Stop and Smell the Roses; My first week in Paris.

Travel stories are different for everyone- Personally, my first week in Paris has been nothing but a dream. Upon arrival at 7AM, I had my first Pain au Chocolat, which was a total Emily in Paris moment. The host family was warm and welcoming, and I couldn’t have had a better settling in experience. On our first full day, the EUSA Paris team took us on a boat tour through the Seine River for a quick capture of some of the most well-known monuments in Paris such as the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, and the Eiffel Tour. On the second day, again with the EUSA team, our IIP group went on a walking excursion to Montmartre, an authentic village in the north of Paris where artists like Picasso and Dali once lived. Weekend activities included a nice walk in the Luxembourg Gardens, Lunch overseeing the Eiffel Tower, and dinner right next to the Panthéon in the fifth district of Paris. 

         Monday. Finally, a day that we’ve all been anxiously waiting for— the first day of our internship. The sector that I will be working in this summer is a non-profit organization in lyrical opera and classical music. On my first day of the internship, I met my internship supervisor, my boss, or ‘Maître de stage’, who is the financial director of the Opera company. When we met to speak about my role within the company and internship goals, I had intended to also ask questions, concerns, and future plans regarding the internship and the company. When I asked my questions one after another, I quickly started to notice the discrepancy between their rhythm of speech and mine. With my desire and intentions to be understood in French, I tried to sound local by speaking faster and tripping over words with an inconsistent pulse, whereas their ‘rhythm’ of responding to my questions were slightly slower, with emphasis on the significant words and with a consistent pulse throughout. The timbre of their voice was calm, collected, and transparent— a voice with a quality of peacefulness, much like the tranquility of a watercolor painting—it was music to my ears. Some of the last things they said that I could understand with my intermediate French level ears were ‘On a du temps, aucun souci’—‘we have time, no worries’. 

         Working in France with French people requires a true level of patience. When attending a university in the states as a student with big hopes and dreams, it is normal that sometimes we hurry ourselves in order to accomplish them. We may get stuck in the vision of the future, hurrying through the present. However, the French are the quite opposite. Even with the simplest tasks when our brain tells us to quickly finish and move on, the French would rather have you take all the time you can possibly take to get it done perfectly. It is very much a philosophical approach, the concept of simply being in, focusing on, and enjoying the present. I believe that this is definitely one of the core competencies unique to France and also that is required to be successful in the performing arts industry. Of-course this may be a general observation unique to my experience, but I have never experienced a phenomenon where people in that country embody patience collectively. Taking the time in the morning to have coffee in the terrasse, being fashionably late to work, and having a three-hour dinner with friends and coworkers in the evening. On the streets of Paris, the people seem to take their time, and are never in a rush to go about their day; the whole city is a bouquet of roses, with the Parisians stopping by whenever they can to enjoy every aspect of their beauty.

          The idea of patience is also especially relevant and important when working in a performing arts sector. To hone a craft as an instrumentalist means developing your technique day by day, which requires a considerable amount of patience. It requires a mindset that—although we may never reach a point of perfection, practice does make permanent, with a tablespoon of patience. Working in the administration sector of performing arts is the same. The short-term planning process of putting together a concert, and the long-term goal of trying to make music and the arts accessible and enjoyable to all, is not something that happens overnight. Our work is carefully crafting the castle day by day and enjoying the process of slowly and surely building a strong foundation. From this week on, I hope to imitate the French in this philosophical outlook, to stop, breath, and taking the time to simply trust and enjoy the process.