About a month ago, remember how I went on vacation to Stanford Sierra Camp? And how I had an awesome time and made some awesome arts/crafts projects? I came home with this stemless wine glass, and got so many compliments on it at camp that I lost track. But then I thought about the fact that we don’t have glasses in our new apartment in Boston, and I decided it was time to make some wine glasses.
One month later, I’ve completed all sixteen glasses. (Technically fifteen, since one was already finished) They take a while, but they’re a lot of fun and actually pretty simple.
Crate & Barrel Stemless White Wine Glasses, like those here.
Acrylic Paint. I used Martha Stewart’s Satin Acrylic Paint.
Q-tips. Brand name q-tips work better, but off brands can work too. You’ll get better results if your q-tip has a tightly wrapped tip – these will hold up to repeated use better.
Step 1. Pick a set of four colors. I found that the color combinations that appealed to me tended to be in similar colors, but had a bit more variation than the first glass I made.
Step 2. Clean the glass. My mom helped me with this step (by helped, I mean completed for me…) But I think she used a diluted bleach to really clean the glass.
Step 3. Flip the glass over and hold it upside down. You’ll be painting on the bottom and up the sides. Using one q-tip for each color, use five dots in a circle to make a single flower. I suggest practicing a bit on paper first to get a sense of how much pressure you need. Over time, I varied the size of my flowers (not intentionally…). It seems that larger flowers, in which you press down harder when making each dot, end up a bit smoother than the smaller flowers, which have little peaks in each dot. These peaks seem to be smaller and smaller as the paint continues to dry and I like both the smooth glasses and those with a bit more texture, so do whatever is easiest for you.
Step 4. Complete the first layer of flowers. Use the colors “randomly” – try to limit making two flowers side by side that are the same color. You’ll be making a second layer that partially overlaps the first, so don’t worry about covering all the space. The most important thing is to get the height you want on the glass. This is a bit difficult to measure, since you’re holding the glass upside down, and you can make the flowers go as high or as low as you want. I chose to have variation in the depth of the flowers so that it seems a little more like a pile of flowers. (This makes sense if you consider that my first glass was supposed to be of cherry blossom flowers, which often fall and form piles.) But you should do whatever you want. I painted my flowers deep enough to be visible with a normal pour of wine, so that it is easy to spot your color out of a table full of glasses, but I also kept them low enough that you’re never going to touch your lips to the (potentially poisonous) paint.
Step 5. Let dry. This only needs to be a superficial dry – 2 to 24 hours, depending on if the glass is in the summer sun or not.
Step 6. Complete the second layer of flowers. This layer will finish off the flowers. Look for spots that have a lot of a single color, and layer a flower of a different color there to break it up. Look for spots where flowers are abnormally far apart, and put an extra flower there to bridge the gap. This step is totally optional, but it adds depth and interest to the glasses.
Step 7. Let dry completely. This is the long boring part. The paint I used takes 28 days to dry completely, and then it will supposedly be dishwasher safe. I’m letting them dry for 28 days, then I’ll hand wash them and ship them to my new apartment and my almost-housemates.
Step 8. Enjoy! Pictures of this step will crop up here and there, I’m sure….
We arrived in Paris from Prague at about 11:00, and actually got to where we were staying at a little after midnight. We stayed up too late looking at maps and talking about things to do, watched the Eiffel Tower glitter at 1am and then finally crashed around 2.
I got up early (I can’t help it – when I’m in a new city, all I want to do is explore!) and wandered around for about an hour. I didn’t go far, because I didn’t bring a map or my camera – I just wanted to wander and see what I saw. It was a weekday and I watched shopkeepers open their doors, roll up the window shades, and put out the morning’s first flowers. I really did get to see the city of Paris wake up, and it was wonderful.
When I got back to the apartment a bit after nine, I looked at the map, did a bit of research about what I wanted to do and the best ways to get there, and woke up Holly. We were in agreement – our first day would be a day to wander. So we ran down and around the corner to the bakery to pick up some pastries for breakfast (sorry, no pics! They were gone before the camera came out…) and then sketched out a plan courtesy of our map.
We started with a walk past the Peace Memorial to the Eiffel Tower, with a stop on the way to quite literally smell the roses. Once at our first destination, I made Holly take a cheesy tourist picture of me. But, as Claire reminded me on my birthday, I turned 21 in Paris, and that makes my life pretty awesome.
We walked underneath the Eiffel Tower and into a little park with a little pond at its base. In case you can’t tell, Mother Nature blessed me (and Paris!) with beautiful weather for my birthday. Blue skies, beautiful sun, and we looked French enough that multiple people spoke to us in French! (Not just bonjour, but actually asking us for directions or advice or who knows what? Neither of us speak any French…)
We continued our day by walking past the Louvre (see Day 2 for our visit to the Louvre), and on to Notre Dame. While at the Louvre, we laughed at the people with their fingers on the tip of the pyramid, and then pulled the same tourist stunt when Holly spun like Esmeralda just a few hours later.
On our way back from Notre Dame, we stopped at the Palace of Justice and Sainte Chapelle to look at the beautiful stained glass. (We skipped the line and didn’t have to pay and check out my post about cheating the system in Paris to find out how!)
We also made our way through one of Paris’ many shopping districts, even walking into some of the stores. At some, such as Gucci and Dolce e Gabbana, the store clerks (this sounds like such a crude way to describe them, but I really have to better explanatory word, although I could describe their impeccable hair and makeup and their beautiful clothes that looked like they had just come off the hangars…) were kind enough to say hello; at other, smaller names we were even asked if we would like to try something on. Needless to say, we did not. (What were we to do, if we fell in love with a $1,000 dress? Even though my parents said they’d buy me something from Paris for my birthday, I think that may have been a little much…)
At some point, we stopped for a crepe in the Tullieries for lunch, and then stopped at a random park – still not sure which one – around five to relax. Unfortunately, Holly got sunburnt, but that didn’t ruin the day or the weekend. We finished off the day by meeting Christine and Alessandra at the Opera House for a ballet performance by the students of the Paris Opera. It started out with adorable little kids, and quickly got frighteningly good – I’m pretty sure the 12 year olds were better than I ever was or could have been at ballet. And apparently, they all had the flu. But we also got to see the famous ceilings of the Opera building without having to wait in line or pay for it. (Well, we paid for the ballet tickets, but only 12 euros!)
Once we got back from the show, we had dinner on time by French time, at around 10 o’clock. It was wonderful (and super nice of Christine to make it for us!) and then followed by a birthday dessert of chocolate torte without the pastry or icing – so basically chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Which was great. We went to bed around 2.
Today is the day of the Louvre. The plan: go to the Louvre. Decide from there. Everyone talks about how big the Louvre is, and they’re absolutely right. But if you’re being honest, no matter how big you think it is, it is bigger than that. Take, for example, the Grand Gallery:
We spent four hours inside, which I think is more than enough for one day, and not enough to see anything. We missed the entire Egyptian wing, spent about three seconds considering trying to push through the crowd to see the Mona Lisa (decided not to), and noticed that the ceilings and floors are works of art in their own right. It was the King’s palace, after all.
After the Louvre (and lunch!) we continued our museum-ing and headed to Musee l’Orangerie. It was the only museum we waited in line for, though we got in for free (sense a pattern here?) and spent hours with Monet’s water lilies. They are truly incredible, and much bigger than I imagined.
If I’m being honest, I don’t like art. I never liked the art history classes I had to take, and I seem to recall a comment on a report card along the lines of, “Kathy would do well to apply herself to her art history classes as she does to her math.” (They were taught by the same teacher.) I think, however, if someone told me I must take an Art History class today, and that I could take a class on the Impressionists, I would be okay with that. I don’t like art, but I really like Impressionism. I guess you could say it makes an impression on me. (I’m sorry, I had to.)
Holly and I met Christine in the Luxembourg Gardens, which are beautiful, and then stopped for a glass of “spring beer,” which has a strangely fruity flavour. In the evening, we went to a very nice restaurant for my birthday dinner. Thanks, Daddy! Once again, the food was fantastic, and it came and went before pictures could happen. And it was after midnight by the time we got home, and we stayed up and talked for a while. You can probably guess what time we got to bed.
As I mentioned earlier, I love exploring new cities. I walk everywhere, and I tend to not stop. Somehow, new energy reserves spring up when I happen to be out of town. Unfortunately, I tired Holly out after two days, so I let her sleep in this morning and headed over to Musee d’Orsay for more Impressionism. And the Bareas! These guys were in Paris for Spring Break, and I was supposed to meet them at 9:30. But I was already on Paris time, and the chances of meeting up looked bleak. I skipped the line, got in for free, and headed upstairs to see my new favorite artists. Also, my old favorite artist: Degas.
Unsurprisingly, as a little girl who did ballet, I loved Degas. I loved his paintings, I loved his sculptures, and now I’ve seen them in real life. I think that might have been the best thing of my weekend. I mean, seeing Monet’s three paintings in blue, orange, and green and Renoir’s famous paintings of the dancing couples were pretty amazing too. (I actually remember these from my Art History class – maybe I’ve always secretly loved the Impressionists?)
As I came downstairs, I continued to look not only at the art, but also for the Bareas. For those of you who have never been to the d’Orsay, it has a huge atrium, essentially, open from the first floor to the fifth, and balconies of sorts on the second floor looking onto the atrium. I can’t really describe it, but the description is only important because I found the Bareas from across the museum. How do you get someone’s attention from across a museum? You can’t yell their name. You can’t even whisper it. So you just stare intently, and wave when they look your general direction. And it works!
So we found each other, continued exploring the museum until the kids got bored (they lasted a full 2 hours which, at ages 6 and 10, is pretty impressive) and then we went off to explore the city. We stopped for lunch, and I had salad. (A true rarity in the Czech Republic, so I’ll take all the greens I can get, thank you!) The grand plan was to visit the Catacombs, but the line was so long that we got straight back on the metro and went all the way across the city to the Basilica of Paris upon Montemarte, with a beautiful view of the city. We climbed up 396 stairs (Lucy counted for us), took some time to enjoy a drink in the beautiful weather, looked for a Kate Spade and discovered there is none in Paris, and generally had a good time. It was really nice to see more faces from San Mateo, although it made me want to head home.
I met up with Holly again in the evening, and we had a evening of snacking. First, at a café, I had real, French, crème brulee, which tasted about the same as other crème brulee. Then, we went to the Seine (with Christine and Alessandra again, of course!) to a tasting on a boat. We basically had a dinner of cheese and pate tastings, along with an essentially infinite number of tiny glasses of different wines.
Then, once night had fallen, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to take a trip up and see the city at night. For once, we actually paid for admission (but the student price, and we walked, so not really…) Needless to say, the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous, but what really amazed me was the engineering of the thing. So much, that I’m giving it its own post.
I tired Holly out, and the Bareas tired me out, so we slept in on our last morning in Paris. Once we got up, we headed to a nearby market, where we bought pastries for breakfast and pineapple and cantaloupe for lunch before heading back to the apartment, grabbing our bags, and heading to the airport.
All in all, I’d say my 21st birthday weekend was truly amazing. I didn’t celebrate my 21st with a big night out on the town, which doesn’t surprise me, nor does it bother me. I’m not really that type of person anyways. Instead, I had an amazing weekend with good friends and I got to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
Not everything worth doing is written in that guidebook your parents bought for you when you told them you’d picked Prague as your study abroad destination. I personally adhere to the get lost rule: I haven’t truly seen a city until I’ve gotten utterly and hopelessly lost. It is then that you find the best parks and the tastiest restaurants and the cheapest grocery stores. It is only when you get lost that you stumble across a quaint café or meet that kind family or have honest conversations with the locals. But not everyone is down to randomly wander and pray they figure out where they are eventually. So here is a collection of the things to do in and around the city that might not be in that handy dandy guidebook.
An afternoon on Petrin Hill
I wrote about it here, with pictures, but its worth mentioning again. Take an afternoon and walk up Petrin Hill. The funicular is awesome, and the top of the hill, with its tower and mirror maze, is definitely great. Especially in the spring when the flowers are all in bloom. But don’t limit yourself to the top of the hill! Give yourself an afternoon (or even better, pack a lunch and make a day of it) and walk up the hill. The paths are long and winding, and chances are you’ll end up somewhat lost. But the views on the way up are beautiful, and wandering through the woods, seeing the dogs running and the kids playing and the couples …well, … being couples is definitely worth it.
Letna is a giant park – find the metronome where the Stalin statue used to stand, and it just might be working today! A good spot for a picnic or a walk (maybe wait until spring for those!), Letna is also rumored to be the home of a fake Olympic village in February, as the Prague government is trying to get the Czechs to show their solidarity and support for the Czech athletes by standing in the cold and watching the events together instead of in their sweatpants on the couch. In all seriousness, though, there will be an ice skating rink and various Winter Olympics-related activities, so it’ll probably be some good fun.
Prague has a significant Vietnamese minority, a holdover from when the Czech government invited Vietnamese refugees into the city during the Vietnam War. People say it’s a great spot to visit, that you get to see a lot of interesting stalls and you can buy super cheap vegetables and the best and freshest seafood/the strangest forms of meats imaginable (this comes from a Czech, and the Czechs eat some pretty bizarre meats…). I plan on getting there at some point to buy the ingredients necessary for sushi, but for now I’m just imagining it.
This is something that I want to do, have wanted to do since I showed up, and have yet to do it. But it is definitely high up on my list. Vyšehrad is on the lists of off the beaten path places to visit. The cemetary is where famous Czech author Karel Čapek is buried, and is actually really nice for an afternoon walk. We go to school up here, so it should be really easy to visit the castle, the cemetery, everything. Apparently, there is a really gorgeous set of ruins from which you get a gorgeous view of the city. I’ll have to search it out sometime, I suppose.
St. Wenceslas Vineyard
Near the castle, at the top of the stairs heading down to Malostranske, a hidden vineyard hugs the edge of the hill. I haven’t been there myself, but sources say the svařak there is wonderful and the goulaš not too shabby. Perhaps I’ll take an afternoon when it is starting to warm up but not quite warm and head out there.
Everyone has heard about the Lenin Wall, where the city’s many graffiti artists and the woefully unskilled can paint side-by-side. Visiting the wall is a must for anyone in Prague – be warned though, take a guide or a really good map, because its hidden away in the alleyways. For an even better dose of fun, buy some spray paint and make your mark on the wall. A name, an image, a phrase, anything and everything is welcome. (Plus, it makes for a fun and funky profile picture!)
Go to a hockey game
Hockey is a big thing in the Czech Republic, and a lot of people are very passionate about their team. I went to a hockey game when my parents visited, and it was definitely worth it. The tickets are super cheap, so get yourself a front row seat and enjoy the game!
Visit a Butcher Shop
They’re a bit hard to find in the States anymore, but butchers are all over Prague. You can tell, because they’ve got windows filled with meat (logically). Perhaps not the best choice for a vegetarian, but they are pretty interesting and something that you don’t necessarily get to see anymore at home.
A night club and contemporary art space curated by David Černy. Černy is the most well-known czech contemporary artist in the Czech Republic (definitely check out his art pieces and installations scattered throughout the city). Meetfactory has tons of amazing concerts with international artists, interesting theatre and performance art, and when it’s just in nightclub-mode, it’s a good time as well. Don’t let its distance from the city centre deter you from going – it only takes ~20 minutes to get there when you know where you’re going!
It seems like Jazz in definitely the Prague music of choice. It seems like every other block has a jazz club; some are significantly better than others. Every one has pamphlets with their upcoming live musicians, which makes it really easy to find a particular band you like. (I strongly recommend catching a show by Alice Spring’s Band. They always have fun onstage, which means you have fun in the audience.) Each jazz bar has its own atmosphere – I’m partial to the Jazz Republic in Mustek, but I know some people like Jazz Dock better. And there’s always the jazz club below Cafe Louvre, which saw Bill Clinton on his clarinet back in the day.
Trips Further Out
The abandoned soviet ghost town in Milovice, is about a 45 minute train ride north of Praha. During the Soviet Occupation, Soviet soldiers and nuclear warheads were secretly kept there along with thousands of reinforcements. Today there are tons of completely abandoned air force bunkers, cramped apartment barracks (where they filmed the Bratislava scene in Euro Trip!) and crumbling houses of generals. It’s amazing, and not hard to find.
Karlovy Vary, also known as Carlsbad. Many people only know it as a russian spa town in the Czech countryside (Czechs HATE it!) others know it as the town Queen Latifah visits in Last Holiday or James Bond in Casino Royale. However you know it, taking a day trip is definitely worth it. Climb to the top of Diana Tower for the most breathtaking view and also check out Grandhotel Pupp and the Becherovka Factory!
Go to Istanbul
Finally, if you’re looking for ideas on international trips, literally every person I asked said they’d recommend a trip to Istanbul. I went, and I absolutely, 100%, without a doubt want to go back. The city is big enough to have lots of stuff to do, but small enough to see in a weekend. And, its different enough from Prague to feel like you’re really traveling to a different place, whereas Krakow and Vienna and Berlin are very similar in a lot of ways.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
-Albert Einstein 
If you haven’t seen this quote, either you don’t have internet access or you don’t have friends that spend hours and hours aimlessly wandering the internet and posting semi-relevant links and quotes on your facebook wall. If you have seen this quote, you probably looked at it and thought “Huh. Interesting.”
Or you might have thought, “This is the problem with American education. We need to get rid of standardized tests.” That was my response the first time I saw it. I saw this cute cartoon, and I thought it was quite well drawn. Is that a question mark above the fish’s head? A hook to help it climb?
But then I was watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk about schools and the dearth (death?) of creativity they create, and I remembered the quote. But not correctly. I remembered it like this:
If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will think it is stupid. 
I forgot the “Everybody is a genius” part. Does that mean I don’t think everyone is a genius? No.
I think everyone has individual talents. Some people are natural-born artists, others are incredibly skilled at sports. Pelé? Soccer genius. Freddy Adu? Brilliant, amazing, talented. Not a genius. Robbie Rogers? Super brave, certainly skilled. Impressive, but not a genius.
This leads me to something that has bothered me about our education system for a while now. Every parent wants to put their kid into “gifted and talented” programs. Look at the New York City issue with kindergarten testing. Now I’m not oblivious to the harsh realities of our school systems. Rich parents get to send their kids to expensive private schools with smaller class sizes. These schools don’t have to adhere as strictly to state standards, giving these schools and their teachers more time to focus on subjects like art and music, or to emphasize topics within standard educational subjects the students will actually enjoy. I’m not oblivious to this because I lived it. I went to a small private school where we literally voted on what we wanted to study in 7th and 8th grade Humanities. 
If we go back to our fish and tree analogy, I am a monkey. Climbing trees comes easily. I got lucky in that my talents fall squarely within what our school system aims to foster. Math, Science, English; they all come easily. I “get it.” Interestingly, when I look back at my small, private school education, my worst grades by far were in Art and Chorus, where I was told I needed to focus more and put my mind to it. I remember getting those comments and being frustrated. These teachers also saw me in Math and Social Studies, they knew I was smart, they knew that I always did my best. Why were they giving me bad grades in classes that I was trying hard in, but good grades in classes I barely had to work at?
Why did they expect me to be a good artist when no-one expects monkeys to swim? 
My school was for gifted and talented students, and looking back I realize that definition was independent of species. There was definitely a fish in my class (we’ll call her Talia; she’s an amazing artist and loved Writing but always struggled in Math and Science), and I’d say there were some other types of animals too.
The education I received was wonderfully tailored. There was time for each student to get the help she needed in every subject, and there was time to prepare us all for whatever came next. We each got to pursue our own passions for the full month of January and every Friday afternoon. We learned table manners on school trips to Ashland, Oregon, and made memories everywhere from LA to Japan. Each student was recognized for the animal he or she was, and was given the appropriate challenges. Yes, fish were forced to climb trees and monkeys had to swim, but the teachers really focused on letting each student grow in the direction they wanted to.
But I was lucky, and not everyone has the opportunities I got in terms of individualized education. In normal schools, monkeys are never really forced to swim – the closest they have to get is dipping their toes in. But all the fish have to climb trees. Many of them aren’t very good at it. But some of them are.
Here’s my question, and its two-fold: What do we do about the fish that do climb trees? How should education be changed so that students entering our schools now and in the future aren’t forced to study “normal” subjects they don’t care about, and what do we do about the left-brained students already halfway through their education, torturing themselves to memorize facts for tests they’ll forget in a week?
There is an argument that can be made, and a valid one in my opinion, that every member of society ought to have a broad base of knowledge. Ideally, everyone who graduates from an American school is able to read and write, and has the basic math skills to compute tip when they go out to eat, or calculate the change they are due. But this broad knowledge needs to go beyond what current standardized tests are testing. Graduates should know a bit of world history, and maybe a smattering of a second language. They ought to know how to solve a problem they are facing, and have something to turn to in times of stress.
American high school graduates should not be mathematically inclined English speaking robots. Incoming American students are a diverse group of people, and they should leave our education system the same way. But they should have grown. Each student has a passion; the purpose of the education system ought to be to help each student find and nurture his passion. Kids are incredibly creative, and that creativity shows itself in every imaginable way, and then some. Some kids draw, some tell stories, some have an aptitude for algebra, and some for the violin. We need to stop pretending that there is a job for every college graduate, stop forcing students to major in things they don’t want to study so they’ll get a job.
I’m majoring in Chemical Physics and Political Science. (If you’re in the maths or sciences. If you’re a humanities or social sciences major, I’m majoring in Political Science and Chemical Physics.) Regardless of who I talk to, their first response is always “What are you going to do with that?” I have no idea. Not a flipping clue. I’m interested in Comparative STEM Education Policy. Or Nuclear Energy Policy. Maybe I’ll become the much-needed person sitting at the table with the politicians and scientists translating one language into the other. Maybe I’ll throw away the $200,000 my parents have so kindly spent on my education and travel the world instead. Regardless of what I want to do now or where I think I’ll end up, I’m studying things I love, taking classes in subjects I’m genuinely interested and passionate about. I have hope that my passion and dedication will be enough to get me a job. Because I’m an idealist, and I think it should.
1. Who knows if this quote is actually Einstein? The internet says so, but the internet also says Abraham Lincoln said the thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity. If you don’t understand the irony here, please leave.
4. Most monkeys will cross water bodies when necessary, but prefer not to. Except these guys.