Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thailand Trip - Elephant Edition

I will start sharing some of my travel memories from Thailand with the last city we visited, Chiang Mai, which is the second largest city in the country. There was really only one reason Mike and I traveled there after his work retreat was finished: elephants.

After doing extensive research on where to visit to ensure it was a humane spot, I booked the "Pamper a Pachyderm" package at the Elephant Nature Park. The tour guides picked us up at our hotel and drove us and the other 10 people on our excursion to the park, an hour outside Chiang Mai. 

On the way, they educated/tortured us by screening a documentary on the abuse elephants suffer in Thailand as a result of the tourism and logging industries. It was truly awful what many of these animals have to endure, so it made me extra happy to be going to spend the day with elephants that had been rescued from abusive situations.
A beautiful shot that Mike took on our good camera.

We spent the day with four senior ladies, all who were 60 years or older. We got to feed them, and feed them, and feed them (they eat so much), take them on a trail walk, and bathe them in the river. The elephant that Mike and I were feeding at the beginning absolutely refused to eat any squash until she had consumed all her watermelon. Mike tried to trick her by sandwiching watermelon inside of the squash, but she was able to separate the two with her trunk and throw the squash to the ground. She knew what she liked. We also fed them bananas and cucumbers.

In the afternoon, we went to the main park area to see the other elephants. We got to see a baby boy, who was adorable. Well, he was adorable until he almost ran us over—and at 300+ pounds, it was no joke. Mike and I had to sprint out of his way, and I didn't realize until hours later that I accidentally snapped a photo when we were being charged, and it became my favorite of the whole trip.

And as if I didn't love this place enough already, they also shelter hundreds of dogs, who clearly have the run of the place.

I am wearing a fern crown that our tour guide made me.

This elephant put her trunk out and blocked the trail until Mike gave her a banana. She's no fool.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A day in the life.

When I look back at different parts of my life, I always wish I could remember the minute details of my day-to-day, so I figured I'd try to rectify that slightly.

Here's my standard weekday.

Wake up about 6:45 a.m. Shower, eat breakfast, listen to NPR's Morning Edition, read the Wall Street Journal (the newspaper man delivers it to my front door, and it's wonderful). Sometimes take Pollock out for "morning dog."

8:15 a.m. Walk to the nearest metro, which takes about 10 minutes. Along the way, I usually see my nemesis: the Leaf Blower Man. He is out there every day, blowing trash and leaves off the side walk. He makes me crazy because he never ever picks up the trash and leaves, he just blows them into the gutter, and then they appear again. The neighborhood Sisyphus.

Catch the train (the Metro stations make me feel like I am in a waffle cone or a whale's belly - depending on the light), get off at the Smithsonian Metro stop, which even two years in, still feels pretty awesome. During my commutes I'm listening to podcasts (currently my favorites are Death, Sex, and Money and Ask Me Another) or reading my book.

A Metro advertisement I made with a colleague.

My days at the Museum are always different, but I find my work meaningful and engaging. Every day I am writing articles, emails, advertisements, and stories—from fundraising pitches to the content of full books. More and more, I am producing digital content and videos, and I love that most of all. I will say the downfall of what I do is that while I write all day, it makes me less motivated to work on my own writing, which is another reason I've restarted the blog.

Here's a few of my favorite videos my colleagues and I have produced this year:
The Impact of Your Support - We created this for Giving Tuesday
Bringing Holocaust Education to Shonto, Arizona
Holocaust Survivors' Message to New America Citizens

Testing the lighting during a photoshoot.
Action shot - helping our collections team with their filing system.

After work, I tend to head home to tend to my loyal hund, but I regularly play bar trivia (team Narwahl Nannization forever), go to yoga classes, and meet up with a number of arts management happy hours and events, connect with old coworkers, or try to get out and enjoy this beautiful capital city of ours.

Admittedly I watch too much TV, but there's so many good shows out right now. Currently, Westworld, Stranger Things, the Gilmore Girls revival, and Mozart in the Jungle are my favorites. I've never been a night owl (why start now?), so I'm typically asleep by 11.

A wall at the National Geographic Museum at a recent Creative Mornings DC event.
On the weekends, Mike rides his bike. A lot. I have been learning to play the guitar (it's a struggle, but fun), and I also spend my time running, hiking with Pollock on different trails around the city. It is a wonder of DC that within a few minutes I can be in the zoo or in a national park. I, at most, drive myself somewhere once a week. Buses, Ubers, Metros, bike shares (begrudgingly - DC traffic makes me nervous), and my feet are my preferred method of moving around the city.

Hiking with Mike and Pollock at Great Falls.
Weekend nights are usually pretty quiet, but I do try to get out to see live music and shows whenever I can. In 2016 I saw Shakey Graves, The Cure, National Symphony Orchestra, Lord Huron, Johnny Swim, Indigo Girls, The Book of Mormon, and some local plays and storytelling events too.

Whenever I feel low, I go hangout by the flamingos at the National Zoo. Their abundant brightness always cheers me up.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writing with the King

For any kind fellows who still check this blog, I recently blogged for my American University's Emerging Art Leaders Symposium blog. Here is what I wrote:

Yes, yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and although his memory deserves much more than one blog post - today, I prefer to discuss a different King, a literary king, Stephen King.

Amid the hefty stack of books I slated for my winter-break reading, Stephen King’s nonfiction piece, On Writing, claimed the top of the pile. Before this summer, I had never read one of his novels, but a literati friend put Green Mile into my hands. I was impressed by his storytelling ability and found myself willing to forgo my predilection for writers who teach me a new vocabulary word each page for solid, page turners like King churns out. Next, my same wise friend recommended On Writing to me, King’s autobiography and advice book for nascent writers.

Now, like many of my peers who study arts management, I struggle to make time for my own art while spending time studying the management of it. After reading about the challenges King overcame to produce his first novels - juggling marriage, small children, factory shifts and teaching - he reminded me that yes, it’s possible to keep artistic focus despite all the life happening around us. But it takes discipline. Amid the many sage observations in this book (including my favorite aphorism - “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”) what most resonated with me is his topic of muses.

How often do we as artists wait for that illusive moment for our inspiration to strike? We avow there will be a perfect moment to begin our opera, our painting, or our novel, but the time we have now does not seem quite right. Chances are, that instant will never come unless we pave the path. King puts it this way:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair… It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.”

How I envision King's muse

We must not wait to strike when the iron is hot, but rather, we must work on what we love when the iron is tepid, downright frigid even. In order to be a successful arts manager, it’s paramount to foster my enthusiasm for the arts by being an active participant. Perhaps if we all find time to keep creating, then maybe, our reluctant muses will snub out their cigars and help us create work that can, in fact, change lives.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rapt in the Return

Location: Budapest
Date: May 27, 2011
Adventure #51

Inspired by motherly encouragement/prodding, I am back to post again on my blog. Just two days ago, I hosted a reading at my favorite wine bar in Budapest with five other very talented poets. A large group of my friends attended, for which I was extremely grateful. Since I am betting that was my final poetry reading in Budapest before my imminent departure, I composed a poem inspired by some of my Hungarian experiences and my current attitude toward moving. Without further preamble, here it is:

Rapt in the Return

We sat side by side on a slated bench like one-third of the last supper,

drinking light lagers out of plastic grails

staring a sinister church protected by chicken wire,

caging in gargoyles with the lunette apostles,

a purgatory menagerie.

As its bells pealed at midnight,

we toasted each other in four languages,

the homeless man donning an Armani hat laughed as I dipped my finger in my drink and gave my dog a lick,

then his eyes moved back to a horizontal glare as we occupied his bed for just a little longer.

These are the moments I inhale,

hand just slapped the chess timer

must move to the next travail.

My mind is most rapt with a return ticket,

time-stamped eyes bring clarity, rarity of vision

where measured moments

bloom like highlighter rows of rapeseed.

I can’t forget what I didn’t do,

fill the cup of bent-over beggars,

whose outstretched hands quiver like a cellist sustaining a chord,

I never danced ‘til dawn in velvet cellars,

but there is still time,

and I didn’t finish the vinegar wine

served by flirtatious proprietors in musky cellars.

I handed it off like a baton to friends who dumped it out behind the cask,

volunteers passing water buckets to douse flames of fire water.

These are the moments I let pass,

hand just slapped the chess timer

time for new memories to amass.

My mind is most rapt with a return ticket,

time-stamped eyes bring clarity, rarity of vision

where measured moments

bloom like highlighter rows of rapeseed.

I have lacked bold strokes to learn the language.

As long as my shy smile suckled its mother tongue,

my stranger smile roused suspicion.

Always wanted to understand when scorn rolled from strangers’ crackled acorn eyes to bread-knife tongues,

so I could hear choice words

and chose my rebuttal carefully.

Instead, I continue with popgun phrasing of pleasantries like thank you beautifully or lovely weather today.

my default of ignorance has been to feign bliss.

These are words I must leave behind,

hand just slapped the chess timer

remaining time too strictly defined.

My mind stays rapt with the return ticket,

time-stamped eyes bring clarity, rarity of vision

I am enamored in the now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Onwards and Upwards

Location: Budapest
Date: April 17, 2011
Adventure #50

This has been a long time coming, but I've been waiting to save post no. 50 to make this very special announcement. This August, I am moving to Washington, D.C. to attend graduate school at American University. I'll be getting my masters in Arts Management, and I want to focus on marketing and public relations for large cultural institutions. Since I am moving to the USA's museum mecca, I think I will have many fantastic internship/job possibilities. Fortunately, I received a grad assistantship, so I will be working with an initiative that documents the work of aging artists, thus combining two of my big passions: serving the elderly and promoting the arts. I couldn't have tailored a better program for me, and I am anxiously waiting to learn more details.

After telling a few friends about my plans, the follow up question is always, "Is your husband coming too?" The answer is yes, of course - because of his job, he can't pick up and leave quite as easy as I can, but for his quickly advancing career in international development there are few cities that are more in tune to his field than D.C., and it is a good move for him too. For a little while, it may be just me and the pup in Washington, but I have full confidence Mike will not be able to be separated from his newly naturalized dachshund for long.

Although I've been preparing to move from Budapest for almost a year, it is still a bit surreal to know that I will be leaving my home for the last 3.5 years, and Mike and I will live together in the States for the first time. The logistics of the move (packing years of accumulated things back into a few suitcases, collecting our possessions in Colorado and Texas and moving to a city in which I've only spent a total of six days) are overwhelming, but I am trying to take it one small move at a time.

Just like I never would have dreamed of living in Hungary, I never thought I would peregrinate to the East Coast. However, I am finding that a life of unplanned blessings and adventurous opportunities happily exceeds what my imagination fathoms.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring has Sprung

Location: Budapest
Date: March 2011
Adventure #49

In addition to hearing the occasional bird chirping, being able to open my windows in the day, and seeing flower beds full of vibrant blossoms, signs of vernal happiness take another form in Budapest: the arrival of Budapest Spring Festival. As in years past, I wrote a feature for my magazine about the large-scale cultural event, which you can read by clicking here.

I was invited to attend the opening ceremony for the festival, which was held at the Museum of Ethnography - a stunningly ornate building built in the early 20th century for Hungary's Ministry of Justice. Anytime I get an invitation to go to that museum, I take it. Although it was hard to capture using just my Ipod, I took this picture of the lobby while a Gypsy musical group performed.

And yet another perk of reporting on the festival was that I was able to attend a flamenco dance version of Carmen - masterminded by Antonio Gades - a late, world-famous Spanish choreographer. Although I think it would have been much better with a live orchestra, the Spanish guitarists and flamenco dancers were exceptional. It solidified what I always suspected would be true: there is nothing more sultry than a vixen (clad in a red dress, naturally) seducing her man with flamenco flitting to Bizet's "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Love is a rebellious bird) aria.