Paradise . . . Kind of
The Total corporation—jewel in the crown of the French economy—maintains a presence in many countries across the globe, wherever there are fossil fuels to exploit. To do so, it hires locals, but also French employees with expatriate contracts lasting an average of two years. Two years in westernized surroundings, with housing, a company car, and schooling for their children in comfortable conditions and their own language.
That’s how there came to be a small Gallic village perched on three verdant hills in the town of Balikpapan, Borneo. It was the Total compound, a group of houses and buildings with a school for expat children in the middle. For three weeks, my job was to teach them the basics of drawing and the wondrous alchemy involved in making a comic.
My days were mostly spent in schools. I’d visit classes and give my spiel to kids who were usually thrilled to see me, and who still thought, luckily enough, that drawing was fun.