Photo by Jo Rees.
I’ve had my nickname since I was 6 years old. It’s followed me like an indelible mark across two continents.
When I started studying at the École Internationale Schumann on Rue Vauban in Strasbourg, France, I fit in like a glove. Without really knowing it, I was in the midst of diplomats’ sons and daughters. I liked school. I learned cursive writing, the phonetic alphabet. I had German classes. I learned French in about a month. It was pretty quick. I can remember a time when I was learning the language. With the help of other German speaking kids, learning French was easy. At least that’s the way it seemed.
A year later, my parents switched me wisely into advanced English classes. This was unheard of, but years later I could see the wisdom of this. I learned English pretty much the same way that I learned French, without really noticing.
I knew that by the time that I arrived in Quebec in 1986, I was fluent in German, English and French.
Back in Strasbourg, I had this bunch of friends. We all had nicknames. I was aptly called “Le Range“. My nickname had three of the six letters of my real name. I thought that it was cool and adopted it. Back then, it was pronounced the French way, resembling the pronunciation of orange.
I can definitely remember the kissing game we played at age 8 or 9 with the girls of our class. Camille, Hélène and especially Estelle happily joined in.
In 1986 I arrived in Quebec. My bliss at school wasn’t bliss anymore. The kids in Quebec laughed at me because I had a French accent. On top of that, I was a brownie. I was the only non Caucasian in the school and the middle class neighborhood of Cap-Rouge. Primary school wasn’t a happy time. I did make some great friends, some of them I still have today.
Even Germany was less racist that Quebec. I didn’t feel racism in Heidelberg or Strasbourg. Only Quebec. It’s been a constant companion in my life ever since. My regret and sorrow at being yanked away from my friends two times in a few years was palpable. I’ve never really discussed this with anyone. Deep in my heart, I still feel a bit of resentment at my parents for having done this to me.
It took me about 6 months to lose my French accent. In fifth grade, I had a full Quebecois accent. It always surprises the pure-laine Quebecers when I speak.
Secondary school was better, but not great. I was a bit of an outsider since once again I was the only non-Caucasian in a private Catholic secondary school.
By the time I started college, I was rebelling. I had long hair, a beard and listened to heavy metal. I was still doing well in school, but not as well as my parents expected me to do. In the end, I moved out of my parents house at the age of 18 to go to university in Sherbrooke. My parents supported me for a full semester before I started my paid internships in Computer Science and paid the rest of the way myself.
Through all of this, Range followed me. My nickname has been pronounced the English way ever since I arrived in Quebec. It became my DJ name when I started DJing in 1998. A reason for this was that I was really easy to find with my real name. I like the partial anonymity of using my nickname.