This blog serves to document my experience in Tanzania. Every day this blog receive a handful of hits, and I hope it serves as a good information source for others looking to find out more about Tanzania.
Making connections… September 13, 2007
From my reflection on the culture in Tanzania vs. the culture in America, I made a note that people are much more friendly to strangers in Tanzania than we are in America. Well, I am reading the book The Transparent Society, for the class 6.805 Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier, in the second chapter, David Brin discusses the reasons for why we fear our neighbors, and how that relates to our idea of privacy. I thought that was really interesting, because it really got me thinking that our ethics are really based on the culture and society we live in. Not only ethics evolve over time, but they also are very different from one place to another.
Well I haven’t finished the book yet, but from what I have read so far, Brin proposes that we should rethink about how we should live in the information age, where transparency is going to play a major role in how we live, operate, and interact in this new world. Then, may I ask, how can we break the mindset of our society that we should stop thinking about secrecy, and begin to embrace transparency? The road from centralized control and secrecy to transparency is a bit unclear to me right now, as I know a lot of people would fear that they would have to give up privacy. Brin made it clear in the beginning that you can have both. I am interested in what he would say…
Transparency brings up another idea. In my research, I work with Professor Glen Urban at the Center for Digital Business, where one of our main focus is to work on projects along the ideas of Trust and Advocacy for the consumer. The main idea is that since competitor’s information is so readily available, companies should really be transparent, so that trust can be built. It hasn’t been easy for executives to change their old marketing strategies to this new paradigm, but some have, and they have been successful. Not sure where I am going with this.. just a though.
Ahhh well how is life? School is a little nuts right now, and I am definitely back to MIT mode. I am doing work every waking moment, and it seems like work is never ending. 18.310C is going well, and I am learning really interesting applied math concepts (coin weighing, sorting, etc…). The first problem set was a bit tough, but I think I stressed too much on having it to be perfect. I am loving 6.805 right now, because I am learning all sorts of new things, and I am also gaining other skills such as how to read a judicial opinion. 6.898 is awesome because I am learning about the Semantic Web, and there is a good chance that might affect future research with my thesis.
Job search is in full force! (If anyone comes across this post entry, I just want to say that I am on the market!) I am trying to figure out what to do, and I think that there are some interesting opportunities out there. I hope I get to find a job that I really love.
Enough blogging for now, I should get back to work!
Reflection on my fellowship September 8, 2007
The MIT Public Service Center requires all fellows to write up a few documents about their experience. I thought the reflection article really was something that I want to remember, and to also share with others. So here it is!
Name: Shirley Fung
Department: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Course 6)
Year: Summer between senior year and first year of my Masters
Fellowship Supervisor: Amos Winter
Partner Organization: Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre Wheelchair Workshop
I really don’t know if an article is enough to describe the experience I had when I lived in Tanzania for a month. I miss it a lot there, the surroundings, the people. I made many friends that I’ll never forget. I have never been treated with such great hospitality. Even though many people there don’t have all the material goods we have here in the States, everyone was very happy, and was so peaceful.
I lived in Moshi, which was a small town, mainly dependent on the tourism industry since it is conveniently located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The town was small, and almost everyone knew each other. Everywhere I go, people would say hi, and asked how I was (and the conversation would go on for a few minutes until I have to tell them that I’ve got to go to work). Not sure if it’s because I am a foreigner, but they always enjoyed meeting me. In contrast, people here would normally avoid tourists. Everyone there knew their neighbors, but whereas the States, you can easily live somewhere for years, and never greet your neighbors (and for some reason the American society thinks this is okay). Not sure why Americans live in a place where they fear their neighbors, when this is far from true in Tanzania. From that point on, I have changed my way of how to treat people around me.
I had a big culture shock not when I arrived in Tanzania, maybe it reminded me of my visit to the rural areas of Beijing when I was younger. The town reminded me of what it was like to live in Hong Kong when I was younger. It was nostalgic, being reminded of what my childhood, really. But when I got back to the States, I was shocked by how much unnecessary stuff we have. Grocery stores, large office supply stores like Staples… We have rows and rows of all different kinds of the same stuff. A stationary store I visited in Moshi was probably the size of a small bakery.
When I did a small market research in Moshi, I had forgotten to bring gifts for those who participated. As I was giving out the survey, I also gave out pens so that they can fill them out. I dug in my backpack, and I was able to find close to 20 pens to give away to everyone! Honestly, I take for granted how many different kinds of pens I have, when I probably only need maybe 4-5 pens. We just have such an abundance of things that we don’t need. Then the question is, what’s the harm of all this? To be honest, I enjoy having the choice of 10 different kinds of paper towels at the store, or 100 different kinds of gel pens in 200 colors, or notebooks that come in hundreds of kinds and types. It’s quite amazing that developed countries have advanced so much over the years. I have to say it’s quite an achievement. But looking back at the fact that I was able to live comfortably without most of the unnecessary goods, I just think that people should really be more giving, and realize that not everyone are so privileged to have all that we got here. Give whenever we can!!!
Things are piling up, school just started, and I spent a week moving to a new apartment. I am starting to feel like I can’t breathe anymore. So many things have happened since I had posted on the blog!
School is going so well, I am really enjoying 6.805, which is a class where u study the law around technology. I would really like to work in this field, perhaps I could find something like that as a job. Which reminds me, job season is coming up, and I am so stressed out about this! I really want to find a good job, a job that I really feel like I can kick ass doing. We’ll see how things go. My goal is to find a job that is exciting and challenging! I don’t want my brain to go rusty :) I have a first phone interview next week, I hope it goes well *crosses fingers*
Well I have to say that I am a terrible summer fellow, because it’s been taking me forever to finish the post-fellowship requirements. I just got done with them right now, so I would like to post what I had written, so that others can know about them! My writing is really terrible, but I have no time to revise what I am writing… I have got so much other work to do! Ahhh I wish I had 36 hour days.
Alright – time to stop blogging, and post what I wrote…
New faces on campus August 25, 2007
Wow, it has come time to Freshmen orientation at MIT. I feel so old now, especially when I am no longer an undergraduate! But this year will be good, turns out the Graduate Student Council has a month long of orientation events for grad students! It sure sounds like it would be better than the freshmen orientation!
I am busier than ever. It’s Friday night, and I have too much work to do, and too much to think about. Life is good, but I don’t write down all the details like I used to in Tanzania. Moving day (August 31st) is coming up, and looking to apply for grad school and also begin my full time job search. I have to wrap up my work from Tanzania (which I have been putting off because of my thesis work), and begin my next project for the WDDC class (will need to start thinking about funding again, and the possibility to visit more workshops). Lots of big decisions coming ahead! Whenever I have free time, I am putting my head in the world of Harry Potter. The books are much better than expected, and at times, I wouldn’t be able to stop turning the pages!
The term will start soon, and I am very excited about the new school year. I’ll be taking these classes:
MIT 6.805/STS085: Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier
MIT 6.898 Transparency and Accountability Architectures for the World Wide Web (supplement to 6.805)
MIT 18.310c Principles of Discrete Applied Mathematics
As a grad student, I have a credit limit, so I can no longer take more than 2 classes! It should be a fun term. Just bought my books from Half.com :)
Andrew is out working tonight, and I am staying at home to do work. Hopefully I’ll get some work done.
Great news! August 21, 2007
I’ll be continuing to work with the WDDC class this year :) More on this later…
As to why I haven’t been blogging much? I have been too busy since I got back. I need to get back into the habit of blogging now.
Still sick with a cold, but! August 17, 2007
But, but but! I am a happy gal, and that’s all that matters!
Well today as a birthday lunch, the Lemelson-MIT Program took the staff out for lunch! We went to Sandrine’s in Harvard Square, and it was a delight! Highly recommended!
It’s so humid right now, but I think I am going to cook, it’s not gonna be fun!