My trip to El Salvador

I had a dream that I went to El Salvador, but I never woke up. When I got back home, my parents told me it was real. El Salvador is an amazing country that I wish I never came back from. To start, here’s some background information about the small tropical country.

 El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and the capital is San Salvador. El Salvador was originally populated by the Pipil, they called the territory Cuscatlán (Land of the Jewel) and the language they used was made primarily by the -ch- sound. Later they were taken by the Spaniards and they melted their national language and Spanish to create a whole new vocabulary! It’s mostly like Spanish but has more -ch-‘s than in most Spanishes. That’s all the background information I will provide today.

So now I will start with my dream trip, so to start my family and I landed in San Salvador and we got picked up by my fantastic family. We went to their house and had the BEST PUPUSAS ever and a great little soft drink, it’s called Kolashampan. When you say it rhymes with champagne, I think it’s fun to say. Our plane arrived later so we went to sleep almost immediately.

The next day we went to Tacuba to visit my abuela. On the way we stopped by a Catholic Church and the best little farmers market. The ladies carried baskets on their heads and the kids ran around with chickens! My abuela lives in an amazing ranch with so much yard you can get lost. She was so happy we came, we haven’t seen her in years. The ranch was like a ranch from a fairy tale. We spent one day there.

The following day, we went to one of the national parks of El Salvador. On the way we stopped at a volcano filled with a lake in the center. The national park that we went to is named Cerro Verde. The trails there were amazingly beautiful. There is also a giant active volcano on the side where you can see smoke coming out of the top. There was also a really fun park. 

The next morning, we went to see the ruins! There were pyramids buried in the hills. We saw some artifacts and got coconut water there. The artifacts were so pretty and had such fascinating details. The coconut water was in bags with straws poking out of the top.

After that, we went to see downtown San Salvador. We saw more churches that were so, so, so magnificent and learned about the one saint of El Salvador, Saint Óscar Romero. We also fed some pigeons. My cousin and I also went to Dollar City, and got junk food and toys. I got a giant coloring map of the world and my family spent the whole night coloring and drawing. It was perfect. 

The day after that, my parents and my tio went shooting and my tia, cousins, brothers and I went around trying to find a soccer jersey. Once we found it we went to a 16 foot pool with a diving board. We spent the rest of the great day there. Once it was late, my tios, mom and I went grocery shopping and we got delicious street food. 

The next day was our second to last, we went to a beach with pitch black sand. We also got a cabana with hammocks and we all fell asleep in them. The ocean there was warm! It was actually quite nice, not like hot icky warm. A good warm. There were also a couple of pools that were fresh water, no chemicals. It was so nice to get all the sand off. We also spent the next morning in the pool.

The last day we went to the mall to get our souvenirs and Spanish churros. They made the churros fresh in front of our faces and put some sweet sauces on it. There was caramel, Nutella and condensed milk. For dinner , we went to eat at a fancy restaurant our family really likes and we had fantastic rich food. At the end of our trip, we went to get -llao llao-. It tastes like Greek yogurt and you got to put on toppings! I put honey and a sort of almond granola.

That was our last day there and the next morning we went to the airport and went home. We had a layover in Guatemala and got some more cool stuff. And that was all.

My trip was perfect. It was so good I wished that our tickets did not work and we had to stay. Even now I wish I was there. For all those people who read the entire story. CONGRATULATIONS 🥳. You are a star. Overall, the trip was just too perfect. I don’t want to visit anywhere else and I just want to live there for the rest of my life. You should definitely visit the mystical place called El Salvador.

A Trip Around Lake Erie

Summer has just begun and now that Covid is clearing up many people are taking their long-due vacations. For vacation this summer, my family and I decided to go for a trip around Lake Erie which is one of the 5 great lakes in the northeastern part of the United States. During our time there we drove through 4 different states and a different country.

We decided to start by taking a four hour flight over to Cleveland, Ohio and from there we took a short drive to Cedar Point. Cedar Point is an amusement park in Ohio that my dad has been wanting to go to for years. We spent a couple days there, then went on a ferry to a little island called Put-in-Bay. Put-in-Bay is a village on South Bass Island in the middle of Lake Erie about a mile from Sandusky, Ohio. We spent a day there driving around in a golf cart and exploring the island. While the island is very small, it houses a US National Park called Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial which is a memorial to those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.  After we got back to the mainland, we went to another amusement park called Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, and we spent another 2 days there.

After fully exploring these fun places in Ohio, we packed up and took about an 8 hour car ride towards Toronto, Canada. At the US/Canadian border we were stopped by border agents who asked us many questions about where we had come from and where we were going. They also made sure we had properly completed the ArriveCan app information which is an app required to enter Canada now due to COVID. We stayed in a small suburb of Toronto called Vaughan where Canada’ Wonderland is located.

All 3 of these amusement parks are owned by the same company that owns Knott’s Berry Farm here in Orange County. While the idea is the same, ride rides and eat lots of food, the environments and the experiences at each park were quite different. I enjoyed them all in different ways. When we were done with our amusement park thrills we headed over to Niagara Falls where we went on the Maid of the Mist which is a boat that takes you right up to the bottom of the falls. While they do provide you with ponchos our entire family still ended up getting soaked.  After Niagara Falls, we drove all the way back to the Cleveland airport through Pennsylvania and back to Ohio, then flew all the way back to California. It was a great adventure with a lot of new experiences including the theme parks and multiple thunderstorms unlike anything we have in California. While I enjoyed it greatly, it’s nice to be home.

Summer Adventures

When it comes to summer vacation, all I can think of is relaxing, traveling, lots of road trips, and just couple of months without having to worry about anything school related. Summer is a time to go out and have fun with family and friends. It’s to go explore and go on some adventures. I am one of those people who can’t just stay in my house during the summer. I love to go on adventures and to explore and see the some of the wonders of the world we live in. And of course with every adventure comes in food. I love to taste different types of food each country has to offer.

One of the best summer vacation that I’ve been to is going to Mexico. Recently for my birthday my parents gifted me a cruise to Mexico. Though the cruise was only there for less than 8 hours. We got to go explore different places and book an excursion in Mexico. It was the BEST! And the excursion that we book involves food. Actually it is all you do all day your Mexico. We get to try different authentic food from Mexico and explore at the same time. And of course we also get to buy souvenirs to bring home to remember the trip. Once back on cruise, again all you mostly do in a cruise is eat! For 4 days straight I had no chores, nothing to worry, other than to eat and have fun by enjoying all the cruise has to offer! Food in the cruise I was in was amazing. Especially “Guys Burger.” And then comes the disembarking process. The process I’m pretty sure a lot of people hate the most. Don’t you just hate it when vacation is over and you get back to normal? Yeah well me too!

Another best vacation that I’ve been to is traveling around Europe for 2 weeks. Me and my mom love to travel. It’s out goal to travel all the countries someday. When we went to Europe first thing we landed on London. There we visited family and we got to go around London. Funny thing is we actually got to see some of the Royal family because it was when HRH Kate and William were visiting a local hospital/charity where my godmother works. We didn’t get to meet then but we saw them. And next to our trip was Paris. It was short one because we tried to fit 5 different places/4 countries in the span of 9 days. We explored the city of Paris and got some yummy croissant and the best hot chocolate for breakfast. Then our next stop Brussels, Belgium. Where again we explored for a days and went to Amsterdam the next day. In Amsterdam we get to explore the city and the history of Anne Frank.

Up next was our trip to Italy. First up was Milan. In Milan we got treated with an amazing homemade Italian pasta. The pasta is made in front of you and it was amazing. Then next to our trip was Lake Como. In Lake Como we got to see the beautiful Lake and its beautiful view by taking a boat around it. Ended the night with an amazing street pizza. Yes it was pizza that they sell on the streets with their little cart. It was delicious. We have a family in Milan that told us about this trick. We spent not even half of the price you pay in a restaurant and the pizza was so much more delicious. And last to out our trip was Rome. We climbed up to the top of the St. Peters Basilica for a total of 551 steps.

Our Europe trip is definitely an adventurous one. I was hoping someday to visit all these places with a little more time than usual. And explore it more. I advised if your an adventures type of person is to go to Europe and explore the cities. Because in every corner especially in Italy you see something different. Most likely something exciting. With awestruck views. And the food. We cannot forget about food. The food that I really enjoyed the most was in Italy and London. And if your a cheese lover Amsterdam has a lot of really great and delicious cheese. It was a really good experience.

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself”-Danny Kaye

-Marielle E.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

I thought this was a really cute story and really brought out my love for foreign love stories. Well not to foreign but it does take place in England which is foreign enough! I thought both characters were charming in their own way. Their small quirks and believable thoughts made the book seem relatable enough. Though I do wish a cute a British guy would strike up a conversation with me at an airport. I wasn’t sure how the title of the book was going to match the story, and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure how it does. Maybe it has to do with the probability of finding compatible people in an international airport, being on the same flight, etc. Haha. I find it crazy how odd the parents were. Wanting her to accept and even be happy about the marriage especially after the dad left. The soon to be step-mother, especially her real mother extremely upset me. They seemed very inconsiderate and brash in their decision making. However, the story does take a turn for the good…and bad. But mainly good. I recommend anybody who is into a quick YA read or even in an airport to give this book a glance because who knows when you might meet a cute British person.

-Coralie D.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway

True at First Light eBook by Ernest Hemingway | Official Publisher ...

True at First Light: a novel written by Ernest Hemingway after a trip to Italy and his return from hunting in 1949. It reflects the author’s abhorrence of war, his concern for the future of mankind, and his reflections on the value of life, love, and death. The book’s title, taken from the dying words of Confederate General Thomas Jackson during the American Civil War, shows Hemingway’s tough-guy character — and that of himself — facing death. Although the novel is not his most famous work, it reflects the personal life of the writer incisively and vividly from one side, so that readers can have a comprehensive understanding of Hemingway.

Hemingway went on his second safari in 1953-1954 with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh. The couple, along with several locals who were working with them as their helpers, hunted a vicious lion. They also shot some gazelles, leopards, and sand hens on the way, which reflected the author’s pure and friendly sense of loyalty to the ignorant and loyal African indigenous people, Mary’s positive attitude towards learning shooting and training courage, and the happy atmosphere of their life together. Hemingway’s local girlfriend, Debba, is described in the book as “his fiancee” by Mary.

This girl was quite close to Hemingway, but she did not affect the relationship between the couple, showing a precious spirit of mutual consideration between people. An intricate counterpoint of alternating fiction and truth forms the heart of this memoir. In many passages, the author makes extensive use of this polyphonic tone, which will no doubt please any reader who enjoys this kind of music. True at First Light is a manuscript by Ernest Hemingway. The original was published in July 1999, just in time for the writer’s centenary.

What sets this book apart from many of his other novels is that it is an autobiographical novel written in the first person, so it feels intimate to read. It is a detailed and vivid account of the author’s second safari in Africa from 1953 to 1954 with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, and reflects Hemingway’s affection for the uncomplicated natives.The book is permeated with a cheerful atmosphere, and appreciating this work is like tasting a cup of fragrant coffee which makes people have a sense of clarity and cheerfulness. In a way, this book is not so much a novel as a colorful travelogue or memoir, and many of its passages are beautiful prose pieces that add to Hemingway’s many works.

-Coreen C.

Book Review: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road Jack Kerouac Quote poster The Beat by Redpostbox ...

“On the Road” is a novel by American Beat writer Jack Kerouac, first published in 1957. The novel, mostly autobiographical, loosely structured and episodic, depicts the absurd life experiences of a group of young people and reflects the spiritual emptiness and muddled state of postwar American youth widely regarded as a classic of the hippie movement and the beat generation in the 1960s. “On the Road” is the the protagonist Sal’s pursuit of personality along with Dean, Marylou, several young men and women across the continental United States to Mexico. They drank too much, talked too much about Zen in the East, blocked cars when they got tired, slept in villages, and wandered from New York to San Francisco. At the same time, the book embodies the techniques of improvisation and spontaneity that the author advocates: the natural flow of thought, counter-plot, heavy use of slang, colloquial language, long, ungrammatical sentences, and extensive references to American social and cultural mores. On the other hand, the book shows the mountains, plains, deserts, and towns in the vast land of United States.

Like the beat generation in real life, the characters in “On the Road” are rebellious young people who defy political authority, secular ideas, traditional morality and law. In the oppressive and depressing society of the McCarthy era, these young people felt unbearable oppression and bondage and were always looking for relief. They are frantically speeding back and forth across the vast continent as they seek instinctive release, self-expression, and spiritual freedom. Their addiction to drugs, sexual indulgence, and jazz music were also, to a larger extent, extreme manifestations of their search for soul liberation. “On the Road” isn’t just about how these young people are challenging mainstream culture, venting their frustration, and trying to break free of its constraints. That is to say, it is not just about denial, but more importantly, it is also about these young people’s painful exploration of new ways of life and beliefs. Perhaps the most profound thing about Kerouac is not so much the extreme life experiences of the beat generation, their rebellion and pursuit, their nirvana and misery, but his reflections on the beat movement itself. It is this kind of thinking that best illustrates the spiritual pursuit and endless transcendence demonstrated by Kerouac and the beat writers.

-Coreen C.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Amazon.com: Around the World in 80 Days (8601410733353): Verne, Jules: Books

The novel is rich in themes. Science fiction theme, roaming theme, detective theme, love theme and other themes cross and merge, and construct quite rich meanings. Among these themes, the Eastern theme stands out. In the novel, Fog’s route around the world is detour through Africa to India, from India to Japan, through Japan to San Francisco, and finally from San Francisco back to England. India, China, the Philippines, Japan and so on account for nearly a third of the pages. This part of Oriental imagination and writing is also the most prominent part of the dramatic elements in Around the World in 80 days, full of excitement and adventure, bantering and satire. Jules Verne fully demonstrated his humanism as a writer.

Through the words of his characters, he expresses his indignation at India’s barbaric funeral system, and shows his deep sympathy and righteous indignation at the British opium poisoning of the Chinese people through the experience of Jean Passepartout. He also used the beating of Fix and Fogg at the San Francisco convention to ridicule the chaos of the American democratic elections. Verne through Fogg’s whereabouts, connected Europe, South Asia, East Asia, North America’s topography, climate characteristics, urban architectural characteristics and local customs. As if it were a richly detailed book of popular geography, the precise amorous feelings and the ups and downs of the characters in the book combine closely with the strange religious customs and local customs of the world to form the propeller of the plot.

Fix, for example, would not have had the opportunity to urge the evil monks in Calcutta to sue Fogg and his French valet Jean Passepartout if he had not been a know-it-all who did not know that Hindu temples had to take off their shoes and socks and enter barefoot. If Fogg and Fix had not strayed into the Hong Kong tavern, Fix would not have drunkun Fogg with his pipe, and Fogg would have missed the important message that his master’s ship was about to sail ahead of time. Fogg had to venture to Yokohama in a boat of twenty tons, and there would have been no hurricane at sea. And if Fogg hadn’t gone to the Japanese acrobat troupe in Yokohama to find work and perform feats of human overlap, the master and servant would not have met by accident.

Custom has no greater effect on the plot than when Fogg and his party, riding on elephants, witness the grotesque and sinister funeral procession of widows passing through the dense forest, and Fogg has a whim to rescue the poor lady who has been forced to die. This directly created Aouda’s brilliant appearance in the story, and also created the sympathy between Fogg and Jean Passepartout. In other words, when a new custom is carefully portrayed by Jules Verne, it is conceivable that the conflicts of the story will again become concentrated and climax. The customs of the world’s landscapes are, in a manner of speaking, like intricate prisms, and the development of established stories like flower petals, which, when combined, create a kaleidoscope of wonders from Jules Verne’s travels.

Around the World in 80 Days follows the narrative pattern of travel in Western literature. The hero Fogg is a calm, rational, methodical, precise and accurate Englishman. He bet the men of the club twenty thousand pounds that he could complete the circle in eighty days. So he set out with the French servant, and after a long journey they returned to England on time. Fogg not only won the stakes, but also won the love of Aouda from India. This is the main clue of the novel. There is another clue in the novel: Detective Fix pursues Fogg. Fifty-five thousand pounds are missing from the counter of the Bank of England. The police find that the thief looks very much like Fogg. When they found out that Fogg had left England, they thought he was going to make an escape, so they sent Fix to hunt him down.

Travel and adventure and the pursuit of fugitives form the double power of narration in the novel, as well as the parallel and intersecting two threads, which make the narrative and structure of the novel form a certain tension.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels (Classic Starts Series) by Jonathan Swift, Jamel Akib,  Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Gulliver’s Travels has not only a profound ideological content, but also a relatively perfect art form. First of all, Swift used fictional plots and fantasy techniques to depict the reality of Britain at that time. At the same time, he also created a colorful, fairy-tale fantasy world based on the reality of Britain at that time. Swift’s fantasy world is based on reality, while the contradiction of reality is more prominent in the fantasy world. After the coup d ‘etat of 1688, for example, the Tories and the Whigs fought for power and attacked each other, when in fact they both represented the interests of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Swift captured the essential characteristics of parliamentary party fighting and created the high-heel party and low-heel party in Lilliput.

These fictions make reality stronger, more concentrated, more typical, and more universal. The artistic charm of Gulliver’s Travels is also here. Swift’s fantasy and reality are harmonious and unified. Swift’s fantasy and reality are harmonious and unified, and Gulliver’s experiences are different in Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa and Houyhnhnm. But they were all reasonably arranged without any flaws. Every time he went to a fantasy country, he was treated differently. He made his works have a sense of artistic reality, which has a great appeal, so that satire can achieve a high effect. When the author mercilessly satirizes and criticizes the parliamentary politics and reactionary religious forces in Britain at that time, some of them are straight sarcasm, some use the tongue of foreigners, some are metaphorical sarcasm, some are animal sarcasm, all of which are funny.

The combination of fantasy and reality also adds a unique artistic charm to the novel. Although the author presents a mythical world like a fairy tale, it is based on the reality of social life in Britain at that time. Due to the author’s precise, delicate and apt description, people can not feel that it is a fantasy, as if everything is true. For example, when describing the proportional relationship between small people and adults, and between people and things, the ratio of one to twelve is always reduced or enlarged. The little man of Lilliput is twelve times smaller than Gulliver. And the lords of the Brobdingnag were twelve times larger than Gulliver. One of Gulliver’s handkerchiefs would be a carpet for the Lilliput Palace. Brobdingnag’s peasant’s wife’s handkerchief, draped over Gulliver, became a sheet.

In describing the operation of the flying island of Laputa, the architecture of palaces, and the structure of towns, the author also intentionally uses the knowledge and data of mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and medicine. In this way, the authenticity, harmony and symmetry of the partial details of the characters are transformed into the reality, harmony and unity of the whole picture and scene, which greatly enhances the sense of reality and appeal of the work. The author’s writing is simple and succinct. In Lilliput, for example, Gulliver transcribes an official proclamation extolling the king as the king of kings, with his feet at the center of the earth and the sun above his head, etc. Gulliver, in brackets, calmly explained that the perimeter was about twelve miles.

With this explanation, the boundless territory that reached the four poles of the earth shrank abruptly to a mere dozen leagues around it. The contrast is hilarious. The words in parentheses reveal the author’s simple and matter-of-fact style, which he does not seem to be commenting on, but rather to explain to us objectively and faithfully the scale of Lilliput. Although the scenes of Lilliput and The Land of The Houyhnhnms vary, as do the circumstances of the heroes, the layout and style of the whole novel are consistent. Every time Gulliver went to sea, the causes and consequences are explained in detail, the complicated plot is described in order of time and space, the text is concise and vivid, and the story is unique.

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

Five Weeks in a Balloon eBook by Jules Verne - 9781775452614 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

The friendship and care between people are reflected in the book. Three travelers once risked their lives to save a French missionary. When the balloon was about to fall into Lake Chad, in order to make it rise again, Joe jumped into the lake and saved the lives of his two companions. As Joe fled the Sahara for his life, a shot from Kennedy saved Joe from the barbarians. This spirit of mutual love and mutual assistance in the era of personality publicity is very worthy of readers to cherish and carry forward. In order to show the wonderful scenery in Africa, this novel introduces the rich geographical knowledge. Through the image of the hero Fergusson in the novel, the author fully shows a scientist’s loyalty to the cause of human progress, praises his courage and strength, and shows the great power of modern science and technology.

However, when the novel describes the African native people, the racial prejudice reveals inevitably the era and history of the limitations. Five Weeks in a Balloon, by Jules Verne, describes the journey of Dr. Fergusson and his companions across the African continent, in which the admiration for European civilization, as well as the disgust and disdain for backward civilization, is evident. From the perspective of orientalism, Five Weeks on a Balloon shows a strong national character and the resulting Eurocentrism, which is mainly reflected in its description of the African environment. More than that, Jules Verne wants to show the excellence of his own nation in this process. To highlight this, the typical environment in his works is the desert, which means to raise thirst, desolation, loneliness and death, which must be overcome when crossing the desert.

The success of Mr. Fergusson’s entourage is the author’s affirmation of westerners and western civilization. But the whole work, from the point of view of orientalism, this affirmation is also based on a kind of dislocation between Europe and Africa. They thought of themselves as the most civilized people, looking down on others, and orientalism retained a more or less European-centered consciousness even in their later reflections. It is difficult to avoid this phenomenon, which requires that people should treat the East objectively and not overnight. However, in the analysis and criticism of people, they should at least be conscious of preventing them from being brought into the theory of Eurocentrism. When they look at problems, they should always make clear their position as an Oriental.

The African landscape is described in vivid detail, with mountains and seas, swamps and depressions, desert rivers and volcanoes all covered in the novel. The baobabs, fig trees, acacia trees, tamarind trees and other tropical plants are very strange. Elephants, hippos, crocodiles, vultures, leopards, hyenas and other tropical animals, as well as the thrilling battle of wits with savages and monkeys, all inspire the imagination to travel to Africa in an adventure. The hydrogen balloon was their vehicle, a relatively unknown object even to today’s readers, and the hero of the book had thought of it as a tool for exploration in the first half of the 19th century. What is more interesting is that the author even introduces the complex structure of the balloon to the readers in detail through the protagonist, which shows the author’s extensive knowledge and extremely rich imagination.

Authors We Love: James Agee

Image result for james agee

Born on November 27th, 1909 and died on May 16, 1955 was this brilliant American poet, novelist, and writer for and about motion pictures. Written about in Encyclopedia Britannica, Agee grew up in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountain area, went to Harvard University, and wrote for Fortune and Time after he graduated in 1932. Although his movie criticisms weren’t widely known, his humorous comments on movies still gained a lot of support from the audience instead of merely evaluating musicals and movies like an insider.

If you don’t know yet, his book A Death in the Family actually won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Now, I think this has a lot to do with his experience as a child, as this is an autobiographical novel. Not only the name “Rufus”, who was the main character in that particular novel but moreover it was James Agee’s middle name. His father, Hugh James Agee, like Jay Follet was killed in an auto accident when he was merely seven.

In addition, just when he was ten years old, his mother enrolled him in Saint Andrew’s boarding school. Remember something now? Yes, this is exactly the same setting as his other book The Morning Watch.

Although I haven’t read or watched all his other plays and featured stories, there is one thing I can tell: James Agee is a legendary author who utilizes his own family background and experience to produce outstanding stories and mold characters into the best shapes he can.

-Coreen C. 

The works of James Agee are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library