Thursday, July 12, 2012

Slow Yet Fast Week

Today was probably the fastest day out of all the VSA days I've had this week. I'm not sure where the time went, but now it's already time to go to sleep soon. I'm really getting used to this place, and I think everyone else in this program are too. VSA and the city of Nashville have become my home--and for two more weeks still! It's amazing how tomorrow is already Friday. It felt like the week went by so fast, yet it went by super slow. Does that make sense? Everyday has been very productive, and my stay here has only started to feel fast when I realized today the weekend is coming up soon. It does, however, feel like it's been ages since I woke up at 3 AM on a Monday morning and took off from that plane at Oakland International Airport.
"Chilling" during an hour of free time in my room
The weather was even crazier today, and I'm getting really sick of the rain. I miss the sun, even if that means it's going to get more humid. I don't know if I've ever experienced such a downpour of rain like today. If it wasn't the most rain I've ever experienced outside, it sure was in my Top 10 "Rainy Experiences". However, I'll be honest. I didn't sweat at all when it rained, which was nice. Still, I managed to sweat today at night when it didn't rain. I know that I'm complaining about the weather a lot in this paragraph but just know, I really am getting used to it. It's not that bad here.

Today we studied Islamic food restrictions. I found out what a halal diet should be. Halal is similar to the Jewish diet, kosher. A Muslim can't consume pig's meat, carrion, blood, alcohol, or intoxicated drugs. I found it very interesting that food can be prepared not only by a Muslim but also by people who are Jews or Christians.

We also watched a video called 30 Days. It is about a dedicated Christian man who visits and assimilates himself into the most densely populated Muslim community in the U.S., Dearborn, Michigan. It amazed me how judgemental people are of Muslims--that the first thing they think of when someone says "Muslim" is "terrorist". This is what the video taught me the most, and I hope America changes its views about Muslims soon.

Islam, if translated, means submission. I thought this was very true of Muslims, and I honestly think they're one of the most, if not the most, dedicated religious people the world has ever had. It doesn't matter what a Muslim is doing; they must pray when it is time (must pray five times a day) to.  I found it very interesting that praying that much could break up conflict and help one to re-focus on what is important--and that is God. This is what I found the most important today, and I give Muslims props for what they do.
After making bracelets

After class, I made some very amateur friendship bracelets for people (and one for myself). When I say amateur, I mean take two strings and twist them. Well, it's the effort and the thought that counts, right?

Anyway, tomorrow we're having a glow dance, and I'm visiting a synagogue for the first time! It should be an exciting day tomorrow. Good night.

Routines..Plus Zumba!

Everything has become a routine for me. I am fully adjusted to the time change, and schedules, but I miss sleeping in during the summer. It didn’t really feel like summer today, because of the frequent showers of rain.

Nevertheless, we began our Pharmacology class with heated discussions and challenged debates. Our class was split into four groups and we each discussed a controversial topic. One group discussed genetic engineering, another abortion, another physician-assisted suicide, and my group discussed the topic of legalizing marijuana. We went back and forth on why or why not it should become legal. Being a Christian, I base my values and morals on my beliefs, which take a big part on my stance of issues like abortion and marijuana. On the pro side, one may say that the drug is not physically addictive, and the government can regulate it more and tax it. On the contrary, on may say that it still encourages additional use, increases accessibility, and it even has proven negative effects. Many subjects like this; especially abortion can get really touchy and full of arguments. Each person has their on values on choice, economics, politics, morality, and religion, so we could have gone on and on debating each subject.

I found our morning session quite enjoyable with this type of activity, but then we dove into another lecture on the FDA drug regulations on drugs. I’m not a big fan of lectures, but I do like learning new interesting facts.  Today I learned that it has been only 40 years since regulations on drugs have been intact. Before then, drugs didn’t require any efficiency, and there was no regulatory authority. Additionally, did you know that 15%-20% of all drugs in the United States are counterfeit? It’s really easy to counterfeit drugs, so everyone should be careful when ordering medicine, especially online.

Hanging out during free time!
For lunch, I had two steak fajitas and a giant chocolate chip cookie. It was delicious, and I was very satisfied. For our afternoon session of Pharmacology, we began watching a movie about the AIDs epidemic called, And The Band Played On. It was quite interesting to see how the gay community was greatly affected when scientists were in the beginning stages of discovering the illness. After watching an hour of the movie, we headed down to the computer lab to begin research on our Public Service Announcement project. I chose the drug, Motrin, also known as Ibuprofen, and discovered many facts on the commonly used drug. The computer lab was filled with nice desktop Macs, and after much research I now need to think of a short, but fun way to present the drug to my class.

After two hours of research, I walked in the rain to my dance class. We learned an Americanized Bollywood dance, a Western line dance, and a military shuffle. Tomorrow we will be showcasing one of our dances to everyone at VSA. I am nervous, but also excited. I was kind of sweating from a session of dancing, so I decided to relax in my room with my roommate.

We had a nice dinner, and I was really full. After I digested, I headed to do zumba!  I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was very, very fun. We exercised through different dance moves, from moving our hips to doing the salsa. It was awesome to see a room full of girls all dancing and just having a great time. I hope I can get a zumba video when I get back home, so I can get in shape!
My proctor, Tessa!
We ended our night with an amazing proctor group meeting! We planned many things, and I can't wait for tomorrow!

Week One Is Almost Done

My first week at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy is almost over. There are many things happening tomorrow: a mystery movie in class, a showcase, and a dance are all on the schedule. I expect the dance to be rather awkward. I can already see the imaginary line segregating the girls from the boys. It should be a very interesting evening. 

I somehow managed to get out of singing in front of the entire academy. Although I was brave enough to sing in front of the class, I don't think I could muster enough courage to do it in front of the entire summer camp. Luckily, another group was chosen to represent my Arete songwriting class tomorrow, so I don't have to worry about it anymore. 

Arete class is just a one hour class we have everyday for an hour after our normal class. It is more of a fun class that is usually something artistic or athletic. Every Friday, one group from each Arete class has to preform in front of everyone here at the academy. I am still not completely comfortable here, so you can imagine my despair when I was told I had to do something in front of the entire summer academy. However, my class voted for another group to be the representatives, so I don't have to worry anymore. 

I am getting closer with the girls on my floor. Each of them are very unique and fun in their own little distinct way. They all make me feel very comfortable; I feel like I can be myself around them and not get judged. 

Black And White

Debate has never really been one of my strong points. I personally find it difficult to argue with someone in an organized, serious way. But we did this today anyway; however it went pretty well.

In class, all of us got into groups and debated over seriously controversial issues in science today. All of the issues were extremely difficult to place since neither one was completely black or completely white. In my opinion, most are pretty much gray since there is no solid approval or denial for it.  There were different choices like: abortion, genetic engineering, marijuana, and Physician-Assisted Suicide. Our group, which consisted of my classmates, Paula, Hunter, and David, chose the suicide one. A Physician-Assisted Suicide is a suicide by a terminally-ill patient who has anywhere from a couple months to a year to live. If two doctors approve of the suicide of the patient, then the patient goes through a process to be euthanized. As I started on my case against this issue with Paula, I found out how difficult this issue is on both sides.  Personally, I am mostly against this issue; I strongly believe that killing yourself in almost any circumstance is wrong; I believe that God has a plan for everyone, and he wants everyone to learn from the life that they have. After all, life is a learning experience, no matter how someone looks at it. However, debating like this requires strong points, and this reason alone isn’t sufficient enough. So, we also made other points, like hasty decisions made by the patients during this stressful time and changes in the patients’ health, which can also make a huge impact in this decision.

The whole debate situation was overall a great experience. Everyone was completely involved in the discussions, argued, and asked a lot of questions, which is definitely a sign that everyone is listening. I love a classroom environment like this and I wish there were more of these types of surroundings back in high school.

After the debates, we got started on an AIDS movie called “And the Band Plays On.” We only got through a little bit (we will continue tomorrow), but so far, it is about the AIDS epidemic, how it started, and what people were doing about it back then. It is really interesting to see people so involved while others could care less. It really shows two opposing sides, also arguing against a controversial issue at the time.

On my way to my ArĂȘte class, I finally noticed how nice the weather was the whole day. I mean, it was raining, but the temperature never exceeded anything above 80 degrees. This is such a relief from the 100 degree weather I experienced last week. I swear, I’d choose this weather over a blazing hot day any time.

Anyway, fencing was such a blast today. We got into two teams and played this game called ‘Castle’ where two sides fought each other like a real, medieval war. By the end of it, I was pretty sweaty in that asphyxiating helmet but glad that we won. I really hope we play that tomorrow!

For dinner, I had the most delicious and cheesy penne ever. I also had seasoned potatoes and strawberry shortcake for dessert – which was sweet and creamy. The dinner was so good, I just had to take a picture of it.

After such a quick day, I am really excited about the action-packed day tomorrow. We will be giving everyone a taste of all our ArĂȘte classes and showcasing our new skills in the activities. Also, there is a dance tomorrow; apparently some sort of glow-in-the-dark theme. Well, I guess I’ll see what this dance is all about tomorrow!