Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The End's in Sight

The end of the school semester is fast approaching and I'm definitely feeling the crunch. I have so much work to do in the next three weeks that I almost can't think about it, lest I get completely overwhelmed and feel tempted to just give up and go drink wine. Rather, I'm taking things in about 2-day increments, putting out the most urgent fires, and letting the rest go.

I can't wait for December 17th to arrive. I have a massage scheduled to celebrate the end of the semester, and I plan to spend my month of holiday in the most relaxing way possible. I envision lots of time in front of our newly-working fireplace (Rico and his uncle climbed onto the roof with a pole saw to remove a large pine tree branch that was obstructing the chimney); trash tv and movies under a fleece blanket, flanked by cats; a bit of painting and jewelry-making; running (if it's not unbearably cold and rainy); and sleep. Lots of glorious, glorious sleep.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Maria, Lady of the Wax Print

"Maria, Lady of the Wax Print", acrylic on canvas board, 11x14 inches

After several weeks of painting patterns for my 2D visual dynamics class, we received an assignment to incorporate a portrait of someone who would be the "hero" of our selected pattern. This painting is of a Mozambican artisan and fashion designer named Maria, who I came to be friends with through the fairs at Café com Letras. The portrait is based on a photo of her that I took one day on the veranda of our flat in Maputo.

This was my first ever attempt at painting a person. I wanted Maria to look as if she were being surrounded by this swirling lotus-blossom pattern that I found on a piece of wax print fabric. This painting took about 5 hours to complete, and I am super pleased with the result.

I think it's safe to say I've been bitten by the painting bug. All I can think about these days (other than jewelry) is how much I want to keep painting!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MAPS and Mimosas - Sunday, December 5th at the Polana

Love animals? In Maputo? Fancy some champagne and a delish brunch?

If yes, then you should definitely attend this great event being organized by my friend Claudia that will benefit MAPS, the Mozambique Animal Protection Society.

When: December 5th
Where: Ballroom of the Polana Hotel
Time: 10:30am - 3:00pm
Price: 2,000 MTN

To secure your place, be sure to RSVP to mapsbrunch@gmail.com by November 28th.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Am Now Officially a Mac Person

I did it. Finally.

After months of putting off the transition, I've officially switched from a PC to a Mac. The switch was somewhat forced by school (CCA requires students to have a Mac), but my old computer was definitely giving me signs that it's ready to go towards the light.

In general I'm really happy with the switch, and know that as I become more familiar and proficient with my Mac, I'll only grow happier. However, at the moment I feel a bit frustrated because I don't know how to do everything I want to on the new computer.

The things I'm most excited about? Adobe Bridge, iMovie and just having a chance to start fresh. I am a bit obsessive about the way I organize my digital files and emails, and my system had become somewhat outdated and overloaded on my old PC. It's super nice to be able to recreate my organizational system, especially now that the focus of my professional life has changed from development consulting to being a jewelry artist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Color Manipulation

Yesterday in my 2D class I learned how to convert photos from Photoshop into Illustrator and then manipulate the colors. I'm pretty pleased with the result of my experimentation on this photo of my old friend Maria from Maputo, who is a fashion designer.

The purpose of this exercise was to be able to modify and scale up a portrait photo that will be then be painted on canvas, together with a pattern of our choice. I'm not sure exactly how mine will be composed, but I do know that it will be *full* of color.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

La Vida Expatica #6: The Place I Once Called Home Yet Never Truly Belonged

I had lunch with my best friend from high school today. She is due to have her first baby on Tuesday. It was incredibly nice to see her, even if just for a few hours, and the Thai crepes place (how's that for fusion!) we went to in Fremont was divine. I had the peanut chicken crepe and it totally satisfied my craving for spicy comfort food.

M. is my closest friend here in the Bay Area, despite the fact that we haven't really spent a lot of time together since we were 16 (I moved to Brazil to do a student exchange that year, and we subsequently lost touch for nearly a decade). Ironically, life brought both of us to California. She and her husband fled Hurricane Katrina and resettled here. Rico and I, as you know, moved here just over a year ago for his work, to be near my mom, and so I could go to school at CCA.

M. lives over an hour away, but we manage to see each other once every couple of months. I deeply miss having girlfriends nearby, and am reminded of how wonderful that kindred connection can be every time I see M.

Today she asked if I miss living in Mozambique. The answer is yes and no.

Yes a thousand times over to missing our friends, our social life, our global nomad community. The quick bonds formed with people from faraway lands, the dinner parties, the comfort in knowing that you are sharing a common experience. I miss the road trips, the Sunday lunches by the Indian Ocean, the animated discussions about how - and if - development work can really make an impact, about why projects fail, about why we were all there in the first place. Many an existential crisis was sorted out over gin-and-tonics and king prawns.

I have never felt so at home with a group of people in my life. I miss that immensely, the feeling of belonging, of understanding and feeling understood.

I miss many other things, too. The view of the Vila Algarve from our balcony, the tiles crumbling a bit more with each passing day. The streets lined with flowering trees, and the way I started tracking the seasons by what was in bloom: jacarandas, red acacias, yellow acacias. I miss catching bursts of the animated chats had by our building guards, full of whoops and hollers and shrill shrieks of excitement to punctuate the stories being told. I miss Dona Lidia's laugh. Zeca's warmth and reliability. The humility, kindness and hospitality shown by so many Mozambicans. The rich local culture. The mini global melting pot that is Maputo, and increasingly the rest of the country. I miss the pool at Hotel Terminus, site of many a sun-drenched, lazy afternoon, tanning and eating sandes de galinha maionese. I miss the piri-piri, obviously. I could make it at home in the blender, but somehow it's not the same as out of a small communal container on a wobbly restaurant table. I miss the sunrise at 4:30 in the morning in the summer. The nights spent dancing or listening to live music. The markets. I miss bumping into friends nearly everywhere we went. I miss Mozambique because it holds such a special spot in my heart as the place where Rico and I met each other again, fell in love, and started our life together as husband and wife.

Despite all of these wonderful things, there are many I don't miss: the in-your-face poverty, the inefficiency and inescapable bureaucracy, the lack of customer service, witnessing the abuse and exploitation of maids/waiters/workers and realizing that for many well-off Mozambicans that kind of treatment is acceptable, the exploitation of locals by foreigners and foreign companies, the sensation that you were always getting somewhat ripped off because you were white or a foreigner, the often false or tense relationships with the Mozambicans, the finely-tuned hate of "the stare" - an empty-eyed look accompanied by silence that became par for the course in many interactions...the frustration that the Moz experience wasn't what I'd expected - that in many aspects I'd become the typical expat I so swore I'd never be, the sad realization that I, too, looked at people in "local" vs. "expat" categories, that I was overflowing with cynicism, that I continued to do a job I didn't believe in for way too long - one of the motivations being a fat paycheck (the same fat paycheck to international consultants that was so often the topic of our rants on what was wrong with the development sector), the hypocrisy - my own and that of others...the ever-present shadow of depression...the corruption of government officials and others in positions of power, the fleets of white Mercedes and the massive mansions, the decision to give bribes to police or otherwise grease the wheels of the system - and wondering exactly how fast that particular slope would get too slippery to be controllable...the inability to ever be anonymous or feel truly comfortable living in the country.

Some days I am all the way on the "dying of saudades" end of the spectrum; other days I still feel very cynical and am glad that we left when we did. It is all very gray, even as the passing of time affords me a wiser, more objective perspective through which to view our experiences in Mozambique.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Procrastinator Rears Its Head

One thing about being a jewelry/metal arts student is that you can't really procrastinate. There is simply no way to get things done without putting in days - if not weeks - of hard work. Step by step, building on what you've done previously. At least in my semi-beginner state as a metalsmith, I haven't found out how to shortcut...not that I'd even want to, honestly.

That said, I *can* procrastinate in my other classes, primarily those that require essays to be written. I have a paper due in a few hours for my 4D class and just started writing last night. I have to finish it now, chop chop. I'm writing about the film "Black Orpheus" (1959) and how, while visually, musically and culturally fantastic, it creates and reinforces stereotypes about Brazil and Brazilians in popular media. Fun stuff.

We had total freedom in choosing the piece of media to review for this paper. We were also allowed to write whatever we wanted regarding said work - no guidelines whatsoever, other than "write an analytical paper". I find it funny that in every such instance, I go right back to the content of my first Bachelor's degree (Latin American Studies). Why reinvent the wheel, right?

I think at the very least I should get an A for efficiency: I chose topics in record time, don't have to do that much research because I'm already familiar with the subject matter, and my effort-to-results ratio is off the chart. :)

Now back to writing about Orfeu...