Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Patrice Lumumba

I was just hit with a gut-wrenching pang of saudades for Maputo after looking at this blog post on Avenida Patrice Lumumba by Brandie at Out and About Africa. I remember that street so well, flanked with dingy modernist apartment blocks, acacias and jacarandas, and a sidewalk that had certainly seen better days. I used to walk on Patrice Lumumba to go from our flat to the Centro Cultural Franco Moçambicano, one of the better spots in Maputo to see local and international art exhibitions and films, not to mention weekend parties with live music.

Something about seeing Brandie's photo made me miss being there so much. When I think about Mozambique in general, big-picture terms I don't have such nostalgia, it's pretty easy to consider it a well-lived chapter in my past and remember the exciting new road I'm on here in California.

But when I think about the specifics - the roundabout where Hotel Cardoso is located at the beginning of Av. Patrice Lumumba (and what was that other street called, the one with what used to be Vila Itália and then became Tapas restaurant - the Austrian ambassador's residence is on the corner, and if you walk a bit further you get to the snack bar called A Francesinha...this is driving me crazy, as Rico and I lived for a month on that street in our banana client's empty flat...the picture in my mind is *so clear* yet I can't for the life of me think of the street name!) - the little Indian grocery on Av. 24 de Julho and Av. Mártires da Machava where the owners used to live in Dallas Ft. Worth and drove a Buick they'd imported back into Mozambique (I can still see the layout of the closely-spaced shelves in my head, full of Black Cat peanut butter and Ceres juices and Salticrax crackers and feta cheese from Clover).

It's these little vignettes of daily life that really hit me, and for a brief moment I'd give anything to go back.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For the Love of Web

I am working hard on my jewelry website, Alexandra Amaro, and it never ceases to amaze me exactly how much freaking work goes into establishing and maintaining a good online presence.

Blogging is one thing - I enjoy writing and feel confident that no matter how much time may pass between posts when I'm busy and school rules my life, it is something I will always revisit. Blogging seems like a part of my life, the digital evolution of the volumes and volumes of journals I filled in my teens and early twenties. Blogging is about telling my story, recording the moments I don't want to forget, ensuring that an accurate record of my experiences and emotions is available to look back on, to share with others, and to pass on to my children one day.

Website maintenance, on the other hand, is not natural for me. :) It's this big beast looming on the horizon, something I don't quite understand, am never quite up to date with for my high standards. It's especially challenging to learn how to manage a new platform, which is what's happening with the new version of my jewelry site. In order to put up content you need to have finished pieces, then have good photos, then resize the photos for the web, write copy, create the component pages for a category or gallery, arrange everything in the back end of the site, then press publish and hope for no broken links or mistakes.

It gets easier as I become more fluent with my new site structure, but I'm in the midst of some frustrating times these days. I'm hoping to be done with the content updates and have the new shop up and running within a month or two. Definitely by the end of the summer.

So what else is new in my life these days?

I finished the school semester about a week and a half ago, which was a relief but also strangely depressing. I've talked before about how it's hard for me to go from 10,000 miles per hour and total craziness while classes are in session, to suddenly skid to a stop and have all this free time and little structure on my days. The solution to avoiding the post-semester blues, I've found, is to stay busy. It's a bit of a delicate balance as I clearly need a vacation and some decent rest, but I really am happier - not to mention more productive - if I have full days even during the first weeks of summer break.

My studio is up and running, which will make a massive difference. This will be the first summer during which I can work from home, torches and all, and that means I can take on custom orders and work on some of my own production stuff. Happily I have several custom orders queued up, not to mention the designs of mine that were accepted to the American Crafts Council show in early August and still need to be made.

I will be taking a summer school class in June - Intro to Garment Structures - and will be the teaching assistant for the pre-college metalsmithing course offered at CCA in July. So both of those will keep me on my toes.

I'm also really kicking up the frequency of my exercise. I was only working out 2 or sometimes 3 times a week during the second half of the semester (which is fine, I'll take any exercise over no exercise) but it's not quite enough to keep me feeling less crazy. So now I'm aiming for 5-6 times per week, with a combination of running (with my running buddy H.), personal training and cardio dance at Hipline. Already I feel better and it's only been a week or so of increased physical activity.

What else...

My snake phobia, which has been ever-present in my life, has gotten markedly worse. The hills of Northern California are known for being prime rattlesnake territory and several friends who enjoy hiking have alerted me that the rattlers are definitely out and about already this spring. In fact, most of my hiker friends have seen at least one if not two snakes per hike during the last month. I have been strongly advised to stay off trails until the weather gets cooler, something I'm more than happy to do (although I'll miss running at Tilden).

I went on a hike the other day with my family while on a day trip to Denver - we went hiking at Red Rocks - and I totally freaked out about the possibility of seeing snakes. Think panic attack, uncontrollable shaking legs, sobbing and severe sweats. It was pretty embarrassing, but my family was kind about it and we turned around early and went back to the car. Thankfully there were no snake sightings, but just the idea of seeing one was bad enough to really set off my anxiety. Fun times.

What else...

I really miss my mother-in-law and my friends H. and A., all of whom came to stay with us recently.

I'm enjoying the near-perfect weather we've been enjoying lately in the Bay Area. I made the mistake the other day, though, of saying that all I wanted to do was spend the afternoon sitting in the sun. I was at the dermatologist's. Whoopsie. I wear sunscreen and a hat, but apparently that didn't matter to the ladies in there who looked at me like I'd announced my plan to shave my head or something equivalently unthinkable.

I've also been enjoying catching up on sleep. Speaking of which, it's time for me to say goodnight to the computer, so long to the website frustrations. Maybe things will flow easier tomorrow with a nice cup of coffee and some homemade waffles. :)