Penn Alumni Travel: Lascaux

Author: Laura Foltman

[Staff host Laura Foltman is traveling with Penn alumni, friends, and faculty host Lynn Marsden-Atlass through France. The group returns to the U.S. on October 22nd. For more information about Penn Alumni Travel trips, click here.]

“C’est formidable!” Judith Forman, CW’63, G’66, stated as we exited Lascaux II.  We weren’t sure what to expect with this stop on the Penn Alumni Travel tour of the provincial French countryside.  Our guide, Ms. Elsa Marechal, explained that Lascaux II was a fake cave of prehistoric paintings.  “Ugh!” we all thought.  Here is a tourist trap on what has been an otherwise fantastic trip.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Lascaux, the original cave, is located near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region of France.  One day, in the 1940s, Marcel Ravidat’s dog got lost in the woods.  Marcel found the dog stuck in a hole.  When he rescued the dog he noticed rocks were falling and echoing below the hole.  He took the dog back to the house, grabbed shovels, flashlights, and three friends, returned to the spot, and started to dig.  They soon found themselves in a large shaft that lead to two large caves.  The four friends began exploring, not seeing anything noteworthy until one of the boys slipped and fell on his back.  When his flashlight hit the ceiling he found something extraordinary: about 2,000 figures that were painted 17,300 years ago!  The boys made a pact that this would be their secret hiding place and wouldn’t tell anyone.  Remember, these are teenage boys.  How long do you think the secret lasted?  Three days!

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The cave complex was open to the public in 1948 and averaged 1,200 visitors per day: extraordinary numbers for the time.  All the visitors changed the climate in the cave.  Carbon dioxide, heat, humidity and other contaminants were visibly changing the paintings and lichen began growing on the walls.  Thus Lascaux II, a replica of the great hall where the majority of the paintings are located, was built in 1983 so that visitors can view the caves without damaging the original paintings.  The tour isn’t just a replica, it is an EXACT replica of the current cave as they update it every 3 years to reflect the state of the real cave.

Penn Alumni had a terrific tour guide named Dave Cohen who called Neanderthals a modern equivalent of Rugby players!  Lifelong learning continued for our Penn alumni as they dominated the tour by asking thought-provoking questions such as:

“Why, out of the 2000 images, is there only one image of a human?”

“Are any of the depicted animals domesticated?”

“What is the chemical make-up of the paints to make them last so long (the drawings can not be carbon dated)?”

“How were Neanderthals able to understand motion and perspective?”

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Lascaux is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the alumni on this trip now understand why.  If you want to find out more information, including the state of the current cave and some of the famous depictions of the images, go to http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en – /en/02_00.xml

The  group poses for a pictures in Albi.

The group poses for a picture in Albi.

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Penn Alumni Travel: A Watercolor Record

Author: Barbara Seymour, GLA’82

[The author and artist, Barbara Seymour, traveled on a Penn Alumni Travel trip to the “Celtic Lands” this past spring. Some people take photographs on tours. Others write in journals. Barbara decided to record the tour in watercolors. Below is a snapshot of her beautiful memories.]

My travel watercolor kit.

My travel watercolor kit.

As a watercolor painter, I was so inspired by the Scottish landscapes we saw on the Celtic Lands trip.  Since I live in the woods in the Philadelphia area, the open sky, sea and mountains were a new and challenging subject.  I found myself looking for subjects with all these elements to photograph and paint.

In the Hebrides.

In the Hebrides.

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I also loved the changing light and how it affected the landscape, casting shadows over hills and sea.  Clouds became an obsession!

Old ruins and castles make marvelous subjects.

The ruins of an old monastery on the Isle of Iona.  (with iris in bloom and shepherd and sheep!)

The ruins of an old monastery on the Isle of Iona. (with iris in bloom and shepherd and sheep!)

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull.  (with yellow Grouse blooming in the foreground).

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull (with yellow Gorse blooming in the foreground).

I found a spot on Iona that almost reminded me of home: A tiny little path between fields, with a stone wall.

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I found this image of an abandoned fishing boat poignant, suggestive of the ravages of time.

I found this image of an abandoned fishing boat poignant, suggestive of the ravages of time.

Celtic Crosses were everywhere, ancient and new. I also got a chance to paint the little white flowers blooming everywhere in the grass.

Celtic Crosses were everywhere, ancient and new.  I also got a chance to paint the little white flowers blooming everywhere in the grass.

Finally, I chose this old stone bridge, with a very challenging stoney river flowing underneath.

Finally, I chose this old stone bridge, with a very challenging stoney river flowing underneath.

Scotland is wonderfully inspiring for a watercolor painter.  I am not finished with it yet!

[Barbara will be having two Open Houses showing and selling these and other paintings this fall.  All are welcome!  View her website here. The dates are Sunday, November 16th, 2014, 1-5 pm and Sunday, December 7th, 2014, 1-5 pm.   The address is:
Headlong House
307 Moylan Avenue
Media, PA 19063

( 2 blocks from the Moylan-Rose Valley SEPTA train station).]

 

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October Education & Career Events

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Join us in October for one or more of the following Alumni Education & Career Networking events!

October 16: Penn To You: Washington, DC
Join Penn Alumni, School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steve Fluharty, and three SAS professors for “Sustainable Energy Policy: Impossible Dream or Absolute Imperative?” To register for this evening of intellectual and social engagement, visit http://bit.ly/ZuenAt.

October 22: Live Faculty Lecture Series: Cary Coglianese (Webinar)
Does regulation kill jobs? Find out during our next online, Live Faculty Lecture! Join Penn Law and Political Science Professor Cary Coglianese on Wednesday, October 22 at Noon EDT for an interactive webinar and Q&A. For more information and to register, visit www.alumni.upenn.edu/facultylectureseries.

October 25: If/Then Broadway Show Event
Join Alumni Education in New York City on October 25 at a matinee of Broadway musical If/Then. Afterwards, we’ll have a meet and greet with cast members and show producers (and Penn alumni!) David Stone and Marc Platt. Next, we’ll head to the Penn Club of NYC for a discussion and faculty talk with Penn Professor Cary Mazer and a reception. Tickets are limited, so register today! http://bit.ly/1vTWXcV

October 28: Career Tools Series: Global Opportunities – Students & Alumni Seeking Work Abroad (Webinar)
Considering looking for a job outside of the United States? Participate in the next Career Tools webinar on October 28 when our expert presenter will cover different approaches to considering an international career and review topics such as managing the job search, securing a foreign position, and adjusting to live once you make the move. To register or learn more about this event and other professional development webinars exclusively for alumni, visit http://bit.ly/ZfMSes.

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Penn Alumni Travel: Unforgettable Galapagos

Author: Liz Drayer, C’83

Darwin and blue-footed boobies.  That’s what I thought when I heard Galapagos, before we signed on for this September adventure.  Then our copies of Origin of Species arrived in the mail, courtesy of Penn Alumni Travel.  Wow, I thought I’ve never cracked this historic volume.  Now’s the time.  I made it through Chapter One before resorting to Evolution for Dummies.  But no problem – Professor Michael Weisberg filled in the blanks once we arrived.

The fun began when we boarded the National Geographic Endeavor, with its first-rate facilities and staff who catered to our every need.  How many times had I tried to win this exact trip on the Jeopardy sweepstakes?  With less than seventy guests, we were able to get to know everyone during the course of the week.  You can’t help but make friends nestled “cheek to cheek” in the Zodiacs, the motorized rafts deployed daily to ferry us to the islands.

Each morning began with a wakeup from Carlos, the ship’s master of ceremonies and naturalist extraordinaire.  Then it was off to explore the island du jour, each with unique topography and endemic species of animals and plants.  We practically tripped over iguanas, nursing sea lions and glittering Sally Lightfoot crabs, all oblivious to our comings and goings.  The naturalists’ encyclopedic knowledge deepened our appreciation for all we saw, and we marveled at Brian, our videographer/stunt man, who scaled precipices barefoot to nab the perfect shot.

“Scaly” is not a four-letter word.

“Scaly” is not a four-letter word.

Our shipmates made the trip special – a diverse group of all ages and backgrounds.  The wide-ranging activities offered something for everyone.  Snorkeling with sharks and sea turtles.  Scaling volcanic formations.  Kayaking and glass bottom boats.  Magnificent vistas and sugar cane farms.  And my personal favorite, the Galapagos Tortoise, those plodding kings that once thrived on the islands, now bred by researchers hoping to restore their prior glory.

America’s next top model.

America’s next top model.

We wound down each day in the cozy library, sipping cocktails and watching the cottony clouds waft across the horizon.  Evenings featured local cuisine and music, barbeques and crossing-the-equator parties.  A highlight of the trip was the excellent lecture series featuring Penn’s Professor Weisberg, that left me craving the classrooms of Bennett Hall.

These island getaways are exhausting.

These island getaways are exhausting.

We capped off the week with a day in Guayaquil, fraternizing with reptiles that hang from the trees in Iguana Park.  We marveled at yellow-jerseyed fans streaming into the soccer stadium, arriving at ten for a four o’clock game.  Ecuadorians take their football seriously….

Huge thanks to Alyssa D’Alconzo, Director of Alumni Education, Travel, and Career Networking, for organizing this fabulous trip.  Nothing sums up our nine days like Carlos’ favorite superlative:  Fantastic!

*Liz Drayer is an attorney and writer in Clearwater, Florida.  Her most recent short story, Crashers, appears in the June 2014 issue of Prick of the Spindle literary magazine.  Her email is edrayer@tampabay.rr.com.

[If this blog has inspired you to travel with Penn Alumni Travel, visit our full 2015 schedule here. We will be returning to the Galapagos in 2015 with the tour Machu Picchu to the Galapagos, December 1-15, 2015.]

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One Book, One University

By Michelle Falkoff, CAS ’95

Last week, a group of Penn alumni who live in Chicago got together to talk about the Penn Reading Project book selection, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman. The book is an exploration of the ways that miscommunication between doctors, patients, and their families can affect healing, and it raised fascinating questions about the ways that cultural perspectives of rank and authority can (but don’t have to) complicate the doctor/patient/family relationships. The book group was the Penn Club of Chicago’s first in a series of events themed around Penn’s Year of Health.

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Since many of the members of the group hadn’t met before the discussion, we started by introducing ourselves and giving some background into our relationships to Penn and Chicago. While this served as a lovely icebreaker, it also provided some initial context for how we all came to the book itself: some, like our discussion leader, Dave Pacifico CAS’03, had extensive knowledge of the subject matter through study of anthropology; others, like our host, Saul Rosenberg, C’61 and one of the Penn parents, Rose Hilmara (mother of a current Penn sophomore) had a lifetime of professional experience with medicine and pharmacology that gave some perspective on the medical issues the book raised. And many of us, myself included, brought just our personal experience with the medical profession and our opinions about the way American cultural norms affected our reading experience.

Our conversation was rich and varied, starting with our initial impressions of the events the book related and moving on to more complex exploration of the relationship between the body and the soul. We agreed up front that there were several basic communications that led to the medical tragedy on which the book focuses.

First, there was the basic issue of linguistic translation, which affected all aspects of patient care—in the absence of effective literal translation, doctors had trouble getting complicated concepts across to the patient’s parents, and the parents had difficulty explaining what they did and didn’t understand. Second, though no less important, was the issue of cultural translation. The patient’s parents didn’t trust the doctors because they didn’t perceive the doctors to be acting in the patient’s best interest, and the doctors weren’t (at least initially) interested in making the family understand why what they were asking was so important.

The issue of how best to medicate the patient implicated both types of miscommunication: the parents didn’t understand what the doctors asked of them in terms of things like dosage, but they also didn’t trust that the doctors were medicating the patient correctly, and so they’d adjust the dosages themselves if they perceived a particular drug to be working, or not working, which was a significant factor in the eventual tragedy on which the book focuses.

We found that, in our experience, these types of literal and cultural miscommunication aren’t limited to circumstances in which there are language and cultural barriers. Medical language has become so specialized that it’s often difficult for lay people to understand what doctors tell them without additional research; insurance has made negotiating the medical landscape byzantine and intimidating. Culturally, we tend to put medical professionals on pedestals, but the Internet has served a democratizing function in its provision of access to medical knowledge to lay people, even as it’s provided additional opportunities for confusion and hypochondria. This meant that, for us, the book proved helpful beyond its basic narrative; we weren’t surprised to learn that it had been required reading at Penn’s nursing school several years ago, and we agreed that it would make for useful reading for all medical professionals.

One of the most fascinating topics for us was the way the book described the benefit of integrating non-Western healing methods into the patient care experience. We talked about ongoing research into the effect of spiritual practices on healing and the ways in which the union of the two approaches has often proved successful in increasing rates of healing, no matter the perspective of the patient. While there was some spirited debate about this topic in particular, we agreed that the progress the doctors had made in the community the book described was very encouraging.

Overall, the discussion of the book itself was very enjoyable, and it was also exciting to feel like we were experiencing something similar to that of the first-year Penn students—it was a nice way to stay connected to our college experience, no matter how far away it was. With the help of our Regional Alumni Director Laura Foltman and the support of the University, Penn Club of Chicago President Michal Clements did a wonderful job organizing, so if other alumni groups are interested in doing this for next year’s book, they will be happy to serve as resources.

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(Editorial Note: Michelle Falkoff’s forthcoming book: Playlist for the Dead, is eagerly anticipated by the Penn Club of Chicago book group. This young adult book will be released Jan. 2015)

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Penn Alumni Broadway Show Event

Join Penn Alumni Education for a matinee performance of If/Then, a Broadway musical starring Idina Menzel, meet cast members, and talk with the show producers, Penn alumni David Stone and Marc Platt. Afterwards, we will go to The Penn Club of New York for a reception and short faculty talk on a topic related to the show’s plot.

Tickets are limited. Register Now!

Event Details:
October 25, 2014
2pm-8pm
Richard Rodgers Theatre & Penn Club of New York
Faculty Lecturer: Cary M. Mazer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and English
Price: $135 includes show ticket, reception, and faculty lecture.

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This event is the first in Alumni Education’s new “Experience Penn” series. We invite you to join us for a variety of exclusive, off-campus educational opportunities. This exciting series brings alumni together with faculty to learn through shared, often behind-the-scenes, experiences. At each event, faculty members will participate with alumni, facilitate learning and reflection, and offer short talks on related topics as an academic complement to the activity. 

[Do you have behind-the-scenes access to an experience you think other Quakers would enjoy?  Email Alyssa D’Alconzo with details.]

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Live Faculty Lectures, Career Tools, & Travel Webinars

Join us for the following events this month! 

Our Live Faculty Lecture Series kicks off tomorrow, September 24, 2014 at Noon EDT with Michael Horowitz, Assistant Professor of Political Science. Please join us for his talk, “Who’s Afraid of Killer Robots? How Robotics, 3-D Printing and Other Innovations Will Affect the Future of War”. Registration and more information can be found at www.alumni.upenn.edu/facultylectureseries.

 

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The Career Tools webinar series begins next week. On Tuesday, September 30 at Noon EDT we’ll be hosting an Introduction to Career Services for Alumni. Registration and more information can be found at www.alumni.upenn.edu/careernetworking.

 

Alumni Travel

Join Penn Alumni Travel on October 1 at Noon EDT for The History and Culture of Tunisia! This live webinar, hosted by Jerry Sorkin, will be an informative and interactive discussion about the history, culture, and current conditions of the North African country Tunisia. Sorkin is a Middle East and North African specialist with degrees in Middle East studies and international business from Penn. Registration and more information can be found at http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/travel.

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