Sunday, May 30, 2010

40 Meters Fall

Three days ago I dipped my hand in the Dnieper River in Kiev, Ukraine. That arm was connected to my body. My body was connected to two sets of harnesses and a chain around my ankles. That chain around my ankles was attached to a huge bungi cord, which was in turn attached to the end of a crane 40 meters above the water. I was upside down when my arm entered the water. I went bungi-jumping in Ukraine.

I figured I'd meet death regardless. Death by regret for not having done it. Death upon impact from faulty equipment. Death from my mother for having done it. I chose death by mother.

It was the most amazing feeling in the world. Fear mingled with excitement, mingled with peer pressures, mingled with fear. Lots of fear. We met a man named Edwin (from Holland) who had bungi jumping gear. We paid the man 300 dollars--signed no waivers, recieved no instructions beforehand, other than, "When I say 'three', you jump". His wife strapped me into the multiple harnesses, asked me repeatedly if I was sure I wanted to keep my shirt on (I didn't want to risk any hard feelings between me and Edwin at this point) and sent me off to the lift. We rode up 40 meters and as he guided me to the edge, I finally realized what I was doing. I looked out over Kiev and down at the insanely far water below. Luckily I was still drugged enough by peer pressure and a thirst for adventure to strike a superman pose and throw myself off the edge. I yelled, "I'm the king of the world" on the way down. I ate multiple bugs on the way down and splashed in to the water before being propelled back upward in the most delightful, lightweighted flight I'll ever get to take. An older man with hairy thighs in short-shorts extended a pool-cleaning pole out to me after I had dangled for a while and let me down on shore.

Ukraine has been good to me. I took a midnight swim in the Dnieper River Friday with friends while fireworks lit up the sky. I leave for Paris tomorrow, Switzerland soon after, and then Germany before returning home. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Let me tell you about gold leafing..."

There is a joke amoung the gilders (a.k.a. the 21 year old boys working for Dave Horne Painting in Ukraine) in the crew that whenever someone asks us about our work experience, we begin our redirection of the conversation with, "Let me tell you a little bit about gold leafing..."

This tactic began after we were scrutinized and criticized by the church leaders here for "being too young to know anything about gold leaf"( I'm not quite sure however who I'm quoting here). Our boss counseled us to be as ambiguous as possible. When someone asks, "How long have you been working for Dave?", a common reply among us now is, "Oh, we generally work from about 8am-5pm before calling it a day." This reply is followed by a wave to someone across the room and a swift removal from the risky conversation. This is the world I live in. The ambiguity is relentless--someone asked me last Sunday how long we would be in Ukraine and I answered them with, "Soon, I'm do know that the dedication is in August. You should go see the temple sometime before then." If someone were to ask me when my birthday is, on my current trend I am likely to say, "once a year."

Rest assured--everyone on the team is adequately trained in the way of the gold leaf. We are uncertified, certifiable guilders. With that guarantee, we do still make mistakes. Let me tell you about the gold leaf process. Gold leafing, like painting (and anything quality), is 90% preparation. First, the wall must be painted in a high gloss finish, to bring the shine out in the gold. Second, the surface of the wall must be powdered to avoid sticking. Third, (when working with lines) measurements must be taken and point marked on the wall before taping down strips of lines. Fourth, finess tape is used in bordering a space on the wall where a gold line is desired. Fifth, the sizing ink used as 'glue' for the gold leaf to stick to is brushed on evenly evenly evenly between the lines. This one word, "evenly", has caused me more stress than almost anything in the past 2 months. Without evenness, the gold comes out looking like a wrinkled bed sheet. Sixth, once the sizing ink has dried to a perfect tackiness ('perfect tackiness' are also stress inducing words), gold leaf, which comes in small rolls, must be pressed directly onto the sizing ink without touching anything but the paper between you and gold leaf. When I first started gold leafing (and even now on days where confidence is low) I used to get the "gold sweats". Once everything was sized and dry, those picked to gold that day would start to panic and sweat once the gold came out, knowing that mistakes were inevitable. Lastly, burnish the applied gold with a special brush and remove all finess tape. Hope for minimal cleanup where you let the sizing ink go outside the lines.

Today, in full spite of my minimal experience, I disregared a key step in the gold leafing process. I started applying gold to a line that still needed an hour and a half of drying time. Not only did I apply it to one line:

I applied it to three.

This makes gold look bad. Gold is a very beautiful thing and gold leafing yeilds a wonderful product when proper processes are followed. I sat back in horror after burnishing the gold and watching everything turn black as gold mixed and mingled with wet sizing ink. The pit in one's stomach is quite large after such a mistake.

Fortunately, it is an easy fix--but not a cheap one. Once everything is dry again, the line can be resized with ink and gold can be reapplied, but this time once 'perfect tackiness' is reached.

If you want to ask me any further questions about this accident, be notified, I will be as vague and ambiguous as needs be.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Proof that I Still Have A Face

Here are the latest pictures from Ukraine:

This is from the shore of the Black Sea.

The church building for the branch in Odessa. I wish I went to church in a building like this.

Mosaic from the train station in Odessa.

Symmetrical pose in front of the Odessian Opera House.

Honoring the sacred shrines of Ukraine. Yes, that's me.

Dear Mama,

I finally understand
for a woman it ain't easy tryin to raise a man
You always was committed
tell me how ya did it
There's no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated.
Lady... Don't cha know we love ya?
Sweet lady, Dear mama
Place no one above ya,
sweet lady, You are appreciated
Don't cha know we love ya?
And I appreciate, how you raised me
And all the extra love that you gave me
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night there's a brighter day
Everything will be alright if ya hold on
It's a struggle everyday, gotta roll on
And there's no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated.
-Tupac Shakur
Haha. Mom, I love you. And for all you fathers out there on a mother's day, I love you too dad. You are the only ones who treat me like I am your whole life. You are the only ones willing to give your whole life to make mine better. Slowly and annually, I learn a little bit more about how good you two are. I thought I had it pretty rough as a kid, but years and age are letting me see that you two did the best you could, and that it was more than most others ever give. Thank you.
You are appreciated.