La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 7

The space at La Canela y Hierbabuena was different than the one at La Casa Museo Orlando Hernández, so Silviu and I had to figure out how we'd display the works.  Silviu had a few Ikea frames he wasn't currently using in his house, so he lent them to me and I spent some time figuring out how to lay out my pieces, spraypainting the backing of the frames to better match the artwork, and getting it all installed appropriately.  We then had to figure out how to get the frames onto the walls themselves which only had a few hooks to use - but Silviu came through again with some ingenious hanging solutions and we got everything up on display in the end - including my two assemblages and a framed assortment of my greeting card reproductions as well!  Silviu brought a portable microphone/speaker setup (singers have some handy equipment!) and opened up the reception, I introduced myself and my artwork as well, and then we headed back.

There wasn't a lot of time left, but somehow we squeezed in a few more events and excursions.  By this time I had actually just moved into Silviu's extra apartment since it was easier than commuting constantly from Noemi's, and because he didn't seem to mind my staying there rent-free (I would have loved to offer him rent as well, but I'd already paid Noemi and I unfortunately didn't have the budget to contribute it twice; I hope Noemi will perhaps share some of her fee with Silviu since his generosity knew no bounds!).  One morning, Silviu and I had coffee with a local artist who is planning to branch out into offering his own artist residency. Silviu started some pieces of artwork under my supervision and learned how I use watered down acrylics and spray bottles to create some of my backgrounds.  We had some lovely dinners.  Noemi took me on one last trip out to see an old volcanic crater, and it gave me some call-of-the-void vertigo feelings since there were no safety railings or anything, but it was a nice hike up the volcanic side and we got to see a couple wild lagartos on the way back down.  Silviu and I went out for one last scuba dive - it was really windy, and the dive group he often works with had canceled their dives that day, so I was a little worried, but I also have full trust in Silviu so when he said it'd be fine I was excited to get one final chance to dive.  It was more than fine, actually - while it was so windy it did cause a lot of turbulence even below water, which kicked up a lot of seaweed and sand, it was also octopus day!  We got to see two different octopi while out, in addition to the other beautiful sea creatures that I've gotten to see before but are nevertheless a joy to get to see again.  I also held my artist lecture and QCC demo at La Canela y Hierbabuena, and sold a decent amount of greeting cards (yay!), and Silviu and I hung out with a local curator and her very sweet friend who had made our acquaintance earlier as we were coming up from a dive a couple weeks before.

My final night Noemi came down and Silviu, Noemi, and I all had late night tea and dessert, and then I started to pack while Silviu and Noemi chatted.  Ricardo came by for a while, and then eventually they all headed out as I finished up packing (I couldn't do it earlier as I had to wait to take my artwork down from this last show and pack it into the bottom of the big suitcase first).  By the time I was done, it was about 1am, and I had to get up at 4am, so I got about three hours of sleep.  As did Silviu, as he was sweet enough to wake up early as well and drive me to the airport.  Fortunately, given how tired I already was, the flights back while long were completely trouble-free.  One interesting fact I did learn through watching Disney movies in Spanish on the way back is that the songs are not the same.  This is probably already knowledge you have, but I did not and I was really startled when the first song in the Lion King was neither just played in English nor a direct translation - I mean, it makes sense because then it wouldn't rhyme, but still.  People all over the world have different Disney songs.  I actually really like the song "Be Prepared" from the Lion King and it sucks in Spanish.  But in my opinion, the song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in Mulan is perhaps even better in Spanish than it is in English.  When I got back to Kansas City, Susan, another amazingly kind person in my life (my Art Program colleague at USM), came to pick me up and drive me back to my house.

So I am now back and am just getting caught up with the readjustment, which is good, because summer's almost over and I have more artwork I want to do from this residency before the summer ends!  So hopefully I can get a little more done before the school year gets back into full swing... that being said, I'm already getting caught up in work now that everyone knows I'm back!

I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Silviu, as he is, honestly, the nicest, most open person I've ever met.  I have never been received with such hospitality and friendship from someone who has no preexisting reason to do so, and I am fortunate enough to know and count among my friends a lot of amazingly nice people.  And not only that, but he's so skilled in so many areas and he was generous enough to share so much of his time and knowledge and talent with me.  Not only does he know how to scuba dive and how to teach others to do so, he's also fluent in English and Spanish (and many other languages) so I felt safe going scuba diving with him; I don't know how I would have felt about attempting it with someone who, if I was having problems, I perhaps couldn't communicate with clearly.  And then to top it all off, Mother Nature was clearly on our side as well - in our time in Arinaga's waters I got to see a cuttlefish (!!), two octopi, a giant ray, pufferfish, scorpion fish, trumpet fish, a moray eel, starfish, sea slugs, nudibranches, a fireworm, damselfish, a giant crab, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, lizard fish, schooling fish of several shapes and sizes, all wild in their natural habitat.  I also really loved getting to know Noemi, as she's fantastic as well - she apologized a couple times about being so busy that she didn't have much time to spend with me, when she spent the most time with me that any residency director has!  Plus, it is because of her friendship with Silviu that I got adopted by him too.

Overall, this was my favorite residency to date, which is not at all to say that others weren't outstanding as well.  But the combination of everything I got a chance to do this summer - scuba diving, improving my Spanish, befriending Noemi and then Silviu, meeting other wonderful friends and family of them both - it was just perfect.

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 6

Sorry for the break in updates - I ended up being in several places without internet as I'll be discussing!  Anyway, back to the journal...

It turned out Sunday ended up not being so good for Sella either, and I had gotten wrapped up in a painting, so I had another studio day.  Then Monday was spent getting ready for the solo exhibition Noemi had arranged for me in La Casa Museo Orlando Hernandez (The Orlando Hernandez House Museum); we got the keys to the place from the local government and scoped it out, prepared the exhibition room, and got double-sided mounting tape to help secure my pieces to the walls.  Tuesday evening was my opening, but that morning Noemi had arranged for me to visit the northern part of the island's recycling center for a tour as a part of a group (she had originally planned to come as well, but ended up needing to sit for state exams that day).  I was a little skeptical of how interesting it would be and also had yet to install the artwork or shop for the reception refreshments, but Noemi said she thought it would take around an hour and really wanted me to go.  So I went!  It actually took three and a half hours, and only about half an hour of it was interesting (touring the actual facilities).  The other three hours involved watching videos and protracted lectures and Q&As about the importance and minutiae of recycling - in my case, at least, preaching to the bored choir.  But I got back with - just! - enough time to eat lunch, install my artwork, and run to SPAR to buy some refreshments.  The reception went well, and then the rest of the week I babysat the exhibition (with no internet) and started some new pieces from within the exhibition itself - a sort of performance art in its own way!  On Friday I did an artist lecture and a demo of QuickCure Clay, and then later on another exhibition opened up in an adjoining space, and their reception also flooded over into mine and I had a hopping second reception-of-sorts as well.

Over the weekend Noemi took me to the north to see the towns of Arucas and Gáldar, and we visited the Painted Cave museum, where we got a chance to glimpse aboriginal cave paintings from a carefully monitored chamber so as to attempt to preserve what's left of the paintings after severe degradation from tourists during the late 70's and 80's.  Noemi also thought I should try paragliding, so she arranged for a friend to take me up in a tandem parachute!  I'm up for new things, so I did it, and I'm glad I had the experience - but I didn't enjoy it very much.  I get pretty motion sick, and the turning and swooping set it off quite strongly.  I also got bored with it after the first few minutes - we just sort of looped back and forth over the same bit of land, and once I'd taken it in... the views were extremely similar to what you'd see out of an airplane, so it felt more normal than I would've thought.  I love scuba diving, though, and I know that is not everyone's bag, so I'm still pleased I gave paragliding a go.  On Sunday we visited the Maspalomas area so that I could see the sand dunes, which were beautiful, and I got a taste of the Maspalomas beach as well which is a tourist hotspot (it turns into Playa del Ingles, which is the most well known) and was absolutely crammed with people.  I prefer the beach at Las Canteras in Las Palmas or in Arinaga, honestly.  Then we went up to see Sella, finally, and her place was great!  She runs a retreat center called EcoTara where groups with instructors book in to run yoga and other health and lifestyle retreats.  We spent a lazy afternoon there, and the drives along the way both coming and going were spectacular as well.

Then we took my show down (the other exhibition in the adjoining space kindly babysat mine as well over the weekend), and I went down to Arinaga to rejoin Silviu, who had been busy scoping out opportunities for me to have a second exhibition down there, because he's just that lovely of a person.  We spent the next day figuring out where I'd have the second show, and La Canela y Hierbabuena said they'd love to have me.

La Pedrada de Noemi Artwork 5

And another one - I've done a piece on a very similar frog in relief before (The Slightest Disturbance), and now here's a painting from a different angle of a marsh frog, Rana ridibunda and/or Pelophylax ridibundus, from the Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo.  This piece is acrylic on gessobord, 5x7", and is titled Comfort Zone.

La Pedrada de Noemi Assemblages 1 & 2

Here are the two assemblages I created during my sick day - they obviously differ quite a bit from my normal artwork, but I enjoy them nevertheless.

The first I'm titling See Turtle and is made of beachcombed stones, epoxy, and acrylic on a 6x6" birch panel used as a shadowbox.  I did not paint or change the appearance of any of the found materials.  I did paint the panel.

The second doesn't have a definitive title yet, but perhaps it will be Beachcombing.  It is made of beachcombed stones and shells, epoxy, and acrylic on a 6x6" birch panel used as a shadowbox.  I did not paint or change the appearance of any of the found materials.  I did paint the panel.

I realize they are rather simple, but I like the concept that these were a collaboration between the local people (those who originally used the concrete/stones for construction and decoration), the ocean (which shaped them into what they are today and also contributed the two shells on the second piece) and myself (the arranger).  I also enjoy taking departures every now and then from my typical practice!

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 5

We decided to do a late evening scuba dive on Tuesday afternoon so I headed over to Arinaga and we went out at around 7:30pm.  It was a really magical dive - at first, I saw many familiar fish, but we got closer to them (I think Silviu realized from seeing my paintings that I really make use of detailed reference imagery).  But then toward the latter half of the dive we saw: a moray eel - its head, at any rate, a trumpet fish up close (we'd previously seen two from farther away), a cuttlefish (!!!!!!!!), and from rather afar, a very large manta ray, locally called a "chucho negro."  Some we didn't necessarily get good camera angles on or my camera itself couldn't handle the distance, but it was nevertheless completely magical.  I had hoped I would get to see a chucho negro at some point while here, but I never imagined I would be lucky enough to see a cuttlefish.  They are possibly my favorite marine animal.  (Though this dive's perfection was a little bit balanced by the fact that I was wearing a different mask and it kept letting in some water such that I couldn't see everything quite so well and was a little preoccupied by it; it's not that it's super problematic in that you breathe through your mouth anyways when scuba diving so having water around your nose isn't so bad, but depending on your orientation in the water - if you turn upside down due to buoyancy issues or because you're looking under a cliff - it can get in and around your eyes and it's ocean water - plus even if it's just hanging out in/around your nose, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world.)

We spent quite a while on this dive, and when we came back we got cleaned up and then had a meal and I spent the night in Silviu's spare apartment since it was so late.  The next day we thought we might go for a very short dive again, but we didn't have that much air left in the tanks and Silviu had a sore throat and felt very lethargic so we scrapped that plan - I totally understood and anyway, the dive the night before was so amazing I'm not sure an immediate follow-up could have possibly lived up to it.  Silviu has been wanting to do some art projects of his own and wanted to trade expertise with me, so we spent the day looking at the materials he already has, discussing options, and then in the evening we went to a giant Chinese bazaar to buy more LED light strings for his projects as he's interested in making artistic light boxes.  I spent the night again since we were doing stuff quite late into the evening.  Sadly, the next morning I too woke up with a sore throat and somewhat lethargic/dizzy.  Since Silviu wasn't planning on doing a whole lot that day art-wise, and since I was likely coming down with what he had had, I begged out of sticking around midday and went back to Noemi's place to chill.

The following day was meant to be a work day, but I was definitely sick.  I thought if I tried to paint that I'd just make more work for myself to have to undo, so I sorted some beachcombed findings and created a couple of assemblages.

I was going to go with Silviu up to Noemi's sister Sella's yoga retreat in the mountains on Saturday (Noemi wanted to take me, but she is taking a state exam to attempt to win a highly competitive place as a public school art instructor this weekend), but Friday was rough enough that I still needed to do basic things like shower (well, here it is somewhat more involved given that the water is only intermittently warm and my shower doesn't have a shower curtain so I have to be rather careful about where I aim the shower head) and buy groceries so I could eat breakfast, so I thought trying to spend the whole day out and about sounded overwhelming.  Luckily, when I asked if we could postpone that a day Silviu said Sella was a bit busy on Saturday anyway and Sunday was ideal.

Fortunately, Saturday I woke up on the mend - still sick, but with a much clearer head and the energy to actually shower and walk to the grocery store and work in the studio!

La Pedrada de Noemi Artwork 3

This piece is rather quiet, even though it features a loud subject - the Ornate Wrasse, Thalassoma pavo.  I am particularly pleased with the background, which is in keeping with my overall style but also references the refraction patterns of the ocean.  I also think this painting shows that though the Ornate Wrasse is brightly colored, it can blend in surprisingly well.

It is acrylic on pastelbord, 9x12", and I'm still wrestling with the title.

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 4

Silviu's partner was still in the hospital on Wednesday, so I had another studio day.  Then the following day I caught a ride into Las Palmas with Noemi and explored the old Vegueta district where the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM) is located - which currently has a very nice exhibit of feminist modern art on the 1 1/2 floor.  Then I walked through the more modern commercial Triana district, found the San Telmo guagua station and took guagua 12 to Playa De Las Canteras which is a rather touristy beach area on the northwest of the city and walked all the way down the beach toward the auditorium.  Playa De Las Canteras is very pretty; there is normal sandy beach, rocky sections, and some small spots of black sand beach.  It seems particularly suited for surfing, or at least that's what I saw most people doing!

After all of that walking I was kind of pooped by the time I got home that afternoon!  I decided I wanted a bit more adventure, though, so the following day I took a guagua to Las Palmas and another to the Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo.  This botanical garden is all open air - no greenhouses - and is carved into a mountainside, so there's rather a lot of climbing to get from one side to the other.  My bus stop was on the tall side, so I had to descend to see the bulk of the park.  As I entered and was preparing to go down, I noticed some people taking photos in a direction that was not very interesting... and then saw they were taking photos of a largarto, a type of lizard native to the Canary Islands.  So I joined in but after I'd captured a few pictures it skedaddled.  Another man who seemed to be a frequent visitor mentioned that if you had some bread or fruit you could lure them out.  I had some old croissant in my bag, so I gave some to him to try, but none seemed interested at that time.

So I made my way down, exploring the mountainside vegetation at the same time while passing by several signs warning of rock slides and disclaiming liability on the park's behalf.  It felt like a really long descent, but eventually I was more or less on the bottom level of the park and I explored the ponds, small forests, palm section, the cactus area, a waterfall, and so on.  Then I considered finding a bus from the bottom as ascending seemed like a lot of work, but I thought about the largarto sighting and decided to return to my own bus stop and hope to see more lizards along the way.  I did spot a couple from afar, but they were quite skittish.  But once I made my way up to the top (and the way up surprisingly seemed like much less work than the way down - I think because I knew where I was going this time!) I tried the bread strategy again and actually enticed one!  Sharing my old croissant with that lizard was a real highlight, and there will certainly be at least one painting that comes from it.

I hiked back up to the bus stop, and took a bus back into San Telmo.  Noemi had told me that she might be able to take me back and also that we could see an exhibition opening that evening in Las Palmas, so I wasn't in a big hurry to go back to Agüimes yet - so since she prefers to meet near the auditorium I took guagua 12 to Playa De Las Canteras again and ate a very late lunch there, sat on one of the black sand beaches for a bit, explored a local shopping mall, and then met up with Noemi at a nearby cafe.  She said the exhibition opening had been misinformation - it actually wasn't that evening - but that there was a concert starting at 9pm if I wanted.  I was pretty tired from all the hiking and walking around, though, and live concerts aren't actually my jam (give me nature any day over being crammed into a space with a ton of other people jostling around) so I said I'd prefer to head back if it was all the same to her.  So we stopped by her mother's place to pick up some things and say hi, stopped by a cafe to chat with some of her friends, and then returned.

The next day we had planned to go up north as she was going to show me a town called Agaete, but Noemi had slept poorly due to anxiety about upcoming exams she has so she begged off.  Instead I had another studio day!  The following day I had arranged to go back to Arinaga and see Silviu, who I was missing since we had spent four days together and then a week away.  He has a German friend, Helmut, staying with him for a few weeks.  When I got to Silviu's we thought we might go snorkeling, but then realized we really didn't have time as we had plans to go to a different barbecue in Moya that afternoon and watch the World Cup game between Germany and Mexico.  So I had a non-work day (neither painting nor getting firsthand experiences/taking reference images) but it was a really enjoyable one.  Our hosts were very nice, and their daughter is a cosplay artist and I enjoyed seeing her work and discussing it with her, plus of course Silviu is so nice.  Monday Silviu had to sing and also his partner was finally getting to come home from the hospital, so I stayed back in Agüimes and had another studio day.

La Pedrada de Noemi Artwork 2

This acrylic on gessobord is quite small - only 5x7" - and purposefully awkward.  To me it's simultaneously uncomfortable and amusing.  The subject is a redlip or horseface blenny, Ophioblennius atlanticus.  I'm titling it Stage Left.  This painting also uses iridescent gold in both the background and the eyes, so it too is more arresting in person than in photo.

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 3

Whew, the last two journal entries were long!  It's because each felt like it had its own narrative and that I needed to see it through in one go, but I'll make this one shorter.

The next day, I just stayed at home and painted, with a brief sojourn to look at a parade and a pop-up plaza fair in honor of the worldwide day of donating blood.  Then on Sunday Noemi drove the two of us up to a barbecue in the mountains, at a public park by a lake with grills and picnic tables dotted around.  A medium-large group of her friends and acquaintances gathered, and I managed to converse all right with a number of people while eating delicious queso fresco, salted potatoes with mojo, and grilled vegetables and drinking a mojito, a mildly alcoholic cider, and a mildly alcoholic beer, all followed by desserts - I was stuffed by the end, but the eating was spread out over about four hours.  I also in that time managed to sunburn my forearms; thankfully I at least has the prescience (and at the beginning, the cold) to wear an elbow-length sleeved lightweight top, so I didn't burn more.

I was going to go back to Silviu's and do more diving/snorkeling on Monday, but his partner has been in the hospital this whole time and they decided to move him so Silviu quite rightfully needed to help out his partner with the relocation.  So I stayed home and painted.  I was actually a little happy about the cancellation, as I have an exhibition soonish and no artwork (yet) to show in it!  We were going to meet the following day, Tuesday, instead, but then Ricardo's doctors decided to operate on him so we canceled that date as well.  I explored some of Agüimes in the morning, failed to withdraw money from two different ATMs (a Bankia and a Santender) three times, had a costly call to Chase to troubleshoot why which included both my selecting the wrong type of account followed by a fraud trigger (despite my having lodged a travel notification before leaving), walked back down to the bank and managed to withdraw money, and returned to paint by early afternoon.

La Pedrada de Noemi Artwork 1

Here's the first finished piece of artwork from my residency!  It features two Canary damselfish, Similiparma lurida and/or Abudefduf luridus.  There are a lot of this species in the Zoco Negro where I went snorkeling and had my scuba diving "baptism."  The males are territorial, and this species is occasionally called sergeant major (though the name more commonly applies to a different damselfish species).  I've decided to name this painting Reconnaissance.  It is acrylic on pastelbord, 11x14", and looks even nicer in person because the water and the eyes of the fish have iridescent silver and gold paint on them, respectively, and so they shine intensely depending on viewer angle and interior light levels.

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 2

The fourth day I took the bus (called la guagua here) down into Arinaga to meet with Silviu.  This in itself was more complicated than I would've thought as no one sold ticket cards in the station until later on and also while Noemi thought buses ran every half hour, they actually only run once an hour.  I had planned on taking the 10:30am bus, but since that wasn't actually an option I had time to hunt down a different card vendor.  I could also have just paid in cash, but that costs more.  Finding the open vendor took a bit, since all I had to go on was that it was on the Parque de los Moros, and I had no idea where that was despite some iffy verbal directions, but I found it and purchased the card.  Sadly, the best card is only sold in Las Palmas and requires a photo of you (it is good for whatever destination you want) so I just got a ten-trip Agüimes-Arinaga version and got back well in time to take the 11am bus.

I got to Silviu's place around 11:30am and he invited me upstairs for breakfast.  I had already had breakfast, but his version involved tea, cookies, and a friend, so it was all good!  His friend was a biochemist retiree named Trev from England who moved here very recently.  Due in part to Trev who doesn't speak much Spanish but also because of my not-full fluency, we all spoke in English.  Silviu is fluent in at least Romanian, Spanish, English, German, and conversant in Italian and French and possibly more?  After our very lazy breakfast (my second) we went down to the beach at Zoco Negro, which is a tidal pool with a manmade rock barrier to calm the waves and allow for a more relaxed beach experience.  Silviu left us there to gather more stuff, and upon his return he and I went snorkeling in Zoco Negro.  He very kindly lent me all the gear, including a mask, the snorkel, a swim cap and hood, and a neoprene short-sleeved/short jumper that was his partner's as I had expressed my fear of being freezing (the water is quite cold and the weather is so temperate with so much wind that you have to sit in the sun for some time before you even want to get in the water, and then if you are me you want quickly to come back out!).  The neoprene helped with the warmth, and also lent an extra level of buoyancy that was helpful in letting me not work at all at floating but instead focus on taking photos with my new underwater camera.  My mask initially didn't work and kept letting water in but then Silviu switched with me and it worked perfectly.

We stayed out for a while - maybe 45 minutes to a hour - and then hung out on the beach for a while longer.  Then we ordered some pizza.  Silviu is mostly vegetarian himself and he's also the most hospitable person, so he just ordered vegetarian ones and we had some wine with dinner.  He told me to come back tomorrow at the same time, and then he drove me to the bus stop and I took the bus back into Agüimes.  I looked at the photos from this first snorkel and while a few were good, a lot were out of focus.  It requires a lot of multitasking to take good underwater photos and I need to learn how to do it all!

The following day when I came in we ran some errands first - we stopped at Trev's to pick him up, and went grocery shopping at Lidl (a German chain of supermarkets) where I picked up a few extra things as well.  We then went to a dive shop (!!) and checked how late we could get equipment to go scuba diving (!!!!).  The shop is open until 8pm, so there was plenty of time as Silviu thought a late afternoon dive would be nice.  Then we went back to his apartment and unpacked the groceries and had some tea, and Trev came over, and then Silviu said he had to run some errands so Trev and I talked while Silviu picked up some goat milk and other items.  When he got back he made a late lunch of pasta, and by the time we were all done it was around 7pm!  He got out his own scuba supplies (suits, flippers, hoods, gloves, shoes, masks) and I tried to get in my 7mm neoprene suit, which was again actually his partner Ricardo's.  Ricardo is, I'm told, heavier than I am, so from what I gather it should be easier to put his suit on than one that actually fits me... if that's the case, I don't know how on earth I'd get into one that fits me.  Even with Ricardo's, I couldn't get into it the way I needed to and skinned a finger trying to pull it on!  Silviu however is magic and also strong and managed to get me into it, in part using the aid of plastic bags to get my limbs to push through and then managing to pull the bag out the end.  He said it's easier to get into wet ones than dry so that next time it wouldn't be as bad, which I hoped would come true!

Then he left to the swim shop - at about 7:35pm - to get the air tanks and regulators.  By the time he got back, it was about 8:15pm or so, so we were officially doing a twilight dive for my first one as sunset is around 8:55pm here.  Then Silviu showed me the tanks, and mine looked enormous!  I learned later that it was in fact bigger, and that was because a first-time diver might freak out and hyperventilate the whole time and use up the air very quickly.  The enormousness meant it was super, super heavy.  The whole jacket rig was 45 pounds.  It was a lot.  Then Silviu added 6kg to the pockets, so approximately 13 pounds, as divers need weight to counterbalance the neoprene and their own fat reserves' buoyancy.  Then we had to walk down two flights of stairs, across the promenade, down another flight of stairs, and down a ramp.  I was already tired from wrestling the neoprene on so the walk with around 58 pounds of weight on my back was brutal.

We decided to do my "baptism" in Zoco Negro, a somewhat familiar stomping ground since I had snorkeled there before.  I didn't take my camera on this first trip to focus on just being present and safe in the gear, watching the pressure and popping my ears, and so on.  We got into the water, Silviu put my fins on, I got my mask on, tried out the regulator, and soon enough we went under.  I didn't love breathing through the regulator above water, but doing it below is actually much better.  The first few minutes I had issues with water getting into my mask, but we figured out it had an improper seal due to the swim cap getting under it so we fixed it and then I had far fewer issues.  Silviu controlled all the depth and pressure-related decisions and also watched the gauges, so I didn't have to learn about that part, he just made it happen.  Zoco Negro was magical at night - all the sea slugs were out in force - and by the midway point of our dive I really wanted my camera but the first half I would've hated having it so it was probably good I didn't bring it along.  The latter bit of our dive it started getting quite dark and we soon wrapped it up.  The whole thing was probably around 35 minutes or so.  Getting out of the water, my tank and weights felt so very heavy!  Silviu offered to carry it in addition to his own, and I didn't know how he'd manage and said I thought I could do it but he insisted.  He did get both of them back, but it clearly surprised him how hard it was to do!

That evening he suggested it was late enough I could just stay over (he has a second apartment in the complex I could use) but since I hadn't planned for that I didn't have anything including nightly medicine and stuff so we decided he'd bring me back that evening and the following night I would spend the night.

The next day I actually felt rather ill with stomach upset and frequent trips to the bathroom, and I considered canceling, but then Silviu had to delay our start time and in the hour-long delay I felt pretty crappy so I figured I'd feel crappy wherever and I might as well be doing cool stuff instead of laying in bed.  So I went in, and we had some tea (I did not eat anything though!) and we went for a late afternoon scuba dive - around 4pm.  I still had a lot of air in my tank since I did not hyperventilate the first dive so we used the same equipment.  Getting in the neoprene was slightly easier since it was wet, but that just meant it went from impossible to slightly less impossible.  I still had to have Silviu's assistance to get into it properly.  This time, I carried my tank but he didn't put the weights in until we got to where we were going, which made it better.  He mentioned his air was low in his tank so he might need to use my emergency regulator.  We saw a different area, actually in the ocean proper and not just a sectioned off pool, and it was really neat.  On this dive, I did take my camera.  At some point Silviu did need to switch to my regulator, and I thought the dive would be over, but then we kept on!  One trite but true takeaway - the ocean is huge.  Really, I know it is, but being in it and just swimming about underwater and seeing it just go on and on and filled with life is amazing.

After our dive, we got out of our suits (not as hard as getting in, but still quite a workout) and rinsed off, got dressed again, and then went to Moya in the north to run an errand and then went back south a little to an all-inclusive hotel where Silviu sings (that's his current job - he's a singer in a few different places, and earns enough at each gig to only have to work like four times a week for a couple hours).  I watched him perform - I recognized some and I know several were Sinatra - but also took in the all-inclusive vacation atmosphere, which was interesting because since it is not to my personal taste when traveling, I don't have much experience with it.  Then we drove back to Arinaga, got late night tapas from a couple different restaurants, and then went back to the apartments at around 1:30am (!) and Silviu showed me the one I'd be staying in.

I got to bed around 2am and woke up at around 9:30am, still tired, so I leisurely got ready and left the apartment at 11am.  Silviu was coming back shortly, so I beachcombed for around half an hour and then we had breakfast together, returned the dive shop tanks and regulators, and then he drove me to catch the bus... but as we were waiting for the bus, I mentioned I was going to try to find a pharmacy when I got back to Agüimes as my skinned finger had gotten a bit infected and somehow I managed to forget to pack band-aids.  Silviu thought we had time, so we caught a pharmacy just as it was closing for siesta and I bought a package of band-aids, but then when we got back to the bus stop the ladies waiting said my bus had already gone.  So then Silviu, who is a complete gentleman, just drove me back instead.  I invited him in and gave him a choice of the greeting card reproductions I'd brought along (he selected two) and an alcoholic chocolate bar I had purchased for myself in Ireland since I felt like I needed to attempt to balance at least a little tiny bit the amount of kindness he gave to me.

La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 1

I flew from Dublin to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain on June 1st.  My trip was not the best (though it could've been much worse) - it was delayed due to the pilot reaching too many flight hours, then when we boarded I was seated next to a couple on the aisle, with the woman in the center seat and the man in the window.  The man was very perturbed by the delay and yelled and cursed at his partner, at the airline and plane in general, at the fight attendants, and so on.  I was concerned and didn't love being in the same row as him.  The flight was with Aer Lingus and apparently they are a very budget airline (I do try to buy the cheapest tickets) - not only did they make me pay extra for one checked bag, but they also didn't even serve complimentary drinks or snacks and made me gate-check my carry-on (for free, but I prefer to keep it with me).  Finally about two-thirds of the way through the flight an attendant sternly told the angry man to shut it and that he had been like this at the gate, too (!!) and that if he kept it on he'd have problems on arrival.  Honestly, I think if this were a flight with US flight attendants, he wouldn't have been allowed to board or would have been kicked off already or the flight would have been diverted...

Then as I landed I checked that my residency program director, Noemi, was going to come get me.  I had texted her via WhatsApp a couple times through the day keeping her up to date, and so when I opened my phone I assumed I'd have contact from her - but instead, I got a very confused response and eventually realized I'd mistyped her number by one numeral and was texting some other random person in the region.  So from her perspective, I hadn't contacted her at all or let her know about my plane delay or anything!  Fortunately she's very nice and also on top of it so when I finally actually reached out to her, she said she was only a couple minutes away from the airport.  I was kind of mortified though - it's rude not to let the person picking you up from the airport know that you will be delayed if you have the opportunity to tell them.

Luckily, my baggage arrived relatively quickly and mostly whole (I lost a zipper pull I think in Ireland?).  I came out and found Noemi, and we made our way to Agüimes which is where she lives and where I will stay with her (in her house).  She had an eyepatch on one eye, and explained that she is taking a course on welding and soldering and a piece of metal had gotten into her eye!  Fortunately it wasn't too serious but it needed medicine and to rest for a couple days.  A friend of hers kindly drove her to the airport and drove us both back to Noemi's.

Agüimes isn't very far from the airport, so we got there fairly quickly which was good because it was around 10pm at this point.  Noemi's friend departed and Noemi took me on a quick tour of the house and the village and then let me use some of her groceries to make dinner before I went to bed.  I'm staying on the second floor of her house.

The next two days I used to decompress, unpack, explore the town a little, get to know Noemi, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and so on.  I was kind of tired from all the gung-ho exploring of Ireland!  Noemi's English is probably around my level of Spanish - maybe a little worse - so we tend to talk in Spanish.  I'm actually kind of surprised at how well we've managed given that I am not fluent in Spanish.  Noemi is super busy right now though with her welding course, teaching art courses, and other responsibilities.  She kindly took the time anyway to chat with me those first two days and even took me down to Arinaga on the second day to walk the promenade and see the beach.  I had told her that I know the most biodiverse and interesting ecology in the Canary Islands is actually its marine ecosystem, so I had purchased an underwater camera (a middlingly-low version as I didn't want to invest too much in what might be a once-off piece of equipment which may or may not be that useful).  She has a friend named Silviu who she said would probably be willing to help me explore the ocean who lives in Arinaga and pointed out his door as well while we were there.  The evening of the second day the town Agüimes was celebrating Corpus Christi and they laid out a "carpet" of dyed salt and sand through several town roads and then had an evening mass in the church followed by a procession over the "carpet."  It was a relatively small ceremony, not a festival or anything, but it was interesting to witness.

Something I was unprepared for is the wind.  There is a lot of wind.  It makes it feel cooler than it is, and it's already rather temperate.  I brought two pairs of shorts, but I don't know if I'll be using either!  The wind is so strong that there is genuinely no need for a dryer here.  In other places I've been they also do without dryers (Ireland, France, Portugal, mainland Spain, Italy, Peru) but the clothes tend to dry kind of stiff and can depending on the weather take days to fully dry.  Here, the wind moves the clothes around so much they are perfectly soft and they dry within a few hours of being hung up - even cargo pants, which often take days.

The third day I started to work on a new painting.  There was no new inspiration yet from the Canary Islands, but I was feeling like I wanted to start my studio practice so I decided to work with some imagery from the US and Ireland.  That evening, I met Noemi's partner who had just gotten back from a trip to Egypt, and we all chatted.  Noemi had also arranged that I meet with Silviu the following morning to start to explore the ocean.  She said he knows how to scuba as well as snorkel, and I might be doing either or both!  I had read about scuba diving and thought about it before coming on the residency, but the literature said you probably shouldn't take your camera down on your first go since you should be focused on just managing your breathing and the gauges and everything, and I thought it would probably be too costly or time consuming or both.  I figured I'd probably just go snorkeling, and that might still be the case, but it was interesting that if he thought it was a good idea Silviu might be able to teach me scuba diving as well!  To be honest, I only have memory of having snorkeled once and that was around sixteen years ago, but it seemed mostly fine so I guess we'll see how I do!  Noemi said she's never been scuba diving but perhaps someday she will.

So I went to bed at the end of the third day excited and nervous all at the same time about what the following day would bring.

My First Trip to Ireland Journal

I am doing a summer residency in the Canary Islands, and Dublin was a possible layover en route.  My sister and I talked it over, and we decided to spend a little less than a week in Ireland (with our base in Dublin) before I headed over to Gran Canaria.

I had never been to Ireland before; in terms of nearby places, I have been to London, and I've been to Iceland, and a number of places in southern Europe.  Some general notes: Ireland is known for wet, relatively cold weather (locals repeatedly called rain "liquid sunshine"); the biggest cities aren't as dense as I would have expected; there isn't really an Irish cuisine apart from Guinness and whisky; and there is a super dominant tourist shop called Carroll's which you can find everywhere you turn around.  

Ireland had just finished up a referendum on abortion when we arrived, so there were still signs up from both points of view on almost every utility pole and light post.  We were told they have around 20-30 days to take them down before fines are levied.  The results of the referendum were approximately two to one in favor of repealing the Irish Eighth Amendment and allowing abortion up to six months of pregnancy in Ireland.  A number of the signs referenced the fact that though abortion wasn't legal (prior to the referendum), Irish women were getting abortions - they just had to travel outside of the country to do so.

Our first couple days we explored Dublin.  We visited the National Botanic Gardens, the Dublin Flea Market, the Dublin Zoo, Dublin Castle, the Natural History Museum, and also walked around most of downtown including repeatedly dipping into the Temple Bar district, admiring the churches and other architectural stand-outs, and browsing the many Carroll's just in case one had slightly different merchandise in stock.  Then we took a day trip bus tour to the west of Ireland and very briefly saw the city of Galway and the Burren karst landscape (I could spend hours just in the Burren - it's often called a "lunar landscape" and it has a lot of rare plants living amongst its limestone crevices), and spent a decent bit of time at the Cliffs of Moher.  We stopped by Howth one day, and the last day we did another day trip bus tour up to northern Ireland - which is still in the UK - and very briefly saw Belfast and the Dark Hedges and explored a little around the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Giant's Causeway, which is an area of basalt columns and hexagonal stones formed by rapidly cooling lava during an ancient volcanic eruption.

It was a really great trip and I learned a lot more about Irish history and Ireland in general than I knew before going.  We were super fortunate and despite the normal weather patterns, it was sunny and pleasant much of the time we were there, cloudy for a day, and only rained for two of the mornings!  My favorite part was the tiny amount of time I got to explore the Burren, and my second favorite part was the still small amount of time I got to explore the Giant's Causeway.  Both were fascinating geological phenomenons with their own micro-ecologies.  Although my calves ached after all the hiking I did!

One interesting fact I learned is that Ireland doesn't have any native snakes.  That itself was neat to learn (legend has it that Saint Patrick cast them out), but the tour guide contended flat out that there are no snakes in Ireland to this day.  I thought that was extremely unlikely - England has snakes, which is similar enough to Ireland that it's improbable that the island itself is inhospitable, and invasive species are a worldwide problem.  But so far my googling hasn't led me to a different conclusion despite reports of people intentionally releasing snakes - so far it appears none have managed to establish populations.  Hopefully that's true as I don't wish invasive snakes upon Ireland!  I just think it's very surprising that humanity hasn't managed to muck that up yet.

Photos will follow in a subsequent post!

Lacewing Eggs!

I noticed these odd little eggs laid in a row on my Neoregelia 'Fireball' bromeliad, and wondered what they might be.  Fortunately, they were simple to google and it turns out they are lacewing eggs!  Lacewings are beneficial insects in their larval form and are pretty much neutral in their adult stage, so I'm very happy they want to reproduce in my space and protect my plants from aphids, mealybugs, and hopefully even scale.  I've been fighting with mealybugs in several of my stapeliads and a couple other plants and scale on one of my haworthias - I think due in part to stress and lowered immunity from spending so long indoors thanks to the unusually cold April we had (the coldest in 20 years!), so this might be just the ticket to getting rid of the rest of the pests.  The Neoregelia 'Fireball' spends the summer on my front porch, but when I went to my back porch I also saw a lone lacewing egg on an Adromischus (A. rupicola is my guess, but there are a number of similar species within Adromischus and my plant supplier didn't have this one labeled and is wrong on labels around 15% of the time anyway!).  So that bodes well for lacewings frequenting both sides of my plant collection!

Some people even purchase bulk lacewing eggs (or adult lacewings with the goal of having them stick around to reproduce) as pest control, much like they do with ladybugs and other beneficial insects.  This practice of purchasing insects for natural pest control is more complicated than it might seem, though, since it can negatively disrupt the local ecosystem, and often disregards seasonal timing needs for the purchased insects and the insects' preferred habitats.  It's better if you can just encourage the beneficial insects already living in your area to feel welcome in your spaces.

Leucage Venusta, the Orchard Spider

This little friend turned up on my front porch a couple weeks ago, and it really put my camera to the test because when I call it little I mean tiny!  But look at the coloration on it - what a beautiful creature!  Leucage venusta is an orb weaver, and given my Google Images research, mine is a youngin so it should grow larger with time.  The fourth photo was taken one week after the first three photos and I think perceptible growth can be seen even in that time.

Overwintering Houseplant Setups

I have a few different areas in which I keep my plants over the winter, and I thought I'd share my home ones with you (I also have an office setup) from before I moved them back outside!

A Few Random Leftover Winter Flower Photos

I kind of trailed off on my monthly flower photos towards the end of winter, so here are a few leftover ones I haven't posted yet!  They are: two pictures of Gymnocalycium damsii var. rotundulum, an almost-blooming Tillandsia seleriana, and a blooming Tillandsia ionantha.