Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tower of Babel


Getting back into my routine at Rome, I have had a week to reflect on my fall break.  Going to four different cities in a span of ten days is overwhelming to say the least; and as I was zooming around ModaLisboa, the Reine Sofia, Sagrada Familia, and the French Riviera, I never got a chance to stop and catch my breath.  Now that I am back “home” in Rome, my experiences in each city become clearer—most notably, I found myself contemplating the perplexity of language.

Volunteer (“voluntario”) at the Real Jardín Botanico in Madrid.

According to the Bible, the multitude of languages that exist today arose from the construction of a tower that was supposed to reach the sky and prevent people from being scattered all over the world.   The author of the book of Genesis goes on to write that God saw that the people—with one language—would be able to attain anything they desired, so he confounded their speech.  Now, however, with the rise of globalization, languages have become increasingly mixed.  Not only do the Romance languages (Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian) hold similarities, but also all languages have begun borrowing words from each other.  Learning Italian here, I see how much integration has occurred.  For example, in the United States, we use the words “cappuccino,” “espresso,” “latte,” “macchiato,” and “panini” almost every day.  In Rome, it is customary to wish someone a nice weekend by saying, “Buon week-end.”  Furthermore, during my stays in Portugal and Spain, I was surprised by how easily I got around the cities by myself with my knowledge of Italian, French, and English.  In Tanzania, the word “safari” in Swahili means trip or journey, whereas in English, the term is defined as an expedition to see animals in their natural habitat.  And in China, it has become “cool” to know English and so people love to incorporate English words into daily verbal communication.  For instance, the formal way to say good-bye is still “zai jian,” but, informally, many young people simply say, “Bye-bye!”  These are citations of small changes, but given the current trend, who knows what will happen in a century or two?

Tower of Babel aside, The Rosetta Project states that about fifty to ninety percent of the world’s languages will disappear in the next century.  There is no denying that it would be more convenient to have only one language; yet, so much culture would also be lost.  And even if one global language did arise, which one would it be?  The top 5 most spoken languages in the world are, in order:  Mandarin, English, Hindustani, Spanish, and Russian.  Although Mandarin is number one, linguist David Crystal attests that English is the global language.  He estimates that 30% of the world population is already “reasonably competent,” and about one billion people in the midst of learning.  English has adopted a world-class status, but one that is tainted by well intentioned, white-supremacistic charity efforts to teach this “global language” to citizens all over the world.  Will we allow the dispute over “one” language to divide us or stand separated, yet indivisible in preservation?

Teaching students at Shalom Primary School in Arusha, Tanzania.

My Weekend as Augustus Gloop



If you’re in the States I hope you’re staying dry through the storm! This week seemed like a blur at Temple Rome, I think we’re all still is a haze from all of the airports and languages of Fall break. But there was not much time to rest because Winnie, Jaleh, Alex, James and I all had big plans to go to Chocolate Fest this weekend!!!

To get ready for our excursion James decided he needed to spruce himself up… his solution? Me shaving his head.

I think hair stylist would be a good back up to my art career.

With everyone looking sharp, Friday morning (6:47 AM to be exact -__-) the gang set off for CHOCOLATE FEST which took place in Perugia, Italy!!!

Imagine Wonka’s Chocolate factory in the streets of an Italian hill top town with lots of adorable babies in strollers and you pretty much have Chocolate Fest. The streets are full of different chocolate vendors selling anything from chocolate covered strawberries to sausage (not covered in chocolate). But the majority was chocolate. We each got a “chococard” for five euro which got us a ton of free samples from certain stands. My personal favorite was the hot chocolate! European hot chocolate is pretty much pudding, and it is completely glorious. I’m not sure how I’ll ever go back to Swiss Miss after this. I’m honestly a little embarrassed at how much chocolate I consumed on Friday. Which is why I lovingly refer to myself as Augustus Gloop, if you don’t remember the Willy Wonka reference check out this video:

It’s very informative.
On top of the wonderful chocolate, Perugia is beautiful!
I would definitely recommend going! Clearly we had an Amazing time!
I think Jame’s enjoyed a chocolate festival with four chicks.
After consuming enough calories to get a grizzly bear through hibernation, we hopped a train to Florence! As an art student, Florence has been on my list for a long time it contains some of the most famous art in the world! The hostel where we stayed was tiny but adorable, and the young couple who run it should have a movie made about them. They were the nicest most helpful people! They had free wine set out for us every night (I ain’t mad at that) and free breakfast in the morning. One thing I learned from this hostel though is that I clearly can not handle the top bunk:
homegirl can’t hang.
Our first order of business in Florence was FOOD (which seemed to be the general theme of this trip). The wonderful woman who ran the hostel recommended a restaurant close by and we loved it! James and Winnie got bacon fat on toast as an appetizer… apparently it was good?
Saturday morning we all split up to see the sites. The first place James and I stopped was the Uffizi gallery! I would have gone anywhere to get out of the rain! Of course I (once again) packed like a moron and didn’t bring a coat or sensible shoes so the cold and rain made for one cranky Jen. The Uffizi contains a lot of religious art (which, I’ll admit, isn’t always my thing) but it’s real claim to fame is “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. This museum is definitely a staple in Florence! The second museum was called something L’Accademia? I don’t quite remember. Mostly because the only memorable piece is Michaelangelo’s DAVID!!! James and I sat in front of it for a long time and sketched like good art students… Ok James made me but I’m glad I did! I would have loved to post a picture of it here but they were CRAZY strict here about “NO PHOTO”. I saw someone get clapped at like this:
NO (clap) PHO (clap) TO (clap)
… I did not want to mess with the clapping man.
After seeing David (but definitely taking no pictures) we met up  with everyone else and headed over to Ponte Vecchio! It’s one of the more touristy attractions in Florence but it’s definitely a must- see.
The river would have been much prettier had it not been raining for days!
After seeing the sites we decided to do some shopping! Did you know that Florence has a HUGE market for leather? I didn’t! They had an enormous market that spanned a few blocks selling every type of wallet, belt, purse, jackets, boots, anything! I got a bunch of souvenirs and a new belt! Beware though, the salesmen are pretty aggressive one man told me I look like J. Lo and Shakira.
Jen’s thoughts:
“Well thank you for calling my butt fat. And Shakira is pregnant. I hate you, and I do not want to buy a belt from you. APPARENTLY my butt is big enough to hold my pants up.”
I’m sure he meant it as some kind of backwards compliment but after walking around in the cold and rain all day with a whole in my shoe that lead to one soaked sock I was clearly not feeling very friendly. What could possibly make me feel better at a time like this? Food, what else. We went to another restaurant recommended by the hostel owner and it was INCREDIBLE! I soon as we walked in an old Italian man ran through the packed dining room with his arms spread open and yelled “MULTO BENE!” Jaleh and James got the specialty of the region, T-Bone steak. They said it was awesome!
On our last day in Florence it was still raining. But that was not stopping us from seeing Il Duomo!
It was so beautiful on the inside and out! I am totally in love with Florentine patterns, they are totally different than any other part of Italy that I’ve seen.
We climbed up to the top of the bell tower which was 414 steps!
But so completely worth the view.
Florence is a breathtaking city. That is all I can say. But I was definitely happy to get out of the crowded hostel and get back to Rome! We have a busy week ahead because the Advanced Painting students (including me and James) have a big gallery show coming up on Sunday! Wish us luck in getting everything done!
Buona sera!

Only in Orvieto


Last week, we took a day trip to beautiful Orvieto.   It was a one and a half hour train ride to get to the little town, which is situated atop virtually vertical cliffs.  One of my favorite parts of Orvieto was taking the funicular to the upper part of the medieval town.  We were only in the little train for two minutes, but the views were stellar.

Walking into Orvieto was like walking in a storybook: it was drizzling and the cobblestone streets glistened as the sun tried to break through the clouds.  The houses were tiny and had flower boxes under their windows while sheets hung out the windows to dry.  I could have spent the entire day wandering in and out of the little shops and adoring the picturesque streets.  However, there is a lot to see and do in the small Umbrian town.

If I were to just pass Orvieto on the train to Firenze, I never would have imagined there was an underground town below the magical one we spent the morning strolling through.  We were actually able to take a guided tour through the labyrinth of hidden tunnels and caves.  People built this underground city because Orvieto is situated on tuff cliffs.  The volcanic rock is actually soft to the touch; it crumbles under contact.  Many noble families of Orvieto had homes with access to tunnel systems that they were able to use to flee when the town was under siege.  The escape routes were later used for other purposes.  One of my favorite “rooms” had hundreds of tiny holes carved in the walls.  The hollows used to house pigeons, which happen to be a delicacy in Orvieto.  After hearing this, we had to try pigeon for lunch.  As soon as we emerged from the dark tunnels, we took off to find a restaurant.

Once I was able to get past the fact that I was eating the cousin of one of the birds that populate the streets of Philadelphia, I really enjoyed my meal.  Needless to say, I would highly recommend the pigeon to anyone who visits Orvieto.  Even sitting down to eat in Orvieto was more relaxing and slow-paced than anywhere I’ve been to in Italy.  Most of the shops closed in the afternoon for siesta and I enjoyed people watching while nibbling my pigeon in an adorable restaurant in the Italian countryside.

After lunch, we ventured to the monumental Orvieto Cathedral.  Pope Nicholas IV commissioned the building of the Duomo and the massive church looked every bit the part.  I was surprised to learn that Orvieto was one of the only cities outside Rome to have a papal palace.  Pope Adrian IV and Pope Boniface VIII were just two of the popes to have special ties with Orvieto during the years the popes didn’t have an official residence.

The Duomo looked even cooler from the top of the Torre del Moro.  For a couple of euros and a couple hundred steps, we were able to enjoy some of the best views I’ve seen in Italy yet (which is impressive in a country where every sight is astounding).  Climbing the bell tower was the perfect way to end a lovely day in Orvieto.

Czech Out Prague!


Ahoj!  I’m back in Rome after spending the past few days in Prague.  The city was absolutely enchanting and so unlike Rome or anywhere else that I’ve ever traveled to.

After we arrived on Wednesday, we strolled through Wenceslas Square, which ended up being one of our favorite places in Prague because it was so vibrant and exciting.  Hotels, stores, and restaurants lined the square and there were food tents sent up around outside.  The food in Prague was delicious.  I did not go to the Czech Republic expecting to love the food, but found myself constantly snacking on something.  We ate pork, ham, dumplings, steak, potatoes, potato chips on a stick, roasted almonds, french fries, cinnamon rolls, goulash, bacon, cold cuts, fresh rye bread, and sausage and drank hot wine and famous Czech beer.  It was weird not to eat pasta and drink wine for a couple of days.

It wasn’t hard to walk off all the food we ate by being tourists in Prague.  We spent a day walking around the huge castle complex.  Prague Castle overlooks the city from its position on the top of Castle Hill.  The views from the top of this hill were stunning and walking up the sloping steps to reach the top was an experience in and of itself.  I felt like I was in a dream while I made my way up these steps where people were singing and playing guitars.  It was chilly and cloudy and the aerial view of the changing colors of leaves on the trees combined with the red roofs of the houses completely charmed me.  The castle complex is also home to palaces, churches, museums, and shops.

One of my favorite attractions in Rome was St. Vitus Cathedral, which is in the Prague Castle complex.  St. Vitus Cathedral is an enormous Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral with the most detailed and beautiful architectural designs I have ever seen.  There were (both literally and figuratively) treasures inside, including the silver funerary monument to Saint John of Nepomuk and the crown jewels, which are not displayed but safeguarded by seven locks above the Saint Wenceslas Chapel.

Old Town Square is home to Prague’s Astronomical Clock and the tower at the Old Town Hall.  Like Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square was a perfect place to eat, shop, and people watch and we spent a good chunk of time doing all of the above.  I would also recommend climbing to the top of the tower at the Old Town Hall to admire the stunning panoramic views of beautiful Prague.

The next day, we wandered over to Charles Bridge.  The historic bridge is the primary connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town.  I could’ve spent an entire day strolling along Charles Bridge, which is lined with baroque style statues of saints as well as artists, vendors, and kiosks.  Charles Bridge is currently a pedestrian only bridge and was bustling with tourists snapping pictures of each other and the statues and shopping at the many little kiosks.  I was completely captivated by Charles Bridge, much like everything else in Prague.

We spent our last evening in the city at a hockey game.  Seeing a hockey game in the Czech Republic was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.  The fans were dedicated to their team and their enthusiasm was contagious.  Needless to say, everyone was ecstatic that the home team, Slavia Praha, beat visiting Mountfield.

Prague was so unlike Rome and I am grateful to have been able to spend a couple of days there.  My time in Prague was characterized by castles, cathedrals, walks down picturesque roads, people watching, and shopping and I would recommend visiting this beautiful Eastern European city to anyone.  I’ve traveled and rested and am ready to tackle the second half of my semester in Rome!

I Thought the Parthenon Was Old? Why Are They Still Building It?


Yasas (which is Greek for Hello All!)

The gang has now migrated south to pay a visit to Andriana’s relatives in GREECE! We split up when we left Barcelona, a few people flew to Paris, a few others to Prague, but Cecily, Shannon, Andriana, Jordan, Kenny, Billy, Max, and I all came to Athens! We got here on Monday night, and a few more people are joining us on Friday. It’s been wonderful to be able to have a few days to chill out because traveling is ridiculously stressful! Kudos to my parents for carting my sisters and me around for so many years, I don’t know how you did it. I can barely even handle getting myself anywhere!

This is the first country I’ve been to with an entirely different alphabet, and clearly I had no prior knowledge of Greek other than baklava and OPAH! So I feel pretty worthless trying to get around here. And it’s really difficult to pick up on Greek because this language is ALL about syllables so just to say “Thank you” it’s “eh-far-eee-stoh”… What?

We didn’t get in to Andriana’s aunt’s apartment until midnight and, like true Greeks, they had food waiting for us. We came in to find gigantic Gyros! It was the best sight I had seen all day. Andriana’s yai yai (Grandma) and Aunt Voula were so adorable and friendly! However they’re English was very broken so communication usually involved a lot of confused smiling and nodding. Thankfully Andriana is fluent in Greek!

Isn’t Yai Yai the cutest? She cried when we left and I almost cried too!

On our first full day in Greece no one wanted to walk around to find anything. Barcelona had been such a blur of subways and maps we all just wanted to chill out and recooperate. So we headed for the beach! It was totally gorgeous and I even got some sketching done. And I have ACTUAL tan lines! I feel like a real member of society now. Then we came back to a full home- cooked- by-yai-yai Greek meal of pork and potatoes. We were all so relieved to get a meal that wasn’t pasta!

On Wednesday we planned to get up super early and travel to the Greek Island of Poros!  So the plan was to get up at 6:30 AM and catch a taxi to the port for a boat at 8:00 AM… well no one woke up for that one. Then we were going to catch the 9:00 AM boat… well no one woke up for that one either. So we took the 10 AM boat! This island was…. GORGEOUS!

Kenny was loving it! He (of course) took 4 semesters of Greek. You surprised? I wasn’t either.

Within the first 20 minutes of being here we made a friend:

We named him Fredopolos John Stamos Odysseus the Dog… We decided to name him all things Greek. He followed us around for a while and because Poros is so small we saw him a bunch of times throughout the day.

I also met this wittle cutie! Is it sad that this is my favorite picture?

I would like to take a minute to speak seriously about Greek food. On Poros there was a phenomenal bakery and (not exaggerating) I stopped there THREE times in one day! And I got something different every time! The food in Greece is unreal! And I would mention all of the things I ate but I have no idea what they’re called let alone how to spell them. I guess you’ll just have  to go to Greece yourself and try them! Shannon and I seriously got the same chocolate cake three times in six days! And on top of the gyros and pastries, every night we came home to a gigantic, authentic Greek meal made by Yai Yai! Andriana was not exaggerating when she said her family would never stop feeding us, even if I said I was stuffed Yai Yai would pile more food on my plate! And when we offered to do the dishes we were told “Absolutely not!” Greek hospitality is unparalleled.

After thoroughly stuffing ourselves one night we headed out to a Greek concert! When we got to the club we realized how horrendously under- dressed we were. All of the Greeks were dressed to the nines and we showed up in jeans! But it was alright because we were only there for one thing: to see Andriana’s future husband Nikos Vertis!

Andriana’s Greek MAN

It was so strange because he looked and sounded like a pop start but I had NO IDEA who he was. But the Greeks were loving it, I saw a few grown men almost cry.

One of the last days in Greece we finally made it to the Acropolis!

One warning if you ever go to the Parthenon, wear sensible shoes. The rocks on the way up the hill are SUPER slippery! We were all sliding right back down. It was so amazing though once we got to the top! There is a huge restoration project going on so there is a lot of scaffolding on the Parthenon, but I was completely shocked when I heard someone say, “I thought the Parthenon was really old? Why are they still building it?”… WHAT. They should have been pushed off the mountain.

More Greek Kitties!


What a view!

After our hike up the acropolis and our walk through the museum and a few gyros… 🙂 we trekked over to the Greek Parliament. Of course on the way we stopped at a bakery (go figure)! We had watched the square in front of this building get fire bombed by angry radicals on the news a few days earlier… so we thought it would be a good idea to walk through it!

Luckily there were these super intimidating guards to save us!

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to Yai Yai and Voula. They were the most welcoming people I’ve ever met! And when Yai Yai started to cry I had to give her a big hug, I’ve never met someone filled with so much love. And as sad I as I was to say goodbye, I am SO HAPPY TO BE IN ROME! I was so incredibly comforted to hear Italian again!

I can’t wait to get my normal life in Rome!



Curry Ice Cream and Neoprene


As much as I love the simplicity of Italian cuisine, I really missed eating avant-garde food.  Going to school in one of the food capitals of the nation (Durham, North Carolina), I eat off-campus almost every weekend, trying everything from Whole Foods to Nana’s Tacos to Sushi Love.  The options are endless, and so, I would be lying if I did not say I was a little disappointed by restaurants in Rome.  The food is great, but it is always the same thing:  pasta, bruschetta, pizza, gnocchi, risotto, etc.  From my sociology class with Professor Smith and from talking with my Italian friends, I have come to terms with the food culture—though not too happily.  Only about 8 percent of the population in Rome is of foreign ethnicity.  Of the remaining 92 percent, most Italians enjoy cooking and eating at home.  If it were not for the hordes of tourists that come to Rome, the Eternal City would probably be devoid of restaurants.  Thus, it is quite understandable then that when fall break started, I decided to go on a cuisine adventure.

Crispy prawns on a scoop of curry ice cream from Gilda by Belgious, Barcelona.

I had the best meal of my 20-year life in Barcelona.  My friend (who is studying abroad in Barcelona) and I were walking around the dark, narrow pedestrian alleyways of the gothic district when we stumbled upon Gilda.  Famous for exotic appetizers and unusual tapas, the restaurant’s menu features Mediterranean cuisine with a Belgian twist.  Fortunately, my friend is as much a foodie as I am, and so we decided to split three starters.  We ordered hot pea soup with a scoop of shrimp ice cream, crispy prawns mounted on curry ice cream with fresh spinach coulis, and salmon on a nest of mesclun greens with walnuts and Dijon mustard sorbet.  Every bite was tantalizingly delicious, most likely accentuated by the fact that I had been eating my poor cooking and invariable Italian food for the past month and a half.  The food we ordered may sound weird, but it is one of those things that because the dish sounds so weird, it had to be ethereally delectable.  I love that Gilda’s chef is not afraid to experiment with ingredients, and wish that more for Italy, a country so rooted in tradition.  Not just limited to food, but for all things, tradition is just as important as innovation, and given Italy’s current state of economic affairs, the country could use a little resourcefulness.

From left to right: Ally Rivard, Me, and Jacquelyn Cochet before diving into the Mediterranean.

Before returning to Rome, I met up with several students from Temple Rome in Nice, France…and we went scuba diving.  I have only ever been snorkeling, so scuba diving was a wholly new experience!  I am absolutely fascinated by the underwater world and take any opportunity to see it.  Thus, while I did see more variety of fish and coral when I went snorkeling off the coast of Zanzibar, being consciously aware that I was swimming among—not on top—of all the wildlife was thrilling.  Essentially, I was a mermaid for an afternoon!  Furthermore, I rather like the neoprene wetsuits.  Not only are they adept at providing thermal insulation, abrasion resistance, and buoyancy, but also, aesthetically, the fabric hugs and smooths one’s curves.  It is no wonder then that fashion designers (Calvin Klein, Fendi, Burberry, and Balenciaga, just to name a few) have started experimenting with neoprene.  For me, I am especially loving Balenciaga’s neoprene sweaters for F/W 2012.

Balenciaga, Fall/Winter 2012

There’s No Place like Rome


We’re all at the midway point of our study abroad experience in Rome, and I know that I feel very comfortable and at home in the city at this point.  I’ve settled into a routine and have gotten the hang of things around here so when I picked my seventeen year old brother up from the airport on Friday morning, I was excited to show him Rome like a pro.

It’s been interesting to see Rome and Italy and Europe through the eyes of a tourist.  I’ve become so used to some of the quirky Roman nuances that I forgot why they’re weird.  My brother was fascinated with the nasoni, the drinking fountains with the nose-shaped spigots.  At first he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that the water from them was safe to drink, and as I started thinking about it myself, I realized all over again how cool it is that this water comes from the ancient Roman aqueduct systems.

I have spent the last few days smiling over my tourist brother’s reaction to Italian food.  He was only here for five days, but he’s eaten his way through Italy: pizza, gnocchi, spaghetti alla carbonara and amatriciana, gelato, etc.  I hate to think that I’ve become used to the cuisine here, but watching a visitor react to their first bite of authentic Italian pasta has made me reevaluate my recent complaints about not eating as much meat here as I would like.  I’ll admit that I have been missing my steak and potatoes, but have become smitten with pasta again as I see Rome through new eyes with my little brother.

Having someone here for five days also forced me to decide what my must-see places in Rome are because I wanted to make sure he saw all the best spots in the city before leaving on Wednesday.  In five days, we managed to throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, climb the Spanish Steps, do a night time tour of the Vatican Museums, shop on Via del Corso, wander through the Capitoline Museum, snack on panini in the Villa Borghese, walk around the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, eat in Trastevere, bar hop in Testaccio, admire the Pantheon, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Castel Sant’Angelo, tour Saint Callisto’s Catacombs, and people watch in Piazza Navona. We managed to squeeze a lot into a short time frame and my brother managed his jet lag like a pro, but I can’t help but feel like we have barely scratched the surface.  At least I have another month and a half to really get to know every inch of this amazing city which has so completely stolen my heart.

I knew that there was a lot to see and do in Rome, and seeing and doing everything is a goal that I won’t let go of until I’m on the flight heading back to America.  Seeing Rome for the first time vicariously through my brother reinforced for me what a perfect city Rome is to study abroad in.  It’s impossible to be bored in a city that is so rich in art, history, and culture.  I’m spending the second half of my midterm break in Prague, but I’m grateful I was able to be a tourist in my city with one of my favorite people in the world during the first half.

Walking on Mosaics


Panorama of Lisbon

Hello from Lisboa!  This marine city is home to a little over 500,000 people (for perspective, about 8.2 million people live in New York City).  It is pretty small, but all of the grand architecture reminds one of Lisbon’s golden age, when it was once the European center of trade for Africa, India, and the Far East and home to explorers Vasco da Gama, Magellan, and Prince Henry the Navigator.  Built by a river and on top of several hills, Lisbon boasts some of the most interesting geography I’ve seen!  The streets go up and down and all around (much like San Francisco), but the sidewalks are made out of little stones using a method called calçada portuguesa.  The effect is of a mosaic on the ground, which is beautiful, but also very dangerous.  Feet, wind, and dirt have eroded the stones so much that they are now very slippery!  I found myself almost sliding down some steep hills while winding through Lisbon.  I also tried speaking Italian in Lisbon since I do not know Portuguese, which inspired some laughs and interesting stares.  All this traveling in Europe has made me really appreciate that English is my first language.  Although I am disturbed by the ignorance of many Americans, I am also proud to be a citizen of the most powerful country in the world.  China is catching up, but people assume I am Chinese anyway, so I guess I’m covered in that regard!

Sao Roque Church. Lisbon, Portugal

On the first full day, Marie and I visited the São Roque Church, which is the world’s most expensive chapel.  I kid you not, every surface was covered with gold save for the ceiling, the floor, and the pews.  While the walls displayed beautiful mosaics, some that even looked like paintings from far away, what surprised me the most was the ceiling.  Studying abroad in Rome, I marvel at the magnificent murals and elaborate architecture above me; yet, the São Roque Church, despite its intricate interior, featured a painted wooden roof.  It was like the builders spent so much time on everything else that by the time they got to the roof, they were too tired to do any more.

Belem Tower. Lisbon, Portugal.

After that, we took the tram to the Belem Tower, which actually rises out of the sea!  It is located at the point where the river opens into the Atlantic Ocean.  Can you imagine being an explorer from the 1500s and seeing a massive Romanesque tower as you sail into Lisbon?  Of course, no visit is complete without a taste of Belem’s famous pastry, Pastel de Nata, which cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.  It was delicious!

Inside MUDE, looking out.

On our way back, we stopped at MUDE, Museu do Design e da Moda.  The museum features an impressive collection of iconic pieces from each era starting in 1900 to now.  I was even able to recognize the pieces made by Italian designers thanks to Professor Krizek’s class trip to Milan!  In the Milan showrooms though, I was actually able to touch and take pictures of the pieces, whereas at MUDE, there was a strict no touching and no photography policy.  Although MUDE is located in Portugal, the exhibition felt more like a timeline of the history of design; rather than a celebration of Portuguese design, which was what I had expected.  The large number of works by French, Italian, and Scandinavian designers far overshadowed the meager showings of a couple Portuguese creations, which unfortunately highlighted the fact that Portugal’s golden age is over.  Other than that though, MUDE is great (and free); definitely a must-see.


It just so happens that this past weekend was also Lisbon’s fashion week.  As Marie and I were coming back from dinner, we stopped by the plaza where all the beautiful people of the world had just seen their respective shows.  Keeping to ourselves, we people-watched from a prime location just outside the doors to the show.  As we critiqued each outfit, a man approached us and asked what show we had just come from.  Then, a random photographer asked to take our photo.  It was a dream come true.  Next dream?  Actually get invited to a fashion show.

Um Excuse Me… I Think You’re In the Wrong Room?


Ciao! Or should I say Hola because the gang is in SPAIN for fall break!!!

Currently it is Sunday morning and I am sitting in an ACTUAL Starbucks drinking a big coffee (unfortunately, they do not have pumpkin spice lattes here). It’s nice to have a little slice of home in Barcelona. We left on Friday afternoon (thank god because NO ONE had it together until 10 minutes before we left) and headed for Fiumicino airport. This is the first time I’ve been back there since the day we landed in Rome, and I can’t believe how much has changed in these past few weeks! Anyway, I hate airports. Almost as much as I hate the DMV.  They make me stressed (which, I’m sure, is true for most people). And of course this girl is the one who packed like a moron and had a can of hairspray in her carry on. So when they threw out my hairspray they also caught my mousse, hair gel, shampoo, and conditioner that were all too big to take on the plane… So they all got chucked. I guess that’s my own dumb fault. But I’ll skip the rest because no one wants to read about an airport.

Once we got to BARCELONA it was about 9:00 PM on Friday, and we had no real plan on how we were going to get from the airport to the hostel. And apparently when the Italian entered my brain, my four years of public school Spanish subsequently exited. So I couldn’t remember a single useful sentence. We eventually figured it out and made to our hostel which was AWESOME!

James was loving it.

Clearly we all turned into complete monkeys when we found out we were staying in a jungle gym of bunk beds!

On Saturday we were all up early, and the first spot on our list: STARBUCKS. All we wanted was a normal sized coffee rather than the tiny cappuccinos you find in Italy. After we got our caffeine fix we headed out to see the sights.

My FAVORITE part of the day was seeing the Church of Sagrada  Familia which is a gigantic unfinished church designed by the famous Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. It was literally incredible. And it is not even finished, The church was designed and started in the late 1800s and it’s completion is not scheduled until about 2035. Isn’t that nuts!?! But when you see it, it is clear why it would take such a long time.


Then on Saturday night we went to see what we called the magic fountain. I’m sure it had some lovely Spanish name but no one knows what it is. It’s this gigantic fountain in front of the national art museum that performs choreography to music. It was so cool! Except most of the songs were American by people like Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears.

Saturday night we all went out to dinner and then hit the clubs! Which was very different than American clubbing. First of all, all of these clubs were on the beach which was gorgeous, and they were in a row on this strip so people would just skip from club to club. We all somehow wound up with free passes to one of the clubs so it was a cheap night out! We danced until practically dawn and then came home and crashed. I managed a total of 2 hours of sleep before I was up again.

But in the morning when I got up there were many more messed up things going on than my sleep deprivation. I was the first one up and I noticed a pair of legs wearing jeans and sneakers sticking out from Kenny’s bunk. I thought Kenny had put his pajamas on but I didn’t think anything at first. Then when everyone began to stir Kenny got up laughing and asked:

Kenny: “Hey guys why did James pass out in my bed?”

Jen: “Um… James is over here?”

James: “What?”

Reality sank in, I guess the door had not fully closed the night before and some way- too- drunk American college kid had wandered in from the room downstairs and passed out in the bed next to Kenny!!!

OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!

So I quickly scaled the ladder to see what was going on. From the back he did kind of look like James, he was in his 20’s and he spoke American English. I poked him and said:

Jen: “Um excuse me… but I think you’re in the wrong room. But it’s ok!”

Dude: “Huh.” (He seemed like an experienced vagrant)

Jen: “Are you ok? Do you need some water or anything?”

Dude: “I want a bacon, egg, and cheese.”

Jen: “Yea well, that would be nice.”

James kindly urged him to “Get out.” He took his sweet time and when he finally left in a drunken stupor we all burst out laughing. These kind of of shenanigans WOULD happen to us.

On Sunday we all went down to the bay to ride on a cable car ride over Barcelona. It was COMPLETELY worth the long wait, the view was gorgeous. And it gave us a great outlet to wander around the city.

After a long day of exploring we made it to the Picasso museum which had been on the top of my list since we got here. It was AMAZING and displayed a really wide range of his works from him early years to his death. I am now fascinated and can’t wait to get home to paint!

On our last night in Barcelona we FINALLY managed to find good Paella and sangria (which EVERYONE should try, it’s lovely). But here’s the lesson we learned from a couple different meals of ordering Sangria: Order your own. Be sure to order a different kind than everyone else. Because one night James, Kenny, Jordan, and I all ordered chicken paella and they brought it all out in one big dish. Which would have been cool if it was actually enough to split between four people. So the last night we all got our own and had more than we could eat, which was glorious.

We spent our last night in Barcelona listening to James narrate the sex advice from Cosmo. Which was oddly HILARIOUS. Today we’re off for the second part of Fall break, we’re staying in GREECE with Andriana’s family. I CAN NOT WAIT! However I wish I could just skip the airport part.





When I decided to go to Rome, I thought I would be eating long dinners, drinking wine every night, and casually seeing works by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Raphael.  Who knew I would also be trying my hand at modeling?  Tessa (from this post) is working on doing more commercial photography to build her portfolio, and so asked me to be in her images.  Her selection rose more out of a thing of convenience than anything else since it was midterm week after all, but I think the images turned out rather nice!  The photos were taken at the Cipro metro stop (a 5 minute walk from the residence), and we happened to stumble upon a dance crew that was nice enough to take time out of their rehearsal to be in our photo-shoot!

Tessa Marie Smucker

Tessa Marie Smucker

Tessa Marie Smucker

For more of Tessa’s work, click here.  Visit, she’s great!

After this experience and the work I have been doing in my digital imaging class, I realize so much more now how much thought and effort photographers put into each image!  It’s not as simple as a click of a button! For instance, I am so used to being behind the camera that this reversal felt very awkward for me.  Tessa, being the amazing photographer that she is, was energetic, vivacious, and dynamic as she coached me into each pose.  Furthermore, take a look at this photo by Chien-Chi Chang.


Chien-Chi Chang. TAIWAN. Wuri. 2003.

It’s pretty cool.  But, only a true critic would recognize all the details, and my digital imaging class has pushed me to those limits.  Furthermore, being a Chinese-American myself, the work of other Asian photographers holds much personal interest.  As I scanned the list of names under “Magnum Photos,” which publish Chang’s images, his was the only oriental one.  Because of the competitive academic climate in China, many Chinese people do not have the opportunity to explore the arts, and so, Chang’s breakthrough in the world of photographer as an Asian man inspires and eliminates stereotypes about the “typical” East Asian person.  In the above photograph, Chang displays dexterity in the use of scale, as the pedestrian suspension bridge appears monumental in relation to the two small children featured in the frame.  He plays with depth of field as the lines made by the edges of the bridge lead towards a single, disappearing point.  Furthermore, the white gate in the background appears in stark contrast to the dark muted tones of the foreground; yet, the foreground is in focus, while the giant, white block of space in the background is fuzzy.  In this decisive moment, Chang takes a provocative image of a little girl crying and running; however, not, it seems, from the boy with the scary mask for he in front of her.  As a child, her instinct would be to run away from what is scaring her and towards safety, but in this photograph, it is obviously not the boy with the mask who is responsible for her distress.  This observation suggests a disturbing reality.

This fall break, I am off to Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, and Nice!