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By Sophia Duvall, Jul 7 2014 10:00AM

I'm an unabashed introvert. I always have been. So, why do I love meeting people in this fashion, despite my introversion? While I do enjoy my own company, being introverted does not mean I don't love to socialise. I very much do, I simply prefer certain modes of socialising over others. I delight in connecting with other people. The long slow seduction, the chase, the eye contact, the expectant silences. Some people think of these as 'uncomfortable silences', but I never look at them this way. You can find out a lot about someone, and how you are together, by occasionally or even regularly sitting in silence.

Big, loud parties can deter this type of connection for an introvert. The best route to a mutually satisfying connection is building a deep rapport, which takes time and space. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time or a very specific kind of space. It means spending time in the right environment, and I find that this world provides that environment for me.

In case you hadn’t already picked up on it from other areas of my site, I’m a massive foodie. Food is one of the ultimate sensual experiences for me. Going to an amazing restaurant is the type of shared experience that builds deep rapport relatively quickly. Music is another way to do this. Remember those expectant silences? Music fills the silence, but it only builds the anticipation.

My experience is that the world is mostly built for extroverts, so I adore finding a gentleman or woman who appreciates what an introvert brings to the table. Since up to 75% of my fellow Americans are extroverts, I think of myself as a bit of a rarity. This doesn't mean that I don't love to converse, or even make small talk. On the contrary, I've been told that my contemplative nature and grounding presence provides a warm and inviting atmosphere to make exciting, new connections.

When I was little, although sweet, quiet and generally obedient, I was never one to shy away from adventure. I was always asking questions and trying out things I was told I probably shouldn't. More often than not, this approach to life has resulted in reward for me. As an adventurous introvert, I have rarely been disappointed.

By Sophia Duvall, Jun 9 2014 08:00AM

Last month I went to an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris that showcased several of the works that will be included in the new Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, opening in 2015. The curation was fascinating and unlike any I’d seen before. The concept is simple and obvious once you see it: Abu Dhabi is a meeting place of cultures and civilisations from all around the world, and the museum reflects that incredibly well. The curation focuses on periods of time as opposed to a particular part of the world, so it juxtaposes works of art from different regions from roughly the same period, as opposed to having separate sections for different regions as is done in most of the great museums and galleries in the world. The juxtaposition clearly demonstrates the differences between the regions, but more importantly the similarities, and how they influenced one another.

Some objects that particularly caught my eye were the Buddha heads – one from northern China from either the Henan to Shandong, Eastern Wei Dynasty (534-550 CE) or the Northern Qui Dynasty (550-77 CE), and the other from the northern Indian Mathers region (Gupta period, 5th century). Both Buddha heads were exactly the same size but the features clearly reflected their region of origin. Some of my other favourites included works from the Ottoman artist Hamdi Bey, as well as Picasso’s Portrait of a Lady. The finale of the exhibition was two luscious side-by-side works from 1960: Kazno Shiraga’s “Chrisire Kyubuki” and Yves Klein’s “Anthropometry”, which was a fantastic conclusion. By the time I walked out, my brain was buzzing. To say that I felt a little high from this curation is not an exaggeration.

The curation brought to mind a quote from the renowned Indian economist Amartya Sen, from the first podcast in the BBC’s History of the World series:

'I think what is really very important to recognise is that, when we look at the history of the world, we're not looking at the history of different civilisations truncated and separated from each other. They've a huge amount of contact with each other, there is a kind of inter-connectedness. So I've always felt, not to think of the history of the world as a history of civilisations, but as a history of world civilisations evolving in often similar, often diverse ways, always interacting with each other. And this is a very different view from the clash of civilisations to which we were exposed some years ago, as a way to understand enmity in the world. Enmity has not been the general condition of the relationship between people across the world in history.'

No other curation in any other museum has been able to communicate this message so clearly to me. Warfare and violence do not define humankind. At least, I choose to not see it that way. We've influenced one another across the distances and ages in astonishingly beautiful ways. Apart from that, challenging environments have often inspired the most illuminating art. We can witness this all the way back to the Paleolithic era. It was an incredibly difficult time for human kind, living through a blistering Ice Age. And yet, cave paintings and carvings appeared. Was this in spite of or because of the challenges the artists were facing? As a lifelong student of the human sciences, I would argue that it must be both.

By Sophia Duvall, May 9 2014 10:00AM

Usually I'm not keen on it, when people start entries with obscurant titles, but the phrase just fit. In French, bon séjour means to have a nice stay, it does not mean to have a a nice visit. To me, having a nice stay means finding a way to feel a bit at home, and at ease in my environment. It's a feeling I pursue often: to stay a while, not necessarily just visit briefly and then dash off.

I'm spending the week in Paris, exploring the many museums and galleries at my fingertips as well as the best food in the world. Today I saw a special exhibition at the Louvre showcasing the collection at the new Louvre Abu Dhabi. It was one of the most expertly curated exhibitions I have ever seen. Stay tuned for a blogpost dedicated to exactly why I loved it so much.

Watch this space for a retrospective on my trip! I'm headed to the South of France next, and then Montréal. I suspect I'll have much to share, though how much I'll be able to do so publicly I cannot yet say…