<3 <3

Bonjour from Paris! I’m writing to you with a belly full of baguettes and with eyes and feet that are the happy-kind-of-tired from an entire day spent at the Louvre. I’ve been in Paris for a while now, and will be here until the New Year. There was the possibility for my family to come visit me for Christmas, but for a bunch of different reasons it wasn’t the best time for a trip. So I last-minute decided to get out of London, and have myself a merry little Christmas in Paris.

I just posted a whole bunch of selfies… but I thought a bit of an update would be nice, too. I know it seems silly to still be talking about Bolivia when today marks two months since I left, but I can’t help circling back to a moment in Bolivia as I think about being ‘alone’ this holiday season. On my last night in Cochabamba, when I was out to dinner with my beloved roommates, Jody and Grace, Jody said to me, “No one is going to Love you in London”. I remember being so struck by how honest blunt, and raw that was – not many people will tell you ‘how it is’ like the way Jody can. And no matter how sad it may seem to type it or to read it, Jody was right – there is no one that loves me in London.

But this ‘Love’ that Jody was talking about is one that is measured on a relative scale, influenced by proximal places, people, and experiences. I can’t say I have had the same degree of ‘Love’ in London. But, then again, if you are comparing the kind of love I have from friends and family at home, then you could say that no one ‘Loved’ me in Cochabamba.

So while I think Jody was right in this horrible way, I also firmly believe he was wrong. Love is relative, and can be found in even the most annoying and horrible parts of life (like waiting in lines to get in EVERYWHERE & ANYWHERE in Paris the past few days…). Just because, for me, there wasn’t the same kind of love in London as there was in Cochabamba, or at home, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t shared love with people here. I have true friends in London that care for me and that I have grown close to. I am so incredibly thankful for the generosity and kindness of once-strangers, now-friends in London. I have had days and nights full of great conversations, laughter and jokes that have made my time in London unforgettable. With people like Gibbons, Rosalie, Frances, Elie and Ruby, Robyn, Ben, Maddy, Benji, Joe and Tom, the past two months have been full with love (shout out to all you homies – don’t know if you’re reading this, but couldn’t have done it without ya)

And I’ve been alone this holiday season but that does not mean that I haven’t been or felt loved. I’ve Skyped with people that are the closest to my heart, shared smiles with strangers on the street, received warm and thoughtful emails from friends in Bolivia, been invited to dinner parties of AirBnB and CouchSurfing hosts I met just an hour before, gone out for curry with the funniest soon-to-be-doctors I’ve ever met, played the ‘Animal Guessing Game’ for hours, and eaten the most delicious steak of my life with the nephew-in-law of my mom’s, friend’s, mother’s best friend (did you follow that?). Love is there, always. If you think no one will love you, then no one will. Or, if you’re caught up in how difficult it is being ‘alone’, you won’t see how much love is wrapped up in daily happenings. I think being alone and traveling for 7 months now (!!) has made me more eager to look for it in unexpected places – a habit I hope not to lose when this adventure is over.

I am alone, but that is a privilege. This year is an incredible gift- where I get to explore what I love, discover new loves, and feel loved all over the world.

All the Love in the world,

Go Solo


In no particular order, here are just a few of the things, people, and places I have loved over the past two months.

Janet, a friend who became such a role model in Bolivia
Robyn, we met at our hostel on Halloween and now she is my best friend in London!
Remembrance Day Poppies at the Tower of London
Cy Twombly
One of my best friends in Bolivia, Selene
Thanksgiving in London
So lucky to have spent the day at Tottenham with Ben
The V&A
Eiffel Tower
Macaroons for Christmas
This crazy painting of goats at the Louvre
Notre Dame for Christmas Eve Mass



Selfies: we all take them. I’ve been taking a lot of selfies recently and in sending them to some friends, discussing my “eye in the corner selfie” style (source: emack). I thought that it would be nice to share them with all of you. Ever inspired by my Dad, who I am starting to believe is the Selfie King*, I’ve begun to try and perfect my craft.

*See Examples A, B, and C below
Example A:


I ask how Christmas Eve is ? Perfect selfie opportunity.

Roll Logs.

SELFIES – Me & Things
The good, the bad, and the ugly from the past 7 months…
**Some may be repeats from previous posts
***** Some of the labels are WRONG… but I’m too lazy to sort through it all to fix them. I tried, and WordPress is giving me issues.

Where it all began.

Me & Rafi (pre-rain) – Tacoma, Washington
Me & Emack (post-rain) – Tacoma, Washington
Me & Abbie (Goth Fest) – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Kristan – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Beer (I <3 NJ) – Munich, Germany
Me & Ferris Wheel – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Night Bike – Munich, Germany
Me & Kris (Pre World Cup I) – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Kris (Pre World Cup II) – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Kris (Pre World Cup III) – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Ice Cream – Germany
Me & Abbie (Pre World Cup IV) – Leipzig, Germany
Me & Kate (4 days home) – Princeton, NJ
Me & Cochabamba (RIP 2nd nose ring)
Me & Teleferico – Cochabamba, Bolivia

ME & EL CHRISTO – Cochabamba, Bolivia
Me &Los Esapñoles – Torotoro, Bolivia
Me & Jody’s Hat – Cochabamba, Bolivia
Me in a Hardhat – Torotoro, Bolivia
Me & Caves/Friends – Torotoro, Bolivia
Me & Canyon! – Torotoro, Bolivia
Me & La Paz – La Paz, Bolivia

Me & Lago Titicaca – Bolivia

Me & Los Scouts – Cochabamba, Bolivia
Me & Big Ben – London, England
Me & London Bridge – London, England
Me & London Eye – London, England
Me & British Parliament – London, England
Me & Queen’s
Me – London, England
Me & Richter

Me & Eiffel Tower (Left) – Paris, France
Me & Eiffel Tower (Right) – Paris, France
Me & Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France
Me & Louvre – Paris, France
Me & Notre Dame (Night) – Paris, France
Me & Notre Dame (Day) Paris, France


Hello!! This blog still exists!

Hello!! This blog still exists! I’ve been so bad about updating it. I knew it would get this way once I got further into my year. You see, what happens is that the year became more of a life rather than a trip. After a month or so in Bolivia, I developed habits and customs. While life in Cochabamba always, always, always surprised me and was new each day (like finding that trunk full of doughnuts at the market), I found a groove in the city, with it’s people, with my Watson work there. My groove diverted me from writing…

I say “there” because I’m no longer in Cochabamba! After a day of tears, packing, and a wonderful despedida (goodbye party), I boarded a plane (three of them actually…), and headed to London. It’s already been super overwhelming but amazing to be here, but I don’t want to jump ahead and write about London here just yet. Bolivia still deserves more.

This post is going to be about the end part of my time in Bolivia, a short trip I did to La Paz and La Isla del Sol, and the amazing friends I had to leave behind. I want to do another post about my Watson project, a bit more reflective on what I’ve learned. While the two are not separate – my friends and my trips have highly impacted my Watson work – I feel like I need to designate separate space.

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Todo, todo a Torotoro!

Torotoro is a national park about four hours from Cochabamba. All of this was a while ago, but the trip was so much fun and the park was so beautiful, I figured I had to write about it!! A few of my friends, Richie, Barbara, Sandra, Carmelo, and I traveled to Torotoro via minibus on Friday afternoon after work.


The beginning part of the ride was really beautiful – the sun was setting behind the mountains that surround the valley Cochabamba is nestled into, leaving traces of blues and pinks. After four hours of driving along dirt road swithcbacks and gaining a lot of altitude, we arrived in Torotoro. The town is normally quiet, but for a Friday evening around 9:00, it seemed unusually so. We walked, found a hostel and something to eat before going to bed. We had to get up early the next morning!



The next day, we got up and met our guide, Casi, who would be showing us around the park for the next two days. She is the only female guide within the Torotoro guide organization and was the absolute best!! If you ever go to Torotoro, ask for her! We spent the morning walking and hiking. We got to explore caves carved out a billion years ago by water (not that long ago, but I´ve forgotten the facts…). There were drawings on some of the walls, many of which were of the Pachamama, or “Mother Earth” a snake fertility goddess worshiped by people of the Andres region. There was a story Casi told us: once each year, the Pachamama, in her giant serpent form, would visit each house, bringing good luck to the family. Sometimes during her visit, while looking for the offering the family had left, the Pachamama would slither into the bed and on top of those sleeping… the people would just have to lay still, careful not to disturb the snake that would not bite them. I don’t know if I could handle a giant serpent surprising me as I was sleeping, no matter how powerful of a goddess she was haha. Each place or plant we passed by, Casi had a story or some sort of fact to share with us, or she helped us notice details in our surroundings most people would pass by. I normally do not like guided tours while hiking, but it wouldn´t have been half as good if we weren’t with Casi. We hiked for a few hours and eventually ate lunch overlooking a huge mountain range. It was perfect.
















From there, we drove down to another section of the park to a huge cavern called Umajalanta, that is wedged between two mountains. Going into the cavern was probably the scariest but coolest things I have ever done. BUT before we entered the cavern, Casi showed us the second coolest thing of the weekend: DINOSAUR FOOTPRINT FOSSILS. Imprinted into what was one mud, there were footprints of all sorts of dinosaurs. As someone who was a “The Land Before Time” fanatic, this was mind blowing. Think about it… I walked where a dinosaur did; That dinosaur and I occupied the same space; It may be millions of years apart but a dinosaur and I shared that same tiny space in this huge universe; A real, live dinosaur. !!!!! It seems kind of silly, but I was just so amazed. We saw a few more prints that day, and some the next, but these were by far the best ones.




Now, Umajalanta. In total, the trek within the cave took us abut two and a half hours. With no outside light sources and a lot of spots where we could hit our heads, we all wore construction hats with headlamps. The chin strap was the worst, sweaty and hot as we moved through the humid cave, but, damn did I look good…


It was amazing down there. Everywhere you looked, there were stalactites and stalagmites. Casi made sure to point out to us ones that looked like a tree, or some other shape, transforming the calcified clusters into a world of magic. The trek was not easy, and we needed to help eachother to make it through. We would climb up and down boulders, following an exact pattern of footholes and nooks and reaching out to steady each other on the slippery rocks. The whole time we were traveling through, I couldn’t help but think about the first people who ventured into the complete darkness of the cave. How did they know where they were going and that there would be a way out? How did they even remember how to get out??









The craziest part of the whole thing was when Casi told us we were going to have to crawl on our hands and knees for about 5 minutes, squeezing through a crack – you can’t even call it a hole. I am not claustrophobic, and I don’t usually panic in situations like this, but for those five minutes, inching my way along, all I wanted to do was get out. My heart was racing and I had a real sense of panic. I really didn´t think I would fit. But I just told myself “everyone who comes down here does this”; I wasn’t the first person and I wasn’t going to be the last person wedged in there. Somehow, I made it through and we kept moving along the cave´s loop trail.




By the end, we were all dirty, sweaty, tired and accomplished. It felt amazing to think back on all that we had done in just a few short hours. It was suuuuper difficult, but beautiful and gratifying. I am so thankful to have visited Umajalanta. I think it will be one of my best memories of the year.


That night, after fighting over who got to take the first shower, we headed to the town´s market for dinner. It started to rain a little along the way, so we quickly ran under the cover of the market. The market was this big hall where different people cook meals throughout the day and everyone eats together at big, long tables. Just as we were got to the market, it stopped raining and started POURING. The heaviest rain I have seen since graduation!! Haha it reminded me of that day; the rain came so suddenly, and was SO strong. We ordered our food – quinoa soup and chicken with rice – and sat. All of a sudden, the lights went out with the loudest clap of thunder and the brightest lightning I have ever seen. We were all in the pitch black: cooks, locals, visitors, everyone. But it was no problem, we lit some candles and all ate our meal in the dark. It was hilarious. None of us brought our cell phones with us, so once we finished we hurried, arm in arm, back to the hostel, with the blips of lightning as the only light guiding our way.

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Falling into place

It is a wonderful kind of life here. Things move more slowly than they do in the US, and I am beginning to love it. If the arrival time is 8:30, that probably means people show up at 8:45, and that’s okay. There are mid-morning and mid-afternoon tea and snack breaks (empeñadas!). Best of all, lunch is normally 1.5-2 hours. Here, it is just as important to rest and converse with your peers as it is to work.

This is a place where things happen in place. I have been incredibly surprised by the number of opportunities, open doors, lessons, and friends I have encountered from being here. The past year has been full of planning for the next to come. I thought about where I will be going, who I know in that city, and what I will be doing while I am there. Where will I live? What food will I eat? I am a planner and always have been; I like to have a Plan A. My time in Bolivia has taught me that most of the things I want to plan are impossible continents away, over the internet, and mediated by a screen. You have to be in the place. You have to forget about “Plan A” and let things develop as they will – as they are supposed to. Part of me knew that this was an inevitable lesson of this year – I am incredibly thankful to have encountered it within my first 20 days.

The past week and half or so, things have developed and I feel like my project is falling into place in Cochabamba. One of the best things about the Watson, is that we are encouraged to explore and feel the peripheries of our proposal, remaining open to new lenses and facets of our project. With this in mind, I have been busy speaking and working with a few different organizations, wanting to take full advantage of the available opportunities. My time here so far has been divided between working with three organizations: El Instituto para el Desarollo Humano; CUBE; and EnseñARTE/Performing Life.

The most fun has been with EnseñARTE, and organization that aims to help create a better future for children through the arts. Mainly focusing on “social circus”, the foundation provides programming for local children, teaching them circus skills. EnseñARTE provides a small stipend to the families of the kids who attend classes, with the contingency that the money be used to start or support a family business (of any size). While circus is, of course, incredibly fun, the performance, challenge, and creativity that are necessary for circus serve another purpose for the foundation: teaching children social skills. There are connections big and small with social circus: the ability to juggle balls and the ability to juggle/multitask; the self-confidence developed through performing in front of a crowd. My circus skills are horrible, but I am learning! I will be teaching art classes with EnseñARTE, with lessons focused on the same goals as social circus: social and personal development through creativity.

Last Friday, there was a big performance at EnseñARTE for the community, with a delicious BBQ dinner afterwards. The skills and talents of the kids were amazing, with each person/group excelling in a specific skill. There were fire eaters, juggling with fire, trapeze, and unicycles – it was SO much fun!




CUBE (Centro para una Brisa Esperanza), is perhaps the organization most “focused” on my project. Here, I will be working with the on-site psychologists, helping to facilitate alternative-therapy workshops with children who have experienced abuse. I start next week, and will be sure to report back!

Finally, I am also working with El Instituto para el Desarollo Humano (IDH), an organization focused on the prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as various types of sexual violence. IDH provides workshops and lessons for local teachers, who then facilitate lessons to their students. IDH is an incredibly unique organziation, and the largest of it’s kind in Bolivia. The topics the are concerned with are incredibly important to Bolivia, and especially the city of Cochabamba. During my time working with IDH, I learned that about 23% of boys and 34% of girls in Bolivia will experience some kind of sexual aggression before the age of 18, and 75% of those cases reported happen in schools or at home. Speaking with some of the people here, it seems that the topic of sexual violence is something people avoid or sweep under the rug. But with statistics like that, it’s vital that there’s diligent education and prevention work within the community. I am so thankful to have found IDH, whose team is doing just that.

Each year, IDH has a huge event called La ExpoSIDA/Vida. Over the course of a week, ExpoSIDA educates close to 20,000 middle school and high school aged students from Chochabamba and neighboring cities on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention to sex trafficking. There are posters, talks, activities, and even a theater performance! I am lucky enough to be here for this year’s ExpoSIDA! This past week, I have spent each day with the IDH team helping coordinate and facilitate different activities. This year’s main theme: “Violencia Sexual Enamoramiento”, or sexual violence between couples. It’s an important topic for anyone, but it seems especially important here. It seems like everyone is paired off into couples. One of my first days here, someone told me that the love here is “muy fuerte”, or very strong – people fall hard and fast. Educating teens that certain things like, controlling what your partner wears, threatening to hurt yourself if he/she does not do something, “jokingly” insulting your partner, etc., are forms of violence is the first step towards ending a cycle of even greater violence. It’s been a week about ending pluralistic ignorance and identifying falsities in social “norms”. It’s been the best.

Theatro de Prevencion!


So many students!

I am so thankful to have been apart of such an innovative and impactful event within Cochabamba’s community.

It hasn’t all been work – I have been exploring the city and other parts of Bolivia too! The other week, a group from EnseñARTE and I went to El Christo de la Concordia, a giant statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. It was such an amazing vantage point of the city I am really falling in love with.





I also went to Torotoro, a national part here in Bolivia! It was absolutely gorgeous – mountains, caverns and caves, fossils, and more! That trip deserves its own post, so you will have to wait… but here is a sneak peak of some dinosaur footprints we saw!!



Finally: Bolivia


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.

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…

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?

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.


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


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!


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.



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.






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.


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.


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!




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.

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.









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!




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.



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.


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!


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.

20140728-074818-28098551.jpgJust a few scribbles of paint and you can feel this fabric in your hands.

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.



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.


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!


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!!


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.





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.




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.




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.




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?








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.



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.


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.