To Whom it May Concern:
Thank you for the money I received this summer to travel the globe documenting my self-realization. Your money was well spent, I can assure you, as I indeed know myself much better than I knew myself before.
You (your associates, the University and my parents) have requested that I write a few words about my experiences for your records (tax and otherwise). I would love nothing more than to talk to you about what I have done, as it was certainly quite a bit. I did things all day, every day. Sometimes even at night.
First I traveled to Amsterdam to photograph the cannabis plant for a photographic essay I intend to publish in a select group of very prestigious magazines. While I have not received word yet about the publication, I am sure that these magazines will be very interested in my work, which is highly original and edgy. I even overexposed a few rolls of film, rendering the photos artistically obscure. During this time, I noticed that I am a superb artist.
Next I discovered a little piece of myself in a village in the south of France. After spending a night and one day passed out on a beach overlooking the Mediterranean, I awoke with a feeling of dread and nausea. It turned out I had contracted a sexually transmitted disease while photographing the cannabis plant — I met many close friends in Amsterdam — and was now suffering from what le medecin called a “rash.” I encountered many adventures (rickshaw, brothel, peasants) in trying to find my way to the clinic, and realized that I am a very determined and persistent person, sure to be a leader.
After treatment, I settled into a third-world neighborhood in Paris. Some people are very shocked to hear that parts of Western Europe are poor, but I was not shocked to hear it since I had done my research. I worked 45 minutes each day sharpening pencils for underprivileged third-graders in the seventh arrondissement. I even donated many of my own personal pencils to the school (a little goes a long way), spending a few extra minutes of my free time each night sharpening the donated pencils and my language skills.
I then traveled by cruise ship to Jamaica, where I intended to do research concerning the integration of 20th century music into parties (or gatherings) thrown by island cultures. While on board the cruise, I wrote a probing essay on the tendency of human beings to gather at places where food is stationed. I took many pictures of overweight Americans eating, which I believe will shed some light on the state of obesity in our nation, as I have never seen pictures quite like these before. I learned that I am unafraid to take risks.
After attending many research-related musical concerts in Jamaica, I caught a plane to Tibet. In Tibet, I met a group of schoolchildren who led me through a village to a monastery (where monks live). Those precious 20 minutes were the most illuminating of my life. If I am reincarnated (one of my goals), I would like to come back as a monk to repay the universe for all of the fun I had and the wisdom I gained this summer.
When I returned to the States, I formed a theater and performance art group with my high school drama teacher, a man named Ned who continues to be an artist despite pressure from parents to perform “Guys and Dolls” year after year, instead of the edgy pieces he writes involving nudity.
Freed from censorship, Ned and I were able to perform a very successful multimedia piece about America — the idea — employing techniques of physical theater and boisterous rap music.
Now settled back on campus for the year, I reflect on the summer with great joy. I feel as if my self is someone I would want to know (I hope this feeling is shared by more people this year than it was last year). Thank you for getting to know me as I got to know me during the summer I spent with me.
Eli Clark regrets not applying for fellowship funding to study the subculture of European cafes, clubs and pastry shops. She intends to make better use of her fall semester senior thesis research grant — an open tab at Hot Tomato’s — where she’ll be taking notes on alcohol’s effect on awkward social interactions.