Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spirit of a Place III

This is the third and final post showcasing essays about places in and near New Orleans by students in our Pilot class at the Loyola Intensive English Program. Pilot students are preparing for full academic admission to Loyola University New Orleans by taking two credit-bearing intensive English courses and two other academic courses at Loyola.

Our Pilot students were recently assigned an essay that required them to reflect deeply about a New Orleans place. They were asked not only to describe this place but also to evoke its spirit. Like the essays by Meng and by James in our two previous posts, this third essay by Eduardo de la Espriella of Panama admirably delves into the spirit of a place in New Orleans.

Eduardo de la Espriella of Panama
Eduardo is majoring in graphic design. He also loves music and has worked as a disc jockey in music clubs in Panama.

Eduardo has chosen to write about Audubon Park, right across Saint Charles Avenue from Loyola University. Eduardo beautifully evokes the peacefulness of the park on a recent afternoon and brings to us the park's sights, sounds, touch sensations, and smells. Here is Eduardo's essay.

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Audubon Park: New Peace Found
By Eduardo de la Espriella

The peace I encountered on a cold afternoon in Audubon Park, a park in front of Loyola and Tulane Universities, was unique and new. The park contains many areas, but I felt strongly connected with one specific place. Near the middle of the "L" shaped lake in Audubon Park, there's a bench where I sat, I saw, I listened, I felt, I smelled, and I relaxed.

The bank by the lake in Audubon Park where Eduardo spent his afternoon
As I sat down, I looked around me and saw my surroundings. Right in front of me was the lake, which had such beautiful "V" shaped fountains. Across the lake was a golf course where I saw many golfers hitting some balls and having good chats with their partners. At my right, I saw a gazebo full of college students sharing life stories; it was at a fairly nice distance, enough to hear them laughing. At the left, I could see a very beautiful small rock bridge spanning the lake to the golf course; this bridge had a well-crafted arch shape, which made it look modern but enough to say it has had some long and restless years. Finally behind me were people walking; although I never turned around to see them, they seemed nice people to have a good short chat with.

I could hear many different sounds, too. Birds were singing and twitting; even ducks made incredible sounds. The sounds coming from these birds and ducks were like the keys on a piano, from the soft treble melody of little birds to the bass quack of larger ducks and all the notes in between.

A duck swimming in the lake in Audubon Park
Someone was trying to turn on the engine on a broken motorboat, which I found disturbing, but after some time I guess he couldn't repair it and everything went calm again. This boat was coming my way from the left; I would have liked to be on board to experience how the bridge looked from the downside.

I could hear the laughs of the people from the gazebo; they were having so much fun, and every single laugh was unique, from the toughest guy with the loudest voice to the annoying gal withn the "daddy girl" voice.

The gazebo in Audubon Park
Many iPods were playing behind me while people walked or biked by my back; I can't understand why they would choose to listen to their iPods rather than to the little birds singing. I could also hear some rusty bike chains rotating behind me, and the howl of a strong breeze even made me shiver. The sound of the water falling into the lake caused by the "V" shaped fountain felt as if everything was going according to plan; how each drop of water rises into the air and follows the same path every single time made me believe that life puts me into a path and I should just follow it.

A fountain in lake in Audubon Park
I could also physically feel so many things. The cold air rushing by me and the heat from the sun falling on top of my head made it perfectly comfortable to stay; it wasn't cold or hot, it was the perfect weather to just stay calm. Personally I don't like mosquitoes biting my skin, but before they do, they take some steps on the arm, and it feels like little needles touching the skin just before breaking it. The ground beneath me was cold and soft at the same time, just as the air. Moisture on rocks made the place really comfortable to be in, and it was so magical when dragonflies started resting on my arms. There was so much peace; I could feel so restful and weightless, as if nothing in the world mattered any more.

The place smelled like fresh flowers and fresh air, but also there was a taste of smoke in the air that made it a little unpleasant. Although I could sometimes feel a little smoke on the air, the air felt so much purer than anywhere else in the cith of New Orleans.

I relaxed so pleasantly that half an hour never had felt so short. What a beautiful place to be! I've gone many times after with friends just to relax from our stressful life.
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Thank you, Eduardo, for sharing with us your sensual experience of the peaceful spirit of Audubon Park.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Spirit of a Place II

Xiang "James" Zhang of China
This second of three descriptive essays by students in the Pilot class of the Loyola Intensive English Program is by Xiang "James" Zhang of China. James is a business management major. He is eager to complete his business studies at Loyola University New Orleans and to gain experience working for a large corporation.

Like Meng in our previous post, James has written his essay in response to an assignment that asked him not only to describe a significant place in or near New Orleans but also to evoke its spirit.

James has chosen to write about a recent airboat tour of nearby Lake Salvador, where he and his friends encountered alligators. 

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Airboat Tour of Lake Salvador
By Xiang James Zhang

Have you ever seen a white alligator? Have you ever seen Spanish moss, decorating the cyprus trees and dancing in the wind as if it were welcoming tourists to the swamp? Have you ever held a baby alligator in your own two hands? Have you ever seen the sunset change the colors of Lake Salvador’s water to look like fire? On a recent airboat tour, my friends and I tasted all these experiences.

Going on the airboat tour was something I had never experienced in China. I had never even seen that kind of boat before. It looks like a medium-sized boat with a large fan at the back instead of an engine. I wanted to go on the airboat tour because it was a new experience and I wanted to see wild alligators. Along with my friends Creek and Bruce, I learned many new things about swamps. Creek and Bruce are both Chinese students studying in Tulane University’s MBA program. We arrived at Airboat Adventures and saw a lot of tourists waiting. Outside the airboat center were cyprus trees covered in Spanish moss. The Spanish moss looked like people welcoming us to the airboat tour.

We went inside of the store and purchased our tickets. We saw three white alligators in the pool inside of the house. They didn’t move very much and their enclosure was dark. I thought that the white alligators were much more beautiful than regular alligators. They are white because they have albinism, which prevents them from spending too much time in the sun. Also, there were so many different sizes of alligators’ heads being sold as souvenirs. The sizes ranged from baby alligators to full-grown ones. After we visited the inside of the house, we went out to wait for the next tour.

Here comes the airboat!
After a while, the airboat approached, making a buzzing noise and parting the water. When the boat came closer to us, I saw a big power fan on the back of the boat. All the tourists and tour guides had headphones. I was confused why the boat here didn’t have propellers. In my mind, all boats have propellers; I also thought all boats have propellers in the United States. But, why is it different here? I eventually learned that the airboats use fans instead of engines because propellers would cut plants and animals floating near the surface of the water and also under the water.

Our tour was around 5 pm. We put on life jackets and headphones. Then we left to go see the wild alligators. The tour guide drove the airboat more and more quickly. The noise became louder and louder. We arrived at a dead end and we had to make a U-turn to go to another part of the river. At this time, the tour guide turned off the engine. He started to call the names, “Claws, Claws, Claws! Drago, Drago, Drago!” Creek pointed to a corner not far away from our airboat; I saw a small black alligator. The alligator swam to us and I saw a head with two big eyes.

Here comes an alligator! Can you see him in the middle of the water?
The tour guide kept calling, “Claws!” and shaking the chicken legs. Claws, a six-foot-long alligator, swam to our airboat. When Claws got close to us, the tour guide tried to feed Claws the chicken leg. Claws moved his mouth up to the water, opening it widely. The tour guide put the chicken leg into Claws’ mouth and then Claws chewed the chicken leg. At this moment, the tour guide grabbed Claws and pulled him out of the water by his mouth. The tour guide took Claws’ body halfway out of the water by pulling him by the mouth, but Claws then w w ent back to the water after he shook his mouth back and forth. Then the tour guide called another alligator’s name and tried to take him out of the water but failed again.

Reaching for an alligator
We went to a few places like the first place and every time the tour guide did the same thing. Finally he successfully took a four-foot-long alligator out of the water and held it up to let us take pictures. This alligator was not as big as others, who were around six feet.  After that, he took out a six-month-old alligator from a box on the airboat. He told us that the small alligator belonged to his wife, who had given him the name Hammer. I thought that Hammer looked like a lizard, and everyone on the airboat held him to take photos except me because I was afraid of him. I was afraid the alligator would bite me. I asked Creek and Bruce about the feeling of holding an alligator. They explained to me the way an alligator feels – scaly on top and softer underneath. We asked the tour guide how to own an alligator in New Orleans. You need a special permit to own one, and you have to get the alligator from a licensed seller.

Holding a baby alligator
Finally, we went to a pretty place called Lake Salvador. It was much wider because it was a lake and the rest of the tour had been in rivers. At that time it was sunset, which I really loved, and all the lake glowed yellow and orange. Nobody lived around the lake; only wild animals were there. The tour guide showed us patches of grass as big as a car. He told us that they were the places for female alligators to have babies.

Sunset over Lake Salvador

The airboat tour was around two hours, and although everyone was tired, I could tell that everyone was happy and satisfied. The airboat tour was fifty dollars, but I didn’t think it was expensive. The tour guides have a dangerous job and the tour was worth the money. It ended up being a memorable experience.

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Our thanks to James for sharing with us his adventure on the beautiful Lake Salvador and his learnings about alligators.

Our next post will showcase the essay of Eduardo de la Espriella, who spent an afternoon in Audubon Park, just across Saint Charles Avenue from Loyola University New Orleans. Eduardo explores the park through his senses of sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Spirit of a Place I

Our next three posts will showcase three more essays by students in the Pilot class of the Loyola Intensive English Program. Pilot students are preparing for full academic admission to Loyola University New Orleans by taking two credit-bearing intensive English courses and two other academic courses at Loyola.

For this assignment, our Pilot Writing & Grammar class was asked to describe a particular place in or near New Orleans in such a way as to capture the spirit of that place. This assignment goes beyond simple description, asking for an examination of the deeper feelings or spirit that the place evokes. Each essay is accompanied by photos.

Meng Li of China
Our first essay is by Meng Li of China, a finance major at Loyola. Meng plans to use her business studies at Loyola University New Orleans to pursue a career in banking in her home country.

Meng has chosen to describe the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans' City Park. Meng highlights three particularly striking sculptures. She vividly desribes each one and delves into the feelings and thoughts that each sculpture evokes.

The Besthoff Sculpture Garden
By Meng Li

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, opened in 2003, can really be viewed as a paradise for visitors to our city who love culture and treasure the arts. It is located behind the New Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans’ City Park. More than fifty amazing and priceless sculptures are scattered on the lawns of the garden.

I have visited the garden only once and it left on me an unforgettable impression. That day was an excellent sunny day. Many visitors came there, and I was one of them. I saw that many oak trees were planted on the lawn; the grass had been mowed neatly and looked very green and beautiful under the sun. The birds were flying across the blue clear sky. Some people were taking pictures with the attractive statues, talking about the nice scenery, and reading the detailed descriptions of the statues. The warmth of the sun and the fresh air made me feel relaxed and comfortable.

The sculptures were arranged very well and excellently decorated the garden. I like one of the sculptures best: a black huge metal spider about two meters high. A large body sits atop the long and thin legs. Its feet look like needles inserting into the lawn and forming a giant circle which could even contain thirty people. Seeing it from a far distance, it's just a big common spider, but when you stand under it, you will realize how tiny you are and how scary it is. It’s facing towards the ground, and its giant curved belly makes me think of a black widow spider who just ate her husband. When I touched it, I found that my hands even couldn’t hold its leg, and I was too short to touch its body. It made me remember some very cool and splendid scenes of sci-fi movies as well, such as where some anomalous extraterrestrial creatures invaded our land, or where scientists created some kind of new chemical that could make insects grow bigger and stronger to help us fight against aliens, or where people polluted the environment beyond the capacity of the earth to recover, resulting eventually in gene mutation of animals.

Spider Sculpture
Another one that made me marvel was a humanoid sculpture. It was hollow and made of alphabet-shaped silver-colored metal pieces; it was positioned like a man who puts his arms around his legs sitting on the grass. He was not only shiny under the sun and appeared very beautiful, but also the interlocking metal alphabet letters made him transparent. I was thinking about the feeling that the sculptor was trying to express, while I was looking at this sculpture. Maybe the sculptor wanted to let us remember that our life is made more wonderful and complete because of language. Those twenty-six alphabet letters make up hundreds of thousands of different words that enable us to communicate with each other, write down our thoughts, or express our feelings.  However, the answer will be different for different people, and the question could never have a certain answer. That is one of the sculpture’s charms, I think. It can enrich our imaginations and bring us a lot of fun. I saw many people stop at this sculpture and take pictures because it was amazing and glorious under the sun.

Humanoid Sculpture
When I walked even deeper, I saw a sculpture which was formed using a lot of violin-shaped metal pieces assembled into a tall violin tower, located on the water. I couldn't clearly count how many metal violins were fused together, but I knew that the sculpture was about two and a half meters high. I was wondering why it was placed on the water instead of elsewhere. I imagined it on a lawn or other places, but no place could be better than the water surface because I could imagine the violin tower as a musical tornado whipped up by the sea.  What's more, a bridge was visible in the distance. Many ducks were swimming around the violin tower. This view was nothing but beautiful because the whole scenery was as gorgeous as if it were painted.

Violin Sculpture
If people who love the arts are given a chance to come to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, I bet they will like this wonderful place as I do. Every sculpture in this garden is a masterpiece.

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Our thanks to Meng Li of China for this thoughtful and evocative description of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

Our next post will showcase an essay by Xiang "James" Zhang of China, who describes his recent airboat trip on nearby Lake Salvador and provides interesting tid-bits of information about the alligators he encountered.

LIEP Halloween Haunted History Tour in the French Quarter

For our second half of the 2012 Fall Semester at the Loyola Intensive English Program, students in the Advanced Culture class, taught by LIEP instructor Jess Haley, have taken on a new role: Cultural Tour Guides! Each week, the class researches a different theme, writes presentation outlines, photographs and videotapes a tour, and edits each video to create inventive and interesting movies chronicling their adventures in English.

For the week of October 29, the theme was Halloween! New Orleans is known as one of the world's most haunted cities, so what better time of year than Halloween to explore the spooky history and architecture of the French Quarter! Each student was given a famous landmark to research and write about. Then, the class took a field trip to the French Quarter, where they photographed and videotaped their presentations. This was the first video project, so the class learned a lot about sound quality and using the camera.

In this post, we would like to share photos and spooky information about some of the famous haunted buildings in the French Quarter!

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Laura Maria Reuber of Germany at Lafitte's Guest House
LAURA MARIA REUBER of Germany tells us about
1003 Bourbon Street

In Lafitte's Guest House, you can find the New Orleans version of Alice in Wonderland because here lives a little spirit trapped in a mirror in the upstairs hall. The mansion was built around 1849, and many families lived in it throughout the next 100 years. In the 20th Century, the mansion became a hotel.

The house was decorated with an unusual amount of mirrors, and one of these mirrors may have captured the spirits of those who lived in the house! Next to Rooms 21 and 22, which used to be the children's rooms, hangs the mirror. Inside the mirror has been seen a little girl, crying because she can't get out. It is said that this is the spirit of a little girl who lived in the mansion with her parents and died of yellow fever in the 19th Century, when child mortality was high.

Sung-Uk Jung of Korea at the Beauregard-Keyes House
SUNG-UK JUNG of Korea speaks about
1113 Chartres Street

The Beauregard-Keyes House is named after two people: Confederate General PIerre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893) and novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885-1970). Many owners of this house have seen ghosts, especially in the garden and mostly relating to war. Owners have seen battles, a war-horse crying, headless soldiers, and other ghostly entities.

Aurelie Saulnier of France at the Andrew Jackson Hotel
AURELIE SAULNIER of France describes
919 Royal Street

The Andrew Jackson Hotel has been successively a boys' school, a courthouse and finally a hotel. Two events are related to the haunted history of the Andrew Jackson Hotel.

The first is related to the boys' boarding school. The legend says that five boys perished in the blaze when the school was destroyed by fire in 1794. Since then, it seems that the young boys haunt the building. Indeed, over the years, guests have reported hearing children playing in the courtyard in the middle of the night, when the courtyard is deserted.

The Andrew Jackson Hotel is also on the site of the famous courthouse where Major General Andrew Jackson, national hero and future President of the United States, was indicted for contempt of court and charged with obstruction of justice in 1815. Guests have reported sighting a ghostly figure resembling General Andrew Jackson walking through the hotel.

Hebe Gurdian at the Lalaurie Mansion
HEBE GURDIAN of Nicaragua tells us about
1140 Royal Street

In 1832, Dr. Louis Lalaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved into their Creole mansion in the French Quarter. They became renowned for their social affairs and were respected for their wealth and prominence. Madame Lalaurie became known as the most influential as well as one of the most intelligent and beautiful French-Creole women in the city.

The Lalaurie mansion was served by dozens of slaves, and Madame Lalaurie was brutally cruel to them. She kept her cook chained to the fireplace in the kitchen where sumptuous dinners were prepared, while other slaves were shackled or kept in dog cages in the attic.

The tortured slaves were discovered by firefighters who arrived to extinguish a terrible blaze -- believed to have been set by the cook -- that swept through the Lalaurie mansion in 1834. With Madame Lalaurie's cruelty exposed, the Lalaurie family vanished from New Orleans and was never seen again.

The ghosts of the slaves, however, seem to have remained. People have reported hearing tortured screams emanating from the Lalaurie Mansion and seeing slaves walking about the balcony and the yard.

ELENA HOLZSCHUH of Germany describes
1024 Chartres Street

The Hotel Provincial was used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865). Ghosts of medical personnel have been seen in the hotel, along with ghosts of wounded soldiers groaning and calling for help. Hotel guests sometimes walk into their rooms and see bloody soldiers lying there and moaning in pain. These ghostly sights disappear when the lights are turned on.

Elena Holzschuh of Germany at the Hotel Provincial

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Our thanks to LIEP instructor Jess Haley and to Advanced LIEP students Laura Maria Reuber of Germany, Sung-Uk Jung of Korea, Aurelie Saulnier of France, Hebe Gurdian of Nicaragua, and Elena Holzschuh of Germany for this informative and spooky Haunted History Tour of New Orleans' French Quarter!