Putting The Beautiful Pieces Together

Combining a photo essay with an intimate written portrait, Cristian T. ’18 presents the story of his month in Spain as an exchange student.

I could stand there for hours, days, staring up at Picasso’s “Guernica.” My host family had taken me to visit the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid on this Saturday night in March. On one of the walls, a number of photographs were hanging, showing the progression of Picasso’s piece. I got to see how “Guernica” changed over time and came to be what stood there towering over me.

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My host mother directed me through the photographs. She pointed out that the bull’s eyes were not originally crossed, how in an early incarnation the eyes stared straight ahead at the same point. Picasso decided to change this and make its left and right eye stare out in two different directions. As I stood there at the far right and stared up at the bull, it stared back at me. She explained to me how by doing what he did, Picasso was putting the viewer into the piece, making us a part of it rather than just observing it. In this room I realized that I want to achieve the same with my art. I decided that when I begin college in the fall, art will be my major and not my minor, even if that means taking on a double-major.

I’ve always had a passion for taking photos. I started out just using my phone, but it wasn’t until I got a camera for Christmas in 2015 that I was able to take the basic photography class sophomore year. With a camera in my hand, I get to see the world anew. Looking through the viewfinder, I see the visual speak to the invisible.

Photography can not only capture people’s emotions or the mood of a place, it can evoke and change feelings by hitting the shutter button, by the act of taking the photo itself. Having a camera in my hand gives me space to think both strategically and spontaneously, and allows me to piece together a puzzle that depicts something far beyond what the eyes can see.

I recently spent a month in Spain as part of the LCDS-CVE exchange, attending the Colegio Virgen de Europa in Madrid and living with a host family. I was sitting above the dining commons beside the international flags when I first read about the program last summer. I applied in August and found out I had been accepted within the first few days of school.

It was the one of the most exciting pieces of news I’ve ever received, and an opportunity that I got more from than I could have ever imagined.

With my host family, we traversed arches and doorways that showed us Spain’s past, present and future. Underground parking lots and subway stations connected me to each city I visited. Each train ride felt like a pulse through a city’s living heart.

Together, we stared up at Muslim, Jewish and Christian ceilings. With every excursion, they taught me more rich history of the Iberian Peninsula they call home.

This experience only strengthened my desire to study and document different societies and cultures. Being able to mix my perspective with different customs and ways of living gave me renewed clarity as to the life I want to live in the future.

I know I want to return to Spain and live there again, but I also intend to explore Latin America. For a time, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do both, but this exchange taught me to strive for both. I want to build for myself a bridge of understanding between these disparate regions united by a common language.

I want to visit the birthplace of my parents and ancestors in the Caribbean, and explore the relation of my family to the people who made me feel like family on the other side of the Atlantic.

My travels took me into Madrid a number of times, and I also toured Toledo, Granada, Barcelona and the small town of La Iglesuela. But for as beautiful as these places were, it wasn’t that beauty that made my experience what it was. It was the people who made a whole out of the beautiful pieces, my host family.

It was watching movies and TV shows, and singing along with them in the car. It was sharing a place at their kitchen table and in their conversations. It was every time I asked them what a word meant in Spanish, and every time they wanted someone to practice their English on without fear of judgment.

It’s hard to believe that a handful of days one spring could pack in so much meaning and affect me so profoundly. I now have a stronger sense of what I want to do after graduating from LCDS. I want to live and explore these regions more deeply, and experience new cultures with an open mind.

And I know that art will be an integral part of that journey.

A Lastsummer’s Weird Idea

In a flash of inspiration befitting Shakespeare’s most impish and whimsical play, Director Kristin Wolanin — while attending a Hawaii-themed fundraiser — had an epiphany.

As the auteur herself put it: “I had a weird idea last year and all summer I crafted it.”

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Wolanin’s weird idea sent the Playing Shakespeare class on a tropical adventure that sets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Aloha State, and features everything from a ukulele ensemble’s Hawaiian lullaby to a quartet of Lower School fairies.

The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $7 in advance and available here, or $10 at the door.

One of the Bard’s most popular plays and a staple of Middle School English classes, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has served as the introduction to Shakespeare’s work for generations of students.

Wolanin ascribes the play’s perennial popularity to its resonance with adolescents and the travails of the Middle School years.

“The play is very adaptable,” she said, “and the themes of first loves and misunderstandings and wanting to be able run away and hide in a magical forest — it’s not a stretch for a lot of Middle School kids to relate to parts that for adults are pure fantasy.”

To help the cast learn the nuances of Hawaiian culture, history and language, parent Mika McDougall volunteered as a sort of paradise consultant. The Hawaii native “was incredibly generous with her time,” Wolanin said. “Mika’s contribution to the play was just awesome. Her work with the students gave the whole production an authenticity that took it to another level and I can’t thank her enough.”

This is the first LCDS production in almost a decade to feature a cast that draws from all three divisions. The Lower School’s contribution to the team consists of four fairies, who were chosen from fourth and fifth graders who got their first taste of the audition process.

On the other end of the age spectrum were the 11 Upper Schoolers who enrolled in the Playing Shakespeare class. The class is a year-long elective that combines play study and rehearsal with historical context, as well as physical, vocal and speech training. The course’s final exam, as it were, is the production of the work they’ve spent all year immersing themselves in.

Because Wolanin chooses a different play each year, Playing Shakespeare is never the same course twice. This means that the dramatically inclined, such as senior Delphi A., can take the course for three of her four Upper School years. Delphi, who plays Puck in “Midsummer,” has done just that.

“This year’s class was really fun because the play essentially has three different plots,” Delphi said. “That gave us the opportunity to work on our own, as well as in small groups and as an entire class. When you spend that much time with the text and with each other, you just feel such a deeper connection to the play.”

“The big thing with Shakespeare is the story,” Wolanin said. “Not the sets, not the costumes, not some cool lighting idea, none of that can capture the essence of what’s important. If those things are bad, they can distract, but performing Shakespeare is all about the words and getting the actors to express the story. That’s the place we’re trying to get to — or at least get closer to — every day in class.”

FundFest Children’s Challenge Video

This past Saturday, the LCDS community gathered for the 27th annual FundFest, where Children’s Challenge raised almost $60,000 for teacher professional development. On behalf of everyone at Country Day, we’d like to thank all those involved in the enduring success of this important annual event in the life of our school.

High Times in the Scottish Lowlands

By Frannie T. ’22
Photos by Eddie P. ’22 and Ms. Formando

The trip started off great. If we understand great as missing our flight and having to spend the night at an airport hotel, then it was great indeed.

Even with a less than ideal start, everything worked out in the end due to the patience and hard work of Miss Formando and Mr. Mylin. After two days of airplanes, airports and lots of waiting around, we finally arrived in Glasgow.

As we exited the bus, we were greeted by our amazing host families who had gotten up at midnight to face the cold and welcome us. Despite the time and temperature, it was great to finally meet the people we had been talking to for so long. After all the introductions were made, everyone was very excited to get out of the cold and get a good night’s sleep.

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We spent our first day in Scotland shadowing our hosts at school. The similarities and differences between LCDS and Kelvinside struck us immediately. One of the biggest similarities was the spirit. Everyone was welcoming and excited to meet the newcomers. One of the most obvious differences was the uniforms. All ages wore a very formal outfit of a white button-down collared shirt, a necktie and blazer with the Kelvinside logo. Black pants for the boys and kilts for the girls.

The next day we toured Glasgow with our hosts. Our first stop was the Riverside museum where we saw everything from antique cars and motorcycles to old double-decker buses and a model of an old city street complete with shops and horse-drawn carriages. Afterward we walked through the historic campus of the University of Glasgow and toured the city’s beautiful West End.

The next morning was perhaps the saddest part of the trip. It was the day we had to leave our host families. After many thank yous, hugs, and some tears, we left Glasgow behind and headed off for York.

Everything about York was charming. Even the train ride, along green fields with coastal views, was idyllic. Our first stop was the magnificent York Minster, and the view from atop its tower. (Which managed to be awesome in spite of the decidedly not awesome 275 steps we had to climb to reach it.)

Fountains Abbey was another building that encapsulated the beauty and history of York. The snow that had just settled on the ground that morning gave the grounds a peaceful feel as we walked around the ruins. My favorite part of York, besides wandering the cobblestone streets, was the ghost tour that we took on our last night. It was a fun and scary way to learn some of the obscure history of the city.

The next morning, as we waited for the train that would take us to Edinburgh, we used Mr. Mylin’s new game of “suitcase curling” to help beat the boredom and stay awake. We all fought hard for the coveted title of Suitcase Curling Champion but in the end, Peter R. emerged victorious.

First up on the agenda when we got to Edinburgh was a tour of Edinburgh castle. When we finally arrived after a long hike, we were greeted by a beautiful, sweeping view of the city. The castle itself was an interesting blend of old and new. For instance, you could visit the still-functioning barracks then turn around and see the oldest building in Edinburgh. After the castle we walked down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace, the official home of the British monarch in Scotland.

The best part of the Royal Mile was visiting the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. For our last meal in Scotland, we opted for traditional Scottish fare, with most of us trying haggis for the first time.

And then it was time to go home. None of us was ready to leave such a fascinating and beautiful country. The time had flown by so quickly that the whole trip seemed like one big, blurry dream. We all would have loved to stay another day, or week, or month. And as the plane climbed into the air and we all waved goodbye, my only thought was, “I can’t wait to go back!”