Mouton Gets Mistaken for an Illegal Immigrant… and Worse

26 Apr

Hi Everyone!

I know it’s been a long time (we shouldnta left you, without a dope beat to step to, step to, step to… If you recognise those lyrics, well done). Sorry, I really do apologise for the prolonged silence. There is a very simple explanation for this: midterms and paper deadlines. But luckily that ordeal is over now! So I thought I’d tell you a bit about another ordeal I’ve lived through recently; it’s related to my residence, the one, the only, LP.

Part 1: The Rant

There’s a very simple term that truly represents the essence of LP but, due to the certificate of this blog (PG 13) and the fact that grandparents and former professors are reading this, I will simply say that the first syllable rhymes with “sit” and the second rhymes with “toll” and you should pronounce this with a slight lisp.

Moving on, the idea behind our residence is that each building represents a different country, therefore the American house has palm trees outside, the German house looks like Hogwarts castle, the Chinese house has a dragon on the side and my sub-Saharan African house looks, well, it looks like the National Theatre in Kampala to be honest. Could be worse: the Danish building is like a Lego house! But some days I think they’ve taken this whole sub-Saharan African thing a tad far. I know we have regular power cuts in Africa but is it necessary to remind us of those experiences so often? And can someone please inform the director that we haven’t had pit latrines in urban cities like Kampala for years now! Is a toilet seat too much to ask? Must I be mentally transported back to the memorable loo stops taken on cross country drives in Northern Uganda every time I have to pee? I will admit, in my darkest hours, I’ve looked at my ensuite shower and thought… would I? But don’t worry, no matter what le Pen might think, we foreigners aren’t savages!

It is quite amusing to watch newcomers experience LP. Some try to actually clean the kitchen! Hahaaa, amateurs! They will inevitably try to use the ovens, and we institutionalised long-term residents have to inform them that, regretfully, not a single oven works in the entire building. Most things are broken come to think of it. The shower came off the wall in week three and I’ve gotten so used to doing laundry in the dark that I still don’t turn on the light even though it’s been fixed since February! Newcomers will also have to acclimatise to the fact that LP is extremely… orange. (Don’t tell the Dutch but I have a bit of a thing against orange. It’s not a trustworthy colour; it puts you ill at ease. But maybe that’s just me.) Then there’s the fact that the walls are a bit thin; let’s just say that I wasn’t entirely sad when my Chinese neighbour broke up with her boyfriend, and the endless renditions of “Someone Like You” by Adele are totally worth it!

As if we weren’t living in enough of a prison complex already, there are the cleaning ladies to reckon with! I hadn’t known true fear until I met these women. You can hear them approaching from far off, banging on the doors and shouting at the inmates- I mean students. I’m still not sure if it’s French they’re speaking to me, but seeing as my French has got progressively better over the past year, I think I can confirm that it’s not. These women will collect your bin, be it dusk or dawn. They will wake you up at 7 o’clock on Saturday morning. They will walk in on you naked. Will they apologise and shield their eyes? Nope. They will demand your bin. And can you leave it outside your room to be collected and emptied calmly and peacefully with the least possible stress? Pas possible I’m afraid.

But the funniest thing by far that has happened to me here is the arrival of our new night receptionist/security guard. We got off to a bit of a wobbly start to say the least, so here’s the story.

Part 2: The Story

So our previous night receptionist was hardly my best friend. We called him Mumbles because he never talked to you or said good evening, he just mumbled in your general direction. I would come to sorely miss this man.

I first met our new night receptionist at about 1 o’clock on the night before my Political Science midterm. I was revising in a friend’s room in the sous-sol when a man knocked on the door.

“Who could be calling at this un-godly hour?” thought we in a very Austen-esque manner.

We opened the door. There stood a short man in green trousers and a red jacket.

“Did you ask for company?” he enquired, looking at me.

At that very moment, I think we both misunderstood each other in the worst possible way.

I was dressed in my trackies, carrying a cup of tea in one hand and my polsci notes in the other. He looked me up and down, clearly thinking “Well… she doesn’t look like a… you know”.

I looked at his round glasses and black bow-tie and thought “Well he could be a… you know… but shouldn’t he be a bit younger? Who on earth are they letting in these days?!”

My friend, who only speaks English, had no clue what was going on.

Then I spotted his badge which said “Night receptionist”, and the world made a little more sense.

“Ummm no,” I finally replied, “I’m not a visitor, I live here”.

“Can I see your papers?” he asked.

“What, now?” I looked at my watch: 1.30am.

“Yes”

“Okaaay, I suppose I could go get them”

Deciding not to argue I walked up four flights of stairs, found my keys, a letter addressed to me, my “attestation d’hébergement” (proof of lodging) and my passport and returned to the front desk. I presented my papers to him.

“Mais, ne jouez pas avec moi mademoiselle !” he said. (Translation: “Don’t play games with me missy!”).

EXCUSE ME?? GAMES?? AT 1.45 IN THE MORNING? IS HE OFF HIS ROCKER???

“Is there a problem?” I asked in my calmest BBC Radio 4 voice.

“There is no proof that you live here. You could be an illegal immigrant for all I know. I will have to keep your keys and passport until you can bring me proof.”

“What? What about the attestation d’hébergement? It says right here I have the right to stay here until the end of May!”

“No. I need proof of rent.”

Panic set in.

“Wait!” I cried, “Check the records! They have files on me!”

“The office doesn’t open until Monday. Come back then.”

“WHAT? No! I…”

At this point I wish I’d come out with sound, coherent arguments, such as how I couldn’t be an illegal immigrant because as a UK national I am a citizen of the EU, and that it is technically illegal to confiscate someone’s passport unless you are a border control agent. Sadly all I could do was splutter that I really, really needed my passport as ID for my exam that morning. He just shrugged.

I stormed back upstairs, tore my room apart in search of last month’s rent receipt and after 10 minutes search, found it and stomped back downstairs. Our friend the receptionist was looking pretty sheepish.

“It’s okay,” he said, “I’ve found you on the computer”.

“HERE is the rent!” I declared, waving my piece of paper, “Can I have my passport now?”

“Yes…” he passed it over, “Bonsoir!”

I glared at him. Then I went back upstairs to do what all English people do when faced with a crisis: write a letter, with every intention of delivering it to the director the following day.

However, this letter was never delivered. On my arrival in the lobby that morning, who should be there but our dear night-receptionist from just before?

“Bonjour,” he said upon seeing me, and looked down at his feet. “Let me get that for you,” and he opened the front door.

Now this was something I hadn’t encountered in a long time: respect. I had earned respect! I felt like a gangsta, or someone staying in a 5 star hotel! I could get used to this…

So I decided not to rat out our new receptionist and it’s turned out pretty well for me. He will never forget that I live here, he still says good morning and good evening and he still opens the door for me, even today! Yes, even LP has its perks.

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