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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Les Meilleurs Malheurs

March 16th, 17th, 18th

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The weather in Paris is becoming very cold again and it started snowing this weekend. While it’s exciting to see some snow at Paris, it is nonetheless a bit of a bad news for a traveler in foreign city who relies on the public transport and on her own feet. Thus, these past few days I’ve deliberately chosen to remain inside and visit some more museums. Despite the freezing cold weather, I’ve made some very heart-warming discoveries.

This past Friday, I spent an entire afternoon at the Louvre Museum (yeah, I went again). Instead of browsing through the entire museum looking for must-see masterpieces, I decided to slow down and take the time to look at the collections I’m interested in more closely. Thus, the entire afternoon, I remained in the French/European sculpture and Etruscan, Greek, and Roman antiquity departments. Aside from being amazed the numerous priceless masterpieces in these departments, I was most pleased to find part of the medieval collections from the Musée du Cluny (Musée national du Moyen Âge). Musée du Cluny, a museum constructed on the remains of a Roman bathhouse and dedicated to medieval history, is the museum I wanted to visit the most on this trip to Paris. Yet, unfortunately, this museum has been closed for renovation until mid-July and I was not able to pay a visit during this trip (I did get to see the remains of the caldarium and the tepidarium outside the museum). Fortunately for me, I can still see part of this museum’s collection thanks to its cooperation with the Louvre to transfer part of its collection to the Louvre for temporary storage. As I wandered around and marveled at the medieval works of art, I remembered J.K. Rowling’s famous quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” Sometimes, what I deemed as bad luck might bring pleasant surprises at the end of the day. 

I was soon to discover that the same is true for my visit to Versailles on a snowy Saturday. I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to walk around the gardens at Versailles because of the heavy snow. Yet, at the same time, if it weren’t for such a cold day, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the best chocolat chaud at Angelina’s nearly as much!

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Sunday, I decided to give myself a break from traveling non-stop and only went out near noon to visit Musée Marmottan Monet, which turned out to be one of my favorite smaller museums at Paris (which is a huge compliment considering it’s Paris, a city filled with museums). I really enjoyed the works of Monet and other impressionist artists, especially temporary exhibit on Corot.

Summer

 

Wednesday, Thursday: Tapering and Coping Saw-ing — Ethan

The work for these two days was without question the most stressful I’ve done so far. Now that I have the four legs fitted and square to the floor, it was time to cut sections into the tray which the legs will fit through, in addition to their mortises in the table top. Needless to say, they have to be precisely measured and cut — the right tool for that turned out to be the coping saw, which I’d never used before.

A bit apprehensive at first (because of the whole using a tool for the first time for a key part of the project), I managed to get the hang of keeping my blade square in two and sometimes three dimensions at once and very carefully carving out large, not-easily-replaceable chunks of wood.

I have to say I’m not disappointed in how well I did; after two days of on-and-off work with the coping saw and the sanding block for finer work, I have legs A, B, and C fitted more or less how I want them to sit in the final arrangement. Leg D suffered from some mis-measuring, but after this weekend (I’ll be away at Springside Chestnut Hill volunteering at the robotics competition there) I plan to sort out the final leg’s shape in the tray and look at the whole assembly for the first time!

As my “breaks” from working on the tray, I further sanded the large shelf that will live up above the table. It was busywork that didn’t require much thinking, just to take a mental breath and reset.


As if that wasn’t enough cortisol in my system, it was also finally time to taper the legs. That was a process; taking off half an inch of width over a two foot length from the inside two faces of each leg is not a large angle, and Mom and I really had to think through how we were going to maintain the angle, and how to push the whole assembly through the table saw, and all the right forces to put on the wood as we were sliding it through the blade… We got them all done, though, and I was surprised at how the legs went from substantial in a blocky way to substantial in a delicate way. They now fit the scale of the table and they even look elegant, which I’m very pleased with.

Another day or two and I’ll have the tray completed, the wedges driven into the tenons of the legs, and then it’ll be time for a mass sanding and mass finishing. This is the exciting part of the process for me — I can see the end.

 

Until next time,

— EDM

 

 

Two pictures of legs A and C, which are fit into the tabletop and the tray; one of the large shelf for up above.

Hello America! – China Day 13

Written and posted March 15th, 2018

Today was our last day in China! Since it was our last day and everyone was so tired from our busy schedule we had a free day. In the morning I slept in and then went out to breakfast across from the hotel. Joanna, Alex, and Kamryn all had avocado on toast with a fried egg on top and Nick had a croque madame. I was still full from dinner last night so I didn’t get anything, but the food was amazing! I then went back to the hotel and packed. We traveled by ding ding (what people call a trolly) to SOHO for lunch. We went to a burger place where I got a delicious cheeseburger (I was very much looking forward to American food) with Wagyu beef. After lunch, we went to the airport and boarded our plane. Our plane left at 6 PM on Thursday Hong Kong time and arrived at 10 PM on Thursday EST. While our flight was technically 15 hours, we only lost four hours of the day. I really felt like I time traveled! I’m posting this on the bus ride back to Westtown. I did not sleep on the plane at all so I could fight jet lag and go to sleep the normal time in Philly, which means I’m extremely tired and ready for bed!

Goodnight!

-Anna

Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination

March 15, 2018

At the top of the Passion Towers of the Sagrada Família

I began my first day in Spain by simply wandering around the hotel where I was staying. In a span of only a few minutes, I stumbled across the Palau, its full name being the Palau de la Música Catalana. The pillars were decorated with tiles of contrasting colors. Above the entrance was an extremely impressive array of statues and busts of various composers. My curiosity peaked when I saw a baby grand piano in one of the large glass windows, so I walked around the hall to find a way in without having to pay for the guided tour. (I’m cheap, I know.) The side of the building was covered in glass windows and so had a decidedly more modern look than the front. The interior reverted back to the typical style of the bourgeoisie, complete with gilded stairs and high, elegant arches. In the center, however, was a charming little café area with yet another piano. An old man dressed in a rumpled black coat and a large striped scarf was seated at the piano and playing Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major. The music filled the area, lending a nice juxtaposition to the quiet chatter of people milling around. To my surprise, once he finished performing the composition, he simply collected his keys, which were lying on the stand, and left after acknowledging the scattered applause. After questioning a guard standing nearby, I learned that the piano was there for public use, for any person to come and play if they wanted to. After some seconds of internal debate, I decided to play a piece, despite weeks of avoiding practice.

Once I finished, I was reminded acutely of Westtown’s South Room. Anybody can go in and play, and the main purpose, as I see it, is to find some respite in the middle of a busy day. It is by no means a formal performance, which I tend to strongly dislike. As I walked out of the music hall, I was filled with a similar sense of glee I had felt when I first played in the South Room four years ago. I also felt something new. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also once said, “Music is the universal language of all mankind.” This was the first time I understood this sentiment. When I had glanced up after performing, there was no sense of awkwardness when I addressed my audience. I felt connected to the people listening.

Recording of my playing in the Palau. Check it out, if you want!

In the afternoon, I began following my itinerary with visiting Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera. It is currently in use as both a place of both residency and business. However, it dates back to 1912 when it was designed by Antoni Gaudí for the Milà family. The architecture was different from any other that I had seen before, in that I could not find a single right angle. This characteristic remained constant as I went through my tour of Casa Milà. The courtyard had an ovular shape, with the open sky overhead. Some surfaces were splattered with faint hues of blue and green. Even with this show of eccentricity and my knowledge of the pictures on Google Images, I was not prepared for what waited on the roof. Shapes that resembled bodies and faces lined up one after another in the middle of the curving tiled path. Some had white tiles stuck on them, others were left blank. As cliché as it sounds, if I could not see the city roofs around me, I would have believed I stepped into another world. Continue reading “Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination”

Paris, Je t’aime

March 13th, 14th, 15th

“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise” — Henry Miller

The last few days, the weather at Paris is becoming gradually warmer. Despite the occasional light shower, I’ve been able to enjoy Paris’ warm sunshine and pleasant light breeze. The places I adventured to in these past few days ranges from the grande and magnificent Palais Garnier (L’Opera Garnier) to the petit yet casually chic lesser-known private museums like Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée Cognacq-Jay and Maison du Victor Hugo. I got a feel for Paris’ artistic atmosphere through promenades through the artist districts Montmartre and Le Marais. I was also able to discover a little about French perfume and tea industry at the Fragonard Musée du Parfum and the Musée du thé of Mariage Frères.

March 13th

Originally, I wanted to see a ballet at L’Opera Garnier, but since the show I wanted to see, Orphée et Eurydice, does not premiere until the night I’m leaving Paris, I am not able to fulfill this hope during this trip (saving it for my next time at Paris). Despite that, I’m still stunned by the gorgeous interior of the great opera house. The shining halls of the opera are adored with numerous paintings and sculptures of famous dancers, singers, playwrights, and directors. The whole place has such a royal feeling that its name Palais Garnier is a rather appropriate description. Walking on the grande staircase in the opera house, I feel like I’m not just a spectator, but an actress part of a grand production, just like Charles Garnier has envisioned. FullSizeRender 53.jpg Continue reading “Paris, Je t’aime”

Feeling Affirmed

It’s been healing and comforting to be surrounded by people who affirm my identity. At Westtown, I’ve struggled with coming to terms with my identity in a space that is overwhelmingly white, cis, and straight. While Westtown is in some ways a progressive and open-minded community, it isn’t one in which there are many other people like me.

At the museum, I am being surrounded by queer people of color, their art, and their energies. My boss Lindsay is genderqueer and black! So are a lot of the teens in the programs I’ve been helping with over the past week. I’m so grateful to be spending time in a place with people who are so empathetic and passionate.

And the people I work with are similar to me outside of our shared identities; we’re all passionate about art! I’ve been engaging in amazing conversations with my supervisors and other teens alike about what art means to them, especially in relation to social justice. This is one of the few times in my life where I have not been the only one, and I am so happy.

 

Love,

Jay

Castle Ruins

March 9th, 2018 || (March 14th, 2018)

Hello everybody! I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I spent most of the past two days flying back to Philadelphia while feeling very under the weather and now I’m terribly jet lagged. However, I wanted to make sure I posted this blog update by the end of the day today. I hope you enjoy!

Over the course of my travels, I’ve seen a lot of different castle ruins I thought it would be appropriate to write a small bit about some of the castles I’ve seen since they all hold important aspects about the general history of Ireland.

Castle Dunluce:

Castle Dunluce is now a ruined medieval castle located in Northern Ireland. The first known residents were the McQuillan family in 1513. However, the McQuillans lost possession of the castle after suffering two defeats in a series of battles against the MacDonnell and MacDonald Clans. However, it was the MacDonald Clan that eventually took full control of the castle. According to a local legend, the castle was later abandoned because the kitchen broke off of the main castle and fell into the sea during the 17th century. Although, this legend was disproven by archaeologists who believe that the kitchen didn’t collapse until the 18th century.

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Continue reading “Castle Ruins”

Beyond My Years: Their Stories

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

– Lois Lowry, The Giver

March 14th, 2018 (2 more days left at Sunrise)

In the past couple of days, I have found my place in the community of Sunrise. I have been looking and listening to the life that resides here. From 70-years-old to 90-years-old, each resident is treated like an individual. I have seen and experienced the patience needed to work with some of the residents as dementia, Alzheimer’s, memory loss, and other mental or health issues coincide with their lives and daily movements of the day.

My experience at Sunrise has become more personal as I have interviewed eight residents so far. My plan is to interview two more residents as the week comes to a close. Each interview can last from 15 minutes to 50 minutes, it all depends on the person I speak with and their openness and ability to recall their personal life. I use a set of 12 questions to encourage the stories and guide the conversation along. Continue reading “Beyond My Years: Their Stories”

Fish are Food AND Friends – China Day 12

Written and posted March 14th, 2018

Today was our first full day in Hong Kong! While the weather was supposed to be nice, when we got up it was raining. We took a tour of Hong Kong, went on a boat ride and explored in the Aberdeen Fishing Village and Stanley Repulse Bay, took a tram to Victoria’s Peak, ate dim sum, had Indian food in SOHO for dinner, and explored the city. We saw pets in the market and also went on the world’s longest outdoor escalator! Today was a good day even with the rain, except we all really missed our tour guide Sunny. This is a short blog post since I am extremely tired. Tomorrow is our last day in Hong Kong and then we go home!

– Anna