Camellia Travels the World: Special Month in Chile

October 21, 2019

We come to Chile at a special time. September is an important month in Chilean history.

On September 11, 1973, the world’s infamous dictator Pinochet led a coup d’état to overthrow the Socialist Chilean government. On that horrific day, the city of Santiago was overwhelmed by air raids and ground attacks over the presidential palace. Under the terror, President Allende vowed to remain in the presidential palace as a confrontation against the threats. He calmly delivered his final speech to the nation via radio: “My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May there be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath…the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign! Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life.” 

Flag to commemorate President Allende. The quote is from his last speech: “The history is ours, and people make history.”

The violence did not cease after the death of Allende. Under the dictatorship, numerous citizens were abused and tortured. According to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, the number of direct victims of human rights violations accounts for around 30,000 people; they were taken as political prisoners in concentration camps. Approximately 4,500 people were executed, and around 200,000 people were forced to exile.

In order to commemorate these victims of political violence, people gather for peaceful marches and ceremonies on September 11 every year. After learning and discussing the dark history, we went to one memorial site – Estadio Nacional – at night for the commemoration ceremony.

The Candlelight Ceremony outside of Estadio Nacional.

Walking into the tunnel around the stadium, I was overwhelmed by the heavy ambiance inside. The ceiling of the tunnel was not too low, yet I felt it was barely above my head; the lights were brightly incandescent, yet the tunnel was still so dim; the paint on the wall had fallen out, and it was full of marks from history. On the walls, there was a photograph exhibition that reveals the  terror that people had gone through.

Thousands of people were captured, detained, and tortured at this specific site.

Inside the modern stadium, there was a remaining section with wooden benches surrounded by modern plastic seats. Many people put flowers and notes on the fence to pay their tribute. A group of us went inside the fence and sat on the benches for a while, trying to absorb the atmosphere and comprehend the fear and despair in the dark.

The fenced section inside the Estadio Nacional dedicated to memorializing the horror of 1973.

On a lighter note, September 18 is the National Day of Chile. On September 18, 1810, the Independence movement began in opposition to the rule of its colonizer, Spain. The Independence movement lasted more than a decade, but at last in 1826, the last Spanish troops surrendered, and the Chilean Republic was established. Thus, the Chileans have a week of celebration for their independence.

We went on a cultural “site visit” – going to a fonda. It is a carnival fair for a whole week, where people can buy food and beverages, dance Cueca (a traditional dance), play games, and watch rodeo. There were several fondas taken place in Santiago, so I went to the one at Parque Padre Hurtado, closest to my homestay.

My giant smile and double chin with Terremoto (a drink made of pipeno wine, grenadine, and pineapple ice cream) and Anticucho (a meat skewer).

Anyway, it was a lot of up-and-down feelings in one week. On the one hand, we memorialized and honored the dead from the horror of coup d’etat; on the other hand, we celebrated the thrilling independence of Chile. It was a full cultural experience.


Bryan in Taipei: Orientation and First Week of Classes

September 24, 2018

Orientation

After what seemed like ages, my semester finally kicked off with an orientation for international and semester-exchange students! I got to have a look around the campus and learn about the exchange program and all the student clubs at my school. From the “Traditional Chinese Medicine” club to the “Aboriginal Service Society,” there are a lot of ways for students to get involved on campus and many clubs quite unique to Taiwan. The other international students I have met here have been very open-minded and friendly, with the vast majority coming from European countries. It does feel strange to be the only American sometimes, but it also adds another layer of authenticity to this whole experience – that is, really getting out there and stepping out of my comfort zone from back in the U.S.

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In many ways, I felt like a Freshman again when it was time for the first week of classes to begin. I couldn’t help but use my map to find the correct classroom, but on the bright side I got to practice my Chinese with students and staff when I needed to ask for help! The campus is not too large, but rather elongated, so there is a bus that regularly takes students around campus. There are a whole range of different restaurants nearby that offer lots of good and cheap food, from traditional Taiwanese to Japanese to Malaysian. I must admit it is quite interesting attending a school that is somewhat enmeshed in the city, since even schools like Peking University in Beijing have defined campus boundaries and four “gates” that serve as official entrances. One of my classes is on the 12th floor and offers great views of Taipei 101 and the surrounding mountainous region.

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I decided to take classes here related to Taiwan that I wouldn’t be able to take back at Richmond. On top of the obvious Chinese language course, I am also taking a course on Taiwanese History, one on the Historiography of Buddhist Nuns, and an Introduction to Ethnolinguistics course. Classes here are offered in a 3 hour lecture style once a week, which is definitely new for me and will require a little adjustment. One class might even be extended to 4 hours a week to accommodate early-leave! Overall I’m excited to see how these classes turn out and what I can learn about Taiwan.

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Bryan


Olivia in Sweden: Back in Stockholm!

February 23, 2017

Went back to Stockholm!

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We went to one of the Royal Palaces that hosted the Treasury! This museum hosts some of the monarchy’s most treasured jewels, crowns, and swords. We were not permitted to take photos of the artifacts but here’s a stunning picture of what you see when you first enter the museum.

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The Hallwyl Museum allowed for some photography! This house once belonged to the Count and Countess von Hallwyl and boy oh boy did they live up to their noble names. It was a really cool insight into the late Victorian period of Stockholm (and it was free!) Check out their pool table, their marble bathtub, and marble shower!

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We also swung by the Royal Dramatic Theatre. The beautiful building was founded in 1788 and renowned architects, artists, and interior designers worked to make it so breathtaking. Unfortunately, most of the shows are solely Swedish, but maybe if I learn Swedish in time I can give it a try?

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Here is also a pic of Gamla Stan, or the Old Town. Very interesting to see where old meets new. It’s one of the greatest preserved medieval areas in Europe. Stockholm was founded in 1252.

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There were many attractions, such as bookstores, bars, restaurants, and little ice cream shops, including this Nutella haven.

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There’s so much to do in this city. It is so convenient that it’s only 40 minutes from Uppsala. Uppsala itself has some great historical attractions, which I can’t wait to share.


Clara in Italy: Naples, Pompeii etc

January 19, 2017

I’m home now, have been for a while, but have only just contracted some kind of horrible cold and am full of aches and shivers. It sucks, but oh well. The price you pay for a properly cold winter here in western New York!

For the very last part of my semester abroad, we traveled down south towards Naples, staying in a little town called Vico Equense some miles away. Vico borders the sea, and the beach was good fun for me! Found a wonderful hagstone that I somehow managed to cram into my suitcase intact.

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It was rather obnoxiously heavy, I don’t deny it, but totally worth it.We also found a bunch of hermit crabs! This one was really nervous. I felt sort of bad for scaring it, but we released it after about a minute, so I suppose no harm done.

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And on our way, we met a really cute cat that followed us for a little bit before running off.

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Not to mention the actual beach.

All in all, a lovely town, though we didn’t get to stay for too long.

In Naples, we went to the Capo di Monte museum, which, if I am honest, was too much art for me to handle. I was arted out. Like, there was so much art this semester, I could barely function at this point. Nevertheless! Some cool, cool stuff to be seen, such as some of the most beautiful drawings by Raphael I’d ever seen??

I don’t even really like Raphael, I’ll admit that right now, but oh BOY, look at how pretty that is the photo doesn’t do it justice.

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Like. Listen guys. Listen. This is the sort of drawing that I WISH I could create. Holy crap. I cry a thousand tears.

Anyways, besides that, I also got to see this painting of Atalanta???? I didn’t know it was here??? Oh man?????

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Atalanta! My idol. Sort of. Well, I don’t know, I respect her anyways. And I really like this painting and one time I created a graphics set using it and anyways, this painting is cool and I like it a lot and I got to see it in person. That’s what I was really trying to say. Photo is still pretty terrible at doing justice to the painting, but anyways. There it is.

But here’s my favorite thing I saw in the museum. I have no idea what it really is, but I’m guessing a sort of writing set/table and?? It’s gorgeous. Look at it.

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So much mother-of-pearl and the fineness of the details in it. It was really stunning, not gonna lie.

And finally, some cute little porcelain figures that imitate curly fur ridiculously well. Dang, right?

Yes, you heard me right, that’s porcelain. What kind of nonsense.

I’m getting carried away, because that wasn’t even my favorite museum during this visit. I’m only going to post one picture from my favorite because I actually didn’t take that many photos. In a sort of backwards way, it’s a testament to how excited and awed I was, okay? The Archaeological Museum. Oh my god.

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Look, I’m not going to show you any more because my photos are abysmal. Just. If you ever have the chance and you are as much of a nerd for classical art as I am, go here. I’m not kidding. This stuff is incredible. I just want to touch all of it, oh man. This stuff is thousands of years old!!! And it’s so NICE. Like WOW. Do you see that?? That’s not a painting, that’s a mosaic and it is amazingly preserved. From Pompeii. This whole exhibit gives a really human character to the city and the people that died. Again, I cry a thousand tears. Art man. Art is incredible.

I loved this museum. It was one of my favorite places in Italy. I mean, besides Pompeii itself, which was also incredible and a weird transcendental experience for me, the adult who was once a small child fascinated with the Greeks and Romans. (Not quite as incredible as visiting Delphi a few years ago, which just???? I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve been there. But I digress.)

I have almost no pictures from Pompeii itself, same for Naples, which is sort of a shame because that was a mistake on my part. But here are just a couple notable things.

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Some really human graffiti, and an incredible restored painting. I couldn’t deal with this okay. It was so cool.

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2. Naples

THE TRAIN STATION FULL OF PLASTIC SNAILS. IT IS MY FAVORITE THING.

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I think that’s an appropriate place to leave you all because hey, why be so serious about it? Giant plastic snails are just as artsy as some classical paintings, and they bring me around the same amount of joy. (Okay, maaaaaaybe the classical paintings bring me a little more because they appeal to my inner child, but still.)

Stay determined, y’all. Hope you enjoyed what I had to say about the joys of Italy.

 


Clara in Italy: Power and Violence in the Cappella dei Principi

November 10, 2016

So this is going to be a fairly short post since it’s just something I’ve been thinking about since my class went our trip to Florence.

Basically, it just boils down to how much I hate this room:

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For a little more context, here’s a photo of San Lorenzo, the Medici church in Florence from above.

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Taken from wikimedia commons because sadly I don’t have a camera drone for aerial shots, though that would definitely be awesome

That gigantic domed piece right there? That’s this room. The Cappella dei Principi. The Chapel of the Princes. It’s absolutely beautiful inside. Everything is made of inlaid stone. Like!! Man, inlaid wood is amazing enough, but inlaid stone is something else. And it really is pretty much everything in there.

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That’s not a painting. Nothing in that is painted, not the shading, the colors, anything. It’s just carefully cut stone merged together seamlessly.

Here are some more detail shots of the inlay work around the place.

It really is incredible. It’s the sort of fine craftsmanship that I’d love to be able to do because fine craftsmanship is my jam. (Speaking of which, bring back respect for craft as art. Or bring back respect for art as craft? …. both??? That’s an argument for another day I suppose, but essentially, tear down the hierarchy of art and respect all forms of it as skilled labor that requires practice as opposed to the magic of talent. I feel like I’ve already had this rant…)

Still, there’s something really viscerally horrible about this room. The pictures really don’t explain it. You can probably look up more photos, but I just. It’s awful. There’s some kind of vague hymnal singing being played over speakers quietly, and it felt like the least sincere sacred space I have ever been in.There’s an altar and there are candles and it’s a chapel in a church, but it’s terribly oppressive despite the massive domed ceiling and sense of space.

You’d think I’d still have liked it–the decorative style is just so lovely. Maybe it was just too much. I don’t know. My book arts professor told me it made her grumpy too, so that was validating. I think, though, that it was really what my art history professor said at dinner: there’s something really violent about that much power.

This is the place that Hitler and Mussolini chose to meet in the 40s. This is the physical manifestation of riches and some serious 16th century conspicuous consumption. We are powerful, and we want you all to know it. To me, that’s vicious.

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Do you see those sarcophagi? They’re like 8 feet off the ground and bigger than trucks. To command so much personal space for your dead corpse–that says something too.

I don’t know what about this makes it so different from the massive Gothic churches that I like so much, but maybe it’s the division between the (ostensibly) public and the (explicitly) private that gets to me. At least churches were supposedly meant to be shared with the people at large. This just feels cold and parasitic.

Is that too harsh? The sort of anger and hyperreactivity you’d expect from a far-left women’s studies minor? Maybe. But I’ll hold to it. Visiting all of these grand monuments and churches and beautiful spaces and art havens, it’s still uneasy to me when I think about the price. It happened 600 years ago, sure, but it’s still happening now. I don’t want to lie to myself about what material awesomeness comes from.

Hope that wasn’t too much of a downer, but I want it to be something we reflect on more often. Art is not just art. History is not a vacuum, and we should not forget that. This wasn’t worded as well as I wanted it to be, and nor did it really convey what I felt, but I hope that it has come close enough to be understood.

Stay determined. The sun will still rise tomorrow.


Naomi at Akita: Week 3: Raw Egg

September 19, 2016

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On Monday, my History of Pre-Modern Japan class took a field trip to the Yayoikko Village in Goshono – about a 15-minute drive away from the school. The Akita City Board of Education excavated this Jizouden Site, from Jomon and Yayoi Periods, in 1985. Four pit dwelling houses were found but only three were restored. The style of the houses is called “Kabe Tachi Shiki” which stands for Wall-Stand Type, as you can see in the two pictures above. Professor O’Reilly (pictured above – yes, he has blue hair) actually told us about 50 people lived in each house, which I found to be unbelievable. Our class consisted of about 30 students and when we all went into one house, it was already too stuffed. There was a small museum near this site that exhibited pottery, stone tools, and clay figurines. Some of the pieces of pottery we saw were used as children coffins and several clay figurines found were used as good luck.

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After a long day of classes and napping, our friend Isabella invited us over for dinner. She lives in the University Villages so her kitchen and bedroom are very spacious even though it’s only two people to an apartment. Isabella is actually half Japanese, a quarter Brazilian, and a quarter Italian so she made us Brazilian Strogonof with a side salad. とても美味しかった!We all ended up lying on the ground, listening to music, and teaching each other different words in different languages – Japanese, English, Portuguese, Slovak, etc. I’m telling you guys, you meet people from around the world when you study abroad. People from various countries meeting up in a small, close-knit community in Akita International University talking about things ranging from differing prices of beer to conflicting habits among cultures.

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On Saturday, the school organized a day trip for all of the new students, including international and first-year students. The day consisted of going to a historical Japanese town full of samurai houses in Kakunodate. This historical town was first located in Mt. Furushiro. However, due to floods and fires, the town relocated to Kakunodate, an area with natural terrain, surrounded by mountains. The town is actually split into two parts between Hiyoke (fire shield): the samurai district and merchant district. Before we walked around to look at samurai houses, shrines, and temples, we decided to get something to eat, as none of us had eaten breakfast yet (we had to check in for the buses at 8am). We found a tiny restaurant that served soba, udon, and ramen. I practically inhaled my soba (pictured above); I’m sure you can guess what the best part of the soba was. We ran into a couple of souvenir shops as well and as you can see above, Okkasan had a grand time with a traditional Japanese straw hat.

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After eating, we headed towards the samurai houses that didn’t require an admission fee. We walked along a narrow street called Bukeyashiki-street – designated as a preservation district for nationally important historic buildings. Bukeyashiki translates to warrior mansions. The first picture is of a well from the Iwahashi Samurai House, which was a typical middle-class samurai house. We ended up walking to the front of a shrine, pictured above. Unfortunately, we were unable to go in, as a monk made an X with his arms. We kept walking and passed the Boshin War Graves as well. Of course, I did not take any pictures, as that is seen as disrespectful. As we had to head back towards the buses for our next destination, we walked across the Uchikawa and Yokomachi Bridges, passing several fishermen. The picture above of the fisherman was taken almost two seconds before he caught the fish. Takao, the guy with the grey shorts and glasses, saw the fish flying around. Naturally, we all clapped and the fisherman started smiling.

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One of our last destinations was Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan – 423.4m deep! The statue pictured above is the Statue of Tatsuko. There’s actually a legend behind her and it’s quite confusing. Apparently, Tatsuko, a very beautiful girl living by the lake, wished to retain her beauty forever. So, the god told her to drink the water from a spring in a nearby mountain. She did what she was told but instead, became a dragon. She then lived in Lake Tazawa regretfully. That’s it. It’s very interesting and short. Anyways, the lake was very beautiful and calm. Some of the students started skipping rocks. There were a few fish jumping out of the lake. Unfortunately, a lot of fish have become extinct due to agricultural promotion but there were still a few swimming around. After the lake, we headed to Ando Jozo, a store specializing in miso and soy sauce. They even had soy sauce soft cream – it tasted like caramel. By the way, look closely at the first picture…do you see Patrick? I yelled at him to jump and this is what happened.

 


Tony in Switzerland: Boats and Woes

March 3, 2016

Welcome back to another post of postcards from Switzerland! I, at least, consider any photo I take with a mountain in the background to be a postcard.

This past weekend, one of my closest friends from home visited from Paris. She came to Lausanne with one of her friends from their program at Université Paris Diderot. What kind of tour guide would I be without showing them the most scenic views Lausanne has to offer?

In addition to showing off the cathedral, the mountains, and the cityscape, I decided to take my friends to Ouchy, which is the harbor district in Lausanne.

 

Take a look at the commercial street overlooking the harbor. Ouchy used to be completely separate from Lausanne until rail lines connected the two in the 1800s.

Take a look at the commercial street overlooking the harbor. Ouchy used to be completely separate from Lausanne until rail lines connected the two in the 1800s.

 

Ouchy offers ideal viewpoints to look at Lake Léman and the Swiss Alps. Tourists and locals alike swarm to this area regardless of the weather, but, of course, the harbor district is celebrated more during the summer.

Can you blame anyone for wanting to visit? The mountains take on a new identity around Ouchy. They rise from nothing and cut into the sky.

Can you blame anyone for wanting to visit? The mountains take on a new identity around Ouchy. They rise from nothing and cut into the sky.

 

The harbor district is also dotted with different sculptures and an English garden. I took a picture of this statue Vierge du Lac ("Virgin of the Lake"), which faces the mountains and sits away from the more commercial end of the harbor.

The harbor district is also dotted with different sculptures and an English garden. I took a picture of this statue Vierge du Lac (“Virgin of the Lake”), which faces the mountains and sits away from the more commercial end of the harbor.

There's definitely something mystifying about Ouchy. A few roses floated in the water, but the lake is so calm that the flowers looked like they were floating in space.

There’s definitely something mystifying about Ouchy. A few roses floated in the water, but the lake is so calm that the flowers looked like they were floating in space.

 

After a weekend with a reminder of home, I definitely started to feel homesick. Rest assured, my international travels are coming up soon as I finish picking out my classes. Until next time!


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