29 June 2016

The Truth About High School

High school has changed me. High school has changed me a considerable amount over these past four or so years. This journey began back in 2012 and as cliche as this sounds, I remember my first day as clear as the water in the most beautiful lakes on the island of Crete, although, admittedly, this is partly because I met the boy who would surge through my thoughts for a large majority of the next four years of my life.

Steph, in grade 8, was incredibly different from the Steph in grade 7 and the current, senior Steph. Steph, circa 2012, dreaded the two day breaks between the five days fun! I loved rising at ungodly hours and preparing my uniform; The 'Famous 8' I used to call it- Starting from the bottom it included, two freshly polished black lace-up shoes which would please any inspector Sargent, two off-white preppy-looking socks that  fall just under my freshly shaven knees, my pleated checkered Scottish-like skirt and my white golf school shirt, plus my undergarments. I became like an excited electron jumping from one energy level to the next orbital.

I continued this energized hopping for much of high school... that was, until my senior yer hit. To be more exact, it hit me...like a tuck carrying an African male elephant weighing 10 tons and a pile of bricks. However, I can't fully blame school. Sure, I take an extra subject and some very difficult subjects on top of that, but  I wouldn't trade any of them in for the world. On top of academic pressure, friends, and honestly myself, have became so much more focused on the future. I think that either consciously-or subconsciously- we've made demarcations as to which faces and names will be important to us next year and which become a familiar face that we just can't place in 15 or so years time, no matter how hard we try.

When my bi-monthly breakdown occurs (mostly due to school stress and final-year anxiety), my mom always comforts me with a string of just seven words- "All knowledge is gained, and never lost"; I appreciate the fact that I know who Wordsworth was, and can work out whether two circles touch each other by their radii and the distance between their circumference. I respect that I understand forces and the concept of electroplating...well, kind of. I appreciate a sense of acknowledgement towards  the Dadaists and other 20th century artists and how they influenced art and the design world which has done so much to change my perspective on the world.

These past two weeks have been the most mentally draining 14 days weeks of my life- to the extent that the bubbly Steph,pre-senior year, is immersed so deep under a pile of atoms she can't be found (That's not entirely true; I see a waving hand sticking out somewhere).

I'm grateful to high school- and all those who walked just one step of this journey with me- for teaching me how to cope with stress and failure in a safe environment. I'm filled with joy knowing that I've been afforded an opportunity that very, very few ever get to experience.

For the last 1,237 days of my life (approximately) I have risen from my bed and put on that preppy high school uniform, and tomorrow I shall do the same, and again on Friday, for another 120 days and then the reality is that I'm done. The bench which I first learnt how to plait hair on will no longer be apart of my everyday life. 'Jim the Giant', who asked me how I was doing, on a daily basis (whilst handing me the creamiest beef lasagna concocted that day) and who has fed my brain and provided energy to my cells will no longer feed me. The rough, stone-edged 25m swimming pool which imprinted upon my left hand several scars, will no longer bully me through those never-ending butterfly sets.

They say "life's a roller coaster" and I'm currently at the highest point with maximum potential energy- the energy to propel me forwards at maximum transformed kinetic energy awaits. My stomach is filled with fear of the expectant drop which I anticipate, yet the electrons inside my gut, jump around once again, in excitement, like they had on that first day of grade 8 all those many years ago. I'm ready for the ride of my life- I'm ready for my next 'first day'. I'm ready for change.

The truth is, I've cried 11 buckets of tears over my high school career...over just one subject. I've ached from broken friendships and lost connections, yet, I have cried 11 and one more bucket from laughing with just one friend whilst simultaneously had my stomach ache, like I've just succeeded doing 600 sit-ups, from that same intense laughter.

The trek from my school's front gate to my school's back gate, consist of 297 steps. I'm now at step 270 or so. As I turn back and gaze upon the sepia-like hue setting over the white-painted buildings of my school which has imparted bodies of knowledge upon thousands before me, and will educate thousands more to come. I am thankful for all which I have learnt on the fields, in the pool, on the stage, in the cafeteria, and lastly, in the classroom.

High school has sometimes been confusing- sometimes because I was changing and other times because people around me were changing. But, folks, to tell you the truth, if it weren't for all the good, and if it weren't for all the bad, it just wouldn't be highschool.

Till next time-

17 June 2016

How to Seize Your Summer

You need to know something about me...I've never had a summer vacation. It's not because I'm some sort of deprived child, I just live in South Africa where our schooling system is a bit different to the European or American system. Instead of three consecutive months off from school, we have one full month off in April, another full month in August and another in December. So, I guess we get our three months off but it's just not three months off in a row.

However, I thought it would be fun to 'plan my (would-be) summer'. I can never execute all of these in three months, due to the nature of my school, but maybe you can. If it were currently my summer, this is what I would do...queue the Phineas and Ferb intro!

1. Conduct a social experiment
Your experiment should aim to reveal something about human nature or how a societal body thinks or acts. Your experiment could include one question that you ask several people in order to reveal something about a generalized group of people. 


2. Visit location in your town/city which aren't popular Tourist destinations...but should be
You know your city better than anyone. Go around documenting (possibly in the form of photos) sites that make your city unique.This could include a beautiful graffiti wall, a mural by a local artist or your favourite hipster cafe and maybe start a blog or a page on Facebook promoting the city you know best.

3.Find make-up tutorials, plaster yourself up and then have a photo shoot
If you're into experimenting with make-up then find and watch some tutorials on YouTube. Then, invite a friend over and go to a park (or even in your back yard) and have a photo shoot. If make-up isn't your thing; invite a friend over and have a photo shoot showing off that beautiful, all natural skin of yours.


4. Plan a surprise party for a friend
If you're feeling kind or generous then this is a great idea! Plan a party (...who says it has to be a birthday party?) for a friend of yours. You need to pull out all the stops- get in touch with your inner artisan and make the invitations by hand; Don't just send out a Whatsapp broadcast! Have fun here and let your creativity shine!

5. Vlog one week of your summer
In case you're unfamiliar with the term 'vlog', it basically means a video blog. Pull out a camera ( it doesn't have to be a fancy one) and document your days away. Record funny moments with your friends or any other events which you'd like to look back on in a couple of years. Maybe you should vlog yourself conducting a social experiment or planning your friend's surprise party...but that's just an idea. When you're done, upload your vlog to YouTube or Facebook and if the response is good, or you enjoyed the process, keep vloggin'!


6. Rise before the sun
In true nature of 'seizing the day', you must rise before the sun. You'll have a full day to conquer! Put on those jogging shoes, grab a friend and run to the nearest hill to watch the sunrise! And, as tempting as it may be...DON'T HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON!

7. Build a fortress
This one's at your full interpretation; It's at your discretion whether it's a blanket fortress, or a fortress where you dismantle your mom's couch (with her permission) or build a massive palm tree castle. Get creative and build a shelter to seek refuge from the heat this summer. Add fairy lights and a mini-fridge and you're all good to go. 

8. Have a garage sale
If you live in a safe area and have things that you want to get rid of then this is perfect for you! Get permission from your guardian to host your own garage sale. This is a nice double-wami- make cash for your summer whilst getting rid of clutter. You can also get creative making signage to place along your road or around the corner to let people know about it.


9. Grow your own vegetable garden
This is an ideal way to get in touch with your inner 'green thumb'. Go to your local nursery and buy seeds of your choice. Set up an irrigation system or take care to water your young leafy offspring as needed and soon you'll have veggies to eat that are all home grown!

10. Make your own kite
When was the last time that you took flight and flew in the wind? If the local weather station says to expect wind then this is your perfect opportunity. If you're into making 3D objects then gather up some materials and design your own kite, alternatively, borrow a friend's or buy one at your local store. I know what you're thinking... "Aren't I a little bit old to be playing with kites?" and my answer to you is "No, you are never too old to go to your local park or lake and take flight. Never."

11. Write a letter to your future self
I did this about two years ago; 15 year old Steph wrote a letter to 30 year old me. Your letter can take on any form and be as long as you want it to be. Just remember to keep it in a safe place so that when you reach the day to open it, you remember where you put it. Your letter can contain absolutely anything. It may be a good idea to write how you're feeling now and what your lie is like currently to reflect on how much you change when you next meet with the letter- reveal some of your hopes,fears and expectation for the person who opens that letter.

12. Make your own sugar scrub
I've personally never tried this but next holiday I will be sure to do so. Go forth and be creative with this one! Here's a step-by-step video on how to do it:

13.  DIY tin can lanterns
This is perfect decor for ...let's say a surprise birthday party for a friend, the entrance to your outside fortress or maybe the pathway leading up to your veggie garden. These easy to make lanterns are ideal to add some hand-crafted design to your garden. You can also be very creative with the design of your lanterns. Feel free to poke, prod and paint them as you'd like.

14. Collect shells on the beach and frame them
If you live near the ocean or are going on holiday to the ocean, collect shells or stones which you think are beautiful.  Create your own frame of whatever shape or size and gently glue the shells and stones inside. Add some varnish to the frame and taa-daaa you can  hang it in your room as a reminder of your 2016 summer vacation.

15. 'Flip-the-coin' road trip 
Go on a road trip or even a hike with a coin. Use 'heads' as left and 'tails' as right. Let the coin lead you on your journey. This is a nice way of relinquishing control to chance, just like the Dadaists of the 20th century.

16. Host a bake sale
If you have some serious skills in the kitchen... or want to develop some serious skills in the kitchen then this is a great way to do it. Scour the internet for recipes or bring out those ol' family recipes we all know we have hidden somewhere. Make sure you have the correct ingredients before you begin and then get bakin'. Maybe you could even make the cupcakes for your friend's surprise party...but that's just an idea.

17. Make your summer 'tagline'
I've saved the best for last. This is probably the most important item on the list. Come up with a short sentence or a few string of words to live by this summer.Mine would probably be Sun is spectacular.
Make your tagline something creative (I just wanted an alliteration in mine) so you can go around shouting it all summer long. You should also aim to align it with what you want to do. Mine shows that I want to spend my summer in the sun (look at me and all these alliterations).

I hope you have a blast of a summer! Be sure to document your activities if you do decide to do any on the list above! I'd love to see the ideas in action. If you have any activities that you really enjoyed from past summer's, please let me know.

Till next time-


6 June 2016

The Desensitized Image

Performance art piece, Rhythm 0, by Marina Abramovic

Recently, in my Visual Arts class we studied the controversial section-Conceptual art. Accompanying this section are renowned works like those of Damien Hirst and Marina Abromavic. The latter artist's works Rhythm 0 and Rhythm 10 both evoke intense emotion from the viewer. The latter of the two is a performance piece where Abromavic forces an assortment of knives into and around her fingers. I declared that I was desensitized by this performance piece, although context was important.

Marikana Massacre, 2012, Johannesburg South Africa
South Africa's daily papers constantly highlight violent crimes which have quite honestly become a 'norm' in South Africa. The incident between miners and police in 2012, which has since become known as the Marikana Massacre which killed 47 miners/security personnel, in the span of 10 days, is an example of this violence. This incident was not accepted by the public due to the similarity of the famous Apartheid-era Sharpeville Massacre, in Soweto, in 1960, but it was not a shock to the nation either...myself included. Many discussions at dinner no longer mention of the day's latest reported rape statistic, or the latest hijacking and killing or planned murder. We've become desensitized...or so I thought.

Last Friday I found myself in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time; I witnessed a fist fight between two individuals- blood was drawn and battle wounds left behind. I am not desensitized. I broke up the fight with the help of another individual but the imprint was cast in my mind already. Friday passed, Saturday followed and by Sunday this violent act still accompanied my weekend-routine. The images of blood oozing from the one man's pierced cheek with his collar drenched in a dark conglomeration of biconcave erythrocytes, nutrients and salts remained. 

If I could return to that day in my art class, I would change my statement of numbness towards the violent images which flood our every day lives. Instead, I would say that possibly yes, one might be numb to the image, however, one is not numb to the actual event. I have seen countless images of dead or bleeding bodies in my short 17 years yet became traumatized by the sight of physical blood discharging from the man's epidermis in front of me. I guess that makes me human and I guess that makes me not as desensitized as I have invariably thought.

Till next time-

Bibliography in order of appearance:

1.Unknown.2014.Rhythm Series (1973-74). University of Oregon (Online). Accessed: https://blogs.uoregon.edu/marinaabramovic/files/2015/02/rhythm-10-knife-shot-2798n6r.jpg  
Date accessed: 6 June 2016

2. Sapa,2014. No comment from police on 'fall guy' for Marikana shooting. Times Live (Online). Accessed:http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2014/03/26/no-comment-from-police-on-fall-guy-for-marikana-shooting Date accessed: 6 June 2016 

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