I left Boston at about 11:30 PM Sunday night and arrived in Montreal at about 4:30 AM. After waking up my landlord to get my key to the apartment, I quickly moved everything in from the back seat of the car into my tiny little room. I went to bed at 5:22 AM only to wake up at about 9:00 AM to leave for the first day of free training at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque.

I took the Metro to the school to avoid trudging through a drizzly rain and made it there at about 9:45 AM. I said “Hello” to Alain, the receptionist, and asked what free training was all about.

Basically, you can work out in this great school by yourself as long as there is a coach present.

In the hallway was a slip of paper telling me where my locker for the year was, and after locating it (in the hall, not in the locker room) I showered and went through the whole morning routine.

And then I stepped into the gymnasium as a student of circus arts for the first time!

In my mind I was going to be the first student there, but in fact there were already two training there. One was a returning student who was working on tightrope, and the other, was a 16-year-old new student from Germany that I’ll call “The Contortionist”.

For a long time we worked out in silence. I was stretching out and doing a tumbling warm-up while The Contotionist rehearsed a series of contortion moves.  Worried that I was being rude, I went up to her to introduce myself, explaining in French that I couldn’t speak the language well. As it turned out, she was more comfortable with English than French, so we used English intermixed with a few French words to communicate.

A returning juggler came in to train, followed by four or five other returning students who came, kissed me on both cheeks, told me their names, and then disappeared to somewhere else in the school, names already escaping from my head.

I had been stretching out for an hour and a half when I asked The Contortionist if she wanted to go and get lunch. We went to a little bistro where we talked about circus and why we were involved with it, and then, at the end of the meal, I realized that I had left all my money in my locker.  Stupid. We were able to scrape enough money together for the bill and the tip, and when we got back to the school, I gave her ten dollars and told her to keep the change as ‘dumkopf tax.’

When the two of us returned to the gym, several more first years had arrived.  One was planning on studying rope, one was a clown, and one would be joining me on trampoline and acrobatics.

A bunch of other stuff happened today, like my first trampoline lesson, my first hand-to- hand lesson, and getting coached on how to change my gymnastics handstand into a circus handstand.

I also saw another first year training with Sylvain, and when all was over, we went out for a drink together. We also saw the library and I started piecing together a strength routine. My impressions of my other students and my perception of their impressions of me will follow. For now, goodnight!

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