Saturday, June 26, 2010

International music school

This has been our summer so far:

Friday, get out of school.
Saturday, Lisa, Gillian, and Darcey arrive
Sunday, leave for Santa Fe
Friday, come home from Santa Fe
Saturday, Lisa goes home, girls stay
Fast forward a week
Friday, Gillian and Darcey go home, Li Ping arrives
Fast forward 2 weeks
Saturday, Li Ping leaves, Gillian and Darcey arrive

We might install a revolving door!

Just over two weeks ago I got a call at work from a neighbor/book club member telling me about a girl coming from China to attend a music school who had no where to stay and who did not speak English.

Would it be possible she could stay with us?

I think the only question I asked was how old she was, which Laura did not know, and when I realized she would arrive the day that Gillian and Darcey were going home for their vacation with their dad, and the fact she was from China, and that she needed someone who could speak her language, which Annabel can, then I said yes. If I asked more questions, I did not ask the right ones!

I felt a sense of panic when I thought about a "child" flying from China by herself, the jet lag, the language barrier, the difference in food, what would she want to do, this would be her only experience in the US, what all should I plan!

The day before they arrived, the director of the camp heard from the student in China that she was unable to get a visa, so we were hosting a girl from Philadelphia instead, who happened to be Chinese, but whom we later learned had moved here when she was 2 years old.

I ended up taking the day off so I could get everything in the house ready for our guest, still clearing through giant stacks of the girls' most prized possessions, while trying to make room for someone to actually walk through their room!

That evening we went to my new best friend's house, Laura, and met Li Ping, as well as the students staying with Laura, who were from Brazil, so they speak Portuguese, which no one knew how to speak, and two girls from Russia, and one boy from Mexico staying with others in the neighborhood.

I should have had a hint of the next 2 weeks right then when she did not want to leave but stay with her brand new best friends from Brazil, even though none could speak the same language, but I just thought it was anxiety over everything being new.

Life quickly changed as we began to meet and know all the international students, as well as some from the US, at pick up and drop off times, as well as several parties we were all invited to.

We also began to learn more about piano, violin, viola, and cello, since that was what the school was for. It was quite prestigious to have been accepted to the school as the concertmaster from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was in charge of the school.

Our days became blurred with trips to and from Laura's house, to the church in Highland Park, where the school was held, and back for parties and dinners.

Our nights, or at least mine, were filled with practice on the piano, that usually lasted until 2:00 a.m.!

It was a strange place to be in for me. While feeling responsible for her, her not wanting me to be responsible, but really knew someone had to be, even though she was 21 and since she was not, I wasn't sure how to act and when I "suggested" she not practice so late, since she could not get up, that did not work. I finally talked to her instructor, whose primary language was Russian, but made him understand that she felt compelled to practice incessantly since she had only learned to play the piano 6 months before and was now in this international music school!

There were 4 students from Russia, 2 from Brazil, 3 from Mexico, 1 from Taiwan, and others I did not get to meet.

The parties usually consisted of the students from Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and Li Ping! It made for fun conversations and lots to learn about life in other countries. There were other students whose families were from China, but they now lived in the US.

If you know me, then you also know that a language barrier was not something that could stop me from trying to talk to them!

The Russians insisted on playing soccer even in the Texas heat and even though they came from an area of Russian that has only a few warm days a year and would come back so red in the face you were sure you would need to call 911.

We all soon eased into routine of interesting conversation, music, games, and a lot of swimming.

One night Laura felt they needed a break and we should go to CiCi's Pizza and the movies.

Trying to herd everyone into a car or three, was very similar to herding cats. Just trying to get them out of the door at one time was an exercise in futility often.

We rushed them through CiCi's buffet, which was genuinely a completely new experience for most, and then hurried to the movies, which unfortunately was sold out.

The school had several concerts last week, which we missed, but this week have attended two of them.

Most of these students have only studied for a few years, but they were incredible!

There is a 9 year old boy who was featured for his piano skills and if you had closed your eyes could never have dreamed the sounds were being made by this very small, bespeckled child.

There was also a 12 year old boy from Russia who played the cello so remarkably that he also won a prominent position on the program.

We only knew these kids, aged 9-23, from dinner and playing, and so to hear them perform gave a whole new perspective. It was amazing how different each was and yet how similar. The music they chose was as unique as they were, with each favoring different composers. We were introduced to new music and new composers and I found new favorites in both.

Today is the last day of the school.

Li Ping tried to change her reservation to return tomorrow, but Gillian and Darcey are coming back today, so it was just as well that she could not.

One result I did not anticipate was a reawakening of Grace's interest in playing piano. Laura knew a good teacher within blocks of us and Grace started last week. She practices religiously. I am so proud of how great she does!
The BIG concert is today at 2:00. I can't wait!

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