Remember Hiroshima. We want Peace.

Placing a paper crane
The Wi-Fi has been broken at World Friendship Center. Sorry for the late post.

The day I spent at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was indeed a meaningful day in my life. The weather was awful, with pouring rain and unbearable coldness.  On Wednesday at 9:30 in the morning, I entered one of the meeting rooms in the Peace Park Memorial to meet with Mrs. Kasaoka, 78 years old, a hibakusha survived the Atomic Bombing in Hiroshima, 1945.

There were about ten guests in the meeting room hearing Mrs.Kasaoka’s story, besides me, two were from Canada, and the rest were all Japanese. The story was being told with a translator standing aside translating after one or two sentences were finished telling by Mrs.Kasaoka in Japanese. Kasaoka’s story was extremely powerful. At some point I was almost in tears. When the bombing occurred, Kasaoka was only thirteen years old. She lost both of her parents on Aug 6th, 1945, leaving an irremovable mark in her memory of the war.

I am sure that stories alike Mrs.Kasaoka’s were millions out there, but what I got the most out of her story was the calmness on her face and her determination to promote peace in the world, not hatred or any negative feelings. When talking about WWII, Chinese people automatically express their hatred toward Japan. Note, it’s Japan, including both the government and the people, not only the army. But Chinese people never think that Japanese people, the ordinary civilians did nothing wrong, and they are also victims of the war. Before my visit to Peace Memorial Park, I was not sure about what kind of feelings that Japanese people have toward America, who dropped the atomic bombs. I was amazed by the theme of the park — peace, instead of blame or hatred.

Some quotes from Mrs.Kasaoka:

“I hated America, but gradually I grew out of those feelings. Now I hate the A-Bomb itself. ”

“The way to live is with love.”

“We always have fears (radiation). We should not have the 3rd A-Bomb. I’d like to convey that things like A-Bombing should not, and must not be repeated.”

Peace Memorial in Rain

In war we are all victims. During my stay at Hiroshima, I had two personal interviews, in order to gain a board perspective of the Pacific War. One interview I had was with Barb Siney, from Ohio, the co-director of the World Friendship Center. She gave me a general perspective of American’s role in the Pacific War. The other interview I had was with another guest at WFC, who is from Thailand and is now a student at Tokyo Institute of Technology. She told me Thai people’s views and positions in WWII while under Japan’s occupation. I gained lot information through these interviews. When I finish organizing my notes, I will be able to write up a great research paper on this topic.

I don’t know how much of my goal — promoting peace–has been achieved. However, I think simply my presence in Hiroshima as a Chinese teenager already meant a lot. I appreciate this opportunity that enables me to look at a sensitive topic from a different angle. Although I only had a full day at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, what I saw and heard already makes my Senior Project extremely meaningful.

Now I am back in Tokyo and will return Beijing in three days.

More to come,


An In-Studio Echo with Philadelphia’s own Time For Three

Today, I had the opportunity to help out at the Echoes studios before and during a live in-studio recording session with Time for Three, a rather fascinating Philadelphia-based “new classical” string trio. The group consists of Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall on violins, and Ranaan Meyer on upright double bass.

My job today was to work as an assistant to the sound engineer, Jeff Towne, and to help make the three band members and John comfortable during the three-hour-long recording session. When I arrived at the Echoes studios today, I began by setting up the recording booth with seven microphones in preparation for the day’s performance and interview with Time For Three. Each musician was given two microphones (one for instrument and one for voice parts in interviews/commentary) and the host, John, was given a microphone so he could provide commentary throughout the afternoon’s activities. It was a great experience getting to know how the inner workings of this recording studio come together in order to produce a full radio show.

After my work in the recording space was finished, I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance by Time For Three.

As soon as the first note of their performance rose from their strings, I became entranced by the colorful melodies that were blossoming from within the recording booth. The smooth and harmonious sounds of this trio blended much like the voices of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash on CSN’s “Guinivere”. Themes both of classical and contemporary origin echoed throughout Time For Three’s compositions, and improvisation added a silver lining to the soundscapes weaved by these prodigious musicians. Their set shifted from dreamy ocean-sized melodic pieces to energetic and spontaneously jagged upbeat tunes with ease. Every note was clean and clear, and I was unable to detect a single falter in their performance. To put it simply, I was completely blown away by these three incredible players.

After they had finished their short set and interview with John, the band members, Zachary, Nick, and Ranaan, chatted it up with me briefly before they had to leave. I was elated to discover that these three men were all incredibly humble, and very easy to talk to as a result. I spoke with Zachary specifically about the work of his older brother, Alex De Pue, with one of my musical heroes and greatest influences, guitarist Steve Vai. All three of these musicians come from very artistically strong families, and have all been playing music for as long as they can remember. I found a lot of common ground with these musicians. I hope that at one point I may be able to share experiences with my own musician friends that are similar to those that Time For Three has had over the years.

This was a great conclusion to a fantastic two weeks at the Echoes recording studios. The performance by Time for Three definitely made up for the fact that three events similar to this one were canceled during my internship. As a result of this, I walked away from the Echoes studios today with a true sense of closure and accomplishment.

Last days at DRC

I’ve got a few last updates on my senior project before I wrap it up and fly home tomorrow! I’ll give you an overview of the past week — The internet has been spotty as of late and I haven’t been able to update as often as I’d like.

Last Thursday and Friday were Claire’s and my days off from DRC. On Thursday my grandmother took us into downtown Key West to look around and sight-see a little. We saw Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum, which showed off many gold and silver artifacts from the Spanish ship Nuestra Senora de Atocha that he discovered in July of 1985. After that we swung by Ernest Hemingway’s house — a lovely southern colonial-style hosue nestled behind beautiful street side landscaping. Before leaving the downtown area we took a trolley tour of some of the prettiest houses in town — an interesting fact: most houses have unique gingerbread trims that their owners, ship captains, would carve while out at sea, giving each house a distinct and homey look, as well as a connection to the past.

Saturday we went back to work, with no more days off! That was no problem, however, as working at DRC was such a pleasure each and every day. Claire and I did the usual: feeding birds in the morning, sweeping off the underwater platforms, and assisting with encounters. Late in the week, our two Volunteer Directors, Becky and Kris, arranged for us to go down on the docks and partipate in a Meet-a-Dolphin program, in which we gave backrubs to three dolphins (Kibby, Tanner, and AJ) and got handshakes and kisses in return!

It’s been a fantastic two weeks. I fly home tomorrow. Hope you all have had fun reading these posts!


Mary Kate

Arriving Hiroshima!


Two nights ago, finally, I landed at Narita Airport in Tokyo, kicking off my ten-day-trip in Japan. I stayed at my aunt’s house in Yotsukaido, Chiba, located just outside of Tokyo for the past two days. I was expecting my stay in Japan a completely history-orientated trip, but now it seems more like a cultural immersion for me. Simply to feel the smell of the air, the cleanness of the streets, and the emotions expressed on people’s faces is already an unforgettable experience.

It is now almost 10 p.m. I am getting ready for bed.

Today I took the JR Express (bullet train) from Tokyo to Hiroshima. It took about four hours, a little shorter than that from Philadelphia to Boston. I am staying at World Friendship Center, a family style hotel run by an American couple, Ron and Barb, who are volunteers here in Hiroshima to promote peace. There are five guest rooms total in this Japanese style house. Besides me there is another tourist from Thailand staying in this house. I didn’t get to meet him/her today. Hopefully I can have a conversation with him/her before I leave. WFC arranged for me an atomic bombing survivor story telling and a Hiroshima Peace Park tour on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow. I am looking forward to hear people talking about their experiences in WWII. 

Tomorrow I will be visiting Miyajima, one of Japan’s 3 most beautiful spots. It is basically a divine shrine located in water. I am looking forward to many beautiful pictures.

So far the biggest challenge I have faced is language issue. At train station, in the shops, I was unable to communicate at all. My Asian face makes it even more difficult because everybody was assuming that I am Japanese and I can speak Japanese. I found that the majority population in Japan is not fluent in English. Today when I arrived at WFC and was greeted by the language of English, I was almost in tears. English! I love u! At the same time, I swear I will learn Japanese in college and hopefully could take a year aboard in Tokyo.

 Here are some pictures that I took:

Images of Live Echoes

These are some pictures that I took before (no photography allowed during) a performance hosted by Echoes at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA.

This performance featured the Bill Frisell Trio

The beautiful Sellersville Theater:

The Echoes information booth that I manned before and after the show, and during intermission:

The on-stage set up:

I really enjoyed this performance by Bill Frisell, a incredibly unique and talented musician. This night was loaded with quirky, entertaining, and fascinating musicianship.

Elephants!Elephants! Part Two

Hey all!

Like Madison, I have been much too busy to write on a consistent basis.  We arrived on the island of Phuket two days ago and we haven’t stopped doing things since!  Before I tell you of all the adventures we’ve been having here, I will first finish telling our day with the elephants.

(continued from previous post) Once the elephants realized we didn’t have any more food to feed them, they lumbered out towards the fields.  After the last of the food scraps and baskets were put away, we headed over to the river.  As we walked down the stairs from the walkway and stood on level ground with the elephants for the first time, we realized just how huge the elephants really were.  Standing next to them and throwing water on their backs was a moving experience.  Just by the simple act of washing the elephants, we started to learn how to interact with them and learn their true nature.  We learned to keep an eye out so that we could keep a safe distance from their feet.  We learned how to approach them in a safe way and whether it was a good idea to approach them at all based on their mood.  The elephants learned how to interact with us too.  Later, when we were playing with the baby elephants, the older elephants were protective at first but then learned that we only wanted to have fun and let us be with the baby elephants alone.

Aisha and I helped some of the workers tie together grass for the baby elephants to eat.  One of the people we tied grass with was the founder of the Elephant Heaven.  She amazed me.  The way she crouched on the ground next to the baby elephants, stroking their trunks and allowing them to stand taller than her was incredible.  She let herself be in a vulnerable position to their crushing feet and strong trunks yet seemed to feel totally at peace.  The other worker sitting with us was from France.  He had come to the sanctuary as a paying volunteer.  He was at the sanctuary when the male baby elephant was born and the two became connected.  He was then offered a job at the sanctuary as a paid worker and has been there ever since.  Aisha and I both decided that we wanted to have his job as well.  We also decided that if that plan fell through that we might be able to disguise ourselves as elephants (we had been watching the way they dived headfirst into the mud pits and felt that we could probably pull it off just as convincingly) and stay at the sanctuary as well.  We proposed this plan to the French worker and were told that we would probably have to learn how to charge other elephants as well.  We decided that this was not a good idea and have since been devising another plan to go back to the sanctuary.

The day was very moving for the whole group.  We learned about the plight of domesticated elephants in Thailand and were given hope about the situation.

Here is a link to information about the elephant sanctuary we visited.  If you are interested in donating, click the link below.  The money is used to care for and buy abused, domesticated elephants, so every penny counts.

Thanks for reading!


The Last Week

So, I am writing this post in the final stretch of my project. This week has been a blur of meetings with admissions, editing the poster, and even more meetings. On Monday, I went in and met with T. Nathan and T. Lynette to show them the first draft of the poster. With a couple of suggestions and some new ideas for windows to shoot, I went home to plan out the next two days of photography.

On Wednesday, I met with T. Tim to check in with him in regards to the photography as well as the layout of the poster, since he is my “artistic director.” He gave me some great advice as to how to handle some tricky situations with the lighting of some photographs. He also gave me the idea to also make this poster into a notecard or postcard, which is something that I have decided to add on to this project as well. I then got to share with him how I am so glad to have chosen this project so that I could really focus on my photography and nothing else for two weeks; this makes me feel much more comfortable with my decision to pursue a medical degree in college, which would mean not having much time for my other passion, photography. Even though we were sitting in the Biology 2 classroom, he got up and grabbed a book off of the shelf which turned out to be a photography book that focused on photos of surgery. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen, and I will definitely find some time to look through the entire book. Although I am not as interested in becoming a surgeon as I am in other medical professions and I most likely won’t become a photographer who takes pictures of surgery, this book made me realize that there are definitely artistic sides to medicine and this made me feel that I won’t be giving up on my creative side completely. I also realize that I’m very lucky to have teachers like T. Tim who are so amazing at what they do, and especially someone like him who is as knowledgeable in the sciences as he is with photography!

Here are some of the photos that are featured in my poster/notecard:

On Thursday, I had another meeting with Admissions; they made some final corrections to the poster and seconded T. Tim’s suggestion of making this concept of “The Windows of Westtown” into a notecard as well. I went home and spent the rest of the night on Adobe Illustrator on the computer arranging all of the photos into an additional layout. The next day, I clicked save on the final versions of the project, and it was nearly complete. It would seem that I was finished, although my computer had a different plan. The files were eight times too large to send in an email, so I decided to burn them onto a CD and deliver it to Admissions on Saturday. Neither Admissions nor the Front Office were open, so I am going to have to send the CD in the mail to T. Nathan (I am leaving for the airport at 7am tomorrow).

That is what has been going on this week, and this is where my project stands at the moment. I hope you all have enjoyed reading about my project! I’ll write more when we produce a finished, printed product.

Alex  🙂

A lesson in philanthropy

Buenas noches,

As you can probably tell from my sporadic appearance of my blogs, we are having too much fun to sit still at the computer long enough to record meaningful descriptions. I would apologize for not writing often enough, but I am really not that sorry because my time has been so well spent elsewhere.

When the five of us were planning our senior project, we all agreed that we wanted to have service be the focal point of our trip. We have all been privileged in all aspects of our lives, infusing us with a gratitude that we hoped to express through aiding others who are less fortunate than us. We had originally planned to work in an orphanage in Santiago, but the connection fell through. Luckily, Sarah’s mother had another connection with a Catholic father who manages Cottolengo, a facility outside of the city that cares for people with mental and physical disabilities.

Last Thursday, the five of us spent the afternoon meeting Padre Felipe, the Cottolengo staff, and the residents. From the moment we shook his hand, Padre Felipe sent waves of comfort and happiness through us. An infectious aura of pure compassion emanated from every part of his existence. As the man who drove us to Cottolengo said, “you can see the light of Jesus reflected in that man’s eyes.” Padre Felipe took us into his office, told us the history of Cottolengo and explained that 80% of the 340 residents had been abandoned by their families or found on the street. He also explained that all of them had mental disabilities, many of which contributed to physical deformities as well.

From there, we left the office and set off on a tour. When Padre Felipe had said he was going to show us the facility, I assumed he intended to walk down the hallways, point out the different sections, and then send us on our way. I assumed completely wrong. Padre Felipe stopped at every door, walked into every room, and kissed every single resident at Cottolengo. He knew almost all of their names and at least a little bit about their histories. What was even more amazing was to see the residents’ reactions to him. Hearing his voice echoing down the hallway, those capable of walking flocked over to hug him. I have never seen someone inspire so many smiles the instant they enter a room.

Walking through Cottolengo proved to be one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing I have ever done. I felt so candidly uncomfortable and out-of-place. Trapped between guilt and gratitude, I did not know whether to look away out of politeness or stare. Every action felt so forced at first. As the tour finished, however, I became more and more comfortable. I gradually became desensitized to the surroundings, and accepted a new form of reality.

On Monday and Tuesday, we returned to Cottolengo and spent both days volunteering. Amazingly, the facility was unharmed by the earthquake, and no one panicked too severely. This was especially miraculous because the location of the building was surrounded by housing units and apartments that had collapsed. I spent the first day with the girls, and the second with the boys. We gave baths, dressed residents, made beds, cleaned floors, spoon fed, held hands, wiped tears, gave hugs, played games, and donated smiles all day. It was emotionally exhausting, but also invigorating. It’s difficult to put the light reflected in the eyes of a severely disabled resident as she beams up at you, throws her arms around you, buries her face in your chest, and refuses to let go. I think I perfected my hugging technique; I even earned the title mom more than once.

After we finished our volunteering, we deliberated with Padre Felipe about our experience. We talked about how fortunate working had made us feel, and how startling and awkward the work seemed at first until the discomfort is displaced by acceptance. Along with being thankful for every time I took a step, breathed unassisted, and comprehended my surroundings, I learned the importance of human contact. It didn’t matter that they didn’t speak English and we don’t really speak Spanish, or that we come from Pennsylvania and they from Chile. A smile and an embrace transcend all other modes of communication. Language and analysis merely complicate the fundamental expressions that are crucially important to existence, namely, expressions of love and compassion.

As in the case of all of my other blogs, I simply cannot adequately convey how meaningful volunteering at Cottolengo was. While we plan to do other relief work for the earthquake before we leave the country (or attempt to leave the country), we felt that going to Cottolengo instead of doing earthquake related services was a decision well made. Many times people devote a lot of attention to the problem at hand, but after time passes and the severity of the situation mitigates, they forget the reason why they volunteered their help in the first place. We found that this was the case in deciding to go to Cottolengo; although the aiding earthquake victims is crucial, donating our time to the residents who have spent their entire lives at Cottolengo is just as necessary.

I can’t believe this entry is this long and yet I still feel I have barely scratched the surface.

More later, hopefully.


The Last Day

Today is our last day on this beautiful island and it is very upsetting. We just left the school where we have been working and it was really hard to say goodbye to all of the kids. It took about 30 minutes to get out of each classroom because the kids would no let go of our clothes as we were trying to leave. We have built up a bond with the children that is unlike anything else I have experienced. Before this trip, I never really worked with kids that much and these past two weeks have taught me a lot. As we were walking away a few of the children were crying and that was very hard to see. In addition to finishing our time at the school, we also finished painting the room we had been working on. That was a great feeling to be done with that after many hours of work on those walls. I am using the internet at a shop and they are closing soon, so I have to get off. I will write another post when I can log on again.


Echoes in Motion

Greetings from…Chester Springs PA!

Although that introduction may not be nearly as exciting as those coming from my peers, I believe that my internship at Echoes has certainly provided me with a set of equally fascinating experiences thus far.

The past few days inside Echoes have been a tad hectic, mostly due to the chaotic nature of this area’s winter weather. The recent snow storm has unfortunately forced one of this week’s featured performers, Phil Keaggy, to cancel his recording sessions and performances with Echoes. When one takes into consideration that the roads near the performance venue were very poorly cleared, and that late-night travel conditions were almost certainly going to worsen, it becomes clear that it was a good decision to cancel these two sessions. Additionally, the performance that was supposed to take place on Monday with Balmorhea was canceled due to a band member’s family emergency. All of these sudden cancellations illustrate the unpredictability of the radio industry. On Monday, I sat in on a meeting with the entirety of the Echoes team (John, Kim, Jeff, and Liz), during which they planned how they would fill in the gaps created by these cancellations. It was interesting listening in while they reviewed recordings they had made in previous years, and discussing how they could possibly fit some old features in the holes where these new features were supposed to fit. As a performer, it was thought-provoking to see how one decision (canceling a show or an interview, for instance) has the potential to jam up other processes taking place throughout the music industry. These events have made me both more aware of how my decisions as a musician affect others, and how, as a potential radio worker, I would be able to face and overcome challenges similar to those faced by the Echoes team this week.

Unfortunately for my internship, these cancellations only mean one thing: more desk work, and fewer opportunities to interact in hands-on situations. Mr. Diliberto has done a great job of keeping me very busy this week, assigning me jobs such as artist biography research and filing, CD library organization, and everything in between. One of my favorite jobs at Echoes is to take a chunk out of the mountains of new CD releases piled around John’s office, and be the first person to give them a listen-through. During this process, I check to see if any material on any of the CD’s is playable on an Echoes program. John told me that over 80 percent of the albums they receive do not make it to the second round of consideration for airtime. Interestingly, a radio station that has a musical focus primarily in the abstract and ambient world of music rakes in piles upon piles of CD’s of a wide array of genres. Within a pile of ten CD’s, I would often find anything from classical artists, to avant-garde noise music, to free form jazz,to modern pop, rock, electronica, and even so-called “sounds of nature” (entire CD’s consisting of recordings of, well, nature!). This was a really interesting part of my desk work at Echoes.

In addition to the desk work that I have been carrying out at Echoes, I have now begun to inch my way into some more hands-on work. John  and Jeff (Co-Producer and Sound Engineer) have been introducing me to the intricacies of the computer program Pro Tools. This program is the industry standard for nearly any type of sound recording. I have always wanted to work and experiment with this program. However, the several-hundred-dollar price tag that comes along with this program has unfortunately limited my ability to do so. Today and yesterday, I sat in while Jeff mixed a recording taken two years ago of a British group called “The Mediaeval Baebes”. Jeff told me that this was one of his most difficult mixing jobs to date. The band consists of eight musicians total (five singers, two stringed instrument players, and a percussionist). This video can give you a better idea of the depth of the instrumentation of their music:

As you can see, this is some crazy stuff! Jeff’s job was to set the level of each instrument and voice so that the Baebes’ live recording sounded as close to that which is on their album as is possible. Jeff’s work is truly an art. He spends hours on end analyzing each individual part of each song, adding reverb, boosting or lowering volume levels, removing speech pops. His ability to make a disorganized and unequalized piece of music sound beautiful is truly unbelievable.

I will be in close contact with Pro Tools next year while I take my gap year at a recording studio house in Long Island, NY. I am very excited to explore the possibilities of sonic manipulation, especially when it comes down to my own personal compositions.

Tomorrow, I will be working at the first (and, unfortunately, the final) live performance session happening during my internship. I will have the amazing opportunity of experiencing a performance by the world-renowned Bill Frisell. His ambient and experimental guitar technique is astonishing. He is a true master of the instrument. Being a guitarist myself, I will be in awe throughout the entire performance tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with a video of Frisell’s playing. By this weekend, expect a post about the performance!