Thwin Thet Su San: Miami as Text

Photo by Balazs Kornis, 2020

Thwin Thet Su San is a Sophomore student studying Finance at Florida International University. She dreams of working as a corporate lawyer after finishing grad school. She came to Miami from Yangon, Myanmar after finishing high school to explore, learn and grow in a new environment. Miami is a wonderful place for her to explore cultures other than the one she had grown up in for the past 17 years. She hopes that she will be able to gain amazing new experiences every week that she spends exploring Miami. Other than that, she loves reading fantasy and other novels in her free time. She recommends The Stranger by Albert Camus! This will be a great course as she will be able to leave the books and explore the real world.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Clash of Cultures” by Thwin Thet Su San of Downtown Miami,January 22,2021

Photo by Thwin Thet Su San, Downtown Miami, 2021

Cramped between tall high rise buildings are different structures of architecture. This indeed is a clash of different cultures. On the corner, a small la ventanita occupies the space, providing quick meals for anyone who wants amazing food. Facing it was a humongous tall structure of a courthouse designed to look like a Babylonian ziggurat. Cars and metro still bustling down the road that divided the two buildings, yet it somehow provides this sense of balance. As we walk further down the street, the courthouse holds a statue of a man named Flagler who had improved the settlements along Miami. But this settlement didn’t come at a cheap price. This settlement had caused a loss in homes and lives of the indigenous, the Spanish and the African Americans. A racial war was upon them after segregation upon people was brought on by Flagler. What made Miami full of culture ranges from the slaves quarters and other buildings built by African Americans people to Wagner, a German man who fell in love with a Haitian Creole woman to indigenous people who had been driven down to Florida and had been settling down there ever since. The different cultures made Miami what it is today. To some people, America was the land of the free, a place of sanctuary and security compared to their home country. Its deep enrichment of Cuban American culture can be found in Downtown Miami where a statue of Operation Pedro Pan stands still, facing the Freedom Tower where they have first gotten their citizenship and moved towards freedom.

Everglades as Text

“Life of a little fish” by Thwin Thet Su San of Florida International University at Everglades National Park, February 5,2021

Nature photo by Thwin Thet Su San, Thwin’s Photo taken by Balazs Kornis, Everglades, 2021 (CC by 4.0)

Mom had always told us that our nature is important to who we grow as a living being. Now, I was just a small fish in a large pond. Mom always reminds me and my siblings that our ancestors have lived in this swamp for a long time and that we should be grateful to be born with diverse plants and algae that we can feed on. I have only been swimming around in a tiny proximity from where I was born. I haven’t seen much but one thing I remembered when I opened my eyes was seeing a clear world where plants seem to stretch for miles and miles. Luscious greens and yellow seem to decorate my home, along with the light that seems to have traveled far through Cypress trees to get into the water. Sparkling streaks of lights serve as a way to explore this swamp even more. As I drift along further, the water gets muddier. The water was full of moving trunks that seem to make the peaceful serenity of my home chaotic. I, unlike my hundreds of brothers and sisters, felt the need to explore these moving trunks. I follow them along, hearing them talk and I learned something my mom has never taught me before. I knew we were not the only beings that exist, but I was hearing all about alligators, Burmese pythons, and bird species such as Anhinga which can potentially eat me. After stopping for a while, they started going to a restricted place my mom would never let me go. It was an alligator hole, where the water was muddy and deep filled with potential dangers. Luckily, there weren’t any animals that were dangerous to me. They mentioned something about the water level being higher than the normal dry season, and the alligators being scared of these moving trunks. After following these moving trunks struggle for so long in the muddy water, I decided it was time for me to go back to my family. They are probably wondering if I got eaten by a frog or one of the other animals, but mom I am coming back right now after a long day of exploring. Today I have learned something no other fish has, and that is, I am grateful to be born in a place where a lot of different moving trunks come to research on the peacefulness and the durability of this amazing home that I live in.

In my mind that is how one of the little fishes we have seen have felt experienced our adventure to the Everglades most likely the fishes were as amazed by us and our moving trunks as how much we were amazed by their home The Everglades National Park, and its diverse ecosystems. One of the things the little fish was not able to see is our walk on the Anhinga trail, where we were able to get up-close with the Alligators, see a pond full of Lilies and diving birds looking for fish and as the name of the trail suggest the Anhinga birds.

Overall, I was amazed by this adventure into the home of the little fish and all the interesting plants and animals I saw. I am very grateful of this opportunity of visiting the Everglades and taking part in a Slough Slog as part of one of my classes giving me a break from the world of Zoom.

South Beach as Text

Architecture: Shaping a culture by Thwin Thet Su San of Florida International University at South Beach, February 19,2021

South Beach photo by Thwin Thet Su San,South Beach, 2021 (CC by 4.0)

There are three major types of building architecture styles in the surroundings of South Beach: MIMO(Miami Modernist), Mediterranean Revival, and Art Deco. My favorite building would be the Versace mansion, which was beautifully decorated and built in 1930, in the style of Mediterranean revival. It was also the residences of Gianni Versace. South beach has a vibrant mix of buildings from the three styles along with a couple outliers.

Miami Modernist is a type of architecture that was developed after World War II. These Buildings are usually high rise buildings that are surrounded and decorated with glass panels all around. Some of them are even seen to be curved to give that spaceship or a cruise-ship type of atmosphere completed with porthole style windows. Whereas Art Deco tries to build buildings that seems to be out of this timeline, as if it was from the future. These buildings often have rounded edges and brightly colored walls complete with neon lighting, that catches our eyes. More over, these buildings are designed with parallel lines that run across the buildings and even on the terrazzo flooring to give the illusion of a bigger space than it actually is. These buildings not only incorporate the future but also sometimes past architecture such as the ziggurat styled roof.

One prominent thing you can see looking at the buildings is that they are not as tall as MIMO architecture style buildings. They are only 3 story tall. The reason for this was because of a building code requirement of elevators for buildings that are over three stories tall, they decided to build no taller than that due to the high cost of elevators at the time. The Colony Hotel can be seen as one of the best examples of an Art Deco building. It is painted brightly blue, with vertical lines running along the building with its curved edges to show its futuristic design. On top of the building, it has incorporated wave like lines to turn an object to a 2D model, a commonplace in Art Deco. More of this can be seen at Clevelander where the flamingos are purposely built in a way it has no curves but strong edges. The flamingos are shaped to seem more stiff than other art style which favor the sense of being lively. This was because Art Deco tried to make nature look industrial instead the other way around. Moreover, even water fountains are seems to be lifeless and 2 dimensional as it was painted flatly at the Finnegan’s Way bar.

But my favorite style has to be the Mediterranean Revival like the Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive. As Versace travels to Miami and saw all these Art Deco buildings and Miami Modernists and Mediterranean Revival, he fell in love with the architecture and the style of living in Miami. Mostly Mediterranean Revival was what drew Versace in to South Beach. Versace loved the vision of old roman columns, arched windows, vintage walls and spindle gates He felt that he could express himself in South Beach and with his arrival started the expansion of South Beach. Famous and rich people started buying real estate and living in South Beach, and open shops like Versace. This caused the culture and the population grew along with the areas popularity. His arrival also helped the LGBTQ community who frequented Miami Beach and met at places like the Palace Bar which features constant Drag Shows.

Overall the colorfulness of Miami Beach and its distinct architecture, drawing in tourists from all around the world, is something most people in Miami take for granted and not realize the importance of. The class made me realize that I should treasure being only a short drive away from something others travel long hours to see.

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