Xi’an, From Ancient to Modern

Day 4:

The wake up call was super early, 4am to be exact, but it was okay because we had to catch our flight from Beijing to Xi’an, the first capital of China.  The hotel prepared boxed breakfasts for us that we ate a few bites of on the way to the airport.  Around 1 in the afternoon, we finally arrived in Xi’an.

It was a rainy day so we had to move our itinerary around a little bit but it all worked out in the end!  Directly from the airport, we went to the Muslim Street which is this hectic street market.  The Muslim Street looks just how I pictured China looking and smells just how I pictured China smelling.  There are thousands of different food being prepared in carts scattered around the street and countless different stores selling everything from cigarettes to counterfeit handbags to rice.  Joanna, Kamryn, and I went around on the street and tried some of the different “street meats,” my favorite had to be the lamb on a stick!

After the Muslim Street, some of us decided to go get a massage.  In China, massages are a fraction of what they cost in the United States so this was an opportunity that I could not pass up!  The massage place was somewhat sketchy but it was definitely a fun bonding experience.  After the massages we all went for a dinner and a show at the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show.  It was some of the best food that we had and the performers were amazing.

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Day 5:

Our wake up call was super early today as well.  We all went down to the lobby for our breakfast before we loaded up onto the bus to go and see the Terracotta Warriors.  From the way it was described to us, I thought that the warriors were in the city, but oh was I wrong.  In reality, the warriors are a two hour drive outside of the city.  After this excruciating drive, we finally arrived at the Terracotta Warriors Museum.  The warriors were amazing to see.  The Warriors were buried in the ground, and there are THOUSANDS of them, so the area is still very much an archaeological site.  The different pits, the holes where they are digging up warriors, are covered by massive buildings that look like airplane hangers.  Inside the hangers, you can see the thousands of warriors that are being rebuilt by archaeologists.  While the site was really cool at first, after a few hours I was very ready to move on to our next event.  After the warriors, we had a traditional noodle lunch.  It was really cool to watch the chefs make the many different kinds of noodles that we got to try.   After lunch, we got onto the bus for the ride back into Xi’an.

When we got back into the city, we went to an art museum where we took a tour and then had a traditional Chinese calligraphy lesson.  I am very non-artistic so I didn’t enjoy the calligraphy all that much.  Then we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda which is a massive Buddhist temple. We climbed the seven stories to the top of the pagoda and the views of Xi’an were amazing.  After we climbed, I went to the gift store to buy Buddhist prayer beads for my family.  After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we went to the ancient city wall where we were supposed to ride bikes on the wall.  We got to the wall and Kamryn and I decided to take out a tandem bike because she just had ACL surgery and couldn’t bike by herself.  It was a terrifying experience but was super fun as well.  The Festival of Lights was still going on so a part of the wall was covered in massive lanterns.  Kam and I walked through the lanterns and ended up being super late to the bus but it was 100% worth it.  After this we went back to the hotel for a hot pot dinner.  On day 6, we are off to Guilin and Yangshuo!

Ô Monde Neuf, Ô Splendide Monde!

March 22th, 23th, 24th, 25th

“O brave new world/ That has such people in’t!”—Act V, Scene 1, The Tempest, William Shakespeare.

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My memorable Senior Project in Paris officially ended when I arrived at Philadelphia yesterday afternoon. I still can’t believe that three weeks went by so fast, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve seen and learned so much during my trip to Paris that I definitely have to have stayed there for more than three weeks.

Now looking back at the list of things I wanted to accomplish before I left for Paris, I’m really proud to say that I’ve done most of them and even went beyond. First of all, I used Paris public transport system to get around the city a lot. With its complex bus and metro network, Paris is definitely the most navigable city by public transport. This experience also helped me understand why public transport strikes in France are as common and effective as they are. Secondly, I’ve had an amazing experience with my host family in Paris. They are the most considerate people I’ve ever met and had interesting dinner conversations with.

Most importantly, I got to explore more amazing smaller museums and churches than I’ve originally expected. Since I was staying in Paris for three weeks and I only have free time during the afternoon, I thought it would be sensible to spend more of my time visiting smaller museums and temporary exhibitions. Going through many museums, I soon discovered that I’m particularly interested in Romanticism, Impressionism and post-Impressionism paintings, especially Renoir, Monet, Mary Cassatt etc. Thus, I went online to look for museums and art shows that focus especially on these artists. In fact, during my last two days in Paris, I was fortunate enough to see two more amazing temporary exhibitions in the Petit Palais: Dutch artists in Paris, 1789-1914 and The Art of pastel from Degas to Redon. I was so intrigued by my experiences with smaller private museums and temporary exhibitions that I’m starting to consider interning at private auction houses in the future.

Furthermore, I found myself really enjoying visiting churches during my stay at Paris. I am often drawn to the serenity and impressive art and architecture of the grande churches in Paris. I’ve found these visits to churches a pleasant temporary getaway from the busy city life and my busy traveling schedule.

Awesome as my Senior Project trip to Paris was, my stay was not without minor disappointments. First of all, several of the museums I’m really excited to visit were closed for renovation: Musée du Cluny and Musée de la vie romantique. Even though I was able to see part of Musée du Cluny in the Louvre Museum, I’m still a little disappointed to be unable to see this amazing museum of Middle Age at its full glory, especially the remains of the frigidarium of the Roman bath incorporated into the museum with its famous mosaic, Cupid riding a dolphin.

Secondly, I wished there were less rainy days at Paris so that I could have more time wandering in the numerous, gorgeous public gardens like Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries and Les Jardins du Château de Versailles. On the same note, I hoped I’ve have stayed even longer at Paris so that I would have more free time to walk casually around the artistic neighborhood of Montmartre and Le Marais, to explore some boutiques, and to have more sit-down meals and afternoon tea at the local café, salon de thé and bistros.

All in all, I’d love to think that every successful trip should have highlights and some unfulfilled wishes so that one would want to return to the city again for more inspiring experiences. This is exactly what my trip to Paris has brought to me, amazing surprises, discoveries, and the strong wish to return someday!

Summer

The End of the World

March 25, 2018

First you hear it, then you smell it, then you see it. The fireworks of Las Fallas.

People who follow the festival of Las Fallas know this post is late, the last day having been on the 19th of March.

For those who are less familiar with Las Fallas, it is a festival held annually in Valencia, Spain. It is usually in late March. The intent of the Fallas is to honor Saint Joseph.

I arrived in Valencia, Spain on the night before the last day of the Fallas. The first indicator of the festival was fireworks of green and red in the distance. It was a stark contrast to the black night. As I drove into the city, the sight of the fireworks was replaced with the noise of firecrackers going off in every alleyway and every street. These continued into the early hours of the morning.

The next day, I went to the mascletà at 14:00. This is where I got the inspiration for the title of this post. I managed to be simultaneously amazed and terrified. But that’s just me. Do you like loud sounds that make the ground under you shake (dare I say quake) and excessive amounts of smoke? If so, then you might be amazed and not terrified!

Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile event to attend, unless you have heart issues or get headaches easily. In truth, I went to Las Fallas to see the ninots, which are the enormous statues made by groups of local people for the festival. I was not disappointed. The ninots were breathtaking. They showcased the creativity and work that the artists put into them.

I spent most of my time during the day after the mascletà taking pictures of the ninots.

The main event for the Falles (and the reason it is called so) is La Cremà. This is when all the statues are burned. It takes place at night.

Even though I am usually in bed by 11:00, I was determined to see the burning of the main falla, which was scheduled to be at midnight. So, when the time on my phone changed to 00:10, I was a little annoyed. The people around me were too, whistling and gesturing with their hands. It finally began twenty minutes after midnight, with a slew of fireworks to begin. Immediately after the fireworks, I was able to see the flames beginning to burn the main falla. In a matter of minutes, the entire structure was incinerated. Below is a “before” picture followed by “after” pictures.

As I walked back to my hotel, I saw piles of ash, formerly the huge colorful ninots only an hour before. It was somewhat saddening to know that something so beautiful was destroyed.

I hope you enjoyed reading. I’ll be writing a reflection on my time in Spain in my next post. Thank you!

~ Auria

Saturday: Assembly — Ethan

A third short but efficient and transformative day in the shop. With finish applied to all non-gluing surfaces, Mom and I determined in what order things would be glued and assembled so that it all fit together, and then we went ahead and did it.

I think I’ll let the table and shelf speak for themselves:

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From here, all that’s left is to continue applying polyurethane (the second finish) to both pieces, insert the wedges into the tops of the legs, sand them flush, continue applying polyurethane, clean up any glue that might have dried in inopportune places, continue applying polyurethane, and move the whole thing into the Tiny House. I expect to write about that in my last blog post. There’s also the matter of “signing” the table in some way, but I’ve only just begun to think about that — I have no doubt it will come along on its own eventually.

It seems like the table has taken shape on its own in the last few days, and I’m beyond pleased with how it looks now. It’s fun to imagine who will end up using it when they stay in the Tiny House — a table and shelf made from walnut sourced from the campus, continuing to serve an important function, if in a slightly unexpected way.

 

— EDM

 

Friday: Sanding and Finishing — Ethan

Another relatively short day in the shop, but again, successful and efficient. I’d guess I’ve completed about two thirds of the grunt work as far as power-sanding everything down, and today felt especially productive because I was moving back and forth periodically between the main room of the shop, outside (the free ventilation was a major upside), and the finishing room. The first coat of finish I applied was just a simple dilution of tung oil (with a nice citrus-y smell), and the walnut transformed before my eyes into its distinctive dark and rich finished form. Walnut always surprises me with just how much it changes with finish.

 

Currently sitting finished and awaiting assembly are three of the legs (the fourth is waiting on glue to dry that is filling some checks in the wood), the tray that will live under the table, and the large shelf that will live on the wall above the table. Tomorrow’s work will be sanding the slab tabletop itself, the final leg, and finally, finally, finally, gluing and assembly.

 

 

— EDM

 

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Tray and three legs finished

Thursday: Notching, Relieving, and Assembly — Ethan

Only about three hours spent in the shop today, but lots of important work finished before the long process of carefully sanding down each surface to smooth, shiny, and then soft — if you can imagine “soft” wood — and applying about half a dozen coats of finish.

The main focus was on the legs today. With mortise and through-tenon joints, a wedge is usually inserted into the through-tenon in order to hold the joint in place using the force of friction in the wood instead of relying on glue. Two features in the tenon make this possible: a “notch” that is cut into the top of the tenon, usually with a bandsaw (which I used) or a coping saw; and a “relief hole” that is made at the base of the notch (with a drill press, in my case), which enables the wood fibers to take the stress of the wedge without continuing to split beyond the desired length. If you recall my previous post — in which I tapered the legs from a 2.25″ square to a 1.75″ square — that process left eight thin wedge-shaped pieces of wood that will likely be well suited as the wedges for my tenons.

The final step before sanding was to re-saw the joint for leg D on the tray that will sit under the tabletop, and make a cut across the board to line up the end with legs B and D (at the far end of the bottom picture). With that done, I began sanding the bottom face of the tray; for large surfaces such as the tray, I use the shop’s power sander, which gets the job done, but it takes a lot out of you physically, and the combined noise of the sander and the vacuum attached to it begins to grate on you after an hour or so.

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From here, I see lots and lots and lots of sanding in the next few days, gluing and assembly(!), and after that, I’ll be spending my free periods this coming week applying coats of tung oil and polyurethane.

My next few posts will be more retrospective/reflective in focus, as I wrap up this nearly 3-week-long project — until then.

 

— EDM

Un Autre Royaume

March 19th, 20th, 21th

“Death must be so beautiful…to have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” Oscar Wilde

In the past few days, I ventured back in time. I visited to another world within Paris, the realm of the great deceased. On March 20th, I went to visit the most famous and most visited cemetery in Paris and in the world, Père Lachaise. Père Lachaise takes its name from the confessor of Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise. A garden graveyard built on the side of a hill, Père Lachaise is not just any ordinary graveyard, but a city of the dead with its own winding streets named after famous people laid to rest there. Père Lachaise is the place set apart for all Parisiens dead or alive. To be buried Père Lachaise, one has to be either a citizen of Paris, or to have died in Paris. For the living Parisiens, Père Lachaise is their favorite location for a walk (the French really likes promenades in graveyards for some reason).

Given the numerous great spirits laid to rest in this cemetery, I decided to follow the guided tour laid out in Anna Erikssön and Mason Bendewald’s book Meet Me At Père Lachaise. As I walked down the winding roads following the instructions in the book, reading about the life stories of the famous deceased, I felt myself transferred into a much more peaceful world. I felt like if I was quiet enough I can almost Molière and La Fontaine discussing literature or Chopin playing music. I couldn’t help but be filled with great awe and respect for all who has given their lives to making our world as beautiful and rich as it is now.

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some of the famous graves at Père Lachaise: Chopin, Abelard and Heloise, Jim Morrison, La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, and Molière.

Earlier on March 19th, I went to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité. 

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Notre-Dame de Paris

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Sainte-Chapelle

Finally, today I visited the Musée Jacquemart-André in the Belle-Epoch bourgeois townhouse of the art collector Edouard André and artist Nélie Jacquemart designed by famous architect Henri Parent. This museum is also one of my favorite smaller museums. Not only does it boast of a great collection of paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and decorative art collected by the couple through their travels around Europe and the world, the architecture of the house itself can be considered a masterpiece (in fact, I liked this townhouse better than Palais du Versailles, which is a little bit too ornamented for my taste). I was struck with awe by the amazing work the couple has done for the art collections in France, both acquiring important paintings themselves and helping French museums with their fund and donations. At the same time, I can’t help but admire at the design of the spiraling staircase positioned in one side of the house, the retractable walls of the reception room, and the exquisite winter garden.

Finally, I had the luck to enjoy the temporary exhibit of female French-American impressionist artist Mary Cassatt. She was a great friend of Edgar Degas, an important member of the impressionist movement, and spent part of her childhood in the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania. She was a great advocate for presentation of women in paintings and particularly enjoyed depicting the subject of maternity and the tender relationship between mother and child.

Summer

Looking Back – China Reflection

Written and posted March 21st, 2018

Today marks the fifth day since I’ve been back from China. I still have jet lag, though it’s not as extreme as the first three days. I also cannot completely grasp that I, Anna, went to China. Besides the jet lag, the photos, countless retelling of my journey to family and friends, and the WeChat messages I keep getting from our group and tour guide are the only reminders that this trip was a reality.

I learned so much and had many new and great experiences on this trip. I was able to immerse myself in the culture from the moment I stepped off the plane. Since we were able to visit so many cities (six total) in two weeks, I feel as though I was truly able to get a glimpse into understanding China. Our action-packed days and amazing tour guide helped with understanding as well. Our ability to engage in touristy activities such as climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Forbidden City, going on a night river cruise in Shanghai and more was amazing, and while basic to any tour, also delved into a history, culture, and background much greater than me, a kid with a camera.

However, not all our activities were touristy. We also immersed ourselves with the locals. My favorite meal by far was the one cooked by a local. He was gracious enough to shelter 21 school students and chaperones in his small house and make us a delicious meal. My second favorite meal was when we went out to a local restaurant to try hot pot. The third was when we were able to eat dinner (and spend the whole day) with T. Bei’s parents. My fourth favorite was jumping off our bus to grab fresh soup dumplings.

The food wasn’t the only activity where we engaged with the locals, however, it was the most memorable. Every night in each city, if we had free time that night, I would go out and explore the city. Night time was when I truly felt like part of the community. Whether roaming around the streets, getting lost in a mall larger than King of Prussia, sipping coffee in a local cafe, or walking through loud bustling night markets, I was able to experience, what I believe, was the true culture of the people living in those cities.

From this trip, I not only expanded my knowledge of Chinese history and learned a bit of Mandarin (I can even count to ten), but gained a greater cultural and world sense that I am very grateful for especially before I go off to college. I love to travel, and I am hopeful that this trip won’t be the last and that it has prepared me well for study abroad and life in the working world!

– Anna

Museums

March 20, 2018

Each museum has a very distinct feel. I only realized this after I visited five museums in five days. The museums I visited include the Museu Picasso, the Dalí Theatre and Museum, the Museo Reina Sofia, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo del Prado. Since this is a number of museums, I will only write about Dalí’s Theatre-Museum and the Museo del Prado in this post.

I took a day trip from Barcelona to Figueres to visit Salvador Dalí’s Theatre-Museum. It was overflowing with evidence of Dalí’s eccentricity, which was evident even from the exterior of the building. Its bright red walls adorned with little gold dots contrasted sharply with the yellow buildings surrounding the museum. To make the comparison even more drastic, a line of life-like eggs were perched at the top of the building. A statue of a woman with large breasts standing atop a black Cadillac greeted me as I walked into the open courtyard of the museum. Behind the statue is a stage with huge glass windows. Going into the inside, there is an abnormally large painting with deep red curtains around it, solidifying the impression of a theater. Even though I would not consider myself a Dalí fan, or even a fan of surrealism in general, I found myself increasingly drawn in by the peculiarities of the art shown. However, every so often, there would be some element that reminded me that, while I was in a museum, I was also in something resembling a theater. For example, there are windows behind the golden statues above the courtyard from which you can look out and view the stage. I moved through the galleries in a state of wonder. After visiting the Theatre-Museum, I can safely say that I am more appreciative of surrealism, contemporary art, and of Salvador Dalí’s genius than I had been before my visit.

After leaving Figueres, I went to Madrid. Due to poor planning, I only managed to spend about an hour and a half in the Museo del Prado before I had to leave for Valencia. However, I was extremely pleased. Unlike Dalí’s Theatre-Museum, the Prado Museum had a more classical structure and collection. There were, as expected, many depictions of Greek and Roman mythology, which, as many friends know, I absolutely love. While walking through the first floor of the Prado, I came across a painting by Paulo Veronese entitled Venus and Adonis. It was the same painting that adorned the cover of my text book for Latin IV last year. I can’t even begin to convey my excitement at seeing the painting. I think I stood there for a good ten minutes or so, the first two just gaping at the work and the rest analyzing minute details. It was remarkable to see a piece of art in person that was first introduced to me in school.

As I continued through the gallery, I found more paintings and statues that depicted scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the text I studied a year ago. I spent the rest of my time at the Museo del Prado looking at them. Below are some of my favorites.

~ Auria

Reflection on Ireland

March 21st, 2018

I learned a lot while in Ireland. In truth, more than I expected. In my first blog post, I stated that “I hoped that by traveling to Ireland for my Senior Project I’d feel more connected with my ancestors, my larger family, and come to understand why my grandfather felt so connected to this magical place that he would often reference as my homeland.” I now feel as though I have obtained these goals. After witnessing the rolling green hills blanketed in farms, the snow-dusted mountains, the “wild” Atlantic sea crashing up against the rocky shore, and more, I can say that I understand why my grandfather felt so connected to Ireland. I also understand why my grandfather was an Irish citizen and why my father and aunt were also granted Irish citizenship. I now understand why my family continues to go back and visit our homeland. My homeland. I feel connected to this place and I can’t wait to return in the future.

My grandfather passed away this past January. I mention this because my Irish cousins flew one of their own across the pond to attend the funeral. My uncle Stephan was the one who came as the Irish representative. And just recently, my father and I stayed with my uncle Stephan while in Ireland. Due to my grandfather’s funeral and my Senior Project, we as a family have re-established an open line of communication through social media and are creating plans to visit with each other more often than twice a decade. My uncle Stephan is now discussing with his wife a plan to come to America this summer and spend time with us at our family’s shore house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  Likewise, my father wishes to return with my brother to see the Open Golf Tournament at Port Rush in 2019. I’m also planning to study aboard in either Ireland or Scotland during college. Additionally, all of my cousins who are around my age (Adam, Bruce, Chole, and Martha) now follow my brother and me on Instagram and continue to communicate with us via Snapchat. Through social media, we are continuing our family legacy of establishing love, loyalty, and friendship between our families.

I miss Ireland. It’s the home I never knew. And thus, this past St. Patrick’s Day was difficult for me to observe. To see people getting drunk before noon, not knowing what they were celebrating made me upset. I knew that barely any of the strangers I passed on the street appreciated Irish culture as I now did. Most of them probably only knew of the classic Irish stereotypes of Leprechauns and red hair. I was saddened by the whole day. However, while out to dinner with my father at a small tavern in Unionville an old man pulled out a fiddle while we were waiting for a table outside at a firepit. Over the blare of the modern day pop covers that were being sung inside, this man played traditional Irish songs on his fiddle. It made me cry hearing the music that I thought I wouldn’t hear for another couple of years. I thanked him before meeting my dad inside, and the man just smiled like he understood everything I was feeling. It was the little taste of home that I longing for all day.

I like to think I would’ve made my great-grandmother Rebecca proud. Her direct descendants have come a long way from being simple sheep farmers in Ardara. Especially me, an intelligent, well-educated girl looking to make her own way in an increasingly complicated world. I have been given so many opportunities, such as going to Westtown, that she couldn’t dream of obtaining in her lifetime. I hope that as I move forward in my life, I’m able to continue making my family proud.

~Sarah

 

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