Interview with Gaëlle Le Breton, Director of the Alliance Francaise de Suva and General Delegate for the French Alliance Foundation.
From Paris to Brussels then to Fiji : Read on for her story...
Q: Hello, thank you for accepting to answer our questions. To begin, could you please tell us briefly about your background?
A: I studied history before getting my teaching certification but, in fact, I have done very little teaching. Whilst I was with the Ministry of Education I heard about the French Alliance (Alliance Française) and its network across more than 130 countries. I was stationed in Brussels, Belgium where I was in charge of European cultural projects and communication before coming to Fiji.
Q: Where were you born? Tell us a bit about where you’re from; it’s cultural, social and geographic characteristics?
A: I was born and grew up near Le Harve in Normandy but as my name suggests I am originally from Brittany. I have always lived near the sea in areas where it rains almost as much as Suva. As everywhere in France these regions are known for their gastronomy - crêpes, far Breton (a king of flan) and kouign-amann (a sweet pastry) for Brittany and Normandy cheese (Camembert, Livarot, Pont-l’Évêque or Neuchâtel) and cider, the local drink.
Culturally, my birth city Le Havre rebuilt by Auguste Perret was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO like the Mont Saint Michel and this will also be so for the Carnac Stones in Brittany, I hope.
Q: Please tell us about the company you work for?
A: The French Alliance is a local association, whose main objective is to promote the French language, culture, Francophony and cultural diversity.
In Suva, the French Alliance offers courses in French, Fijian and Hindi courses on demand. It organises a free movie night twice a month and other cultural events.
The most symbolic is the Fiji Music Day (Fête de la Musique) which is taking place this month, on Friday 21st June at the Fiji Museum from 3.30pm – 10.30pm.
Launched in France in 1982 by the Ministry of Culture, the Music Festival has become an international festival that is celebrated in over 100 countries on five continents each June 21st.
This huge event is very popular, free to the public and open to both amateur and professional entertainers. The Festival symbolises the objectives of the French Alliance as it promotes French language, culture, as well as local diversity in entertainment.
This year we have an exciting line-up. On the French side, we have invited a New Caledonian group, Brian, and the USP Vanuatu Student Association; as well as an awesome mix of professional and amateur local performers - Laisa Vulakoro, Déjà Vu, VOU Dance Group, Suva Grammar School Band, Rako Pasefika, Soundwave of the Pacific and many more.
Q: What is your role in the company?
A: I am the Director of the Alliance Française de Suva and the General Delegate for the French Alliance Foundation. I am based in Suva and under this second title I am also responsible for providing support for my colleague at the Alliance Française de Tonga - a very new French Alliance that opened its doors to the public in February this year.
Q: When did you arrive in Fiji and how long will you stay?
A: I arrived in September 2010 and I leave at the end of August 2013.
- A Fijian Sunday experience with the AFS Fijian Language Instructor, Savaira Tuberi and Antoine Esteban, former Regional Attaché for French Language and Culture at the French Embassy in Suva.
Q: What motivated you to come to Fiji?
A: I wanted to explore this region of the world that I had never visited, even as a tourist. Fiji was my first choice.
Q: Do you like living in Fiji?
A: Yes, I love how welcoming the Fijians are, it makes it easy to adapt to life here. I have also enjoyed discovering the Fijian language and culture, as a student in Savaira Tuberi’s Fijian class at the Alliance Française.
Q: What do you hope to achieve by the end of your stay here in Fiji?
A: I am now at the end of my contract and I hope that I’ve left people with a better knowledge of the French language and culture, and I hope that the Alliance will continue to grow as it continues to welcome more and more people.
Q: What shocked you the most, culturally, when you first arrived in Fiji?
A: It would probably be with relation to “time”. I had worked for 10 years in Paris and 3 years in Brussels – two European capital cities where people rush everywhere, so it was a bit of a struggle to adapt to “Fiji Time”. Once one has adapted we see things differently and everything works out fine but the process demands a lot of patience.
Q: Would you come back to Fiji?
A: Yes for the holidays.
- With the Alliance Française de Suva Committee members and Isabelle Morieux (third from left) and Jean Claude Jacq (fourth from right) of the Foundation Alliance Française de Paris.
Short Answer Questions
Q: Your favourite place in Fiji?
A: The island of Taveuni.
Q: Favourite restaurant?
A: Mango Café and Daikoku
Q: Favourite bar?
A: The bar at the Pearl with its view of Beqa Island.
Q: Favourite beach?
Q: Worst memory?
A: I don’t really have any bad memories.
Q: Best memory?
A: Swimming with Manta Rays.
Q: One word to describe the Fijians?
A: Friendly, smiling and warm
Q: A last word in Fijian?
A: Ni sa moce, sota tale.