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”

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

Finally Feels Like Spring – China Day 6

Written and posted March 8th, 2018

Today we took a 7 AM flight to Guilin. After arriving we visited the Reed Flute Cave. The cave was a salt cave made naturally after multiple natural events. It was really pretty especially since there were colorful lights throughout it. After the cave, we went to lunch in a hotel for rice noodles. They were good, but not as good as the noodles the other day. We then took a bus two hours to Yangshuo where we are now staying. Yangshuo is beautiful. It is in the countryside, surrounded by mountains and when we arrived it was 62°F. We then went shopping on a street called West Street where most of the prices were incredibly marked down and could be easily negotiated. Our local tour guide had a “cousin” who was selling really nice handbags. We went to the store that sold obviously fake merchandise, but then we were brought upstairs into a vault. The vault had Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada and more that were NOT fake. I was in heaven, but then as I was looking at a Louis duffel bag the women took the bag off the shelf and continued to take more bags and the shelf itself off. We then entered an even more backroom with more name brand products that she was selling at amazing prices. As much as I wanted to buy something, I didn’t have enough money or a way to carry it back to the States, however, others got multiple items. While it was mainly a travel day, it was one of the best days so far!

– Anna

Bad Jokes and Bruce Lee – China Day 5

Written and posted March 7th, 2018

Today was our last day in Xi’an. Since we had rain the first day we had to pack everything into our schedule today. We saw the Terra-cotta Warriors, learned calligraphy, ate a delicious noodle lunch, went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, biked the city wall, had hot pot for dinner, and explored the city after dinner as well. We also said goodbye to our very punny local tour guide Bruce. I will be posting mainly photos today, especially since I have to be up at 4 AM for our flight to Guilin in about three hours.



Terra-cotta Warriors

Learning calligraphy

Shadow puppets

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Buddha (couldn’t take a picture head on)

Prayer and burning of incense

Another Buddha

Dragon as part of a wall at the Pagoda

View from the ancient city wall bike ride (photo creds Nick Sokoll)

Part of the Lantern Festival display on ancient city wall (photo creds T. Bei)

Family Not Foe – China Day 3

Written and posted March 5th, 2018

Sputtering, the coffee, sweet milk, sugar, and boiling water drip into my cup, the size of a toddler’s. It’s my 5th cup of the day and it’s only 7 AM. I add a couple pork buns and watermelon to my plate and that completes my breakfast. I am still full from dinner and the Hot Pot yesterday.

Bundling up, two sweatshirts and a jacket, I head to the bus to start my day. Stepping off the bus I am greeted by an intricate archway to the Summer Palace. As we enter, an older group of people are practicing Taji with a ball and racquet. Our group joins in, but we are not able to keep the ball on the racquet like everyone else. We walk through the Summer Palace that looks over a lake and a mountain with a Pagoda on top. Everything is so beautiful, no wonder the emperor stayed there for most of the year.

Freezing, we rush to the bus, excited to experience a tea ceremony. There are five different teas, oolong, black with lychee, rose, fruit, and jasmine. The person leading the tea ceremony pours the hot water into the mug, leaves swirling around in the midst of creating a delicious drink sliding down your throat and warming you.

My ears pop and mountains flash by as we pull up to the entrance of the Great Wall of China. As I step off the bus I see the long stretch of wall that is more expansive than my line of vision. I begin to climb, my legs burning after only 50 steps. I didn’t think I was that out of shape, but the almost vertical incline has me winded. When I reach the top I feel victorious. The view is spectacular. I am able to see the vast wall and mountains, struggling to tell where and if they end. After taking in all this beauty I finally begin my dissent. While it is terrifying and I slip down it more than I walk, I make it to the bottom still in awe of my accomplishment and the wall itself.

After dinner, we head to a local market and street for shopping. There are so many stores and restaurants. While I want to buy everything there: egg waffle cones, matcha ice cream, churros, crepes and more, I only buy milk bubble tea. The streets are still busting, but it’s getting late and we have a flight to Xi’an tomorrow. Taking the subway back along with all the locals we reach the hotel and check-in for the night.

See you tomorrow!

– Anna

Is Ireland my True Homeland?

March 4th, 2018

Hello everyone! My name is Sarah Murray, I’m a senior and part of the class of 2018 at Westtown and about to embark on my Senior Project. I’ve been attending Westtown since I was in kindergarten and to say that I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time would be an understatement. Currently, I’m in the international airport terminal at Philadelphia waiting to board for my flight. You might be wondering where I’m going (if you didn’t read my blog post title). Well, after several lengthy conversations with my parents and swim coach, I decided that I would go on an independent Senior Project and travel with my father to Ireland to research my family heritage. My grandfather would constantly talk about my family history and our family members who still lived in Ireland. He was so passionate about the subject that I decided to go back to visit “homeland” and see what’s so special about Ireland. Plus I’ll be able to have consistent pool time in Ireland so I can continue my training for my Swim Championship which is the first weekend in April.

I will be landing in Dublin sometime Monday morning around ten. From there I’ll be driving to a small town outside of Belfast called Ballyclare where my aunt and uncle Rachel and Stephen Deyermond live with their daughter Martha. I’ll be spending a couple of days with them before visiting my family homestead in Ardrahan. My great-grandmother who I’m named after grew up in this homestead with her nine other siblings before she immigrated to the United States in 1937. After this part of the trip, I’ll travel to some other cities and towns, such as Donegal and Port Stewart in Northern Ireland. I’ll also be visiting some of the sites where they film the popular television show Game of Thrones since I’ll be in the area. I hope that by traveling to Ireland for my Senior Project I’ll 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. 

Signing off for now!


À Paris, Tout Sera Mieux

March 4th, 2018

IMG_6336.JPG“A walk in Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life”–Thomas Jefferson

To be honest, today might not be the best day to travel to Paris. Philadelphia has just seen its largest snow storm of the year, and in Paris, it started raining. So, I started my 42 hr day by worrying about whether my flight would be cancelled like those of my fellow classmates were the day before. When I finally boarded the 7-hour flight, I worried my French skills wouldn’t be able to hold up enough for me to survive in Paris, whether my horrible navigation skills would get me lost in the meandering streets of Paris, and whether I would get along with my host family and my classmates. Yet, when my plane landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport, a strange, warm force began to calm my racing heart down a little by little. A really small yet comforting voice whispered, “Tout sera mieux.”

Truly, everything did become better. My host family came to the airport to pick me up and we road back to the central city on RER (my first time on a French metro train, check). We conversed casually during the ride and during lunch. My French is holding up to the test so much better than I expected and my host family is more kind and welcoming than I could describe with words. They would teach me new vocabulary, phrases, and slang, correct my little grammatical and pronunciation mistakes, repeat and paraphrase when I don’t understand, and they even gave me a thick stack of tourist guides, pamphlets, and maps to help me plan my stay in Paris.

After an extremely delicious and relaxing lunch, I decided to scout out the classroom where I will take class for the next three weeks and to take advantage of the free admission at the Louvre Museum the first Sunday of every month from November to March. My host family lived in the Quartier Latin (the best district to live in for culture lovers) on the left bank of the Seine, right around the famous Sorbonne, the oldest university in France (the Quartier gets its name from the language of instruction, Latin, of the prestigious university in the Middle Ages). Because of my convenient location, I decided to take a walk in the rain instead of taking a bus and a métro again. After all, Paris is rated the best city for a promenade.

IMG_6305.JPGRain dripping from the parapluie, feet tapping on the cobble road, eyes wandering, nose taking in the fresh air washed by the rain, heart filled with indescribable bliss, I started to find my pace among the Parisian streets. I loved how nobody seems to be in a great rush, nor trying to procrastinate. I loved how any unintentional picture of a random corner of the road gives off an unaffected elegance and beauty. At Paris, no one is trying to imitate someone or to be someone they are not. Yet, everyone and everything strives to become their best selves, and thus, the city is collectively striking, irreplaceable, and free. A promenade along Paris’ streets lets me see the history and beauty of the Latin Quarter and the Seine, gets me to my destination, the Louvre Museum, but most importantly, moves me to find my own rhythm and my true self.


Trading the Old for the New – China Day 2

Written and posted March 4th, 2018

As I realized yesterday, it was very hard to write a blog post at the end of the day since I was so tired from everything that we had done. I’ve decided that I will post a written blog post every couple of days and other days will just be photos. Today will just be photos, enjoy!


Giant Panda at the Beijing ZooHackysack in the park Gymnastics as morning exercise Rickshaw ride to a local home for lunch Temple of Heaven Forbidden City Street foodPeaking Duck for dinner Hot Pot as our second dinner