Humans of Liberty North: Mireille Jones


   To students, many teachers seem like they never had a life before being a teacher. Of course, this is not the case. But French teacher Mireille Jones has more worldliness than students would expect from most teachers. Jones grew up in Belgium and moved to the US in 1995 to teach at a French immersion elementary school. She ended up at the high school level and now teaches French and world history.

   “I’m from the French Speaking part. Belgium is three geographical parts. North speaks Dutch, the East speaks German, and the South speaks French. Each region has its own atmosphere. Liège was the last to join Belgium, so we’re very independent. When I lived in Belgium I didn’t feel Belgian. I was from Liège. We don’t get along with the other towns, we’re very from the region we’re from; which is ridiculous, because the country takes two and a half hours to cross. There are differences, like in our food, drinks, soccer teams, etc,” Jones said.

   When a country is so culturally divided, people tend to feel disconnected from each other. In the same way the Midwest is different from the Far South, Liège is different from the rest of Belgium. 

   “I didn’t fall in love with my culture until I moved here. I didn’t realize how Belgian I was until I came here, because I ran into other Belgian people who were from Brussels, and who were from the other side. We talked about the things we missed from Belgium, like food items, and the message from the King on July 21st, which is hard to explain to Americans, so we got together to watch it and realized we have more in common than we thought,” Jones said.

   Inevitably, there are plenty of things Jones misses from her home, more than just other people who understand the culture. 

   “I miss the food. The bread. My dad is a baker. The bread, the food, the chocolate, the candy. We’ve got some passable things, but man the bread. I miss the festive atmosphere. I have to be careful though, because I left when I was 21. I never lived there as an adult. Not everything sucks here, there are some things I like here too. But sometimes I’ll complain and my friends will be like Mimi, this is the same thing here.’ So I need to be careful that what I don’t miss is my youth. I think they’re more festive in some ways, like the world cup. We go to the pub and watch it. The whole city stops; nobody would be at home by themselves. Everybody would be gathering. Even when we go to the stadium, the roads are blocked because people are in the bars around the stadium. They’re partying before the event. I know we tailgate here, but they’re more festive about it. We have Christmas markets and we celebrate things a little bit more. I feel like people here are not that festive,” Jones said.

   Just like there are notable differences within Belgium, there are major differences between France and Belgium, even though they are neighboring countries.

Dutch soccer supporters cheering on their team

   “There are a few differences in the language between the two countries, like the numbers. I teach French like it’s spoken in France. So after 27 years, when I go home I’ll catch myself speaking French from France, so my friends will be like, ‘ooh, somebody’s fancy, somebody’s special,’ so it takes me a minute to readjust and speak Belgium, not “French French.” I’ve lost my accent a little bit because my hometown has a very specific accent and mine is gone from teaching the proper French pronunciation- the ‘white washed’ French version and when I go home they always give me a hard time about it, like ‘oh you’re preparing to be on tv,’ and it’s funny,” Jones said.

   Due to the number of similarities and differences between them, there’s bound to be competition-like between the soccer teams.

   “It’s hard during the world cup for example, like students often come in ‘are you excited for France madame?’ Like no, I flippin’ hate them. Like this world cup, I hope anybody wins but the French. You know, because we’re the neighboring country, and it’d be like Canada wanting you guys to win. Like no, I do not like them. It’s funny like that,” Jones said.