Embassy Row

Our first concert of the trip was today, and what a doozy. Rebecca Bleich (the wife of the American Ambassador to Australia) hosted a gathering of spouses for the Diplomatic Corps that included our concert (in recognition of Columbus Day) and high tea. I have to admit the adrenaline ran high for me today - but the things that worried me most were the little things that can so easily go wrong: forgetting a cut; turning too many pages or not enough; not switching instruments in time. Somehow, I survived (as performers always seem to) and I don't think I was even shaking too much. How different it is to play for 50 or 60 people of such prominence! What I didn't know at the time is how warm and enthusiastic they all were. In particular, the Ambassador's wife from France was very helpful in trying to arrange for us to get to France in the future, and the wife from Thailand kept taking our pictures.

The American Embassy in Australia is a colonial-style building built in the early 1940s, with dental-molding around the ceilings and hard-wood paneling. The ground floor has several pieces of Aboriginal art on loan from an Australian woman, and we all remarked how glad we were to have seen the exhibit yesterday so that we knew a little of what we were looking at. The Bleichs have a dog (Lucy) and a cat (Kit Cat) who made their appearances early in our rehearsal. Before the concert, Kit Cat singled me out as the only allergic member of the group and planted herself beside me and stared at me until a staff member hauled her away. It's a lovely house, huge house, surrounded by lush gardens and security that would make me think twice about trying to enter if I wasn't invited.

Mrs. Bleich was a wonderful, gracious hostess and as a thank you gave each of us a small Aboriginal painting on canvas. I know it is something I will treasure always and will remind me of this trip whenever I see it. (More immediately appreciated was the tray full of sparkling wine she brought out afterward)

Our liaison for this portion of our trip is a woman of Samoan and American heritage named Penina. Last night Penina and her boyfriend Cam were responsible for taking us kangaroo hunting (for observation only, jeez!) and a lovely Italian meal. Penina has spent her day today shuttling us back and forth, taking our pictures, and again taking us to dinner. She has been so kind to all of us, and I felt that she was especially supportive of me being the "newbie" and made a point to congratulate me after the show.

Although I recognize that it is part of the job description to smile and make nice with people, I feel like there's a difference between being cordial and being genuinely interested in the people you're talking to and enjoying their company. So far, the people I've met in Australia (both Australian and otherwise) have been some of the more genuine people I've ever encountered. It's comforting to know such a place exists.