Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Where (and why) am I going this time?


NOTE:  For those whom I e-mailed, this is mostly a repeat so you have my permission to skim:

This time, I'm preparing to go on my biggest adventure to date: 13 weeks abroad with India, Thailand and Singapore as primary destinations.  I'll be spending the first month in Mysore in South India working for the Duke Talent Identification Program to teach a physics and engineering course.  The camp is at the world's largest corporate training center (see it here in this hilarious, pretentious promo video) so I'll be somewhat removed from wilds of India, eating meals at a round "floating restaurant", surrounded by a moat filled with koi fish.  However, that hasn't stopped crazy things from happening in the past (elephant stampede, rogue jaguar on campus.. and not the car) so hopefully I'll fit in some adventures when I'm not enlightening the minds of the country's smartest 7th graders.  Although I'm sure teaching these kids will be an adventure- weekly dances at the nerd camp I taught at for five other summers were pretty hilarious especially as you watched the week to week evolution.  The first week, they'd be fighting over chess sets in the hallway, the second week the older kids would be burning up the dance floor and the third week, everyone's clinging to each other like Titanic victims in the icy Atlantic.  I'm curious to see if that'll happen with Indian students...
As staff, we have permission to leave campus (as long as we're back by our 9 PM curfew) so I'm hoping to go on an elephant safari at Bandipur National Park and we're free to check out "Olive Garden" when we're craving something other than Indian food.  I was warned not to be fooled by the extensive menu that features Indian, Chinese, American and Italian options because supposedly, no matter what you order, it'll have curry.  I've been purposefully staying away from Indian food prior to departure because it sounds like 29 days of roti, rice, cucumber salad and curries will be unavoidable. I am looking forward to afternoon tea time (the kids have a "juice break" but I hope the staff can have chai)!
Assuming I'll be able to leave the country on time (unlike the 2011 staff), I've got a week of fun in Thailand with a friend from my East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute (EAPSI) fellowship.  We're flying into Chang Mai and out of Phuket, hope to do some snorkeling and temple hopping but that itinerary is largely undetermined. Finally, June 10th-August 2nd, I'll be at the National University of Singapore (22nd best university in worldwide rankings apparently!) on an National Science Foundation fellowship doing research on the evolution of the active learning physics classroom I study for my dissertation.  In addition to doing research, my host has already arranged for me to give a couple talks in Singapore and plans to arrange talks in Indonesia and Malaysia.  I'm hoping to use Singapore as a springboard for some other weekend trips- maybe Hong Kong, Philippines, Vietnam...  The more I travel, the more I realize that often the best plan is to figure it out upon arrival so we'll see what happens!  At least the air traffic controllers are no longer off the ground, so hopefully I won't have trouble leaving the US.  And hopefully I won't get red flagging bringing razor blades, exacto knives and fingerprinting kits across international borders (it's for the kids, I promise!).  Namaste for now!