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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The New Breakfast of Champions

I love Cheerios. Those little golden donuts of wholesome goodness have recently become my favorite snack food and my new best friends when I’m trying to stay awake and energized at 11 p.m.
It all started when, at the beginning of institute, I brought a ziplock bag to the cafeteria one day and filled up my little baggie with Cheerios. I figured that I really need breakfast to survive the summer but I knew that I would never be waking up early enough to get to the cafeteria before 8 am. Not happening when I work until 12 a.m. and don’t start working again until 2 p.m. So naturally, I started filling my bag of Cheerios on a regular basis (along with taking a banana). A girl’s got to eat.
This brilliant plan recently hit a snag when I read in the weekly E-Blast TFA sends to corps members (and staff) that the Temple dining hall kindly requests we stop taking food out of their cafeteria. They basically told us that they need to serve large numbers of people every day and cannot do that when we take all of their food with us when we leave.
So I guess the dining hall crew doesn’t appreciate my resourcefulness very much. And in hindsight, I probably could have been more subtle about my food-hoarding tendencies. So now I take less food (just one piece of fruit a day) and fill a bowl with Cheerios and take that to my table before putting it in my ziplock bag (instead of filling my bag to the brim at the cereal station).
I feel that this is an appropriate compromise. I’m not taking as much as I used to, but I’m still getting enough for a healthy midday snack. Besides, other people don’t seem to like Cheerios (no one ever wants any when I offer), so I feel that it’s acceptable for me to take a little with me. At least I’m not pilfering the popular stuff, like Captain Crunch.

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My Fourth of July

I feel that this is important to blog about, not because it was a very epic day by any means, but because if this blog is going to be a true reflection of my time spent in Philadelphia this summer, I need to include the Fourth of July.
My adventure started with a longer-than-expected bus ride.
Being a rather paranoid traveler when it comes to public transportation, I had researched online the correct bus route to the museum before I set out from 1300. I knew exactly what to do to get to where I wanted to go (i.e. Get on Broad Street subway line, get off at City Hall, walk across to the north side of JFK Blvd, where I wait for bus 32, which will take me to the museum). Hey, knowledge is power… especially in a new city where getting off at the wrong stop can sometimes be dangerous.
So anyway, I knew where I was going. Waiting for the bus was actually rather enjoyable, because even though it was swelteringly hot outside, I got to look at Philadelphia’s City Hall building while I waited. Yay!
The reflection of City Hall on a nearby building.
The bus finally arrived and I hopped on. After a couple stops, a seat finally opened up (it was a very crowded bus) and I took a seat. I could now hear the conversation between the two girls behind me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to eavesdrop on the gossip being exchanged (something about a baby daddy and “Nuh-uh. She didn’t!” and prom– so fascinating!).
My entertainment sadly got off the bus a few stops later, so I’ll never find out what happened after the cheating boyfriend approached her in the crowded auditorium. I’d like to imagine that the girl slapped that boy silly for thinking he could come back to her after what he did, but judging from her remarks, she just might have taken him back. Wish I knew.
A couple stops later, I started to wonder where we are. Remember how I had memorized the bus route I was taking to the museum? I definitely didn’t remember this many stops on the route. Come to think about it, why are we heading north?
I start to panic a little on the inside. Did I just completely miss my stop? I was so engrossed in the story behind me that its entirely possible. But we’re headed north? That doesn’t happen until much further up on the map (unless my scale is way off), in which case I’d better get off NOW because the farther north we go, the less I would feel comfortable being alone in a neighborhood I don’t know.
I look around. There are a few other passengers shuffling nervously. This strikes me as odd. And then I happen to see, through some trees, the museum. But we are definitely on the wrong side of that museum by now.
I stand up and make my way to the front.
“Um, excuse me, sir?”
No response. I decide that my timid voice is ineffective in this situation.
“Hey,” I say much louder, “doesn’t this bus stop at the art museum?”
If I hadn’t been in a panic over that fact that I was quickly headed in the wrong direction on a vehicle that is out of my control, I would have found the bus driver’s look of dismay very entertaining.
“Oh god. I missed your stop.”
He then pulls over to the side of the street and opens the doors.
“If any of you are getting off at the museum, I missed your stop,” he calls out. “But you can just get off the bus here, walk two blocks that way and over the bridge, and you are right there.”
I get off, laughing. Now that everything is figured out, I don’t actually mind that the guy missed my stop, because he missed the stop for more than half the other people on the bus too. So we all get off, almost twenty of us, and walk back toward the museum.
The best part of the detour was that it took us through a neighborhood in Philly that I would never have gotten to see otherwise. It was a lower middle-class neighborhood, but the streets and houses were well kept. Being a holiday (and a Sunday), everyone in the neighborhood was outside, having one giant block party. The people who lived there had blocked off almost all the streets with tape and parked cars so there was no traffic, and everyone was playing basketball, grilling, and (in some places) dancing in the middle of the street. Parents were sitting on porch steps, music was blaring, and kids were shouting and running around.
I wanted to be there and be a part of that community so badly. It made me really wish (not for the first time) that I had grown up in a neighborhood where we actually knew our neighbors and hung out with the surrounding kids, etc. They all looked like they were just having the best time, and I would gladly have traded a free concert by some big band (any band, for that matter) for an afternoon with them. But none of them knew my ponderings nor asked me to join their giant family for the day, so I continued to walk on (probably looking a little forlorn).
Soon I came to the bridge, crossed over the bridge, and approached the museum from the back.
Approaching the Museum of Art from the “wrong” side
Philadelphia skyline (from the bridge)
It actually turned out really well that the bus driver forgot my stop and that I approached the park from that particular side, because it just so happened that I approached the crowd on the exact same side as where my friend (and fellow OC) Matya was standing. We were already planning to meet up, and so instead of having to go through an intense ordeal of “Stage right or your right?,” “Where?!” and “I’m waving and wearing blue,” we had a just very short phone conversation followed by a pleasantly quick “Oh, I see you!.” It worked out perfectly, and I’m very grateful for that.
We were really close to the stage… The production wasn’t
big enough to have large TV screens or anything like that,
but that didn’t matter, since we were close enough to the
stage to see everything pretty well.
And then after all the bands played… FIREWORKS!
Sharing fireworks with over 500,000 strangers = a beautiful moment

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. . .


“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
-Victor Hugo


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