We made it! This past week has been a real whirlwind, and this is the first chance I've had to write about it. First, we arrived into Dallas on Monday to pouring rain, which actually was good because it meant the temperature was quite mild. (Apparently we just missed a 21-day streak of temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit). A second-year student named Carmen picked us up and took us to campus. She very kindly brought us around to the various places I needed to go – to pick up my student card, get our room key, and check in at the Perkins office. It was well after 2pm by the time we were done all this, and we hadn't had a meal yet – we were starving! Luckily, there's a tasty sub place not far from campus (our replacement Happy Sailor, I think!)
The Perkins office had organized to have some helpful items there to give us, to tide us over until we got settled. This was great, as it was several boxes of kitchen staples, bedding, dishes and household stuff. I felt very welcomed. I also finally got to meet the people in the office I've been talking to on the phone for so long – especially Mary Gallegos, who is apparently known around Perkins as "Saint Mary". Collyn Hawn, Dr. Hawn's wife, came by to see us later in the afternoon and very kindly took us shopping to a couple of places with Ulston, the other international student, and his wife. So, we got to meet them and get some groceries at the same time!
The first few days were packed. David did a huge amount to get us organized and settled, from setting up the internet to scrubbing the kitchen clean. Oh, and did I mention we have a dishwasher? I'm seriously thrilled about that.
My first few days were occupied with surviving the Meadows graduate student diagnostic exams. As an MSM student, I'm jointly a student of Perkins (the theological seminary) and Meadows School for the Arts. Meadows requires students to take music history and music theory exams, to determine if you need to be placed in graduate review courses. Being put in these courses would put a major kink in my being able to complete my programme in two years (which, as an international scholarship student, I am required to do). The exams were huge – we were basically told to review all of Western music history and an equally broad span of music theory practices. Both exams, which were one day apart, were three hours long, and I used every minute of the time. Happily, I found out yesterday that I did well on them and can go right into the regular stream of course work. Phew!
The week was also full of the requisite student orientations, such as International Student Orientation (subtitle: How to Stay on the Good Side of the Office of Homeland Security), Health Centre Orientation, Perkins New Student Orientation, and Where Can I Get a Coffee Orientation.
Our student apartment is nice and pretty spacious, with more storage space than we had in our old apartment. Of course, we have way less stuff, so it's a bit of a moot point! Our boxes of stuff arrived by UPS yesterday, so David was very happily unpacking and organizing things. The boxes were in pretty good shape, thanks to David's massive taping job, and only a couple of not too important items were broken. We also didn't have to pay exorbitant "brokerage fees", which we were fearing. All in all, it was a very economical way to get our stuff down here to us.
I'm glad to have survived the first week, and am looking forward to starting classes this coming week (I even almost have my schedule worked out). I'll also be starting to meet the staff and youth at First Presbyterian Church, which is where I'll be working.
In other news, grocery stores here are enormous. I mean, Dominion and those places in Toronto are big, but when we went shopping the other day I was glazing over. There is so much variety that the jam is on a different aisle completely from the peanut butter. David just got back from a shopping trip where he was buying a Brita; the water in Dallas tastes very strongly of chlorine. He looked in the kitchen gadget section and didn't find anything like that, and figured they must not carry water filters. But, he asked an employee who set him straight right away:
"Oh yeah, it's in the water aisle."