Thursday, March 1, 2012


La Sagrada Familia, image off of Google
Ryan´s email to  his parents after arriving in Barcelona, 
"We are in Barcelona and loving it. We had a terrible trip here though. We got to Milan and found out there was no night train so we took a train to Genoa to see if there was a night ferry, there wasn't so we took a train to the border and arrived at 1:30 am. We tried to sleep on the cold floor with some homeless people until a train left to Nice at 5:45. We had to take regional trains all the way to barcelona and the whole trip from Greece was two nights with almost no sleep. 1 bus, 2 taxis, 1 ferry, 10 trains, 2 subways and 59 hours. But we're good now. Gaudi is amazing. We're headed to Balaguer in a couple hours to meet up with a guy that has a farm with medicinal herbs. We'll be there for a few days and then headed to Morocco next week. Love you guys. -Ryan"

Journal excerpt on Feb. 27th,
Inside La Sagrada Familia
"Oh, Barcelona. I will come back some day. This is the city that I have always wanted to visit, the name I would say when the Get-to-know-you question would ask, "If you could travel anywhere..." We want to buy a boat and sail back someday and live here for a year or so to have our kids learn Spanish. Mark my words...
La Sagrada Familia. Oh, La Sagrada Familia, words and photos shame the actual experience. I saw a picture of it in an old art history text book that said it would be finished in 2012. I told myself that I must be in Barcelona in 2012 and here I am. But it is not finished yet. The largest towers have not been completed.
Parc Gruell (Google)
It is the only tourist and artistic experience that had so much hype that didn´t underwhelm me, but greatly exceeded my expectations. The outside is marvellous, but the inside was... I cannot describe how I felt. My heart hurt and I wanted to melt into the floor (despite the cold) and live there looking up into it forever. Maybe the heart ache was knowing that I would have to leave by the end of the day. 
Traveling for 60 hours hurt my neck and so I cursed my physical body that kept me from looking up for too long, much less emotionally soaring up the canopy of tree-like columns. 
Parc Gruell (Google)
One of the rooms has diagrams of how Gaudi was inspired mathematically, ergonomically, and thematically inspired by nature. The first thing I knew about Gaudi the man was that he was born with poor health and did not play with the other kids. Rather, he spent much time with his mother observing nature. I put my hand on my chest and whispered, "Be still my heart" or whatever the idiom is...
The exhibition made me want to burst out of there and yell, scream, cry, laugh, throw things, and go make art and sit in there to stare all at the same time for the rest of my life. Everything all the time. Such a beautiful place- all his designs are geometrically inspired by observing nature, in his words, "that great book of Nature". 

Casa Batllo (Google)
Gaudi´s Parc Gruell is a park with mosaics everywhere. Naturally, it made me want to make mosaics and build things so badly. I must experiment with building materials. I was struck again by how mundane it is to make flat paintings to go in a room that few care to look at. But to design an entire space! To build things! Isn´t that what makes us human?

The final building we saw was Casa Batllo. Gaudi invented innovative ways of distributing light and heat throughout the building which includes an entire light well through the middle of the building. Everything seems to be inspired by marine life and the ocean in this building. Such a brilliant architect, I can´t believe that his style and genius has not been more widespread that I did not grow up knowing the name Gaudi...
The lightwell in the Casa Batllo

Again, I must return to Barcelona and in the mean time, learn more of Antoni Gaudi...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Response to Margaret :)


How are you doing these days?  I love reading your blog and showing it to students.  How is your project going along?  What was the best thing you learned this week?  I hope that you aren't freezing too much. Can't wait to hear how things are going.

Hope all is well,


Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Margaret!
Thanks for emailing me, the best thing I learned this week is that real honey is really good for you! The honey that comes in little plastic bears has really powerful antibiotics and honey fillers, real honey has lots of nutrients and good bacteria in it. I have actually been learning a lot about cooking and food, and seeing it as a connection between humans and nature, through our food. Eating lots of yogurt, real honey, and garlic. The next guy we are staying with is really into medicinal herbs, which is really exciting to me. The work we have been doing on the farm has been good, but it gets spread it out over the whole day, with lots of breaks, which doesnt leave me much daylight, but I have lots of ideas, so I do what I can. I will never take for granted real painting facilities ever again. Its been raining a lot so we started painting murals in the little girls rooms, so I am painting unicorns, castles, and fairies more than anything else, haha. The family we are staying with is really nice. I definitely want to do more of these workaway things once I graduate because it is a really good way to see how people logistically grow their own food and build stuff.
Learning so much!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fruitless Fall

I just learned a bunch about honey bees! Which happens to be very fitting because "Melissa" means "honey bee" in Greek and I am in Greece. I just read "Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis" by Rowan Jacobsen. Its an amazing book! Ryan and I read two chapters out loud to each other each night. 
It is very well-written, well-researched, hilarious, and is definitely of interest to readers of Michael Pollan, and Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable Miracle; readers concerned about the relationship between and the health of their food and the environment. I love those books, but this topic of bees is different; instead of pointing fingers at corporations or the government about up and coming food crisis, the problem is here: the bees are dying. It doesn't matter whose fault it is because it is happening now, and on a more optimistic note, we have been doing lots of research on bees (since we have not realized till now how valuable they are and what we have been doing to them). For example, only within the last five years we have discovered that the cell size of the honeycomb in a hive has lots to do with the hive's ability to combat varroa mites, a huge killer of honey bees. This is important because the beekeeping industry has frames with a standardized size of cell. Without the standardized frames, bees make different sizes. 
From this book, I learned about pests and diseases that afflict bees, different breeds of bees and types of pollinators, medicinal benefits of real honey (not the stuff in little plastic bears), collony collapse disorder and its relationship with pesticides and other bee diseases, types of flowers that attract different pollinators. The latter will be helpful someday when I start my own permaculture garden. For example, tomatoes are a New World fruit, not having evolved with honeybees (which came over with the Europeans). Honeybees have no idea how to extract the pollen, which has a trick to it. Bumble bees are native and know that they must shake the flower to a certain frequency before the pollen will shoot out of the flower. So now I know that my honey bees will be no good for my flowers, but will attract bumbles. 
I also learned about Russian honey bees, which are not good for commercial bee keepers because of certain traits, but they are highly resilient bees. The guy who brought them over to the U.S. had a different approach to bee keeping: he said that mites and diseases ought not be an enemy; instead they are helpful signals to the keeper that you have weak bees and need to be stronger. Treating hives with chemicals to treat mites and other pests only breeds super pests and keeps the bees weak. 
We were eating gyros and a guy was talking about psoriasis, which is a skin disease (that he has). He said that he gets outbreaks whenever he is stressed and that he could get a strong steroid to treat it. But what does that do? It doesn't make him less stressed. He said that instead, he must address his stress and it will go away. 
An interesting approach to health and one that seems to make a lot more sense than antibiotics and cold medicine when you have a cold. 

I am still scared of bees, but I will have bees someday.   

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Greece and Matera

We are on a farm in Greece now, which is beautiful, but we don't have internet access until we come to town to use an internet cafe. Sorry I have not been near a computer much for the past week and a half. Brief update: 
Matera, Italy. We didn't take these photos, but took similar ones. 
We are in Greece now on a farm. Its beautiful an we live in a really cute strawbale cottage. There are goats, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats and they always wait outside our door for us in the morning. There are tons of fruit trees and olive trees and we mostly eat what is grown here (although nothing is growing now cause its winter). The food is delicious and the hosts are really nice and we are getting to know them and their family. The only hard parts are that there is no hot water or heat in the cottage at all. It was really cold the first few nights, down to 50 degrees in our room, but we are learning how to stay warm (drinking lots of tea and boiling water for showers) and it was nice yesterday. It is up to 57 degrees in our room now, so that is nice. It will be a good experience, since I am not very good at being cold. I have been picking wild dandelion to eat and its been great eating really healthy.
Before we got to Greece, we spent a few days in Matera, Italy and that place is beautiful. We spent a lot of time hiking on the other side of the gorge from the city. The city was carved into the cliff side, and up till the 1950's, peasants were still living in "sassis" which were homes carved into the rock. They also carved churches in and out of the city into the rock. It was our favorite place for the whole trip up to that point. 

Ryan was able to send this message to his parents when we were still in Italy and so I thought I would share that too.

Hey mom and dad, couple updates I forgot about. I got hit in the glasses with with some skis by a lady getting of a train in Innsbrook. My glasses were fine but my nose hurt. We got on the train and had a whole room to ourselves with seats that folded down into one giant bed for our 5 hour trip. I took off my glasses and laid down. After 20 minutes the train broke down and we (and everyone on the train) had to jam into a commuter train. We waited for it to leave for ten minutes and then as it pulled away from our old train I realized I'd left my glasses. I didn't realize how great it was to see clearly and now I find myself squinting all the time. I mostly find myself doing it because Melissa is making fun of the stupid face I make when I squint.
When we got to Venice Melissa said she was sick of growing her hair out so we put it in a ponytail and I cut it off with my pocket knife. It actually looks really great.
I noticed the dollar has been gaining really quickly on the Euro. Its good for us since we suddenly have 1,000 more euros but makes me a little worried about Europe since I haven't been reading the news.
Finally, I had a dream last night that Mitt Romney came over to your house kind of as a hometeacher. He was stressed during a little speach he was giving and started smoking. I was like, "What?, you can't smoke in here" and I took it and put it out. He then threw up and passed out on the couch. I'm guessing from stress from the campaign which seems like maybe isnt going so well in real life.
Anyway, glad you're home mom. If either of you are bored I highly recommend "a short history of nearly everything" I'm 10% in and its so interesting. But if thinking about infinity stresses you out then dont read it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

A model for living more in harmony with nature, that everyone
should have access to it, along with eco-friendly living methods
I was not so sure about coming to Vienna, as I wanted to stay put somewhere warmer and get some painting done. I am so glad I did because I discovered Hunderwasser. His architecture is well-known and obviously very interesting, but he is foremost an artist and painter. When I saw his paintings, I got very excited and intrigued by them, and happily enough, he is one of my new favorite artists now.

Everything about him that resonates with me, in list form:
A tapestry he made. I find the forms here most
-His work is more about the experience of the viewer than of the artist (I find it difficult to relate to work about such abstract ideas that seem only to be about the artist and his/her own thoughts). He said, "The line I trace with my feet walking to the museum is more important and more beautiful than the lines I find there hung up on the walls" (I think that maybe he would find my experience of some self-discovery and a kindred spirit more important than the fact that I went to see his art).
-He traveled not only for exhibiting, but also lived in different areas of the world (I like this idea of living around the world better than mere sight-seeing, which is not all that interesting when we all have cameras and the internet).
- He redesigned a fabulous sailboat and sailed to different places in the world with it (I have noticed lots of interesting people that I like have some involvement with sailing, and I find my own interest in this seemingly slow pace of life increasing).
I bought a post card of this piece. These
colors do not do the image justice. 
-Experimented with hummus toilets and water purification systems with plants and insists on humans living in harmony with nature, as we are guests in nature (amen).
-Gave several lectures on his ideas, such as campaigning against nuclear power and against negativity in modern art (I found I get frustrated with negativity in art, but I think this is different than saying that art should be in denial of human suffering and oppression, because it should not).
-"To paint is religious activity". He insists that being creative is when we are closest to God (making art is definitely spiritual for me, most especially the level of faith I must have in the face of doubt).
- My experience with his work is that his forms are so interesting and colors make me feel so optimistic, so excited for change and positive potential of humans to be happy and good. It is not without darkness or frustration. I feel that optimism, happiness, and light are more meaningful in spite of, even coexisting with some darkness instead of being in denial of.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh yeah...

And we might not go to the farm Greece because the roofs of the cottage we were supposed to stay in blew off in a storm so we are looking again in Italy. Things up in the air. Again. I am getting less and less picky of where we are staying...
Hello Prague!

Challenges and happy things

Just left arrived in Prague from Berlin. Did anybody know that I actually hate traveling? The actual sitting on a plane/bus/car/train is the worst. I like the being somewhere far away part. Although, I do like riding a bike, walking, sailing, or any other less boring mode where I want to read or write or draw or sleep but can't because I get car sick or train sick or bus sick...
Joe warned me that it would be really hard to be productive while traveling. It is true. Yesterday, we spent the whole day just packing, eating, waiting for the bus, sitting on the bus, trying to figure out the metro in Czech, not figuring out the metro in Czech, instead, walking around and getting lost, trying to find food, and accidently ordering 2 giant fried mozzarella wedges instead of a bowl of pasta...
One of the things that takes the longest while traveling is finding food. Trying to figure out what is not too expensive and avoiding fast food chains (at least, I avoid fast food chains). I feel like a hunter gatherer, because you first have to think about food, then find an area that seems to have the type of food you like, figuring out why certain places are closed at odd hours (in Spain, the siestas) or why everything is closed? (holiday), and mostly just eating baguettes and Nutella until you can find something decent to eat. I find myself being really hungry really often. Why do we have to eat so often? Three times a day is a lot... Unfortunately, I don't care about art when I am car sick, hungry, sleepy, carrying a heavy back pack while walking around, which is a lot of the time.
Another challenge I have found is finding places to sit for a couple hours to make art when it is either really cold, raining, or both outside and your hostel room mates are smoking in your room or your couch surfing host is at work.
Moving around every few days aggravates the process because you have to start over...
So it is true, it is hard to be productive.

Good things...
Couch surfing is great! Really really great! I have had many great conversations with hosts and their friends about my topic and more (the meaning of life, religion, politics, you know, things they say you shouldn't bring up at the dinner table, but always makes for very interesting conversation). They show you good places to eat or you can make food together and obviously, show you what the real Berlin, Paris, or Prague is like for locals. The idea and the experiences are so simple but hard to beat.
Also, I have gotten better at knowing how to experience a museum. At the Louve, I tried to have a glance at everything because I didn't want to feel like I may have missed out on something. Don't do it. I ended up being completely exhausted and didn't enjoy the experience at all. Now I read up on the descriptions of each exhibition, prioritize, and then walk through the last ones quickly if I have time and energy for them. I had a really great experience at the Hamberger Contemporary art museum in Berlin. I spent 2 hours sitting in the main temporary exhibition, only spending 45 minutes on the rest, and that was the most meaningful experience I have had so far in a museum.

I don't know how to end this post. Bye.