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

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

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

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

Bright Lights in the Big City – China Day 11

Written and published March 13th, 2018

Today we flew to Hong Kong! It was Alex’s birthday as well so we sang and had a cake for her in the airport. When we got to Hong Kong we checked in at our hotel, toured the city, went shopping at Temple Street, and saw a laser show on the river. The photos were taken on my phone and there aren’t that many since it was a travel day.

Enjoy!

-Anna

Goodbye Sunny Days – China Day 10

Written and posted March 12th, 2018

Today was our first full day in Shanghai! We took what was supposed to be an hour bus ride, turned out to be three because of traffic, to the city of Suzhou. Suzhou, the Venice of China, is where T. Bei used to live and grew up so it was really special to see her home. We also were able to meet her parents for lunch and they traveled along with us the rest of the day. T. Bei’s parents bought us yummy Chinese snacks like rice cakes and a type of Jello. Continue reading “Goodbye Sunny Days – China Day 10”

Beijing, a World of Difference

After over thirty hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Beijing, the capital of China. I will be breaking this blog up by city and then by day. With Bei as our tour leader, we do over five things everyday so it is going to be hard to talk about everything, but I will try my best! Please enjoy!

Day 1:

After arriving at the airport, we met with our tour director, Sunny. Sunny is absolutely amazing and Bei has been working with her for the past couple of years so Sunny is super excited to be working with us! We immediately board our coach bus and our itinerary begins at full speed. Our first stop was lunch in the center of Beijing. Lunch was traditional Chinese food, which wasn’t too shocking, however, I didn’t get out of the restaurant without some culture shock! Apparently in China, there is something called a squatting toilet, I’m sure you can figure out why this was shocking! Continue reading “Beijing, a World of Difference”

Soft as Silk – China Day 9

Written and posted March 11th, 2018

Today we went to the Jade Buddha Temple and Yu Yuan Garden, toured a silk factory, explored Shanghai, walked around the Bund waterfront and Nanjing road, visited the world’s largest Starbucks, and saw an acrobatic show that was incredible.

Enjoy the photos!

-Anna Continue reading “Soft as Silk – China Day 9”

Above the Clouds – China Day 8

Written and posted March 10th, 2018

Today we flew from Guilin to Shanghai! While I was extremely excited to be going to Shanghai I didn’t want to leave Guilin and today was probably one of the worst days on the trip. Late last night and into the morning about nine of the twenty people in our group got sick with food poisoning. We still aren’t exactly sure what it was from, however, it made for an interesting morning and day. After we arrived in Shanghai we summited the Shanghai World Financial Center which is the fifth worlds tallest building. It was amazing being able to see the whole city! The sick people then went back to the hotel to rest and I and about ten others explored the Shanghai mall and went to a quick dinner before returning to the hotel ourselves to sleep.

This blog post is extremely short since we didn’t do much with it being a travel day and people being sick. Enjoy!

– Anna