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I’ve had my share of late-night despair in the reading room , but yesterday’s rendezvous was one of the worst—there’s nothing quite so horrible as having to churn out a giant paper on galactosidases and agalsidases (primary sources only–no review article citations allowed, ergh) due 11:59PM the Friday night before spring break. While it’s hard to find a seat most evenings in the RR, there was only one other person there when I left bleary-eyed at midnight last night, and he just happened to also be in my seminar.

But then again, that is what college is all about, right? It’s not the formulas and derivations you learn and then promptly forget that makes your degree worth something. The value is in remembering the state of mind it took to drag yourself to the library after a long week of exams and problem sets. It’s cultivating the determination to finish your freaking paper even with the background drone of celebratory “end of exams!” statuses on facebook and your hallmates making blissful plans for the evening you will be spending knee deep in scientific literature from the 1970s.

Or, maybe it’s having the foresight and planning to start a herculean task more than 48 hours before it is due.

At any rate, it’s all done (ha, my turn to be snarky–sorry if there is some poor soul still working on something out there)! I’m off to the Philippines (Manila / Makati / Roxas City / Boracay) in a few hours with some other members of the Moca team to meet with our local partners and prepare for our pilot study there this summer. I think there’s also time penciled for some sight-seeing, (much needed) beach-appreciation, and omg, 80-90 degree weather.

day0_2

boracay (this seems very pirates of the carribean-esque to me!)

manila port

manila port

(photos from the flickr community)

Stay tuned, as I will be trying to blog about this trip religiously (really this time!) , for the benefit of the rest of our group at the very least.

I thought I was making good progress on my budgeting goals since the last post. Since I’ve been back in Boston, I’ve been taking the T more, resisting shopping urges, getting free food at work. Then I stumbled upon the blog of this MIT freshman, who only spent $757 all last semester. Including food. I had to reread that three times before I could comprehend it. I know I’m not particularly frugal, but compared to that I feel like Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. I think I’ve already spent her entire semester budget in the past month, if you count a LV wristlet that I caved on and bought my last day in China (duty free!).

Seeing as sorority dues alone are $500 a semester,  it is not very realistic for me to try and adopt her spending plan. But it is amazing how thrifty people can be (my parents would kill me if they found out that people like this exist. and attend the same school as me.). Or am I just way out of touch, and expenses of sub-$1000 per semester are actually the norm? I expected more people to comment on her amazing thriftiness in the comments, but no one brought it up. Gulp. I need to try harder.

My reward for making it through the next eleven days will be hopping on a 6AM flight to Beijing and passing out for 18 hours straight (window seat, don’t fail me now).

I wrote the final paper for my Bible literature class (a highly recommended course, btw–more on that later)  last night, and had some very interesting conversations with my religious friends while trying to gather feedback on my thesis + ideas. You can tell a lot about someone–their upbringing, thought process, main modes of argument, general intellectual curiosity– by how they defend their faith. One impressive point about the Christians that I talked to in writing the paper was that no matter what their specific flavor of Christian belief, they all voluntarily grabbed their Bibles and looked up passages with me throughout our discussion, even when our conversation on the topic was obviously unexpected and interrupting whatever else they were doing at the time. How many friends would randomly grab a copy of Dickens to help you think through contextual points on your Great Expectations paper over IM? The distribution of respect has shifted slightly in my head :).

I am proud that even as a mostly non-religious person who had never read Genesis before September and was confused by chapter-verse notations, I can sustain in-depth conversations on scripture now (well, the parts that I’ve read), and even sometimes raise points that  my most theological friends find eye-opening. It makes me realize how far I’ve come in just one semester! Taking this course has piqued my interest in religion far more than years of going to intermittent youth groups, church retreats, and “social” church activities. Maybe I’m more academically minded than I thought?

Something that I found disappointing was how much my non-religious friends shut down on the topic as soon as I mentioned writing a paper on the Bible. Atheism can be a very close-minded place–which is sad, because the Bible is one of the most fascinating literary and historical works that I’ve ever had the pleasure of studying. It has helped frame my understanding of ancient history + civilizations tremendously.

“The reason we keep modeling Romeo and Juliet’s behavior isn’t because being late for a date is a big deal or anything…well actually, in their case it was. There was poison and death and all that stuff.”

Professor Wyatt, 6.041 lecture

One really awesome class that I’m taking this semester is a mobile design class called NextLab. It’s similar to D-Lab in trying to solve problems for the developing world, except D-Lab focuses more on looking for simple, low-tech ways to make an impact. Our class, on the other hand, is part of the Next Billion initiative. We’re trying to develop sustainable mobile applications for the next billion mobile users on earth, which makes a lot of sense when you see that cell phones are the most prevalent and fastest spreading technology in the developing world.

After getting an iPhone, I’m also personally sold on how useful some of these simple mobile applications can be.

Being in a grad-level class also means that everyone on my team is extremely accomplished and comes from totally diverse backgrounds, and they’ve all had some pretty enviable life experiences. I’m working with 2 grad students from the Media Lab, a Sloan MBA student, and another undergrad doing the BE / Management double major. We also have film students from Emerson documenting our every move, because part of the class’s goal is to produce videos of our project design and implementation process to share with the world.

My team’s project is trying to improve the process of cervical cancer diagnosis in certain  Zambia clinics. There’s so much that can be said about this, so more about project specifics in another post!

If you’re interested, the awesome video episodes that our filmmakers are producing (as well as our team updates) can be found on our project blog.

This is the kind of stuff that I imagined people would do at MIT when I decided to come here, so I’m really excited to be finally doing it 🙂