French exchange student returns to Paradis family 20 years later

When French exchange student Andre’ Pavone returned to visit his “American family” in Paradis it was about 20 years since his first visit.

This time, he came back with his three sons Matteo, 17, Luigi, 11, and Antoine, 8.

The trip is a 40th birthday gift from his family so Pavone can visit his American family. – the Romes in Paradis.

They participated in the foreign exchange student program at Destrehan High School that initially brought Pavone to Paradis. The program was hosted by Josephina Campbell at the time.

Ronald and Gale Rome’s daughter, Jaimie Dempster, was 16 at the time and recalled the experience.

Dempster remembered Pavone as not speaking English well, but as a very outgoing fellow who found a way to communicate. “I remember him being really outgoing and fun,” she said.

“He’s the same as he was when I remembered him.”

It’s been a cultural education for both families.“My kids are kind of in shock,” she said of her children observing how they greet people by kissing them on both cheeks. “They don’t know how to take that.”

They had a recent discussion comparing France to the area and there have been lessons on how the French eat differently.

Gale Rome, who went grocery shopping based on her Google searches about French eating, found out the French in the city of Talouse don’t eat ham or boiled eggs for breakfast. They didn’t eat the Brioche cheese either, although Gale quipped, “That’s some good expensive cheese.”

Dempster added, “She was shooting to feed all of France instead of where he was from.”

What the Paradis family has learned is they drink wine with most of their meals and they drink young, prefer three meals a day, don’t snack in between meals and don’t eat two breads together such as pasta or bread, she said. They also don’t eat much fast food, but they like big meals.

They’ve also had the “coonass” discussion and their response was interesting.

In Louisiana, coonass obviously refers to a Cajun. In France, the word refers more to a woman and it’s not a derogatory word even if the explanation sounds like it, Dempster said.


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