La Serena, Chile, Day One:

Day One: November 3, 2014
Today was gloriously sunny and I made my way from the recinto hotel (that word sounds so much better than the English ‘compound’) over to the extremely busy main offices of Gemini Observatory. Gemini is having a huge meeting of the board and executive with guest speakers etc. and I arrived on the first day of all that.
In spite of the general level of ‘lots going on’, affable and charming Facilities Manager, John Michael Plaza was kind enough to show me to my new studio space, complete with sink, tables, skylight and outside courtyard. It is absolutely perfect and has tile floors, white-washed adobe walls and a tented marquis on part of the courtyard on the off chance it might rain. I have been assured it hardly ever rains. The studio is located in Casa Ocho, a small house off the main building. We have gorgeous gardens all around with bird of paradise, palm trees and cacti.
At noon I met Nancy Levenson, the Deputy Director of Gemini, who originally invited me to be the artist-in-residence at the telescope. She asked me to give the staff a short presentation about my work and the options for creative break workshops for everyone and there were plenty of questions and a certain amount of enthusiasm amongst the scientists. One of the astronomers, Juan Madrid, was kind enough to drive me down to the local mall. Interestingly he is originally Colombian and has lived and worked in Canada and France among many other places. He learned Japanese when he was young and also was exposed to shodo and sumi-e calligraphy, which he enjoyed very much and is looking forward to visiting the studio. The only art shop in La Serena selling oil paint, doesn’t sell turpentine or linseed oil! I was amazed that you have to find a hardware store and buy all that stuff there. So tomorrow, the very kind Monica, part of the executive team, is taking me to a hardware store to get the necessary.
I spent the rest of the day getting all the art supplies unpacked and sorted out and readying the studio for my own work and areas for the others. I also grabbed some food at the Jumbo grocery store — made the mistake of not weighing and stickering my fruit and veg and had the embarrassment of waiting whilst a clerk went back to the produce area and weighed and stickered everything. Well, you live, you learn, right?

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