SICILY + MT. ETNA

Here commences my final tribute to my very last excursion that I took outside of Florence. This will be my second-to-last post concerning the things of Italy, at least, as far as I have planned. I’m not sure how to feel about it. But we’ll get to that in my next post. Sicily was a place of beautiful seaside views, ruins and urban spaces juxtaposed together, snowy mountains with fire brewing inside them, and a fancy Mayor’s house with a free tour. It was an organized group trip, so naturally there were a lot of lame things about it, but a lot of magical things as well.

We started out with a wine tasting at a vineyard, where we not only got three glasses of wine, but also endless baskets of bread, plates of a variety of cheeses, meats, (which I didn’t partake in, of course), and olive bread, and bowls of sundried tomatoes and more olives. It was fantastic.

A room in the vineyard cellars

the vineyard

Our other activities included seeing some of the ruins spread throughout the urban city, a spontaneous invitation by the Mayor to come in and have a tour of his mansion, climbing up Mt. Etna, visiting the coastal town of Taormina, and hanging out in the quiet Sicilian countryside.

ruins within the city

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the accordion player hamming it up

the obelisk fountain in the center of the piazza, a symbol of Sicily

the Mayor inviting us in

inside the Mayor’s mansion

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selfie in the Mayor’s mirror I

view from the Mayor’s balcony

selfie in the Mayor’s mirror II

the elephant obelisk on the Mayor’s doors

Mt. Etna

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what is he doing, nobody knows.

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that’s not fog, people. We were in the actual clouds.

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accidental gestural drawing of a dinosaur by my foot

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trying to yoga on the tiny rocks

don’t sit on the cushion plants

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the view from Taormina

Taormina

a little post-church gossip

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forget double rainbows. INFINITE MIRROR RAINBOW

Although Mt. Etna was breathtaking, I think the Sicilian countryside was what affected me the most. I actually ended up totally eating it on my way down Mt. Etna, and banged up my knees pretty badly. It was difficult for me to walk, so when we arrived at the countryside trail, the group went ahead on the tour and Hayden and I stayed behind. We just stood outside near the entrance of the trail, with the nearby road and bus, a small shack, and a few signs being the only indications of civilization in sight. It was so profoundly quiet. Living in a city my whole life, there have only been a few moments where I truly understood what people mean when they refer to the silence being loud. This was one of those moments. It was like a beautiful void. There was no distraction from the profound and utter quiet. I used to be afraid of the quiet. Even now sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, it makes me uncomfortable. But it’s these moments  when it happens upon me unexpectedly and I can’t escape it, that I learn to embrace it. And I see just how beautiful it is. I tried to capture it in photographs, and I know I didn’t do it justice. But hopefully it comes across, at least a little. Just try to imagine it, if you can. ☽

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THE DAYS THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF | ROME

Who gets to say they had to go on a required field trip to Rome for class? I’m super grateful to be able to say I did. Mid-November, my Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bernini Professor Lucia took us to Rome for a day. Hayden got to tag along for free. The two of us ended up staying an extra day to see the sights. We went to see multiple Bernini fountains, the Borghese Gallery, the Pantheon, Vatican City and St. Peter’s, and way more. I had some serious fangirling for Bernini moments. Not to mention, seeing so many of the monuments and infamous sculptures I’ve been learning about the majority of my undergrad career was surreal. Please proceed to see the beauty! ☽

Inside Santa Maria della Vittoria Church

Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria Church

Lucia teaching us about one of Bernini’s fountains

Lucia drinking from Bernini’s fountain, supposedly the best water in Rome

And teaching us about another of Bernini’s fountains

the keys and the bees are both symbols of the Pope / Papacy

THE PANTHEON. I was freaking out a little

It was kind of breathtaking

“Oculus, Upthere-o!” I am the worst.

Inside the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

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The Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio, San Luigi dei Francesi

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Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi / Fountain of the Four Rivers

On the bridge to Vatican City

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still on the bridge

Lucia trying to figure out the trick

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under the colonnades

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the Vatican guards, with uniforms designed by Michelangelo

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St. Peter’s

Just inside St. Peter’s

St. Peter’s Ceiling

petting St. Peter’s feet, it’s a thing

pls note the wrist tat

Bernini’s Baldacchino, St. Peter’s

Bernini’s Cattedra, St. Peter’s

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Rape / Abduction of Proserpina, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

that’s marble, people

MARBLE

Apollo and Daphne, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

Apollo and Daphne, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

Apollo and Daphne, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

Apollo and Daphne, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

David, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

David, Bernini, Borghese Gallery

Borghese Gallery, Rome

Vatican Museums, Rome

Vatican Museums, Rome

Vatican Museums, Rome

Vatican Museums, Rome

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Apoxyomenos (The Scraper), Vatican Museums, Rome

Laocoön and His Sons, Vatican Museums, Rome

Bronze Etruscan Arm, Vatican Museums, Rome

Vatican Museums, Rome

LOVE THIS, Vatican Museums, Rome

The School of Athens, Vatican Museums, Rome

DALI SURPRISE, I saw this from a distance and made a beeline for it, then more fangirling from yours truly

Dali details are the best details

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Staircase at the Vatican Museums, Rome

Arch of Constantine, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome

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Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria), Rome

Trajan’s Column, Rome

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HALLOWEEN IN POMPEII + HERCULANEUM

The weekend of Halloween, Hayden and I traveled to Pompeii and Herculaneum to explore the lands “frozen in time” that we learned about last semester. We both took a class about Pompeii last spring, so it was fascinating for us to see it in real life. There was something about the landscape that was was so surreal. It seemed like the moon was always visible and the sun was always setting, no matter the hour. Shadows were always elongated and everything seemed to have a pinkish-orange tone. It was deserted and haunting, yet crowded with all the tourists. I found it interesting to observe the other people exploring these places, (and I actually did a portraits project this, which I’ll post later) because unlike other touristy places (like Florence), this place didn’t belong to anybody. What I mean by that is, it’s no one’s home. No one is, in that sense, familiar with it. It’s a completely vacant city, and the homes that are there are the homes of those who inhabited them almost 2,000 years old. Seeing the moulds of the people who were trapped under the volcanic ash was another experience entirely. Something I will never forget.

Equally unforgettable were our attempts to return to Florence by the end of the weekend. We had purchased a package deal from Trenitalia that involved three trains/ buses that would get us from Pompeii to Florence. The first train, which turned out to be a bus, was about 5 minutes late. This slight delay caused us to be late for the next bus, which caused us to be late for the last train, which cost us 33 euro each. However, we didn’t know this until we reached the train station, and the train had already left. In a slight panic, we tried to find the next train to Florence, only to find that there wasn’t one. We went to the Trenitalia help desk, and of course, the tickets weren’t refundable. So we’re standing there, in the train station, desperately trying to figure out how to get back home (it’s Sunday night, by the way), and the only thing we can think of is to hop on the next train to Rome. Because at least then maybe we wouldn’t have to sleep in the train station. We made the split-second decision, as the train was set to leave in about 5 minutes, and got on just in time. It took us twice as long as it could have to get to Rome, and when we finally did, we arrived at the train station and just sort of stood around for a while because we didn’t know where to go or what to do. None of the businesses in the train station were open, and of course there wasn’t any wifi in the station (when there had been at virtually every other station previously) so we didn’t have a way of finding a hotel. Then, we ran into a man who was just standing in the middle of the train station, asking people who walked past if they needed a hotel. Normally, this type of person is someone you would ignore, and would more than likely NOT want to accept hotel offers from. However, we were at the point of such desperation that we basically beelined for the guy. He took us to a ridiculously fancy hotel, where the front desk clerk could not have been more displeased with the fact that we were staying at his hotel for the price we were. He didn’t get any more pleasant when he asked for our passports, only to find that we didn’t have them. When I attempted to explain (I’m in tears at this point) that we had been specifically instructed not to unless we were traveling outside of italy, he responded with a disdainful, “Let me tell you how it works in Italy…,” blah blah. I’ve been meaning to let them know how good service works in a Trip Advisor review. Anyways, we were able to get probably 4 hours of sleep in order to leave for the soonest train to Florence at 6 a.m. We finally made it home around 10, Hayden missed his class, and all we wanted to do was sleep. So we did. The end. ☽

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Mt. Vesuvius

what surrounds the ruins

Marcus Nonius Balbus, one of the more famous Pompeiian men

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an ancient Felix Gonzales-Torres

Vineyards from which they still produce wine. A bottle will run you around 200 euro I believe.

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ancient fast food restaurant

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and this is how I ruined my shoes.

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exiting the brothel

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Eumachia, a famous Pompeiian woman

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VEGAN | WHY

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

I’ve been interested in nutrition for a long time now, particularly within the past two years or so. One of the first things I remember that really intrigued me about health was seeing a woman named Mimi Kirk one day on the news. She had been voted PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian over 50, at age 74, I believe. She looked amazing, like in her 40’s at the most. She still had long, healthy looking blonde hair, awesome teeth, and was just so energetic, vibrant, and strong looking. As it turns out, she was actually vegan. I wanted so badly to be that way when I grow old. I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of the deteriorating health of elderly family members, both personally and from a distance. Simply being in a nursing home is enough to make me want to ensure that that doesn’t happen to me. Since then, I’ve been influenced by a highly-educated and health-conscious roommate, along with the discovery of multiple health food documentaries and Youtube channels. I’ve spent the past year just absorbing as much as I could about health and wellness and what is the best diet for humans. Over this course of time, I have gradually changed more and more about the way I eat. To be completely honest, before I became vegan, my favorite food was cheese and/ or cheeseburgers, just barely beating Reese’s cheesecake. However, I found that it wasn’t that hard to give foods like that up, especially when I learned what went into their production. Also, I feel like it’s worth mentioning that I don’t feel deprived or like I’m missing out at ALL on the vegan lifestyle. There are so many delicious vegan foods, and meat and dairy aren’t even appetizing to me anymore. Maybe I’ll even post some recipes I come up with here in the future. Until then, here is a little summary of the decisions I’ve made and the reasons why.

WHY DON’T YOU EAT DAIRY?

Dairy, along with animal products in general, has been proven to cause and worsen countless diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. There are numerous resources, studies, and more which detail the detrimental effects of a diet that consists of dairy.

In short, humans require milk at a very young age, as we are in our most important stages of growth and development. Breast milk contains growth hormones that send signals to our cells to continue to grow and divide. When we reach the age when we no longer require the need for breast milk, we no longer require the need for these growth hormones. When we consume dairy, we continue to consume growth hormones that our bodies do not require, which can result in devastating effects to our health. When our bodies begin to develop cancer, these growth hormones send signals to the cancer cells as well, which causes the cancer to continue to grow. Not only that, but when we consider the true purpose of dairy milk, it is for cows. It is specifically designed for cows, for the nourishment of cows. It is a distortion of nature for humans to consume the milk of another species. Animal products also produce an acidic environment within our intestines. Plant foods, on the other hand, produce an alkaline environment. Cancer and other diseases thrive in an acidic environment, while they cannot survive in an alkaline one.

In addition, cows are abused to no end when they are used for the purpose of human consumption. They are kept in confined places, and are forced to produce far more milk than they naturally would, which often causes infections. Because of this, there are millions of pus cells found in the average gallon of milk. In fact, there is an established standard of a numeric value that is in the hundreds of millions, which the pus cell count must be under in order for the milk to be able to be sold. For example, an 8 oz. glass of milk can contain up to 180,000,000 pus, or somatic cells.

There is a lot of false advertising and long-held but false beliefs about milk and dairy in general, that they are necessary for a healthy and balanced diet, that they contain crucial nutrients, and so on. But the reality is, the dairy industry has a lot riding on how the public views these products, and they do a lot to ensure that the general public sees their products as nutritional and necessary. They are a huge and booming industry, with effective advertisement strategies that bend the truth in order to encourage the public to continue to believe in the conventional ideas that have led us to consume dairy as a staple for so long. However, the reality is that the consumption of dairy products is not healthy for us, for cows, or for the environment.

BUT WHAT ABOUT CALCIUM?

Calcium is vital, but not as vital as most people think. Contrary to popular belief, the increased consumption of more calcium does not improve calcium levels in the bones. In fact, the increased consumption of foods high in calcium for the purpose of increasing calcium levels in the body can actually be detrimental to human health, especially if that calcium source is dairy. It can even contribute to the deterioration of the bones. The dairy industry has drilled it into our heads that calcium is so much more important than it really is, and that dairy in the diet is necessary in order to fulfill our body’s need for it. Plant foods can provide as much calcium as we need each day, provided we eat enough of them and do not combine them with animal products.

WHY DON’T YOU EAT MEAT?

FOR THE BODY

Meat has also been found to be directly linked with the growth of cancer. In addition, a diet high in meat and dairy will more than likely lead to a lifestyle of disease later in life, whether that disease is cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, or countless others.

The consumption of meat results in the consumption of more fat than we need to consume. This excess of fat results in the clogging of vital arteries, which can result in heart attacks, and even death by heart disease, which is often the first and only symptom. Not only that, but simply looking at the way we are designed is a case for vegetarianism. Our intestinal tract is far longer than that of a carnivorous animal. This is for the breakdown of plant foods that are easy on our digestion. Carnivorous animals, in contrast, are designed with very short intestinal tracts, providing a quick digestive process for raw meat. In our long digestive tract, meat can sit and rot for days before being fully digested. This can hold up the digestion of other much faster digesting foods, such as fruits, which will ferment as it sits on top of the meat and will not able to be absorbed as it should be. This unnatural combination can result in indigestion, stomach pain, and countless other issues, which will often get blamed on the fruit, for example, because it was the most immediate thing that was eaten.

FOR THE ANIMALS

There is also an immense amount of animal abuse that occurs during the production of meat. A lot of people shut down at this point in the conversation, viewing ignorance as bliss and simply preferring to not know. However, I am a firm believer that the consumer should know where his or her products are coming from. Meat eaters should be fully aware of the industries, companies, and practices that they are supporting when they purchase meat. I’m fully aware of the people out there who may say, “they’re just animals,” or “you’re being too _______,” fill in the blank: emotional, sentimental, sensitive, etc. Or, perhaps, the ever-popular response among Christians, “God gave us the animals and the earth to subdue it,” or “God gave us the animals as a resource,” or “but God ordered the killing (and even eating) of animals a bunch of times,” et cetera, et cetera. However you want to phrase it, I’ve heard it all. Trust me, I even used to be of the same opinion. I’ve never been a super emotional person, I’ve always thought PETA was ridiculous, and I’ve never been a tree hugger or an animal fanatic. However, when my eyes began to be opened about the meat industry and animal-related industries, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know the truth. Because as a Christian, I want to live as pure a life as I can. I pursue the light, which reveals all truth and eliminates darkness. Until the animal industry is fully exposed, it will remain a dark, deceptive part of our culture. I don’t want to partake in something that’s evil just because the world doesn’t see it that way. I want to see it for what it is. I have a passion for truth and justice. If something isn’t right, I want to know about it, so that I no longer unknowingly encourage it. I’m not perfect by any means, and there are still a lot of things that I don’t know. However, one thing I do know is that THIS, the way that animals are treated for the sake of our consumption, fashion, medicinal purposes, scientific experimentation, and entertainment is NOT how God intended it. Animals are tortured, abused, starved, driven mad, treated and killed mercilessly on a daily basis. I strongly encourage you to watch the documentary Earthlings. I’ve seen a lot of videos and watched a lot of documentaries throughout this journey, but if I had to just choose one for you to see in order for you to fully get it, it would be this film. It shocked me and scarred me and made me weep, but it changed my life and it was more than worth it for the awareness I gained. There are few things that have made me more aware of the evil of mankind than this film. If for no other reason, watch it to gain knowledge about the cleanliness of the conditions in which your animal products are prepared. After watching this film, that factor alone would cause me to consider stopping my consumption of animals due to the terrible conditions in which they are “produced,” even in kosher slaughterhouses.

FOR THE PLANET

The demand for animal products in America alone is immense. The sheer amount of grains that are used to feed the animals in order to provide for this demand is enough to solve world hunger a couple times over. In addition, the amount of methane gas produced by livestock for the meat and dairy industry is by far the main contributor to global warming.

BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?

Protein, like calcium, is just another nutrient that we don’t need as much of as people think we do, and that can be found in a variety of plant foods. The stressing of the body’s need for protein originated from advertising ploys from the meat industry. In fact, the over-consumption of protein is actually harmful to health, and as long as enough calories are eaten from the right sources, protein isn’t even a concern.

WHAT ABOUT B12?

B12 is the only nutrient which vegans get none of directly from their diet. However, most everyone, including the average meat-eater, is B12 deficient. This is because the primary source of B12 is from the bacteria found on the skin of unwashed produce, which none one receives, as we must always wash our fruits and vegetables due to the pesticides they are sprayed with. Therefore, the only way to ensure proper B12 levels for vegans and non-vegans alike is to supplement it. It is often thought that vegans risk being low in many nutrients that are typically thought to be found in dairy and meat. However, I know of at least a handful of vegans on Youtube who have all taken blood tests and posted the results on their channels, to prove that they get enough nutrients on this diet. As it turns out, their levels are perfect. Everything is within the suggested ranges, unlike the blood levels of those who consume animal products, which are often too low or too high in many areas.

WHAT ABOUT EGGS?

When you think about it, eggs are really just chicken periods. It’s gross, but true. There is also a study that found that eggs are ridiculously high in cholesterol to an unhealthy level, and have been compared to cigarettes for their health detriments. You can find the link to the study below in the resources section under, “5 reasons to stop eating eggs.”

SO WHAT DO YOU EAT?

Although I’ve avoided dairy ever since January, I became officially 100% vegan only about a half a month ago. However, I’ve made this choice as a long-term lifestyle. Within the vegan movement, I would be classified as a High Carb Low Fat vegan. This means I eat primarily carbs, which make up about 80-95% of the calories in my diet, and includes raw fruits and vegetables and cooked carbs and vegetables, all from whole, preferably unprocessed sources. The remaining percentages go to protein and fat, about 3-10% each. I totally avoid all oils, and mostly avoid nuts and seeds. The fats that I primarily eat are avocados, coconut, and olives. Since the summer, I’ve been loosely following a lifestyle called Raw till 4, created by a Youtuber named Freelee the Banana Girl. In this diet, you eat raw fruits and vegetables (primarily fruits), all day until around 4. Then for dinner, you eat a high carb, low fat cooked vegan meal. The best part is, there is absolutely no calorie restriction involved. As I was delighted to learn, calorie restriction is actually UNHEALTHY. Eating 1,2000 calories a day, as I was doing previously, will send your body into starvation mode and will mess with your metabolism. This will cause your body to retain weight when you first come to this lifestyle, since it has been in starvation mode for some period of time. Despite having to pay for past mistakes in this way, I love this lifestyle. I have so much more energy than I used to, I rarely ever get stomachaches or headaches, unlike before, and when I do I know why, because I’m so much more in tune with my body. The whole premise behind this lifestyle is that your body and your cells thrive on the sugars and glucose provided by carbs. Fruit is the perfect food and best food for you because it provides all the natural sugar your body needs for energy, along with the fiber it needs for proper digestion. Eating plenty of raw fruit ensures that you are receiving all the nutrients you need to function well, digest smoothly, and have plenty of consistent energy. I personally can attest to this, as I used to be verging on lethargic with my constant lack of energy, and now I don’t even feel the need to drink coffee, whereas before I wasn’t fully awake until I had some.

Just before coming to this lifestyle, I completed one of those Beach Body programs, called the 21 Day Fix. This program was all about portion control, using color-coded containers to determine how much to eat of each food group. According to my weight at the time, I was assigned the lowest number of calorie range, which was around 1,200, which I was accustomed to, as I had calorie-restricted often in the past. I found it a little strange that this program required that I have 4 servings of protein each day, while only having 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables, but I completed the full 21 days anyway. Throughout the entire program, I felt exhausted, and in general just not good. I assumed this was just because of the workouts, which were a little more demanding than my usual exercise, and I continued with the program. However, at the end of the 21 days, there is a “3 day fix,” like a little boost for the end of your go with the program, to enhance your results. During these three days, the program had me eating 6 servings of protein a day, no fruit, and 4 servings of vegetables. I was only able to complete one day of these three days because I felt so awful. I was completely lethargic and had no desire to do anything except lay on the couch. I completed the last two days of the 21 day fix according to the normal guidelines, but I couldn’t wait to be done with it. Once I was, I almost immediately began Raw till 4. I didn’t do it 100% correctly, and still am not, as it is pretty difficult to do in Italy. Nonetheless, I immediately noticed a change in how I felt. I had so much more energy, so much better digestion, literally everything was so much better. Although at that point I hadn’t officially given up meat, I could tell a complete difference between when I had eaten quite a bit of it, and much less. I knew I was onto something, and this is what sparked my further research.

As I mentioned, I am still on Raw till 4, but I haven’t been able to follow it 100% here in Italy. I have been completely vegan since I’ve arrived in Italy, with the exception of fall break, when I had seafood a couple of times. Since then and from now on, however, I have not and will not consume meat again. I’m excited to get back to America where the fruit is cheap and I have a blender, but until then, I’m doing the best I can and loving it anyway.

IT JUST MAKES SENSE

One of the things that first got me interested in the plant-based lifestyle was the simple logic behind it. First of all, when you think about it, it makes sense that processed, mass-produced, man-made foods would make you sick, where as all-natural, God-made foods would bring you optimal health and provide the proper amount of nutrients to your body. It makes sense that food can be your medicine. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, and given the proper nutrients, they are able to do so. As I mentioned before, our biological design suggests veganism. Our intestines are extremely long, just like that of herbivores, and our teeth have much more in common with that of herbivores than that of carnivores or even omnivores. The simplest way to identify what we were naturally meant to eat is to imagine ourselves in nature. What would we naturally gravitate toward? The easiest, most obvious answer is fruit. It fits easily in your hand, it’s attractive and sweet, it smells good, and is easy to access. In contrast, animals do not look like food, and raw meat is certainly not something we find appetizing, unlike a carnivore, who eats meat raw in its natural state. See the diagram below for a side-by-side comparison of our biological design and that of other animals. There are many other reasons and research behind why it makes sense for humans to eat a plant based diet, many of which can be found in the book 80/10/10, by Dr. Douglas Graham. Although I don’t agree with everything he states in his book, since he does not believe in eating cooked food at all, he does provide a plethora of interesting and convincing information as to why humans should be eating plants and only plants.

From bananagirldiet.com – Click to enlarge

Biblically, it makes sense as well. For example, in the beginning, God created us as vegans! That’s right, before the fall, we were meat and dairy free. Genesis 1: 29 says, “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.” So, in the beginning, before sin, we were supposed to eat only fruit. And animals were supposed to eat only plants as well. I realize that now, post-sin, death is part of the natural process of life, even part of feeding many of earth’s creatures. However, I would challenge that if we can prevent it, shouldn’t we? If we know how God intended us to eat, shouldn’t we strive to eat that way still? He must have intended it for good reason, and if it’s what he intended, it must be what we are designed to eat. If we are designed to eat that way, it must be what is best for our bodies, and what would provide us with optimum health, even now that sin is in the world and death a part of everyday life. We in America have access to fresh fruit and vegetables every day in our grocery stores. Even when we don’t, we have rice, pasta, bread, beans, and countless other plant foods off which we can easily thrive. So, if we can avoid the consumption of animals and the contribution to murder and torture as an industry, shouldn’t we?

There may always be controversy about scientific experiments, but the most effective and accurate experiments are those performed on the human body itself. There are many testimonials, on documentaries, Youtube, and websites that describe the complete healing and reversing of countless diseases with dietary changes alone. If you doubt the studies, just look at some of the stories from people who have changed their lives. If you still aren’t sure, try it yourself!

RESOURCES

Freelee The Banana Girl’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Freelea

*just a warning to my more conservative friends and family: Freelee sometimes uses crude language in her videos and sometimes dresses less than modestly, but I encourage you to look past these things and listen to her message! She has loads of awesome information presented in an easy-to-understand way.

5 Reasons to stop drinking milk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TS9hh-Npc50

5 Reasons to stop eating eggs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTfvdypnAgg

What the cancer industry doesn’t want you to know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YFS5qlAzgc

Testicular Cancer/ Meat as a carcinogen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqJxtlngZxk

Earthlings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce4DJh-L7Ys

*some of the imagery in Earthlings is so graphic that you may have to prove you are over the age of 18 in order to watch it. If you are unable to do so, here is the link to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/v/ce4DJh-L7Ys

Mimi Kirk’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ub52209

Michael Greger, M.D. with lots of nutritional information on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/NutritionFactsOrg/featured

A Diabetic doing Raw till 4, healing his diabetes, documenting it on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BestTransformation/featured

OTHER DOCUMENTARIES (Most of these, if not all of them, can be found on Netflix)

Forks Over Knives

Food Matters

Vegucated

Food, Inc.

ART SO FAR | FUA

Here is just a little bit of what I’ve been working on at FUA. Soon enough, and quite possibly after my return to America, I’ll post the entirety (or almost the entirety) of the work I’ve done this semester. This fall, I’m taking Ceramics level 4, Digital Photography, and Florence Sketchbook. Here is some work from Ceramics, along with my artist statement for the piece.

Drawing of a bi-section of a heart, a plant root, and plant cells.

Ceramic Sculpture no. 1

“As an artist, I am inspired by all things organic. To me, organic forms are the most beautiful because they don’t try to be. They simply are. Their unconscious nature and state of being, whether in a state of growth or decay, is beautiful to me, both in its simplicity and its complexity. The organic doesn’t try to conform to what it isn’t. In contrast with the seemingly chaotic world of the natural, I seek to recreate such forms and combine them to create new forms, using hyper-controlled carving methods paired with a more gestural, loose construction, allowing the clay the chance to reveal its true organic nature as well. My work serves as a way for me to express my both my awe of creation and to observe the effects of mankind on that which we did not create.

For this piece, I chose to base the form off of a human heart. This form, like many of the forms in my work, is combined with the form of the Veiled Lady mushroom. I frequently use this form because it holds such a quality of alien beauty. It is an unrecognizable form to many, but is at the same time, somewhat familiar and undoubtedly organic in nature. For this reason, it is the perfect form for my work, as I want the work to be obvious in its organic origin, but at the same time, unrecognizable as one thing in particular. My pieces tend to be a combination of things, and are therefore something new. My drawing, on the other hand, conveys the attempt to organize that which, by its very nature, is seemingly disorganized. Perhaps it isn’t truly disorganized; perhaps it simply has its own way of order that we don’t understand. This, paired with the contrast within the human heart form, causes the work to be somewhat uncomfortable. There is a sort of tension, between delicate and heavy, detailed and gestural, order and disorder. In this way, my work reflects that nature is never perfect by mankind’s standards. However, by using the human heart form, I remind the viewer of the true wild nature of humankind; that no matter how we evolve, we will still, in our innermost selves, be organic, crooked, imperfect. We will always lack control.

My original vision for the sculpture was to create a highly detailed and realistic piece. Throughout the process of creating this piece, however, its concept began to challenge that which within me seeks to control every aspect of what I create. It became a challenge to myself, to allow the clay to have space to move and breathe and behave organically in its own way. The drawing then became a demonstration of what the sculpture could have been, a hyper-detailed, hyper-controlled hyper-realistic piece; a piece that demonstrated total control and ordered predictability over the organic medium. I realized that this was very thing I wished to confront the viewer about. However, but the end of this process, I found that my work had confronted me.” ☽

 

THE DAY I COULD HAVE DIED AKA THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE | FALL BREAK PT. 4

Keyword, COULD have. Although technically, that’s every day. It’s just that on the day in question, it would have been particularly more prone to happen. But let me start from day one.

PSA: I’d like to apologize for the obscene length of this post. We both know this is out of the ordinary for me, so it must be for good reason.

We spent about four days total in Ireland, which was about 1/10000000th the amount of time I would have liked to have spent. It was seriously the most beautiful place I have ever seen, virtually tied with Wales. We started off in Dublin, from which we began a full day trip to Wicklow. We drove through virtually deserted glacial soils, which led us to an extremely old graveyard (from the Medieval era I believe), a secluded lakeshore, and best of all, a breathtaking mountainside. It was one of those campy tours that no one ever thinks would be good, but it was totally worth it, if not only for the mountainside views.

Days two and three were spent in Doolin, Ireland, on the opposite end of the island. It was a trek to get there, made totally worth it by the cozy hostel and the warm, small-town vibes. During the two days we were there, we became regulars at a particular pub called O’Connor’s. It was the quintessential Irish pub of your dreams, complete with a fireplace, all wooden everything, plenty of cider and guinness and incredible food, and spontaneous musicians playing traditional Irish tunes. What else can I even say. I think we went there four times in two days?

The first full day we were in Doolin, we tackled the Cliffs of Moher. There are a few set paths that run along the cliffs, and so naturally we, or at least I assumed that they would take probably two hours tops, would have barriers the whole way through, and be totally paved, or at least a gravel or clearly laid out path. None of these things were true. Here’s how it went down: We started out on these giant steps near the gift shop and entrance. Paved, smooth, complete with short walls running along the entire visible edge of the cliffs. We set along one of the paths called the Burren Way. After some time, the barrier turned from sturdy stone walls to some barbed wire fences. Then, shortly after, there was no barrier at all. Not only that, but for the majority of the remainder of the 6 hour hike, we were forced to tread on a barely (and sometimes not at all) laid out path that was an average of about 2 feet from the edge of the 200 meter high cliffs. I loved every second of it. The terrain was covered in soft, plushy grass that was totally free of any snakes or anything of the like. There were breaks where the cliffs would extend out much farther than the path, where Hayden would have to instruct me that I wasn’t allowed to go past a certain rock for fear of me running straight off the cliff from excitement. There were other breaks where there was no cliff at all, and there was simply a giant crack, usually that we’d have to travel across by way of a single large rock. There was one point where the edge was literally about one foot wide, and there was no connecting rock, or any connecting anything to speak of. We had to strategically make a small leap across the gap to continue on the path. There were times when I wasn’t completely certain we were still on the Burren Way. At one point, we had to cross through a group of cattle who had escaped from within their fences because said fences had blown down completely. That reminds me, did I mention that the winds were ridiculous? Because they were. And there’s something about relatively high speed winds when you’re on the edge of a cliff. It makes everything seem a lot more dangerous. There was one point where we found a lower cliff below the cliffs we were traveling on, and we ventured down to explore it. The shape of this smaller cliff edge caused a GINORMOUS wind tunnel unlike we had ever experienced. We were shouting and still couldn’t hear each other because it was so loud. Speaking of danger, there were also multiple signs along the way, that would read something like, “CAUTION, EXTREME DANGER, CLIFF EDGES CONTINUALLY FALLING,” and of course the mention of death. It was all very Walter Mitty.

Hayden and I both agree that it was the best day of our lives. I personally had never had more fun or felt more adventurous or more connected with nature then I did that day. Actually, it triggered something in me. At some point, as I was being pelted with icy cold rain and blown every which way by the crazy winds, all the while loving every second of it, something clicked. I began to feel an intense awe and reverence for the space around me. I had never observed something so beautiful and simultaneously so incredibly dangerous and treacherous. This place in and of itself was a testament that nature is above the power of man. It will always and forever be wild and intense and uncontrollable and dangerous, and will only ever answer to one Creator. Part of the reason why the hike took us six hours was we would frequently just stop where we were standing, because we couldn’t continue and be able to take it all in. We had to just stop and stare for a while, mouths agape and breathless. There was something so poetic about it. I thought to myself, this is just one tiny fraction of the creation of the world, which is so much smaller than the sun, which is so much smaller than so many other stars, which are so much smaller than our universe, which is tiny compared to so many other things out there. If this creation can inspire so much, take so much, and simply be what it is, beautiful and frightening and breathtaking and unbelievable, without even trying, how much more can its Creator do, especially in just one human?

Needless to say, it was an incredibly inspiring place. Like I said, it caused something to click in me. I suddenly and ever since then have had the desire to see more of the world, more of the wonder. I want to find as much as I can of the jewels of creation, big and small, in Waco and beyond. I want to appreciate as much work as I can of the Original Artist who modeled me after Himself. I want to know his secrets and admire his handiwork. I want my mind to be blown and my heart overwhelmed constantly with the beauty he shows me. Not that he never showed it to me before, but I didn’t see it. I like to think the Cliffs opened my eyes in a way.

The next day was spent in Doolin again. Doolin is my favorite little town I’ve ever been to. Everything about it is cozy. We shopped for knitwear and pottery, met the sweetest little Irish dog, and went to our favorite pub again. The last day in Doolin, we went to Doolin Cave, where the Great Stalactite, one of the largest in the world, resides. It measures 24 feet long, weighs in at 10.5 tons, and is 900,000 years old. It grows 1/4 of a millimeter every 5 years. Next we saw a tiny fossil in the wall of the same cave, which dates to over 300 million years old. Afterward, we trekked across Doolin and found the warmest cafe with the greatest food. It was perfect end to the best ten days ever. ☽

 

Behold, the Cliffs

getting acquainted the only way I know how

For scale: the little person is Hayden

I fell for the Cliffs of Moher

The Great Stalactite, front view. The tiny one in front is actually older than the bigger one

back view

300+ million year old fossil

Trekking across Doolin with my best friend.

I took so many pictures of oil spills

The dog that was actually a person

 

THE DAYS WE TRAVELED ACROSS WALES | FALL BREAK PT. 3

We had the best time in Wales. We stayed with Hayden’s Welsh relatives, Diane and Russ, where the kindest, most accommodating people. They drove us across Wales and showed us the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Snowdonia, Porthmadog, Gelert’s Grave, and other places all across northern Wales. For a while there, I had trouble accepting the fact that Wales is a real place.

See for yourself. ☽

 

Bruno.

Gelert’s Grave

W1_2

Wales ⇢ Liverpool ⇢ Ireland

 

THE DAY OF FISH AND CHIPS | FALL BREAK PT. 2

DAY TWO: LONDON

In spite of the furrowed brows and incredulous expressions which will very likely creep onto the faces of my progenitors as I say this, I absolutely fell in love with London. I know very well how much I overuse that phrase, but this was different. I cried after I left. I kid you not.

I can’t tell you what it was. I think it was the combination of a lot of things. The down-to-earth people, the much more low-key fashion, the architecture, the accents, the English. At this point you may be thinking, “but Mackenzie, haven’t you been in Florence, the oasis of all things beautiful this whole semester? Isn’t everything that’s not Italian so much uglier to you now?” No, in fact. Far from it, to both questions. But I’ll get to that in another post. Anyways, we didn’t get to spend enough time in London, and I wanted to go back as soon as I left. But here is some photo documentation of our measly 1.5 days there. Enjoy.

So many trains.


Bubble-making street performer had quite an audience.

The National Gallery

Reviewing postcards from the National Gallery in the cutest pub around.

Fish and chips in said pub.

When one finds such an exquisite specimen of a wall of fall, one must either whip out one’s best smoulder…

…or soft smile.

Buckingham Palace at night.

THE DAY OF MAGIC | FALL BREAK PT. 1

DAY ONE:  WARNER BROS. STUDIOS, HARRY POTTER

I will be the first to admit that this poor blog has seen some neglect as of late. To some degree, I am sorry about it, but in another regard, I’m totally not. I mean, let’s review exactly why it hasn’t been my first priority, just briefly. Other than spending time on schoolwork, I’ve been in London, Ireland, Wales, Pompeii, and Sicily all in the span of three weeks. During this time, I’ve filled my camera up countless times with pictures, climbed two volcanoes, explored two towns of ruins, walked for 6 hours along the edge of 200 meter high cliffs, ruined two pairs of shoes, rode across an entire country (basically), and so much more. Needless to say, I’ve been busy. But never for a moment did I forget Ugly Hands, and of course, updating Mom. So here you go. Here is day one of what was undoubtedly the best ten consecutive days of my life.

One of the giant chess pieces used in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The cupboard under the stairs

The doors to the Great Hall

The Great Hall

The house points keeper thing

Big D and his owl podium

The front gate of Hogwarts, which include the Porcellino, a boar, a famous bronze icon of Florence

The Leaky Cauldron

Ron’s bed

Gryffindor common room

Gryffindor common room

The Leaky Cauldron hallway

Dumbledore’s office entrance

Dumbledore’s office

Dumbledore’s office

The potions room is my favorite room

The potions room

Hagrid’s cabin

abyss box in which Mad Eye Moody is kept in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The only Hogwarts staircase made for the films

Salazar Slytherin’s locket / horcrux

Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem / horcrux

Draco, Narcissa, and someone else in Malfoy Manor, featuring Nagini snacking on Lucius’s face

Borgin & Burke’s

The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin & Burke’s

The Hand of Glory in Borgin & Burke’s

Dementorrrrr

Umbridge’s office

Tom Riddle’s tomb

Hogwart’s bridge

Godric’s Hollow

The Knight Bus

Diagon Alley

Ollivander’s

Flourish and Blotts + Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

Paper replica of Hogwarts

Almost life-size-but-not-quite replica of Hogwarts

Also, one more thing. There will be a video coming (hopefully) soon of all these things and more! Stay tuned!

THE DAY(S) WE FELL IN LOVE WITH VENICE

In the spirit of efficiency, bad internet connection and being a good five weeks late, I’ll keep this short.

A few weeks ago, to be quite honest I’m not sure how many, we fell in love with what I believe to be the prettiest place I’ve seen yet: Venice.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ve compiled  a small list of things we saw and did, and then, PICTURRREESSS.

 

Saw and crossed just a fraction of Venice’s over 400(?, it’s been a while) bridges.

Rode in a taxi boat because you actually have to.

Saw the Bridge of Sighs, which is famously known as the last bridge across which prisoners would walk before being put away, so it was the place where they saw their last glimpse of the sky, the water, the beauty, etc. Hence, sigh.

Hung out in the Piazza San Marco, the only piazza in Venice, because every other piazza-like place is referred to as a “campo,” meaning field, which makes absolutely no sense since there is no grass in the city.

Toured St. Mark’s Basilica, which is breathtaking simply on the outside; and don’t even get me started on the inside. It was absolutely COVERED like from floor to extremely tall domed ceiling in tiny painted tiles that were less than a square inch. Most of which were painted with actual 24k gold. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but look it up. LOOK IT UP. It’s incredible.

Caught some nice views of the piazza from the balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica.

Saw a BUNCH of gondoliers. Totally didn’t see that one coming.

RODE IN A GONDOLA. BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING.

Oh, and we also went to this tiny town near Venice called Padova, or Padua, where the Scrovegni Chapel is. If you don’t know what that is, you have some more research to do, my friend. It was entirely painted by Giotto in the 1300s. If you don’t know who Giotto is, he was an extremely important pre-Renaissance artist, who was one of the first to start using effects in painting to help his figures look as three-dimensional as he could. He also focused on conveying real, raw emotion on the faces and in the body language of his painted subjects, in contrast with the previously stoic, unemotional, other-worldly figures depicted in early religious art.  He was one of the first, if not the first, to begin showing the backs of figures in compositions, which was a revolutionary idea and was never done previously in religious art. We studied him in my art history class over two years ago, so that made it all the more exciting.

 

Now, onto the pictures! And make sure you make it to the end for a surprisseeee

 

Venice at first sight.

Venice at first sight.

The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs

IMG_9059

The never-ending building of Piazza San Marco

The never-ending building of Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

St. Mark's Basilica

The view from the balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica

Just admiring the beautiful marble on the exterior of St. Mark's Basilica

Just admiring the beautiful marble on the exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark's Basilica, Exterior Mosaic

St. Mark’s Basilica, Exterior Mosaic

The former home of Marco Polo

The former home of Marco Polo

A "campo"

A “campo”

SUCCULENT WATERFALL

SUCCULENT WATERFALL

Here you go Mom

Here you go Mom

A gondolier

Our gondolier

Our gondolier

Venetian man who was asking for it

Venetian man who was asking for it

Laundry day.

Laundry day.

 

 

And one more thing! I made a video montage of the entire trip and posted it to youtube. Here’s the link, enjoy!