The immigrant and integration conversation is all the rage in Europe. Ragin enough that there's some loon sniping off Muslims in Sweden. He's at 16 thus far. Ragin enough that somehow Sarkozy's getting away with offering Roma families about 300 euros and a plane ticket to go back to "their country". Ragin enough that Germany's offering integration classes, and a man called Seehofer screaming about the failure of multiculturalism on every TV station, Bill O'Reilly style. Ragin' enough that I talk about it in almost every single class these days. It doesn't always go so well.
Me: Where are you from in France? Are you Parisian?
CuteBlondeFrenchStudent: No, I'm from Marseille.
Me: No way! I've never been and anything I know about Marseille I learned from French rap songs.
BlondeCatalanGuyStudent: There are a lot of immigrants there?
CuteBlondeFrenchStudent: Marseille is the port, the first stop in France from Africa, so there are a lot of people from Maghreb--Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco--in Paris there are more people from Africa Africa...
Me: Right, you mean from sub-Saharan Africa.
CuteBlondeFrenchStudent: Yes. Perhaps there are more people from Algeria than the rest of Maghreb in Marseille. Not like in Spain where most immigrants from just Morocco.
BlondeCatalanGuyStudent: (Laughs) What's the difference?
CuteBlondeFrenchStudent: No... Among the people from Maghreb there is a lot of difference and they don't really like eacho--
BlondeCatalanGuyStudent: Maybe but they are all the same.
[He cannot tell that both she and I are losing patience. He presses on.]
BlondeCatalanGuyStudent: You can tell the difference between them?
BlondeCatalanGuyStudent: How?? Maybe they can tell the difference between each other. Like, an Algerian knows another Algerian and can distinguish from a Moroccan. But for us? They are all the same. How can you tell the difference?
CuteBlondeFrenchStudent: My father is from Morocco.