Coronavirus Reflection in a Post-Katrina World

I remember sitting with my lunch group during a free period on a steamy August morning in New Orleans.  My uniform still had creases in it from my mom’s ironing, and my freshly-minted notebooks had that perfect feeling you only get when you start writing on the first page or two.  It was the first week of my sophomore year at Jesuit High School, and I was casually working on math homework and making poker plans for Friday night.  I distinctly remember telling my friends, “this year is going to be the year we make everything happen!”  Two days later, Hurricane Katrina ravaged my city and my life, and my sophomoric dreams of poker nights and homecomings came screeching to a halt.

Fifteen years later,  I never thought I would live another surreal moment like that, one that pulls you in between past and present, before and after, normal and not.  In the midst of the worst pandemic any of us has ever seen, COVID-19 has opened the floodgates of my memories to a water-logged New Orleans in 2005, and it seems eerily similar to today.  

Just over a month ago, I experienced a similar sensation that will remain emblazoned in my brain forever as the moment of pre- and post-disaster only this time, I was a teacher.  That day, I attempted to teach as much as I could on the last day before going into lockdown, and no one truly knew what was going to happen.  One of my students, Peter, joked with me as he left my class and said, “See you in April!” At the time, I couldn’t even imagine being gone from school for more than two weeks, so I laughed and said to stop exaggerating.  I, of course, still haven’t seen Peter in person since that day.

Both these experiences remain haunted in my mind as a turning point.  A moment that everything changed.  Just as I will forever remember August 29, 2005, I am sure I will always remember March 16, 2020, the first day our school went online for what seems like an interminable time.  In both moments, I find it difficult to remember the life before.  When my friends in New Jersey, where I live now, ask me what life was like before Katrina, I honestly don’t know what to tell them.  It’s a blur, a hazy daze of nostalgia and of having too much fun during hurricane parties, ignorant of the destruction that would one day come.  Today, it feels the same.  I try to think back to a pre-coronavirus world, and it seems like a dream.  The handshakes I would give my students as they entered my classroom.  The hugs I would give my friends after I hadn’t seen them in a while.  The trips I would take to see my family back home.  It all sinks in, and I ask myself, how was this only a few months ago that everything was normal?  Will it ever get back to normal?

The truth is, I don’t think we ever will.  We will, however,  hopefully return to a better normal.  New Orleans never magically transformed to its pre-Katrina population, and some neighborhoods never really came back to the way they were.  On the other hand, the city did gain a new sense of solidarity and resilience of which I am so proud.  In the months and even years after Katrina, people looked past superficial derisions and helped each other.  Residents all over town helped gut houses, bring food to those who needed it, and restart our failing education system all in hopes to bring the city back to its former glory.  We relished simple moments like when the Saints returned to the Superdome or when another legendary neighborhood restaurant reopened its shuttered doors.  Hurricane Katrina arguably made the city better, and it’s a source of pride and grit and civic duty that I carry with me fifteen years later.  It made me who I am today.

I, just like everyone, don’t know when this pandemic will end, and I don’t know what life looks like on the other side of the tunnel.  But it’s important to remember that there is another side of the tunnel.  The coronavirus isn’t forever, just like the Katrina aftermath wasn’t forever.  It may be different and changed on the other side, but it’s there, and we’ll get to it.

After Katrina, my sophomore year was robbed from me, but eventually the city came back, and with it the people and the life did as well.  We would see friends we hadn’t seen in months, and with a new appreciation for camaraderie and love for those around us, we would swap stories and reminisce always with the same question.   “Where were you after Katrina?”  I think this will be similar after the pandemic, except this time we’ll say, “What was the quarantine like for you?”


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La Louisiane candidate à l’Organisation Internationale de Francoponie

Même si ça fait un moment que je n’écris pas sur ce blog (je n’habite plus en Louisiane), je suis toujours fier de mon bel état.  Regardez ce bel article sur le fait que la Louisiane demande la candidature d’être observateur à l’OIF.  Vive la Louisiane francophone!

Even if it’s been a while that I haven’t written on this blog (I no longer live in Louisiana), I will always be proud of my beautiful state.  Check out this beautiful article on Louisiana’s submission to be a part of the Francophonie.  Long live French Louisiana!

Lâche pas!

-Remi Pastorek


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Huit nouveaux participants d’Escadrille Louisiane

English text below.

Je suis très heureux d’entendre qu’il y a huit nouveaux participants d’Escadrille Louisiane pour l’année scolaire 2015-2016.  Escadrille est un programme qui permet aux participants d’aller en France pendant une année pour enseigner et étudier à l’université dans le but de devenir professeur de français en Louisiane.

C’était vraiment une année incroyable où j’ai trouvé ma passion et j’ai trouvé de bons amis américains et européens.  Quand j’ai d’abord posé ma candidature au programme TAPIF, je n’avais vraiment aucune envie d’enseigner.  Mais, avec le programme Escadrille, avec le soutien de CODOFIL, mes professeurs en France et à Centenary College, et mes collègues, je me suis rendu compte que l’enseignement du français était ma passion.  Non seulement le français, mais surtout le français en Louisiane.  Et maintenant, il y a presque trois ans, je tiens toujours à cœur le programme Escadrille.

Pour en savoir plus:

Voici un lien du blog de CODOFIL.



I’m so excited to hear that there are eight new participants of Escadrille Louisiana for the 2015-2016 school year!  Escadrille is a program that allows its students the opportunity to go to France for one year in order to teach and study in a French university with the goal of becoming a French teacher in Louisiana.

It was truly an incredible year where I found my passion and found great American and European friends.  When I first applied to the TAPIF program, I had absolutely no desire to teach.  But, with Escadrille and with the support of CODOFIL, my teachers in France and at Centenary College, and my colleagues, I realized that teaching French was my passion.  Not only French, but French in Louisiana.  And now, nearly three years later, I still hold the Escadrille program dear to my heart.

For more information:

Here’s a link from CODOFIL’s blog.

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Allons à l’ALCFES!

English text below.

La fin de semaine dernière, je suis allé à Lafayette avec une douzaine d’élèves de français du lycée où je travaille.  On a participé au congrès de l’ALCFES ou l’Association Louisianaise des Clubs de Français des Ecoles Secondaires.  Il y avait des écoles de tout partout.  Nous avons rencontré des profs et des élèves de Shreveport, Bâton Rouge, Lafayette, La Pointe de l’Eglise, et la Nouvelle-Orléans, etc.

J’avais toujours entendu parler de l’ALCFES, mais je ne savais jamais la grandeur du congrès.  Imaginez-vous un grand rassemblement de jeunes louisianais qui s’intéressent à la camaraderie et à la francophonie.  Comme professeur, j’étais content de voir que nos élèves pouvaient utiliser la langue française en dehors des limites de la classe.  Il fallait rencontrer et parler aux gens en français et non pas anglais.

Quelques membres de Sweet Crude.  Ils sont incroyable!

Quelques membres de Sweet Crude. Ils sont incroyable!

La première soirée, on avait le plaisir d’assister à un concert de Sweet Crude, un jeune groupe de la Nouvelle-Orléans qui jouent de la musique indie en français.  C’était une bonne expérience pour les élèves et bien sûr pour les profs aussi!  Le lendemain, après une belle journée à Vermillionville (où on a dansé à la musique zydeco de Chubby Carrier), tout le congrès s’est réuni pour un banquet.

Musicien de zydeco Chubby Carrier avec son Grammy!

Musicien de zydeco Chubby Carrier avec son Grammy!

Monsieur Stephen Ortego a parlé et a donné des conseils aux jeunes de comment poursuivre le français et de comment utiliser au quotidien.  Il a dit qu’on peut tous trouver nos talents et on peut le faire en français. Cela m’a fait penser de mon blog.  J’écris ce blog parce que j’aime non seulement écrire, mais j’aime aussi promouvoir le français chez moi.  J’étais très heureux que les élèves avaient l’opportunité de l’écouter.  Il leur a montré que c’est tout à fait possible de vivre une vie francophone en Louisiane.  Si vous vous intéressez aussi au français et à la Louisiane, je vous demande de faire la même chose.  On peut tous faire quelque chose en français en Louisiane.  Mais bref, un rassemblement de francophones et de francophiles de tout partout de l’état nous fait toujours du bien, mais asteur il faut juste attendre le prochain congrès en 2015!


Last weekend, I traveled to Lafayette with a dozen French students from the high school where I work.  We participated in ALCFES, or the Louisiana Association of French Clubs of Secondary Schools.  There were schools participating from everywhere.  We met teachers and students from Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Church Point, and New Orleans, etc.

I have always heard of ALCFES, but I never knew how large of a conference it really was.  Imagine a huge gathering of young Louisianans who are interested in making friends and are interested in the French-speaking world.  As a professor, I was ecstatic to see that our students were able to use the French language outside of the confines of a classroom.  The students were asked to meet and talk with people in only French and not English. 

The first night, we had the pleasure of attending a Sweet Crude concert, a young band from New Orleans that plays indie music in French.  It was a great experience for the students and of course for the teachers as well!  The next day, after a beautiful day at Vermillionville, the entire conference gathered for a banquet.  Louisiana State Representative Stephen Ortego spoke and gave advice to young Louisianans on how to pursue French and how to use it on a daily basis.  He talked about how we can find our talents and we can show them off in French.  It made me think of this blog.  I write this blog not only because I love to write, but also because I love to promote the French language in my home state and beyond.  I was very happy that the students had the opportunity to hear him speak.  He showed them that it is very much possible to lead a French life in Louisiana.  If you yourself are also interested in French in Louisiana, then I ask you to do the same.  We can all find something in French in Louisiana.

Louisiana State Representative Stephen Ortego

Louisiana State Representative Stephen Ortego

Basically, a state-wide gathering a French speakers and lovers always does us some good, but now I just have to wait until the next ALCFES conference in 2015!

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Les symboles d’une culture

English text below.

Avez-vous déjà pensé aux symboles d’une culture? Comment est-ce qu’un symbole fait nous penser à une culture ou à une région après seulement quelques instants?

En Louisiane, on a avant tout, le fleur-de-lis. Ce n’est pas sur le drapeau louisianais mais on peut le trouver partout dans l’état. Nos drapeaux de

Le Fleur-de-Lis.

Le Fleur-de-Lis.

villes ou de régions tiennent à coeur leur patrimoine française avec un petit fleur-de-lis, qui vient de l’ancien régime de France. Même nos équipes de sports, les Saints par example, utilisent le fleur-de-lis comme un symbole, une façon de montrer aux Etats-Unis que nous avons toujours une culture qui n’est pas comme les autres dans ce pays de mélange.

On peut aussi dire que le fleur-de-lis est une symbole de vie, un petit morceau qu’on tient proche à nos coeurs chaque jour. C’est notre joie de vivre. En ville, à la Nouvelle-Orléans, presque tous ses citoyens le porte d’une façon ou d’une autre. Un collier avec un fleur-de-lis, un t-shirt, un bracelet, des tatouages, etc. Le fleur-de-lis, c’est notre vie, notre héritage, et notre culture.

Après que j’ai passé un an en Bretagne, je me suis rendu compte qu’on n’est pas la seule région qui se maintient une culture assez différente.

Le Triskèle, un symbole de la Bretagne. / The Triskell, a symbol of Brittany.

Le Triskèle, un symbole de la Bretagne. / The Triskell, a symbol of Brittany.

Pour eux, c’est le triskèle. Là-bas, c’est affiché sur les murs, les bières, et ils portent des colliers, etc. Un souvenir de leur patrimoine bretonne.

C’est toujours intéressant de constater la puissance d’un symbole, celle qui peut cultiver et nourrir une culture.


Have you ever thought about the symbols that make up a culture? How does a symbol make us think of a culture or a region in only a matter of seconds?

In Louisiana, we have above all else, the fleur-de-lis. It’s not shown on the flag of Louisiana, but you can find it almost anywhere in the state. Our city and regional flags hold their french heritage close to their hearts with a little fleur-de-lis tacked on it, which comes from the previous Kingdom of France. Even our sports teams, the Saints for example, use the fleur-de-lis, as their symbol, a way to show the United States that we are still just a little different from the rest of the states in this melting pot of a country.

You could also say that the fleur-de-lis is a symbol of life. A little piece that we hold close to our hearts every day. It’s our joie de vivre. In New Orleans, almost all of her citizens wear a fleur-de-lis in some way or another. A necklace with a shining fleur-de-lis, a t-shirt, a bracelet, tattoos, etc. The fleur-de-lis is our life, our heritage, and our culture.

After spending a year in Brittany, I noticed we aren’t the only ones who hold on to a different culture.

For the, it’s all about the triskell. Across the pond, it’s posted on walls, on beers, and they wear necklaces, etc. A constant reminder of their breton and celtic heritage.

I’ve always found it interesting to notice the power of a symbol, one that can cultivate and nourish an entire culture.

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