This has been a week of “figuring things out” and settling into life here. I am very glad that the weekend has arrived, although it has come simultaneously too quickly and too slowly. The time here flies, especially since the majority of one’s time seems to be spent eating: wake up around 7 or 8am, eat breakfast about 9am, start lunch around noon or 1, continue enjoying one’s meal until 3 or 4pm and, of course, have an espresso. Drinks start flowing by 11am, at the latest, and continue through dinner, which begins around 8pm. The question of why the French are not overweight is truly a valid one. It seems like there is always time to simply sit, eat/drink, and watch people. However, it does seem as though about 80% of them still do smoke so perhaps that as something to do with…
This has also been a week of my discovering that I have more than enough French to get me into plenty of trouble but not always enough to get me out of it. Sometimes, I have a “joli accent” and other times, I have almost no accent. In either case, I typically end up receiving far more information in a short period of time that I can fully process!
Thanks to all of your positive thoughts and encouragement, I am about 99% sure that I have a bank account! I have signed a contract and am awaiting my account information and debit card, which will both come in the mail. Until then, it is just as though I do not have a bank account. French literature courses certainly didn’t prepare me for the speed at which the bank employee would tell me my account information, especially since this monologue was complete with a strong Toulousain accent. Asking for everything to be repeated simply tries the patience of somebody who is kind enough to help this poor international establish herself in a new country!
Funnily enough, my supposed bank account is with La Poste. This is just as it sound: La Poste is, in fact, the national post office. One of the stranger French cultural experiences I have had is entering that large, almost gymnasium-like room full of people trying to mail large packages, order cell phones, deposit and withdraw money, and open bank accounts. Who knew the French liked to multitask so much?
I have rented a charming vélo de ville, a bike on which I can easily cut down the 25-minute walk to the conservatory to under 10 minutes. However, riding a bike in Toulouse, especially downtown during the afternoon, is borderline suicidal. Not only do cars seem to go out of their way to try to push you off of the road, pedestrians have no problem at all walking out right in front of you. Now that I have had two days of riding back and forth across the city, I am feeling much more comfortable but I probably gave a few pedestrians and drivers miniature heart attacks during my first ride from the Maison de vélo!
I deliberately waited to get a haircut until after my arrival in France, forcing myself
to learn the necessary vocabulary and get over my natural fear of not being able to explain what I want to such a specific extent in a foreign language! I am so glad I did. For just 30€, I got 15 minutes in a massage chair with a head massage, an espresso and all sorts of chocolates (none of which I ate, unfortunately because it was 9:30 in the morning!), a consult on how my hair should look and how I should style it (apparently my face is square and my previous cut had been too square, leading to far too many squares…etc), a cut, a brushing (blow-dry), and tons of advice on where to visit in southern France during my time here. The two hairdressers in the shop, each of whom had their own charming yet difficult-to-understand Toulousain accents, absolutely loved comparing French and American ways of life and describing their favorite places to travel in both countries. I ended up giving advice of where to have brunch on Sundays in New York City! The name of the salon, Pourquoi ailleurs, is absolutely perfect, as it means “why anywhere else?” Indeed: pourquoi ailleurs!
Finally, I passed the harpsichord audition the Conservatoire yesterday and have been accepted into the deuxième cycle, troisième année, which seems to be about the equivalent of the final year of a Master’s degree…in harpsichord. After only one semester of private study five years ago and after learning two pieces in a week for the audition that I didn’t know about until I arrived in France, that doesn’t feel too shabby! I do look forward to trying to live up to the level and have already ordered a whole stack of repertoire I can’t wait to learn. Even better, there seems to be no lack of harpsichords on which to practice at the conservatory, I will be able to continue fortepiano studies with the same professor through that audition, and I have been exempted from solfège classes. The audition for the organ class en perfectionnement take place next Thursday on the stunning organ of St-Sernin so wish me luck– I can’t wait to dive right into lessons in the coming weeks!