Monthly Archives: July 2010

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“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

– Marie Curie

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Subway Adventures

“Show me $40, and I’ll give you $80!”

My ears perk up and I look down the subway car, searching for the face that belongs to the booming voice filling the car. The crowd shifts and I see a middle-aged fellow sitting about four rows from me, holding a tray in front of him. On the tray (or book or something) sits three green bottle caps (from Sprite bottles, most likely), and the man is busy moving them back and forth, picking them up, sliding them around, spinning the tray occasionally.
I’m confused as to what he’s doing until I see a little ball of masking tap rolled up beneath one of the lids, and I realize he is playing one of those test-your-eyesight games thats played on the JumboTron at sports arenas while people wait for the game to begin.
Intrigued, I watch as he tries to lure the passengers around him into playing his game. They aren’t having any of it. Smart people.
I can’t figure out how this guy is making money. I mean, I’m sure that’s what he is doing, but I can’t figure out his business model (as no one is taking the bait). So I keep watching. My intent stare must have caught his attention, because he moves the caps around again and then motions across the car for me to pick the correct cap, trying to get me to play. So far it has been really easy and I have guessed the location of the tape every time, so I smile warily and point across the subway at the side of the tray where I know the ball is located.
Oops. I should have known better. He takes this as an invitation and moves to a seat much closer to me. Not what I had intended, though now the fun is much closer to my seat, so I’m not really complaining. He is loud and entertaining, and everyone watches his move down the aidle and his subsequent attempts to get me to play his game.
I decide to amuse him until I can figure out how he is making money. I guess the correct location of the tape ball a couple times. Then he pulls out a wad of $20s (there had to be at least $300 or $400 there) and hands me a few.
I don’t know what to do. Why is he handing me money? I mean, I know he isn’t just giving it to me for the fun of it.
“There’s forty dollars. Now show me forty dollars and it’s all yours.”
Just show him forty dollars? Like, wave it in front of his face for a second or two? I don’t have that kind of cash on me anyway, so I say No thanks! and hand it back. I pretend to just not be interested, but I actually have no idea what is going on yet. Seeing that I’m not going to play, he moves down one seat to prey on the friends I’m with.
My friends and I continue to guess the location of the tape ball correctly. Other people on the car jump in occasionally. Another older man with a portly belly and bad B.O. joins in and lays down forty dollars. He gets it wrong. Shouts and groans erupt around the subway car.
“Nah man! It’s the one on the right!”
“Com’on!”
“The middle one, man!”
This is so entertaining that I can’t keep from laughing. The man tries to entice me to play again. Nope. Not happening. The older man who lost $40 previously comes back with another wad of cash.
“I’ll put down $100 for $300,” he shouts gruffly. Jeers and shouts of appreciation follow.
He picks the wrong one. Again. This time, I think the guy’s an idiot. Was he not watching at all when the man was mixing the caps around?
The man moves from friend to friend until he settles on Sona, the soft-hearted one, and Jace, one of the only boys in our group. He mixes around the caps and all, and then hands Sona $80.
“Show me $40, and it’s yours.”
She shakes her head. We all know the ball is under the middle cap, but we aren’t playing.
“Is this your wife?” he asks Jace. We all laugh. The man, thinking he’s caught on to something, taunts and teases Jace about being a man and putting up the money and whatnot, until Jace finally caves. Out comes his wallet and two twenty dollar bills.
Sona, looking petrified, picks the middle cap.
The man lifts the middle cap, and … NO TAPE BALL. Jace loses his $40.
I’m still laughing. What a delightful scam! I’m sure that in the ruckus of pulling out money and whatnot, the man switched the caps around. It wouldn’t take much.
We’ve already missed our stop for South Street, so we get off at the next one. The other guy with bad B.O. who lost all the money previously keeps really encouraging Jace to try and win his money back. “Just one more game!”
Second light bulb moment: That guy is in cahoots with the game host!!!!!! Of course! That’s why he was so intent on playing the game and then made such stupid mistakes and didn’t seem to mind losing all that money. It was his job to get the game rolling and encourage others to play. Really, not a bad business model when you think about it. And judging by the very large wad of cash in the man’s hand, it must be a pretty lucrative job as well. Nothing like cheating an unsuspecting tourist out of large sums of money!
All in all, the most eventful and entertaining subway experience I have had yet. It’ll be hard to top.

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Only one week left…

Today a corps member described institute as the most fun they never want to have again.

In some ways, I would agree. I am on the verge of being burnt out with the late nights and intense work environment. And I’m almost ready to not work in the same place that I live and live with the same people I work with. That can be stressful.

But I am NOT ready to say goodbye to my coworkers (though hopefully it wont be a permanent parting). I wish I could work with these guys for the rest of forever. I really love and appreciate each and every one of my fellow OCs, and I am going to miss seeing them all the time. And I feel like I’ve learned so much from them in the short time I’ve gotten to know them. Hooray for making friends that help you grow as a person!
And this internship has been such a growing experience professionally as well. I used to think I was an organized person, but that’s before I was introduced to Action Plans and Project Plans. Basically, my action plan now is like my old planner on steroids. It’s amazing how much more in control of my time I feel now that I have this awesome tool at my disposal. And the method that Teach For America uses to plan for projects will be really helpful when I start planning things for the Student Film Production Club in the fall.
Also thanks to this internship, I now know my strengths and weaknesses as a leader/student/employee. For example, I am good at organizing, thoroughly planning things, being creative and vision-setting, but I am definitely not very good at following through with projects once they start (nor am I good at finding potential loop-holes in the way my projects run so that I can improve them). However, thanks to my very insightful manager and the way TFA takes the professional development of their employees so seriously, I now know my tendencies (both in work and in life) and feel really prepared to use these tools (and work on my shortcomings) in the fall.
So no, I’m really not ready to leave this bubble of friends, self-improvement, and constant inspiration. Not yet. I’m not ready to leave this almost unreal world in which everyone is passionately united around the common goal of closing the achievement gap and ensuring educational equity for all children in the United States. I’m not ready to leave a place where you can see that passion burn in people’s eyes and where people care so much that they lose sleep and money and social lives for this cause.
But I must leave in a week, and I accept that. All I can really hope for is that in exactly one year, I will be back here at institute, not as an OC but as a corps member, attending teacher boot camp so that I too can fight for educational equity.

“One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” – Teach For America

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One of the most inspiring poems I have ever read…

You sent me a post card
From your European vacation
That you got for graduation
When you arrived in Portugal.
I get it in my mailbox
At 6:50 to a school bus
Lugging
a thousand pounds
Of books and hopes
Of Do Now dreams
Of future things
That I now fight
for my students
to own.
In my bag
Lugging now with me
A thousand pounds
of fears and worries
Of urgency and a step that’s hurried
Because time is now more precious kept
Than it has ever been.
“I
Wish
You
Were
Here.”
I gaze off into sandy beaches
Of the world’s farther reaches
Wondering what that life teaches
And thinking to myself–
No.
No.
I wish you were here.
I wish you were here
So you could see
Around the closed doors
And closed eyes
That make my students compromise
Dreams that many of us
Took for granted
Dreams that many of us were handed
Gift wrapped
Poverty slapped
Lacking for books,
Not for brains
Worn seams and stains
Walking home alone in the rain
Every single day.
I wish you were here
So you could see
The birth
the worth
the risk to dream
gleam
in the dark
spark
from “I’m stupid”
to I’m not only smart
but I am ready to start
working,
because I’ve got a plan.
That sheepish smile
that says “I get it”
that makes your insides feel
like if you let it
they might just light on fire
with pride
they might just ignite
and you’d glow from the inside
out.
oh how
I
wish
you
were
here.
… and I might have been envious
Of your endless summer
But at 5:45 I cannot stop and wonder
What city you are in
Or what things you’ve photographed,
when we see our students map futures
Instead of following maps.
I will no longer wonder
If you are sleeping in
Because the time is now my friends
to begin.
So when people ask us,
What we are doing with our summer
Who we are going to be
What we are going to make
You tell them
With pride my friends
At any dinner party
At any double date
We make
Eyes wide
With futures now newly considered
We make minds wide
With potential dreams that defy fate
We make mind’s eyes perceive
future schemes
That even the grandest of challenges
can no longer negate.
Plans.
Say always now, “I Can”
Doctors, lawyers, vets, architects–
Together we make
Hope appear.
Oh,
How I wish
You had been here.

— 2007 corps member poem read at Closing Ceremonies

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More of the Magic Gardens

Here are more pictures of the Magic Gardens, which I promised to upload a while ago.



*photo courtesy of Julian Broudy




*photo courtesy of Julian Broudy

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Reading Terminal Market

Last Friday, a few of us desperately needed to get out of 1300 for the afternoon to stay sane, and so after work we decided to go to Reading (pronounced Redding) Terminal Market in the Center City area.
We decided to walk there (about two miles), looking forward to stretching our legs after being cooped up in the same building all week. After one mile in the intense heat, however, we were less than enthused.
To break up the monotony and pain of walking two and a half miles in 90% humidity, we stopped to admire some really interesting buildings along the way. This old hotel is my especial favorite. Apparently it has been vacant for at least twenty or thirty years (when Kelcey’s mom went to school at Temple, the building was already abandoned), and the gorgeous, interesting architecture is covered with equally interesting graffiti.
We finally found the terminal, squeezed in among lots of other tall buildings in the downtown area.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the outside, but once inside, it was like love at first sight.



Everything was homemade this and homemade that. There were old-fashioned soda fountains next to raw fish and shrimp laying out on boxes of cracked ice next to booths of fresh produce. There was an old bookstore, a bakery, a chocolate shop, and a hand-made jewelry shop. It was like heaven.
To celebrate this beautiful place, everyone decided to get desert. Most people went for the ice cream, but I found this great little Middle-Eastern shop and bought fresh-squeezed fruit juice (banana, strawberry, pineapple– the suggestion of the guy behind the counter). I also got a piece of deeeelicious baklava (pictured below), and I felt quite cultured.

If I had more time, I would love to go back and get breakfast there sometime. I’ll have to add that to my list of things to do (though too bad I don’t really have any more free time left).

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This Just In… (!!!!!!)

Remember the four railroads companies in the Monopoly game? Remember how one of them is called Reading Railroad? Well, the name is actually pronounced Redding Railroad, not Reading (as in reading a book).

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I learned this today, and I still can’t get over it. REDDING!!! What?!
It’s like when you first learn that the Emancipation Proclamation never actually freed any slaves or that Christopher Columbus wasn’t really the first person to discover the Americas. Makes me wonder what else from my childhood is completely inaccurate.
My life has been irrevocably altered.

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