Saturday, January 12, 2008

IAP- time for fun and learning

I am so excited for MIT's Independent Activities Period, our month of "break" that most people use to work, learn, play, or pursue internships.

Before I begin gushing about my last (*tear*) and 4th IAP experiences, a quick update on what I've been able to do with my MIT winter break since frosh year:

My first IAP was spent taking MIT's EMT course and learning how to provide emergency medicine. Since then, I've been active with MIT EMS and incredibly enjoyed my experiences riding and working on the ambulance in both Boston and Cambridge.
Working with other MIT-EMS EMTs at the Boston Marathon. Mile 22, working hard to keep runners hydrated, cramp-free, and alive.

My second IAP was spent pursuing my research work in a Chemistry lab, the Lippard Lab. It was intense- long hours and tedious work but I learned a lot about the science and why a Phd isn't the degree for me :).
My very own desk in my Chem Lab. It's about 2am, and I'm waiting for an experiment to finish up. MIT is a campus that never sleeps, sigh.
My third IAP was spent doing development and engineering work in the beautiful African country of Zambia. Because I was able to participate in the MIT class, Developement Laboratory, I learned the basics of what problems plague developing countries, why certain innovations work in those areas, and what I could do to help. MIT funded my trip to Zambia, and I spent 20 wonderful days exploring both rural and urban Zambia, meeting NGO heads and the Chieftaness of Mwape (so that we could transfer our water purification technologies and equipment to them).
Us with our partnering UNZA (University of Zambia) students. Such great people, a wonderful country, and a memorable MIT/Harvard Team. must wonder, how can I top all that? I decided to spend my final IAP doing something to give back to the community of Cambridge, a community I had little time to get to know while at MIT. While this city houses the brilliant institutions of MIT and Harvard, there's a whole other side to the city.
I am an assistant teacher doing a work/study volunteer job at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House Inc. I was referred to this amazing place (just a mere 10 minute walk away) by MIT's Work/Study Coordinator and my first day was fun and comfortable. I work from 1:30pm to about 6pm providing a wholesome after school environment for underprivileged and largely colored children. We play a lot of brain games with them, serve a yummy snack, encourage fitness, and also tutor them for certain subjects and teach them tricks to become better at things like math.
This job has really brought back my memories of being a summer camp counselor. It's incredibly trying at times to gain respect and attention from 25 energetic kids, but it's also very refreshing to think of ways to make addition easier for them or pronoun understanding even! The other teachers have been so welcoming and warm, there's about a 5 teacher staff for the 25 kids, and even then it sometimes seem overwhelming! This week was fitness week, and the kids spent time playing outdoors (gorgeous Boston weather), learning about the food pyramid, and learning tai kwan do and dancing through video.
The kids doing an after-school activity. They range in age from 5-12.

On top of my job, I like to take part of the copious free and entertaining classes that are offered during this time by MIT staff, faculty, and students. So this winter I decided to pursue the art of Middle Eastern Belly Dancing (there are numerous different styles). I dance twice a week, an hour each and boy it's a work out for the abs. However, some of the most famous belly dancers actually have some heft on their stomachs so there's hope for me yet! We're learning all the basics and slowly incorporating them into a dance routine. I'm generally frustrated at my inability to isolate my abs from my hips and it really is a hard dance form to master. Thing I want to tackle by the end of the month- shimmies. :)

This Saturday I also got to take part in a Palmistry class, so I could learn how to read people's palm lines, palm shapes etc. It was actually really scientific and I got several hand outs on how to read hands. And yes, I got my own palm read by one of MIT's most talented. Lots of interesting things in my future including big recognition early on (at 24 apparently), a need to loosen up a bit, and also a broad and deep love for learning that'll last me a lifetime.

It being my first week back, I got together with some friends and ate out at Harvard Square's Takemura, a Japanese sushi restaurant. We a good time catching up, and the red bean/ green tea icecream duo is to die for.

The guys :).

Peter and I, and our delicious ice cream.

Being ever the social girl (to make up for the past semester), after dinner I hit the movies with Aline and Erin to watch "Juno". I LOVED LOVED LOVED it. See it! It's witty and emotional at the same time. All the characters are soo endearing.

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