Marchutz is an integral part of who I am becoming.

Six weeks ago, I started a program that I understood to be an incredible art emersion experience. Today I look back at a series of intensive drawing and painting sessions, difficult seminar discussions, excursions to incredible locations and voluminous conversations outside the classroom and see a thread in my life that is pushing me to take the road less traveled. 

That road lies in a pursuit of intellect and art.

I may still one day become the phenomenal doctor, the healer that I sought and have worked hard to try to become, but, for the next year or two or three, I must follow the passion of my heart and attune it to the decency of my mind.

Two roads diverged in the yellow wood and I want to take the one with the thorns, the brush, the bees, the valleys, the sweat, the blood, and the promise of a fulfilling life.

I have learned through my experiences at Marchutz and now traveling abroad that Serendipity has her way of working things out. I have made numerous friends and experienced incredible things because of my good friend Serendipity:
fireworks at the Eiffel tower with an old friend,
a gondola ride in Venice with five new friends (three from Turkey, one from South Korea, and another from northern New York),
a sunset view of Florence with two girls I met on the long walk over to the lookout spot,
sonorous, monastic-like singing in a baptistry in Pisa, again, with two new friends,
Chianti wine and an Italian lunch in a Tuscan farmhouse with some Australians and a guy from Manhattan,
exploring Marseille with a great old friend,
lying under the hot summer sun on a beach in southern France with some splendid folks I ran into the night before, 
and swimming by an aqueduct in the Gardon river that dates back nearly two millennia with folks that I met on the tour bus,
these among many other experiences.

In other words, 
for the Christian, 
God will provide. 

God has provided
Providence is something that I've learned to trust.

Art and intellect, 
at least for the next few years,
will be
and should be the focus of my life.

Hope for me the best, my friends.
Sketching and studying at the Musée d'Orsay.
In my usual style, yesterday morning I woke up early enough to be on time but ended up lounging around in bed until I'd certainly be late. I packed a quick lunch, showered, packed my bag and ran out of the door to the Hotel Roi René to meet George the tour guide-this generally is a twenty-five minute walk mind you; it took me eight.

The night before I borrowed my friend Stas' computer to try to get flights and tickets for the second half of my European adventure. I tried a few different avenues and nothing was working, so, I eventually gave up and left allowing my friend to go to sleep.

As I boarded the bus yesterday morning, I saw Tiffany and Jane (two other new friends from the Marchutz school) but Stas was nowhere to be seen. In the back of my head, I thought she was maybe sleeping in because I'd kept her up so late the night before. 

Two minutes before George was ready to start moving the bus, Stas showed up sweaty, with just woken up eyes, holding a package of cherry tomatoes. She found me sitting I'm the mid-back of the bus and told me about how she was set on sleeping in and then decided to run and try to make it. I'm so glad she ran.

As the bus began moving to our first destination, Stas and I talked about life, our new lessons learned in France about people and relationships, and about how we were going about thinking on what we wanted to do with our lives. The views on the ride were of fields, streams, and 14th century castle ruins jutting out of the rocky countryside.

When we arrived in Avignon, we were faced with an incredible stone wall, a barrier built in something like the 14th century to protect the city from intruders. We got off of the bus and, marveling at the beauty of the Rhone river and the stone wall before it, we followed George to the Palais de Pope. We climbed a winding tower to the top of the Palais to an incredible vista of the Rhone, wheat fields, and monastery ruins among tile-roofed homes. As George completed his little spiel on the history and influence of the place, I went exploring: climbing things, touching stones and trees and sculptures and flowers, and observing people in the street.

Tiffany, Jane, and Stas were hungry so, after deciding that we didn't want to pay 13 euro each to enter the Palais, we went out on the town to look for good and cheap food. 

The Italian place was not yet open. Neither was the Thai place. Eventually, I noticed that a Vietnamese place we were looking at had out an "Ouvert" sign. This ended up being a fantastic decision. For five euro fifty, I got a huge bowl of rice, salad, soup, and Vietnamese fried chicken with the included appetizer of shrimp chips- which looked like Styrofoam according to Stas.

As we sat down, beside us sat a group of formidable fellas, barrel-chested with military looking backpacks. To my amazement, they were speaking Russian, very colorful Russian at that. They talked about fighting and cockroaches- typical conversation for a group of fellas. 

As they finished their meal and got up to leave, I asked the men in Russian if they were boxers. They told me that they were legionnaires. 

Later, I looked up the word and was thoroughly impressed. A legionnaire is sort of an international mercenary under the French army.

The girls and I decided to try to make it across the Rhone to the other side of Avignon where amusements were cheap or free. However, along the way we were mesmerized by all the interesting artistic theater posters on the walls and on street rails. Tiffany had the idea that it would be cool to take some home. So, naturally, I pulled out the Opinel 7, a handmade French knife I bought earlier, and began cutting posters down for myself and the girls. It was quite thrilling and totally worth it.

After all the thievery, we walked back up to the Palais and sat on a bench under the shade in the garden. As we rested and talked, a troop of young ducklings marched by us and into the brush behind the bench. Tiffany and Stas fumbled with their cameras as Jane and I continued our humble repose.

We walked back to the bus, taking pictures by the river and sketching along the way. The next stop was Pont du Gard on the Garden river. 

Pont du Gard is an aqueduct/bridge constructed in 60 AD. The structure was immense and we hiked up the side of a nearby mountain to get a good look at it. There I met Maddy from Toronto, Julia from New York, and Brantley who goes to USC-Columbia. 

We, along with Tiffany and Stas, all went swimming in the river flowing beneath the Pont du Gard and even did some base jumping from a small cliff protruding by the edge of one of the banks. The water was chilly but refreshing. It was the kind of water that's perfect for a hot summer day.

The day, full of history, new friends, and summer fun, was a good day: a story worthy to be told.
The crew (Anastasia, Jane, Tiffany and I) at the Vietnamese place in Avignon.
A view of Pont du Gard from within a tree.
Sitting out in a private farmer's field, we looked out at Mount Sainte Victoire, the aqueduct, and civilization below comparing nature to Cezanne's renditions of it. The distance of the mountain, the depth of the city in the valley below, and the fading presence of the pine, were all captured beautifully by Cezanne.

Laura sketched the mountain and the clouds. Lucy took selfies with Kristina's camera. Robert stood erect looking out at the wide expanse before him.

Sharon asked the question of how the eye could become, according to Cezanne, more "concentric" as it looked more and more at nature.

Prompted by Alan, we all looked at three different Cezanne paintings and tried to figure out their chronology.

With the sweat, the heat, and the beauty, time slowed down and the questions and the particulars became one solid fluid motion, a gentle breeze that flowed along, like a creek, running humbly for as long as it gets water from a source.
Yesterday, I ended up hanging out with the older ladies from class in Fuvea, France, which was a great decision. I did two sketches from the vantage point of a wall overlooking Mt. Sainte Victoire and a later sketch from a better view of the mountain in a small cobblestone park. The beauty of the latter location was surreal. The birch above scattered the light about the pebbled road. A salmon-colored dress hung in a small sunroom window on the second floor of a beautiful old building with soft light orange stucco and cool mint green painted accents about the doors and windows.

The ladies were all practicing different arts: Laura was writing about the depth of the mountain, Sharon was doing an ink lithography print of the park and the mountain, and Catriona was doing a pastel of the warm yellow, tiled roofs of a series of houses below.

When we arrived back in town, I joined the ladies for some grocery shopping. I saw a poster hanging on the side of a temporary metal construction site wall. It was of the monster truck show from the night before—Les Cascadeurs—so, I had to steal it for Quentin. At the grocery store, which was a rather expensive organic-type establishment, I purchased some smoked salmon, olive bread, chocolate and two interesting-looking types of craft beers for next week’s lunch. It cost me around 15 euro, which didn’t seem terrible.

I said goodbye to the ladies, trying to hurry home to catch dinner, but ended up briefly walking through a women’s suffrage exhibit in front of a random hotel in Aix. When I got back, I found that my host mom had prepared for us this scrumptious egg, bread, ham, cheese, basil block thing. I asked her what it was called and she answered, “Je ne sais pas,” which is to say “I don’t know.”

This morning I awoke and boarded a tourist bus to Arles, which had no, absolutely no IAU folks on it. As I took my seat, I was surrounded by a funny little group of young Swedes, who assumed that I couldn’t understand a lick of French and proceeded to say random, stupid things about me. Nevertheless, I was really in a good mood, ready to enjoy the comfort of myself and the countryside and the sweet lulling of the bus.

The kids ended up being alright. They were 17-18 years old and, as I predicted, from Sweden. They came to Aix through a high-school excursion for intensive French language immersion. Most of the young guys wanted to major in Finance or Economics: the youth of the world in general seem to be following this trend. The most interesting thing that I learned from them was that, although Swedish media portrays the society as very liberal, most Swedes don’t ascribe to their philosophies. The young guys I talked to in particular pointed out that the free education and healthcare system does a good job at de-incentivizing the general population from developing a good work ethic.

In Arles, we saw historic churches and an arena and a theater built in the first century. Nearby the theater was a man playing wonderful, familiar—to the whole world, I think—tunes on a small wind/piano instrument with a mic and a small speaker. The theater was incredible and I sat eating my lunch between two columns that date somewhere around 2000 years back, feeling oddly nostalgic.

At the arena, I made friends with some kids from Princeton: Ryan, Eddie, Denisiya, Hannah, and another girl. I took some pictures with them. I hopped the safety rails several times to try to get a better feel for the place. I could better take in a view of the Rhone and the salmon-tiled houses below and feel the wind blowing through the window looking out into the Arena. As I made it back to the bus rendezvous at 12:30pm, I met a girl Dahlia from Lithuania who speaks, wait a moment, Russian, Lithuanian, German, English, Polish, and French and is studying Law in Aix. One more thing: she’s only 18. On the bus ride back into Aix, I sat by her and we she told me about kangaroos in Australia, practicing yoga in Costa Rica, and fighter pilot friends in a nearby French town.

At some point, we arrived at Saintes Maries de la Mer and I took a dip in the Mediterranean which had refreshing cool water that was salty, but a “softer” salty as my other new friend from Pennsylvania Olivia pointed out.

I also had the opportunity to walk far out onto a jetty with Hannah and Ryan. The Mediterranean waters were a beautiful deep purple, a soft green, and a cool red. I sat down by the edge and could feel the terrifying strength of the ocean, but as soon as I had this sensation the soft salt splash ran cooly down the side of my body as a friend comforting another in need.

Some of the things you sense traveling are truly incredible.

Some of the people you meet traveling are equally truly incredible.

View from Arena in Arles, France.
Inside the Arena in Arles, France.
View from Theater in Arles, France.
Outside of the Theater in Arles, France.
Today was fantastic.

In class, we talked about color: warms and cools, complements, and the like. I had a great lunch and, when I arrived back at my homestay, my host-mom's cooking was spot on.

I was going to retire early for the night but my host mom convinced me to come with her and Quentin to a Monster Truck show.

This, of course, ended up being a fantastic decision.

As we took our seats on the outdoor, metal bleachers, fun characters appeared all around. There was this dude with dreads, an Arabic father with his son, Quentin, Delphine and I, and a random group of young twenty-somethings, one of whom—I’d observed in the parking lot earlier— owned a classic corvette.

The show had all sorts of monster trucks, dirt-bikes, and car stunts. The music playing behind the announcer was very obscene, profane rap/hip-hop music from the States. I thought that to be a bit funny, seeing as most of the folks in attendance were younger French kids. But, they didn’t seem to mind, so, I pretended to not notice Lil Jon and his endearing lyrics.

I ended up having a swell time experiencing a different side of French culture and amusement.

Below are pictures and videos:
[The computers here need to update their Flash capability before I can post videos.]

Alors, links below:
I love to try to solve big problems.

Math was one of my favorite subjects growing up. I loved Algebra and Geometry and Calculus.

Lately, I've been more occupied with something a bit more abstract: the condition of the human spirit. There's anger and fear and mal intent. 

The humanities, academic studies of philosophy, literature, art, and religion help guide us to a solution. But, I have discovered that it's not up to me nor is it my fault that I myself or anyone else is corrupt inside. I have found that these fears and failures must be laid down at the symbolic cross, must be placed without any inhibition before God. 

For only something bigger than ourselves, something much, much bigger, can ever possibly address the bigger problems that we can't, no matter how hard we try, no matter how long we think, no matter what other methods we use, that we can't ever handle.
Above is a panorama of a street in Marseille including incredible, sometimes-poignant works of graffiti and my big, ginger friend Walter.

Below is some detail of the piece of the far right.
The text on the far left is: "I dream everyday to become an actress..."
Walking through the park today, I began to notice how people tend to carry some similarities with the dogs they own. If you don't believe me watch the animated Disney version of 101 Dalmatians for the dogs/owners sequence. 

Anyhow, in light of this seminar on Art Criticism and Aesthetics that I'm taking, this observation may prove intriguing. You can tell what sort of person an artist is based on their work just as you can see the internal being of a writer through their personal texts. It is our inside ambitions and reflections that emanate into our external world.
The image above shows a woman with her son in a plaza of Marseille. I could see that there was something troubling her deeply. I could not have nor would have I asked her what that was. But, the deep pain in her expression strung a cord within me.
France and this opportunity have already had a profound influence on me.

On the first day, I got to go to an incredible theatrical, musical, circus-like show at the central fountain of Aix: la Rotonde. I wrote a diary entry on it, but, after struggling to publish the post, the pictures/ video below should suffice for a good explanation.

On the second day, we went to a short open house for the program. Afterwards, on my walk back to my French homestay, I walked into a group of a few young, French high-school age guys with mini-longboards (Penny boards) smoking in the middle of the street. I went ahead and used broken French to start a conversation. After a few formalities, we talked about life in France from their perspective and about their personal aspirations. One guy wanted to either go into world politics or spend a year traveling the world before settling down.

That evening I went out for dinner crêpes with my good friend Walter and hung out with two pretty cool girls, exploring the city. After walking the girls back to their homestay, Walter and I ended up running into a notably drunk, angst-filled, world-traveling troubadour with whom we had an interesting short conversation. He’d done a tour from the east to the west coast of Canada and frequently traveled between Marseille and New Orleans. He ended our conversation by telling us he was ready to go home and drink himself to sleep. Walter and I ended up wandering into a graffiti alcove before making the trek back and retiring for the night.

The third day we were orientated and I was fortunate to meet:

Charlie, a cool dude who’s been in Aix for a while now who told me about where I could get a knife to make lunches out of the fresh food in the market,

Pauline, this great, super-fun, intelligent young French girl who told us about the hip, young, recreation places in France,

and Alan and John, my art professors who are turning out to be terrific teachers,

among many others.

The art program is going to be fantastic. I have already teared up multiple times in and out of studio thinking about it.

That night, Walter and I went out with a different group and had some fun barhopping, keeping it classy of course. I met some really interesting people who are also part of the IAU program. I’m becoming pretty good friends with some of the people that I met that night.

On the fourth day, the art class started out in the center of Aix where we met to purchase art supplies. There was a market in the adjacent street, so, naturally, I bought myself a very European scarf. That very first day in the studio, we began by figure drawing with an actual nude female model. The model was beautiful and I couldn’t help but tear up a bit at how incredible this opportunity is. The lighting in the room and the striking position of the form were overwhelming, but, I got on to sketching.

I’ve been randomly recalling all sorts of things that I learned in Anatomy while in the studio: muscles and skeletal structure. Visions of my January experience shadowing clinicians in a medical setting and the many procedures and body forms that I observed also have frequently come to view.

That night, we went out again and I eventually ended up in a French club called “la Mirabel.” The social dynamics of the place were perplexing, but I feel as though I sort of started to understand things by the end of the night. The music was very European electronic and trance, so, it was certainly a good time. One girl, Laura, was really fun. She showed me some Tecktonik moves, while I taught her some swing dancing.

The fifth day was brutal for me because of the combination of jet lag and the two nights of French nightlife exploration. I was very much tired. But, as soon as we got into the studio and began drawing my tired eyes and mind illuminated. After the drawing session, we were told that the Aesthetics and Art Criticism course was going to be in a seminar style. I was ready to cry, once more, because of how much enjoyment and personal growth I gained at my one seminar style class at Wofford: Civic Engagement.

I grabbed lunch outside in the beautiful weather with my new friend Kate. I bought carrots, radishes, sausage, a baguette, and some cheese at the “Supermarche Casino” the day before and had plenty to share. Afterwards, we went into town together to do some shopping.

On the way there, we ran into my new skater friends who wear heading out to the skate park with some beers and a Monster energy drink. After a short exchange, Kate and I continued on into the pharmacy as Kate had needed shampoo. I got to talking with the English-speaking saleswoman who gave me a sweet dermatology lesson after I asked her if French men maintained themselves differently than other men. Afterwards, we found an ice cream shop with incredibly rich coffee ice cream. I was done eating after a few bites.

We continued on to buy notebooks at Monoprix, the French version of Target, before Kate and I walked back to our homestays. After saying bye to Kate, I went to sleep for a few hours and missed dinner. My host mom, Delphine, was rather upset about that, but she let me help myself to some salad and cheese—but, “just this one time!”

I watched the French version of the movie “Freedom Writers” on the TV after dinner and, after my host mom and brother retired for the night, I cried from all of my pent up emotion.

I’m overwhelmed with joy for the beauty of this place, which frequently sparks my memories of Ukraine, which I visited as a young child many years ago. Accordingly, the idea of a chance to study art in such a picturesque location carries a strong sense of joy. However, I am also experiencing a strong aura of sadness for the human condition. The flaws of French society, the misjudgments of my peers, and, foremost, the corruptness of myself reveals both a strong corruption in the heart of man and an element of brutality in the natural world.

So, here I am, writing this in my bed, unable to fall asleep but sensing a strong hope underlying everything I’ve thus far experienced and beauty wrapping herself, like French summer light, around every dark corner.

"Hold on, kid!"
"I'm telling you: Hold On!"

and the stranger, now a companion, that you only met a few seconds ago, winks at you,
and you tense up a bit, as the escalating rollercoaster car crawls up the tracks until it hits the peak―
you're in the second row from the front, and the giant snake-like machine is inching forward like a summer caterpillar,
you're hanging, suspended a hundred feet above the ground, looking down and across at the snaking, wiry tracks that lie before you,
and the car you're in inches forward and more forward, closer and closer to the ground until suddenly, it's as if whatever was holding the cars suspended snaps,

and the whole rollercoaster blasts forward,
people yelling with mouths so wide open that they're catching wind making cheeks expand and flap like sheets of paper in the breeze,
arms extended and flapping away like sails in the wind,

tremendous joy
bouncing back and forth through the coaster cars, from person to person on the swiping and snaking behemoth.
That stranger is now your best friend.
Laughing, and giggling, and, for some, pure fear, winds in and out of the coaster cars.

It's a memory that sticks, like your sweaty t-shirt to the back of your seat as you arrive back to the terminal.
The heat, the smell of the breeze, the excitement on your face: it's all there for you to try to remember.

You see, right now, I am in that seat: hanging one hundred feet above the ground. In less than a week now, I will be studying art in a beautiful place, with beautiful people, making beautiful memories. (Not to mention, one of my really good friends is going to visit me for part of the time!)

This is definitely the start of a great ride in my life, but, it's important to realize that this ride is just one of many.
This ride―I've already been on it.
The peaks, the valleys, the joy, and the fear: these are elements of life...
for everyone.

But, you know, this is a great blessing and I'm super excited!
Let's all do incredible things this summer, my friends!
The Lavender Fields of Aix-en-Provence. Absolutely beautiful!
    In less than four weeks now, I will be in Aix-en-Provence, France, studying art at the Marchutz School. Sitting here thinking about it, the whole idea of this is surreal. In four weeks, I will be studying my passion, art, in a place that carries the beauty one sees in Impressionist paintings and can only imagine Elysian fields to look like. In four weeks, I will be drawing, painting and sculpting in the heat of the French summer in what I imagine to be a series of weeks that will flow by like dreams. There are butterflies all over, in my stomach and in my head,―pleasant butterflies―and with the imminent arrival of exams in two weeks I really shouldn't and can't afford to be randomly daydreaming as I have been.

    I imagine there being plenty of interesting people to develop friendships with, great food, and sights that will make substantial and permanent impressions on my mind. I imagine it to be like the Madeline cartoons I watched growing up: sweet and quaint, wholesome and happy. Or maybe it'll be like a Michel Gondry film: ethereal, artistic, and incredibly weird at the same time. The only thing I can realistically imagine right now is that I'll have a fantastic time and that this is an incredible point in my life.
    In the vein of material things, I need to buy a better backpack and new traveling shoes. Mentally, I need to do more research and brush up on my French. Personally, emotionally, and spiritually, I feel as though I have already begun my journey to Aix. However, I can't help but consider of how so very quickly this time will pass, just like the many wonderful summers I had as a child. All of life goes like this though. This summer, I'll do my best to soak it in as fully, to breathe it in as deeply as possible.

    This weekend I found this little gem on youtube:
      The spirit of childhood joy that I find in this video is exactly what I'm feeling now and hope to continue feeling while I'm in Aix. I'm ready for the start of something good.