A Mini-Adventure in San Francisco

A Note from Joyce: It wasn’t until a few years ago after our trip to Seattle when we decided we should have the girls explore our original hometown of San Francisco (where there is ALWAYS something new to discover!). We have done two almost-all-day trips with visiting relatives and we have also been on a few shorter mini-adventures. (You can find a few posts on our old blog.) For this mini-adventure, we decided to drive a few minutes out from Chinatown to see a site made even more popular (again?) by the Fuller House series.

We recently went to San Fransisco. It was a special occasion, of course, because we don’t go as frequently as we could. It’s funny because we live 25 miles away from San Fransisco. So to get to San Fransisco, you have to pass through the tolls. There are always a lot of people going through there, which makes me wonder if there is traffic, but every time there isn’t much as I thought there would be (at the time we go).

This is us on the Bay Bridge. They knocked the old one down on the other side. There’s the new Salesforce Tower!

This is the Financial District, which is where my dad works. The buildings are super tall. I wonder what happens when there’s an earthquake.

The reason we were there was because we had a family member’s anniversary celebration, so we went to our old church in Chinatown. Before that Emily and I went to Sunday School, where we did a Bible study. We definitely met a lot of people who knew us from when we were little. This is the prayer before the anniversary lunch at the church.

They gave a lot of speeches and there was even singing!

This is a mural which, evidently, used to be new and vibrant-colored way back when. (When my parents were little, probably.)

This is us in front of the church. The church is 4 stories tall. We used to go there before we moved, which is when I was 1. That was 9 years ago. But once every year we go back and visit. I have to admit, I do remember some people!

The church is near the border of Chinatown and Nob Hill(?), so afterwards we went into Chinatown more. This is what you think of when you think of Chinatown. We went and got some bread. There was a lot of people there, so we just got jostled around. The buns were really good. Compliments to the baker!

If you live in San Fransisco, another thing you have to endure is…the hills. We had to walk UP 4 entire blocks of hills back to our car.

We always find something touristy and fun to do when we are in San Francisco! This time, we visited the Painted Ladies. These colorful Victorian-era houses were certainly vibrant. My favorite house was the lilac-colored one, which you can’t see in the photos because it was farther down.

There were a lot of houses – blocks and blocks of them! People just publicly sat and took selfies. I couldn’t believe they did that because people actually lived in those houses!

That’s me standing in front of all of the houses. I wonder if they’ll ever fall apart. Aren’t they old?

Here’s all of us as a family on the hill across the street from the Painted Ladies. I think one of them, in the background, was getting redone.

Selfie time! We took a lot of selfies. I guess we are one of those people. But I did see someone with a selfie stick…

That’s Emily jumping. She likes to do that, and dance. I don’t do that, so when they asked me if I wanted to do that, I said no.

The pastel colors are pretty!

Such detailed designs!

And one more random church we saw on our way back home.

Epilogue: Not included in the photos…which is the rest of the day…we went to my grandparent’s house (dad’s side) which is also in San Francisco while my dad went to Costco. After that, we went to my other grandparent’s house (mom’s side), which isn’t in San Francisco, for dinner. It was a busy day, for sure, but one to remember. I had a good time.

Have you been on a local mini-adventure lately? Where did you go?

If you want to know a few facts about the Painted Ladies, read more at UpOutSF.

Hayward Mural Program

Note: Check out other activities in our Summer Series!

Captions by: Melody (10)
Introduction by: Melody
Photos by: Mom Joyce

More info here –> hayward-ca.gov/residents/arts-leisure/mural-program

I’ve always known that Hayward has murals. Actually, the only one I think of is the one at the theater. You probably drive past them too. But do you ever wonder, do these murals have a history? For Memorial Day this year, my family and I got a chance to get an inside glance at some of Hayward’s murals.

#2 :: Hayward Historical Society Mural by Artist Josh Powell

This was supposed to be the 2nd mural on the self-guided tour, but we saw it first because we parked our car in a parking lot nearby. This mural shows how cars changed Hayward and started an era of rapid growth in Hayward’s history.

Downtown Utility Box (diagonal from the City Gateway Mural)

There are lots of utility boxes that are decorated, just like this one, with the trees on it. You just have to look.

#1 :: City Gateway Mural by Artist Andrew Kong Knight

This one was my favorite that we saw. I liked how the artist captured the light and made so many details. It almost feels realistic!

City Gateway Mural welcomes you to Downtown Hayward, where all of the murals are located.

#3 :: Russel City Mural by Artist Josh Powell

Russel City Mural reminds people of a long-lost erof music and community.

“The city may be gone, but the memories live on.” The city of Hayward still stands strong.

Downtown Utility Box (near Russel City Mural – Artist Jean Bidwell??)

Here’s another utility box that we admired. Since it has the Grand Ole Opry on it, all of the people on the utility boxes are country singers.

#4 :: El Taquito Mural by Artist Linda Longinotti

The El Taquito Mural was outside of a restaurant, so that’s why we were in a parking lot. I like the graceful curves in this mural. If I were to paint a mural (I never will!) I would have no idea where to paint these tiles so they lined up correctly.

#6 :: Italian-Themed Mural by Artist Linda Longinotti

As an Italian themed mural, you’d expect it to have some kind of Italian etched into it, right? Well, it does. A staircase with roses beneath it, Italian-style houses…the beauty brings you straight to Italy.

#8 :: Avalon Jewelers Streetscape Mural by Artist Suzanne Gayle

The first thing I thought when I saw this mural was, “Why is there a huge soda can being dumped on this mural?” and “Why does this mural show unusual things?”

As it turns out, life isn’t always happy. There is chaos and there are unusual things, like the pet frog. But I like how this mural tells the truth: One big happy family with all of our differences. (Like the pet frog, which Emily luckily spotted first.)

#9 :: Cinema Place Parking Structure Murals by Artist Andrew Kong Knight

All of the Cinema murals are theater-themed. I liked the one below because the artist used blending. I’m an artist myself so I know how hard it is to blend. How did he make the spotlights?

#7 :: Downtown Hayward Mural by Artist Suzanne Gayle

Everybody was in awe and amazed by this one. It’s not every day that you get an inside look (with a magnifying glass) at what Hayward is made up of. Take a look and see if you can spot anything familiar!

When we spotted this door, we were excited because it showed where all of the utility boxes were, and everything! Side note: Where can you spot Cal State East Bay?


Downtown Utility Box (near Downtown Hayward Mural)

Our last photo on the list was this utility box. My favorite color is purple, so I took a picture in front of it with my sister.

We went to the car after that and drove home. It was about a 2-mile walk, not including the ones that we missed (below) so you can probably take your kids if they don’t mind walking. It was cold that day, so that’s why I have my hood up. We did the self-guided tour, but you can always reserve the guided one, too!

We only made it to 9 of the 12 murals this day. The murals we missed are #10 Hayward Main Library Book Drop Boxes, #11 Grand Terrace Sund Wall Mural, and #12 Jackson Street Southern Retaining Wall Mural. There are also dozens of utility boxes, more murals around the city on walls and under freeways, as well as murals at (almost all) the schools in Hayward.

Have you been on a local mini-adventure lately? Where did you go?

Note: Check out other activities in our Summer Series!

Washington Manor Park [Parks + Playgrounds]

Next in our Parks + Playgrounds Summer Series is Washington Manor Park. This post is by Melody.

We’ve gone to Washington Manor Park before, but today was for our special Summer Series. So if you haven’t gone before, let me introduce you to the park!

They added a shaded seating area.

You can bring your scooters and bikes there too since there’s a path. It loops around the entire park, which includes: an outdoor water park, a toddler play area, an older kids area, and there’s also a sports area in the middle. And lots of grass, which is where there are lots of birthday parties on the weekend.

We found out when the best time to go is: Not during the weekend! We went on a Thursday (before school lets out for the day and for the school year). This is me with my mom. We like walking together.

This is the water park. I’ve only been in it once. But as you can see, it has a water slide and more different water fun off to the side. You can’t really see it, but there are lounge chairs on the left side, too.

Halfway through the loop, there are a few openings to the residential areas. I think maybe these people use it to their advantage and WALK to the park. I assume they know what time is the least crowded.

That’s the grassy area. On the weekends, it gets full with people! Can you imagine? But luckily, we went during a weekday, so as you can see, there’s no one there. Nice scenery!

The back park is mostly for older kids. Emily played there at the end.

I ended up riding Emily’s scooter because she was playing.

If I forgot to mention it, there’s also a ballpark there.

We used to go to this little kids playground.

Website | Yelp | Great Kids Park | Facebook

We have seen some amazing parks and playgrounds and would like to visit them all, but since we don’t really have time to do that, please share your pics with us! And we’ll be updating with pics from our mini-adventures!

What are your family’s favorite activities at the park or playground? Swings, carousel, rock wall, train ride, tube slide, bridge?

Watermelon Art [Afternoon Art]

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

First in our Afternoon of Art Summer Series is Watermelon. (This post is by Melody.)

An Afternoon of Art

After we went to the park, we did an art project from Home Art Studio (2nd Grade). Home Art Studio is like a built-in teacher, like a personal tutor, kind of. We were going to do the first art project, which was watermelons, at the time.

Supplies + Materials

These were all the supplies we used in the project. As you can see, we used watercolor paint, watercolor paper, round paintbrushes, a tray, a black Sharpie, and a pencil. (You can see a list at the end of the post.)

There were the specific materials.

What We Did

The lesson started out with drawing one watermelon in the center.

This lesson involves overlapping and I thought that I could go freely with my watermelon. So I made five watermelons.

Then we traced the pencil drawings with a Sharpie pen.

There were the exact paints we used. She didn’t use the same brand as we did, so we were a little confused on the shades. But at the end, we finally had the right colors to make our watermelon – Chrome Green, Lemon Yellow, and Vermillion. (We were arguing over Vermillion and a darker red. But don’t you think Vermillion looks orange on the label?)

We also needed cups and water (not in the DVD’s list of materials) for the project, since it was watercolor paint, for watermelon. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water? :p

The instructor, Lindsey Volin, told us that watermelons are made up of 92% water. No wonder they’re so juicy! But I wonder…what gives them their red color?

You basically follow along with the instructor as she paints and draws along with you. At first, she read a Vietnam folktale about watermelons. It related to the summer-y project we were doing – yum! (This 2nd grade DVD is related to folktales, fables, and nursery rhymes.)

One lesson that I learned in this painting is that you can’t put too much water. Or paint. Or else you’ll end up having a not-so-great looking, moldy watermelon when the red and green watercolor mixes!

We finished our night happily by watching a movie and playing a game. We did do a puzzle too. So that brings me to a conclusion of our first summer day! Exciting and happy.

Here are the materials we used:

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a tiny percentage if you make a purchase through my link at no extra cost to you. Read my disclosure policy here.

Greenridge Park [Parks + Playgrounds]

First in our Parks + Playgrounds Summer Series is Greenridge Park. This post is by Melody with notes from Mom.

This summer, instead of just sitting around the house, being bored, (not cool), we came up with an organized schedule of things to do. It began on Tuesday. We have been to Greenridge Park many times with our MOPS group, for birthday parties, and just for fun with friends! It is at the top of the hill with a beautiful view of the Bay Area. It can be a bit breezy in the shade so bring a light cardigan or hoodie even on hot days.

Unless there are birthday parties going on, there are plenty of picnic tables, benches, and areas to sit, but you can always bring a picnic blanket to hang out in the grass. Another warning is if you have little (or big!) kiddos who like to explore on the sides of the main play area, it is hilly! I have yet to see a kid roll down the sides, but it can be challenging to talk to other parents if you are chasing your kiddo(s) or they are chasing their kiddo(s) to prevent rolling. :p

We went to the park first. It was only 9:00 a.m. because we wanted to get there before everybody else, so it wasn’t that crowded. It also wasn’t that hot, just a little breeze. We invited friends to join but at the last minute and it is also up on the hill and I think people still had their regular school activities going on, so next time we will plan better. The two days before this, it had been hotter than usual so we couldn’t decide a good time to go, so I do am not a fan of complaints of being too hot from any kiddo or myself! :p

This is the main playground area but if you walk a bit down the hill to the right of this photo, you will find a basketball court as well as an unpaved(?) path to the side of it. I believe there are also a few other trails somewhere, but we have never ventured on them before. There are also bathrooms, but they are not in the best conditions, so count on changing diapers in the car/trunk if you have a baby. There are drinking fountains. There is a field behind the tree in the photo and our friends have enjoyed flying a kite and doing those Nerf rocket launcher things, but beware that they can get stuck in the trees.

After we went scootering. Greenridge has a little path that you can ride bikes or scooter around while others play. There’s also a bench that parents can supervise from. We only stayed for a bit, but we did get our walking time by walking down the path. We started our Baby Steps to 5k walking program again, so that’s what Melody is referring to when she said ‘walking time.’ It’s a good summer activity. Note: Go at 9:00, when no one is there! But go with friends!!! It is a bit isolated, but there was also a person or two visible while we were there. They were walking their dog, coming back from a walk, or just walking through on their morning walks.

Side story: There were two older ladies who were walking and talking and one asked if we were Japanese. I said we are Chinese. She asked from where. I said my family was from Guangdong. I’m not sure what else she said because it was in Mandarin. Knowing I am Cantonese-speaking, she should have figured out I have no clue what she was saying, but she continued to talk to me in Mandarin every time we stopped near her. Toishan would have been better! There was only one time when she tried motioning something and I took it to mean her wanting to know what grades the girls were in. So we figured that out, but oh man, that one year of Mandarin classes in college did not help at all.

Yelp | Great Kids Park

We have seen some amazing parks and playgrounds and would like to visit them all, but since we don’t really have time to do that, please share your pics with us! And we’ll be updating with pics from our mini-adventures!

What are your family’s favorite activities at the park or playground? Swings, carousel, rock wall, train ride, tube slide, bridge?

Compassion International + Hillsong Young & Free

Introduction + Captions by: Melody (10)
Photos by: Norm (dad)
More info here –> compassion.com

Everybody was cheering. The music was blasting. I just was one of the many who was there, but I was also a Compassion volunteer, a volunteer who helped some kids get sponsored.

Why We Were There

At first, I was a little uncomfortable. I had only been to about 1 concert before, and that was at our church. I know that concerts are loud. Concert? I thought. But then my thought after, my sensible part of my brain told me, “Melody, it’s for a good cause. You can change people’s lives.” So that’s how, I, Melody, ended up in San Francisco for half a day and late into the night with screaming people. (I was not one of them.)

What We Did

I went to my dad’s work at about 3:30 in the afternoon. If you know me, and I had one short talk with you to introduce myself, you would know that I like singing. And drawing. And writing. So, while I was at his workplace, I drew. He also showed me around. It was pretty nice, with a cafeteria, break room, view of the Bay Bridge…everybody wants a good view of the bridge, right? The view also was around where his coworkers worked, so that that was nice. He introduced me to them. You really can’t believe how quiet workplaces are! You could hear every word that was said. I felt like I was being loud!

We walked to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which had a waterfall. There was a gushing sound as we walked under the waterfall – I have no idea why they let visitors do this, but they do! And I didn’t get that wet. It’s at Yerba Buena Gardens. Supposedly, when it’s warm outside, which it wasn’t on this particular day, people can sit and have picnics on the lawn. People were still sitting, and it was cold! After that, we headed to have a daddy-daughter date at the San Francisco Centre mall. For dinner, we ate Panda Express and for dessert, we ate Ghirardelli’s Chocolate. I ate a sample of a caramel square. We both had the same actually. Then, we left to go to Warfield Theater.

When we got there, there was a HUGE – no, HUMONGOUS – line out front. Most of the people looked like they were college-aged or teens. We had a problem getting in because we had to get in before the concert and had to skip the line. Finally, my dad just called our coordinator for the night. It was actually pretty easy to get there, but not if you were driving, due to San Francisco traffic, which if you live in San Francisco or have lived in San Francisco, you know it is bad. Mostly parking that night, and crowds, though. The entire show was sold out! We were lucky to have gotten where we were placed.

After we finally got inside, it definitely wasn’t how I expected it to be. I thought it might be a ton of volunteers and a huge theater. Warfield theater is small, on the bottom, but when you go to the balcony, on the top, you would rethink that. Some people mysteriously didn’t make it, so our group was small that night. I’d say about 15 people. We were told to sit down, and at 8:00, to come back and put on our Compassion aprons.

We basically enjoyed the whole show. There were flashing lights all around. Not every concert has that, I can assure you! Screaming people, mostly at the end, and at one song, they even turned on their cell phone flashlights! We weren’t sure we were where we were supposed to be, so we hurried all the way back down to check – oh, and also, did I mention, Warfield has a lot of stairs, too! We got to put on our aprons, but then I had to take mine off because some people in the front didn’t have any. Then somebody gave their apron to me. Again, I was asked to take my apron off…until they came with a refill of aprons. Hooray! What a lucky day! We rushed to our spots and then waited for the signal, which was “I’ve got some friends here to help me…if you’d like to sponsor a child, raise your hand.” I was leaning against the banister with my dad since there were no seats because the concert was sold out, as I mentioned before. Once we were signaled, all of the volunteers rushed forward to pass out the packets. Each of the packets had one kid on them. So I passed out one, and one person in another section raised their hand, so I had to hand it out, even though it meant that I wasn’t giving it out in my zone. (Each person got a zone in the theater to hand out packets to)

In the end, we stayed until about 10:00 to pass out kids. That sounds funny, doesn’t it? My dad and I worked together to help somebody sponsor one, but other than that, I got nobody. Apparently, you’re lucky if you can get one. And with this young crowd, they would probably have to ask their parents first.

We went home, since it was past 10:00 p.m., and there was lots of screaming and a long line out the door. I can remember it very clearly if you ask me. Home again, home again.

How Many Kids were Sponsored?

At the beginning, they did a head count and told us how many kids there were available to sponsor. During the sermon they were talking about for every kid, a generation is saved. I only got 3, but that’s ok.  I found out 75 children’s lives were impacted because of this event! That’s great!

Making a Difference

The number of kids available to sponsor may seem like a lot, but there are even more kids out there. There were symbols on the cards that showed how much they were in danger. I organized them into the ones that were in the most danger because I really wanted them to be sponsored. But there were ones who were in danger who didn’t get sponsored. I know I had the opportunity. But I didn’t use it. So today, I ask you, what can YOU do to make a difference in this world? What can you do to potentially change generations? Remember: 1 child, 1 generation.

A Note From Melody’s Mom:

We have been sponsoring Compassion children since college days with our church youth group. Then, when the girls were little, we found two little girls who shared the exact same birth dates with each of our own. It has just been a part of the girls’ lives, and as we shared in another blog post, it is rare to find volunteer opportunities for younger kiddos, so we hopped right on this one when I saw the age for volunteering was 10! I remember (snail) mail coming to our house about children sponsorship when I was young and thought it was a weird thing to do, but learning more about the details of organizations like Compassion International and Badjao Bridge changes things. (Sidenote: If you search “compassion” on our old blog, you can read a few posts there. We also sponsor a little girl through Badjao Bridge if anyone is interested in learning more about my friend’s organization.)

What are some of the service projects you and/or your family have been a part of locally or globally? What was the experience like?

Other Links:
Our friend’s trip as a Compassion Blogger
Volunteer at Compassion Events
Other ways to Get Involved with Compassion

Kids Against Hunger


Captions by: Melody (10)
Introduction by: Joyce (Mom)
Photos by: Joyce + Kids Against Hunger + Dan 
More info here –> kahbayarea.org

We heard our friend Dan was organizing a service project, but we didn’t think too much of it at first because we just got out of two months when Norm had been out-of-town (January) or was pretty much not home most nights after work due to serving at church in new ways (February), and this month is jam-packed with medical and dental appointments and academic testing. This is on top of all of our regular commitments and groups/classes….and life. Geez, and I only have two kiddos. :p But as someone who has always been a part of service clubs through all of school (any Jr. Optimist Clubbers or Key Clubbers (how do you feel?) out there?), we really couldn’t turn down an opportunity to serve as a family. Most of the volunteer opportunities I have seen usually have a minimum age of 10 or 12 (except the SF food bank which only opens up for younger ones on Sunday mornings the last time I checked), and Melody just turned 10, so this seemed like a rare chance since kiddos who are older 1st graders can volunteer! Well, I’m so glad we got to be a part of this experience. Melody will tell you more about it below!

Why We Were There

Kids Against Hunger is an organization that gives food to malnourished kids who live across the world. I thought it was really cool when I found out about it, and I thought, “Why not give it a try?” So here’s a peek inside what we did there. Keep reading to find out!

We went to this organization because we saw a post about it on Facebook from my mom’s friend. I just happened to be there, looking over her shoulder, and then she asked me if I wanted to go to the warehouse. I said yes, and that’s where our adventure started.

When you get there, you can sign in at the front, as soon as you walk through the door. You can see below there are four computers. You can pre-pay online before you come or when you sign in. But either way, you still have to sign in. It costs $20 per person. When I heard, I was like, “Ahh!” But I really wanted to help the kids, and, as you’ll find out below, it was really worth it.

This is a table in the front room. I didn’t really look at it because I wasn’t the one taking pictures (I’m not the photographer in the family, all my photos have reflections or cutoffs) and so this table looks like it has brochures on it. You can find out more about Kids Against Hunger, I guess. They send food to malnourished kids overseas.

Next, we were guided to a room in the back-not the very back, but the middle, I guess? It was a little small for our group, but we managed. I was the second-smallest one, besides my sister, whom you know as Emily! There, we labeled the bags below. We couldn’t miss a single one, we were told, or else they couldn’t be shipped. We actually got done pretty fast. I think it was like 10-15 minutes. I don’t know. My parents probably would though!

What We Did

So, THIS is the fun part. This is going to take me a while to describe. I was a bagger, which meant I held open the bags for the ingredients to be dumped in. The bags were the ones that had already been labeled. The ingredients were: soy, veggies, vitamins, and rice. I’m saying this in the order of the chant we made up when we dumped the ingredients in. You have to remember who dumped it in before you. (photo cred: Dan)

This is a refilling of the soy. The soy goes first in the bag. This means it can’t be taken out easily. That’s a lot of soy!

After all the ingredients go in, the bags go to the weighers. They weigh the bags and make sure they have enough food in them. Then they pass the bags along to the sealers, who stick the tops of the bags in a machine (below) and seal them. Now you can’t really easily get the food out. One last one, the last, is the counters. They put the bags in boxes and count them, to see how many kids we fed. I’ll tell you the number at the end. I didn’t get a chance to be one of these jobs, although I wish I was one of these.

This is us, my whole family. I think you recognize everyone in here. I hope you recognize me! There I am, getting ready to put my bag under the funnel so the food can get dumped in. This is so the kids can get as many nutrients as possible. (photo cred: Dan)

This is from the end-of-the-table view, showing my mom, sister, and the weigher and sealer. We talked quite a bit during our time there, and it was really fun. (photo cred: KAHBA)

How Much Food Did We Pack?

We packed…..drumroll, please…..16 boxes of bags, and that adds up to 3, 840 kids that we fed! (Each bag contains meals for 6 kids.) All of the bags we packed that day go to Badjao Bridge, if you don’t know what that is, that is a native tribe who live on houses on stilts above the sea in the Philippines. Sometimes they don’t have meals, so this will be a big help for them.  (photo cred: Dan)

A picture below is shown with them telling us the number of kids we fed, which was a lot. Every kid counts.  (photo cred: Dan)

Here is Mr. Dan, who is the founder of Badjao Bridge, talking about who the tribe is and what his organization does for the sea-dwellers. And in the background, you can see Ms. Sherri who is the satellite director of Kids Against Hunger Bay Area. It runs on all volunteers, which means only volunteers  pack the meals.

There were other groups who came after us. They packed meals with Kids Against Hunger and donated to Badjao Bridge as well. That’s a lot of people! (We were trying to get out then, too.)

Making a Difference

And here is a wall, showing how many meals they have packed over the years. As you can see, they packed 2,138,616 meals in 2016. That’s a lot of meals! The numbers get higher and higher. So, if you’re reading this post, I encourage you to go and help a child, because every minute a child is dying. We watched a video after the earthquake in Haiti, and I was literally crying, wondering what they were saying. They seemed to be staring at the wreckage. Remember: Every little bit counts. (You can view the video in the following link titled Andy’s Haiti Video –> kahbayarea.org/downloads/videos)

This is us! We were given samples of the food we had just made. It didn’t taste too bad, surprisingly. To me, it’s hard to think that kids my age are still suffering. What I learned from this experience: Together, we can make a difference. We can change the outcome.

What are some of the service projects you and/or your family have been a part of locally or globally? What was the experience like?

Other Links:
Our group’s photos on Kids Against Hunger Bay Area’s Facebook Page
Our group’s photos by our friend Dan