Thursday, September 14, 2006

Learning to walk like a New Yorker.

I realized today that catching up with my travel notes is an impossible aspiration. So I'm simply going to write up notes as things happen, and perhaps I'll refer to the events of the past two weeks if they come up.

Today was a really beautiful day. It started out with my fellow ethnomusicology first year and I (there are only two of us) meeting up to complete some mundane, but very necessary errands, before going for brunch together in a little cafe on 6th avenue. There was a light rain falling, the cafe was cozy , and the atmosphere was perfect for getting to know a new colleague. It turned into a really lovely morning.
From brunch I went to the library, and got a bit of work done, in particular, putting my class readings into Refworks, my latest online obsession (I love it when technology makes life easier). And thereafter I went to my first French lesson. That proved to be such fun! I don't know how much I will remember for the next class, but I learned to greet the class and introduce myself and my research, and to count from 1 to 30. I have ten weeks of these classes ahead, but as they are really informal, and require no prep, I am looking forward to the break from regular work they will provide. At the French class I met a lovely fellow student who made me feel really great about myself by complimenting my smile, and so it was with that in mind, I went to the first music department colloquium.

If my roommate hadn't mentioned that she often feels the same way, I would have thought that I am the only person who can't concentrate well enough on a blandly read paper to engage sensibly afterwards, but it sounds like it is a common enough issue. Perhaps with practice, it will get easier, but for now I have to wait until the discussion is well underway before I feel confident enough in my understanding to be able to contribute. I did make a sensible contribution tonight, though how sensible some of the department consider a comparison to cartoon morality is beyond my immediate powers to judge. But the real pleasure for me happened after the main colloquium. The practice of providing drinks and snacks after an even like this is really worthwhile, as it gave me an opportunity not only to meet other students I had not yet met, but also to converse at length with a very eloquent and fascinating lecturer. I really think I am going to get on well with these people.

By the end of the colloquium the rain had stopped, and so I changed my mind about catching the bus home, and instead walked. About three blocks from home I got waylaid by a very persistent Egyptian who tried very hard to to pick me up, and to my delight, I was rescued from a delightful New Yorker, who called out to me as though she knew me, and walked me across the street and out of sight. I was very appreciative and very amused.

I am beginning to get a feeling for the functioning of this city at last. I am learning to cross the street when the traffic is clear, rather than waiting ages for the traffic light to change, though I haven't quite got over my habit of skipping across the moment the light begins to flash a warning, instead of walking coolly in the face of on-coming, over-enthusiastic taxi drivers. I have learned to carry wettables in my bag in a second plastic bag, just in case it rains. I have learned that the sidewalks of New York sparkle like precious stones when they are wet. I have learned to walk like a New Yorker, at top speed, without watching my feet all the time. I have learned not to walk over subway vents wearing a skirt. I have learned not to entertain long-winded complimenters looking for naive tourists to pick up. I have learned that New York in the rain is amazingly beautiful. And I have learned that New Yorkers' passion for their city can inspire them to speak the loveliest poetry. A little bit at a time, I am learning to be a New Yorker.

The Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park.

2 comments:

JCC said...

Hello Choirgirl!

I see you are really enjoying yourself and through your writing giving us a feel of life in the big apple.

We are enjoying Lulu's teaching and everyone is responding well to her style. Planning 4 carol concerts before the end of the year.

Love, J & P

choirgirl said...

Dear Jill and Pete,
That is wonderful news. I am so glad that things are working out, and that Lulu has proven to be the right person for you. And I am delighted that you have concerts planned. Go well, and let me know all about them. I miss you all furiously, often, and I will think about you especially when I know you have a performance on.