Sketching in Monaco

I fell out of the habit of sketching three years ago when I entered Wellesley because I got sucked into academics. But this past year, I slowly started drifting back into it. In Monaco, I went to the Japanese Botanical Gardens and Larvotto Beach intending to sketch.

Art has always fascinated me, because with the exception of photorealism, artists never show the world as it truly is. I wonder if artistic “creativity” is sometimes simply perception error causing a rift between what they see and what they put on the page. But whatever it is, through their morphing of reality, we see a more aesthetic, ideal vision of the world.

I sat on a rock overlooking the koi pond while I sketched. Curious strollers would stray off the path to watch. And a few times, we had some brief conversations – one Moroccan young woman whose brother lives in LA, and one Monaco native who also enjoyed drawing.

During the trip, I also talked for 3 hours with a man on the bus about everything from Benin culture (his wife is from Benin) to the olive and cork trees that are cherished in southern France. He showed me photos of his grandson who is growing up quadralingual and taught me a lot about the Jean de Florette-esque life of Provençals. I also had a long exchange with our Blablacar driver, who taught us about Carnaval traditions and the beauty of Eastern France.

It’s these kinds of brief encounters that I and many others simultaneously crave and fear. Pleasant connections with individuals who teach us how to appreciate the world around us, who remind us of small things that make life special, but who disappear after helping us discover a bit more.

Memory is faulty. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve condemns even the most seemingly indelible of memories to transience. But that is why we do things like draw and write, I believe. Making art of a situation captures the memories in a way that Instagram photos cannot. By imbuing our memories with our subjective perception – however inaccurate – we remember not only how we saw the world in that moment, but how we felt then too.

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“I remember you as you were”

I remember you as you were those months ago –

The budding marigold in the arms of the wind.

Time has spiked silence on our court and pinned

Our tangled nights to the bullseye, but even so

In my thoughts your gaze still volleys with mine;

We walk through the zoo of lights, aquarium of words,

Bump shoulders and fingers. Still, the birds we heard

In the cedar trees have long since flown. The train line

We rode to fields of rice has stopped for now.

But I’ll pick up the blossoms of days with you from the ground,

And put them in a pot of soil till we meet again, whenever

That may be. I’ll set them on the windowsill and vow

To leave and let bloom, till the day comes around –

We’ll meet, we’ll embrace, and embrace – a moment of forever.

Written January 17, 2019.

Parameters: Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s own “I remember you as you were” poem, very loose Petrarchan sonnet

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What Makes A “Good” Study Abroad Program

For my French study abroad semester, orientation was 2 weeks long and is finally nearing its end. It’s been an exhausting time, though nowhere near as intense as the orientation in Yokoze, Japan for the fall. Comparing the two, as well as my internship program in Mongolia, brings about some interesting reflections about what constitutes a “good” study abroad program. Namely, I feel that integration into the community for students is key to developing a truly fulfilling experience.

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“Pretty city, won’t you tell me”

Pretty city, won’t you tell me

Why when the river sighs on rainy nights,

I think of singing 燕 (tsubame) perched to the right

Of couples embracing on the benches by the sea?

Why, oh pretty city, as I flâne beside the plane trees

I think of 杉木 (sugiki) and 蝶 (chou)’s spiral flight,

And columns conjure skyscrapers and the sight

Of tangled iron, wood, and glass that brought the passioned to their knees?

Dear pretty city, when your bells toll and chime,

I hear the branches whisper on the maple leaf and sakura hill

Where on a cool Monday moonrise I belonged

In the arms of one I loved, who loved me. How time

Pounds like taiko drums, fate blades like moulin windmills.

Do I wait on the bridge, or follow the swallow song?

Written January 7, 2019.

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“The constellations were covered by the smoke”

The constellations were covered by the smoke

Of your cigar, and as I squinted at Cygnus,

“What’s so amazing about stars,” you spoke,

“That keeps us gazing at night?” For Polaris

We chase no more down the banks of River Tuul,

And we’ve never understood the astronomer’s charts.

But someone once said, “Make a wish and you’ll

Be answered.” So lovers and thinkers sat in parks

In Lisbon and Kyoto watching swans

Glide on long pearled lake lights and thought

How gold and clear the sky shines at dawn

And constellations connect more than just the dots.

That might be why – When we part to places new

I know we’ll keep on stargazing then too.

Written December 31, 2018.

Parameters: Shakespearean sonnet, memories of this past year

Ripping Away The Calendar Pages

It’s that time of the year again where I tell myself that I’m going to strike it rich, get six pack abs, and marry a hot K-Pop star. Usually by the time January 3rd rolls around, I look at my empty bank account, get the gin, and get annoyed with men, then say, “Looks like I’ll have to try again next year.”

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