The air was thick with humidity when I stepped off the airplane into a bare airport that was very unlike any other airport I’d ever known and still under construction. However, I had arrived successfully in India and went through the visa checkpoint swiftly and without any trouble.
MIT has one of the most notoriously rich campus cultures in the ’verse. I still have a photo from Campus Preview Weekend of a Ghostbuster standing at the Massachusetts Ave. crosswalk as proof of the fact. The unfortunate side effect? An onslaught of incoming freshmen who are under the impression that the MIT of lore and the MIT of daily life are one and the same.
I am normally dizzy with elation following free giveaways. The feeling of possessing something I did not have to pay for is so overwhelming that I usually end up with an afternoon headache. Unfortunately, the souvenirs from the recent MIT Community Picnic left me with no warm, fuzzy feelings. I was appalled by the environmentally destructive yellow tuckus cushions.
Machetes, stalkers, white sand beaches … airplanes, rickshaws, matatus … pickpockets, knifemen, lions, zebra carcasses … ugali, dosa, choma, peppercorn … kindness, laughter, sparkling eyes … hospitality, disease, sewage, monkeys … what a summer. Starting in the outskirts of Delhi, India, I traveled to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Thailand (for a 24-hour layover), and China this summer. It was my first time in all these countries, and, in fact, my first time in any developing country. Spending one to two weeks in each country, I documented MIT students working in those areas through photography and videography, interviewing them and the locals around them while searching for new projects.
I can’t stand being punched in the kidneys. It’s the absolute worstest feeling there is. I mean, it’s not pain, it’s not like someone hit your hand with a hammer. That’s pain. Blunt trauma, stabby stabby stuff, I can usually roll with that. But getting punched in the kidneys, man, that’s just wrong. Your body starts to feel all queasy inside, and you get that funny taste in your mouth, like someone just popped open a bag of skunked mellow yellow inside your body and it’s spilling all over the place. Actually, that’s pretty much what a kidney is in the first place. A bag of mellow yellow.
With the possible exceptions of RSI and Camp Bohrmore, no experience comes closer to approximating the combination of nerdiness and summer camp than the first few weeks of term at MIT. It could be just me (it usually is), but I can’t help feeling like it’ll be a while more of eat-sleep-pset-rinse-repeat before it occurs to me that I’m here for the long haul — that I’m not in the newest of the litany of summer academic adventures that sucked the life out of my vacations, but instead that I am in the next iteration of my educational career.
The thin silver moon disappeared below the horizon, pulling with it the last hints of light from the barren Mongolian grasslands. Behind us, an unseen electric lamp cast a weak glow out of one of the ten or so rounded tents clustered together on the banks of the Zavkhan River. A jeep roared to life, blinding us in the flood of its headlights before they cut off abruptly, leaving us in darkness again. Over the din of the engine we heard our driver swearing in Mongolian, followed by the somewhat less harsh sound of a hammer panging on metal. The lights came back on.
In today’s issue of Ask SIPB, we’ll discuss that bane of the digital world: printing out documents on those old-fashioned sheets of paper. Networked printing presents its own set of challenges, and the way to effectively use Athena’s printing infrastructure may not be immediately obvious. We’ll also discuss getting Matlab to run on Mac OS X and forwarding your MIT e-mail.
After having given up on our horses mid-journey, my adventurous acquaintance Will and I found ourselves standing alone on a remote dirt road in the Mongolian countryside. As we weren’t sure how long we’d have to wait, be it minutes or days, we were quite relieved when an old Russian minivan shortly came chugging around from behind a hillside and into view.
There’s something overwhelming about arriving on the MIT campus that makes me sound both apathetic and verbally primitive. “Why did you show up a week early without an FPOP or a sport to go to?” “Just ’cuz,” I said. “Why did you choose that major?” “No reason,” I responded. “What’d you have to suck the helium out of all those picnic balloons for, and why is your face turning blue??” “… I dunno,” came the reply, with me sounding and looking not unlike a Smurf shortly before losing consciousness.
The first bright yellow and orange glimpses of autumn peeked out from the underbrush between the trunks of the pine forest outside. As the heaters pushed the morning chill from the car, we made our way over a pass on a bumpy dirt road. For a few moments, it seemed as if I was home again; the scene could have occurred on any of the frosty fall mornings of my childhood spent growing up in the Yukon. But as we descended around a corner, the distinct cylindrical profile of a nomadic Mongolian tent — called a <i>ger</i> in those parts — came into view, and the illusion quickly vanished.
I don’t like grocery shopping, probably because of the chilliness of the frozen food section and because I don’t like lugging heavy bags. Or maybe it’s just because I’m lazy. Either way, you should not follow my example because it must be possible to enjoy shopping for basics like food, bedding, and toiletries. Here’s a list of places where you can go to try to achieve nirvana or at least find a good deal:
Most of us are now definable by our Facebook profiles. We’ve named our hometowns, our majors, and our favorite music in neat lists. The moment our tastes change, we rush to update our profiles, lest someone mistakenly believe we still like The Get Up Kids, even though we’ve now declared allegiance to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.