Sunday, July 15, 2012

Taking a Step Back

Today while people went on their Sunday adventures, I stayed in University City and decided to spend the day reading for my class.  At first I passed the time in my room reading one of the articles assigned, but around 2:00 PM I decided to go out to Cosi, a nearby cafe, and hang out there for the rest of the day.  

The theme this week in class is Justice, Gender, and Ecology so tomorrow we are going to Mills Creek, which is a neighborhood in West Philadelphia.  Some of the articles I read today dealt with the environmental history of this place as well as some of the past community projects that have been initiated in response to the difficulties the people of this area have faced.  One of the readings was written by Anne Spirn, who organized a collaborative environmental project with students from her class at Penn and middle school students from Mills Creek.  Together, the students from Penn and those from Mills Creek went out into the Mills Creek community and learned a great deal about the city's eventful history.  Since the 18th century, Mills Creeks has undergone several landscape changes and has experienced a number of developmental projects.  However, the problem with this area, Spirn says, is that the people in charge of reviving the degrading infrastructure of this city are always trying to cover up the ruins, instead of recognizing the problems and focusing on what resources they actually have to fix them.  She says that many of the architects and city officials put in charge of these projects are not environmentally literate.  In other words, they do not know the long history of the land they live on and do not care to find out.  Since the land there has undergone such radical change in the past 300 years, the solution to redevelopment must be undertaken by those who are knowledgeable about the serious environmental tolls this area experienced.  After doing thorough research on this area, Spirn decided to start up the West Philadelphia Landscape Project in 1996.  The work completed through this project was a productive collaboration between the middle school students and her own Penn students.  By the end of the year, the middle school students went from being ashamed of their hometown to telling Spirn that they plan on dedicating serious time into recreating their environment.  The Penn students learned a great deal from the middle school students throughout this process and began to think differently about their own communities and how they've treated the earth they live on.  Tomorrow we will be heading to Mills Creek to see  how the community has changed in the last 20 years since Anne started doing her work, as well as what change has remained the same.  

In the other readings, I learned a lot about New Orleans and more of the history behind Hurricane Katrina.  These books and articles discussed why the city should never have been built on the land it now occupies, why Hurricane Katrina had such devastating effects on the area, and how many concerns about a possible storm were ignored previous to Katrina.  The readings also discussed how history repeats itself and why we as humans have such a tendency to do this despite our past failures.  I am very interested to hear what Michael and Prof. Lamas have to say on this topic, and what my classmates think as well. 

It is so wonderful that we get to spend long periods of time focusing on areas like Mills Creek and New Orleans, because they represent such a larger picture of issues all over the United States.  The events within these two communities are just magnified situations of what occurs in numerous communities throughout this country, and that is something that many people do not realize.  I think it is extremely important to learn the history of these cities, as well as how they came to be and why they have experienced such dramatic changes over the years.  If only we spent more time in school learning about our own communities, I think that our local problems would be handled much better than they are now.  In the readings, I found that a common theme was that knowing the history behind your home is key to abolishing reoccurring issues. Whether they be environmental, social, or political, everything is connected, and that is something that needs to be taught within schools throughout America; because once this is idea is understood by the citizens of this country, I believe we will have the power to make true, lasting change in our society.

Sunday Funday

I woke up this morning much later than I have this whole week, and it felt great! I took my time getting ready for the fun day ahead, which included a trip to King of Prussia Mall and a later dinner with the Penn cohort. I met Alysa for brunch at around 11:30, and together we headed to King's Court. At 12, we all gathered in the quad and made our way over the yellow school buses. 

It took us about forty minutes to get to the mall. As we headed towards the entrance, Alysa and I decided to make it our trip mission to cover the whole mall in the three and a half hours we were given. Even though I'm pretty sure we weren't even close to completing the mission, I still had a great time with Alysa. I love to shop and I can spend hours and hours in a single store, but most people can't do that so I always have to rush. That wasn't the case today, Alysa is the perfect shopping buddy!

At eight, Our chaperone, Mr. Lawrence signed us out for dinner. We were headed to an Asian fusion restaurant called pod. We somehow managed to get seated in a pod. I'm not sure if Mr. Lawrence requested the pod when making the reservation, but whether he did or didn't, I give him two thumbs up for taking us there. We really did have the coolest table at the restaurant, it was a circular table that was kind of isolated from everybody else. We also had control over the lighting in our room, so you can imagine how much fun we had with that! The food was amazing! Back home I ate rice every single day, and even though I did have some rice this week at Houston Market, this rice took me back to California. I ordered the macadamia nut chicken that also came with a bowl of rice, broccoli, and carrots. For the table we ordered Japanese eggplant skewers, beef fried rice, and two ducks. I walked away very satisfied! If you are ever in Philly don't forget to check out Pod!

A Funday Sunday

Today I got to sleep in until 10 am. This felt so refreshing ,because I hadn't gotten this much sleep and a while and it really rejuvenated my energy. I got dressed and headed down to King Court for some brunch, in preparation for our trip to King of Prussia mall. As I have been told this is a rather huge mall with just about any store that you would want in it. When we walked to the buses , I was expecting the top of the line tour buses with air conditioning that we usually get , but instead we had the regular yellow buses that I am accustomed to. When we were seated on the bus it was really hot. The bus was not moving but you would think that having the windows down would at least provide some assistance in the heat struggle , but in fact did not. When we started to move , the air finally began to flow throughout the bus.

We arrived at the King of Prussia mall and I received a text from a friend from class asking what part of the mall we were going to be dropped of at. This made me actually think of how big this mall could actually be. I soon found out that there are two huge section which are both two stories and pretty lengthy. One walk around the first floor could literally be the hilltop mall back home. We spent about 4 hours walking around , and observing people as they bought items from Gucci and Louis Vuitton. A belt that cost 500 dollars is way out of the range , as I can buy at least 25 belts for that price and those would last me a lifetime. Being at this mall was very fun , but after walking about 2 miles , it was time to go home. We loaded up the buses and headed back to UPenn.

When we got back , it was just in time for me to tune in for the Street League competition( Professional Skateboarding). It was aired live on Many of my favorite skateboarders such as Nyjah Huston (skateboarding prodigy) , Ryan Sheckler, Paul Rodriguez , and many others were in attendance. There were three main parts . The Run section, the technical section, and the big section. The scores system went up to 10 but those have never happened. There is a 9 club because tricks that score in this region are some of the rarely seen. When the competition was in the Big section(one of the most important sections), I headed to dinner with the gang , along with Ian. We were going to what was known as a pretty snazzy Asian fusion restaurant called Pod. The atmospere of the restaurant was very colorful . Many of the lights changed color about every 20 seconds or so. I decided what to eat, which was a california roll , macadamia chicken stir fry , and a mocha brownie to top it off. The food was very exciting and the pod which we sat in was even more interesting. There were different color buttons on the wall , that indicated the colors we could change the lights inside our pod. The colors ranged from bright red to white. The most difficult color to eat under would have to be the bright pink. It did something with my eyes that I did not like. To top the night off it started to rain heavily in the middle of our meal. That meant it would be a long walk back to the dorms without an umbrella or jacket. This east coast weather has really got me, whether it be the humidity of the rain  while the sun is out.

Anyone Homesick?

Today, I woke up stretching my arms as if I went through some type of hibernation mode, trying to become mobile for the day ahead of me. I started my day by going to brunch with Clara and Mariko, and then later joined by Cameron.  We arrived early, giving us the chance to get a little bit of everything without the hassle of waiting in line. Each of us signed up for activities, so we ate rather quickly because we had to be at the quad by 12:00PM.  Most of our cohort was going to King of Prussia Mall, which was something I was looking really forward to all week.
We arrived to what seemed to be a small town, but in reality was this massive shopping complex, probably how it got the name King of Prussia. Cameron, Tim, Daniel, and I grouped together to go shopping. We quickly tried to find a map of the mall, so that we wouldn’t get lost, but luckily Daniel has been to the mall so many times, that he was able to take us everywhere. Although we were able to go almost everywhere, we weren’t able to buy everything.
As we left the comfort of the mall’s interior and walked to the buses, we were hit with what I believe was the highest humidity ever. I felt that I wanted to sweat, but was already covered with a layer of gross, salty water. Getting onto the bus didn’t help either because they were school buses and not the comfy coach buses. So for the whole ride back, the windows were pulled as far down as possible, allowing for a slight breeze to form. During the ride, I noticed how little men actually buy compared to the women. All the guys had one or two bags, while the women had about six to seven from different stores, and I thought I was excited for this trip.
We got back at around 5:00PM, giving me three hours of free time before our 8 o’clock cohort dinner at Pod. I called back home for about two hours, got caught up on the lasted stories, and then shared my own. While I was talking with my family, I started feeling somewhat homesick. I say what got to me was the mentioning of food and then me talking about how bad the Mexican food is over here. After the long conversation, I went to go play pool with some dormmates. It helped get my mind away from being homesick, but now that I am writing this, I just resurrected the feeling.
Our cohort went out to dinner to a restaurant called Pod. It was a very cool because we were seated in a pod that gave us the power to change the color of the light. At first we experiment with all the colors. Some were really strong, so we stuck with the lighter colors. This didn’t last so long due to our adventurous nature that led us to try the stronger colors. Getting back to Penn became a challenge, not because we were stuffed, but because it was raining like crazy. We got back, soaking wet, I just feel bad for our chaperon who had to walk back to the Sheraton in the rain. The weekend was incredible, with numerous new experiences, but now I just can’t wait to get back to Physics.

Halfway Point

Yesterday was amazingly fun, but it was also really exhausting. It was great to have a change of pace today and relax a little more than usual. I woke up around 9 AM, meaning I got over 8 hours of sleep, the second time this has happened this trip! Clara, David and I went to brunch at King’s Court right when it opened, and then split up for our separate activities. David went with Cameron, Ivette, and Alysa to the King of Prussia Mall, while Clara and I went ice-skating.

We drove to ice-skating in a yellow school bus, which was definitely a step down from the coach buses that we had taken for the weekend day trips and physics field trips. There wasn’t any air-conditioning, but we more than compensated by opening every single window so that wind rushed throughout the bus. It was actually kind of exhilarating…but I’ve already talked about how much I like bus rides.

As we approached the onramp for the freeway, I was startled to see that the sign said “To New Jersey.” Coming from California, which is huge, it’s still surprises me how close everything is on the East Coast. If I drove 30 minutes to get to a skating rink back home, there is no doubt that I would still be in California. However, 30 minutes on the East Coast can put you in a different state. I wonder if that means that kids on the East Coast are better at U.S. geography.

We ate in an enclosed space called a pod (go figure). We were allowed to control the color of our lighting, so we spent most of dinner looking like purple or green aliens.
Ivette uses chopsticks for the first time!

Ice-skating was really fun, even if it wasn’t something you’d expect to do in the middle of the summer. I’m not that good at ice-skating, but it’s one of the things that I allow myself to do even if I know there’s a strong possibility I’ll end up looking really stupid. I love the feel of the blades cutting into the ice, the rush of cool air, and the sense of speed. I love the grace with which true skaters move even I know I’ll never come close to it.

Later in the afternoon, I went to the park with Kaley and Gabby to practice shooting (soccer, not with guns or something). After a quick shower, I headed down to the office to meet with the rest of the Penn Team. Mr. Lawrence picked us up for dinner a little before 8 PM, and we signed out without difficulties.

We dined at an Asian-fusion place called Pod. I was deliriously happy to have Asian food (especially good rice!!!), so I would have been happy with almost any quality of cuisine, but I’m pleased to report that the food was great quality. University City is going through a two-week period called Dining Days, throughout which participating restaurants offer special discounts on certain meal options. I ordered miso soup, teriyaki salmon, and cheesecake as my combo option. We also shared orders of eggplant, fried rice, shrimp and broccoli, and duck.

Everything was delicious and I ate way too much, but it was great to relax with everybody and talk about our week. It's crazy to think that I'm halfway through physics, but I guess time is just weird like that. During the first few days of college touring I felt like we were packing so much into such a small amount of time, but now the days just whiz by. Before I know it, we'll be heading back to the Bay Area. I'll be sad to leave, but after learning so much in only two weeks I know I'll have learned even more by the end of the program.

Ice Skating in July

Before this trip, I never really appreciated a full night of sleep. Last night's nine hours were exactly what I needed before a great day and another week of class.  I went to a filling brunch- eggs, bacon, potatoes, and fruit- before meeting at noon to go ice skating.  I was pleased to see that besides Mariko and I, some of my friends from class as well as some students I met in New York had also signed up. We traveled by school bus for about half an hour, and when we pulled up at the skating rink, I was surprised to see we were in New Jersey.  Everything is so close together here.  It's just one of the many ways the East Coast differs from home, where different states are hours away.  

Ice skating was a blast.  I don't know what Mariko will write in her blog, but she is a natural and she helped me transition from using the wall every two seconds to skating around the entire rink without touching it once.  I did fall a couple of times (okay, a lot) but that didn't take anything away from the fun afternoon.  We got back home around 3:30 and most of the students were still out shopping at the King of Prussia Mall.  I enjoyed some relaxing down time.  Mariko came over to my dorm for a bit, and then I worked on my summer assignments and ran some errands in the home area. 

Mr. Lawrence picked us up around 8 and we went out for a cohort dinner at Pod, and Asian fusion restaurant 2 blocks away from the quad.  We got to eat in a pod, a crazy circular table room just for us.  It had buttons to change the lighting and everything felt very new-age. The food was delicious and it was great to have a break from the dining hall.   We all had a great time talking and laughing.  And I really mean laughing; we caught the giggles multiple times and I think the restaurant had the right idea when they gave us our own pod. All too soon, it was time to head back so we walked home in the pouring rain. 

In the pod
Light-Changing buttons
Delicious Drinks!
I had so much fun today, I can't believe it is already over.  This next week of class will be amazing, and it will finish with a trip to the Franklin Institute.  It may not be Hershey Park, but everything we do in class is loads of fun so I can't wait!


After getting a full night of rest I was fully energized, recharged, and ready to go shopping today. At 12:00 I met with Ivette, Cameron, David and some the rest of the Summer Discovery kids who chose to go shopping rather than ice skating. We boarded three separate school busses and endured a half hour drive with no air-conditioning to the King of Prussia mall. Upon arrival, Ivette and I had it set in our minds that we would conquer the whole mall in the less than four hours they gave us. Various people told us that it was nearly impossible to see the whole mall in one day, we did it.

Shopping around was great and I enjoyed being with someone who loves retail therapy as much as I do. On the ride back, Ivette and I shared our purchases with one another and the outrageous sales we encountered. We arrived back on campus shortly after 5:00 and Ivette and I set off to do laundry. The rest of the program had not yet returned from ice skating so the quad was rather quiet. The next few hours were spent finishing up laundry and preparing for the week to come.

At 8:00 the complete Penn Team(including chaperone) set off for what has become a routine Sunday dinner. Tonight's dinner would be at Pod, a local Asian fusion restaurant. The ambiance in Pod was amazing. When we first arrived, we were seated in the lounge area while our seating area was prepared. Within fifteen minutes, we were led to a pod in which we would have our dining experience. The pod is almost exactly what one would picture when you mention "pod". We ate in a circular, almost egg-shaped area that was kind of set off from the rest of the restaurant. In addition to the area being a cool shape, we also had full control of the lighting! Throughout our meal we changed the lights to colors that would better fit whichever course we were eating.

We walked back to campus with full stomachs and lots of laughs. We bid farewell to our chaperone as he signed us in and we all hurried to our dorms to escape the rain. Saying goodbye was a reminder that tomorrow marks the beginning of our third week of classes.

Farewell, must rest up for a full day of class!