Finally: Bolivia

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Finally. After over a year and a half of thinking, planning, dreaming, and coordinating, I have begun the travel portion of my Watson journey. It's a little weird, after all of the work, waiting, and celebrating, it almost feels like the Watson has already happened… I know that is ridiculous, and I’m SO glad it’s not true!!

I have been in Bolivia for around 10 days now, having left the US from JFK on July 31st. It took three planes and a night in the Santa Cruz Airport, but I finally made it to Cochabamba, Bolivia: My home for the next three months.

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Cochabamba is a beautiful city, with a population a little over 1,900,000 nestled within an valley amongst the Andes Mountain Range. Its weather has been called “Eternal Spring” because it is never really too hot or too cold. It is winter here in South America, but also the warmest months here in Cochabamba. Every day is sunny and clear, warm during the day, and then cool and cold at night. It’s great! In the center of town, the Spanish-style buildings sit amongst plazas and streets where there is basically always something going on: a street performance, a parade, vendors selling delicious homemade pastries…

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During my time here, I will be working with several local organizations and doing my own independent work, investigating the relationships and intersections between trauma, violence, and art. One of the best parts of my time here so far is that it is nothing like I thought I would be. I came in with a plan and connections with people here, but those plans have already transformed and those connections have multiplied. Just today, sitting in the courtyard of my hostel on a lazy Sunday, I overheard a woman speaking about the creative therapy foundation she runs here in town. I struck up a conversation with her, and we are going to meet this week to discuss the possibility of me working with her! Karma? Fate? The nature of this year?

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I think that the nature of this blog is going to change from what it was when I was in Europe. I don’t really want to do a day-by-day update of my life here. Instead, I’ll set the scene with this post and the update on bigger things: weekend trips, realizations, challenges, etc. I don’t know how much I will be able to update, but I will do my best! I still have to blog about my time in Prague and Berlin at the end of July… but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, here is a little taste of what I have been up to:

I stayed in as beautiful hostel outside of the city center for the first couple of nights. It had a beautiful courtyard and patio, the hosts were so incredibly nice, and there were a lot of other travelers there to make friends with! It was a nice place to ease into being abroad again, and being in such a different place.

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I have since moved downtown, where there aren’t any cows along the road as you walk to the market…

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Through one of the organizations I am working with, I have made some great friends from both Italy and Spain. Jody (Italy), Barbara, Sandra, and Richy (Spain) all work/volunteer at Performing Life, a foundation that educates and empowers children of Cochabamba through the arts, specifically circus!

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It has been really great having them here. They have shown me around a little and given me some advice about the ins and outs of Cochabamba. For example, the giant market down town where you can find the most delicious food. My new favorite: Sillpancho – rice, potatoes, a thin piece of beef, a fried egg and onions/tomatoes.

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I arrived in Bolivia right on time for one of the most celebratory times of the year! August 6th was Independence Day here and there were parades all day as well as the night before. Basically every school walks in the parade, all with really great marching bands! It was really fun to spend the day watching parades in the main square.

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Well, I think that might be all for now. It is tough to upload pictures and things with the internet in my hostel. Like I said, it’s a lazy Sunday and I am going to spend the evening writing letters, reading, maybe skyping my parents, and enjoying this place where I am so lucky to be.

Miss you all a ton. Besitos.
xoxoxhma

AMSTER AMSTER DAM DAM DAM

Woooow. It has been forever since I sat down to write. The past month has been a whirlwind, full of fun and lots of traveling. Over that time:
1. Kirstan and I traveled to Amsterdam
2. I went to Prague
3. It was our last week in Leipzig.
3a.We were busy finishing things up in the studio, were packing and cleaning;
3b. had our end-of-residency Open Studio.
4. Moved to Berlin for the week and did so many amazing things
5. Flew back home!

So I have about 4 days at home in Princeton before my Watson year officially begins and I leave for Bolivia. It finally felt like summer in Leipzig, and was warm every day. It’s definitely summer here in NJ and I have lots to do! We will see how much time I can spend blogging… jet lag has it’s benefits! I’ll be updating more about the past three weeks soon, but today is devoted to Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam was one of the top cities on my list to visit while I was in Europe, for many reasons. First, I only ever hear good things about the city, it is where both of my parents studied abroad, and there was a special exhibition at the Rijksmuseum called “Art Is Therapy” I had to see. Looking at all there was to do in the city, Kristan and I planned a rather long trip – we needed it! Every day was full of different kinds of things, foods, and places. I don’t think we would have been able to do it all in less time.

When Kristan and I arrived, we walked to our AirBnB apartment which was in the perfect location. It was in a neighborhood outside of the city center, but very close to Rembrandtplein by tram. I wouldn’t realize it until later in the trip, but it was really nice to stay in a not so touristy section of the city.

20140716-185207-67927034.jpg There was a canal just outside of our door, and I instantly fell in love with the city. We decided to venture to Rembrandtplein for dinner and to walk around a bit – the weather was gorgeous! We found this cute little cafe on a side street where I enjoyed traditional Dutch sausage and mashed potatoes with arugula in them! Yuuum!

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The morning of the first full day we had in the city, we decided to go to the Anne Frank House. We thought that getting there right when it opened (9:00am), there would be somewhat of a line, but nothing too crazy. We were wrong! When we got there at 9:00, the line was already an hour and 45 minutes long!

20140717-225709-82629646.jpg I had no reservations about waiting though – this was one of the most important things on my list while we were in Amsterdam. Luckily, it was a beautiful and warm day, and the line moved a little faster than predicted! We were soon in the building.

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Reflecting on my time in the the house, annex, and museum, I realize that my short time there left me with surprising insights and questions. It was incredible to pass through the hallways of the house, then past the original bookcase that hid the annex, up the incredibly steep stairs to the rooms whose windows had been blacked out by the sun. The annex is left empty, as per Otto Frank’s request – to keep the space as it was after the Nazi raid. In the darkened rooms, I filed along with the other tens of visitors allowed in that hour. It was a strange kind of parade, passing from relic to relic – a book Otto read, the scrap of wallpaper that marked Anne and Margo’s growth over the years – I got this strange sense of acting in a pilgrimage. All of us there that day, and basically everyone who visits Amsterdam goes to the Anne Frank House. We all make our way, stand in line, and file through the spaces where she lived during years of hiding, where she wrote the diary each of us read at some point in middle or high school. I was surprised by how I felt about all of this. The story of Anne Frank is the story of one girl; one among millions of others with stories like hers that will never be known. Why is she the one that millions of visitors make a pilgrimage to?

I think that I had a hard time with all of this after learning that while she and her family were still in hiding, Anne had intended to publish parts of her diary. Once the Allies arrived, there was a call for stories of those who had been persecuted, that would be collected and published after the war. Anne heard this on the radio they had in the annex, and began to re-write and edit some of her diary. For some reason, this fact made The Diary of Anne Frank lose some of its innocence, and magic for me. I had always pictured her words as ones she only wanted to tell Kitty (the name of her diary); as personal insights and thoughts she needed to express, but did not want to speak. I am sure that some of what we know as The Diary of Anne Frank is that innocent and magic inner workings of Anne’s mind. But knowing that some of it was edited for a larger audience, it made me feel differently about the whole thing. I am not sure if I am explaining it well, or if I can correctly explain it at all. I was just very surprised by this feeling I had as I was leaving the annex and museum.

Thinking more about this kind of fall from grace I had experienced, I realized that I need to visit the Anne Frank House, and I need The Diary of Anne Frank. Through compartmentalizing insane and horrible tragedies that happened to literally millions of people into the experience of one young girl, the unfathomable reality of living through that time and under those circumstances becomes much more relatable. I can recognize with Anne, we all can. Each reader or visitor to the museum can much more easily recognize, identify with, and possibly sympathize with a single person, than with millions or even seven people (the number of people living with Anne in the annex). The Diary of Anne Frank, and the Anne Frank House are entry points; they are footholds into an attempt to understand. I realized later on that Anne’s story, while seemingly incredibly personal and intimate, is representative and large. I am thankful I was able to visit the Anne Frank House.

Later on that day, after a really beautiful walk across the city along the canals and lunch outside, Kristan and I decided to try out the Heineken Experience. We were unsure if we were going to go. We had heard online that the lines tended to be really, really long, but when we got there… no lines! The whole thing was kind of ridiculous. It was a little gimmicky and over the top, but it was cool to get to learn about the history of Heineken and to sample some beer along the way.

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The best part about the whole thing was that there was a “free” canal boat we took back to one of the more central squares of the city! I wasn’t sure we were going to get a chance to travel by boat on the canal, and was really glad that this opportunity came up! I loved being on the water and seeing what canal traffic was like – it was really hot so there were a lot of people!

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Much of our time in Amsterdam was spent wandering around, looking for places we had looked up on the internet, or that friends had recommended. Brynn, who spent a semester studying abroad in Amsterdam, had some great advice for places to go and hang out. One of my favorites, was the windmill bar we walked to later that day. It is a bar in the bottom of an old wooden windmill! They had really great beers on tap, I had my first IPA since leaving the Pacific North West. We sat, ate cheese, and enjoyed a really great afternoon.

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That night, there were World Cup matches on so we went to watch at one of the more crowded bars in Rembrandtplein. It was really fun to be in a crowd of excited and energized people. Leipzig loves soccer as well, but they are a little lacking in enthusiasm. (I’ll explain a little more about soccer culture in Leipzig when I talk about the World Cup Finals!!) Standing in a crowd of cheering people and talking to random other people you were squished in with was so much fun! We luckily had great weather in Amsterdam, so decided to walk around the canals that night – the lights against the water are absolutely gorgeous. I’m not sure if there is something better than summer in this city.

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The following day, Kristan and I spent our time wandering through the Rijksmuseum as well as the Van Gogh Museum. I was especially excited to visit the Rijks because of a special exhibition that is running there this summer. It is titled “Art asTherapy”, and directly applies to my interest in the intersection between art and psychology, and directly has to do with my Watson project. Unfortunately, it will stop running before my Watson year begins, but I was so excited that I got to see it now!

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Throughout the museum, there were these giant sticky notes next to selected works. The writings and the entire exhibition was inspired by the work of Alain de Bottom and John Armstrong. The writings on the sticky notes are partially taken from de Bottom’s book Art as Therapy, and do not approach the art from an art historical context, but rather how the themes, messages, materials, etc. of the work can be applied to contemporary lives. Each one makes you think about something within your own life, whether it is a struggle you are having with a person who is close to you or your own self confidnce. Because the source for these insights and questions are world-famous artworks within one of the largest museums in the world, some of the sticky notes addressed the audience’s relationship with art. For me, it has always been fun and easy to be in a museum; I want to be there. But I know for a lot of my friends and most people, art museums are boring or intimidating. What’s the point? I don’t know anything about art or art history so why should I go? All of this is way too over my head, I don’t understand. A lot of the sticky notes addressed these feelings, pointing out that it is O.K. not to like art or museums, and that you don’t have to feel guilty for not liking it. While the sticky notes valued and affirmed some people’s disinterest or dislike for art, one of my favorites noted that sometimes the most valuable things are hard and challenging; that you sometime have to work a little to understand. Sometimes interacting with art is hard and confusing. But pushing past that difficulty can lead to incredible rewards and insights into the lives of others and yourself.
The best sticky note of all was in the main corridor, near the ticket office. It something along the lines of, art makes you see what artists loved; makes love what artists love. There is something about that approach and philosophy to art that I really connect with. I love thinking about paintings or any kind of artwork as a documentation of love. Each one is a persuasive argument or a bit of evidence, trying to allure and convince the viewer, or just even call to their attention, that there is beauty and thing to love in the world. I don’t really want to tell people how to go about interacting with art, but the next time you are in a museum, gallery, or even if there is a cheesy painting in your dentist’s waiting room, try to think about them as evidence of something someone loves.

Other than having emotional feelings about what art is and how to approach it… I saw some amazing work around the museum. I was blown away by some of the smaller, less famous paintings, especially those by Rembrandt. The way that he uses small bits of paint, gestural marks, and seemingly intuitive, not over-thought, simple marks to create the illusion of lush fabric and textures is insane. Look at the details of these paintings…. ahh I’m still drooling over what he does with paint.

20140728-074817-28097751.jpgLook at how thick that paint is!!

20140728-074819-28099368.jpgThat black on black detail!! AHH!

20140728-074816-28096934.jpgThe most beautiful.

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People were of course crowding around Vermeer’s Milkmaid and Rembrandt’s Night Watch like they were the only things worth seeing in the entire place.

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The craziest part about the Rijks was that I (almost physically) ran into Julia Maltby, a friend from high school I haven’t seen in 4 years!! We were in a small gallery off to the side and there she was with her mom! It was crazy! We talked for a little while and then exchanged contact information so that we could try and meet up to watch the Netherlands play in the Quarter Finals for the World Cup that night! I absolutely love how small the world is sometimes, and how weird forces and circumstances bring you together with people in ways you could never imagine.

Kristan and I also visited the Van Gogh Museum that afternoon. It was INCREDIBLY crowded, and the way people moved through the gallery spaces was like cattle being herded from one food trough to another. Kristan and I tried to jump around and spend more time with paintings that we thought were particularly amazing (which was basically all of them). The museum did not allow pictures, but seeing the way Van Gogh used color was inspiring and such a good reward after fighting through so many people.

That night, Kristan and I headed to Albert Cuypstraat to watch the World Cup Quarter Finals. During the day, this street is a huge market, so we figured a lot of people would be out watching the game on big screens. The Dutch looooove soccer, and were especially excited for their team to be so far along in the tournament.

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So, in addition to randomly running into Julia in the Rijks, my friend Lauren Stander also happened to be in Amsterdam that weekend and texted me to meet up for the game!! Lauren and I first met when we went to sleep away camp together (I’m sure this means nothing to you, but we were Green Feather Princesses together – Camp Matollionequay’s highest honor) and then we were really good friends my freshman year at Pitt! This summer, she is and au pair in Spain, and was randomly in Amsterdam for the weekend! I hadn’t seen her in a couple summers, and it was so great to see her!

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After a long game, and the nerve-wrecking shoot-out, HOLLAND WON THE GAME!!! The bar we were at went berzerk! Broken glasses hit the ground everywhere around us, and we all started jumping up and down, screaming and cheering. It was amazing. Walking through the streets, the whole walk home, and into the early morning outside of our widow, people were yelling, cheering and just really excited. The atmosphere in the city was palpable. It was so awesome to be apart of such an enthusiastic celebration!!

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The next day was our final day in the city, we had a one more night and a train back to Leipzig the next morning. We had been staying in an apartment with Air BnB, but this morning we moved closer to the center of the city, to a hostel. This wasn’t just any hostel. “Shelter City”, located in the heart of the Red Light District is the hostel where BOTH of my parents worked and lived while they studied abroad in college. They both really wanted me to stay there while I was in the city, and it was kind of crazy to be in the same place they were 25 years ago! My parents met because of Amsterdam, so staying at this hostel was really special for me. I think the story goes that one of them had studied abroad in Amsterdam, and another one of them wanted to (I’m not sure who went first). Anyway, someone suggested that they talk about Amsterdam and introduced them. I guess the rest is history. So, in a way, this hostel is one of the reasons why I and my family exist. It was surreal to be there and I am so thankful it was still in it’s original location. My mom recognized the courtyard and new exactly where my room was in relationship to where she stayed. Today (7/29/14), is their 25th wedding anniversary. I’m so thankful for them both and so thankful for Amsterdam for bringing them together. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my parent’s guidance, advice, and support.

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For our last day, we split up and wandered around the city together. I had couple things on my list to do, but I mostly just meandered around. I happened upon an organ concert in De Nieuwe Kirk in Dam Square. It was beautiful to be in such a large and historic church and to hear organ music – I have always weirdly loved the organ, something about it’s range and depth.

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It was a kind of rainy day, but I liked the overcast. I found the most adorable french bakery tucked away in an ally dear a canal. I spent some time there writing post cards and relaxing.

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For the rest of my day, I took a ferry across the river to the NDSM Wharf across from the city. I had read about the free ferries and the wharf on Lonely Planet, and I am sooo glad that I had the time to check it out.

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The Wharf used to be a major port for the city, but has since been repurposed as more of a cultural center. I visited the NDSM hangar, which is known as Kunststad (Art City). Inside this massive space, there was work being exhibited, and there were tons of these little pod-like studios where artists were working. It was an awesome space. It seemed like a place where there was a real community and energy of support. I’m definitely going to keep the Kunststad in mind for the future. Across the river from one of my now favorite cities sits an artist community and wharf dedicated to culture. What could be better?

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I walked around the rest of the wharf, had lunch at this resturant right on the water, and just really enjoyed exploring alone. Happening upon spaces like the NDSM Warf made me so excited for what I will happen upon over the course of this whole year.

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While exploring, I came upon this blue wall. I don’t know what it was about the wall, but I think it was the most beautiful thing I saw in Amsterdam, maybe even in Europe. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was just incredible. The size of it, the color of the blue, and the funny way that some of the squares of paint didn’t quite match – I sat on the curb and looked at it for a good while. I got some strange looks, but I just couldn’t look away.

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That evening, Amsterdam sent me off with one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I saw a pinky color starting to creep in as I was walking by the canals. I followed it and found the most beautiful orange and red sunset I had ever seen. Sitting by the canal with the sun setting was the best way to spend my last evening in a city I had really fallen in love with. I am so glad and thankful I was able to visit Amsterdam over my time in Europe. It taught me a lot more than I had expected, and was more beautiful than I imagined. I know this won’t be the last sunset I see in the city.

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Soccer//Fusbol Ping-Pong//Table Tennis

Hello Hello Hello!

So the title of this post will make a little more sense later on in the post… it has been a busy week! Here is a sneak peak of what’s to come.

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But first, I bet the anticipation has been killing you… the long awaited blog post about the most amazing eventing I have had in Leipzig so far. Haha, well I hope that it lives up to all my self-created hype.

So a while back now, Kristan and I had just gotten back from Munich and we woke up to a cold Saturday morning. We were anxious to get the to studio after having been away, but also needed to get groceries before the market closed. When we walked to the store, we discovered that there was a street fair/festival happening right on our street, Karl-Heine! We had no idea!! We got distracted from the store and decided to walk a few blocks and check out the festival. It was a strange mix of food carts and tables selling things – people from established stores, flea-market-style tables, hand-made things and a lot of independent artists. What we thought was going to be a quick walk up a few blocks before the market turned into about an hour of window shopping and Kristan buying a beautiful, handmade ring from this Australian guy! We wanted to stay and walk the whole 6 or 7 blocks, but we also still needed to get groceries. So we quickly went to the store. When we got back, I grabbed my things for the studio and left the apartment. Abbie had already left, and Kristan was staying back to make lunch before she left.

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Walking around the festival by myself was awesome. I loved getting to look at all the art and things that people had made. Most people spoke English, so interacting was a little easier. There were live performances happening every couple of blocks – folk bands, people singing “La Bomba”, and Capoeira dancers! I got a really good bratwurst with mustard for lunch and took my time walking. My walk to the studio (which normally takes 20 minutes) turned into a really nice and relaxing 2 hours or so – the festival was even bigger than we thought! There was this huge open field that they had cleared for more vendors!

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I ended up buying this beautiful, handmade leather wallet from this really nice woman who was about my age! She offered free repairs for up to a year, even though I wont be in Leipzig that long :( My favorite part about the wallet is the screen-printed fish on the inside. I am so glad to have something to take with me that will always remind me of Leipzig, and of this perfect day.

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Finally, I got to the studio. Kirstan, Abbie and I stayed and worked for a couple of hours, but went home to make dinner and get ready for the Germany vs. Ghana game!!

So, in Germany, they call soccer fusbol, not football. I always knew the table-top soccer as fusbol, but they call that kicker here… it’s all a little wacky. But, we went off to this really wonderful beer garden on our street that is right by the canal to watch the game.

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It was the best way to watch a game. Our friends, Val and Nina, from Halle 14 came and sat with us. The crowd wasn’t too rowdy (I’m used to American sports fans), and the people we were sitting around were all wearing these all-white outfits…. I thought that they might be capoiera dancers from the festival, but during half time they all got up from the tables we were sharing with them and lined up for a performance. They were apart of this percussion group!! There were about 30 or so people in the group, separated into different parts. THEY WERE AMAZING. They had a conductor who was my age or maybe a little bit older, and it was amazing how they all worked together. It was obvious that what they were playing wasn’t an arranged piece, but the mixing and improvisation of the conductor, who led the group to be cohesive and beautiful. They played the whole halftime. Kristan, Abbie and I danced with some other people off to the side, it was a great way to spend the normally really boring half time.

Then, the game ended and the group started playing again! This time it was even more improvised and meshed together than the half-time. It also seemed like it would never stop!! At one point, the conductor had everyone yell “I like to move it, move it”, it was hilarious. Then, all of a sudden, just a few of the drummers kept playing, and the whole group started marching into this back ally behind the garden. I immediately followed – it was kind of like I was in a trance hahaha – I wanted to know where they could be going.

Following them is what led to the most amazing thing that has happened to me on this trip. It seemed like we had reached a dead end in the ally, I was kind of sad that the music and fun was going to stop. But then, the band, 30+ audience members and I squished into this tiny clothing store someone had opened up for us. Because I had been so eager to follow the group, Kirstan Abbie and I were right in the front of the audience. For the next hour (???) or so the band kept playing, and me and a ton of strangers danced our butts off. I have no idea how long we were actually in that store… it kinda felt like time had been suspended and we were all in this magical world where everyone was a stranger but no one was a stranger at the same time. All of us, the band and the audience followed the every command and request of the conductor, dancing low to the ground and then jumping up once “the beat dropped” (I feel so silly using that phrase but I cant think of anything better”; we all yelled out chants and cheers in time with the beats; we all danced without worry. There was this amazing energy I remember feeling in the room – it was the happiest, most random and serendipitous positive glow that I have ever come across. I just remember looking around the room and EVERYONE was smiling. I know I am gushing, but the synchronicity, connectedness, and joy that I felt after a random chance performance after a World Cup game was just incredible. The pictures are terrible, but you can get an idea of the store we were in.

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THAT was the best day I have had on this trip. It had everything. Sleeping in, a surprise festival, bratwurst, working in the studio, World Cup, beer gardens, and dancing. The best parts were all by surprise and chance. I hope it was the first of many days like that.

The rest of this week has bee filled with watching the World Cup, working hard in the studio, and a bit of ping-pong, or as the Germans would say, table tennis. Our friend Valerie left this week, and had an open studio before she did! about 30 or so people came, it was great! We played this awesome version of table tennis where there aren’t really teams. Instead, each person runs around the table hitting the ball in turn, back and forth. If you miss it or mess up, you are out and the game keeps going until it is just two people left. Then, the two play until one of them wins a point. It is really fun, but after a while you get tired and really dizzy!!

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Also since my last post, we had studio visits with some of the artists in residence in another building on Spinnerei, and it was really motivating for my own work. The people we met are students at the New York Academy of Art and were all working on these HUGE and amazingly skillful figure paintings. It made me want to work big… so I am!! Kirstan and I split this HUGE bunch of canvas. I am not sure how big it was before we cut it up, but I couldn’t get it all in one picture.

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I am by no means done with the paintings, but here are a few picture of my work area over the past couple of busy studio days.

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For the US vs. Germany game, we went back to the beer garden. We made sure to wear whatever red, white and blue we had!

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We thought that people would be really excited for the game and got to the garden early. Turns out, we were a little too over eager. No one was there yet! While we waited, I decided to go to this baked potato place for dinner. Yes, I said “baked potato place”. It is this cute little shop on Karl-Heine that I had been wanting to try for a while. They have all these different toppings! it was really good, except that there was SO MUCH sour cream on it. I swear there is a baked potato, chicken, cheese, and veggies in there somewhere…

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We waited outside and enjoyed a really nice afternoon before we finally went in to watch the game! We didn’t get heckled at all, but were pretty sad the USA lost :(

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For the rest of the World Cup games, we met our new friends at from the New York Academy of Art at this really great bar that is about a block from our house called the Theater Bar. It was really fun for the Germany game the other night – there were a ton of people! I look kinda crazy in the picture of Kristan and I with our Deutschland facepaint on… but I was just really excited haha.

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Last night, we we to the Theater Bar to cheer on the US and wore our best facepaint.

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You can place bets on the score of the game, and Kristan and I of course bet for our team to win. The best part about the Theater Bar is that they have their own two dual-announcers commentate on the game. They are these hilarious guys that loved that we were both American, and especially thought it was funny when Kristan and I stood up for the national anthem haha. Most of the time, I have no idea what they were saying, but when I could understand them, it was really funny – it just made watching more fun! Last night, they each had wigs on – one that looked like a Belgian player, and I think one was supposed to look like the (German) US coach, Jürgen Klinsmann.

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It was a heart wrenching game, Tim Howard is a hero. At least we still have Germany to cheer for!!!

It has been a really great week or two here in Leipzig. We only have a few left!! Tomorrow, Kirstan and I are going to Amsterdam for about 4 days!!! I absolutely cannot wait. Both of my parents studied abroad there, and it is kind of the reason why they are married (they first met when someone suggested they talk about the Amsterdam study-abroad program at Wheaton. The rest is history). We have planned out each day and they are all going to so busy, there is too much to do! I also cannot wait to be in Amsterdam to watch the Netherlands play in the quarter-finals!!! AHHH!!! I will try and be good about updating the blog each day (or at least typing it all out) so that I can get a post up quick after the trip!!

Until then! xoxoxoxoxo4evr
handres

ps. Here is this awesome neon sign in the pub district of Leipzig. I’m obsessed with it.

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München Munich München

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Hello!! So.. .get ready for another long post – but the best one yet, I promise! This past week has been my favorite week of the trip, and one that is going to be pretty hard to top.

This week, I had a lot of advancements in the studio surrounding my ideas for the work I am making here. It feels really good to have found a path or a groove that I think will be both fun and interesting to push in the weeks we have left (I can’t believe we only have 3 weeks in Leipzig left!! ah!).

Besides studio work, Kristan and I took a short trip to Munich this week – it was amazing. I don’t think there was a single bad part about the trip. It was relaxing, exciting, and fun; we did the right kind of touristy things and explored some local stuff on our own; we met new people and got to really enjoy one of the coolest cities in Germany. I know, technically, I have only been to a grand total of 4 cities in Germany, but if you are ever here GO TO MUNICH! You won’t regret it.

It was a 7 hour bus ride to Munich, but it was actually the best bus ride I have ever had. The bus was very nice – it had (fake) hardwood floors, internet, a bathroom, beer and food available, and outlets! At the rest stop (which was also very nice – Germany knows how to travel comfortably), Kristan and I decided to treat ourselves to American french fries….

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Once we got to Munich, Kristan and I walked to Marienplatz, the main square, to find our way around. It was beautiful!

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We got on a subway and went to meet our couch surfing host for the next two nights. His name was Ryan, a student from the US who had been living in Germany for a year! (Another plug – if you ever want to travel and stay places for free, use couchsurfing! It was a really good experience for us. Look it up at here). It turns out that where he lived, one of the student dorm complexes, the largest student-run music festival in Europe, StuStaCulum was happening that weekend! It was such a serendipitous surprise! Here is a picture of the stage that was right outside of our room!

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So, as soon as we got there, we met a bunch of Ryan’s friends and played a German-drinking game with them called “Flusyball”. I feel like I have seen versions of it in the US… maybe involving frisbees… I’m not sure how to explain it, but it was really fun! Then, Kristan and I went to a cafe for dinner, where I had currywurst (a sausage with ketchup-curry sauce), and we watched the World Cup game! The inside of the cafe was really cool, it had a theater and little shop.

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After dinner, Kristan and went back to the music festival, ran into Ryan and some of his friends, and had a really good night!

The next morning, Kristan and I got up early to go to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. This was a really important part of the trip for me, and probably one of the most important experiences I will have while traveling. Dachau is about a 40 minute train/bus ride out of center city Munich. Kristan and I arrived too late to join the guided tour, but purchased audio guides and spent a lot of time in the incredibly curated museum. Dachau was built in 1933, and was the only camp to run for the entirety of the Nazi regime. We learned that it was the model for many future camps and satellite camps. The museum and audio guide detailed the history leading up to the camp’s building, the inter-workings of a typical day at the camp, the history and evolution of facilities and occurrences at Dachau, and how the site eventually became the memorial it is today. Here are some images I took.

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The memorial monument that was erected at the site in the 80’s (I think, either that or the 60’s, I’ve forgotten), was beautiful. In multiple parts, it honors and commemorates those who suffered at Dachau. The main sculpture shows abstracted figures among barbed wire, while another monument represents each group that was persecuted, represented by the colored triangle they were forced to wear. It was powerful to stand under the monument and reflect on what it represents. With my Watson year so close, it brought up a lot of what I want to focus on – how art is used in response to trauma. I am interested in an individual’s use of art, but considering what a monument or sculpture can mean or provide in response to trauma is fascinating – especially when you consider what it does for a visitor like me, who has no deep personal connection with Dachau or the Holocaust, but still feels connected through history and the human condition.

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It is a weird feeling to recall my time at the Dachau Memorial. I am not really sure if I have processed it all. Being at the physical site of such tragedy was surreal. the Holocaust is something I have learned about in Social Studies and History class basically every year of middle and high school. I “know” what happened, but being there was different. Much like learning about the Stasi in Leipzig, it was a strange feeling to be somewhere that was so historically significant yet so temporally close. Sorry for the tangents and musings, I am just very thankful I was able to visit the memorial.

After a long train and bus ride home (it was a holiday in Germany that day so the public transit was running at off hours), Kristan and I made it back to Marienplaz. We were starving at the point, so decided to go to the famous Hofbrauhaus for lunch! It is a beautiful, famous beer garden in one of the main squares of Munich. Kristan and I got liter beers, I had schnitzel and potatoes, we talked and relaxed, and had a great afternoon!

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With full stomachs, Kristan and I decided it would be a good idea to walk around parts of the city we hadn’t seen yet – we had a bike tour through the city that started at 7:30 that evening, so we didn’t want to be too full! We walked to the open air market, but because it was a holiday, none of the shops were open. Still, there was an area with picnic tables and we decided to sit. As we were chatting, I noticed a girl with a large backpacking pack on, walking alone, with a beer in hand. She sat down a few tables in front of us and I said to Kristan, “Look! That is going to be me in a few months”! A few minutes later, she walked over and asked me about the “i <3 nj" shirt I was wearing. Turns out she was from Montclair!! I tried to remember who I knew from Montclair, and I remembered Dan! He transfered to UPS the same year I did, and plays in a band with Kristan's boyfriend. Brit (the traveler from Montclair) knew him!! It was one of those the-world-is-really-small kind of things. I loved it!

We had to say goodbye to Brit because we had our bike tour! This was the most touristy thing we did in Munich, but I am so glad we did. We used Mike’s Bike Tours (plug: they were great!), and did the “Twilight” tour that went from 7:30-11:30pm, during twilight, obviously. The tour was small, just Kirstan, two guys from NYC (Joe and Harry), the tour guide, Bobby, and me! We rode all over the city and learned a lot more history that Kristan and I could have by ourselves.

First, we saw some of the ornate and elaborate architecture from when Munich was apart of the Bavarian Monarchy. The gold-plated details and designs were absolutely gorgeous. In a lot of the sculptures we saw, a goddess-like figure was the main focus, or featured somewhere prominent. We learned that she represents the female personification of the Bavarian empire, beautiful, regal, and powerful.

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We continued our ride to the English Gardens, this huge park that runs through all of Munich. I is the largest park within a city in the world! The grounds were originally the sport-hunting grounds for the Bavarian royalty, but were transformed into a park.

20140624-153640-56200526.jpg In order to keep the grounds beautiful, part of a river was diverted so that it runs through most of the gardens. At the beginning of the divergence, you can surf!! It was sooo cool and so surprising! Apparently, the run off used to be very gross and foamy. Then, in the 1960’s, some guy from California (figures) was in Munich and saw the river. Being a surfer and an engineer, he was able to control the water so that it became a continuous, large wave that people have surfed on ever since. It was amazing and hilarious to see wetsuits and surfboards in the middle of the city! The best surfer there could have only been 13 or so… I tried to take some pictures of the tricks they were doing! When the fell, they would just bail, swim to the bank, get out and wait their turn again.

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After we left the surfers, we made our way to the 2nd largest beer garden in the world, the Chinesischer Turm, which is in the center of the English Gardens. Kristan and I were still very full, so we just had a beer and pretzels. It was great to sit, relax, and get to talk with the people that were on the tour with us! Plus, the sun was going down and it was beautiful!

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Next, we continued our ride and got to see a lot more of the city, seeing The Residency, a building where each Bavarian King lived. Each king would add on a section, and it is now a museum. The Residency is so big, that if you spent one minute at each exhibit in the museum, you would spend 36 days inside…or at least that’s what our tour guide told us! We saw big open squares, and buildings that were the original Nazi headquarters, before they were moved. Riding around the city at night was the best thing ever. it was gorgeous, we didn’t have to worry about knowing where we were going, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we got to see amazing buildings and learn a lot – it was a dream.

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This was one of my favorite parts about the tour: what our guide called the “selfie fountain”. You can’t really tell because the image is dark, but each one of the figures surrounding the fountain is holding a fish, in the way that you hold a phone or camera to take a selfie. When you notice it and look at it that way, it’s hilarious!

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Eventually, the tour ended and Kristan and I headed back up to where we were staying. The festival was going strong, but we were quite tired from our long day, so we decided to stay in and go to bed. It had been such a good day!

The next morning, we got up early, left Ryan, and headed back into the center of Munich. We decided to walk around without our map, now that we had a little better handling of the city. We wanted to see a lot of what we had passed on bike, just during the day when we could see it better! Here are some pictures of The Residency. One of them, of the outside of the building shows its history. The building, much like many buildings in Munich, were destroyed during the war. Because it was so expensive to rebuild so much of the city, the building is painted to look like what it had before it was damaged! You can see where the original and re-built parts are.

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We decided to go inside of the Theatin Church, which we had only seen from the outside on our tour. It was built in celebration of one of the Bavarian kings having a son (things people will do to have a heir…). It was the most ornate and breathtaking interior church space I have ever seen. All of it in white!

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Then, we walked to the contemporary art museum, Haus der Kunst. During the war, this building was covered in camouflage netting, so that it looked like it was apart of the English Gardens that sit just behind it. Because of the camouflage, it wasn’t damaged or destroyed at all. It is an amazing space with the tallest ceilings and beautiful old doors. One of the exhibitions, you could walk into and sit around in it! Kristan and I took a break from walking…

20140624-155828-57508236.jpg All of the exhibitions were really interesting and HUGE, but I really responded to the retrospective of Ellen Gallagher’s work. She had these amazing paintings and drawings that were so detailed and so simple at the same time. In her earlier work, she would cut her paper to put even more detail into the image – it was amazing to see! You should look through some of here stuff here.
After the museum, we were pretty tired and hungry. Missing the US a little bit… we went to the Hard Rock Cafe…. Ugh I know, I kind of hate the fact that we did that, and I understand if you do too, but the food was so good and it was nice to have a one-hour “vacation” back in what felt like the US.

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After lunch, we had to head towards the bus station to catch our bus back to Leipzig. Here are some pictures from our walk.

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We walked through the open-air market, then headed out of the city!

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It was such an amazing trip, I am so glad that we went.

BUT, the best part of my week happened in Leipzig when we got back…. this post is already too long, so you will just have to wait for the next update to hear about the most amazing experience I have had so far!!

As always, thanks so much for reading. Miss you all terribly.
xohmaxo

From Bach to Bauhaus

Every day I am here, I learn something new. Some days it is just a little factoid about a building or event that happened in Leipzig, others it’s a new word in German (it’s still pretty hard!!). Some days, there is so much to learn and see, so much history that Germany, and Leipzig specifically has to offer, I can’t believe it! I love it.

Growing up, my family always took vacations somewhere in the US, where we would inevitably learn something while we were there (sneaky parents). One summer we rode on a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail and slept in a teepee. Before I went to school near Seattle, we went on the underground tour of the sewer system there. We couldn’t just go to the Busch Gardens amusement park, we also had to go to Colonial Williamsburg….

I guess after all that learning on vacation growing up, I can’t help but seek it out when I am in a new place. The past week, I explored and learned a lot when I wasn’t in the studio.

First, I just walked all over and did every toursity thing there was in the City Center of Leipzig.

I went to the Coffe Baum – the Coffee Museum and Cafe where Bach once (supposedly) visited!

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Speaking of Bach, this week is Bachfest here in Leipzig. Bach was the organist at two historical churches in town, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. There have been free concerts in the park and a lot of tourists visiting old Bach’s stomping ground. Here are some pictures from outside of St. Thomas. They have a statue of Bach by the main door!

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The inside of St. Thomas Church is just as beautiful and after WWII, is where Bach’s remains were moved permanently! When I stopped by, there was a vocal duet and string orchestra practicing for a concert. I normally don’t really like classical music, but hearing it in that kind of setting was amazing!

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The other church where Bach played the organ is St. Nicholas Church. The inside is much different from St. Thomas, but beautiful in its own way. On Sunday, I went to a special service they were having for Bachfest, which included additional music. It was such a cool experience to hear a German service and the songs, in such an old and historically important church! Here are some photos from inside – I was blown away by the details!

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Other thank being historically important because Bach played there, St. Nicholas Church is incredibly important to more recent German history. The demonstrations and protests that eventually lead to the beginning of the Peaceful Revolution, the end of the GDR, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, were started and held at St. Nicholas Church. The meetings, held each monday, began in January of 1989 with sometimes only ten or so demonstrators. On October 9th, 20,000 demonstrators met outside of St. Nicholas church, protesting against the GDR. One month later, on November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.I had no idea that Leipzig was the birthplace of the Peaceful Revolution and the end of East and West Germany.

I visited the Gedenkstatte Museum in der “Runden Ecke”, or the Stasi Museum to learn more about the Peaceful Revolution. The Stasi were the state police of the GDR. There were thousands of employed members and hundreds of unofficial civilian members, who monitored and suppressed any form of opposition to the GDR in East Germany. Their headquarters was in the building known as the Runden Ecke, which is now preserved as a museum. Because the it was a Peaceful Revolution, so many records and artifacts were preserved. I saw things from the offices of police, to disguise materials the Stasi used, to clumps of paper pulp that were destroyed documents! It was really incredible to dive into a history I really knew very little about beforehand.

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I also stumbled upon the University of Leipzig’s Library this week! It is soo big and beautiful… I wish this is what Collins was like!

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Lastly for this post, I visited Weimar with my friend Valerie! She is another artist in residence at Halle 14, from Scotland! We both discovered that we had a love for Bauhaus, so we went to Weimar, where the Bauhaus school was founded and there is a museum! For those of you reading this who don’t know what Bauhaus is, it was an art, architecture and design school started in the early 1900’s after the First World War. Its original philosophy (from what I understand from the museum) was to educate and enhance the whole person – mind, body, and soul – through the return to artistic craft. Later, under new leadership, the school moved to emphasize the unity between technology and art. Master artists like Klee, Kandinsky, and (my personal favorite) Albers, were all teachers at the school. The Bauhaus University is still a school today! Valerie and I had a great day! We saw the museum, had crepes for lunch and saw Goethe’s summer home (Goethe was a writer and philosopher who studied at the University of Leipzig! He drew the first circular color wheel! — such an art geek thing to be excited about, but soooo cool!).

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Sorry for such a long post! I told you that I learned a lot this week! Tomorrow Kristan and I are going to Munich for a few days! I’ll write another post when we get back – there should be a lot to tell about!

xoxo hma

P.S. Here are some extra pictures from the week! Random things here and there and some sneak previews of sketches I have been doing in the studio!

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Apartment!

We moved into our apartment today!! We were woken up to one of the loudest thunderstorms I have ever seen! We must have been right in the center of it, because the lighting was big, and the thunder came often and loudly. After the rain passed, it was a long walk across town with our bags, but well worth the trip. The apartment is SO BIG and so nice. It is about a 20 minute walk to the studio, which will be a nice “break” before and after working. We are living a block or two off Karl-Heine Straße, which is one of the busiest streets in our neighborhood. It is perfect! Our street is quiet, but we can walk to the grocery store, out to dinner, or to a pub for an evening drink! We are living like queens!

The best two parts about the apartment is the cute little breakfast nook and the balcony – I lucked out that the balcony is right off of my room!

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After moving in, we walked to the market and I treated myself to a zuckerbrezel and the best erdbeerens I have had in a long time.

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The weirdest part about this apartment is the painting hanging in our living room… it is a reproduction of a painting of the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Maine. I recognized the lighthouse before I even read what the painting was called. Spending every summer of my life (until college) in Maine, I have visited this lighthouse many times before. It is a funny little way the universe is bringing me a piece of home and comfort, thousands of miles away.

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More soon.
xo

Leipzig- The First Week

Today marks the official one full week spent in Germany!

Get ready for a loong post… it has been a really fun first week. We have gotten our footing around our neighborhood, explored on our own, gone to gallery openings, and watched the goth festival in center city!

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Abbie and Kristan when we went out for Vietnamese food!

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Spinnerei’s cafe and beer garden.

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Sunday night outdoor movies on Spinnerei.

Living in our studio has been a funny way to start out our time here. We have a mini-fridge and a stove to cook meals on – and we have become pretty creative with our meals, given the limited counter space!!

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Living in the studio has also been a great way to get to know some of the other artists who have studios or a residency at Halle 14. Just as I was writing this post, two other artists popped their heads in our door to say hi and introduce themselves! Valerie (from Scotland) and Nina (from the Netherlands) have studios down the hall and have become some of our good friends! We all played table tennis (ping pong – germans seem to be very fond of this game) one night in the hallway outside our studios!

This weekend was the opening for f/stop, the annual photography festival put on by Halle 14. It is really awesome because there are about 5 HUGE galleries apart of the show, and they are all in our building! We went to the opening reception on Friday night, there was a pizza truck outside and a ton of people. At 10:00pm, a party for the reception started in the basement under our studio. We didn’t go because the cover was expensive (and we were tired), but we could hear the music until 6:15am!! It was insane how long it went on!! Anyway, it is awesome that there is such as supportive culture surrounding the arts here. Mostly everyone who we see around Halle 14 is young, but there are people of all ages that we have seen at gallery openings this week. The gallery spaces are also so much bigger compared to ones I have seen in the US, and there is just this general buzz around the arts in this city. I love it.

In addition to f/stop, the Gothic Pogo Festival has been happening in Leipzig’s city center. Like I mentioned before, it is the largest international wave gothic festival!! We decided to make a day of it, go to city center and do some serious people watching. Who knew there were so many kinds of goths? People had some serious outfits on… We also had really great Indian food and rode a Ferris wheel so that we could see Leipzig from above. It was such a fun day at city center!

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I wore my fanny pack to make my mom proud.

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Someone put a beer in the monument’s hand!!

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Modern meets Gothic architecture at the University of Leipzig.

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Leipzig’s major concert hall.

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Ferris Wheel!

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View from the top!

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Selfie…

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Kristan and Abbie.

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Awesome tile work in the city.

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A huge mural by the train station.

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Me at dinner, enjoying a nice cold bier!

Now for the goths… We discovered there are a lot of different kinds. Period goths who dress like they are from the 16th century, babydoll goths, cybergoths with weird fake dreads and often wear a lot more color, I guess you could say “classic” goths, and whatever it is when you are a marionette………

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Today, we went to a Flea Market, it was amazing! It was in a park about 35 minutes away and the weather was gorgeous.

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There were so many people and so many cute little stands with antiques and trinket. I took a lot of pictures on my camera, but when I tried to upload them, it said it was not compatable with my iPad! Whoops! From now on I’ll have to keep using my phone… Here are the things that I got! Some cute little metal dishes, figurines, a ring, and this charm of a deer tied up by its legs…

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This place has already inspired and intrigued me – I am so thankful to have the privilege to live here for the summer. Walking around, I can’t get over the architecture all over the city – from the apartments in Plagwitz (our neighborhood), to the old buildings and churches in City Center – the detail and uniquely ornate designs are amazing. While I’ve become slightly obsessed with architectural and decorative patterns, I am even more interested in how the graffiti interferes, or rather integrates with and overlays on top of those patterns and details – adding another layer of intrigue and depth. I am thinking and looking a lot at these patterns, using them as inspiration and a springboard for my work here!

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This week we move to our apartment!! We are all very excited to move in, settle down, and to have clean feet!! (Our studio floor is very dusty…) More to come soon!