Back to School!

So much has already happened in such little time!  I feel as though I’ve been in Paris for a year already.  Programs like this really mess with your concept of time and life in general… real world day-to-day life is not like this! (or could it be??)  In any case, I’ll do my best to recount a few of the wonderful things that have happened in the last few days:

On Friday, I was set to have a day of exploring on my own.  I started the day off with a visit to the boulangerie to buy a baguette – I could pass for French already!  Then I had some serious plans to head to Montmartre to see the beautiful Sacre Coeur.  I’m not sure why this was so high on my list.  I have a faint memory of seeing it when I was in Paris at the age of 12, and for some reason, I remember it being breathtaking.  Plus I love the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (otherwise known as Amelie in the States), so a chance to see where part of it was filmed is a bit of a fanatic thrill!  So I headed off, excited for some alone time, with camera and three lenses in hand and no map.  I mean…I sort of new the approximate direction I was supposed to head.  And Sacre Coeur is on top of a hill, so I’ll see it, right?  Well, I couldn’t see it.  Anywhere.  But right as I was about to give up and head home, I had one of those eureka moments that I had so often with my sister on our roadtrip in August.  I glanced down an alley to my right, and there it was!!!  My first glimpse (in 11 years, at least) of the gigantic white beauty.  My heartbeat and footsteps increased in pace as I made my way to the foot of the hill.  I’m not sure I’ve felt so happy in quite awhile.  I climbed the stairs, stopped partway up to put my feet in the fountain, walked around the church, then went back to rest at the fountain while listening to Debussy’s La Mer on my iPod.  Then, I ate lunch at a café right at the foot of the climb.  I’m sure it was not the cheapest place for me to get food, but let’s be serious here… where else can you enjoy quiche and salad with a view like that?!  I will embarrassingly admit that I took two packets of Heinz Ketchup with me… just in case.

I came back in time to meet up with some friends to watch some World Cup action before our first big program meeting.  I’ve been told every World Cup game is shown on a big screen by the Eiffel Tower (how about that, Kip?!)…but unfortunately, we didn’t make it that far this time around.  The metro broke down a few stops away, so we hit up a bar instead.  No big deal… every place with a TV is showing the World Cup around here.  The French may be out of the tournament, but they are not done watching!

Our group meeting that evening was both exciting and a bit intimidating!  This is quite a diverse group of young people led by some highly credentialed older-folk (…white men).  I have met everyone from people entering their freshman year of college in the fall to people older than 30 and getting their doctorates.  But I quickly learned not to dismiss the recent high school grads… one of them just studied private composition for a few months in England before heading to school in the fall at Juillard!  (I’m trying not to be intimidated by all the big name schools, but when you went to Luther and are constantly trying to reassure people that there’s more than just corn in Iowa…it’s hard to feel accomplished in your degree.)  In any case, the program sounds both rigorous and fun.  I really do get excited about taking music classes, and some strange part of me secretly loves the weirdo-music-nerd-types.

Later that evening, there was a knock on our dorm room door.  A few french guys wanted to see our room because they used to live here.  They invited us to hang out in the common room on our floor, so I went!  It was so much fun!!  Everyone was french, so I got to practice the language in a safe and friendly environment, and they had a lot of questions for me about the US.  It’s funny what things from American culture are popular here.  I heard everything from jokes about Will Smith to “that’s what she said” jokes, to references to the show How I Met Your Mother.  Strange.

Yesterday (Saturday), we had our placement exams.  They consisted of an hour-long counterpoint exam and a 10-minute keyboard harmony/musicianship/score-reading placement test.  I was (sort of) thrilled to put my minimal counterpoint knowledge to use after an almost 4-year hiatus!  I think my 10 minutes of studying this morning was a really good idea.  Out of 10 counterpoint levels, I made it into the second highest one!  The rest of it I did okay on… I always get nervous in those one-on-one settings.  And I never feel like 10 minutes is enough for someone to understand what I know and how I learn best.  Oh well.  I’m assuming these highly-credentialed teachers know what they’re doing!

After an unnecessarily exhausting morning (the stress of test-taking somehow takes a lot out of me!), my roommate Martha and I decided to head towards the Eiffel Tower for a lovely dinner.  Martha is 27 and is currently a professional violinist teaching private lessons in Bethesda.  Small world, isn’t it?  We had the most fantastic, relatively-affordable meal just across La Seine.  In addition to wine, sausage and potatoes, we enjoyed an excellent Crème Brulee!  I love that stuff.  For the rest of the evening, we’ve stayed up late drinking wine and talking about synesthesia and color music.  I guess we’re nerds, but it really has been the definition of a perfect evening to me!

And believe it or not, I really am looking forward to school starting.  It was exciting to see our school – La Schola Cantorum – today.  Speaking of synesthesia, Messiaen was one of the teachers at that school.  (…wondering if this can get much better…)  I have missed school for the past two years, and I hope this month can really improve my skills and get me excited about a thing or two (other than food and wine)!  Ok, well, this post is entirely too long!  Thanks for making it this far!  Check out some photos on Flickr, and I’ll write again soon!


2 thoughts on “Back to School!

  1. Thanks for the update, Amanda! I hope you really are having as much fun as it sounds like you are. Enjoy yourself. It will go by so fast…


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