Lunch in Mifuentes

We took the bus to Villa Nova Mifuentes (“Meel-fonch” to the English speakers) today because it is beach season and there’s more transport to the beach colonies then to São Luis. The weather was perfect: breezy, blue, and warm. We ate for about two and half hours at the Porto das Barcas. This is the expensive restaurant in town with a cliff view from the terrace of the ocean, where Maja Smrekar’s two dogs (Byron & Ada) were welcome to join us. The olives and tomatoes were local. My meal was like a frittata, with eggs and potatoes and rosemary all mixed together, but not as crispy and cooked in plenty of olive oil. We drank a local(ish) Vino Verde Soalheiro Alvarinho. For dessert Marta chose a “pajama” which she explained was a plate with one of everything: mousse, chocolate cake, stewed plum, lemon mousse, banana nut cheesecake, and the ubiquitous Portuguese flan.

Marta de Menezes has injured her knee, dancing at her birthday party, so she sent the more able of us over the cliff and down the marble laced granite to the waterside to look at anemones and shrimp and barnacles.

Maja explained that one of her art projects involved making a sort of chimera with her own mitochondria and her dog’s stem cells (retrieved at the time of spaying). But the law forbids such a thing from being grown into a puppy clone, in this case, with a few of her own cell parts. So the zygote is frozen somewhere in nitrogen until we can invent both a reviving process for frozen zygotes and some science that can actually do productive things with stem cells. And maybe an ethical science policy that actually understands the cloning process.

I was speaking with Emma Frow and Jamey Wetmore at ASU about stem cells: the stem cell therapies that are promised in American clinics that specialize in this are not scientifically validated in any way. People report feeling better, no client understands the actual science, and the providers are stealing money selling patent medicine to hopeful, suffering people who are without many options: 21st century style quackery. There are over 750 of these clinics operating in the U.S.

Marta has tubes of fruit flies in the living room. They can poop whatever color we feed them in their food. The plan is to hack a printer with color fly poop ink. And in another area, there’s a plan to make a hydrophilic silkscreen medium to print a seeded bed of colored ink in which plants will grow on the print.

After 36 hours awake

I find myself in Praça do Comércio in Lisbon for a free outdoor concert by the Orquestra Gulbenkian at 11pm (way past my bedtime in any time zone, but Lisbon has this effect on me). They played an Arturo Márquez composition that was so beautiful the crowd was shushing passersby. It’s the beginning of Festas de Lisboa, lucky me, to be in a country where they spend enough money on art to throw a dozen free concerts to mark the beginning of summer vacation and sardine season. We explored the Time Out market for dinner and ate a pig favored by god and drank some Kopke tawny port. My favorite art gallery: Vihls’ Under Dogs is missing from there. But Add Fuel has some new tiles! He does some of the best street art updates of azulejos going in Lisbon. Go Diogo Go!

We went by the pink street of night clubs are and found the Pensão Amor, loaded with sexy murals and decor to make a girl feel fabulous. Here’s a painting of a seaman with his thoughts:

Thanks to Claudia Figueiredo and Luís Graça for taking care of us in Lisbon.

The Maritime Museum offered this map gem: a 1502 account of the Arabian Sea, or all that was known to Portuguese explorers that year. The Red Sea is, um, red, the Persian Gulf is blue, and Longitude has not been discovered yet, only Latitude. I think this must have been like going to Mars for Afonso de Albuquerque. Aden and Calicut are among the huge coastal  cities.

On to São Luis today.

Clams, Chinese Shops, and Collecting Flowers

The day started off with Liz and I getting up before everyone else in the house. We sat with coffee and peaches and waited for the rest to wake up. Breakfast was the same as yesterday and JUST as fantastic. Going back to food in America is going to be so hard, everything is so fresh here. After we cleaned breakfast up we went to check on our petri dishes to see if any of the bacteria had grown at all. We noticed that not much had changed, but the food coloring we used to paint on the agar had seeped into it and spread out. Also one type of white fungus was strating to grow. Marta told us that the white fungus would grow very well. When we were done examining our perti dishes, we went to Milfontes to get some groceries for the day. At the market, we picked up some clams, apricots, peaches, strawberries and a few other vegetables. The colors were so vibrant and everything just seemed more vivid than it does in the US. The fish had been caught that day, and some of them looked terrifying. We then went to a more general supermarket to get a couple more things, and Liz, Ellen and I picked up things to send home to our families. From the super market we headed further into town to the Chinese Shop. It’s basically a tiny Portugese Walmart. Very claustrophobic, but they have everything and anything there to buy. After getting some water shoes for our adventures later in the day, we went walking to find the post office. While Ellen, Liz and I went into the post office to mail our family things, the rest sat a a small coffee shop. Of course we had some espresso when we finaly came to join them. It’s surprisingly cheap here.  Two espressos, and a cappicinno was 2.50 euros. That would probably be around 6 or 7$ in America. After baking in the sun for like 20 minutes, Liz and I went up the street to find an ATM. The first bank we got to was closed, the hours said from 8:00-12:30 and 13:00-18:00. I found it funny how the entire bank closed for their lunch. Anyway, we ventured further and found another bank that was also closed. This bank however, had a card reader to enter, and I figured it was for the bank’s personal customers only, but when Liz swiped her card the door opened! We quickly got euros and headed back. All of us got into the car and drove to Casa Branca, which is by a river very closed to Marta’s house. Liz and Ellen searched the mud for clams while Manuel and I swam in the river. It was an amazing place, and it looked like all the mountains closed us in. The salt water was a bit shocking when some got into my mouth, but it was perfect to keep the clams in that we had just bought at the market. With the bag of clams, they sold us a bottle of salt water to keep them in, because they were still live. Since we stopped at the river, putting the clams in the big bottle of water was not a good idea, so we just stuck them in the river. The water was pretty warm but still kind of cold, so we stayed for only a couple hours. We drove back and had lunch at the house, which was leftovers from last night in fish broth with bread and herbs. Again, delicious. Coffee and cookies followed this and Marta began to explain our next assignment. She told us to go out and collect plants and flowers to press in our notebooks. However, we weren’t supposed to just gather random samples, but we had to come up with a specific criteria to connect all of them. Liz collected a rainbow of colors to make a gradient, Ellen collected micro flowers, and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went out and gathered things randomly at first. I soon became interested in holes in leaves. The negative space and the fact that most of the holes were caused by insects was an interesting concept to follow. However I soon became bored with the green, and tried collecting small plants that grow between the sidewalk cracks. I also becaame bored with that, and picked some flowers that looked pretty. When we got back we began to press them in our notebooks, which was kind of hard because none of us had pressed flowers before. As I was pressing them I decided to put all three of my categories in my book and just separate them because I wanted to keep all of them. I sat on my book to press them, but later put books on top of my notebook. Manuel came into the barn with us to give us our next lesson on memes, and temes, which was pretty mind blowing. I always thought of memes as those stupid pictures that circulate the internet, but everything is a meme. Anything that can be copied, from styles of art to piercing your ears. Anything. We talked about certain styles and techniques that were copied, and also subjects that are memes in the art world. Our lesson was cut a bit short because we were off to see a horse show at a realative of Marta’s farm. It was magnificent to see the horse trot to music. After the show and going to see the other horses and chickens, we came back to the house and now here I am writing this post before dinner. We will probably continue our lesson after dinner and we will learn about ecoystem and art tomorrow. Hopefully our bacteria has grown a little bit. My final post will be all of the pictures I took this week.

Beauty, Bread, and Biology

Finally, we made it to Sao Luis. After two plane rides, a tram and bus ride in Heathrow, another bus ride to meet Marta and one final car ride to the farm, we made it. Since I didn’t do a blog post for the first two days because I wasn’t sure how often we are supposed to be posting I figured I’d start from here and summarize the first two days quickly before I got into what we did today. The first to days were filled with craziness, like spilling my tea in Heathrow, having trouble at the Portuguese boarder, exploring he water front of Lisbon and a girl passing out on the train ride home to Marta’s apartment. I knew that there was only more to come and I was beyond excited (and still am). After arriving at Marta’s farm we were given the grad tour of the whole place from the barn turned studios to the cute little bedrooms with windows without screens. The mosquitos love me so far. Anyway, we lounged around and talked for a while before we started preparing dinner. We all pitched in to help make tomato soup and sausage in wine. After all was made we sat and ate together at the dining table. Here we talked about life in general and how things are different from country to country. After we finished cleaning up from dinner, we all sat outside and looked at the stars for a while. There were a couple of shooting stars and Liz, Ellen and I noticed that the big dipper was in a completely different place than it was at home. Everyone started trickling out and going to bed so we brought everything inside.


We started the day off with the most extravagant breakfast from Marta. We woke up at around 8:30 so we could make it to the market on time to get some fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. For breakfast Marta put out a very soft cheese with pumpkin and blackberry jam. I was sort of apprehensive to try the pumpkin  butter because I thought it sounded strange. I was so glad I did because it was so sweet and really didn’t taste that much like pumpkin at all. Along with this we had bread with goat and sheep butter, Greek yogurt and peaches, and Portuguese pastries. After breakfast we headed out to the market. The streets here are so narrow and all of the houses look the same but it almost feel like a fairytale setting. I keep thinking of Beauty and the Beast and I’m waiting for someone to pop out of their window and scream “Bonjour!!” but I suppose they’d say “Ola” instead. We approached the market and Marta and Manuel told us that the building’s construction materials included horse manure. I personally never thought that horse manure would be that stable of a building material but here stood this super old building made of it. We walked in to find the market closed, Marta suggested it was because there was no fishing on Sundays so there was nothing to sell but fruit and vegetables I guess there was just no point to the market without fish. Instead we made our way to the supermarket across the street and bought some things for the next day and dinner tonight. The shop was so tiny and very cramped compared to the market baskets and stop and shops I’m used to, and we got an enormous amount of peaches. I had promised my sisters that I would bring something back for them, so I looked around the store and found what I thought was a juice box of wine which I thought was comical, but I’ll have to continue my search, they requested candy not wine. After our shopping adventure we went to a small cafe that was close by and got espressos. Ellen was feeling rather sick, so after she finished her coffee she went off the doctors with Manuel to get some antibiotics. Liz, Marta and I walked back to the house and started our first experiments. We went into the barn and received our notebooks to take observations, sketch and write whatever comes to mind during the experiment process. Marta brought out a huge bin of old experiments in petri dishes; different types of bacteria in all of them, and food dye in some. The patterns and shaped in the dishes looked very interesting and we examined them under the microscope. It seemed as though there were small forests in some of the dishes. After looking at these specimens we went to the kitchen to start making medium for our own experiments. There were 5 different bottles of medium. The first we made was a pink, it had red food dye, cow’s milk, and agar which is a gelatin made of plant algae. The next was purple, which had red and blue food dye, almond milk and agar. Third was yellow, which was oat milk, yellow food dye and agar. Fourth was maroon colored because of the wine that was in it, with agar, and LB, which is a nutrient to make the bacteria grow because wine does not have nutrients like milk does. Lastly was probably the most intensely colored one, with soil, agar, and LB. It was a reddish dirt so it looked like a liquefied brick or barbeque sauce. The contents of the jars needed to be boiled, so three were put in a pot and boiled on the stove in water, and the other two we manually boiled in the microwave so we could try to recreate the experiment at home. The microwave method was really annoying because we had to intently watch the bottle to make sure it did not overflow. After all the bottles were boiled we quickly brought them to the barn and began pouring them into petri dishes. There ended up being a lot of them. When all the bottles were empty, we took a break to let them cool and solidify. Lunch was amazing again. We ate left overs from last night and previous nights of cooking, with more bread and butter and the soft cheese. After lunch we went back to the barn to hear a presentation from Manuel about medium as the message. The intense philosophical background of art was astonishing to learn about and has made me think more deeply about art and how the medium artists use can be the message of the piece itself. When the presentation was over, we went back to our petri dishes and began the real experiment. The goal of this experiment was to create art with different bacteria so we thought of things that could produced interesting patterns in the petri dishes with the bacteria on them. I grabbed a few flowers from outside and stomped a couple dishes and left some flowers in a couple more. Food dye was also available to paint patterns in the dishes. Ellen stamped a dog’s foot, and I can’t wait to see what that turn out to look like. After our vigorous experimenting, we made dinner which was again, delicious. Tonight it was cod with onions, potatoes and eggs, with a side tomato and onion salad. Dessert was more interesting conversation and honey dew melon. We will look back at our petri dishes tomorrow and go to the super market once again. This whole place seems like it’s out of a story book, I can’t wait for tomorrow. Pictures to follow soon!


The Land of the Lotus Eaters

After being thoroughly hassled by the much too big for his own britches man at the Portugal customs (I honestly thought he was going to send us right on back to the States), Katie and I finally found ouriselves in Lisbon. We met up with the raddest of rad Professors, Ellen Wetmore, and quickly found ourselves in a quaint little Lisbon apartment owned by artist/our host, Marta de Menezes. Marta, who was supposed to be meeting us there, unfortunately could not make it (she injured her knee from dancing too hard at her birthday party a few days ago- I liked her already). No matter, we would be seeing her the very next day at her gorgeous farm/house down São Luis, which is where we will be spending most of our time and doing all of our artwork. Despite being in desperate need of a hot shower and a soft bed after such a long trip, we all decided that hunger and wanderlust far outweighed our not-so-primal need for comfort, and after a quick change and brushing of the teeth, we set off into the cool Lisbon night. Luckily, Ellen knew just where to go and we easily navigated our way through the city’s subway system and in just around fifteen minutes found ourselves on the coast in a section of Lisbon called Cais do Sodré. As beautiful as it all was, we only had one thing on our mind at the time- FOOD. Ellen led us through the streets to this place called the Time Out Eatery, and it was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my entire life, which honestly turned out to be the theme for the rest of the night (and I’m hoping the entire trip as well). I will attach a picture of Time Out to this post, but just for kicks I’ll try to literally explain it as well. Picture a huge, rectangular space. In the middle of this space, there are countless tables- high tops and low tops, and almost every single table is filled with people hanging out, eating, drinking, whatever gives them pleasure (and is allowed in public). Think school cafeteria/University dining hall, but with much more class and far better food. And all along the borders of this space, instead of walls there were these little mini kitchens with take-away counters. They had it all- pork, fish, pizza, sushi, authentic Portuguese cuisine, even dessert and yes, a very large bar. It was glorious, and I had absolutely no idea where to start or what to get. Ellen and Katie quickly decided to go for the fresh pork roast, and although it was incredibly tempting I held back and instead set off to explore my options (and find an ATM because I was fresh out of Euros). Desperate to start immediately immersing myself within the culture, I made a beeline for any place advertising “Authentic Portuguese food”. There were quite a few, and believe you me the decision was not an easy (or quick) one, but eventually I chose to get what I saw almost everyone around me eating- the “special of the day”, which was a seafood tomato risotto garnished with two full prawns (or “shrimpys with their heads still on”, a direct response from my dad after I sent him a picture of my first meal in Portugal). I patiently waited for the chef to make my meal and then happily carried it back to the bar to join Ellen and Katie. They had already finished their food, so I just plopped myself down at the bar and stuffed my face full of the delicious, mouthwatering risotto. Ever seen a girl peel and eat prawns at a bar? No? Don’t worry, I made it look hot. Since I was already sitting at the bar, I decided to help myself to some wine as well. Ellen recommended I try Vinho Verde (yes, that does in fact mean “green wine” for all you bilingual fellas out there). I was a little skeptical at first, since I generally do not enjoy chilled/clear wine, but this, folks, was a game changer. I downed it much quicker that I expected to and immediately ordered another. Kind of like champagne (but not as fizzy), Vinho Verde is native to Northern Portugal and apparently quite difficult to find in the US (and the ones that you do find, according to Ellen, are awful)… which means I will more than likely be bringing a few bottles home with me. After I finished my dinner (and we indulged in a few desserts), we once again took to the streets of Lisbon. Ellen led us through some back alleyway that opened up onto the “Pink Street” (yes, it was literally a pink street), which, she informed us, is Lisbon’s most prominent gay district. Very cool. There was a strip club immediately to our left and countless bars and restaurants lined the street, which was filled with people boasting some of the best style I had ever seen. I must have looked so tragically American, staring doe-eyed at everything and everyone with my head on a permanent swivel, but I just couldn’t help myself. The buildings in Lisbon are all very tall, and to our right there was one that had this incredible street art/sculpture running up the entirety of the wall that was so alluring it made us stop in our tracks to look, and what we came to notice was that at the bottom of this sculpture there was a door. This door was open, but inside it was very dark. We could see people going in, but nobody was coming out. Immediately, our curiosity was piqued. Ellen, Katie and I exchanged an excited glance and we made our way towards the door. Something was pulling us in, we just didn’t know what. As we climbed up the two flights of stairs, provocative artwork that was painted directly on the walls greeted us at every turn. With me in the lead, we finally reached the top of the stairs… and entered into the most psychedelic party/lounge/bar/gathering of people I have ever seen. I could feel Jim Morrison’s soul inside me screaming as we made our way through each room- I can’t explain the feeling, but it was almost as if I had been there before, or at least some place like it (which only reinforces my claim as the Lizard King reincarnated). It was dark and hazy with smoke, and the sound of music heavy with bass carefully intermingled with the different voices/accents that floated through the air. Each room was different- some were washed in a harsh red light, some in the bright purple glow of a black light. One room had walls made up entirely of books. There were all kinds of different couches and tables and chairs in every room, and almost every single one was occupied. Nobody seemed to give us a second glance, it was almost as if they didn’t even see us… Like they couldn’t see us, even if they wanted to. They all seemed to be completely immersed in this bizarre world, lounging around and smirking at us, like they knew some kind of secret that they promised to share with us if we just so happened to stick around long enough to become one of them. We had entered into the Land of the Lotus Eaters, of this I was sure. Pleasure mixed with a hint of danger and uncertainty danced around every alluring corner, but luckily Ellen had her wits about her and found the exit before we got the chance to consume the mythological flower be trapped there forever. I felt like I had just stepped out of a dream, one I have had many, many times before- and I had the strangest feeling that I would once again return to this place. Anyway, after we left (escaped), we once again took to the streets of Lisbon and eventually wandered into a massive pavilion where an orchestra just happened to be playing a public concert. The music was beautiful, Lisbon was beautiful- all my my expectations of this place had been both met and exceeded. We stayed for a few songs and then decided that it was high time we found our way back to the the subway and the apartment. It was a bit chilly, so we stopped along the way for something to warm us up (I got some Irish whiskey ‘to go’. Thats right, they literally put some whiskey in a paper cup and sent me on my way for only 4 euros. Fantastic service here, 10/10). Despite watching some girl crumple to the floor right next to us on the far too crowded subway car (don’t worry, she was fine, eventually), we got back to the apartment without a hitch and swan dove into our beds. Although we were leaving quite early the next morning, we would be back in Lisbon the following weekend (conveniently during the city’s annual festival), so I didn’t have to say goodbye just yet. Next stop, São Luis!

World of Whiskies and Immunitea – The Road to Lisbon

So.. here goes my first blog post. Currently running on about 1 hour of sleep whilst simultaneously nursing a 5 hour layover en route to Lisbon at the ever glorious and far too big (we had to take a subway AND a bus just to get from one terminal to another) Heathrow Airport in London. To my surprise.. when we arrived in this fair city it was sunny and hot…. thats right folks, sunny.. and hot. Not a rain cloud in sight. A well known rain connoisseur myself, you can only imagine my initial disappointment in a place known for its overcast weather behaving in such a way. Blasphemy. But alas.. my spirit did not dwindle and I entered Heathrow with an open (but mostly tired) mind. Since we jumped about 5 hours ahead in time (planes are time travel devices and I don’t care what anyone has to say otherwise) and it was now 10am, my trusty travelling companion Katie and I decided that the logical thing for us to do was get some breakfast. I suggested seafood but Katie told me thats not ‘breakfast food’. Boo. Who cares about social rules anyway. After meandering around for a bit, we finally decided on this chic little restaurant called Pilot, decorated with fake plants and lots of mirrors to feed the apetite of your every day adventure seeking narcissist. The menu had some very interesting (and very British) choices.. such as Bubbles and Squeak? If anyone knows what that is please inform me because I still remain baffled. After carefully deliberating over the menu, I opted for a Bellini (peach juice and prosecco is my weakness) and eggs and toast… which was actually in fact eggs, toast and baked beans. I asked for no beans but the server looked uncomfortable about that and avoided eye contact with me whilst shuffling her feet so in order to ease her pain I just told her that beans were fine. It was also very interesting to note how different the food service industry is overseas.. the food is amazing but the servers seem to care a whole lot less about your overall dining experience. I almost didn’t want to tip (I did, of course. Force of habit from being a waitress for so long). Katie got a couple of scones and some clotted cream (basically just cream that has the consistency of whipped butter), and then accidentally missed her cup when pouring out half of her teapot. I found that hilarious, as did the family sitting next to us. It was the most tragic part of our day, really. After waiting much too long to get our check, Katie and I finally escaped the restaurant of mirrors and set out exploring the shops of Heathrow. I, of course, was immediately drawn to the World of Whiskies. From the name, you can probably guess that this was a shop more than capable of catering to even the most pretentious of whiskey snobs; I myself, was in heaven. I managed to procure at least 6 different {free} samples of whiskey, the first of which (to the utter dismay of the salesman) I must have taken down far too quickly because he turned to me in alarm and said ‘oh my… did.. did you even taste that?” … I made sure to keep my savage drinking nature at bay after that, didn’t want to give the poor guy a heart attack. Finally, I decided on a purchase; the best and most reasonably priced scotch I have ever found; Scapa single malt scotch whisky. God save the Queen and mind the gap, my scotch prayers had been answered and I happily bounced out of the World of Whiskies while the salesman heaved a sigh of relief. I found Katie and the two of us decided to spend the next couple hours just lounging around on the airport chairs- we both were still exhausted. At one point, Katie asked me to watch her stuff while she got up to go and buy a drink. When she returned.. she was carrying one of the most bizarre- and frankly violating- beverages I have ever encountered. It was called Immunitea- and at first glance.. you think it’s just an innocent bottle of tea that will help you fight off any and all sickness/toxins in the air…… but upon further inspection you realize that the bottle is far more forward than your father would like it to be. Case and point; “Now that I’ve been in your mouth, I think it’s time we had a chat.” Woah. Settle down.. bottle of tea? Thats honestly the most aggressive come on I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing and you’re not even alive. Guys at the bar- step up your game. The tea bottle has you beat, and thats just embarrassing. Well.. thats about it for now. If you happen to find the utter insanity of my mind amusing, stay tuned for my sure to be hilarious recap of our first night in Lisbon that I’ll hopefully have posted by tomorrow. Until then.. make sure you’re reading the fine print on any and all international tea bottles that you may be purchasing… I mean, unless you’re into that of course. Hey, to each their own, c’est la vie baby!