May 27th – the day I became Bat Girl

batgirl

… yeah.. I got distracted and made a little batgirl..

I woke up to a group facebook message from the boys.

Geoff : There’s a dead bat .. on our floor

With a cell-phone picture of said bat.

So I got out of bed, made sure my shoulders and knees were covered (as we are living in a Monastery, and modesty is a cultural must within any kind of church or religious building), slipped into some flats, and headed down to breakfast.  I left the small corridor that contains three of our group’s bedrooms (the boys, my shared room with Sam & Christine, and another room of lovely lady companions), passed through our main classroom- where Derrick and Geoff sat, on their computers– up a small set of stairs, and through a larger hall with a better amount of natural light. Just sitting there in a little clump of fur was the bat.  Poor little guy- his fur was tousled and he sat still, looking somewhat mangey like he had a really rough night.
So I turned tail and veered right into the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs, before I reached the classroom.  I didn’t know whose they were, but there were plastic cups and plates, so I grabbed one of each.
I really didn’t think the bat was dead. It was the morning, and although he looked out of sorts- not so much so.
I used the cup to scoop the little guy onto the plate; a rude awakening for him.  Luckily he wasn’t in too much of a mood and settled down as I walked to the front desk.  I wasn’t sure how this particular receptionist’s english was, so I just said “excuse me” (one of the few things I can say in Italian) and questioned her, “English?”. She replied yes and so I brought the plate forward and told her it was a bat.  When she continued to look at me quizzically, with her brow furrowed, I told her, “it has wings, and flies at night” and I watched as her brow loosened and she understood what I was trying to tell her.  I told her that the students had found it and thought it dead, but it was just having a rough morning, and I didn’t want to leave it to a) get hurt or b) for someone to frighten it and it, in turn, bite them.

She told me, “Oh! I’ve caught two” previously. She continued to explain that there are bats that live in that part of the building, out in one of the courtyards, and that sometimes – especially on a cold night like the one before – they get inside.
Obviously feeling quite validated in my decision to rescue the bat, as she reached across the counter of the reception desk for it, I thanked her and promptly turned on my heels, heading towards the boys who thought I was just being a crazy country-person for going near it at all.

And of course Derrick’s first words to me were, “wash your hands!”.

–   –   –   –

As usual, after finishing class on-site (usually in a church or in a piazza) I returned to the Don Orione (the monastery) and asked for my room key at the reception desk, “Chinque chento quatro?”
She handed me my key as the receptionist from earlier in the day came out of the office and told me , “your bat” and made a flying motion with her hands.  I told her I was happy he was alright and thanked her for working with me, and she was smiling and said that it wasn’t a problem.  I think she enjoyed helping him as much as I did- especially since she had helped two before.

So yeah- that’s the story of how I saved the bat.

Advertisements

May 21st, Burano

Image

Image

 

A classmate of mine took a photo of me.. taking a photo. It’s photo-ception, guys. So the first image is that photo of me (hi!) and the second is the photo I was taking (for my capstone/documentary photography/photojournalism project).

On Wednesday (May 21) all of the students from our school studying abroad here in Venice took a trip out to the island of Burano.  It was a bit of a ride, about 40 minutes each way on the Vaporetto (it’s like Boston’s MBTA or NYC’s MTA, but with boats).  We played the game Heads Up to pass the time on our rides, with a growing crowd of entertained and confused European onlookers (we hold a cell phone to our forehead, a word is displayed on the screen and everyone gives that person clues so they can guess the word; if you get it right you dip your head down and back up to move to the next word, and if you’re stuck, you throw your head back and then return to normal head-positioning in order to skip.  we obviously looked quite silly).

The island of Burano is known for two things. 
   a) its incredibly colorful arrangement of buildings
   b) its lace
– As you could imagine, for a group of young adults studying Italian history and documentary photography, it was a field-day of sorts. Just running around with our cameras and looking through all of the lace (yes, even the men.. although it was mostly for gifts for their girlfriends and mothers).

Image

 

I was super tempted to pick one of these up for my mother’s lovely neighbor Val, who is expecting her daughter Maya this summer!
But then I realized that she wouldn’t be big enough to fit into one this season, and would probably have grown too much by next summer to fit into it either..

Image

Unfortunately I didn’t buy anything, due to the inflated prices of tourist-poaching shopkeepers and my wallet’s still being in shock over the unexpected expenses of this trip.  Had I found something that I really loved, though, I would have pushed myself to purchase it.  I’ve decided that I will do that, while I finish up my stay here in Italy, as a graduation gift to myself.
I mean come on- I graduated from a five-year top-rated institution with my sanity intact, magna cum laude.
I need to learn to give myself a break and reward my efforts once in a while.

 

All in all, I had a lot of fun wandering around the small island (and by small, I mean take a ten minute walk from one side to the other), taking photographs with my newly-apropriated friends.

May 21st, 2014

Image

 

So that happened.
I’m not completely sure of my Great Aunt’s intentions on this one, but the outcome was hilarious.

Forgive me for my lack of travel documentation/commentary.  I’ve honestly either been busy or dead-tired, with a side of slow internet (shared by all 32 Northeastern students studying abroad here).

I am having a wonderful time, though! It’s kind of a great fit for me to be studying here in Italy, as I am a huge culture/language/art/anthropology/etc buff, and this place as an amalgamation of it all.  It was completely entertaining to be walking around the Montemartini Museum and hear about all of the myths that went along with the carved stone representations of (perhaps)mythical figures and deities. That was back in Rome, somewhere around the time that this photo was taken.

Well, I hate to cut myself short yet again, but we have class in 40 minutes and I need to figure out some form of breakfast.  We’re supposed to get that meal included here at the Monastery but I literally cannot eat anything they provide.  I can have the orange juice, and hot water for tea. The coffee comes out of the machine pre-mixed with dairy too!
All of the baked goods smell nice though.

Alrighty, headed out!
– Kristen

May 14, 2014

Image

It’s just past 2am here in Rome, where we’ve been running around like crazy people with cameras for almost a week now.
Since we only have a week in the capitol city, we’ve had many tours and lectures and tours guided by lecturers..
Our legs and eyelids are heavy but our hearts are light – this is an amazing place and I, for one, am incredibly grateful for the experience.
Depicted in this photo (of mine, thank you) is a statue of Icarus from the Museo Centrale Montemartini (see here).  The actual building housing these pieces is a converted electric plant (factory? building?), creating a unique juxtaposition between the new and the old; an intermingling of materials from the ancient past and the recent present.
I’ve always loved to learn about history and myth, religion, and culture (basically cultural anthropology), and classical artwork is a blatant favorite of mine, so this museum (and much of this trip, I should think) was especially fun for me to visit.
We head to Venice on the 16th, where hopefully we’ll be able to rest a bit and feel less like herded sheep.
But for now, I need to get back to bed.  Luckily I napped from about 9-12pm, but I have yet another early and long day ahead of me tomorrow. Fortunately for me, I’ve found myself in great company.  That tends to make it all much more lovely.
I will write again soon (I think..)!

May 9, 2014

I am currently half-sitting on the floor of the International Airport in Munich, Germany.. deciding whether or not to grab a snack or wait it out until we’ve boarded our planes and I can get some sort of beverage to quell my stomach.  We have a short flight from here to Rome, Italy- where I’ll be staying for the next week.  Apparently we’ll be dropping our bags off at the hotel and then joining our professors for a “light lunch”, before a 3-4 hour walking tour.  

Mind you, it may be noon here, but my internal clock still says 6:00am.

( well, our plane is boarding, so I guess the decision has been made for me.  ’til next time! )

sub/consciousness

So this being my last semester on campus (at least as an undergrad, who knows), I’m taking quite a number of classes, finishing up my credits to graduate.
I had two extra credits to fill (since this school likes to be ridiculous and take as much of the money I don’t have as it possibly can, and therefore wouldn’t let me transfer in a couple of courses) so I’m doing a directed study, as they call it, with an awesome professor.
It’s a project-based DS, because I want to make something tangible of my work.  Something that I’d actually be willing to spend my time, energy, and (lack of- ha!) funds on.  Something I won’t regret afterwards, and perhaps will even LIKE.

This is something I’d been thinking of and working on for a while.
It’s a book.
But not one long narrative, as I have always played around with (and have yet to pass the 36-microsoft-word-page threshold on)- it’s a compilation of shorter pieces, paired with my own photography.
I’d decided to use my dreams as narratives for this work, since I have so many dreams and enjoy writing them down.  The thing is, a lot of my dreams are difficult to put into words, and so I fear I may not have enough of these stories that are purely from my sleeping mind.
This has driven me, as of late, to think about the validity of including other works into this book.
All of my short stories are from my wandering mind, usually rooted in a dream or seven I’d experienced recent to their being written.  I’ve never been one to simply sit and plot and plan out characters and situations- they’re generally ideas that emerge from the back of my mind, that come waltzing into my consciousness at their own leisure.

Does this, then, entitle them a place in my book of dreams?

No, seriously- tell me.

exchange of hearts

written after seeing a Reddit prompt:
When two people get married, their hearts are surgically exchanged.  You just filed for divorce.

It was all I could do to stay on my feet, gaping at my husband. This was ludicrous- how could he do this to me? I had never fathomed the man I had married could be so.. well, heartless.

Only six years ago we had exchanged our vows and our hearts. Literally. It is believed that love is only true if you are willing to entrust your heart to your partner; your other half.
It’s not that we’d been unhappy.. Simply disconnected. For the past few months it had become difficult to keep up a conversation with one another. Frightened, I had finally broken down into a puddle at my husband’s cold side. I asked him what had happened, and what I could do to improve our situation. He simply explained to me that he had been thinking.
Tom had pointed out to me that we had fallen into a neutral stalemate. We weren’t warring, but had somehow lost what held us together. Looking back, I came to agree, but I was scared. Would it be easier to continue living life, two people physically together but in all other ways alone? Or would it be our best hope to risk the break?

To divorce meant to unbind ourselves from our wedding vows.
To unbind ourselves from each others’ hearts.

Another surgery of that magnitude was utterly terrifying. That kind of thing was meant to be experienced just once in life.
Then again, I had always done well under anesthesia.
Then again, Tom and I were barely thirty years old.
We were pretty healthy people.
We could do this.
But it had to be soon.
Aging and organ transplants have not exactly been known to get along all that well.

Tom had held my hand as we met with our attorney, amicably signing papers and rationing out our worldly goods.
Tom had held my hand, assuring me that everything would be okay, right up until I had already fallen asleep on my gurney.

And now Tom was sitting in front of me, his elbows resting on his knees, as I bring my parcel into the house for the last time, still wearing my hospital band.

He tells me that he had been a bit less cautious with his health than he had ever let on.
He tells me that seven months ago he was diagnosed with a malfunctioning heart.

And he smiles at me, as he tells me this fatigue is only going to worsen.
Quickly.
And he smiles at me, as the first tear slips silently down my face.

January 1st, 2014

2013 was an especially crazy year for me.
There were so many ups and downs, and their peaks so extreme- I never could have prepared myself.  I never would have believed that some of the things I had to go through would actually happen to me.
But they did.

I don’t necessarily like the “New Years Resolution” wave that everyone rides at the beginning of the year.
But I have made a decision.
A choice for myself.

This year, I am going to be a fighter.
Not just fighting to survive but fighting to live.
I will fight to love myself.
To be as confident and assured as those closest to me believe I deserve to be.
I will fight the fear.
The endless vacuum of negativity; of failure, loss, corruption, lonesomeness, pain.
I will fight for my body.
My mind.  My physical embodiment.  My sensitivities and the burdening boundaries they impose.
I will fight for that which I deserve.

Merry Christmas, 2013

Merry Christmas from sunny St. Pete!

This year I was lucky enough to come down to Florida to spend Christmas with my family, for the first time in I don’t even know how long.
Usually, the holidays are spent with my step-father’s family.

So I guess this vacation, albeit with thorns here and there, is a good one.  I spent my last night in Boston with my lovely roommate, and then we both headed out the next morning.  I headed to the station and caught a bus to New York City- which surprisingly was not the typical hour and a half late; it was only 15 minutes off!.
Preston picked me up at Penn Station and we spent the week at his family’s house on Long Island.  It was so much fun; he has a wonderful family and great friends and I just love going to visit him up there.  I really hate to leave.

But then I caught a bus last week from Penn to farther upstate to my sister’s new apartment.  My mother met us there, and the next morning we headed out bright and early for my other sister’s house in Virginia.  We spent the night there, with her boyfriend and their friend/roommate Steve, and again headed South the next morning (this time, to Florida).

On both legs of our road trip we hit traffic, felt carsick from my mother’s ways behind the wheel, and got irritated at each other for stupid things.  It happens.  We’re a family FULL of women. And we were all squeezed into a Toyota Corolla for hours on end.

Once we got down here, I was dropped off at my Aunt Terri’s (and Uncle Chris & cousin Courtney’s), as I have cat allergies and everyone has cats (hers lives outside).  I really love spending time with them, and I’m g;ad I landed here.  Usually, when we were younger, we would be at my Aunt Vicki’s house, so I’m glad to spend this time with them.

Blue

Kerlir was my home; a hanging valley nestled between two large landforms of the Spinlocke Mountains.
Set on the edge of a ridge, our valley home had an incredible view. It widened into a plain of sorts, spilling over the edge of a cliff that dropped too far to scale or measure.

Thick, dark forests formed a curtain at the valley’s back.  To our sides, like blinders on carriage-bearing horses, rose our rocky guardians.  The two mountains had become something like gods to the people in my village; protecting us from the harsh northern winds of winter, the relentless burning of the summer sun.  Strong and tall, they watched over us, year after year.

I had thought of them more as demons, as I grew into a more- spirited– young woman.  They stood there, cold and distant, refusing to let me see the world outside of our valley, apart from the birds-eye view we gain at the cliff-edge.  Their sides were a slick, dark rock- Steep and impenetrable.

Our elders always warned against wandering into the forests.  The blackness emanating from their depths kept most out with no need for warning.  Only the men, armed with their axes and tools, would freely enter- and return.

A mighty river split the valley, flowing through the village, over the cliff-edge at its front.  During the winter it ceased flowing- it’s source cut-off; frozen, from a highland beyond the forest.
For this reason, winter’s end was always a time of incredible tension.  Our water supply would be reaching it’s end, and the water’s source would begin melting. While knowing this would allow our river to again flow into the valley, all were wary of… how.   The water’s return was unpredictable, sometimes trickling slowly after an especially cold year, while others, steadily gaining volume and back to the norm within a month.  Neither of these scenarios were our fears, though.
What we feared was the great flood; the onslaught of water after a large break in some far-off ice formation.  It had happened last when I was a small child, no higher than my father’s hip.  The water’s roar, the harsh snapping of thick tree trunks, the sudden surge of icy water.
That was what we feared.
That was why we remunerated.

The vernal equinox marked the coming of the waters.
Each year we had a festival, lasting for three days leading up until the equinox.
The first day was in honor of the Northern Mountain, guard against the winter winds.
The second, the Southern Mountain, guard against the summer heat.
The final day was of highest importance, honoring the river itself.  Attempting to sway its actions in our favor.

Every seventy-two years the festival was considered “most sacred”.   During the festivals of these years, attendance was strictly enforced, our garments the deepest blues, our adornments the finest jewels.  Children were harshly warned about insubordinate behavior and the consequences evoked, should they choose that way of being.
A temple would be raised at the height of the valley- where the dried riverbed meets the precipice, and the ending ceremony would be held at dusk on the third day.
A select group of elders ran the ceremony, leading the villagers in prayer to the river, citing poems of it’s greatness, and performing other slow, ritualistic motions in honor of the deity believed to be within.
These elders chanted and moved until the sun had dipped completely out of view from our valley’s tall perch- at which time they would begin the final, sacred, ending ceremony.

It was my twenty-second year upon this earth, when I encountered the most sacred of festivals.
I had been with my friends, eating freshly made street foods and watching the ceremonial dances that night, at the end of the third day.  It was such fun- my elderly neighbors had told me to commit every bit of this festival to memory, as most lived only to see one within their lifetime.
The sun was just beginning it’s descent in the sky as I separated from my friends to fetch some water for one of the elders- Making my way through the orchards, when the edges of my vision blackened, and everything went out of focus.  The blackness began to expand, and bright spots exploded behind my eyelids.

There was a sharp pain in my side, which spread like fire.  My eyes snapped open and my lungs expanded in what should have been an audible gasp.
But my mouth was covered and my eyes saw only darkness.
I willed my hands to uncover my face, only to find them bound.  The movement made me wince in pain, not that it was visible.
My eyes stung with tears, and my inhibited breathing was hard and ragged.  Someone was holding be tightly, a hand firmly grasping around my waist.
I focused on slowing my breathing, to tune into the sounds around me.
Chanting.
Louder than I had ever heard an elder chant.
Closer.

Suddenly the chant grew fierce, a harsh sentence in a language I did not understand.
And then suddenly a hood was lifted over my head, and I could see.
It was pitch dark with the exception of the torches, but I could tell where I was.

I was in the temple.
At the edge of the cliff.
I was in front of the villagers, standing together in blue robes; their dark faces staring out from under hoods of their own.
Although sure these were my people, they were unrecognizable to me.
Their glares were menacing.
They were shrouded figures.
In this moment, they were forms I did not know.

I strained my neck towards my captor, a large man in an especially ornate robe.  All I could see of his face was his mouth, set in a hard line.  The muscles of his jaw were flexed, as if he were clenching his teeth.
Now another man stepped forward from beside him, his hood hovering far, shrouding his entire face in darkness.  He carried with him a sapphire encrusted scythe.
He came to stand about three feet in front of me, slightly ajar so as to allow the audience to see me still.  He began to murmor, words I cared not to listen to.  My mind was already reeling, trying to comprehend the situation.
But then I heard the word “sacrifice”.
And my back broke out in a cold sweat.
He raised the scythe, poised to swing, when I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.
One of the robed figures disbanded from the line that stood beneath the temple, rushing in my direction.
The man with the scythe swung around, catching the figure with the edge of his blade.
The figure had barely dodged in time, allowing for only his hood to be caught in the weapon’s path.  It ripped and fell aside, revealing a dark-haired man in a mask.  He acted quickly, weaving around the armed man before he could prepare a second strike, and hurdling straight into me, forcing us both over the cliff.

In the impact his mask was shifted to the side, revealing a sliver of his handsome face.
A sense of relief flowed over me, as I watched the corner of his mouth slip up into a smile, and his dark eyes caught a bit of light from the moon as we fell.
Continue reading