Exactly one year ago today, I landed in New York on a direct flight from Taipei. My goal was to convince the Search Committee and the community of The École as a whole that I was just the candidate that they needed. For that first night, Philippe and Laurence had chosen an excellent restaurant. (You know them; that won’t surprise you!) There, for the first time, I met our teachers, Benoit and Samantha, Elizabeth, the Head of the Search Committee, and Yves Rivaud, my predecessor. People often say that first impressions are the strongest and that they don’t fade. For me, at any rate, that was the night—exactly a year ago—that you won me over. You won me over with your seriousness, your enthusiasm, your vision and your warmth.
It would be an understatement to say that quite a few things have happened between February 11th, 2020 and today. Sadly, like so many others, the restaurant where we ate didn’t survive the Covid-19 crisis. These days I walk by it often; its windows remain dark and empty. Each time, I try to remember the din of the crowded restaurant, the music, the excitement of that night. A table of eight people without masks! It’s almost like it was a movie set created especially for that moment and then deserted.
An Eventful Year of the Rat
Since that February 11th, which seems so long ago—a time that belongs to the past—I had to say goodbye to many friends in Taiwan. I had to convince a rather tricky American administration into giving me a visa as well as check with the embassies to make sure that we could travel. I had to find an apartment, get ready for the rentrée, explain how we were going to welcome students and faculty on campus, convince everyone of that plan and also support those who made the choice to stay online. Not to mention the scary times I had to navigate which arose due to the election, when all of the stores around us started boarding up their windows. I had to reach out and reassure our families when France became the target of terrorist threats. And we had to deal with our first Covid-19 case and then others. There were snowstorms—so much snow!—as well as the invasion of the capitol.
Despite all of that, dare I even say it, this year of the rat, which was so complicated and so devastated by the pandemic, has brought me so much. A new job, a new country, a new continent, a new life. I take such pleasure from coming to work in the morning, greeting you all, greeting the students. I love seeing how, together, we have set aside this ill fate to try live as normal a life as possible, how we have all decided collectively to keep going for the good of the children. And I take joy in meeting so many new, enthusiastic families who have already decided to join us next September.
A Hopeful New Year
I don’t know what this year of the ox has in store for us; I don’t know what the world will be like at the end of this lunar new year that starts tomorrow. I hope that it won’t be ruined by the Covid-19 variants. And I hope that we will hear the laughter of children in schools around the world, not only at The École, where, as I write this, students are gleefully rushing through the hallways, happy to be here with their friends, as they graciously bring me chocolate-covered strawberries, cards and gifts for Valentine’s Day.
Enjoy the break (those of you who are able to take one), and of course, 新年快樂!