English 340: State of the Conversation Report 1

In this State of the Conversation Report, I will list and briefly describe five sources I found pertaining to the Stark Parks project.

Source 1: American Community Garden Association video (https://communitygarden.org/mission/)

  • This video gave a brief overview of the history of community gardens, and then discussed their many advantages. They are a way for people in urban areas to take part in gardening and they also help kids become involved with harvesting and preparing food. They give people an interactive way to learn valuable skills, and the gardens add beauty to the cities and residential areas.
  • The audience for this video is anyone who wants to learn more about community gardens and/or is interested in starting one in their area.
  • The purpose of the video is to educate the audience about the many benefits of community gardens.
  • The tone is informational yet personable. There is a lot of information, but it is interspersed with personal testimonies to make it more interesting and believable.

Source 2: Eleven Habits of Highly Effective Interviewers (http://thewritepractice.com/eleven-habits-of-highly-effective-interviewers/ )

  • This was a list of good habits for interviewing. It stressed the importance of confirming a time and date for meeting in person, or giving a deadline for written questions. After the interview, one should ask if there was anything the person wanted readers to know in case something was missed. It is also good to make notes when interviewing, and if recording the interview, make time notes so it is easy to go back and find specific clips. Finally, make sure the interviewee feels comfortable.
  • The purpose of this article was to give helpful tips for interviewing.
  • The audience is anyone who needs to conduct a journalistic interview.
  • The tone was informational yet casual. Its purpose was informative, but it wasn’t very formal and included funny anecdotes to illustrate the author’s point.

Source 3: How to Write a Profile Story (http://journalism-education.cubreporters.org/2010/08/how-to-write-profile-story.html)

  • This article gave tips about how to write profile stories. It gives in depth advice for interviewing and writing profiles. The article states that there must be a clear focus and aim for the story. Interviewers should prepare a list of questions, but be ready to ask follow-up questions to gain the most thorough information. Profiles are more creative than traditional news stories. The article also provided a list of possible questions to ask when writing a profile. It is important to take notes in case something happens with the recording.
  • The audience is anyone who is going to interview someone for a profile story.
  • The purpose is to give directions and advice on how to interview people.
  • The tone is informational. It is very straightforward and direct and does not use anecdotes or humor.

Source 4: Stark County Community Garden Network Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GrowingGardens.StarkExtension)

  • The Facebook page provided a link to the Stark County/OSU Extension website. The page’s admins posted many articles pertaining to gardening tips and how-tos. Friends of the page post questions and articles they want to share. There were also some photos from the different gardens and a few from activities they held.
  • The audience for this page is anyone involved in the Stark County Community Gardens.
  • The purpose is to share gardening information as well as provide gardeners with a place to pose questions and share their own stories/information.
  • The tone is conversational because of the social media format. Because this is a Facebook page, it allows people to interact.

Source 5: Canton Repository article on Stark Community Gardens (http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20100602/News/306029921)

  • This article was written when the Stark Community Gardens were just beginning. It discusses the benefits of community gardens and outlines how these benefits can translate directly to Stark County. They can cut down on money spent at the grocery store and there is also more control over chemical use, so plants are healthier than some store-bought ones and contain many vitamins. In addition, the article provides information on how to become involved with community gardens.
  • The audience is anyone in Stark County.
  • The purpose is to inform about the Community Garden project in Stark County.
  • The tone is informative and journalistic. It is a newspaper piece that includes background information supplemented with quotes from people involved with the project.

I will follow up in class next week.

Travelogue Part 10: Final Thoughts

Living in Italy for two months was the biggest step I have ever taken outside of my comfort zone.  Everything I was familiar with – language, food, streets, cities – was on a different continent. I was forced to communicate with a severely limited vocabulary and find my way around a busy city with just a map and train pass. Now that I look back on this, I am amazed that I accomplished all of this as easily as I did. Prior to the trip I was completely lost when reading maps. Now, I am practically a professional. I knew next to no Italian and while my vocabulary is still severely lacking, I know enough to at least communicate the necessary phrases. During my solitary adventures in Paris and Rome I made my way from site to site without anyone’s aid. It may not have been the quickest or most efficient way, but it was mine. I forged the path and walked it confidently. Even if I wandered a bit, I knew that I would never be truly lost.

With my many steps around Italy and Paris I felt I was forming a new life path. I grew to love the feeling of experiencing something new. Each day brought a fresh discovery and site previously unseen. I was constantly awed by the beauty around me and the information I gleaned at every museum and monument. After living in a place with so many new experiences, I began to wonder how I could spend my life anywhere less diverting.

Another part of life in Europe I quickly grew accustomed to was the constant beauty. Even on rainy days, Rome looked gorgeous. The cobblestones were difficult to walk on but gave the city a vintage charm. The buildings and sidewalks showed their age proudly and I could tell that they held many stories of times long passed. Not far into the trip I decided that I would have to live in Europe for part of my life. I don’t much care where, I just know that I need to return to that beautiful continent. I have always been envious of people who were able to live abroad but thought I wouldn’t be able to do that because of being so far from my family. During my stay in Italy I began to wonder, “Why can’t I live here?” With all of the fabulous new technologies like Skype, Face Time, and iMessage, the miles that would separate me from home do not seem quite as vast. If I was able to live in Europe for two months, who is to say I couldn’t stay for two years? I think the next time I am in Europe I will take off my coat and stay a while.

 

Travelogue Part 9: On the Wonder of Art

I consider myself a part-time artist and full-time art enthusiast. My love of art began during my childhood. Some of my grandfather’s paintings decorate our house, and they served as inspiration to learn to draw and paint like him. Probably because my grandpa painted in the Impressionist style, it is my favorite genre of art. I love how soft the paintings look. The loose brushstrokes and implied borders make the paintings feel like a warm memory. Everything is familiar, even if I have never seen it before.

In my art history class I learned that this style originated in none other than Paris, my dream city. It was so perfect that I would be visiting Paris on my trip – I could see some of those beautiful Impressionist works in their city of origin! The Louvre is known as the best art museum in the world, so I assumed that I could find a vast collection of Impressionist works there. Much to my disappointment, the Louvre was mostly populated with boring and predictable Rennaissance and post-Renaissance paintings. I asked an employee where the Impressionist section was and she replied, “That is not here. That is at another museum.” Baffled, I wandered around the chronological section that matched the dates of Impressionism and found a scant selection of roughly a dozen Impressionist paintings. I left the Louvre dejected and irritated. How could a museum claiming to be the best in the world be lacking works from such a monumental artistic movement?

The next day, however, my travelling companion and I were sitting in Starbucks, trying to find something to fill the three hours that remained prior to leaving the city. I searched the map for nearby sites or museums, and asked her to look up one not far away. Lo and behold, it was an art museum that housed the world’s largest impressionist and post-impressionist collection. I was elated by this discovery and knew that I had to visit the museum. She was not much of an art appreciator, so I was left alone on this endeavor. I was secretly glad because that meant I could spend as much time as I wanted there without having to worry that she would grow bored. I eagerly left Starbucks and began walking as fast as I could down Rue de Rivoli. My destination was Musée D’Orsay, and my mission was simple: to view as much of their Impressionist collection as I could before my scheduled departure from Paris.

I eagerly entered the museum, procured a map, and set off immediately for the third floor where the impressionist collection awaited my arrival. When I rounded the corner into the exhibition hall, I discovered a thick crowd of tourists and fellow art appreciators. Despite the throng of people, all I could think about was the vast number of beautiful paintings lining the walls. I traversed the room almost in a daze, thoroughly eying each piece before advancing to the next. Sisley, Pissaro, Cassat, Renoir, Monet, Manet – the names went on. I was even fortunate enough to view Dejeuner sur l’herbe, the painting that started the whole movement. I was convinced that I had died somewhere in my journey here and was in art-heaven.

Already on cloud nine, I experienced an unexpected wave of emotion when I happened upon Monet’s Le Pont d’Argenteuil. It was a seemingly unassuming painting of two sailboats floating on the river with bank and bridge in the background. However, its copy hung in my family room at home. That copy had been painted many years prior by my grandfather. He was once an incredibly talented artist but is now afflicted with a degenerative disease and has lost almost all of his small motor functions. He is not able to paint or draw as he once could, and seeing this painting reminded me of that. I began to tear up a little bit at the thought of him, but in equal measure with sadness I felt great respect and awe for his talents. I was looking at the original article, but the painting hanging in my family room was nearly identical. He had captured Monet’s signature style so well. I felt honored to have such a talented man as my grandfather.

My grandfather once said that his art was his soul. In Paris, I found a little piece of that on a wall in Musee D’Orsay, and I will never forget that experience. He is responsible for my love of art and any talent that I possess. I can only hope that one day I can leave such a legacy behind to my own grandchildren.

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Travelogue Part 8: On Happiness in Paris

I journeyed to Paris for a long weekend in September with one of my classmates. When we agreed to take this trip together we were hardly acquainted, but as the date approached I realized, to put it bluntly, that I didn’t much care for her company. I was too excited for our trip to let this bother me, though, and decided that despite our differences the two of us would have a fabulous weekend. I was finally visiting Paris, a city I had dreamed of since I knew it existed, and I would not let anything ruin that.

The first day of our excursion went surprisingly well, but on the second some tensions arose. She and I wanted to visit different sites – myself, a cemetery that held Jim Morrison’s grave, and she a holocaust memorial – so we parted ways. En route to the cemetery I stopped at a little café I had read about. It was called Le Chat Noir in reference to a nineteenth century cabaret in the bohemian district of Paris. The café was nestled on a corner right next to the Muslim neighborhood, around the Beaumont area of the 10th arrondissment. This area was known for being on the artsy side, and I was not disappointed. The café was a small, quiet place with only a few customers, none of whom appeared to be tourists. I ordered a pot of mystery tea and took a seat facing the window to journal for a bit. I had been walking almost all day, and the small piece of respite was much needed.

With soft jazz playing in the background, I sipped my tea and wrote while a feeling of pure bliss came over me. I had finally arrived in Paris, the city of my dreams, and I was loving every moment of it. I had wanted to visit the city for so long but never thought it would happen this soon. Every time I pictured visiting Paris I imagined myself an aging empty-nester travelling with her husband. I never thought I’d experience it like this – young and untouched by the world, completely open to falling in love with a city as romantic and glamorous as this. The entire trip was a dream come true, regardless of my less-than-ideal travelling companion.

I felt like a character in a movie or a book: some girl in her twenties who lives in the city and stops at a café a few times every week to enjoy her tea and write. Before my trip to Paris, I could never quite put a finger on what I thought simple happiness felt like, but now I know what it is; Paris showed me. It is being in the most beautiful city in the world, relaxing for a bit before embarking on yet another journey. Sites unseen and streets unexplored lie ahead, and all that separates you from them is that last sip of tea in the bottom of your cup.

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Travelogue Part 7: On Time and How to Spend It

I have found that I am at my most productive in the afternoon. Mornings are typically occupied by breakfast, showering and getting ready, and making my plans for the day. The afternoon, however, holds the most potential for me to run errands and complete various tasks. In Italy, the afternoon is a time to relax and spend time with family. Most European nations eat their main meal at lunchtime, so schools and businesses set aside larger amounts of time for meals. Many small, local businesses will close up shop between the hours of one and four for “siesta.” I was warned about this before leaving for the trip, but I didn’t realize how much of an inconvenience it would pose until I encountered it firsthand. It would be about one or one thirty, just after lunch, and I would be ready to do some shopping or wander around Rome a bit. During my walk, I would come across a little shop that I wanted to visit but much to my dismay it would often be closed for siesta. It seemed that most of our free time in the city was during siesta time, so we couldn’t visit many of the shops on typical weekdays. That was definitely the most inconvenient part about my stay.

Although I continued to be irritated about the timing of siesta and the obstacles it posed for me, I began to wonder if Italy was on to something. Italians seem to be so much more relaxed than Americans. In the book Eat, Pray, Love an Italian friend of the author talked about this difference between Italians and Americans. He said that Americans work incredibly long, hard hours during the week and then just sit on the couch in their pajamas on weekends and feel guilty about taking a break. Italians know they are entitled to rest and take breaks without guilt. I saw this contrast in plain sight during my trip. Italians would be meeting up for coffee with friends or relaxing in a piazza during siesta and not seem to care if they were wasting “valuable time.” They also spend a lot more time with family, which is something we Americans could learn from. In my own life I see my extended family less and less as time goes on and it saddens me. Maybe things are like that in Italy too, but it seems to me that families have a stronger bond over there. Italians have a better grasp on what is truly important in life: keeping stress in check and spending time with those we love. Siesta may have been an inconvenience to me, but it taught me something valuable. Maybe the time I spend on trivial things could be redirected and used to enrich my relationships. Relationships are vital. When I am old I won’t cherish time spent on work but rather time spent with those I love.

Travelogue Part 6: On Food

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If there was one thing Italy taught me, it was how to eat. Our group went out for “family dinners” and was served course after course of delicious food that we just couldn’t leave on our plates. By week five I had definitely expanded my eating ability and felt confident I could take on any meal Italy could dish out. However, I had gotten little ahead of myself and our group trip to a local farm set the record straight.

The owner told us that loving and skilled hands prepared our “light lunch” with ingredients from the farm itself. I don’t know what Italians define as light, but this lunch certainly did not match the American definition of the word. The appetizer alone consisted of ham, salami, pork loin, buffalo mozzarella, olives, capresina, bruschetta with stracchino and arugula, bruschetta with basil and tomato, and bruschetta with olive paste. Yes, that was just the appetizer! Each of us could probably have filled up on that plate alone, but there were more to come.

As a first course we were served lasagna al ragù (a basic beef lasagna). Since I am a vegetarian, I was given a delicious garlic and olive oil gnocchi instead. Everyone insisted that it was the best lasagna they had ever eaten, and some even requested second helpings. I’m not sure how they could stomach it because those farmers certainly did not skimp on portion sizes. I felt like I was living out Garfield’s ultimate fantasy – plates and plates of food were arriving at our table and everything was so delicious that we didn’t even know where to begin.

The second course consisted of grilled bacon and sausages along with roasted potatoes. I was given a plate with only potatoes, but I could hardly touch them because I was so full. Everyone ate a few bites here and there, but by that point the food coma had really started to set in. Much to our relief it was the last full course. After the meat and potatoes we were served must donuts and tiramisu. The meal was finally concluded with an optional shot of espresso.

After the platters were cleared, we sat and groaned with hands resting on our much-too-full bellies. Not a single one of us could have eaten another bite if we tried. It would have been nice if the farm provided wheelchairs for us to leave the restaurant area, but unfortunately we had to force our legs into commission, a seemingly impossible feat. I was convinced that I would never be hungry again. My stomach was so full that it would spend the rest of my life digesting that meal. Upon our return to campus, we collapsed onto couches, chairs, and any soft surface available for a much-needed nap. Suffice it to say that visions of sugarplums did not dance in our heads.

Food was one topic our group would constantly discuss – we’d talk about food we liked, disliked, wanted, missed, and had never tried. Despite our different interests, food continued to bring us together. Shared meals were a time for us to bond and create memories, and this was no exception. Lunch on the farm will always be a memory for us to talk and laugh about, an experience unlike any other. Personally, I hope I never eat that much again, but as they say, “When in Rome…”

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Travelogue Part 5: On a Shopkeeper and a Statue

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Along with its plethora of piazzas and fountains, Rome also has an abundance of statues. These statues can be found in streets, piazzas, churches, and monuments. Most of them are beautiful Baroque or Renaissance pieces that represent the wonderful contributions Italy has made to art over the centuries. Some, however, time and the elements have been less kind to, leaving them weather beaten and unsightly. These statues add character and depth to the city; while there are numerous examples of its grandeur, the old and decrepit statues remind one of Rome’s age and all of the trials it has undergone. Romans typically mock the ugly statues, but one of these bedraggled works ended up being one of my favorite statues. Its name is Pasquino and it resides just outside of Piazza Navona near Via del Governo Vecchio.

Rome has not always been known for its freedom of speech. Back in the day, people could not always say what they pleased without suffering the consequences. (As many know this was probably difficult for Italians given their vivacious personalities and proclivity for chattiness). Such a restriction angered the Italians, but a feisty shopkeeper named Pasquino eventually found a loophole. He discovered that by writing out his criticisms and attaching them to the statue near his shop, he could voice his opinions anonymously and not be subject to the government’s wrath. Soon others followed suit and put their own criticisms on the statue and others throughout the city. These lively “conversations” criticized the things about Italy that voices dared not utter. Although government officials knew who was responsible for the small uprising they did not have enough proof to properly punish Pasquino. Thus the statue that spoke was named after the man who gave it its voice. Tourists can visit Pasquino today and see writings posted next to him courtesy of sentimental Italians who continue the tradition.

When I read this bit of history, I fell in love with the story immediately. To me it shows the Italian spirit. They are a people of great voice, and they did not let their government tell them what they could and could not say. As an American I often take the gift of free speech for granted. Italians were not as fortunate but they did not let that stop them from speaking out. That is one of the amazing things about humanity. No matter how people try to oppress us, our voices will find a way to be heard.

Travelogue Part 4: On Piazza Navona

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One of my art history classmates gave a presentation about Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or the Fountain of Four Rivers. It is a stunning piece of Baroque architecture designed by Bernini and located in Rome. I was very taken with the photographs of the fountain and thought it was beautiful. I didn’t know much about Rome prior to leaving for the trip, but that fountain was one of the few items on my “To see” list. When I discovered it was located in Piazza Navona, one of my assigned tour spots, I was very eager to visit it.

On the first free weekend I embarked on an excursion with two other group members to see Piazza Navona. We hadn’t quite gotten a feel for the city yet so it took a lot of wandering and various failed attempts at map reading to find it. We truly looked like tourists as we wandered about with question marks above our heads and our maps turned every which way. Our lack of navigation skills led us down many small side streets that seemed to go nowhere at all. The pulsing Rome heat was of no help either and only slowed our thought processes and clouded our vision with beads of sweat.

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Practically overcome by heatstroke, we walked through an alley, emerged in the piazza, and were greeted by the backside of Fontana del Moro. A marble derrière wasn’t quite what I expected to find, but I was too relieved to have reached the piazza to care. Behind the fountain, though, stood Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in all of its glory. It was a magnificent site to behold in person. The artistry and skill behind the sculpting was evident at first glance, and the attention to detail was impeccable. The massive fountain required a bit of time and maneuvering through crowds to circumnavigate, but it was worth every scusi I had to utter. Behind this great fountain was a third, Fontana dei Nettuno. This fountain was dedicated to Neptune and featured a giant sculpture of the great sea god in its center. Surrounding the fountains were various artists selling their paintings and prints, and, of course, many tourists.

Even though the artists were not all authentic, Piazza Navona really represented what I pictured Europe would be like. It was a huge gathering space for tourists and locals alike, and artists had work displayed at every turn. Piazzas provided a chance to gather and relax for a little bit during a hectic day in the city. I grew tired of crowds and although Piazza Navona was usually filled with them, it remained my favorite spot in the city.

Travelogue Part 3: On Ruins

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If there is one thing Rome has an abundance of, it’s ruins. The city is covered with them. Walking along almost any street can bring one to the remnants of some ancient structure. This was a bit of a shock at first. The US is such a young country and while we have our fair share of history, it is not as visible to the naked eye as it is in Rome. There, the ruins tell stories at every turn; stories of an eternal city that has symbolized power and consistency throughout centuries.

On our very first tour, we visited the Colosseum and Roman Forum. During this tour we learned about how past Roman emperors and popes reused resources from other monuments and temples to create new sculptures and buildings. This surprised me. I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would want to destroy valuable parts of a structure to build a new one. It saved money and resources but mangled something important in the process. This was not the mindset of past Roman dignitaries who did massive recycling over the centuries. They took marble, gold, bronze, and similar resources to build their massive temples, churches, and statues. That habit is very different from the Rome of today. As archaeologists excavate the city they try to preserve as many ruins as they possibly can.

Our Colosseum tour guide taught us that Rome and lasagna have something in common: they are both made of many layers. As time went on, the ground level of the city rose and thus buried temples, statues, and streets. The Romans continued to build on the new ground level, creating a historical lasagna of sorts.

I live in a country where buildings hardly last for decades, let alone centuries. I was awestruck seeing these structures that had stood for millennia. Rome had much to teach me and one thing I learned was how little people have changed. Yes, we have different values and norms now, but underneath all of that we are basically the same. Our goals and challenges have not changed. It is amazing to feel so connected to ancestors who had once seemed unreachable.

All of these realizations washed over me, reminding me of my own mortality. In the second century CE, the Romans were building and expanding with no end in sight. America hadn’t even been discovered by the Western world. Now, we are digging up artifacts of these people long past and trying to learn as much about them as possible. There is no way they could imagine what our lives would be like today, just as we cannot imagine what humanity will be like in the next two millennia. Will we venture out of earth to explore the universe? Will our planet actually become uninhabitable? Will we find other planets to support life?

When we look back on Rome we see gladiator fights, fierce loyalty to gods, and fearless conquerors. When future generations look back on us, what will they see? A people with their noses in a screen and their minds consumed with trivial matters, or a people who is curious and kind and accepting? What will they think of us? I can only hope that our legacy is a positive one.

Travelogue Part 2: On Beggars

I grew up in a suburb that lies between two small cities, Akron and Canton. It would be fairly accurate to say that I’ve lived a sheltered life. I know about the woes of the world, but I have not been confronted with many of them face-to-face. Because of my faith background and personal desire to help, I have volunteered for some non-profit organizations that assist those in need. I ignorantly assumed that those experiences had taught me most of what I needed to know about poverty, but my trip to Rome showed me otherwise.

I knew that there were many beggars in large cities, and far more than I had ever seen in downtown Akron or Cleveland. I was expecting to see poor and homeless people, but no expectation could have prepared me for how sad it was to actually come in contact with these people. They stationed themselves on trains and in train stations, outside of churches, and in the streets. They carried cups or baskets and would either hold a sign describing their plight or plea longingly at you as you passed. At first, I found myself overcome with guilt at the sight of all of them. I felt so decadent travelling to another country for what was more or less a vacation when they could hardly afford a meal.

What caused even more of a stir in my heart, though, were the beggar children. Little boys or girls with ratty clothes and forlorn eyes would make rounds on train cars or in between church pews, often silently staring at you in an effort to fill their paper cups. I felt sorry for these children. What kind of parent sends their child out to beg for them? It just doesn’t seem right or ethical. And what would happen to the child if he or she did not get as much money as the parent wanted them to? Would there be consequences? These children pulled my heart in opposite directions. On one hand, I was so disgusted with their parent that I did not want to give them money. On the other, I felt such pity for the child that I felt I absolutely needed to give them a few euros just so they could have a meal that night.

As the weeks wore on I felt less and less pity for the beggars. I would ignore their cries and signs and think, “Oh, they’re probably just scamming us.” I had become so desensitized to their needs that I was hardly ever touched by their situations. When I realized what happened I became ashamed. How could I forget the values that had so called me to service at home? Was I really going to disregard the morals I once upheld because I had come into contact with more poverty than I had ever seen before?  That was unacceptable; I needed to help them somehow.

I wish I could say that I gave aid to every beggar I met. On the last day, I had a fair number of euros left over so I gave most of it to people on the streets, but the idea to do this was not even my own. Thinking about this still disgusts me. I had always considered myself a generous person, but I flaked out when confronted with a true opportunity to give. One of the many things this trip inspired me to do is to make up for my selfishness. I don’t know how or when, but I will reconcile this. I will not serve to satisfy my own conscience, but because these people need help. Maybe that was part of the problem before – I was serving for the wrong reasons. Now I know what poverty looks like, and I cannot ignore it. Italy taught me about the decadence and sweetness of life, but it also taught me about its trials. I am connected to these people by our shared existence and humanity and I do not intend to forget that ever again.