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

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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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”

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”

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”

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”

Giant’s Causeway

Hello again! I’m terribly sorry for the lack of blog posts! I’ve been travel through several rural areas of Ireland with horrible wifi and cell phone service. However, I’ve been writing my blog posts all along and now I’m finally able to post them! An important side note: the date that these posts were written will be listed first and followed by the day they were posted in parentheses.

March 6th, 2018 || (March 10th, 2018)

Ireland is a lot more beautiful than I thought it was going to be. Before coming here I had this preconceived notion that in Ireland it was going to be constantly raining, drizzling at least, with cloudy skies, ugly green hills, and dark navy oceans. I was so terribly wrong. After landing in Dublin on March 5th my father and I embarked on our two-hour drive (on the “wrong” side of the road) past Belfast to Ballyclare to meet with my cousins Stephan and Stephanie Deyermond. Then as a group, we drove up to Port Rush and had a lovely dinner together. The following morning my father and I adventured to Giant’s Causeway. In my family, it’s a tradition to visit Giant’s Causeway when in Ireland. For those of you who don’t know, Giant’s Causeway, or simply the Causeway,  is a series of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which formed as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. They are also infamous due to their hexagon pattern. Furthermore, Giant’s Causeway has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and national park. Continue reading “Giant’s Causeway”