Friday, February 10, 2012

Back in Rwanda, new blog

Hello! My blog will now be accessible via my website, The specific link to my blog is

Thanks for following!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hanna is going back to Rwanda!


I hope this note finds you well as we approach the busy holiday season! I am writing to update you on my post-college life and upcoming work with the Seattle-based nonprofit organization, Rwanda Partners.

You may be aware that I spent 13 weeks in Africa in 2009. I was in Rwanda studying the 1994 genocide and teaching English, Malawi working as a volunteer photojournalist, and Kenya where I worked on a dairy farm and in the surrounding communities with my father.

Since then, I completed my education at Concordia College with degrees in graphic design and English journalism. I have spent the last several months working at ChocMo Chocolate Bistro both as in-store help and as the graphic designer (rebranding the store and designing new packaging for all products). I have also stayed busy writing music and sitting in with jazz combos in Seattle on occasion.

In addition to these activities, I completed a volunteer internship for Rwanda Partners, an organization committed to fighting poverty holistically by creating opportunities for education and sustainable income, rebuilding community, and restoring hope in a post-genocide nation.

As an intern, I planned and implemented a benefit concert for our “Uniforms Transform” campaign, through which we are providing school uniforms to over 650 street children. The concert featured five bands at the Triple Door’s Musicquarium Lounge. After a successful internship, the organization asked me to return to Rwanda as a volunteer photojournalist. I will leave the second week of January for about two months.

My upcoming work with Rwanda Partners can be summed up in this phrase:
“Capture hearts and tell the story.”
While in Rwanda, I will photograph and write about the various projects, including the basket company, pineapple plantation, and sewing program. (Check out their website for more information.) Rwanda Partners will use my work on their website, emails, and more. I am excited to use my creativity to capture more conceptual images conveying need, poverty reduction, reconciliation, and opportunity.

Although I will work as a volunteer, I am also responsible for my airfare, in-country transportation, and translator fees, which total about $2800. Additionally, I must buy a used MacBook for my writing, image editing, and graphic design while in Rwanda. (A new camera will have to wait, although if you are selling any used equipment, please contact me.) If you are inclined to support my work financially, you may make a tax-deductible donation by writing a check to Rwanda Partners and putting my name on the memo line.

I would also love to earn more money toward these expenses by providing photography, graphic design, or music services! If you need holiday photos for your family, senior portraits, music for an event, or if you’d like to buy my CD (Beginning’s End), please contact me! Also, I currently have a photography exhibit at ChocMo (19880 7th Avenue, Suite 102 in Poulsbo, Wash.). I hope to sell some work to subsidize my expenses for this trip, but would of course be honored by you stopping in to see the exhibit. Lastly, I make and sell photographic cards that make excellent stationary or gifts.

In the coming months, I hope to connect hearts across geographic and cultural boundaries. I plan to post updates from Rwanda through notes on my Facebook page (Hanna Stevens Creative). Whether or not you can support me financially, know that your encouragement and interest have helped me to develop as a person, and I am forever thankful for you.

With love and gratitude,

Hanna Stevens

Rwanda Partners
159 Western Ave W #455, Seattle, WA 98119

The poster I designed for the Rwanda Partners Benefit Concert

The cover of my CD- suggested price of $10!

Examples of photo cards: 5x7", $3 each, and I can definitely do custom orders and mail orders!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Photo Exhibit!

Hello! Quick update: I graduated in May, moved back to the Pacific NW, completed an internship with Rwanda Partners in Seattle, and am working at a restaurant/bar/chocolate bistro called ChocMo in Poulsbo. I'm staying too busy writing music, making art and photographs, running, trying to attend as many music events in Seattle as possible, and taking in the beauty of this part of the world that I've missed so much over the past four years.

If you're in the Kitsap area, stop by ChocMo to check out my photo exhibit! I'm trying to raise money for my plane ticket back to Rwanda in January where I'll be working as a photojournalist for Rwanda Partners.

Also, if you use facebook, check out my page! I also have some music up on my myspace and youtube (links on my facebook). I'm working on a real website, too... We'll see how long it takes me to learn to build a website!

Love as always,

Friday, June 18, 2010


MAY 29

This was my first day in Spain! Iñaki, Coro, Patricia, and Iñaki Jr. took me to San Sebastian. The two sandy beaches, Ondarretta and La Concha (named for its shape), line the blue-turquoise bay, with the tiny island of Santa Clara sitting in the bay’s center. We saw the queen’s old palace, which is now a music school and apparently a popular location for wedding photos. We walked along the beach and saw the town hall, adorned with flags for Spain, the Basque country, and the soccer team. On this night the team played a match that could qualify them for some kind of finals, and previously the team was horrible, so everyone was excited. Yes, they did win! No, we did not watch the match.

We walked to the end of the bay and went to a museum: “The Basques and the Pacific: A tribute to Andres de Urdaneta.” It was mostly about Basques who were important in finding trading routes between Mexico, the Philippines, and China. We went up in the Aquarium’s elevator and walked along a road on the cliff side. From here I saw people fishing, boating, doing sailing school, and I could see both beaches and Santa Clara. We visited a cathedral where Iñaki used to sing in a choir. Right outside of this cathedral is the oldest street in San Sebastian. We went to a tapas bar and got patatas bravas and calamari, both with hollandaise sauce and some spices. Patricia said that on weekends people go to town for lunch and get a little bit to eat at many different bars.

Then we walked into another cathedral where a wedding was taking place. We just so happened to walk in right before a vocalist and organist performed “Ave Maria,” one of Mom’s favorites! It was absolutely beautiful. We walked through a square that was formerly used for bull fights, so a hotel along one side of the square has numbers painted under each window because they used to be boxes for watching the bull fight! A lady grabbed me and demanded that I tell her who, between two men she was with, was more handsome. It was weird and funny, and I answered by pointing to Iñaki Jr.!

From there we went to an underground market (fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, baked goods…) to buy ingredients for lunch, paella, which included mussels and shrimp.

After lunch the family showed me around the house. Patricia and Iñaki were holding hands as I came to realize they often do, and even Coro and Iñaki were! This family is very affectionate; yay! Also yay: Patricia’s house is gorgeous. It’s secluded in the green hills behind San Sebastian, but just outside their driveway is an amazing view of the city and the beaches. They have a garden with lettuce, peppers, green beans, and onions, as well as an apple tree, cherry tree, orange tree, and olive tree. Coro showed me a bird’s nest in a hedge with an egg inside. Iñaki chased a lizard through their empty swimming pool, ended up breaking its tail off, and was quite amused by the remains wriggling in his hand! They filled the pool a couple days later, a sure sign that summer in the Basque country has arrived.

After the tour of their home, Patricia drove me back to San Sebastian and we met her friend Erika there, one of the six members of their quadrilla. We walked to one end of the bay where three Eduardo Chillida sculptures are installed. (I knew these from my sculpture class, so it was awesome to see them in person!) Then we walked all along the two beaches in that bay (Ondarretta and La Concha) and over to the third beach (I can’t remember the name) where people surf when the waves are big enough. This is Erika’s favorite beach. They told me that people choose their beach by their age; The older folks go to Ondarretta, younger teenagers claim La Concha, and people our age usually like the third beach best.

That night for dinner we had a great salad that reminded me of home, fish, and bread. Afterward we watched an annual European song contest on TV. Patricia said Spain’s song last year was terrible, but this year’s song ended up in 5th place. Germany won. I didn’t like Germany’s song. (Sorry Bekah! But for the record, I also didn‘t like Iceland‘s song.) SLEEPY!

MAY 30

Right after I woke up, I heard a very familiar tune being sung Iñaki Jr. It was “Eye of the Tiger”… in Spanish! Actually, he and his friends wrote the words and will perform the song for 800 people. I don’t know what for. Patricia’s dad booked a flight to London for me, insisting that I didn’t have enough time to visit Switzerland. He also insisted that my 21 kilo bag could be minimized to 15 kilos. I don’t believe him. I also don’t want to pay Ryan Air’s ridiculous baggage fees. We’ll see what happens…

We went to Getaria (fishing village) and Loyola (cathedral and original 16th century house), villages west of San Sebastian. In Getaria is a sort of mouse-shaped island called El Raton de Getaria. That afternoon I watched “Emma” with Patricia; every holiday, she watches this movie or “Pride and Prejudice,” so this was another sign that the summer holidays have begun. Then her three cousins, uncle, and Grandmother came to deliver 6 chickens that they had hatched in their living room! Patricia‘s family is keeping them below the garden. We played with the toy cars on the family’s race track; the four-year-old cousin drives fast and loves to crash. Uh-oh?

MAY 31

This morning Iñaki, Patricia, and I left early to pick up Ane, a girl who also visited the US three summers ago. We drove to Pamplona, where Iñaki had to do business at a factory (the first factory he worked at as a business consultant), and this is also where Patricia studies law and business at Universidad de Navarra. While Iñaki worked, Patricia, Ane, and I walked around the city. Patricia said that I was taking notice of the same things Jay noticed when he visited! We must be related or something. In the evening Ane went to the bus station to go home and we went to meet Iñaki to drive to Zaragoza. Patricia will spend two months here working at the aquarium, so the family has rented a flat. Iñaki left us in Zaragoza and went to Seville where he had work to do at another aquarium. Patricia and I had breakfast for dinner: ColaCao (like hot chocolate) with chocolate cereal in it and digestive biscuits. We had this the next morning… and night… and morning. But it was actually very good! I guess I’ve never been one to complain about chocolate!


The 2008 World’s Fair was in Zaragoza. It lasted for three months, and I gathered from various sculptures that the theme was water. I’m guessing you can look it up online to see what I’m talking about since I’m clearly too exhausted to explain. Just to tease you, I’ll mention one of my new favorite sculptures: “Alma del Ebro” by Jaume Plensa, 2008, a human figure created from letters.

Today we visited Basilica del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar Basilica), which is probably one of my favorite cathedrals I’ve seen in the last month. We also went to Rosario de Cristal, a glass and light museum narrated in Spanish, so I don’t really know what I saw. We also visited the Aljaferia Castle, part of which is open as a museum, and part of which houses the Regional Assembly of Aragon (Aragon is the region where Zaragoza is located, I think.) The development of math in Muslim civilization is present in this castle’s construction and decoration, and the artistic decoration was always based on repetition. There are many calligraphic inscriptions from the Koran as well; artistic handwriting held the same importance as Christian religious iconography. Aljaferia is one of the greatest examples of Hispano-Muslim art and architecture. The Islamic section of the palace includes the Troubadour Tower, the oldest section of the castle, which is from the IX century.

We ended the day at the Zaragoza Aquarium, where Patricia works during the summer because of her father. (She enjoys working there, though! That’s the reason she switched from medicine to business and law one week before starting university.) This was the live, aquatic version of Musee d’Orsay in Paris hehehe. I’ll leave it at that.

Oh yeah; today we walked through Central Market. (The Central Market, not Central Market, you Washington folks!) We had our chocolate dinner and read books until we were falling asleep.


Patricia and I went to a modern art exhibit in Zaragoza, La Seo Cathedral, its tapestry museum, and we ended our Zaragoza touristic activities with a visit to the Pablo Gargallo Museum, which displays many of Gargallo’s sculptures and drawings. Gargallo trained in Barcelona and also practiced his art in Paris, and now much of his work is located at this museum.

Chocolate for dinner, books till bed.


Patricia and I had hoped to visit a monastery, but we had to be back in time to return to San Sebastian with Iñaki, and the bus wouldn’t arrive in time. Instead we visited all four museums that make up “Museums of Caesaraugusta’s Route.” (“Zaragoza” comes from “Caesaraugusta.”) We went to the Forum Museum, River Port Museum, Public Baths Museum, and Theatre Museum. When people started building in certain locations, they discovered Roman ruins, prompting further excavation, and resulting in these four preserved sites.

We returned to the Aquarium and went to lunch with Iñaki and a lady who seemed to be some kind of secretary. We then bought a ridiculous amount of junk food for some gathering at the Aquarium sometime and eventually Patricia, Iñaki, and I left Zaragoza to return home. We stopped in Pamplona to pick up Patricia’s friend Ludo because tomorrow Patricia leaves for a six-day pilgrimage to Santiago with four of her friends, all members of Opus Dei. Patricia is not religious, but it is not uncommon for people to make a pilgrimage even if it’s just for the experience without a religious dimension.

We returned for Rebekah’s birthday dinner, although she kept receiving phone calls and eventually left at 10:30 to go out, in true Spanish fashion… which means returning the following morning at 7:30!

Iñaki, Patricia, and Ludo left before 6 for the pilgrimage and for Iñaki’s work. Rebekah returned at 7:30 from her birthday celebrations; she had a dentist appointment at noon and didn’t know if she should go to sleep first or stay up!

Coro dropped Iñaki Jr. off at school and took me to Ane’s flat. We hiked from San Sebastian to Orio, which is a lesser-traveled section of the pilgrimage. The hike was gorgeous! I think my new favorite colors are the Spanish greens and blues of today’s combined fog, land, and sea. Ane and I left a note at a certain cross, which is customary. If someone takes it they are supposed to mail it to me; doubtful, but it would be pretty neat! We took a train back to San Sebastian, had lunch on her balcony (amazing view of the beaches, as she lives right in town), and went shopping because I wanted a certain style of pants I‘ve seen all over Europe. (Yes, I bought them!) Coro, Ignaki, and I had dinner and Iñaki practiced his lines for an upcoming play at his English academy. (I think he attends after school.) He successfully completed a two-hour math exam today, has three next week, and ends the school year with sports competitions after final exams. Did I mention that Iñaki is 12?


After some morning puttering, I met with Ane around 3. She and the other girls on her basketball team (including Garbine) had planned a surprise bachelorette party for their basketball coach’s fiance. Sadly, the night before, the woman’s grandmother died, and the coach told the team to carry out their plans without his fiance, which meant I got to attend. The surprise day included paintball, dinner, and going out. I have never done paintball, let alone with a Spanish basketball team. I felt incredibly stupid since communication is kind of important in team sports (especially ones that you’re unfamiliar with), but it turned out to be a pretty funny, and only slightly painful, experience. It was also strange because we were up in these rural hills with horses and cows in the surrounding fields, and we were running around in bodysuits and helmets shooting each other with paint!

The girls’ coach said that even though his fiance wouldn’t want to do paintball, she would still probably like to go to dinner and dancing. So, after paintball, we dressed up and went to the woman’s flat to surprise her and see if she wanted to join us. She was very happy and wanted to come, so we went to the restaurant at 10 pm and had one of the best dinners ever. It was a set menu with choices for each course, so it was pretty pricy… but delicious. Ane and I each chose what we wanted for the starter, the meal, and desert, and we shared half-and-half. The names of each item on the menu were very long and in Basque and Spanish; Ane said it was to make the restaurant seem even fancier, and she helped me figure out what everything was. This is what we shared, as best as I can explain:
-a crepe-samosa-like-thing with cod, vegetables, and brie; spinach and pesto ravioli
-cod with a seafood sauce; duck with grape sauce
-banana cake, apple crisp

After dinner (around midnight or 12:30 I think) we went to the bars, which is more like going to dance clubs that happen to have bars, rather than bars that happen to have a tiny place for dancing. I liked this a lot! It was fun to do something completely different and experience a typical night for a young person in the Basque Country. The music was interesting and fun, there were plenty of people-watching opportunities, and even though Spanish Circadian clocks are way later than my own, I didn’t even feel tired. (That surprised me, since Ane and I had been hiking the day before and doing paintball earlier.)

Anyway, we left the first bar around 2:45 and went to a few more to find some teammates who had split up. A few times people would say something to me because they could tell I was foreign, which was funny since I’d asked Ane on our hike if I was obviously foreign. Ane and I caught the bus home at 3:30, and a very nice drunk man was very happy to learn that I was from Washington… D. C. When he understood that I‘m from Washington STATE, he got even more excited: “Seattle?!” The bus ride was pretty entertaining.


After our night on the town, Ane and I had lunch with her family, since I had only met her mother briefly. Her mother, father, and younger brother were very energetic, welcoming, and fun! We had tapas, pasta, and a special dessert that they made at home from sheep’s milk. The dessert is basically the first stage of making cheese, and you eat it with sugar. We talked about the previous night and how Ane’s brother (also called Iñaki like Patricia‘s brother and father) finds ways into the bars even though he’s only 17 and isn’t technically allowed until he’s 18. The parents joked with their kids and wanted to know if Ane had met any boys or if Iñaki met any girls. I practiced my horrible Spanish, and they actually seemed to appreciate it.

I returned to Patricia’s home to pack and spent my last evening in Spain with Coro, Iñaki, and Iñaki Jr. We drove into town and walked along the beach, back to the Chillida sculptures, and through town a bit. Iñaki wanted to go to a place called Telepizza, so we had pizza and that sort of thing for dinner.


On my last morning, Rebekah drove me to the beach. I hadn‘t had any time with her alone because she is gone so often, but we had a nice walk and got to know each other a bit. Rebekah and Patricia are very different! Rebekah loves to go out, do board sports, and be social more than she likes to have quiet days at home. She wanted to study journalism, but her father said she wouldn’t be able to get a job, so she is doing marketing and business studies at university. Eventually she wants to have some sort of magazine or run a business. She also wants to move away from San Sebastian; she wants to get away from an environment where everyone is quite comfortable financially. I was really thankful to have this time with her, because her character is actually quite different than I had expected! I felt like I was more connected to the family by chatting with her. After hanging out watching surfers, she took me to a little shop she always goes to and bought her favorite snack: fruit juice and sweets. She drove me up to Igeldo (where Ane and I started our hike) to a cliff overlooking the other side of San Sebastian. It was very peaceful and beautiful, and we ate gummy octopi and drank juice while I silently said goodbye to Spain.

Patricia’s father drove me to the airport in Biarritz, France, and my bag was… 14.8 kilos! I threw one more shirt in to make it a perfect 15. I arrived at Stansted Airport outside of London, caught a bus to the city, managed the Tube, found the hostel, and checked in right as Jared and Ben were walking out the door! We went to Camden with one of Jared’s roommates, Ana, a girl from Mexico, and eventually joined Alex and Marc from Quebec, as well as some other people from California, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas. It was so good to see Jared and Ben again, as they have been gone since January! We got caught up a little over a 1995 World Atlas in a pub, got to know the other folks, and had a rainy adventure with the tube and bus trying to get back to our hostels. We had a fun night together in London and said goodbye since they had to leave early the next morning.

The hostel (Ace Hotel in Kensington) is great and I wish I had more time here! Now that I’ve done the hostel thing once, I definitely will do it again. Since I was hardly in the room, I didn’t get to know my roommates, but two guys were there on holiday from school in Maryland, two were on holiday from Australia, and I never even met the girl, so I have no idea where she was from or what she was doing. I just think it’s awesome that you can meet so many different people from different places! For example, at breakfast, there were some teachers from Holland with a ton of elementary-aged students, apparently on a field trip.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Athens and the beginning of Spain

MAY 26
We arrived in Athens and took a train into the city. After checking into the hotel, we went up to the Areopagus, a rock mound just below the Acropolis that also overlooks the city. This area was a five-minute walk from the hotel! (Hotel Parthenon… go figure.) Peter lectured on the Acropolis and mythology of Athenian origins. I stayed to watch the sunset with Paul and Brianna, just as the nearly-full moon rose behind the Parthenon.

MAY 27
We started the day by returning to the Acropolis and this time we actually got to explore the site. Even though it’s kind of an ongoing construction site, it was still amazing to see the remains of the culture manifest in its architectural remains. Once again, experiencing firsthand what I’ve learned in class was phenomenal. Then we went to an archaeological excavation site, the Athenian Agora. We got to see lots of reconstructed ancient pottery, as well as fragments. Very durable fragments, might I add. Pottery can dated within about 50 years of its creation, making it an incredibly abundant and durable means of archaeological research. This pottery was used to transport wine, grain, oil, fish, and virtually anything else. It is also found preserved in shipwrecks that occurred during transport. The man giving us a tour of the site (I can’t remember his name…) said, “As soon as we put a spade in the ground, we hit pottery.” So it’s useful and abundant. But abundance has its difficulties, especially when you come across several pots broken in the same location. The dude said, “It’s like throwing together five puzzles and trying to put each one together.”

Before walking through the actual site, we saw a model of what this 5th century BC agora probably looked like. As for its purpose, it was a highly political public square during the invention of democracy. There is a marker of the agora’s boundary, and this is probably one of the locations where Socrates spent a lot of time. The Temple of Helofernes (pardon my probably-barbaric spelling…) is the best preserved temple because it was converted to a Christian church for awhile. The architecture of this temple incorporates both the Ionic and Doric orders, a sort of architectural transition.

On our way back to the hotel, I saw one of the main things I was hoping to see in Greece: a group of old fellows playing Backgammon. I first spoke to Kristos, who said it was fine if I watched. I told him that my aunt (Cathy) says the masters play in Greece, and he agreed. I didn’t tell him, however, that she had beat the Greek Backgammon masters. I don’t know enough about the sensitivity of Greek pride regarding the game to bring up her victories! I noticed that they play a little differently than I do: first of all, once the game is over (as I play), they play backwards! Second of all, the game is incredibly fast-paced, and a little… ferocious? I loved watching, though!

In the afternoon I made a quick visit to the Acropolis Museum, since I only had an hour. I noticed an incredible amount of color remaining on many statues! I was also amazed by the incredible reconstructions created from just a few fragments. To give an example of what I saw, the museum has five of the six sculptures from the Porch of the Caryatids, and most of them are quite complete, given their age. This porch was on the south side of the Erechtheion. (The sixth sculpture is located at the British Museum.) I also saw Poseidon’s chest from the west pediment of the Parthenon (we saw the original back and reconstructed chest at the British Museum). My favorite object in the museum was a marble sphere with magic symbols dating to the 2nd or 3rd century AD.

Then we gathered at the hotel to go out for our final evening in Greece, and the last night of the May Seminar. On the drive to the beach, each corner along the coast was the beginning of another gorgeous bay with the blue and teal water of the Aegean Sea. We spent some time at a beach where Peter used to hang out when he lived here. I decided that Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” was the perfect match for feet in the Aegean Sea and the rest of me watching the sun run away for the night. After dinner we went up to Poseidon’s Temple to watch the final sunset. I WANT TO RETURN TO GREECE! (Even though I only saw a tiny bit of Athens for a day…)

MAY 28
This morning I went to the airport with the rest of the class and they left for their flight home. I had about six hours to kill and some dude wanted to kill them with me, so I left to explore the airport and found a photo display of sea life. I was also surprised to run into a fellow named Peter. I think Peter should’ve told me he was going to the airport later so I could’ve slept in at the hotel and gone to the airport with him later. Boo!

Anyway, I finally got on the airplane, fell asleep, and awoke completely confused to mixed Spanish-Greek frenzy regarding some dude who was kicked off the plane 45 minutes after the scheduled departure. (By the way, I’m talking about my Athens-Barcelona flight.) Then they thought the guy left a piece of luggage on and were making sure each piece was claimed. I don’t know if they thought he left something dangerous behind or what, but it was really weird and kind of creepy, especially since I was in a sleepy haze shrouded in a foreign linguistic crossbreed. But, I made it to Barcelona, got my sunset-cottonball-cloud flight to Bilbao, and was picked up by Patricia’s parents. Patricia is from the Basque country in Spain, and she stayed with my family three years ago. A photo of me from that time was all her parents (Iñaki and Coro) had to identify me, so apparently I look the same as I did then since they found me. Yay? We reached their home in San Sebastian and were greeted by their dog (Max) and their children, Patricia, Rebekah, and Iñaki Jr.

I am very tired. I like adventures. I like learning. I like Joni Mitchell. I am about to like Spain. Goodbye for now; you can keep up with my adventures by reading my blog, since the Concordia May Seminar is technically over.

Hasta luego,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Europe update- the end of Paris, beginning of Athens...

Here is an update on things since my last post. This is also part one of my final blog because that will be due in a few days, but I have no idea what my internet access will be like then as I am continuing to travel for the next couple of weeks. So my final post will be here eventually, but here is this for now!

MAY 23
We started the day at Musee Rodin, which has Rodin sculptures in a magnificent garden. Then we went to Musee d’Orsay. My favorite painting here was by Monet, depicting a woman on a windy hill with an umbrella. There was another room I particularly enjoyed with paintings from Africa and Central Asia. I had two favorites: one of elephants in an African landscape and one of people approaching the viewer on camels in a snake-shaped line. The camels were about as tall as me and it looked like I was going to walk right into them!

-In the late afternoon I went to see Gustave Eiffel’s tower, which was built in just over two years for the 1889 World’s Fair. Over 7 million people visit the tower each year. I am now one of those 7 million people! It took over five hours to get there, get through lines, make it to the top, and return to the hotel (around 12:30 a.m.). The Paris metro system is definitely less efficient than London’s! At the tower, we got in line during the daylight, we reached the middle of tower at sunset, and finally made it to the top as night fell. I think we timed it perfectly, since we got to see the tower in all different lights. A man proposed at the top, and on the elevator down a couple was celebrating their anniversary. Hooray for love! Hooray for the City of Lights!

MAY 24
We started the day at Musee de L’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies exhibit in two completely white, oval-shaped rooms lit naturally. Monet designed the room to create a “decompression space” between the city’s agitation and his work. The paintings depict sky scapes reflected in water amongst water lilies and weeping willows. I think this was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. The environment definitely complements and contributes to Monet’s paintings.

The paintings we saw were:
“The Clouds”
“Green Reflections”
“Setting Sun”
“Clear Morning with Willows”
“Morning with Willows”
“The Two “Willows”
“Tree Reflections”

We finished the last class presentations, including our presentation on “Apotheosis of King Henry IV.”

MAY 25
This was our last day in Paris. I went to see the Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coure, and the Artists’ Quarter. At the Louvre, one of the class presentations was on a very small painting and Peter explained that, in order to make money, artists often completed smaller paintings to sell more at a faster rate. I was thinking about this at the Artists’ Quarter, a square where artists sell many small to mid-sized paintings, mostly of sites in Paris. Many of the artists create portraits for tourists as well, and one member of our group had her portrait drawn. I enjoyed watching the artist work because I got to see a blank paper become a beautiful portrait very quickly. One artist had a particularly interesting look, and was seated right next to a self portrait he had done. He looked like a grungy Parisian Santa Clause. I wanted to take a photo of him and his self portrait, but most of the artists did not allow photos, understandably.

MAY 26
This is the part where we go to Athens. This is the part where I'm going to leave off until the FINAL "final thoughts" blog. Here's a preview: ancient ruins. Archaeological digs. Two new sunset views. And of course, another water baby story.

Now I'm off to visit friends in Spain, Switzerland, and England. Love, hugs, and high-fives!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Seine: Hello, Paris!

MAY 21
Our night train to Paris arrived around 10:15 am Friday. Cozy and I made a game-plan for the scavenger hunt and ended up beating Peter to the final destination, the pyramid at the Louvre. On the way there we saw Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and plenty of puppies and pet shops. We hung out at the pyramid and I read my guide book for a long time, choosing some places I want to visit during free time. We went to a concert at Sainte-Chapell, a string group with a vocalist from the Paris opera! Then we hung out by the Seine River to eat dinner, talk about Disney movies, and watch the integration of local Parisians and other tourists like ourselves. A half moon brightened as the sun set on the Seine.

The Seine is like the foreign inverse of the Indi dock and I absolutely love it. The river is also greenish-blue rather than brown like the Arno. I am a water baby and feel completely physically different near water. I’ve noticed this in each city (Thames, Arno, in Venice, and Seine), but it has been the strongest in Venice and now Paris. I think Paris is my favorite city so far, even though I’ve hardly seen any of the city yet.

MAY 22
We spent the morning at the Louvre. Cozy and I first found the Peter Paul Rubens room with the famous Medici Cycle. Our third and final presentation will be in this room on Rubens’ painting “The Apotheosis of King Henry IV,” which is absolutely massive and adorns the end of the 24-painting hall. We wove through crowds to the other side of the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. I was not excited at all. I have no connection to this portrait and have no speculation on her “mysterious” expression. I was excited to see a da Vinci, but it was honestly more of a check-list item than something I was looking forward to. Really, a person can’t go to Paris and not see the Mona Lisa.

Then Zach and Paul presented on the Stele of Naram-Sin, a monument I learned about in Heather’s class last fall. Once again, seeing a work with which I’m somewhat familiar was both satisfying and exciting. After two more presentations, class was over and Paul and I took some time to explore more of the Louvre. We went to the lowest floor to see excavated and preserved sections of the original palace. We also saw the “Venus of Milo,” “Nike,” and a certain Etruscan sarcophagus I was looking forward to seeing. We spied on some folks at river before Peter’s lecture on the Notre Dame façade. We did walk through the cathedral, seeing the great stained-glass windows and small altars despite the crowd. Apparently we have an affinity for going against the flow in crowds of tourists. Oops.

Not surprisingly, my initial impression of Paris revolves around the river. I feel it and I love it. Near it, I am happy. Especially because… I am homesick. I admit it. This is NOT usual for me, but I realized that I haven’t been home since Christmas and I miss my fam-bam and three best buds. But that’s okay! I will be excited to see them when it’s time to go home. But for now, I am here listening to some Esperanza and Dave and I’m going to keep making the most of every day. Especially if my day involves a body of water. :)