Forget The Alamo

I’ve only been in San Antonio a few weeks, but I decided to make a quick trip to Spain.

Many parts of what is now Texas were colonized by Spain. Between the years of 1690 and 1821, “New Spain” acquired many cultural practices of Spain, including the Spanish language and religion. In an attempt to convert the “savage” natives of the area, the Spaniards set up churches. These churches were more than just churches; the Native Americans lived at the compound, learned the Spanish way of life, and participated in Catholicism.

There were 26 missions in Texas. The most well-known mission is The Alamo. Many people visit this landmark while in San Antonio, but most miss out on the other missions in the city. These 4 other missions, in my opinion, are grander and more beautiful than the Alamo.

San Jose, known as the “Queen of the Missions”, was built in 1720. It is the largest mission in San Antonio and once hosted over 300 Native Americans.

San Jose Mission in San Antonio

Inside San Jose

Inside San Jose

Prayer candles

Prayer candles inside San Jose

Spanish architecture at San Jose

Spanish architecture can really be seen at San Jose

San Antonio churches

Walls surround the entirety of the mission

Tourist at San Jose Mission church in San Antonio

I felt like I had left the US!

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San Jose Mission door and carvings

The carvings were extraordinary!

Prayer Garden at San Juan Mission

In the prayer garden before entering the actual mission

San Jose Mission

A look at the church from inside one of the other buildings on the compound

Mission San Juan was established in 1731. This one stuck out to me because of its white color. Visitors are able to go inside each of these missions and worship services are still held.
Mission San Juan

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Mission Espada has been around since 1731. There’s really not too many building left that existed before the US was even a country!

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Not the Alamo

I was in love with all the doors!

Mission Concepcion is the oldest unrestored stone church in the US. This mission is the one that looks the most like it did in the 1700s.

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion

Fresco inside on church wall

Mission Concepcion

I loved the palm trees surrounding this mission!

The missions are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Admission is free, and the inside of all of the churches are open until 5 each evening. Feel free to wander the outside of the missions after 5, but I highly recommend getting a look around inside each church. You will need to drive to each mission, unless you plan to spend a bit more time there by biking or hiking. We spent almost 4 hours there, so, if you go, make a day of it. Make sure you visit the visitor center first, close to San Jose. There is a neat 15 minute documentary that will explain some things to you before you begin.

So if you are planning to come to San Antonio, Texas anytime soon, please don’t miss out on these jewels of the city! And contrary to the infamous phrase, please do forget the Alamo!

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Danshui River Walk

Taipei City is a huge metropolitan of more than 2.6 million people. There always seems to be hustle and bustle. And heat. On the weekends, many city dwellers like to go a little outside of town to get away from it all, cool off  from the ocean breeze, eat some snacks, and play a few games. Recently I had a chance to visit Danshui, where the Tamsui River meets the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect respite from constantly being in the city center. travel in Taiwan

Taiwan Danshui mountains

The mountains were beautiful!

Snacks in Danshui Taiwan

Yum?

Yum?

Danshui Taiwan

Is this not the tallest ice cream you’ve ever seen?!

Taiwan Beach

Playing games

Playing games

Temple in Taipei Taiwan

There were even a few temples there

 

Danshui Danshui Taiwan

Man's Silhouette in Taiwan

The Padaung Women of Myanmar

The Padaung Women of Myanmar

The Padaung are a subgroup of the Karen minority group in Myanmar. They are known for the wearing of brass neck coils. Girls start to wear the coils around the age of 5; It is said that the women do so in order to enhance their beauty.

I took this photo when I visited Myanmar in 2004. This was my first trip out of the country. This is what started it all.

Why Do Asians Always Do The Peace Sign?!

I sent a few pictures to my Dad of my recent field trip with my ESL students. He said, “Why do Asians always do the peace sign in pictures? They always did it when you lived in China.”

Anji, China

In China

 

“When you visited Korea and Japan, they did it too. ”

Koreans Doing Peace Sign

In Korea

Japanese people doing the v

In Japan

“They do it in the US. What does it mean and why did it start?”

I was able to explain that it actually is a “v” for victory, not a peace sign. But what does it really mean, and when did it start? I wasn’t able to give an explanation. So, I thought I’d do a little research on the topic.

The V sign began to be used during World War II by Allied troops.  Victor de Laveleye, former Belgian Minister of Justice, suggested the V sign on his 1941 BBC news broadcast as a way to rally support for the war. It spread through Belgium and moved on to France and the Netherlands and eventually all of Europe. Even Winston Churchill used the V for victory sign.

US President Richard Nixon went on to use the V sign for victory in the Vietnam War. However, protesters and hippies who were against the Vietnam War, changed the v from “victory”  to “peace” by holding up the same sign but saying “peace” as they did it as a subtle protest of the war. They wanted this hand gesture to change from its meaning of war to a meaning of positivity and happiness. 

The V sign probably became popular in Asia through an ice skater named Janet Lynn, who was a peace activist. She was often photographed in the Japanese media in the 1970s doing this sign.  Although the Japanese knew the V sign as victory because of WWII, Janet Lynn often displayed this sign as peace.

Another story says that a famous Japanese actor named Jun Inoue starred in some camera commercials in the 70’s where he flashed the V sign, thinking it was popular in the West, and it caught on from those commercials.  All in all, a lot of Asia copies Japan. And more importantly, Asia copies the West. Whether or not it was from seeing this ice skater make the V sign and thinking it was a popular thing to do in the West, we may never know.

China, Taiwan, and South Korea are also well known for doing this sign in photos. They say that the symbol means “yeah!”, like they are feeling good. But, really, Asians do so many poses for photos. They have the need to do hand gestures  in almost every informal photo.

There is one that guys do in China that means handsome. They might even just throw up a fist.

Chinese guy pose for photo

My students Cole and Soul doing the handsome pose and a fist

 

When girls do the V sign, it is usually close to their face. My Chinese friends told me it is a good chance for them to cover up some of their fat face. (Having a fat face is a big issue that many Asian girls dread).

Asian girl doing peace sign

 

I had to include this photo of me and my friend Ben in a bowling alley in China. Here I am being all fierce and competitive, and he told me he was doing a pose like a flower!

bowling in China

 

I even started doing the V sign after living in China for 2 years and traveling there in the years after.  It just became natural. In fact, it was nice to actually have something to do in a photo instead of just standing there awkwardly with my hands down to my sides.

Americans in China

Not a single Chinese person in sight, but here we are in China doing the V sign

 

American and Chinese on Great Wall of China

 

So the general rule of thumb is for that every month you live in Asia, you are 5% more likely to throw up your V sign in a photo. And, actually, it can be kind of fun. :] So I’m still not sure I fully understand why Asians do the V sign, but hey, sometimes with cultural differences, we don’t need to and can’t fully understand certain phenomenons, and there’s a real beauty in that.