Friday, January 30, 2009

Getting to Sierra Leone - a non-trivial task

Now that I've posted some pictures, maybe I can start writing about the trip. Actually, I've been writing about this trip all day. We're spending these few days just documenting everything we've done these few weeks...

Anyway, before we left, Amy (the course instructor) made a comment about not really feeling the distance because we're traveling by plane. However, I think our group definitely felt the distance since it took us 2 extra days to get to the country.

I had our flight plan posted earlier on the sidebar and it was crazy enough as it was. 3 different flights, one of which included a stop. Boston to Amsterdam to Brussels (to Senegal) to Freetown. We had only an hour for our connecting flights and we missed the first one. It was just way to far. We had to go from the "International" part of the airport to the Continental part of the airport. And we even had to go through customs because we were entering the Schegen States. So it was utterly ridiculous. Ben even tried to run to the terminal. Anyway, it took two hours or so to figure everything out and in the end, KLM booked us a flight to Nairobi, Kenya leaving the next night. From Kenya we fly to Ghana and from Ghana to Freetown. They put us in a hotel near the airport for the night. So instead of being in Africa, we ended up staying in a pretty nice hotel with an amazing buffet. We got all our meals at the hotel, curtesy of the airline. We even ventured out into town that night even though none of us had winter coats. It was freezing cold in Amsterdam. Yalu and I couldn't believe we were back in Amsterdam so soon. I mean, we enjoyed ourselves last time we went but didn't expect to visit again so soon.

We chilled the next day, trying to learn some Krio and Temne (local languages). We got to the airport super early, did some gift shopping, and then checked in. The airline also gave us a voucher for 10 Euros and we got dinner with it. That was totally unnecesary because all of our flights fed us meals. We then spent many more hours on airplanes, going in the wrong direction. By the time we finally got to Freetown, none of us were feeling all that great. Three flights in a roll is just way too much. I had to take motion sickness pills twice.

Freetown (Lungi) airport was another adventure. I'll write more later because I'm getting really tired. But at least we got to the country. I think after we missed our flight, all of us were crossing our fingers, not knowing whether we'll actually manage to get to Sierra Leone

Some pictures from SL trip

Back from Sierra Leone!

I can't believe I've just been to Africa and back. The trip was amazing. We had so much fun and so many adventures. I will try to write about them here over the next few days/weeks. We need to spend some time documenting all our project stuff so that students in the future won't have as many surprises as we did. I will upload my own pictures soon but in the meantime, here's some pictures.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Zero Hour

Can't believe I woke up so early. It's 8:30am over here. I went to sleep at around 3:30am this morning. Stayed up talking to some friends. We always chat about the most random stuff ever. It was good though because I went to sleep right away. Anyway, I was waking up this morning and was feeling pretty tired when a lot of adrenaline rushed into my body. Could not/didn't want to fall back asleep.

I have a bunch of little things to take care of today and then I'm all set. I'm glad we're leaving on a weekday because everything closed over the weekend. These posts lately have not been very interesting. Sorry. Right now I'm just bored, want to wait until 9am before I head out to run some errands.

I will have very limited Internet access for the next 3 weeks. I think we'll be going to an Internet cafe once every few days. Not sure. Don't know how convenient it will be. Probably not at all. Again, check the D-lab blog because I doubt I will have time to post anything here. Link on previous post.

I think we're all pretty excited about this trip. I'm worried about all these flights and missing one. We're cutting it pretty close on all our connections. And Sierra Leone is not a top spot on any airline's list so it will be pretty difficult to find another flight that will take all 7 of us on board if we managed to miss one of our connecting flights. I'm also worried about having to sit through 4 takeoffs and landings (each). Motion sickness. blah.

I guess I'm still in shock that we're able to do this trip. What other place in the world would fund such an expedition? We're getting heavily subsidized to go on a trip that may or may not have good results. I don't even know what we can consider success for this rammed earth thing. Anyway, wish us luck!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

D-Lab day

D-Lab has a blog this year. So for those who want to follow all of our adventures, check:

Today has been a mild day of D-Lab trip prep. I woke up at around 6am today. Don't ask me why. Got out of bed at 7 because I couldn't fall back asleep, went to exercise, and then D-Lab started. We had a class meeting in the morning. Some teams already left. The rest of us are leaving today, tomorrow, and Tuesday. We got some last words of advice and then packing started. We walked around a lot and collected stuff that we need. Right now, I'm printing a bunch of stuff for the education presentations. I'm heading back to D-Lab later to help with another project. There hasn't been too much panic today, not for our team anyway. Okay, print job is done. Maybe more later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Packing again

Today my D-Lab team met up to have dinner. It was really cold out but we made it eventually. It was good seeing everyone again and we peppered our team leader with questions. I think we're all pretty excited about this trip. I can't believe we're going in a little over a day.

I have pretty much all my personal stuff packed. Tomorrow, the whole class is meeting up and we're packing all our project stuff. I see a long day ahead with lots of "oopse, forgot about..." I hope we don't end up with too much stuff. But we're getting driven to the airport and getting picked up when we (eventually) get to Sierra Leone.

I've been exercising and making use of the McCormick gym. I thought it would help me go to sleep yesterday but I don't think I fell asleep until 3 or 4am. I really think I should have exercised while at home. But I was too lazy. I don't think I'm in too bad shape though. Metabolism is still pretty good. Not sluggish.

We're taking the same transatlantic flight over as one of the India teams and the same transatlantic flight back as the India and Zambia teams. That flight on the way back is going to be full of MIT kids. haha. It would be cool to swap stories but we might all be pretty tired.

Can't believe next semester will be my last semester as an undergrad at MIT. I feel like I'm forever going somewhere, moving, packing, etc.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Guess what I found when I opened my mailbox this morning? A huge envelope that said Welcome to Cornell. I didn't want to believe it. I wanted to open the envelope right there in the lobby but I managed to drag everything up the elevator and into my room before I opened it. And yes, the first line said, "I am pleased to inform you that your Master of Engineering application to our program in Environmental Fluid Mechanics & Hydrology has been approved, beginning with the Fall 2009 term." So now I go to Africa in peace, knowing that I'll at least have some place to go for grad school.

I think I found out so early because it's their MEng program (the more practice oriented one) instead of the MS. I probably should've applied to the MEng at MIT. Probably would've found out by now too. But no, I have to do everything the hard way.

Anyhow, the flight back was pretty good. Took less than 5 hours. I watched random TV shows. There was one really interesting thing about Tokyo and how everything is small and space saving. They showed how people managed to fit everything in their little apartments. And then I watched something about sumo wrestling. I sleep for maybe 2 hours.

The view of the Boston area was pretty nice. We flew into the sunrise and the sky was red. There were patches of snow on the ground and trees with no leaves. It looked just like in the movies. I managed to meet up with Swetha in the airport and we took a cab back. Good choice since dragging luggage through the snow would probably be a bad idea. I think it snowed a lot recently. No snow today though and it wasn't all that cold in the morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

delayed again...

I had every intention of writing in my journal. Even have it in my carry on. But turns out, OAK got free wi-fi. So... there goes the writing. My flight is delayed again due to bad weather on the east coast. Our plane got here late. I think I have about 5 minutes before boarding.

So I think it will be 6 months before I come home again. Not sure I will come back for spring break. Depends on these grad schools I guess. Home was good. Really enjoyed seeing my family and friends and just chilling. So many uncertainties about the future though.. not sure how I should be feeling about anything.

I've eaten so much food this holiday. Went to 2 buffets in a roll. Ate soo much meat. My family went out to a hotpot/BBQ buffet where they provide the raw stuff and you cook them yourself. I'm really not sure what I ate but we all felt extremely full at the end. It's pretty fun. This morning, our cousins (our aunt and uncle) treated us to a Chinese buffet. There was so much food. Seriously not good to eat like that... I feel like I got stuffed.