Archive for July, 2011
Last night, I went with a group of friends into Amsterdam. Only a 30 minute train ride away, Amsterdam is extremely accessible. While a lot of Dutch people I know complain about it being littered with tourists and unlike the rest of the Netherlands entirely, I think Amsterdam offers a lot of what I believe Leiden is missing in terms of diverse, young and artistic communities. We were planning to go to this surreptitious pub located under a bridge for a night of jazz. Unfortunately, though, we got the days mixed up, and by the time we finally found this mysterious place, we were told nothing was happening.
It was a nice night by Dutch standards, so we decided to walk around the city instead.
We ended up walking through the red light district, one of the places Amsterdam is famous for, of course.
I’m still having trouble articulating what I’m thinking, but seeing these real women in windows, and then watching people pass by, stare at, and sometimes disappear into these windows was fairly haunting. Behind the glass, under fluorescent lighting, these women looked like eerie barbie dolls behind plastic packaging. They’re advertised in such a way that separates them from reality. And some of these women looked so young… I am for open, positive and safe sex cultures, but I’m not convinced that was what I was seeing. I have no clue as to the autonomy or control these women have, but I can’t assume it’s very much, even in a place where prostitution is regulated.
Still thinking, and still processing. Comments welcome, as always.
Well, this summer internship is almost coming to an end. I still have two weeks left of work, but with most people from my office leaving or traveling, this work will be more independent and will be focusing on adding finishing touches to the major things I’ve been working on.
We had a meeting today to discuss the progress of UNAWE (and EU-UNAWE) from the past few months. Stephanie and I gave a presentation on the UNAWE-US project proposal:
(Maybe another photo for the CPGC?!)
This proposal is one of the things I’ll need to finish in my last weeks here. The final draft has to be online on August 3! The grant will be awarded based on the number of votes it receives, so between September and October, expect constant reminders from me to vote for the UNAWE-US traveling bus! The more I think about the project, too, the more I think about how Haverford students could really contribute to this initiative. Not just astronomy majors, but students getting their education certification, or who are involved in multicultural outreach would all be great for this project…
Other things I’ll be working on include:
1) Working more (and more and more) on the game. For now, I’ll be further developing the game cards, and then later, I’ll work with the new design of the board to try to put it all together. Also, “the game” still needs a NAME. The game deals with light, (photons, waves, colors, speed of light, etc.) and also a bit about the solar system. Suggestions welcome!
2) Hopefully, I’ll get feedback about the “How to Start a UNAWE Program” pamphlet that I’ve written from someone who’s actually started a UNAWE program. That way, I can revise it as needed and it can be ready to print sometime in August.
3) Developing a poster for kids based on this paper, (and popularized by this cartoon). It needs to be interesting, comprehensive, and easily understood by children. In the next few weeks, I hope to write something for teachers that explains the logarithmic scaling so they can, in turn, explain it to their young students… A challenge, for sure.
Outside of work, life’s been good, too. Highlights from the weekend included: a homemade Potuguese dinner by Marissa (inspired by a terrible Portuguese restaurant experience in Brugge), Movie-watching and potluck during Saturday’s rainy afternoon, and karaoke for Stephanie’s going-away Saturday night. Here’s a picture from Portuguese dinner Friday night:
(The empty chair was mine, but someone had to take the picture!)
Today is the first day it hasn’t rained in awhile, and I will FINALLY get to play Ultimate this evening after 2 weeks of not playing!
Haven’t given too many work updates, so here’s one from the past week.
This week, I have been working further on old projects as well as continuing my usual work of producing small updates for the website.
Also, with a new design for the boardgame, we had another meeting to play and give it a test run. Unfortunately, the new board, while it’s very cool-looking, is actually a bit confusing in design. We never got around to playing, but instead made a list of suggestions for the designer. Hopefully, he’ll get back to us with an improved design next week, and we can attempt to play again. While we didn’t get to play, it did give opportunity for a good photo:
One for the CPGC booklet!
(Note to self: TAKE MORE PICTURES AT WORK! I know that part of my CPGC agreement was to have pictures of myself at my internship, but unfortunately, most of the time, I’m just sitting at a desk.)
Besides these smaller things, I’ve mostly been working on editing a proposal we’re writing to start a UNAWE program in the US. The program would begin with a bus that would travel from school to school, or community to community, bringing with it activities, teacher training workshops, and the UNAWE global network. Think of it like the Johnny Appleseed of astronomy education. Once we visit the schools, we hope to not only inspire the children we interact with, but also develop lasting connections with the educators.
The grant itslef is through Changemakers, which offers grants for all kinds of innovative social justice projects. We submit an application, and then starting on September 28, people can vote for our project. With funding from Changemakers, the UNAWE bus could be up and running as early as Stephanie’s January term! As it would be staffed by volunteer college students, (or unemployed college grads??), I would definitely be up for taking this bus on a tour someday!
In other news, I’ve been working pretty actively on my Watson Application. That’s right. I said it out loud, (OK, or in text). I usually refrain from admitting that I’m applying for the Watson because, well, I really really want to do it. I’ve been planning my Watson for the past year, and researching for my project is actually how I found UNAWE in the first place…
But first, let’s take a few steps back. If you don’t know what The Watson is, I urge you to look it up. Now. It’s a $25,000 grant to travel for one calendar year outside the US and explore any one question of your choice. It’s essentially the coolest fellowship in the entire world. Specifically, my project would entail going to Chile, India, New Zealand and Nepal to investigate how children perceive the Universe, and how their perceptions reflect the local cultural norms on education and science.
I’d always wondered about this children + astronomy + culture = ??? question, and when the one and only Maddie Kreider-Carlson was applying for her Watson two years ago, I started considering the project for myself. Last August, I was researching ideas of places to go for my project by googling “[insert-country-here]+children+astronomy” when I found UNAWE. Several months later, when I was feeling ambivalent about spending my summer doing astronomy research, I emailed the contact person on the UNAWE website and asked for a job, (any job, anywhere). 8 months later, and here I sit.
So, in the Netherlands, in the bits of free time I have, I work on my application. Tomorrow, I’ll meet with Pedro about it over coffee, and ask for his advice about how to connect with children in places where I don’t know anyone. He seems pretty interested in it, and I’m excited to talk with someone about the logistical details of my project…
And for my final update:
Gotta love that Dutch Weather! There is also no sunshine in the weather for apprx 2 weeks. I might cave and buy boots soon… Or a one-way ticket to southern Portugal…
This past weekend, I went with friends (mostly Astronomy PhD students here at the Sterrewacht), to Belgium. We spent Friday night and Saturday morning in Antwerp, and Saturday evening and Sunday in Brugge. Two very different, but both very beautiful places to explore.
Fewer words, more pictures:
I’ve been meaning to write something like this for some time, but with all of the fun activities buzzing around me, it’s been hard to blog about anything besides the adventures I’ve been having and the sites I’ve seen.
While at work, in times when I need breaks from writing, I’ll read the other Haverford internship blogs– primarily of those students traveling abroad or doing CPGC internships. I’m constantly impressed by the work that my peers are doing abroad, and impacted by reading about the challenges they’re facing in their internships. Sometimes I think about how, being in a Westernized, affluent country, this experience and this internship seems to be more of a privilege for myself, rather than an opportunity for me to promote peace and global citizenship.
While I hope that the work I do for UNAWE does make a difference, I’ve been lately thinking about how I can enhance my experience here by paying attention to details and seeking opportunities to learn about the realities of life outside of my American experience.
Sometimes this happens all on its own. My friend, Esteban, for example, is a Colombian Anthropology Masters student in Leiden, writing his thesis on the family lineages of gypsy communities in Colombia. Whenever we get to talking, I feel like I’m learning a lot from him. Our first real conversation, also with British student Peter, delved right into the war on drugs and Colombian socioeconomic inequality.
Also, my new apartment-mate, Emine, is a Turkish Masters student writing her thesis on EU-Turkey relations. My first night in the new place, we talked for over an hour about xenophobia in the Netherlands, specifically in regards to immigrants from Turkey. Before talking with her, I would not have noticed this apparently extremely prevalent issue here in the Netherlands.
Otherwise, I’m trying to notice cultural differences and international interactions on my own. Like how Dutch parents will let their small children wander quite far away from them to play. Or how cheap labor employment consists mostly of Eastern Europeans (Polish, Turkish) or North Africans (Moroccan), and then how Dutch interact with people from these areas on a regular basis. Or how people here react to me being American — like when my cashier at the grocery store will change her expression when she realizes that not only is my Dutch awful/nonexistent, but that my US accent is unavoidably strong. (Almost like, “Nice try, American. Do you want a receipt or not?”)
This is my first time abroad. While my semester in Hawai’i was definitely a cultural experience, it was not a very international one. While this means that I have the “everyday is a new adventure” mindset, it also is encouraging me to pay attention to the details and differences, and also appreciate the things that stay remarkably constant.
So, that’s all for now. I’m headed to Belgium for the weekend, so more “adventure updates” when I return!
Finally, a free moment to give a complete update on how things are here in Leiden. This past week has been very busy, as I’ve mentioned.
Today was my first concrete day back at work, and it feels nice to delve back into the UNAWE material. I’m currently working on a few projects including writing this “how-to” pamphlet for starting a UNAWE program. My section is specifically on how to start a program at the local level, and after meeting with Pedro today, I have a better idea of the direction I need to take it. Also, I’m working with a draft for a grant proposal written by Stephanie that could potentially get UNAWE funding to start a US program. Writing grant proposals is great, because you have to present all of the most interesting and important ideals of the program. This is a big project, and I anticipate working with it for some time…
Unrelated to work, I have had a very hectic (but wonderful!) past 5 days. Lists are always nicer:
Last week, I changed housing from the lovely and huge Dutch house in the center of Leiden to a small student apartment a 10-15 minute bike ride from the center, but only a 2 minute bike ride from work. While it was great living in the middle of town, in that huge blue room, it was rather expensive. Sarah, who was here at UNAWE when I arrived, is spending July in Leiden as our “Science Communication Journalist in Residence,” (my title for her, not UNAWE’s). She doesn’t have a bike, so it made sense for her to be closer to the center. We essentially swapped housing, and now I live here:
I know what you’re thinking. Quote from Pedro as we drove past on our way to ESA last week: “Wow. Maybe we need to bring Astronomy to children there!” Some people call it “The Swamp,” as it is located directly in a swamp. But, I like my apartment. I have a little kitchen and a little living room, and while I’m constantly told to lock my door and shut my windows, (several incidents of laptop thefts have happened this past year), I’m happy with it. I will miss this guy though:
A Great Weekend With A Great Friend:
When I visited Ruben Land, ’12 in Cambridge at the beginning of my European adventure, he was in the middle of his exam period, and so I barely saw him. Mostly, I spent the week with his friends exploring Cambridge, but barely with him at all. While it was great to see Cambridge and catch up over meals and after exams, I’m really glad that he decided to visit Leiden so we could have a real vacation together. First stop, Hargen Beach Ultimate tournament. Here’s the team:
This is the team from Leiden, called “PANIC.” It was a bit of a challenge to play as a group of people who had barely played together, but by the end of the weekend, we had a great flow and a good level of intensity. Having Ruben there was also extremely beneficial to our team. He provided not just great Ultimate skill, but good advice for the players and stepped up as a leader of the team almost right away.
A Fantastic Independence Day:
After a long weekend of Ultimate, we took Monday as a day of relaxation, and met up in the afternoon with Ilja Hermans (Bryn Mawr ’12). With my new kayaking membership, I was able to take them out on the water!
It was a perfect day on the water — Sunny and warm! I couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful way to enjoy the company of good friends who I’ve been missing for far too long! Ruben had a bit of trouble with balance, what with his higher center of gravity, but Ilja was a natural! The picture of her above is in one of the most challenging boats to keep from tipping. She managed to stay upright the entire time, but both Ruben and I tipped a LOT when we tried:
A great deal of fun, all in all! Fabian and Justin, our instructors (seen holding the back of our boats, above), were very encouraging, as always.
To celebrate my new home/friends in town/great weather/FOURTH OF JULY I had a potluck Monday night. It was great to have friends from work, Ultimate, and Haverford all in one place at once. Food, games, and most importantly, festive sparklers:
(I’m the 4!)
So with that, Happy Independence Day! And thanks for reading, as always.
So much has been going on here, with changing housing, a visit from Ruben, a beach ultimate tournament and much much more. Updates on all of the above are soon to come, but for the meantime, check out UNAWE’s brand new WEBSITE!
It’s looking great, and gives a lot of information about what UNAWE does and the successes its had recently. I have personally been writing and editing a lot of the content on the “news” page, and feel proud to be a part of it all!