Remembering Barcelona

Hey its been a week since we left Barcelona and I miss it incredibly. It was very hard to say goodbye to our wonderfully nice families. After a long flight, which consisted of watching four movies and being very tired. We arrived at the airport and luckily all of us found our luggage and made it through customs with ease. We had to wait about two hours for the bus to come and pick us up but before we knew it, we were back at Westttown. I was one of the special Spain kids who didn’t get to go home for the weekend to catch up on sleep. Four of us stayed at Westtown and even went to classes on Friday. It took a while to adjust to the time zone again but now I am good.

The Spanish Exchange students from Barcelona arrived today for their stay at Westtown. Every one who went to Spain was so happy to see them. It felt much longer than a week. I am very excited to show my host around Westtown.

I am very glad that Westtown is so beautiful. I thought that I would be depressed to leave Spain, and I was pretty sad, but Westtown is so beautiful that it made the transition much more easy. I want to thank everyone for reading my blogs and I hope they were interesting. I didn’t do as many as I thought that I would but it was fun!

thanks!

Gofres, Picasso, y Los Fuentes Mágicas

Hola!

It is 11:08 pm on Saturday night of my last weekend in Spain, and I just got in from a pizza dinner with Maria, Lauren, Liz, Olalla (Lauren´s host sister), Meri (Liz´s host sister), and Bet (who is coming to Westtown with the exchange in April, but didn´t have her own host student). Before going to a pizzaria near    Bet´s apartment, we went to Los Fuentes Mágicas, famous fountains outside of the MNAC, Barcelona´s national art museum. These fountains (I got a video of the show) do a light, music, and water show on Saturday nights. Tonight some other girls and I went to see it. There were lots of people there, and whole buses had brought groups to witness the famous show.

Earlier today, Lauren, Liz and I watched our host sisters play their basketball game. In Spain, unlike at Westtown, each grade has their own team, and the three girls are on the same team at Aula. They won by somewhere like 45 points! Today happens to be father´s day in Spain, so after the game, we went out to lunch at a Chinese Restaurant with Maria, and her parents. The food was delicious! Then, we came back to the apartment and I took a long nap before we went back out again for the night. The girls try to keep us entertained at all times, and since they know how to get around the city, there is almost no limit to what they can do.

On Friday this week, we went to the beach. It was probably the nicest day since I´ve gotten to Spain, and we didn´t want to leave. We saw the famous port, and the most famous cathedral in Barcelona, La Santa Maria del Mar. We learned about the fishing culture of the coast from Profe Remy, who guided our group through Madrid, and now Barcelona, and is a teacher at Aula, originally from Paris. After that, we ate lunch, and then we went to the Picasso museum. There were about 30 of us, including the group from Boston and their teachers, so we split up into Philadelphia and Boston groups. I got a chance to see Las Meninas, and the progression of Picasso´s work, from his early stages, to much later in life. The difference is very striking to me.

After the museum, I went to a restaurant with some of the Philadelphia group, and then bought some gifts for people at home. And then, gofres! Gofres (waffles) con helado (ice cream/gelado) has become a staple of my diet in Spain. I get it whenever and wherever possible, usually with Nutella on top. Another one of my favorite foods here, are churros con chocolate: deep fried, twisted batter sticks, that you dip in a cup of thick, hot chocolate. Its delicious! I also like Spanish tortillas, and calçotades, an onion like vegetable, which you grill, slide the outer sheath off of, dip in some kind of delicious sauce, and eat while wearing a bib, by holding it by the end over your head. It is very messy, and very, very good.

I have about 4 days left in Spain, including one night in Madrid, and the end of my trip seems both so far and so close. I still have a lot of Barcelona to see, like La Sagrada Familia, so don´t think for a second that my days will be slowing down! They´ll still be filled with walking until my feet are ready to fall off, and snapping pictures of everything in sight, and straining my ears and brain to understand two foreign languages, not just one. But it´s definitely worth it.

Adeu!

Home Sweet Home?

I’ve been home for almost two weeks now, and I’m still not totally readjusted to the “American way of life.” I wish I could still speak Spanish to everyone, but unfortunately nobody else in my family understands me. That said, there are a lot of things that I’m happier about at home – I can sleep in, I don’t have the stress of not understanding a language, and I can flush my toilet paper. I will always remember this experience, and if I can repeat it sometime, because it was so different and incredible compared to what I’m used to.

Since I didn’t post any pictures during my trip, I have to post all of them now. There are a lot, but I had to sort through more than 500 to get the good ones. They start at the clinic in Santa Lucia, with the doctors and the Paquete Basico – the mobile health care that our brigade took out to outlying centers for health. In the middle of those are a couple pictures of the trip we took to Rio Torola separating Honduras from El Salvador. After those pictures are some more clinic pics, then my stay in La Ceiba, where I didn’t take many pictures. One of the days that week Alex and I went with a friend of a friend Matt to see where he lived, in a community that lived on a dump. After that, I flew home. Enjoy!

This will probably be my last post for Senior Projects, so thank you all for following me and if you have any questions feel free to email me.

Muchos Gracias a todos!

Alex

Barcelona!

Oh Barcelona!
It has taken me a long time to sit myself down and write this. We have been in Barcelona for eight days now. We arrived at the train station at midnight and was swept off into cars and taxis filled with people speaking Spanish muy rapido. The students from the school had this week off as vacation, so we found ourselves following them to places that they wanted to go to. I got to know the friends of my host very well, although it was hard or impossible to understand them when they speak with each other in Catalan. During this week, I visited the L’aquarium Barcelona, where we started a trend of sitting on the moving sidewalks as they go past the tanks of fish and sharks. I went to a famous market called La Boqueria. We went early in the morning to avoid the crowd but it was still incredibly crowded. The assortment of fruits was amazing to see and the colors were absolutely beautiful! It was hard for me as a vegetarian to walk through because of the intense smell of fish and the animal heads hanging everywhere. On the weekend, we went bowling. We met up with almost all of the Westtown student and their hosts. I did better than I thought I would without bumpers and I came in second to last but it was still very fun. This last week, I got very comfortable to my family, and the friends of my host girl.
On Sunday, my family went to the mountains. We went to a place called Montserrat. It was an amazing drive up the windy, tiny, steep roads. When we got to the top we went to a grand Cathedral. There were about 1,000 people there and a small group in the front was singing beautifully. We waited about an hour to see the statue of the Virgin. The Cathedral was stunning.
On Monday, we had our first day of classes. There are no yellow school buses here, they take coach buses to school. School is very long here as well. It goes from 9am-5pm but luckily there is one break in the morning, where everyone has a sandwich from home that is wrapped in tin foil and one break in the afternoon. We had a tour of the school and saw a group of little kids that sang to us in French! The kids start learning English, Spanish, French and Catalan very early! The classes were pretty long and after a while, it was very hard to understand what anyone was saying but some classes were very fun and I am getting very good at listening and understanding Spanish.
It has been raining a lot here. Every day, I must remember my umbrella. Yesterday, we went sight-seeing and shopping in a town and we walked a lot in the rain. We also went to the Salvador Dalí museum and that was very interesting. There were many pieces that were beautiful and many that played with your mind. Today we had a class about him and surrealism.
The hardest thing for me to get used to is the time when we eat dinner. Last night we ate dinner at 11 o’clock PM. I have been here for more than a week and it is still hard for me to wait that late for dinner. My family is being very nice and giving me lots of snacks to help me. We have one more week here until we come home and I am going to be very sad to leave.

¡Hola Aula!

Hello everyone!

Seeing as it is my second week in Spain, I figured it was about time for my second post from Spain! Yesterday, the group and I started classes at the Aula School, that our host students attend. Now what makes Aula different, is that the kids begin there at around 3 years old, and but for a few exceptions, no new students enter at any higher levels. These kids form bonds with their classmates that last their entire childhoods. Not only that, but the Aula School prides itself in its multilingual approach; the kids are taught French, English, Spanish, and Catalan, and have a mastery of all four languages by high school! I find this very interesting and very exciting, since languages fascinate me.

 

The classes we attended yesterday were conducted in Spanish (except for English class) and I was very proud of myself when I realized I could understand everything, including Philosophy class! I found both the philosphy class and geography class very interesting, despite some doubts I had previously. After school (classes begin at 8:50 and end at 5:30!), me and a few other girls stayed late to watch our girls at basketball practice. The girls I´ve been in close contact with here in Spain all love basketball a lot! My host sister and her older brother Victor, even have a special soft spot for the 76ers!

I was very glad to see some of the group that I hadn´t been able to see last week, at school yesterday, and again today, when we went on a fun, but very, very rainy excursion with the exchange group from Boston which is sharing our time in Barcelona with other students, to the Dali museum and the town of Girona, and its large cathedral. I have lots of pictures and videos, but unfortunatly, I can´t post any without using my own laptop, which still is not connected to wifi. I´ll have to make a special post just for photos and videos when I get the chance! I really,  really liked the Dali museum; there were lots of extremely strange things in there, but they were all very interesting and beautiful. The cathedral and the town of Girona were also beautiful, and on a sunny day, it would have been fantastic to walk along the cobbled streets of Girona, up the hills. Unfortunately, today it was raining A LOT.

Tomorrow, we have a half day of school, then we are taking the metro downtown and visiting the MNAC museum in Barcelona. I´m not sure what is in that museum, so that will be a surprise for me.

Right now it is about 5 minutes to 9 and I hear my host mother singing and bustling in the kitchen, which means dinner should be soon. They eat dinner very late hear, almost never sooner than 9 pm, and that is early! It gets hard sometimes to contain my hunger, but usually we have lots of little meals in between larger ones. Today,  after lunch, we were lucky enough to find a gelato and gofre (waffle) shop called the Madonna in Girona, and almost all of us got waffles with ice cream and Nutella. Nutella is so delicious! I definitly will be buying some when I get home.

On the schedule for the rest of the week (weather permitting), are Greek and Roman ruins on Thursday, along with a visit to Cadaques, and on Friday, we are going to have a seminar about Picasso, then go to the center of Barcelona, probably by metro and/or bus, tour through the neighborhood of Raval, visit the iglesia Santa Maria del mar, and then the Picasso museum to end the day. The weekend is free to our host students to decide, and from what I´ve heard, Maria has a basketball game on Saturday, and there might be a surprise party on Sunday!

I´m liking Barcelona, my host family, and even classes at Aula a lot and I have definitly become closer with people on the trip, some of whom I never really talked very much to before. We´ve all shared an experience now, and so we can relate to each other in ways other people can´t.

More later (hopefully with pictures and videos!)

Adeu! (that´s Catalan!)

Gallery-Hopping and Art Fair Shopping

After a weekend of seeing so much art my eyes started to water (below is only the beginning of it,) I felt almost divinely inspired to create. And create I did for the remainder of the week! After seeing the woven folk harp (pictured below) by Iven Stein, I remembered a beautiful but broken accordion that’s been lying around my house in want of repair, and I decided to spend my time and energy on the beauty of the instrument itself, rather than futily trying to mend the broken sounds that come from something I can’t even play (though, between by efforts to embellish it outwardly I have been teaching myself to play a few Yann Tiersen songs, one of my favorite composers who writes quite a bit for the accordion). But enough about me. Take a look at some of my favorite pieces from the Independent Art Fair, The Pulse NYC Art Fair, and some Chelsea galleries, and see what inspires you.

 

Andy Warhol

 

Damian Stamer

 

Heather Gwen Martin

 

David Antonio Cruz

 

Michelle Muldrow: “Delirium”

 

Close-Up of Michelle Muldrow’s “Delerium”

 

Close-Up of Michelle Muldrow’s “Delerium”

 

Tara Donovan

 

Tara Donovan

 

Polixeni Papapetrou

 

Cody Hoyt

 

Josh Dorman

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Robert Kushner

 

Ben Wolf

 

Isen Stein

 

Christina Empedocles

 

Christina Empedocles

 

Christina Empedocles

 

George Rahme

 

Trey Speegle

 

Let me know if you were as inspired as I!

 

Emily

Post-project – Caylin

My project ended on Saturday with a VTGS class with a focus on addiction and recovery. The class was actually one of the most effective meetings of VTGS that I’ve been to up to this point. We had a panel with about 6 recovering addicts, did an art project, and then had a discussion/reflection in small groups. It was interesting to be the only Westtown student in attendance, since the underclassmen left for spring break on Friday.

This class was effective because of the delicacy of the topic. The personal testimonies we heard during the panel were really moving, because of the pure strength of the person sharing. To be so open with a bunch of teenage kids from privileged backgrounds about addiction and recovery, of all things, that takes guts. But the topic was also cause for a gap between the students and the people on the panel. It was hard for a lot of the kids to make sense of some of the stories, because it still feels so distant to them. This gap didn’t completely go away, but it was interesting to watch as kids started to grasp what addiction means on a personal level through the group discussions.

I think that it was good for me to be the only Westtown student at this class because of the nature of my work at BSM for the preceding two weeks. I was worried how it would feel to return to being a student in the class after having been an “intern,” and having people from Westtown with me would have made that difference larger. Instead I feel like I was able to hold my place well, and also take in what addiction/recovery means to me personally and be rather vulnerable in discussion. It’s always easier to be vulnerable when you aren’t surrounded by the people who you see every day.

Anyway, post-project life for me includes a vacation to Saint Martin. It’s been a culture shock, going from my Senior Project to this. If you’ve read my blog from the start, you might remember how I chose to stay in Philadelphia to avoid the feel of a luxe vacation. Here I am, on an extremely luxe vacation, and it’s made it difficult to keep myself in the mindset I kept during my Senior Project. Having been taken out of Philadelphia the day after my project ended has really blurred some of my initial reflections, and I wish it hadn’t been like that.

During the length of my project, Liam had me read 3 different books. I finished one before starting at BSM, read one during, and then lost steam and still haven’t finished the third. This third book, The Fidelity of Betrayal by Peter Rollins, is a theologically-based argument for the deconstruction of the church in favor of a church essentially turned on its head. Taken from the back of the book:

“It may be necessary to betray your faith in order to keep it.
What if one of the core demands of a radical Christianity lay in a call for its betrayal, while the ultimate act of affirming God required the forsaking of God? And what if fidelity to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures demanded their renunciation? In short, what would it mean if the only way of finding real faith involved betraying it with a kiss?
Employing the insights of mysticism and deconstructive theory, The Fidelity of Betrayal delves into the subversive and revolutionary nature of a Christianity that dwells within the church while simultaneously undermining it.”

So, I’ve been plowing through this, trying to make sense of a VERY different religious perspective than I’ve ever seen. I came into this project with a view of the church as a one-dimensional, negative thing. I whole-heartedly believed in individual faith, but I strongly felt that organized religion was just doing it all wrong. I’ve discovered that the power of faith does not lie in individuality, but really in the community’s celebration of each person and their own faith unto whatever it is they are faithful. Through this, people are able to simultaneously find strength in themselves and a support network, a family, in the people around them. I think that this is exemplary of one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this project: it’s blasted multiple stereotypes that I would identify things by. Homelessness, addiction, religious faith. The world beyond Westtown is complex, definitely not one-dimensional, and filled with really fascinating people and ideas in places you wouldn’t always expect to find them.

One of the things I’ve taken away from this project is that in the world of social justice, it doesn’t matter so much in mission whether an organization is faith-based or not. However, BSM would not be the same place it is today if it was not. In essence, by being who they are and accepting all who come, by celebrating people, art, community, and culture, and by whole-heartedly engaging in not only the beauty but also the brokenness of Philadelphia, they are Christianity personified. And whether you are religious or not, this is something that is easily appreciated.

So, that’s the end! Thank you for reading my blog 🙂 And sorry I never got those pictures that I promised a while back.

Advice to next year’s seniors:

– Don’t even THINK about location before you understand what you want to do
– Try to find an organization, project, internship, etc in which you can really make a place for yourself, and have an impact
– Make sure you feel a little bit uneasy! Stretch your comfort zone and consider tackling something on an intellectual level as well as an emotional/physical level
– Don’t be afraid to ask an organization if you would be able to do something there if they don’t have a pre-made “internship” or something. Sometimes projects that have been self-defined and sort of made up as you go can be the most rewarding
– Don’t pay attention to the pressure that a project has to be mind-blowing or life altering. The larger picture doesn’t REALLY matter; it’s all in the details.
– Great projects can be free!

Caylin

Greetings from Paris I – Dennis

Bonjour! Greetings from Paris!

Since my arrival here in Paris last Saturday, I have been fully immersed into French culture. Even though I do not speak French and was at first very concerned about communicating with my host family in their native language, my experiences in Paris thus far have been so meaningful that a language barrier seems to be no longer an issue.

Living with a French family is an integral part of my experience here in France. Romain Denuit is my French host brother, and his family are the ones I am staying with during my Senior Project. He is a senior at Notre Dame Des Missions High School this year. He loves Classical music and plays the piano very well as both of his parents are professional musicians playing viola and cello. Practicing the piano and going to a music academy after school every day, Romain works very hard and aspire to study piano in college and as his profession. I find his love of music and talent in piano especially appealing to me as our common interest in music has helped us to bond and be open-minded to each other. Though my reaching out to him and his family has helped us to get to know more about one another, our spending time together talking about music has definitely inspired me to form a new relationship with a friend from another country. And I am grateful for that.  

For the past three days, I have attended Romain’s classes at Notre Dame Des Missions High School. All of his classes were very interesting to me, but I thought they could be boring at the same time for many students as teachers in French high schools often lecture in the classroom as opposed to discussion-based classes at Westtown School. In Romain’s philosophy class, for example, the teacher was lecturing about some profound questions regarding happiness (if I understood French correctly). This class has drawn my attention in particular because philosophy is not a common subject taught in American high schools; I was amazed that French high school students take philosophy classes, and it is a graduation requirement. Undoubtedly, my favorite class so far has been English class, where I actually understood what teachers were talking about. French Students were debating about the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights and reading Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In French literature class, students were reading the first president of France, Charles de Gaulle’s memoir as his book is a required reading for all high school students in France. By visiting these classes with Romain, I came to my own conclusion that unlike schools in the United States, French high schools are very similar to those in my home country. Students in South Korea take many lecture-based classes, and teachers come into classrooms rather than students moving to different classrooms. Due to this similarity, I felt more adapted and comfortable being at the French high school. Furthermore, I once again realized how unique and valuable Westtown education has been for my life in the United States. Schools in France or in South Korea seem to be the places where students go in the morning for the purpose of studying, yet education at Westtown School  has been a true combination of academics, a variety of outdoor and extracurricular activities, and community service. I am very glad that the classes I have attended not only has helped me to understand French educational system but also raised my understanding of cultural and educational differences among many different countries.

 My Senior Project here in France has been truly amazing and meaningful. People I have met and places I have visited explain to me why Paris is a unique European city. For my next blog, I will be writing about the places I have visited in Paris so far such as les Champs Elysees, l’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and l’Hotel de Ville. Westtown students who have come to Paris with me are also enjoying their time here. As I have learned and discovered so much about Paris for the last few days, I look forward to even better days for the rest of my staying here with Romain and his family and friends.

A plus! (“See you” in Francais)

Dennis (Chan Min) ‘ 11