I know I haven’t posted in such a long time, not once since life tossed me into the past few months’ adventure that was my internship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The internship ran from the end of July until just right before Christmas, and it was A BLAST, to say the least.
I always find it overwhelming every time I try to write about my experience, mostly because I can’t figure out where to start. I am still kind of getting used to not being in Ithaca, going about my routine and all. AKA still getting used to being on vacation, at least for the most part, because I still do have some deadlines and things. It really does feel strange, especially because my project ended so abruptly, and then the holidays were suddenly upon us. After all the months of drawing everyday, it’s only now that I’m starting to slowly settle down.
Well. I’m not sure I want to wait for the high of it all to wear off before I start sharing, so even without all the words, I thought I’d maybe share last year’s biggest adventure through the photos I collected since July. Looking through everything I saw that although my stay in Ithaca was mainly because of my internship, the picture book, the conservation efforts for the Philippine Eagle, most of what actually happened were about so much more than work.
For me, the work part was what I was actually prepared for. I had a portfolio for drawing, I applied for the internship knowingly. But what did I know about suddenly being in this completely new place at the other side of the world, with people I didn’t know, whose culture I had to figure out? Nooooot much.
These were the in-between moments that have made this chapter of my life bear much more weight than just being something about work. These are those people and those places and those days that pulled me out of my head and taught me that sometimes, things fall into their places if you let them land where they ought to.
On the road, my uncle and aunt suddenly decide to bring me to Niagara Falls first before dropping me off in Ithaca. It was summer, and we had a horrible time finding a hotel to stay in after the side trip, and as if that wasn’t enough, it had started to storm hard. 0 visibility. We found one at around 3AM the next day, in Ithaca.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is right in Sapsucker Woods. The logo mark is a sapsucker illustration by Charley Harper.
At the visitor’s center of the lab is this amazing massive mural by Jane Kim. It features 243 families of birds painted to scale on a world map, plus 27 dinosaurs and other prehistoric bird ancestors. Jane finished the mural a couple of days before my internship ended, and it has been an honor to have seen this project unfold. She’s such a passionate artist, and also one of the sweetest people I have met during my stay Ithaca.
Yula Kapetanakos worked with the Lab’s multimedia program as a producer. She and Diane Tessaglia-Hymes, the Lab’s design director, were the ones who interviewed me, and basically got me for the internship. Yula had also graciously opened her home to me during my first two weeks in Ithaca because I hadn’t found a place to stay yet when I got there, and I am eternally grateful for this. She is such a cool and smart woman, and my most vivid memory of her is how her laughter used to echo through the office when she’s around.
Yula has three darling pets, Kyla the half-lab half-husky, Gizmal the parrot, and Oliver the cat, who had always accompanied me whenever I tried to cook something.
During my second week at work, I had risked going outside even though I wasn’t sure my ID was going to work already with the doors to let myself back it. It hadn’t worked the day I took this photo, and I had to call Yula to let me back in haha.
Parker hummingbird display case, Allen’s Observatory, and a bunch of Canada Geese hanging out right outside the building.
Every lunch time, especially during the warmer months, I always made it a point to walk into the woods and eat my lunch there. It took me a bit of time to warm up to the other people in the office because I wasn’t quite sure how to talk to everyone, and I ate lunch alone during the first weeks. My favorite spot was this bench, which was tucked just a bit out of the trail, and faced this very nice view of the pond. Incidentally, it’s the bench that the Bartels (same family who supports the illustration interns) dedicated to Charley Harper, and this made it extra special for me.
Over time, I brought the friends that I met at the Lab to this bench for lunch, and it made for a nice little walk and a break from the day’s work.
Inside Sapsucker Woods. I really liked walking the trails. Even when it had started to get cold, I sucked it up and tried to take my lunch walks even though that meant not feeling my face and fingers for a little while. I can also still remember that moment when I saw an actual Sapsucker on a tree in Sapsucker Woods!
One of the first out-of-work things I’d been invited to was Diane’s birthday celebration. We had hotdogs and rootbeer, and then played minigolf: something that I hadn’t done ever in my life, wow haha. We went to an outdoor one, and then the funky blacklight indoor course which I didn’t know existed until that night.
First trip to the Farmer’s Market! I was so happy; I think it reminded me so much of home.
Walking around downtown Ithaca. Murals, and new buildings that tried to look like old buildings.
At one point, I got myself a soldering pen and tried woodburning. This was the first one I made, and I gave it to Yula as a thank you and goodbye gift before I moved out of her home.
Walking the dog with Yula and her friend Rachel after work.
Yula had also taken me to the farm where she gets her produce share. We got to harvest some vegetables ourselves.
During my last weekend at Yula’s, I went with her and her friends on a happy boat trip. We got some food and drinks and went to the middle of the lake, and floated about until it got late. We watched the sunset, and then watched the stars. At one point most of the people in the boat got into the water. For red flag reasons, I didn’t get in, and I was secretly v. sad I wasn’t able to!
The next house I stayed at was the Tessaglia-Hymes’ home, along with Misaki, my fellow illustration intern. I stayed there for about three months, and they had been so gracious! Lovely homecooked meals, traveling to places near and far, and lots of stories. Diane and her husband Chris love birds! I learned a lot while staying with them. They had a hawk in their freezer (yes), waiting to be skinned and stuffed. I think Misaki finally did so this past month haha.
Collegetown Bagels, right at my usual bus stop. Coffee (my usual is called Twisted Sister, which was super sweet, tons of caramel because I’m not a very sophisticated and authentic coffee drinker?), and cider (fall-winter coffee substitute was called Beetlejuice, which was hot apple cider with chai).
First project was making title illustrations for one of the educational videos by the multimedia group. We had been working on the manuscript for the picture book at this point, so I had time to help with other projects like making drawings for this vid, and helping with translations, too.
More Farmer’s Market loot.
Renaissance Fairs exist! Diane and Chris took me to this one. I had my hair braided because why not.
the first sundaes of many
Some folks from the multimedia group at Yula’s goodbye dinner. This is the most complete picture of us that I have! Chris, John, Yula, Eric, me, Karen, Tom, Andy. Philippines reprezent.
Brad Walker taught us how to do bird skin studies. It was so fascinating and I wish I had more time to do more. It’s a good way to learn about bird anatomy, and to know which body part is connected to where and what, in terms of drawing them. I got to work on a robin. It died after crashing into a window.
Sticky Rice is a thai-laotian restaurant downtown. Comfort food written all over the place. Spilled a lot of stories and beans in this place over spicy noodles and beer.
I had my acting debut at one point haha. For a day I was as a doctor examining eagle x-rays. Bittersweet, because the x-rays were of eagles that were shot.
With Liz, Jane, and Misaki at the NY State Fair in Syracuse! Also have no idea why I don’t have a decent photo of all of us. Living In The Moment in the year 2015. We were in line to go on the ferris wheel.
Yes that’s a butter sculpture.
Liz and Misaki being corns! Fellow interns. They are so talented, and both went to the same scientific illustration course in Seattle. We ended up being very good buddies. Usually, the Lab has one intern on hand at a given time, and I think it’s the first time that all three of us were there at that time of the year. Plus Jane, who was also a former intern. It made for such a comforting support community, both for work and for life outside the Lab.
walking around Ithaca
Misaki and I met this guy named Thomas on the bus we ride to work, and almost every week he would give us fruits and vegetables from his harvest! Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, apples, leeks, ahhh. He was so nice!
Downtime drawing. Wow I miss the sun. Solar warmth, such a distant memory.
Watched Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There at the Cornell Cinema with the Tessaglia-Hymes, Misaki, and Liz. Misaki treated us to cookies from Insomnia Cookies (open from noon til 3AM).
First visit to the Herbert Johnson museum. Said hello to Matisse, and Kurt Vonnegut’s drawing exhibit. It was the day before my birthday.
Before I even left Manila, I, of course, had researched on Cornell’s libraries. This is the AD White library in Uris. Big understatement. It looks so much more beautiful in person, but I was hesitant to hang around and take a lot of photos because people were studying haha.
My birthday. Had a morning hike up at Taughannock Falls State Park with Liz and Misaki. It took us 4 hours, more or less.
Post-hike food stop at Trumansburg.
Also made slow roasted pork butt adobo. Had it for lunch for more than a week.
Catching up with some of my favorite people from home! I gave them a mini walking tour near the gorge and I almost fell down into the river, yay.
Started studies for the eagle picture book!
Face painting for the Lab’s Migration Celebration event. Also a first for me! A lot of the girls asked for butterflies and/or hummingbirds on their faces.
A tour of the specimen collections by Prof. Irby Lovette. Here he was showing us the rare / extinct collection. That’s a Carolina Parakeet.
I made myself good, healthy stuff to eat. Ithaca has gooood veggies.
Volunteered at a printmaking event at the Herbert Johnson museum. Stamping with the kids!
There was a letterpress machine and a silkscreen station, and you could work on postcards with both processes.
John Gurche book signing. He’s an artist and a scientist, and makes amazing models for studying anthropology and paleontology.
white in a glass, white paper flowers for Jane, and Tokyo Godfathers with Liz and Misaki
Helped Liz move into her sunny new place.
almost but not quite Fall yet
Stalking the great blue heron while it was hunting near the deck at the Lab’s pond one lunch time. Grace under pressure=THIS BIRD.
Porchfest! Is an event in Ithaca where musicians set up on porches and play all throughout the afternoon. This was a rondalla group called 14 Strings. They played traditional Filipino songs, and it felt odd but very comforting!
Tried to take photos of the blood moon through a scope.
The next day, we had a double rainbow.
Picture book progress. A little color and style study, plus thumbnails.
I guess I should end the first part here. The second batch of photos are Fall and early Winter. Ah, time goes by fast. Waaaay too fast.