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Year of the Wood Dragon

Today a friend and I went to visit the Centre Pompidou, largest museum of modern art in Europe, with its iconic ‘inside-out’ facade. The Pompidou is one of my favourite museums in Paris, and it's about to close for 5 years of renovations later this year. As I will most probably leave France for further education after the summer, I had to go and ‘say goodbye’.

The Centre Pompidou is situated in the 4th arrondissement, near the district of Le Marais, a very lively, touristy and gay-friendly (happy pride month, by the way!) area. I was pretty proud of my museum trip outfit : a long-sleeved graphic tshirt bearing the image of Paul Klee's painting Gezcidinetes Madchen, and my watch, whose pattern is a reference to Manège de Cochons (Carousel of Pigs) by Robert Delaunay. The best part : both of these artists are exhibited at the Pompidou—in particular,Carousel of Pigs is one of the centrepieces of the museum! The watch is part of the lovely Swatch x Pompidou collection which you can check out here.

My friend, who is Russian, brought me to a Russian restaurant nearby for lunch. I tried out Kvass for the first time : it's a sweet-sour drink made out of fermented rye bread. Basically, like beer without the alcohol. It was pretty neat. The eggplant caviar (ikra) was sooo delicious too.

On our way we encountered a lone pigeon in the low-hanging branches of a tree: it wasn't afraid of us at all, even when we stepped really close to take pictures. For a moment there, I felt a tiny bit like a wildlife photographer...

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were more pieces from the Delaunay couple than the last time I visited Pompidou. Robert and Sonia Delaunay were a pair of artists based in Paris who pioneered a branch of Cubism named Orphism by French poet Apollinaire. This movement marked the transition from Cubism to Abstract art and is characterised by both the expansive geometric shapes and vivid, harmonious colours reminiscent of stained glass windows. Their use of colour was inspired by Neo-Impressionist colour theory based on the decomposition of spectral light as well as the scientific treatise The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours and Their Applications to the Arts, (French: Loi du contraste simultané des couleurs) published in 1839 by the chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul.
This principle states that two colours seem more different from one another when observed in juxtapostion, than when observed separately, on a same neutral background. I still have a lot more to say about Orphism and related colour theory, but I'll save that for another post!

Here are a few examples of Orphism:

Another delightful moment was that I got the opportunity to see Dom Quixote by Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, another Cubist painter who died tragically at the age of 30 of influenza. I don't know where I had seen this painting online, but it was so striking that I never forgot about it. I especially love the blood red eyes of the horse and the stylised yet intricate shape of the armour. This painting isn't part of Pompidou's permanent collection, so I didn't except to see it at all (I found out later it was on loan from Lisbon). On the right is a picture I took of it—pretty nice, right? Click on it to see a larger version!

That's it for today, seeya friends ♡

A while back, I was talking with someone about not having enough time to read and they suggested audiobooks as an alternative. Today, as I was about to go on a walk, I thought to myself, this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

So I downloaded Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, a book I had previously started reading but ending up abandoning, and listened to it during my walk. I made it through Books I & II; something that really struck me was how Marcus Aurelius, in Book I, manages to praise/give credit to everyone in his life who has taught him something without ever repeating himself. It goes to show his sincerity and dedication to them. More people should get into Stoicism in my opinion—Stoicism is great.

I went to a nearby park around a small lake where people often walk their dogs. It was nice to take in some fresh air after a whole day of sitting at my desk revising, and even more worthwhile as I managed to catch a glimpse of the elusive heron and spotted a huge mushroom! I'm the type of person to stop every two seconds while on a walk to examine a plant or a snail haha.

On the way back, I decided to be adventurous and take a detour, passing through a well-hidden alley that looked a bit shady from the outside but in fact was almost like a corridor between the backyards of houses on each side of it. One house had a full-blooming star jasmine bush spilling over its garden walls and the height was perfect enough for me to lift my head and smell the delicate, refreshing scent.

If you are interested in getting into audiobooks, I downloaded mine via torrent from AudioBookBay (registration required + you might need to use a vpn or a proxy to access the website), then opened them using an app called BookPlayer on my iphone. It's really quick & easy to set up, and I was delighted at how effective it was for me to listen along as I did other stuff; having found this alternative I feel more optimistic now about my current reading deficit.

Goodbye for now, friends ♡

Hey friends. A lot is going on right now but I thought I'd give you guys a little update of my life this past month:

Around 3 weeks ago I had my last official week at school, right before all the baccalauréat exams are bound to start. It was a sort of "spirit week": we'd dress up in different themes every day of the week. My favourite day was "pyjamas + anything but a bag"—you would have people walking around with their books stuffed in a guitar case, in a watering can, in jeans (yes, jeans! not worn on the person, but with the leg holes tied shut and carried with a coat hanger). Some girl brought an actual hammock—it was glorious. I took a handheld fishing net (looks like this one), my best friend brought a vintage baby stroller made of wicker. Anyway, spirit week culminated on Friday, which was a day of tomfoolery & shenanigans. Basically, we had a huge paint fight, ran through building corridors like a herd of bulls in Pamplona, watched the school jazz band perform, and signed each others' tshirts given to us for this occasion. This was officially the last time we would be seeing each other in a school setting, so lots of crying & tender moments. Although factually, we'd be seeing our friends during the exams and at the graduation ceremony in July too.

One personal victory for me during this Friday: while people were tearing up and saying goodbye to their friends, I went to find A*, who I have talked about previously in post-heartbreak heartbreak. It really did take me 5 months to get over them, but I fully am now. I needed to make things clear with them because even after they entered a relationship with someone else back in January and even though we barely see each other in general, our interactions have remained... unconfortably 暧昧.
Chinese word of the day: 暧昧 (pinyin: ài mèi). Meaning: ambiguous, vague. When used to describe a relationship, it means that the relationship is somewhere between friendship and romance, that there's a lot of romantic tension. Fun fact—the character 暧 is composed of the radical 日 and the phonetic componet 爱, meaning love. Yeeeeah. You can guess why I wasn't very enthusiastic of sustaining such a dynamic with someone who, mind you, I was still tortuously pining after, who I almost got with, who abrutply ditched me for someone else without explanation. Why is sapphic romance always so...complicated; indirect; subtle; cryptic... ugh.
But I digress. I went to see A*, took their hands in mine, and properly told them about my past ardent crush on them. Of course, they knew already. And I knew that they knew. But it felt good to finally say what I'd been meaning to since October of last year. The gratification I had was to hear them reply that they used to liked me, even earlier than I did. We simply missed each other in time, and have been since then navigating the fallout. It's a good resolution.

After that, a month's worth of exams began. I have exams on both the British and the French side of my curriculum: today I finished all my exams in English—History-Geography (1 written 1 oral), Literature (1 written 1 oral), and 1 oral exam on a 2 year-long research project. Next, a lab exam for Physics-Chemistry, then written exams on Maths, PhysChem, and Philosophy. Then another oral exam on maths and/or physchem. Then I'm free!
Since I'll be at home all day, I'll surely get the urge to check on my site or work on it instead of revising. But I've to resist the temptation.

One last thing: twenty one pilots just released their new album Clancy. They're my favourite music artists in the world so please give it a listen. It's pretty good. Byee

There are two types of people in St Andrews: uni students and golfers. It's a really small town, and just the right mixture between posh and rustic.

At 9am, I went down to the registration point for the open day/offer holders day, where I was given a free totebag (yay!) and a map. Then I strolled over to North Haugh, where the STEM faculties are located, for a presentation by the school of Physics and Astronomy. It was really nice: although the department just looks like another concrete building on the exterior, the interior was large and had high ceilings. We were maybe around 80 to attend the presentation, students & parents combined; after an overview of the course, we were separated into small groups each led by a professor on a tour of the faculty. Something that came as a surprise was that they treated us like we were freshers—I know it shouldn't be surprising, since we all had received offers already, but I guess this was my first taste of being a uni student, so it was terribly exciting.

The most memorable part about the tour was the underground labs (I'm making it sound so illegal lol), where we got to see up close equipment and machines to study lasers, milliwaves, and low temperature physics among others. A few doors had warning signs on them saying "DANGER: DO NOT ENTER", but of course we entered them anyway. Although, there is a real danger if you have a Pacemaker, because some experiments involve very strong magnets that could potentially create disrupting interferences. Fun fact: St Andrews also have the biggest operational telescope in the UK!

Peppered throughout the building were student ambassadors, all wearing the characteristic St Andrews academic gown: a knee-length red robe, with wide sleeves that double as a short cape. Apparently they make for excellent blankets; I have no doubt, since they are made 100% out of wool. A fun tradition I learned before arriving: depending on the student's year, they wear their gown differently:
First-years wear them fully up on both shoulders, second-years slightly off both shoulders, third-years wear the gown either fully off the right shoulder if studying science or the left shoulder if studying arts (“Arts have hearts, but scientists are always right”!), and fourth-years wear it off both shoulders, across the elbows.
Some professors were wearing astronomy-related clothing: one of them had a tie with the Solar system printed on it, another was wearing a shirt with floating astronauts. I think it might be a physics teacher thing, to wear tacky physics-related clothing, equal parts ironic and sincere.

Student life at St Andrews seems to be one of its best qualities, having over 100 student-led different clubs and societies. I think this is partly because the university is located in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and there aren't any nightclubs to go to or anything like that, so the students have to come up with more unique ways to have fun. One of the societies, HoleSoc, consists of the sole activity of going down to the beach and digging big holes in the sand. Iconic, really.

It's only mid-February but spring feels imminent. The middays are now often warm and sunlit, and the bustling of the streets all morning culminates in the climax of the noon bell toll which forgoes the usual twelve, instead continuing for a glorious two minutes. A new bird has arrived in our neighbourhood—I heard his unfamiliar call through one window and the bells through another, disonnant yet strangely hopeful, like the addition of a novelty to the quotidian domesticity. This year of the dragon, which promises bittersweet ending and exciting new beginnings, seems to be finally settling in.

I went to a friend's house to make props for our upcoming play—Antony & Cleopatra. We needed two long-handled "ancient egyptian" fans, so I cut out two semi-circles out of cardboard for the fan part. As for the handles, we went into the woods behind the gymnasium to scour for long, thin yet sturdy sticks. To our surprise, in less than 10 minutes we had found multiple suitable candidates and we finally decided on two that were not too crooked and the right length. Afterwards we headed back to her's to paint the fans as well as a rare "orient pearl" that Antony sends as a gift to Cleopatra (do orient pearls even exist?). Shakespeare provided no description, so we just took a ping-pong ball and painted it white with iridiscent glitters (impressive size for a pearl indeed).

Revision for my mocks are calling but as always during the holidays I excel at procrastination. Tomorrow I'll try to get at least 2 hours for serious work in.