Tag Archives: Art

From the Top of Nemrut Dağı

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Of all the gorgeous places in Turkey – Pammukale, Cappadocia, Kekova, Istanbul – it’d be pretty easy to skip right over Nemrut Dağı. After all, it’s tucked away in the southeastern corner of the country, only a few hundred miles from the Syrian border, far off of the well-traveled circuit of Istanbul, Pammukale, and Antalya.

The Taurus Mountains, looking towards the Euphrates River
The Taurus Mountains, looking towards the Euphrates River

And it’s a world totally different. Where the Mediterranean areas of Turkey are resplendent with brilliant greens and blues, the southeastern parts of the country feature a far more muted palette, one filled with dusty greens, beiges, and greys. Drive through the southeastern part of Turkey and you’ll have no doubt that you’re properly in the Middle East. The desert heat radiates from the sandy ground, and the horizon is hidden in a muddled, heat-rippled haze. That’s not to say that the area still isn’t beautiful; it’s just a totally different kind of beauty compared to the glittering wares of the Grand Bazaar, the stark white of Pammukale, and the brilliant blues of Kekova.

The view from breakfast in the Taurus Mountains
The view from breakfast in the Taurus Mountains
Waiting for the sun to set on Mount Nemrut.
Waiting for the sun to set on Mount Nemrut.

At seven thousand feet, Nemrut Dağı, which is part of the Taurus Mountains Ragne, is the major destination of the area around Kahta, the nearest town. Getting there involves winding your way along steep roads that cling to the sides of the hills. There’s a reason that nearly everyone who goes to Nemrut Dağı does so with a driver from the area: trying to drive those roads if you’re not familiar with them would be like saying, “I wouldn’t mind plummeting to my death today.”

The statues and busts on the eastern terrace.
The statues and busts on the eastern terrace.
Heads on the western terrace.
Heads on the western terrace.

Continue reading From the Top of Nemrut Dağı

Abu Dhabi’s Modern Marvel

The inner prayer hall of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which can hold up to seven thousand worshipers.
The inner prayer hall of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which can hold up to seven thousand worshipers.

When it comes to buildings, age is something to brag about. Structures like Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Coliseum are beautiful in their own right, but so much of our candid admiration of those places comes from their age. We marvel, not only at their beauty, but that they were built thousands of years ago, in times when modern machinery wasn’t even a glimmer in the greatest genius’ minds. To be impressive, to truly take our breath away, we assume that a building has to be old.

There’s something about a monument that was built, brick by brick and as a product of the sweat of manual labor, that makes us so much more appreciative of it. If the Taj Mahal had been built three years ago, rather than 350, it would still look just as majestic, but it would lose that romantic air that comes from being built without the hulking help of cranes and backhoes.

One of the reflecting pools at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
One of the reflecting pools at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Continue reading Abu Dhabi’s Modern Marvel

Throwback Thursday: Parc Güell in Barcelona

"El Drac" ("The Dragon"), which welcomes visitors to Parc Güell.
“El Drac” (“The Dragon”), which welcomes visitors to Parc Güell.

Seeing as the demon residing in my nasal cavities is still putting up quite a fight, despite me throwing hefty doses of Nyquil, Dayquil, and cursing its way, this Throwback Thursday post is technically just one long photoessay. Such is what the laziness of being sick brings.

Sitting on the main terrace.
Sitting on the main terrace.

In a city that belongs to architect Antoni Gaudí, Parc Güell is probably the most expansive of his accomplishments. Half garden, half architectural playground, Parc Güell is an essential part of any visit to Barcelona. (And it’s free, too!) However, it’s definitely not a “get in, walk around for five minutes, get out” sort of place. No, you need the better part of an entire day to get through the whole thing.

Getting there is where the battle begins. Parc Güell isn't located in close proximity to any metro stops. You'll end up walking around twenty minutes. The main entrance is closest to the Lesseps, and the side entrance is closest to Vallcarca, near where this picture was taken. Prepare your calves now. They'll be hurting.
Getting there is where the battle begins. Parc Güell isn’t located in close proximity to any metro stops. You’ll end up walking around twenty minutes. The main entrance is closest to the Lesseps, and the side entrance is closest to Vallcarca, near where this picture was taken. Prepare your calves now. They’ll be hurting.

Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Parc Güell in Barcelona

One Fish, Two Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish

If I wanted to be really true to my day’s activity last Saturday, the title of this post would’ve been “One Thousand Fish, Two Thousand Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish,” but that didn’t exactly fit with the Dr. Seussian rhythm of the original.

Thankfully, Tokyo’s cooled off a bit since my last trip down. Then again, this time I wised up and researched some indoor activities to keep me busy and out of the sun. I took a mini-vacation last week, and since my flight out of Narita didn’t leave until ten p.m., I had plenty of time to kill in the city. Continue reading One Fish, Two Fish, Gold Fish, Blue Fish

Just Call Me Mona Lisa (Or: “Is My Nose Really That Big?!”)

One of the things that I love most about living in a rural part of Japan as a foreigner is the fact that sometimes I’m afforded opportunities that would never drop into my lap if I lived elsewhere. In a huge city like Tokyo, foreigners are a dime a dozen, but in Aomori, we’re a far rarer breed. And on this occasion, that fact served me well.

For two six month periods during the past year and a half, I’d volunteered to sit as a model for an art class in Aomori-shi. This particular class likes to paint foreigners, since our features and body types are usually quite different from the typical Japanese person. As it turns out, my big nose and pale skin apparently made me a good candidate to let strangers stare at me for around thirty total hours. Continue reading Just Call Me Mona Lisa (Or: “Is My Nose Really That Big?!”)

Artistic Classroom Antics

I hadn’t planned on posting today, but when I got this gem in one of my lessons today, I couldn’t resist. How do you know when a student understands what you’re teaching? That’s an obstacle a lot of ALTs – regardless of whether we’re teaching first year elementary students or kids in an academic high school – fight to overcome in the classroom. For me, I know it’s a struggle to tell when my students really grasp a new concept, since I never know if the synchronized “Yes, Alex-sensei”s are actually honest, or if they’re just Pavlovian responses to the question, “Do you understand?”

Thankfully, there are some pretty good signifiers. This week I was teaching my eleventh graders about common body idioms that we use in English. This lesson had an added bonus because whenever the kids had to write their own sentences using the idioms, I got plenty of “Alex-sensei is such a beautiful/nice/great teacher, so she makes me weak in the knees.” It was all I could do to just blush sheepishly and brush them aside. (And naysayers, I don’t care if they were lying, it’s still nice to hear.)

Casual English, I think, is one of the most difficult areas to learn, so I was pretty impressed with how quickly and firmly the majority of the kids grasped the meanings. One of them – in my absolute favorite 組 (“kumi,” or class), no less – really stood out to me. As soon I saw the doodles that one of my favorite (and brightest) students had drawn in the margins of the handout, I knew that she’d completely understood what the idioms had meant. She usually draws me pictures on her homework; I’ve gotten everything from scenes from Night at the Museum to depictions of her family being seasick on the ferry up to Hokkaido to detailed pictures of her family making homemade miso. This little masterpiece, however, is definitely my favorite.

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I’m not sure which picture is my favorite, but the faces Achilles is making as he’s getting dunked in the river and then shot in the foot.

Plus, seeing little drawings like this make my job an absolute blast; I find them both hilarious and cute. I’ve gotten dozens and dozens of them on homework assignments, but I’m still not tired of them. (And after a year and a half living here, I still have yet to figure out if all Japanese kids are born with the artistic gene or if Aomori High School kids are just great artists along with being mini geniuses.)

And thus concludes another cheesy “I absolutely adore my students and wouldn’t trade them for anything” post.

Not Your Grandmother’s Calligraphy

One of the most well-known traditional arts of Japan is calligraphy (“shodou” or 書道). I’d practiced calligraphy for the better part of a year, but it started slipping in my list of priorities when the calligraphy teacher at Aomori High School got transferred. As much as I regret falling out of practice, part of me isn’t that heartbroken, because:

1.)   I was absolutely terrible at it. I am bound to fail at anything remotely artistic.

2.)   I’m left-handed and Japanese calligraphy is traditionally a right-handed activity. The cards were stacked against me from the beginning. Continue reading Not Your Grandmother’s Calligraphy