Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Beginnings


A week from today I will start my Peace Corps training in Azerbaijan.  But before I get to my future, I guess I'll start with my past...

I am a 2003 Lafayette High graduate and a 2007 Scripps College alumna (Claremont, CA).  Majoring in anthropology, I decided to join the Peace Corps after discovering I have a burning passion for academic research.  However, as graduation from undergrad quickly approached, I knew my scholarly candle was burning from both ends.  I knew it was time for a break before I could commit to something as grand as grad school.  Applying to the Peace Corps seemed like the perfect blending of my anthropology interests and my desire to give something back.

So after a long application and an even longer waiting period, I finally received my service project: teaching English in Azerbaijan.  I'll admit it was not my first choice in countries, but the more I read about it the more excited I am to serve in this country that I did not know existed 6 months ago.

As my departure date approaches, my anxiety increases.  I do not know what the future will bring, but I cannot wait for this unique experience!

-Amy McManus

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I have been teaching an English
class because knowing English
provides opportunities for better jobs.
In the beginning, some of my
students struggled to believe that
they could learn or that it would be
worth it. “Maybe you will be wasting
your time,” one said, “what if we
can’t learn?” Then one woman (the
one wearing cream and orange in
the photo) made a decision that she
could learn and took it upon herself
to encourage and challenge the
others. Because of her the class
completely changed. All of a
sudden students believed that they
could learn and that another life was
possible. That is the power of one
person’s hope.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The perks of working in a fly lab...

I've been working with Drosophila (aka common fruit flies) at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland this summer, and I've really learned a lot. In no particular order, here are my top ten reasons for checking out Drosophila:

1. You get to enjoy such cutting-edge technology as paintbrushes for probing flies, a large plastic tube for sucking up and moving flies (yes, with your mouth...), old jam jars for holding autoclaved microcentrifuge tubes, and paper towels for just about any imaginable emergency scenario. Oh yes, and gotta love the carnivorous plants sitting on the window ledge to catch escapees in the fly room and the alternative wine bottle traps.

2. Wanna be a neurosurgeon one day? Dissecting fly guts teaches you all the finesse and dexterity you'll need for the task-- one tug too hard and gut bacteria explode everywhere! After working with tweezers on the same miniscule fly for half an hour, you'll have enough patience to deal with anything in the oh-so-large human body.

3. Unlike those crazy chemists/molecular biologists/biochemists, you can enjoy a nice coffee/tea anytime on your (reasonably safe), hood-less bench.

4. Flies don't need Viagra, and as any kitchen owner knows, they seem to multiply exponentially overnight.

5. With Drosophila gene names like Spatzle, RING (really interesting new gene), and Eater, who can resist joining the fun??

6. No stinky E. coli cultures, no rodent feces or fishwater aroma. Instead, relax in the nice ambient temperature and inhale the warm and homey smell of fly media.

7. Hungry or thirsty during work? No problem-- just grab some of the bananas/fruit juice slated for generating fly food.

8. You instantly gain free pets at home. A LOT of them. Party in your room, anyone?

9. Now you can tell whether that annoying fruit fly you just squished was male or female (and make a decent stab at its genotype).

10. Mwhahahaha. So much power over the swarming masses. An entire generation in your hands. Think Lord of the Flies, or Beelzebub.