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How lucky am I? The school is paying for my personal items to be shipped abroad! Seriously, if you’ve ever lived in another country you’d know what a big deal this is!

Yaoundé, from what I’ve learned, does not have any art stores or clothing stores. They have seamstresses that make clothing, and their local art scene is all woodcarving.. I am told taxing is 100% on imported items; this includes things like sneakers, certain foods, and cars. It is hard to get items through customs on a timely basis. I read in a 3-year-old teacher’s handbook to bring things you felt needed to be a specific brand. So if a Walmart was built there in the last 3 years, I will feel a little silly. Either way, I am taking advantage of this wonderful offer.

If you were trapped on an island and had 5 boxes you could fill with things to take with you, what would you bring? What couldn’t you live with out? I repeated this to myself, staring at the art supplies and peanut butter I’d artistically wedged between my shampoo, soap, and contact lens solution.

"the big one ended up being 97lbs"

Ha-ha…5 boxes. I think not!

6 personal boxes and 5 boxes (filled only with art supplies) later, my life is packed securely and on its way to Kingwood Texas where it will be placed in a big container and shipped to Yaoundé. Clearly my top priorities are my everyday items, and art supplies. I am hopeful that during this experience, I will be painting every chance I get.

Beyond the things I absolutely can’t live with out, I got to pack stuff that will help me get settled and feel happy. The top items in that mix are:

Art Books: Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings, Lucian Freud, Picasso and Matisse, Tim Burton, Frida Kahlo.

Novels: The Fountainhead, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Human Stain. My NEW Kindle is joining me so I really have no need to bring too many.

Food: Peanut butter, ketchup (it’s very different once you leave the US, probably made more naturally, but I like the stuff with the corn syrup) and Oatmeal. Brownie mix (if anything this will help me make friends), Wheat thins, black liquorice, and ginger snaps. During my stay in Italy, not having certain American food products, (and spending 12 euros on peanut butter) helped bring on a bit of homesickness.

I know when I get there, there will be more things I wish I had, but adapting to my surroundings is part of the experience. I’ll probably find even better substitutes. Who knows? But it will be OK, and I’ll have my ketchup and art supplies to keep me happy!

Lesson of the month: If you forgot to pack something, it probably wasn’t that important.

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I am by no means a writer, I consider myself a painter, museum lover, observer, and now an art educator. I am moving to Cameroon in August to be an art teacher at an American School in its capital Yaoundé. SO I thought, if I ever started seriously thinking about blogging NOW. IS. THE. TIME. This blog will give you a look into what its like teaching abroad in Africa and maybe eventually other places, what I’m doing to get prepared and what my life is like while I live and teach there.

So why do I have MAP LOVE?
“My Senior Art Show in NY, me with one of my paintings”

I went to Parsons School of design to become an illustrator, and in my 3rd year went to Florence Italy to study painting. This 7 month trip to Italy sort of changed my outlook on my life. After graduating I decided to move home and freelance as a painter (kind of crazy). No more New York everyday, which at the time was good, I was tired of the way New york made me feel. This is weird, I know coming from a 21 year old. But I missed the slow life, I missed seeing the same people every day. New York, which I love now again, was not doing that for me at the time. During my 4th year of college I was living by myself in a part of brooklyn over an hour from every friend I had in the city and hating it. I wanted to paint, and spend time with my family. So I move back to Jersey.

I went back to Europe with my good friends, went backpacking for a few weeks at a time spending only a few days in most cities, getting a taste of the culture, and meeting many characters in short intervals. It always felt different and a little disconnected after actually living in Italy where I was forced to stop and look around… and I mean STOP. When I lived in Italy I saw the same people every day, visited the same cafe to get the same cappuccino, saying “bon journo” to the same locals and visiting the same museums over and over. Yes I traveled on the weekends but Florence felt like my HOME. It was beautiful, and filled with tradition. I have learned that knowledge and respect of tradition is a one-way ticket to connecting personally with people.

“My cousin Lisa and I in Roma”, “Venezia”, and “Tami and I in a glacier- Luzern, Switzerland”

After 3 years of trying to make it as a painter, rediscovering Asbury Park, my love for Springsteen, old and new friends. I went back to school to get my masters in education.

Why on earth would an artist want to put herself in a classroom EVERYDAY?

I love painting.I love making things with my hands. It is hard for me to describe what creative expression feels like. It is emotional, exhausting some times, but mostly invigorating and I always feel accomplishment. It is one asset that I know will always be a part of my life, and I will always do. Yet in the end, I don’t feel like I’m individually making a real impact on the world by only painting. We only live once! Teaching kids to reflect on their thoughts at ages where they can be impacted, is a way for me to make my mark on this planet. I can give them an outlet, I can show them a way to reflect on their history in the making, on different cultures by introducing art history and those artists who felt it profoundly. Teaching makes me feel like painting does. It is emotional, exhausting at times, but mostly invigorating and I always feel accomplishment. It’s really fun most of the time too!

So why Africa? Ok so really I think most people reacted with excitement and some not so much. I was actually asked more than a couple times by different people “you couldn’t find some place closer to get a JOB?

“Yaounde, the Capital of Cameroon”

Well yes but it wouldn’t be as exciting.

I am considering this an adventure, with only fear of the “unknown”. I will have the opportunity to be inspired by situations that I would have never encountered before, and get to envelope myself in a new culture. No matter what it’s like, I’ll get to teach kids about ART. How great is that?

So stay tuned, there’s ALOT more to come!

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