21 October 2018

14 October 2018

4 October 2018

2 October 2018

Stranger in a Strange Land

The forigners bunched up and decided to occupy a room close to the teachers office. There are around eight rooms that students could decide to use and the teachers would make their rounds critiquing.  We started to draw a small sketch of casts that were laid out. The teachers walked around with their translators and usually yelling harsh critiques at most of them.

One grey haired teacher stepped up to me and asked the familiar question: "Hm, where are you from?"
I stammered out response.

As I believe there are around six teachers in total, they all have different views on how to compose a drawing. It changed around three times in total for me and they all battled on my small sketch which way is superior.

1 October 2018

Out of the Abyss, into the Flames

 - Chinese Student 

Today was the first day starting the Pre-Course of the Academy. Waiting in the courtyard, I followed the Chinese students when the teachers arrived shortly after. Then an older looking student stepped up and asked me where I'm from in excellent English. He identified himself as Julius and was from Taiwan, which is considered as a foreigner among all of the Chinese students.

We walked together into the main hall of the building and soon realized that I'm going to stick out of all of the students. The vast majority of the students at the Pre-Course turn out to be from China. It felt somewhat intimidating and I realized I was getting strange looks. Eventually I run into the other "foreigners". There was an Indian, an Englishman, and one girl from Korea which was extremely shy.

We huddled together in the back and with the help of Julius, we found out some things about course and how this is the norm at the beginning. We were ~5 foreigners and ~90 Chinese. Eventually the rector walks in with his Chinese translator which then he proceeds to quietly whisper in his ear. Then he makes all of the announcements on how class is structured and times of attendance to all of the students in Chinese, Luckily we had our friend from Taiwan to translate for us. Though eventually the teachers notice a batch of foreigners standing in the corner and begin to shout the rest of the instructions in Russian.

The three disciplines are drawing, painting, and composition. We start in the morning at 09:30 with drawing and later on at 11:20 with painting. Compositions are done on a list of themes which we will have to show once a week to our assigned teachers.

That was all for today. We were told that tomorrow we would begin with a cast drawing and a still life painting. I knew that I was in for a wild ride from this point.

19 September 2018

Finding the Neva

"I'm glad you made it here!"
 - Constantine

I spend a day unwinding and walking around the city before I would search for Academy. I walked around the beautiful and richly decorated streets of St. Petersburg. Sculpture and embellishments on the facades fascinated me. Something you don't see often and gives the city a royal feeling.

I managed to stutter some simple Russian phrases as I searched for needed products in the stores. Usually asking if they spoke English first but the answer was always no. I did manage to get all of my necessary products through much hand gesturing and grunting similar polish words.

Next day I finally needed to go to the Foreign Office at the Academy, and so I use an old map to find the river Neva where it lies. After bending around a corner, I finally managed to get a glimpse of the building I was yearning to witness over the years. Happiness and tears came to me.

I stumble my way into the main corridor where I gesture my way into what is the office for foreigners and where I meet the person in charge. I shake his hand and try my best to explain to him how and why I'm here. Surprisingly he is quite happy with my low level of Russian where he proceeds to only speak in Russian. I nod my head to most of it and I manage to understand most of what is required for the course. And he states I will learn the language in no time at all! I nod.

He takes out s few sheets of papers, which is the contract, and I happily sign the document which could have anything written on it. Which right afterwards the whole office loses no time to start laughing over my last name as there is an unnecessary "soft sign" at the end. Immigration says it's necessary. There are some things you can never escape in life. Afterwards I was still lacking much documents still needed. The person in charge, Constantine, helped me find the accommodation for the start of the course. I immediately went over to the other side where I will be spending the rest of the year on the English Embankment.

There I meet Dmitri. Possible the man who knows the best English in the entire city. I state that I need a room and I need the cheapest they have. I will be bunking with another roommate which will probably be a Chinese student. At this point I didn't care who it is, as long as I have a room somewhere in the vicinity.

Sounds great, I'll take it.

I got the keys to my room and saw my room with two beds. Though feeling a bit uneasy, I decided to still remain in the hotel room till then. 

17 September 2018

An Eastern Wind

"Are you sure you want to go?"
 - Papa 

Today I woke up with barely any sleep. I spent most of my time lying on my in my old room and thinking about what will happen in the next six hours. I drove in from Nürnberg to stay at my parents house as it was a shorter distance to Munich. 
And there was my flight to St. Petersburg. 

After putting myself through much hardship and doubts about making it to this point, it was a strange wave of emotions that constantly surrounded me. The past three years have been something of a turbulent chapter in my life. I sometimes wish I could take it all back and not stubbornly pursue my ambitions. But now I have less regrets than before.

One month prior I received my invitation to the country and immediately wrecking my previous routine. I quickly threw down all my jobs and planned all of my doctors visits and going through the harsh immigration process.  All of it was nicely laid out on my desk this morning.

My father and me threw my bags into his car and we drove off south. And after some slight traffic we reached Munich international airport and got my tickets. 

After some talking and joking around, we finally reached the security gate. Which then we said our goodbyes. I knew at that moment that I was at the most happiest point in my life in a long time.

I gleefully went through security and boarded a mighty Aeroflot planes towards St. Petersburg.

The flight was only three hours but it felt like a month.

As soon as we landed, I could feel that this was not home anymore as everyone spoke a language that was not in my arsenal. Trying to get a cab to my cheap hotel room, I was greeted with strange gentlemen trying to take my luggage from me and stating they have the best cab fare to the city. I pretended to not see them and went to the nearest cab stand and asked for the different prices. Luckily one lady at the money exchange spoke polish and told me what a good price should be to get into the city. 

Airport security didn't approve much of my existence and made me unpack my luggage so they could rival through my things. I hurried out as fast as I could. 

I managed to get a cheap ride and got the real experience of the driving madness towards the city centre. Drivers cutting each other off, plenty of angry honking, and road construction at every crucial intersection. It was just like old times at my Uncle's. It was amazing.

I finally to reach my hotel room and get out, but not until the driver asked me for another additional 100 Rubles ($1) for taking my suitcase. I stumbled into my room where I just locked myself in and went to bed. 

It was the best nights sleep I had in a long time.

6 June 2018

Child of the Tower

"....[H]e grew up here. Roaming the tower and battlements with the other children. All mostly bored from all adults having their own fun upstairs."
 - Polish Community of Nuremberg 

I can recall how often I was forced to attend the Krakow-Tower in Nuremberg. We were the children of Polish immigrants that came ere in the 1980s. Our parents often organized events related to Polish art and culture in a tower within the premise of the old city. While the adults would enjoy themselves in the upper levels of the tower, the children were left to tend for themselves.

Nothing to do, we would traverse the old battlements. Speaking a mixture of Polish and German, we invented our own amusement. Pretending to be knights & dragons was a popular game until one of us was throwing a fit because we broke the cardboard sword. Which then we decided to be ghosts in a spooky castle. I can still remember the dusty hallways, damp smell, and the tight winding corridors.

The parents were always active there and kept to themselves in the small community. And the children grew up knowing of our strange origins which became the primary influences of our adult lives. This was the beginning of many exhibitions I would attend throughout my life. I would travel more and more to other countries to exhibitions related to this strange community. It became a normal habit to leave early mornings and begin a long journey to where ever there was another event.

I would aid setting up the artwork, arranging the food, and meet curious new personalities. The event would unfold with speeches of known members and then begin the usual festivities surrounded by art. Still remaining vivid in my memories to this day.