Easy to do, difficult to see

3 FEB 2017

*BEEP*

My ticket is scanned. My ticket, the one I only had to pay 6€ for because of the Carte Culture discount. I walk through the doors into the antechamber that half-encircles the orchestra seating area of the opera house. The carpet is a lush red, the walls and ceiling match. The trim is an ivory white.  Along the walls are more than a hundred golden coat racks. It looks like some sort of art installation all on its own, so many golden handles. After finding the one reserved for my seat and hanging my coat and scarf, I walk through one pair of many double-doors into the Opéra National du Rhin’s orchestra seating area. My seat, 14-3, is toward the back and right, stage left, but I can still see all the stage and the supertitles screen that hangs high above the stage.

I am right away immersed in the sounds of the pre-show: The people who have not taken their seat and are trying to find them, the people who are getting situated, the people who have found their seats and are now talking jovially, the shuffling of movements, the echos of occasional laughter, a single stifled cough, and the orchestra providing what I call “elevator music.” It is where the orchestra produces a cacophony of sounds by having each musician each play random bits of random songs making sure their instruments are tuned properly, passing the time, and making sure it isn’t awkward for anyone uncomfortable out in the audience. It seems as if there is no rhyme or reason to the sounds coming from the orchestra pit, but in its own way, it is a fun song that I enjoy.

The three colors of the opera house are the same as the coatrack room. Floors and walls are primarily a velvety red. The larger bits of trim are ivory white. The smaller, more detailed trims are in gold. Along the banisters of the balconies are incarnations of cherubs playing instruments and the classical theatre masks of comedy and tragedy. The ceiling is a circular scene of gods and goddesses wearing their white robes and laurels wreaths, eating grapes and enjoying the hours of the day. Though it is we who are here to see the opera, it seems as if all the while, the ceiling figures are watching us, amused. If I were a god from on high, I think I, too, would be quite amused at the array before me filling the the room. We certainly are a mix of characters.

The cacophony slowly begins to quiet, signalling that the performance is about the begin. The audience responds in kind. A man walks out on stage with a microphone to introduce to us La Juive. This is a grand opera, recognized as such by its large cast, done in five acts. The music was prepared by Fromental Halévy and the libretto (operatic lyrics) by Eugène Scribe. The world premiere was in Paris, 1835. The story is set in the year 1414, but we are told this performance takes a much more modern approach.

The black curtain rises, revealing the set. An incredible, large stained-glass window is illuminated from behind by bright halogens, changing colors every so often to reflect the mood. The performance area in front of this 1414-throwback piece is set with six-or-so metal scaffolding structures that house more halogens that decrease and increase with intensity depending upon what is happening in the story. The bulk of the cast, most of whom represent the chorus, are on stage dressed in all black, not the typically elaborate opera costumes, but very simple black slacks and black long-sleeve shirts. Their hands, though, are painted blue. Enter Rachel and her father, Eléazar, with their simple black outfits. Their hands are painted yellow. Right away, the mass of blue-hands mocks and ridicules and persecutes the yellow-hands. This is to represent the central tenet of the 182-year-old opera, the conflict between Christians and Jews.

In operatic fashion, a man in disguise woos and falls in love with Rachel. But he is not Jewish. He is Prince Léopold, a Christian. Their love is forbidden, and they are found out. The punishment for the Christian is excommunication. The punishment for Rachel, and subsequently her father, is death. The modern take, I believe, points toward how such persecution can happen in any time, in any culture where there is division. The performers are not adorning the costume of 1414, nor are they wearing contemporary fashions. The only thing that separates them visually is the color of their hands.

Where the direction team could have retold an old story using an old play using fancy costumes, they have risked a modern interpretation turning the tale of persecution into a timeless act, art with a message, art with a warning. They succeeded. Roy Cornelius Smith as Eléazar and Rachel Harnisch as Rachel stunned with their individual performances. The Chœurs de l’Opéra National du Rhin and the Orchestre symphonique de Mulhouse and the supporting character performers were great. I must give my highest praise to, once again, the direction. Reflecting on it now, my favorite part was when the chorus left the stage to walk among the audience members. And not just to sing and perform along the sides of our seats, but to the point where they moved through the audience making people stand so that they could pass. This, of course, was all a part of the performance. It was fun, we were laughing, and standing to try to keep seeing what was happening on stage. It was a blast. They were all waving around blue flags, and Rhett from out group was even given one by the performer closest to him. We all laughed a lot.

But. But now, I think I see, more clearly than when I was there, what was actually happening. The chorus represented the persecutors who were laughing and mocking Eléazar and his daughter Rachel. Then they entered into our space. In effect, we became a part of the chorus. Laughing, pointing, having a great time… while the yellow-hands were being mocked. Our collective views in the orchestra seating area were obscured by the invasive chorus, so we were laughing, and agreeing, with something we could not necessarily see. I think this was a key moment in the performance. The audience had participated in the mocking of, the persecution of, the yellow-hands, and we did not even know it. Because it was easy to laugh, but difficult to see.

It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, because it is difficult to see what is really happening.

Essay on journaling when it is difficult to journal

26-30 JAN 2017

As my trip as evolved, so too must this journal. Where once I thought I may have been able to maintain a habit of daily entries, I now see that that endeavor is a little too ambitious. Instead, I will write not every day, but at least twice a week. Most of my classes are now moving ahead, full speed, and require more of my attention. I cannot fully set aside this journal, though. I am beginning to see, comprehend, the value of journal-writing. Summer of 2016, I spent five weeks in Paris. I did a great many things, met many very interesting people, learned a lot, and explored museums thoroughly, but I did not keep a journal at the time, so I cannot give too many details of those experiences. I remember a good bit, but perhaps not as much as I would like too.

Now that I am journaling, not only can I look back and relive some experiences and remember details more clearly, I have begun to pay greater attention to things that I think I would have previously missed. I mean to say that I pay greater attention to the small details so as to have something to write about later. Life, in a way, has become much more interesting. Everything is now a story that can be told, molded, and retold. Even the mundane, the monotony, the seemingly insignificant has a way of weaving into the world of these stories. Indeed, though, sometimes I find myself grabbing the proverbial soapbox and making an essayic stand. As I am now.

It is my journal after all, so I think I am allowed this luxury. As much as I would like to tell an interesting tale from daily experiences, I must admit, quite frankly, that not everyday is interesting. I have read travel writing, and a lot of it these days is lists. Lists of what to do, where to go, how to save money, how to spend it all, etc., etc. I would prefer not to list out my personal experiences. It seems to me that the “Top Ten Blah Blah Blah” removes the magic and allure of storytelling. I say this to say that I could create a very simple list of the past five days, but I will not. But, at the same time, I am hard-pressed to spin a yarn as interesting as visiting Frankfurt on my first day back in Europe.

Perhaps a few quick vignettes, then? While not fond of lists, I cannot deny that they are undoubtedly efficient.

26 JAN

My class, Understanding Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa: National Constructions, Democratization, and Development, is off to a good start. We discuss what the class will consist of and the professor’s goals for us. After class, I walk around town a bit, a simple, mind-clearing stroll, then meet with some friends at this place (that I believe I have mentioned before) called What the Fox.

27 JAN

I spend the majority of the day trying to research and find things for our group to do in Colmar tomorrow. I have tacos for dinner. They are good.

28 JAN

Today, eight of our group spends the day in Colmar.

I will pause this little vignette-ing here. Obviously, there are a great number of details I have omitted. Why? Because, well for one, I simply was not feeling well, but many of my friends online and here have helped with that by showing and offering their support. Two, the details seemed quite mundane or old. I find this thought of mine strange, because here I am, in a country not my own, and I am finding things uninteresting and “mundane.” What is this sensation, or rather lack thereof?

I know I might sound like I am rambling on, but for any who would read to this point and past, I think I may have stumbled onto something quite difficult to describe or express. For example, our group spent the day in Colmar.

[Unpause] We visit a town that is quite beautiful and full of color and good food and kind people.

But I find it hard to write about. I suspect this will not last, this inability to recount the details, but all the same, I am flummoxed. Why was Saturday simply not as inspiring as any of the others? Why was I not whittling away with pen and paper to carve out a much more colorful vignette?

I cannot say why because I do not know why. Perhaps it is because I am homesick. Perhaps there may be some other reason.

29 JAN

Today is better. Today, I walk around the Parc Pourtalès with Clarissia. We talk a bit about current events both local and international. Later, I buy my plane ticket to Rome, Italy. Now that is something certainly to be excited about for sure (more on this below).

30 JAN

I have breakfast, watch Michael Collins for homework, and then go to my class on the Northern Irish conflict. Now I sit here, in the library, which is quickly becoming my favorite place, my favorite, private retreat, writing this now lengthy exercise in writing-to-find-reason/writing-as-diagnosis.

/vignettes over

Reflecting on “something certainly to be excited about,” I did just buy my ticket to Rome. I am very excited internally, but at the same time, I do not feel excited. This particular oddity inspired me, sort of, to write the following:

It an effort to be especially candid and honest, at risk of exposure (the sort of exposure which leaves one vulnerable), I admit to manicuring my online presence. I decided a few years ago that I would remove the negativity, as much as possible, from my life, and I knew I could do this with a fine-tooth comb while online. What I post to Facebook and Instagram are much more often than not the good moments, the fun times. What is absent are the defeats and the down times. I figure no one needs to be bothered by my woes, so why share them. Oddly, or perhaps a better word might be “naturally,” I have begun to see less negativity in my life offline. By refocusing on the good and the fun, I have focused less on the defeats and the downs; not just online, but offline as well. This is not to say that there aren’t as many defeats, but they each hit for less damage now. Now I am more prepared for them.

The past few days, it seems, there have been a lot of defeats, small ones, but many. It can feel overwhelming at times, a rush and a bombardment of negativity. How does one overcome such a wailing? I have fought and struggled to push through it all, and with the support of friends and family, I am reminded that despite it all, even in the worst of times, there is something positive. This, of course, coming from a place of privilege. There are some in the world whose “worst of times” may indeed not have a bit of positivity, and for that, I mean no offense when I say that there is. What I do mean to say, is that in my own personal experience of focusing on the good times, the fun times, the details, and the positive people in my life that I have become overall a much happier person.

Even now and recently when I catch myself in what I call “a funk,” I can expect to come out of it all right. That has taken some time for me to realize. Years ago, I fought my demons with other demons. Now I fight them with my own resolve.

Wow. Well that was quite the ramble. I make a promise to myself and any audience these posts may have to make sure the next entry is another one similar to those in the past filled with details and colors and adventure. I think writing all this may have been the final push I needed to work out the knots in my week. #TherapeuticWriting  

La Cour!

23-25 JAN 2017

 

  • RIIINNNGG

 

My first class at IEP (Sciences Po) was pretty disappointing, I admit freely, so I have exchanged it for a different class. My second class at the university was a bit more satisfying, but still not quite what I had expected. Monday morning, I had breakfast, rode the bus to the university to get my Carte Culture, which gives me access to museums and events at significantly discounted prices, and made it to Room 210 by 4:00 PM, or 16H as it is here.

Madame Lehni is teaching us this semester about the “politics of culture in divided societies” by using the case example of the conflict in and mural art of Northern Ireland’s Unionists and Nationalists. I hope I am able to take what I learn from this class and am able to apply it to other conflicts and/or divided societies as well. One of our first assignments is to watch the movies Michael Collins and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. One of my very first assignments is finding those movies.

 

  • RIIINNNGG

 

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast again, of course, and then made my way to the Franz Liszt classroom at the château just upstairs. Madame Wassenberg is preparing us for a symposium in March that will discuss the possible consequences of returning borders (a variety of which, not just typical border controls, e.g., economic, social, cultural, etc., etc.) to the European Union, and Europe in general. I am in a small group of three, and our goal is to focus on the implications and ramifications of Brexit. I also have a separate, 10-15-page research paper to write for that class. And since I enjoy complex, smart-sounding titles so much, my two areas of interest are “A New Focus on Regional Administration in a Post-Westphalian European Union” and “Alsatian Identity in Flux: What is French, German, or local, and which is strongest?”

Quite the mouthful. I will most likely resort to something much simpler in a few weeks when I write the paper in a single fevered, coffee-to-the-max over-nighter. Perhaps one day I will write a whole paper on procrastination, perhaps, eventually.

Other than class, life here at the château has been pretty fun. Tuesday night, we held a surprise birthday party for two of our number. I could yarn (a verb I got from Cloud Atlas, one of my favorite movies, and I am going to keep and use this verb even though is sounds a little ridiculous. I like it, so there.) 1000 words on the party alone, but I won’t do that here. I will mention, though, that we near melted the candles by how many times we lit them thinking Laurel and Torin were just about to walk through the door. By the time they did arrive, the candles were half as tall. Fun times.

 

  • “LA COUR!”

 

After two rings of what sounds like an old rotary telephone silences the talkative room, a man in a black suit, white shirt, and simple tie appears from behind the translator rooms, he walks a bit toward the head of the room, and turns to us. He stands there for all of half a second carrying the weight of ceremony, with a dash of monotonous regularity, before announcing, proclaiming, to us, “La Cour!”

Quickly, he turns and takes his seat just behind the judges’ chairs. A line of 21 men and women parade from the same entrance and take their respective places at the 47-seat half-elliptical table (47 seats representing each of the 47 member states). Each person wears the black robes of a judge, and each has their own especial accoutrements representing their particular nation or station. Court President Guido Raimondi, from Italy, speaks, “you may take your seats.” Seventeen among them are the judges of the Grand Chamber. Three are substitute judges, and the last among them is the registrar.

We are now all seated, awaiting the hearing to proceed. This morning’s case is a relatively simple one it would seem involving a mother who wished to move from one place in her Netherlands neighborhood to another place very nearby, but was prevented from doing so by a Dutch law citing social restrictions on overburdening particular districts. She has brought the issue before the European Court of Human Rights, stating her human right “to freely choose her place of residence” was violated. What I could gather was at stake for her was her ability to choose a home for her family in an area that she wished to live. What I could gather was at stake for the Netherlands government was the validity of their “City Problems (Special Measures) Act” and whether is unfairly discriminates against particular individuals.

Mr. Wijling, counsel for the applicant (read: plaintiff), stands to speak and make his case before the court. I can see from behind the near-mirror-like window of the translator’s booth a red light turn on. This signals to the audience which translator is speaking at the time. As it is in the court, one may speak their mother tongue and a translator will be provided. As Mr. Wijling is from the Netherlands, he makes his case in Dutch.

Hurriedly, quietly, everyone moves to reach for their provided-headphones, switch to one of the English or French channels, and settle back into their seats to listen. There is an Albanian delegation in attendance, so an Albanian translator was also provided for their convenience. I listen in to the English translation for a bit. I will not pretend that it is terribly interesting, though, so next I remove the headphones to see what it is like to hear Mr. Wijling and his associate Ms. Azghay speak in Dutch. It is an interesting language that appears to be a clear mix between German and English. I catch familiar words every so often. I notice some of the judges are not wearing their headphones and suppose that they can understand Dutch, or rather they too are a bit bored.

The agent for the Netherlands, Mr. Böcker, stands to make his case as soon as the counsel of the applicant is finished. Mr. Böcker, though also Dutch, speaks English in what I recognize (assume) as a British accent. The two official languages of the 47-member state Council of Europe are French and English, so naturally, the two official languages of the European Court of Human Rights are French and English. It makes sense that this legal official, whose task it is to represent a nation, would speak the language of the court.

Now both parties have been heard. The time for questions from the judges has come. Judge Motoc from Romania asks the first question, in French. Then follows Judge O’Leary from Ireland, Judge Pinto de Albuquerque from Portugal, and lastly, Judge Sajó from Hungary. They all pose their questions in English. Judge Raimondi adjourns the court for thirty minutes.

Soon, we are back to taking our seats and donning our headphones. But even sooner, the counsel and agent have answered their questions and we are once again adjourned. Now, however, the court is done for today, and we make our leave. The deliberations and decision of the Grand Chamber will be heard at a later date. [I have made note to see how the court decides the case. It may have been a little boring, but in its own way, it was interesting to see the process.]

Outside of the courtroom, I can see how the exterior architecture plays into the interior. Outside, the European Court of Human Rights is made up of three buildings: An entry building with security, information pamphlets, and offices; one tower to the right houses more offices and, on the top floor, the circular courtroom with the 47-seat half-elliptical judges’ table; and the other tower to the left, which is slightly shorter than the courtroom tower, houses more offices and a smaller hearing chamber. Both of the towers are circular and bear slanted roofs, as if a giant cylinder had been sliced diagonally and each unequal half had been set side-by-side. There is a fourth attachment to these three structures that is a long, six-story-or-so line of offices that resembles a cruise liner.

Walking into the room on the top floor of the shorter tower, I am immediately entranced by the view. Where the courtroom bore no windows, the most important things being held within, this much smaller hearing chamber has glass for an exterior wall. And just beyond the windows flows the Ill River populated with gulls flying here and there, and on the opposite coast, the European Union Parliament building. I have already visited this building and written about it, but still, I cannot help but stare. The glass wave of the east-facing structure which houses the wooden hemicycle is more art than business, more emotion than politics. From this angle, I cannot tell if the Parliament building is reaching out for or looking toward the Human Rights building or if it seems to be moving altogether through it. The poetry and metaphor of the architecture is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, so I will leave out any personal interpretations [for now]. 

Our little tour concluded with a quote from the European Convention on Human Rights, the same with which I will also conclude this journal entry:

From the preamble of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Rome, 1950.

“[Fundamental freedoms] are the foundation of justice and peace in the world and are best maintained on the one hand by an effective political democracy and on the other by a common understanding and observance of the Human Rights upon which they depend.”

Sunday Bells

22 JAN 2017

A cloud of freezing air creeps in the dark, only to leave this late morning, taking with it all the colors of the Robertsau. I see it just beyond the trees through the library window. Now it cloaks the trees and has come for the flags at the front lawn. It seems to reach out to the very window I stand at before retreating back into the woods. White blankets lawn, trails, steps, walls, and roofs. This is not the snow of a pleasant winter, but the white ice of a deep cold. It grips at the earth, cracking the dry dirt. It clings to trees and branches.

The flags are the only thing that appear to retain their colors. Five flags hang heavy in the windless cold. There is one each for the European Union, France, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Hotel Reception is adjacent to the library, and I can hear English, French, and German all spoken within the short span of time that I stand here. There is a small thrill in being able to proffer or respond with a simple “bonjour,” “morgen,” or “good morning.” I was once very critical of myself for having taken German all those years ago in high school, but I cannot express enough gratitude for having done so now that it has finally come to serve me in some small way. I wish I had paid closer attention to Mr. McCormick; perhaps I would have remembered more than a few words and how to count.

As for my French, well, it certainly still needs all the help it can get. Madame Simpson and Dr. Ditmann provided me with the basics and some understanding. Dr. Mann and Dr. Wengier challenged me in Paris. I just hope that there is some small chance for me to one day become fluent. Communication is very important to me, and I wish to be able to convey myself in more than just one language, but more importantly, I would like to be able to listen in more than one language. I should learn more nouns and verb conjugations, indeed, plus de mots en général. The European Union maintains 26 official languages. I am ambitious, but not quite 26-language ambitious. I think, for me, I would like to be able to speak/listen/understand, read, and write in French, German, Spanish (castellano), Arabic (modern standard), Chinese (Mandarin), and Russian (maybe).

Studying abroad has taught me that knowing the language, the words and the grammar, is not the only thing needed in order to properly communicate. I have learned that customs and culture are huge parts of clear and concise understanding. Direct translations in either direction, English to French or French to English, will not have a lot of meaning when concerning idioms and other phrases. These things must be practiced, performed, and experienced to be understood. The short exchanges at the cafés are nice, and they do help, but more thorough and involved conversations are necessary for a more developed education on foreign language communication. Also, trying to stop thinking in English and begin thinking in the other language, French in this case, is proving most difficult. I am in my own mind way too often and too used to English that making room for French is like having a roommate for the first time in many, many years. For further comparison/analogy, I imagine that roommate would not be some stranger, but instead just the French version of myself. I feel the anxiety already.

However, it would be an interesting experience getting to know the French version or myself. My intended goal, really, is to one day be able to “pass” as a native speaker. That is the depth with which I wish to be able to comprehend a foreign language. Je peux rêver, non?

Morning has come and gone. Noon arrives with the sun fighting fiercely to break through the overcast. I am still at the château, waiting for the weather to warm, but I doubt it will warm much more than it is now. I cannot be sure which church bells I hear ringing, but I like to think they are those of Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, but most likely they are those of the much closer Robertsau église. Whichever bells toll, their spell in one of transportation. I am immediately reminded of my brief time at Mont St. Michel. I am not religious, spiritual, yes perhaps, but not religious. Even still, standing in the halls of that cathédrale when the bells begin to ring takes a body whole and shakes it to the core with chills and transformation. I can still hear the first chimes. I can hear the strike against metal turn into a tune.

Then, when more and more bells are added to the chorus, the striking seems to cease, and a single tune is sung as if biblical trumpets blast from heaven’s high altar. Head lifted, eyes closed, arms and hands open, ready to receive what gifts can be bestowed by this angel, Saint Michael of the mountain, I am pierced through by the booming of the horns. Time stops, and I am weightless. What is but a few moments feels like eternity, truly. This is awe.

I confess, I felt empowered. Is that the right word? I struggle to find one more appropriate or accurate, but yes, I think that was the sensation: empowered. Maybe “charged” is more direct. Charged, as if an empty vessel had been momentarily filled with power, light, life. Electric. Whatever the word, there was certainly some sort of reality felt in that magic place.

By now, the bells here have stopped ringing, and I am transported back into the château. The decision to venture out in the cold or remain by the warmth of the radiators is upon me.

A whirlwind of days

16 – 18 JAN 2017

The cool breeze that flows through the golden tallgrass greets me at the open kitchen window. It is not so cold as it has been for the past three days. With a hot drink in hand, I take it all in, the small prairie that conceals an old pond, the trail just on the other side of the field that travels into and out of the woods, the couple walking their dog by the old water tower. It is calm and quiet. Seeing the colors of the Robertsau in winter when not covered by snow certainly makes this whole place seem new once more. I can hardly wait for the colors of spring.

This quiet moment allows me to reflect on the past three days.

Monday, I took the FLE test, which is a French language equivalency placement exam. The ranks for French comprehension are A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1 so far as I know. I do not yet know my rank, but my confidence certainly took a hit from the difficulty of the exam. I am not very good with tests as it is, but this one was more than I had anticipated. Prior to taking the FLE, I had fully intended on taking a history course taught in French. After, however, I have switched all of my courses at Sciences Po to ones taught in English. I see now that I must continue to practice and study the French language much more before delving into fluency.

In Europe, English is widespread. I attempt to speak French everywhere I go and with all of the people I meet, but my limitations often force the conversation into an English one. I am thankful for this for the sake of clear communication, but it does make it more difficult to rely solely on the French language. I am not be too discouraged, though. I am still practicing my French everyday.

Tuesday morning, our group had our first class at the château. Madame Wassenberg will be teaching us about Europe in general and about European identity. During this first class, we each introduced ourselves, then discussed what we already knew about Europe. Charles de Gaulle spoke of a Europe that stretched “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” but now it would seem that Europe quite possibly stretches from Iceland to the Caucasus. And since the 1950s, a number of intergovernmental organizations have banded together, grown, and shrunk over the years in the ideal of unifying Europe. The European Union probably being the most prominent as it is quite unique. However, there is also the Council of Europe which touts a 48-state membership.

After class, I registered for classes at IEP (a.k.a. Sciences Po). I will be taking four classes there: The African-American struggle for civil rights in the U.S., which will be very interesting to learn about from an outside perspective; Understanding contemporary Africa, which will be interesting for the same reasons, but possibly more so because of France’s long history and extensive relationship with many nations of Africa; The politics of culture in divided societies, I am hoping this class can teach me a thing or two about diplomacy; and European policies toward old and new minorities, I am hoping this class can teach me a thing or two about democracy amid the changing times. So there it is. Four classes at Sciences Po and two at the château.

With the weight of six classes hovering over me, I get a bit hungry and find a nice Greek restaurant. There, I order döner, which is a pita bread taco of sorts filled with slow cooked, sliced chicken, lettuce, cabbage, onion, and carrots. It was incredible, especially for only 3€50. I added tzatziki sauce, and then I was complete. A quick trip to the Swiss herbalist for some turmeric and hibiscus, then it was back to the château.

The turmeric is good for soreness when stirred in some hot hibiscus tea, which is good for circulation. The taste is not too bad at all. Just the thing I need to drink while staring out of this large window. Moments ago, our second château class ended. This one is taught by Dr. Vahlas. Here, we will learn more of the specific (and confusing) details of the the E.U.’s inner workings. I am looking forward to the class presentations that each of us has to prepare. Indeed, I am looking forward to all of my classes.

Sunday Concert

​15 JAN 2017

The familiar mumble of voices takes on a French accent. The hush just before the show is the same: the sudden quiet, the heightened anticipation, the muffled cough, the slight shifting in cushioned seats. Violin, viola, and cellos in hand, the musicians make their way onto the stage amid our applause. The theatre is nice. The light wood paneling of the ceiling is curved, good for acoustics. The walls, in the same light wood, are all sharp lines and geometric shapes, good for aesthetics. The curtains are a deep red, the stage black. The musicians take there places at the four chairs and music stands. 

I sit in one seat among the 300 or so in the auditorium. I have been looking forward to this all week. The violinist begins, a soft, long note. Then enter the cellos, followed by the viola. A quartet of players is performing in Strasbourg, and for 6€, I get to witness. Bows on strings play for about half an hour. There is a brief intermission, and then the four, joined by a fifth, return to the stage and continue to play. Chamber music, while not as big or perhaps as bold as a full orchestra, is great to listen to.

I sit in an audience of mostly older individuals. I recall this being the case back home in Atlanta as well. I know my generation of Millennials often go to concerts, but they are missing out on the classics. Perhaps they would attend more performances if student discounts were as good as they are in Europe (Wink-wink Atlanta Symphony Orchestra).

NOTE: This post is quite shorter than previously planned or intended due to problems with the Wi-Fi and computers at the moment. Not having access to a working computer or link to the internet is a bit of a culture shock for this particular American.