Humans Then, Humans Now

Bright and early this morning on the 26th of May, our cohort gathered in anticipation of touring one of the highlights of our adventure in Italy- the grand Uffizi Museum and Gallery.  Within its walls lies one of the largest galleries of paintings and sculptures hundreds to well over a thousand years old.Rooftop View from Uffizi

Being surrounded with wall to wall paintings depicting life in the time of the Greeks and Romans, the medieval times, and the Renaissance was humbling.  The sheer artistry was enough to leave its viewer breathless and in awe, but the way these painters and sculptors depicted these images made a viewer feel apart of the human experience.  So different, yet so similar, their struggles and triumphs were not so different from the ones we undergo today.Walking Through Uffizi

Having our first class yesterday made this opportunity all the more incredible.  In Dr. Streufert’s class we just finished reading excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  One story from this work recounts the fable of Niobe, a woman boasting to be the best mother in the entire world.  Her pride leads her to insult Latona, goddess mother to Apollo and Diana, whom she sends to kill all of Niobe’s children.  We learn that because of Niobe’s hubris, pride, she loses the thing she prides herself in most.

While in the Uffizi today, we saw a sculpture of Niobe shielding one of her children from the wrath of Latona, and it evoked strong emotion from me personally.  It’s easy to judge a character like Niobe for her arrogance, but when you can see the fear sculpted in a marble face, it becomes easier to relate to this fictional character’s desperation and struggle.Niobe Con la Figlia Minore

While I doubt any of us can sympathize as ever having dealt with a situation in any way similar to this one, we can all identify the effects that pride or arrogance might have had in our own personal lives.  Though thousands of years can pass through time- we are all still very human.

It’s one thing to see a painting on a Powerpoint sitting in a classroom, it’s another thing entirely to see it up close in front of you- close enough to reach out and touch (but don’t try or the buzzers and museum bouncers will rat you out).  It’s also one thing to read the writings of Ovid and Dante, then step outside and walk the very same streets that once inspired their works and cultivated their arts.  It’s an experience that surpasses value, and every day is better than the last.

First day of class in Italy!

Today on the 25th of May, UT Tyler Gate students attended their first day of class.  At 10:00 AM we attended Dr. Streufert’s class World Literature, where we covered Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  Ovid was a Roman Poet that lived during the reign of Augustus.  Metamorphoses dealt heavily on the changing form of Ovid’s characters.  An example would be the story of Arachne and Minerva.  Basically, Arachne considers herself the greatest weaver of all, even though Minerva is the Goddess of weaving.  Minerva hears about Arachne’s boasting and approaches her as an elderly woman.  When she sees Arachne gloating, she changes form from the elderly woman back into goddess form.  The two begin to compete with one another on who is the better weaver.  Minerva depicts the Gods and Goddesses on how wonderful they are, while Arachne depicts them as how awful they are and what it is like to be mortal in comparison to immortal.  Minerva gets so upset knowing that Arachne had created a better work, that she turns her into a spider.  Hence why the title is called Metamorphoses.  Having someone like Dr. Streufert, who is a mythology guru, teach us makes this experience that much more special!

After a short break from Dr. Streufert’s class, we begin Dr. Lisot’s class at 12:00 PM.  Dr. Lisot is an art historian who specializes in Renaissance art.  We learned that The Renaissance Period started in the year 1300 and lasted all the way until the year 1520.  One work that we studied that caught my eye was Duccio’s Maesta Altarpiece. We actually got to see this work in person while we were in Siena and it is absolutely breathtaking.  This work was created through the years 1308 to 1311, right at the beginning of the Renaissance period.  Some pieces are scattered throughout the world, but the majority of the altarpiece is located in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Siena.  One of the missing pieces is actually located in our very own state of Texas.  The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas has a panel of Duccio’s Maesta in its permanent collection.  The panel in Fort Worth, Texas depicts the story of Lazarus and how he was brought back to life by Christ.  It is definitely worth a visit!

Duccio, Maesta Altarpiece, 1308-1311, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Duccio, Raising of Lazarus, Maesta Altarpiece, 1308-1311, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

 

 

First and Last Lazy Day

After an amazing, yet exhausting first week in Florence my roommate, Ashlynn and I decided we needed to catch up on sleep and leave the sight seeing for another day. It killed me to waste even just a day of this trip but I knew it was necessary. Our lazy day mainly consisted of enjoying the fresh air from the comfort of our beds, lounging around the apartment and cleaning up a little because as the housing coordinator, Laelle Busch said, “Even if you’re not a messy person, Italian apartments somehow always seem to get dirty.” After enjoying a day in we got ready and headed out for dinner and although we had agreed not to eat anywhere twice, we couldn’t help but to go back to this quaint restaurant we had recently found. Ironically, we ordered the exact same thing we had previously gotten and did not regret it one bit. Overall, it was a wonderfully lazy day but I don’t plan on having many of those. Florence has so much to offer and I would love to see as much as I possibly can within this month.

image1 image2

First week recap

It’s amazing how even though the size of Florence is smaller than our hometown in Tyler, Texas there is so much history, so much too see, and countless nooks and crannies to explore! One could spend weeks on end learning the history of churches and museums in just the East side of Florence alone! On our first Saturday here we dove right into the history and geography of this small yet grand city of Florence led by a wonderful Italian tour guide and our professors Dr. Streufert and Dr. Lisot! The best part about the history and tour today was thinking about how long and how much effort the communities back then put into the city churches and squares. Nowadays building go up quickly and efficiently and with less heart and community input. Back then men dedicated their lives to the art and work of the city! How inspiring!

Culture shock was something that I thought that I would bypass with all of the excitement that this trip had to offer, but it hit me like a train. However, the Italian culture that we have experienced in the short time we have been here has given a sense of comfort. The beautiful sites, delicious food, and outgoing locals have served as a welcoming hand on this amazing adventure.

Italy has been so full of great adventures and memories in just the first week. This is only a fraction of what is to come for the GATE 2015 group. The culture, the language and the art have been becoming part of our daily routine. We can walk two blocks or so and see at least five  across the street and order a small snack or even a meal in Italian. We not only try to speak their language but embrace their traditions and culture as well. Many students had a delightful home made dinner in their apartments after having an enjoyable shop at the local market; and either if it’s the market or a few blocks down we tend to find art every where we go. The Last Supper made by Andrea del Castagno, for example, is a beautiful historic fresco from the 15th century that is found just about a block from the institution that is hosting us in Florence.imageimageimage

Siena

Day 3 of our once in a lifetime excursion took place in Siena, about one hour from Florence. Fun fact: there is no train that travels to Siena from Florence because of their age old rivalry. No matter the number of miles we walk in Florence on a daily basis, it has nothing on the exhausting hills of Siena. Even though my thighs burned the whole way up, the views that greeted me at the top made it all worth while. The constant cold and rain that we experienced in Siena, was painless compared to the gorgeous sites we saw. My favorite site was the cathedral. Even as a non religious personimage, the architecture and stained glass is just something that you cannot find completely moving. image

Bongiorno Italy!

Firenze though dark with skies of rain and clouds, is a city that even on the stormiest of days holds mystical romance and charm! With flowers adorning the vintage green shutters and wide open windows on every corner, one cannot help but slow your pace, slow your thoughts, and enjoy the simple life. I have always heard that Europeans have a slower pace of life and living in Florence for just two days has been proven this quite accurate. Though our group has been running the cobble stone streets from apartment to orientation to the market and the tours, we have observed the way italians live and it is so refreshing and different than the United states! It is not as efficient yet no one seems to mind:)They are up early opening the leather markets and inviting people from the street in with their Italian charm. They go home for a nap in the middle of the day! In America this rarely happens. Never on a community basis! They come back to work refreshed and stay up late into the night eating and drinking in each others company! Hopefully as we continue to settle down we will be able to adapt this pattern and try out the true Italian w11137085_372078722999366_3874961966914351920_nay;)11295729_10204262824707578_5219465087332974874_n11146621_10204262822547524_4445144049378935021_n

The beginning of GATE trip to Italy

Arriving to ItalyimageAmsterdam's AirportPlain trip from Atlanta to Amsterdam

The journey begins. Finally these 20 students are ready for their GATE trip to Italy, accompanied by three outstanding leaders. Meeting at the Dallas Fort Worth airport was a big wake up call for many. ‘Finally we are here, it’s starting, our trip has at last begun!’ The excitement began to grow amongst the group, although there was still a few that could not believe this. After a two hour flight to Atlanta and an eight hour flight to Amsterdam came the final flight to Florence. Wow guys! We are finally in Italy, take it all in! This is the beginning of an incredible voyage that will stay with us for the rest of our lives! Let’s do this, let’s enjoy and let us appreciate this wonderful country and its culture!

Pura Vida

So this is it. The classes have finally come to an end and our beautiful South American adventure is drawing to a close. Yesterday we finished the last round of persuasive speeches for which we were allowed to pick any policy claim as long as it dealt with culture in Argentina or Brazil. There were a range of topics, from “the bus systems in Argentina should be improved” to “Brazil’s favela tours should only be led by favela inhabitants”. There was dramatic improvement shown in the speeches even though this was only our second delivery. I couldn’t be more proud of my classmates, who delivered very professional and passionate speeches based on things that were important to them. For many, it was also a time of vulnerability, and I believe that the speeches knit us closer together as a group.

Today we finished both of our final exams, which took most of the day. Being in a celebratory mood, we went out this evening to see a mind-blowing performance by the acting/musical/acrobatic group known as “Fuerzabruta”. I can’t help but gush about them, so I should see if I can receive payments for contributing to their marketing campaign. We were packed like sardines in a tight space, which gave a lot of energy to the crowd.

Sardines

Sardines

The performers used a variety of mediums—lights, strobes, musical instruments, water, harnesses– to create a truly unique theatrical experience. It was such a great and energetic way to say goodbye to Argentina!

Blog-10Blog-9Blog- 11-Post by Laura Lee Hoyt

 

Bittersweet

Today was a great day. It was bittersweet. We started off today by finishing out our last day of history lecture along with our last speeches for Dr. Eidenmuller, which just happened to be presented profoundly well today. Once finished with classes we departed to take care of separate things and came back together for dinner at El Cuartito Pizzeria.

El Cuartito

We gathered inside of this well decorated, famous pizza parlor that people like Anthony Bourdain have raved over. In fact, it is so well known that when we left the line was out the door and down the street. The welcoming CEA directors Veronica, Gabriella, and Blake along with all of the GATE 2014 students and directors Londa, Dr. Snider and Dr. Eidenmuller came together with other CEA students to dive into the handmade, cheesy, and more-than-delicious pizza.

Blake Hendrickson, sporting his GATE gifts

Blake Hendrickson, sporting his GATE gifts.

Our fearless CEA leader Veronica with Speech teacher Dr. Snider

Our fearless CEA leader Veronica with History teacher Dr. Snider.

From left to right, Gerardo, Lacy, and our favoritest GATE director Londa.

From left to right, Gerardo, Lacy, and our favoritest GATE director Londa.

 

Out of all the nights here, this was one of my favorites. Sitting by Dr. Snider was of course very interesting, but CEA director and professor Veronica didn’t miss a beat. She has taught me that learning a culture and different views does not come easily. While it can be stressful and a frightening new adventure, it’s one that is only as great and memorable as you are willing to make it. Different is not good or bad, it is just that, different. Embracing these differences, such as the food (especially all the grains and red meat), the closeness in relationships, and polychronic time schedules makes one realize what you are thankful for in your own self and own culture and what you aspire to change within your own personal life back at home. For example, I know many of us, because of this trip, appreciate one-on-one time with people a lot more than we even considered before. The direct eye contact and lack of fixation on personal technology in this culture has been refreshingly personal.

Being someone who had never traveled abroad before this trip (except for on cruises!) I honestly had no idea what to expect. We’ve all had a life where we’ve worked very hard to get what we have. Coming here I think has led us to see how growing up can be an adventure that is only as restrictive as you make it. Whether we can travel more or not after this trip, I believe we all feel blessed to have grown more independent on this trip through the support and integration of relationships alongside culture. I can state for a fact that we all feel blessed to have come together in this life-changing trip with amazing leaders to guide us along the way. I can never express to the administration and other GATE students how lucky and thankful I am, as we all are, to have had this opportunity with this group of amazing and inspiring people.

– Post by Meagan Fischer

Some of the gang, lookin' purty.

Some of the gang, lookin’ purty.

I am Nathan Herman. This is my story.

Aside

Visiting Argentina has been one of the best, if not the best, experiences of my life. This opportunity has allowed me to enjoy many incredible interactions and events that I never thought I would be able to witness. Even on a Wednesday as uneventful as today, I look back and realize how much fun I am having. The GATE class has been delivering persuasive speeches all week; each time a speech is presented I am able to learn more about the surrounding culture and about the students with whom I have spent the past five weeks. It was very interesting to hear my classmates’ well-prepared arguments. Especially Addie Moore’s. It da best.

This Girl Tho

Afterwards, our class was able to tour the Colon Theater. It was one of the most elegant creations I have seen on our trip. Its history proved just as rich and beautiful as its design. This was made apparent by our incredible tour guide, Sebastian.

blahablkashdkfh

Only one thing marred our tour of the beautiful theater. Imagine this — Lang Lang. Lang Lang is a world class pianist who just had to practice because he has a concert or whatever. I am not upset with Lang Lang because he decided to practice his art before his recital; that is very responsible of him. Nor am I upset with the fact that he chose to practice in the Colón Theater; I would have much enjoyed hearing Lang Lang work his finely tuned fingers across that elegant piano. Rather, I am upset with Lang Lang because he decided that our group was not worthy of his pianism. Imagine that you watch a movie for an hour and it builds up to the climax when you are about to find out that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time. Except you never find out that Bruce Willis is dead. That was how the tour of the Colón Theater ended. We never had the opportunity to actually see the inside of the theater. We never found out that Bruce Willis was dead. But it’s okay, I am over it as of now.

sniderspider

On to further disenchantments. Immediately after leaving the Colón Theater, I traveled to a shoe store I had seen a few weeks ago and purchased some shoes by the name of Mallorca. Upon googling them, just now, I am becoming fearful of the possibility that they may be a low quality shoe. This brings us to now, I sit in my hotel room typing this blog and looking forward to tomorrow, when I get to blow everyone away with my speech. Peace. Out.