Exchange student likes Alabama culture

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

Features Editor

Jon Temmam’s first impression of the United States was Alabama, and the young Frenchman liked what he saw.

Temmam came to Troy two weeks ago as the guest of Melinda Liles and her family. He came to bone up on his English skills and to get a "taste" of what America is like.

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"I much prefer French cuisine," Temmam said with a smile.

Even though Temmam didn’t asked for seconds on turnip greens, black eyed

peas and corn bread, he did find Burger King and Taco Bell to his liking.

But, it was not the food that Temmam came to sample. He was here to learn to better speak and understand English and to soak up some American culture.

Temmam’s hometown, Vence, is a small community, and he attends boarding school in nearby Nice in order to get advanced courses in biology, English and computer science.

His mother is the minister of culture in Vence, which is also the home of Troy native and internationally known artist Nall Hollis.

Eva Green, who is the curator of Nall’s Alabama Art exhibit, was in Vence in July visiting the artist and his wife, Tuscia. Temmam took advantage of the opportunity to fly back to Troy with her.

"I have studied English for four years and coming to the United States was an opportunity for me to improve my language skills," Temmam said. "I got to attend school with Pete (Liles) and school here is very different from my school. It is much larger and it is a boarding school. That is a big difference."

Temmam also spent a day at

Troy State University with Eva Green, secretary at the art department. He said he was impressed with the university, especially the beauty of the campus.

Going to church with Green at Missionary Baptist Church was a memorable experience for Temmam.

"In Vence, the young people are not active in church," he said. "The older people go to church, but not us. Here, there are many young people in church. That was different for me to see."

Melinda Liles said she wanted Temmam to have an opportunity to learn about Alabama’s history and the best place to do so was in the state capital.

"We visited a lot of places in Montgomery, including the capitol, the Civil Rights Memorial and Dexter Avenue-King Baptist Church," she said. "Jon learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement and he was very interested in that."

Temmam said, in France, there are many nationalities and there is a continuing undercurrent of racial unrest.

"I bought a book about the Civil Rights Movement," he said. "I want to know more. And, we visited a computer store. Computer supplies are much more economical here than in France."

Temmam also visited St. George Island and got to enjoy the sun, fun and beauty of the Gulf Coast.

But, he could not believe how hot Alabama is.

"And, how cold," he said, laughing. "In France we do not have air conditioners. Here I was so hot and then I was so cold."

Temmam’s visit to Alabama was a positive experience. He learned a lot about Alabama and learned to speak English – with a slight Southern accent.

On Saturday, he will leave for Vence and, although he is leaving new friends behind, he said he will take fond memories home with him and he would like to come back again on day soon.