, I went in order to improve my English! I wanted to work in the United States and my English wasn’t very good. So, this was the best job for me. It was the suggestion of my sister and of a language professor of mine at college.
Bruno: What did you think of it?
Gilbert: It was wonderful! I had the time of my life!
Bruno: Why was it so great?
Gilbert: I really liked the American style. It’s very warm and casual. Lac du Bois was so much fun with all that energy and craziness. This wouldn’t be possible in France. The French are more reticent; they are intellectual and sophisticated; they hold themselves back. I don’t know if it was Americans in general or the special atmosphere at Lac du Bois, but it was just crazy and great!
Bruno: What was your first impression?
Gilbert: Well, I was coming here to improve my English. I was struck by the brief way Americans had of communicating together. I mean, it’s very fast and concise. The language of American teenagers, it’s a one-syllable world: cool, man, high-five, sick, jerk, wild, crap, lame, dude, nerd, hot, freak. Americans communicate so efficiently! I loved spending that first summer being taught American slang by the villagers!
Bruno: What do you do when you’re not at Lac du Bois?
Gilbert: I am the Dean of Students at the French-American School in New York. It’s maybe like the Assistant Principal or the Head of Student Life.
Bruno: What about in your free time?
Gilbert: I play soccer.
Bruno: In a league?
Gilbert: More like a community team, mostly French School faculty.
Bruno: Anything else?
Gilbert: I like to go into New York City and listen to live music.
Bruno: Do you have any pets?
Gilbert: No, I travel too much. However, I absolutely love plants. I wish I could have lots of them, many different kinds. But, they never last long at my place, even the really tough kinds!
Bruno: Do you like your job?
Gilbert: Yes I do. I like my job very much.
Bruno: Do you miss Lac du Bois?
Gilbert: Well, I was about to say “no”, because I still get to work with kids and do the same kinds of things here at this job. However, I must say that the people at Lac du Bois are very special. There is a special energy when we work together. I miss that when I’m in New York during the year.
Bruno: Where did you grow up?
Gilbert: I grew up in Cameroon, Africa.
Bruno: Did you ever go to summer camp?
Gilbert: No, that wasn’t really part of my culture there.
Bruno: What was different about growing up in Cameroon?
Gilbert: Well, I spent some of my childhood in a very large city in Cameroon. So, a lot of my experiences were actually very much the same as living in New York. My hometown was also a large industrial port with a lot of various immigrant groups who moved there to make their home. You heard different languages, saw different clothes and ate different foods, just like in New York.
Bruno: So you like it here?
Gilbert: Yes. I feel at home in many different places.
Bruno: Merci Gilbert, for this interesting interview!