Day 10 - First Academic Day in Lisbon
Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
92Trip End Dec 25, 2007
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Anyway we spent the first half of the day at the University of Lisbon, which compared to the schools at home was not what I'd call beautiful as far as the campus was concerned
One of the lectures was on the development of the image of the earth (maps, basically) and its effects on exploration, and the other was about the negative consequences of colonization. Let's just say the first was much more interesting. There's not much to say about the lectures, really, except that I was glad when they were over. We were all pretty tired and anxious to get to the whole "experiential learning" thing they'd been advertising like crazy all week. Anthony slept in the back of the class the whole time, snoring part of it, and Gabriel doodled the whole time (and that entertained me too). I did manage to take a few notes during all of that though.
We ate lunch in the campus dining hall called the Canteen; it was nothing special but not bad either. After that we got picked up by our guide, Christina, and a bus to take a tour of the tile museum and a private house that had lots of tiles in it. It doesn't sound exciting now; believe me it didn't sound that exciting to me either but let me tell you it was amazing. We started with a little driving tour of the city, just a short one between the University and the museum. Then when we got to the museum the first thing we did was learn about how the tiles are made and painted and a little of the history of the tiles. Apparently tile painting is Portugal's most unique and famous art form
You have to see the pictures to understand how amazing this place was. There were rooms and rooms full of tiles and paintings on tiles and tile mosaics and designs made out of tiles. After about an hour of looking around and learning about the tiles, we sat down to make a tile of our own. The way they work is this: first, a design is drawn on some translucent but thick sort of paper (or, in my case, a design is chosen from their nice pile of samples). Then a needle is used to poke holes all around the outlines of the picture, creating a stippled effect. The paper is placed on top of a tile and a small cloth bag of charcoal powder is rubbed over it, leaving the stippled outlines on the tile in black dust, which disappears in the firing of the tile. There were six colors for us to use: orange, yellow, bright green, two shades of blue - a more sky blue and a cobalt blue - and what they called brown that I thought was more purple
My design was a rose (what else?) and I did it in orange, since there was no pink. It turned out really well, and so did everyone else's. There was some beautiful tile art happening, let me tell you. That's what happens when you hang out with a bunch of art majors. Geez. Miriam (the IRC of the group) made a tile with the figures holding hands around in a circle with the Scholar Ship logo in the center. That I think was my favorite. Way cool. We told her she should take some pictures of it and pitch it to TSS for a T-shirt design.
After that we went to this private house, that we didn't find out until we got there was not really a house but a palace. It was absolutely incredible. I can't even tell you. I'm sorry. And they also didn't let us take pictures inside the house, but I have lots of pictures of the outside and the gardens especially. The gardens were amazing too: 365 geometric shapes, one for each day of the year, interspersed with statues and roses and of course lots of tiles. The inner walls of the garden were lined with tile depictions of the 12 months of the year and also the 12 zodiac signs. There were busts of Portuguese kings and explorers and some saints and even a couple Greek gods, I'm pretty sure.
One of my favorite parts was the tile representations of the arts - Geometry, Poetry, Astronomy, Music, etc etc
There were also depictions of daily activities with the humans drawn as cats and monkeys - the story behind this is that the people of the day admired cats and monkeys as having qualities humans should strive for: monkeys for their physical attributes, cats for their personality.
Inside the house there were tile sets painted by both artisans and artists educated in their particular profession. The difference in quality and style were clear, and both were beautiful. In some of the situations drawn by the artisans, the activities that were portrayed were designed to make everyone look more human: English soldiers fighting with the butts of their guns because their shot had run out and they still needed to defend themselves, a Portuguese general depicted on his horse without his pants because the camp was attacked and he didn't have time to put them on, and other situations that portrayed everyone in a more realistic, human way. The tile sets painted by the studied artists were something else entirely: stylized poses, beautiful faces and beautiful people and beautiful situations that only occur in art like this. All of them, of course, were beautiful.
We looked at one tile set that was patterned after an Indian tapestry, and then we got to see the tapestry that inspired the tile design and see the similar flower and border design in the tapestry
My favorite story about the house was in the history of the mosaics in the walls and ceiling of the "refreshing house: - the bathhouse. The whole walls and ceiling were covered with brilliant mosaics of broken tile and ceramic and sea shells and small stones. The story goes that the King was having a huge dinner party of some sort and everyone had had a couple too many drinks by the latter half of the evening. As a rule, it was very important that no one ever eat off of the same service that the King ate from, and in order to make sure this custom was kept the King and the guests decided to break the service. In this process dishes and services from the Ming Dynasty in China, not to mention some very expensive and antique pieces of Portuguese art and others, were shattered. After all the festivities (and drinking) were over, the pieces of tile and ceramic were saved and used in the mosaics in the ceiling of the bathhouse. There was one bowl intact, placed in the center of a circular pattern in the mosaic, that the guide said was one of three of its kind ever in existence. To this, Goeff replied, "and they've got it stuck in the ceiling." And guide said, "Why not?"
We took some group pictures and wandered around in the Gift Shop for a few minutes; I had used the very last of my Euros to buy a metro ticket home the night before and couldn't afford so much as a postcard in local currency, but there was some amazing stuff there and several people bought things
It was a great deal of fun, and it seems his musical tastes are much like mine: he loves classical music like Mozart and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and Disney and musicals and really bad Pop. His favorite Dolly Parton song is "I Will Always Love You" and we quoted The Lion King to each other most of the way back to the ship. So all in all it was a perfect day in more ways than one: I spent the day witnessing beautiful art and even making some of my own, I wound up a little sore and pleasantly exhausted, and I made some fantastic friends out of the deal too.
We made it back with about ten minutes left to catch dinner and went straight there. There wasn't much left by 7:30 but we were hungry and satisfied with anything by that point. Partway through, Vanessa came over and mentioned that she was trying to accost people to come out with her and was I accostable. I said sure and later we went out to a bar on the harbor with a bunch of other TSS people. I was out of money and way too tired to eat or drink or dance or anything, and most of us just sat around talking for a while. Vanessa really wanted to go dancing but I was afraid it would take us a long time to find some dancing and I was too tired to walk anywhere, let alone dance, so we all ended up going back
We went back to the ship after that, and I don't know about everybody else but I was promptly showered and in bed asap. The next day's 8:15 meeting time was going to come early no matter what time I went to bed.