Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's beginning to sound like Christmas.

I had such a wonderful day yesterday. After an early afternoon class, my new supervisor took me up town to Columbia University to meet some of her colleagues in our field. In particular, I have wanted to meet another South African ethnomusicologist who I corresponded with around the time I was applying to graduate schools. She was visiting Columbia for the day, and so Ana had arranged for us to meet. She is lovely, as are the other people I met, and I felt that it was a very productive afternoon. I was also thrilled to see the Columbia campus, which is just like the big beautiful space one would expect from an IV league school. I may land up taking a class or two there at some point. We also went to visit Labyrinth Books, a wonderful, enormous and very atmospheric book store that people have been telling me about since before I came to NY. I sometimes think I should feel guilty for “fetishizing” books the way that I do, particularly with my passion for paperless and digital publication, but when I am surrounded by so many fresh-smelling, colourfully covered books that are just waiting to open up whole new worlds of ideas to me, I lose my mind a little.

The best part of the day, though, was just having an opportunity to talk openly to my new supervisor about everything and anything, as we traveled. My initial nervousness about my decision to come here (you never can tell before you actually get there) has evaporated, and I am just overwhelmingly happy to be here. Aside from the amazing privilege of being in this very exciting place (the city really is a big draw card for this university), I couldn’t have asked for better lecturers. My main supervisor and I are going to get along very well. Our intellectual concerns are very similar, as are our perspectives on life in general, and the differences are fascinating, and promise to keep me on my toes. I really have been very lucky with mentors throughout my academic career. I had an amazing choral music mentor when I was in the West Gauteng Youth Choir in Highschool, some incredible teachers in my final years of High school, a really special mentor during my undergraduate study, and some very strong mentoring to help me get into grad school. And now that I’m here, the cycle of great mentoring looks set to continue. If I ever wanted a sign that I was on the right career path, I have it.

I only had time for a very brief stop at Labyrinth Books as I had to dash off to catch the train to get to the warm-up for my first concert with my new choir. What a mad house! The number 1 train at 17:00 is absolutely insane. I had to let two trains pass, as they were literally filled to bursting point, and when I finally did squeeze myself into an over-stuffed carriage, it felt like the twilight zone. The sheer mass of bodies kept me upright, without the need to hang on to a hand-rail. We were squeezed so tight, I couldn’t lift my arms. And the New York subway is swelteringly hot at the best of times. At this time of year, though, when the outside temperature is below freezing in the middle of the day on occasion (and yesterday was one of those occasions. I am so grateful for my wonderful down coat and heavy boots), the temperature on the subway is pushed up pretty high, a fact which would be greatly welcomed if it were possible to remove one’s coat during the trip. Of course, that isn’t possible though, and so we all stood, noses to the back, or ear, or shoulder-blade of our neighbours, sweating profusely and determinedly holding our collective breath. And that wasn’t just because that was the only way we fitted into the carriage. I was so glad to get off in Grand Central. No time to watch the lights show tonight, though. I beat a hasty path to the church. After a bit of warm-up and lots of pinning of corsages (we all wore black, with corsages of red carnations backed with pine needles. Very festive), we headed out to the church, and there the sheer joy of singing took over. I really do love choral singing, and Christmas music is very high on my list of favourites. The concert went really well. The music was great, the choral sound was clean and well-blended, and we all had great fun. I am very excited about continuing this next year.

So now it’s nose back to the grind-stone until tomorrow night, and the carols party at church. I am as psyched for the work as for the singing, though, so today should be productive.

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