Category Archives: Philadelphia 2010

Top Moments in Philadelphia (Part 1)

Because I loved this experience and the people I met soooo much, I though I’d recap on just how awesome this summer was. Thanks for indulging me!

Moroccan Food Field Trip

About mid-institute, the operations team celebrated the arrival of our first paycheck with a food field trip to a Moroccan restaurant. Directions to the place were basically, “Walk down a narrow alley and knock on the large wooden door with the green awning.”

And so we did, and a delicious seven course meal followed, the likes of which I hope very much to be able to experience again. The blog of my fellow coworker Geales has pictures …
Cab Rides
If you are gonna take a taxi, sit in the front seat. It’s by far the best part about the ride, because up there you can make friends with the driver. Conversations usually begin with a question on my part (most aren’t talkative until you open the door to conversation)– my standard Q is, “So how long have you been driving taxis?”
I’ve discovered that most drivers have the same standard answer. “Oh, about twenty years now,” they say. They probably say this so that I think to myself, Wow, this cab driver is so experienced. How reassuring!

And this used to be my reaction. That is, until the line is used on me by a kid that couldn’t possibly have been more than five or six years older than me. So unless he started driving a taxi when he was still in single digits, I don’t believe him. And now anyone else, for that matter.
But if I hadn’t made it a habit of sitting in the front seat, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have such interesting conversations, nor would I have gotten to chat with the cab driver who kept saying that the smartest people always sit in the front seat (buttering me up for a tip, no doubt) and who plans to write a book someday about his antics called, This Cabbie is Full. I told him that I’d keep a look-out for his book. And I guess I’ll admit it– I did tip him a little extra.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Discovering Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens almost by accident and taking a crazy amount of artsy pictures (and eating my first Philly cheesesteak)… such a good day.
Also, I think that as far as places go, the Magic Gardens are one on my top favorite places in all the city. There’s just something so beautiful about a place completely overrun by art.

Sushi and Jessica’s 21st Birthday Party
For my coworker Jessica’s 21st birthday, all the OCs went out for sushi and decadent chocolate to celebrate her day.
The best part was sharing a meal together as a “family” and realizing that we have all become such wonderful friends. The sad part was realizing that we would soon be leaving each other for our old lives, which suddenly seemed so much less cool or important at that moment.

My awesome coworkers and I — birthday girl is in yellow,
if the tiara didn’t give it away already.

Love these two with all my heart!
TO BE CONTINUED… (trust me, this is going to be a looooooong blog)

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Things I Miss About Big Cities

Everyone takes recycling seriously in big cities, and I love it. Almost every single public garbage can has at least two different compartments — one for plastic/cans and one for trash.
Because of the huge number of recycling bins wherever I looked, it became second nature to me over the summer to pay attention to what I was throwing away. I would automatically categorize whatever was in my hand as “recyclable” or “non-recyclable,” and then I would feel a twinge of guilt if I had to throw away something recyclable into the regular garbage can (which only happened when there wasn’t one of those green bins around).
Public Transportation
You can get anywhere at any time, and you don’t have to rely on other people to get you there (and you are being environmentally responsible).
Want to escape into the city for a morning? No problem. A $2 subway token will get you there. Going out for the evening with friends? A taxi ride will cost you less than a subway ride when you carpool with four, and you wont have to worry about finding and then paying for parking. Oh the freedom!!!
Exotic foods
Part of the magic of big cities is that they are melting pots for different cultures. People from all over the United States and the world make up the unique diversity of the city, and this spills over into the fabulous dining options available.
Because only in big cities can you eat Moroccan food one weekend (seven courses of deliciousness), have Afghani food the next (rose-water soaked rice with shredded orange peel, anyone?), dine on Kosher french toast one morning, and then eat sushi the weekend following (hands down the best sushi I’ve ever had). I have been spoiled, and my dining options at school will never look the same again.

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Leaving Philadelphia (In Letters)


(7:00 a.m.)

Dear Alarm on Phone,

Thank you for not going off and waking up all eight or ten of us sleeping on Megabed.
(7:04 a.m.)
Dear Internal Alarm,
Thank you for waking me up, even when my phone alarm didn’t. Because of you, I didn’t miss my train.
Dear Friends,
You were all sleeping so soundly that I didn’t want to wake you up. But I shall miss all y’all so very much. And I was serious about being pen pals. That’s gonna happen!
(9:00 a.m.)
Dear Train Stations,
Thank you for existing. You brought me so much joy today as I sat eating my quiche and waiting to board my train.
(9:56 a.m.)
Dear Train from Philadelphia, PA to Wilmington , Delaware,
I am in love. Thank you for allowing me to check “Riding on a train” off my bucket list.

But I do wish that you hadn’t been such a short part of my trip. A thirty-minute train ride is not nearly long enough. You will see me again.
(11:05 a.m.)
Dear Greyhound Bus to Salisbury (Maryland),
Thank you for giving me a huge cold.
Dear Huge Cold,
Thank you for being nice and not showing any symptoms until I got on a plane Friday morning for Arizona.
(5:25 p.m.)
Dear Shiloh,
Thank you for greeting me with a giant bear hug when I got off the bus. It was so great to see you. And thank you for introducing me to your daughter Lydia and showing me your cute little home.
At first she’s not so sure what to make of me…
… but then she decides to give me a chance.

Making new friends!


Maybe not…

Also, I love that you allowed me to share in a little slice of your domestic comfort for an evening. I am now seriously considering a purchase of that Wii dance game (and I can’t get the dance moves for “Hot n’ Cold” out of my head).
(10:30 p.m.)
Dear Shiloh and Joe,
Thank you for ensuring that I got my daily intake of calcium and riboflavin — in the form of the biggest (and most delicious) ice cream sundae ever.
Aaand… thank you Shiloh for giving me a ride to Philadephia when I missed my bus. You are the best friend a girl could ask for.

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Saying Goodbye to a Beautiful Experience

I have never learned so much, grown so much, and enjoyed said learning and growing so much as I have over the last six weeks.

I hate leaving, but I am excited to go back to Oklahoma (via Maryland & Arizona) and bring back the “new” person I feel I have become.
On a side note: Expect many many more blogs about Philly, even though I am leaving tomorrow. There is still so so so much to tell you.

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From Closing Ceremonies

“We are not saviors… We are servants.”

– Brian Cook, referring to Teach For America corps members
(2010 corps member)

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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!”
“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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