What a Weekend!
This is going to be an incredibly long post, I think. I thought about dividing it up but I’m not sure how. I think I’ll just write it stream of consciousness style and then possibly revise it (or not).
Where to start? Well, if you’ve read my “On Culture Shock” note, you know that the past few weeks have been somewhat rough. However, that seems to have changed this weekend, and I think it’s largely due to music.
Before this weekend occurred, I thought it would be relatively quiet and that I would spend a lot of time working on my French homework and getting ahead on my papers and presentations (if I don’t do it now, I will be VERY busy in December!). This seemed like a good plan, since I was planning to travel to Austria Thanksgiving weekend (alas, no more, it’s too expensive…sadness and unhappy times) and we have several BG excursions other weekends. I knew that I had a concert Sunday night, but what’s a few hours Sunday evening in the grand scheme of things? (Okay, it’s true, for those of us who procrastinate, scheduling something on a Sunday night is NEVER smart, but this time it wasn’t really a question of procrastinating, it was more a question of just being unexpectedly busy, as you will see if this post maintains your interest enough to keep reading. However, I highly doubt it will with all these digressions!!) Anyway, I was wrong, needless to say.
Since this weekend wasn’t supposed to be busy, I decided we should do the photo scavenger hunt. (Another “petite parenthesis” to explain that: a photo scavenger hunt is this wonderful game that is similar to a scavenger hunt except you take photos of objects/buildings/people rather than finding “treasures.” I did one this summer in Ann Arbor (thanks for the inspiring idea, Alison!), and it was a grand success, so I thought it would be a fun bonding experience for our group in Tours. Plus, it gave us an excuse to take “silly” photos of places in Tours that we wouldn’t necessarily take pictures of otherwise, yet would be nice to have when we go home. End of parenthesis.) So Saturday we devoted the afternoon to this fun project (which went well overall except for a few little things (such an awful word!) that I won’t enumerate here because they are relatively unimportant).
However, I spent that entire morning prior to the scavenger hunt searching Tours for a lyre and a pair of black shoes. Why? Because (as I found out Friday night!), not only did we have a concert Sunday evening (as I had known for some time, though I didn’t know what the concert dress was), but we were also going to march in a ceremony on Sunday morning at 9:00AM! Anyway, it wasn’t until Friday night that I was given my uniform and told to wear black shoes and socks, which I didn’t have at the time. Furthermore, I deduced myself that we would be marching. So I figured that the lyre was more important than the shoes and visited a nearby music store to ask for one. The gentleman who worked there was very polite and told me where to find a lyre, as he didn’t carry one. I understood his directions essentially, but I have a horrible memory and, though I knew the general area to go to, I ended up turning every direction but the right one. In the hope of eventually finding the music store, I walked virtually all over Tours, and spent almost no time looking for my shoes! Good grief.
Next was lunch with the family, and then the scavenger hunt, which means I had to put off looking for the shoes. When I finally got back to it, I again decided to look for the lyre first. Luckily we had stopped in a music store during the scavenger hunt and they had given me the name of the rue for the music store with trombone lyres. So I headed over there as soon as the scavenger hunt was finished. Unfortunately, the lyre cost me 29 euros (incredibly expensive!) and they didn’t sell me a folder with it (I forgot to ask). I was feeling upset at this point for several reasons:
1.I still didn’t have shoes and had very little time to find them before mass.
2.My lyre was expensive and goodness did I really even want to put this thing on my new trombone, especially considering how much I HATE marching?
3. I really needed to pee. Not fun when you don’t have time.
Anyway, I ended up checking out a few shoe stores (all without my size!) that my host mom had recommended, and then ran home to pee. I immediately ran out again and visited the used clothing store that was about to close. I found two pairs of black heels that were size 41 (I don’t actually know my size here, but I think it’s AT LEAST a 42, and even that is hard to find), and ended up purchasing the ones with the thicker, shorter heels because I thought they would be less painful to march in. Then I called Taisia (a girl in our group who wears the same size shoes as me) to see if I could possibly borrow black shoes from her, and she agreed. Unfortunately, we don’t live near each other and we both had plans for the night, so there was no good way to get the shoes to me. I asked her to give the shoes to Liz, who was going to be at the party that night, so I thought that would work out. Plus I had the shoes from the used clothing store if worse came to worse.
So I continued searching, but with little luck as I only had a few minutes before mass, which I virtually ran to in order to arrive on time! After mass was dinner with my family, which took longer than expected, putting me way behind for my party. (I had been invited to a party at 7, but I told the host that I would be somewhat late.) I called Nialls to see if I should still come and he said why not, though everyone was slightly tipsy. At this point I was thinking, “Wonderful, it’s just going to be another college party that will leave my frustrated and bored.” But I really needed to get out, so I decided to go. My host father tried to search the bus information for me, which turned out be complicated (and stopped early in the evening), so I called Nialls again to see if someone could give me a lift home. He said no problem (Julian was sober), as long as I could get there. I didn’t think this would be a problem, as it was still relatively early. Unfortunately, when I got to the bus station, the buses were done for the night, so I called Nialls again (hoping he’d say someone could come pick me up) and asked how long it would take to walk to his place. He said about thirty minutes but also predicted that everyone would be gone within an hour. Ugh. I decided to go anyway, thinking if nothing else the walk would do me good. But I was nervous because I’m horrible with directions. I definitely called Nialls several times on the way there to make sure I was going the right direction! Fortunately it was relatively simple and I had already been to his apartment once in a car with Julian, so I kind of recognized the area. And, even though it was night, I didn’t have any problems. A few guys whistled at me, and one guy (in a group) said “bon soir,” and when I ignored him he said “Si vous aviez une de politesse, vous repondriez bon soir!” (Or something along those lines.)
When I got to the church near Nialls' apartment I called him and he came out with one of the guys that I recognized from orchestra. As Nialls had forewarned me, both of them were sloshed, so we joked the whole way into his apartment, which turned out to be pretty nice and had a piano!! (I’m quite jealous.) I expected it to be relatively full, but not that many people had come and most were on the balcony smoking (malheureusement). So Nialls offered me a drink (water, of course), and we all stood around chatting for a while. And even though most people were slightly tipsy, it was not at all the loud, raucous, annoying party I had been worried about. Some highlights of the night included listening to one guy explain a variety of his philosophies to me in (broken and slightly tipsy, but fairly good) English and playing soccer on Nialls’ playstation. It was actually really fun, and sweet to hang out with French people! During the course of the evening, I also explained my shoe woes and found out that we would be marching.
After Julian dropped me off at my corner at the end of the night, I called Liz and left a frantic message. Unfortunately, Liz doesn’t know how to check her messages, so this was no good. I ended up calling her the next morning several times (about the shoes), but she wasn’t awake. So I spent much of the night freaking out about my shoes.
I ended up wearing the small heels, and felt incredibly silly. Of course, our uniforms were somewhat silly anyway, with a red coat, tapered black pants, and a chemise and vest. A lot like US marching band uniforms, haha. The shoes were also incredibly uncomfortable, but since I didn’t really have a choice…
Luckily Julian had agreed to meet me and walk with me since I didn’t really know where I was going. Julian, however, is always early/ontime, unlike me! So we walked to the Place de la Resistance together. Of course, we were among the very first to arrive! Luckily they had music for me, though no flip folder. I was panicking slightly since I hadn’t marched in a while and I was wearing heels and I had never seen the music in my life, etcetera, plus everyone kept giving me bisoux and I was really hoping that my breath wasn’t bad, haha. I dumped all the hard parts on Pierre-Yves and Nialls, though, and Nialls gave me a little cardboard square to help hold up my music, so that was good.
During rehearsal, one of our band members informed me that I had left the etiquette on my shoes! Of course I felt incredibly foolish, and immediately removed it. Later that day, I found another one. How can one pair of shoes have 4 price tags??? (I had already taken two off that morning.)
So the marching began, though luckily we didn’t play right away. In fact, we hardly played at all during the ceremony, since the trumpets played alone for lots of it, plus there were speeches, etcetera. It was actually really interesting because it was a memorial ceremony for soldiers who died in the First World War. I felt like I was part of something important.
At the end of the ceremony, we marched down the main street. This time, though, we also played. It was okay, though not great, and our director wasn’t super happy. People kept messing up, truthfully. But it’s not like they rehearsed this, and in general it seemed like the marching was more relaxed. There was no proper form for the foot or stress on covering down, and people fidgeted a lot. Plus, lots of the girls were wearing ballet slippers or even heels like me! So it was not what I was used to.
When done parading we got on the bus, which I thought was strange because it was less than a five minute walk. I quickly realized we weren’t done, though, but rather were going to another town to play in another ceremony!! Luckily they gave us croissants as I hadn’t eaten breakfast! And the next ceremony was shorter because the town was smaller. The trombones played a feature, which the director said went well, and everyone was joking that it was because now they had a girl in the section. YAY!
And then we went to another town!! By now I was wondering what I had gotten myself into, especially when it started to rain (lightly) on my new trombone!! Oh no! But the director informed me that this would be our last concert. And actually, our reception was possibly the best at this one. They even asked us to play an encore after we marched through town (which had curvy roads, ugh!). Then we got a little thank you “pot.” Definitely some of the best wine I’ve tried here, almost like champagne! People kept telling me to chug it because I always take a while to drink wine, but I couldn’t.
So we arrived back in time for a late lunch at my host family’s house, when I finally got to take off my shoes (thank God!). And then had just a few hours before our concert. I spent the time playing games with my host sister and reading my email, where I discovered one from one of the women in the band telling us that women were supposed to wear skirts. What skirts?? But it was too late to panic, so I exchanged my band pants for my own black pants (which I much prefer) and left my red jacket at home. (It was very confusing to figure this out because in French the jacket is called a “veste” and the sleeveless button-down job that we wore over our white button-down shirts and which would usually be called a “vest” in English is called a “gilet” in French. My host father helped me decipher this so I knew what to wear, fortunately!)
My host sister came with me early to concert, but I’m afraid she was terribly bored as it was all just setting up and informal warming up on our own. Then concert time! My host father took a few pictures of me between songs, haha, because he and my host sister sat up front. The concert was okay, though not great. But it was fun, and parts were better than I expected. My host father and sister asked if I wanted to leave at intermission, but I really wanted to hear the other band, so they decided to stay, too. The other band turned out to be fairly decent (better than us? I’m not sure…), though also not exceptional, and they played a LONG time. Plus French people seem to appreciate music, so they insisted on encores from both bands. (To get an encore in France, everyone claps madly and gradually starts clapping all together in rhythm! It’s kind of cool.) So all in all the concert was at least two hours, plus we stuck around for wine at the end, of course.
And that was essentially my weekend. Much busier than I expected, somewhat stressful, and VERY interesting. In a few weeks, we have more concerts, but I don’t think we will be marching again anytime soon (at least I HOPE not).