Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work and Ethan Hawk

So we are diving in head first into our work load now.

We are in the process of creating our first deliverable to the Ministry of Education. We are developing a test management software for all the standerdized test given in the country. Currently that have about 3 different spreadsheets keeping track of the information which allows for a lot of errors and massive difficulty when doing analysis. So what I am doing is creating a database for them to hold the test information and then creating a web application to allow for easy insertion and easy analysis. Yay work!

I had an "oh my god, its Ethan Hawk!" moment this morning (family guy reference for those unaware). Someone thought I was that guy who just won American Idol. hahahaha. I got a good chuckle from that. So apparently all white people look the same to the islanders here.

Kayaking and exploration of nature this weekend! I'm excited!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

work work work

so work is in full swing now.

Its kinda giving me a headache. They have very bad communication here. So one person says one thing, then another thing is said thats slightly different and you can't get the same story straight.

We are probably building a standardized test database for the MOE here. I don't feel like writing up the full specifications but its going to be a web app to allow answers be put into a database and reports can be made easily.

Time for ice cream.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

rain rain go away

It rained here yesterday. A lot. not like buckets, we are talking truckloads of rain. I think it is a rain forest climate here so that explains it. I was able to get a nice shot of the rainbow afterwords, hopefully I can upload it. But after that, it began to rain again. We again did not do much at work because we are awaiting to fill out some paper work.

On our way to dinner we passed by the Palau national gymnasium and saw that the Taiwanese navy was playing the Palau team. It was a really strange and funny site to see the laid back locals cheering on the sidelines and then, on the other side, bleachers filled with what looked like the entire Taiwanese navy cheering in sync with every point scored. Pictures and video hopefully coming soon.

For dinner we went to a local restuarant which was the cheapest family style food ever. 2.50, HUGE plate of fried rice, 7.00 massive soup = 9.50 meal for 4 people. I am a very euphoric Jew right now...CHEAP ASIAN FOOD!!!!!!

Today we might be finally getting started on outlining our project...hopefully.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Eel story

So I am currently sitting at work for my boss to show response quite in the time I realized I left out a very interesting aspect of our adventure yesterday on the island.

while walking around we a nice park next to a night club. There was a beautiful view:

And a group of three Islanders cooking something. After taking pictures they motioned to have us come over and try what they were cooking. we reluctantly agreed. We arrived and found an entire EEL on their bbq. They explained they just caught it and were cooking it. We each took a piece and dipped it in their homemade soy sauce and ate:

"Slimy yet satisfying" are the apt words to truly describe the experience.

They then proceeded to offer us some of the fish guts, Yixin ate, but I passed.

Enough staring at this water! I want to jump in it! We are making plans to go kayaking this weekend so yay!

breaking into a resort

So, after getting off the day of work, Yixin and I got an email from Kate with directions on how to get to their apartment. They were about two blocks from us. We arrived and made plans for dinner.

After this Yixin and I explored the other end of the island to find a nice inlet where people swam, and even better an AMAZING resort. Taking advantage of the fact that we look like rich Americans we got in, and then looked around.

It was something out of a movie. Amazing pool, man-made beach, dock to see the island, and lots and lots of rich Japanese families. We decided we must come back and take advantage of this resort. (Maybe today after work?)

The view:

Dinner was again delicious and cheap. Time for sleep for another day at the MOE.

The Ministry of Education:

Yay! another picture got uploaded!


1st day of work...yum food...

So Palau is hot. Like REALLY REALLY hot.

It also rains here for 5 minutes, then its beautiful again. I finally found somewhere where the weather is more spastic than Pittsburgh.

So Yixin and I woke up at a lovely 7:30...30 minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off. (Passing out at 7pm the night before could be the main factor). nothing like a jetlag. After a much needed shower and shave we headed off the work to find that our boss Edwel. Would be an hour late. So we went to a deli to get breakfast.

Now Palauns here really like food. A lot. And it is all so good too! No matter what style of food they make here, they make sure its delicious. Last night Yixin and I had Korean food and it was epic. This morning I had grilled cheese, and they found a way to make the most delicious grilled cheese I have put into my mouth.

Edwel showed up, and suggested we talk over food. Yixin and I reluctantly agreed. Edwel ordered us a fish appetizer to share as we discussed the broad ideas for the what he has in mind for us. The project details are fascinating and reinstalled my faith in technology.

See, I have always thought that technology is going to do nothing for communities but make people much lazier, but the problem here is not a desire to be lazy at all.

The ministry of education here can only afford to hire so many employees because of their budget and there is only so much work one single employee can do. One employee Debbie has many roles involving the curriculum. One of her roles is to create data sheets on how the students are preforming on standardization exams throughout the country. However all the data is currently in paper form. Whats even more time crucial, is that in order to get grants from the USA (via the no child left behind act) she must create data sheets on how well the students are preforming. Our task is to help her create a technology to ease her time spent doing this so she can also spend time on her other dozens of tasks.

Technology here is not a negative influence on this tiny island, they are trying to find ways to use it appropriately to help them in their lives.

After a revelation filled lunch-snack-thing Edwel told us that the financial guys were off at some meeting and he would call us at the apt when they were back.

Its now 5:00pm and he told us that tomorrow it would be taken care of. Hard days work!

Anyway, we are trying to meet up with Kate and Brandon!!! We haven't seen them since we landed two days ago!!!

I forgot

Those fish appetizer things were sooooooo good. I'm pretty sure they killed the fish in the kitchen and then served it to us, it was the freshest tuna I have ever had. imagine biting into a piece of fresh fish with just an explosion of succulent flavor in your mouth...(it was good)

yea, they like food here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Day in Palau

So Edwel (Our boss from the ministry) came to pick us up to take us to breakfast. I finally got to see the beautiful landscape. We ate breakfast and then he drove us all around the island to see the landscape. After this me and Yixin relaxed at home, and we then went on our own journey around the island. Enough talking I will be uploading pictures to facebook soon.

Destination reached!

Hello (finally) from Palau!

-Took a sleeping pill…zzzz…Landing was really beautiful. We flew along the coast of the island and we got to see the mountain and Wakiki beach. Then when we landed, I saw the…airport….off to Guam.

Hawaii -> Guam
Now this was a long flight. I couldn’t sleep because then I would be very jetlagged so I forced myself to stay awake. After hours of House watching, iPod touch playing, and staring into space we finally landed in Guam! After reaching the end of the world, we continued into the Abyss of the Pacific…next stop…YAP

Guam -> YAP -> Palau
You ever hear of YAP? Neither have I. but I was there. Some random island in Micro Asia. The plane was about half islanders, and the other half were white people going to see fish. The guy next to me worked for the US military doing the technical work for journalists that go to places of battle. He was coming from the military school in Maryland where he taught advanced technical training to other people going on journalism trips. That was pretty cool. He told me about places that I need to go visit in Palau. Finally, at 10:00pm we landed in Palau.

And what the first thing I saw? Dozens of people wearing mouth masks…fantastic. I arrive in paradise to find that it is infected with swine flu. But the real reason was that they were simply trying to protect the country from it. So I convinced them that I didn’t have swine flue.

They weren’t going to let me into Palau, but after some convincing that I was ACTUALLY working for the Ministry of Education they finally let me in. What’s even more amazing, my luggage made it to the baggage claim in Palau. I was certain it wasn’t going to make it. But after 3+ flights, it was there.

After having customs ask me 1000 times if I was bringing food into the country they were finally convinced that I wasn’t and went into the greeting area. There was a small man with a sign that said: Carnegie Mellon Students. So they actually did know we were coming! Hurray! Kate and Brandon went separate from me because they are in fact working for the Ministry of Health. I met up with Yixin and he took me to the hotel we are staying at for a while until they get our apartment ready.

After passing out last night, I woke up this morning to the ugliest view of the most beautiful site ever. The hotel is in this weird sorta valley surrounded by trees. So I am still waiting to see the shore. Edwel called the hotel to notify us that he was coming to pick us up to get breakfast. Now I am waiting to get picked up to get out of the hotel and into the city of Koror.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

1st stop

Greeting from tropical Pittsburgh Pennsylvania!

I wrote the following in JFK but had no internet there:

Waving goodbye to my mom, it hit me. I am on my own now. It was incredibly intimidating staring at the large Delta Terminal and thinking this is the start of an epic journey across the western hemisphere. It sorta reminded me of that scene in "Airplane" when Stryker stared at the airplane and the cheesy dramatic music played in the background :-P. Despite this intimidation I gathered the courage to get through security and take those very difficult first steps of many on my voyage across the Pacific.

Now I am next to my gate at JFK eating my gourmet airport meal of Wendy’s grilled chicken. In addition I am doing my usual routine of people watching. Its funny that everyone seems to anxious to get on their plane. Why do we as people rush to get to our destination so quickly? We do it in cars also (I certainly did it on the way to JFK). Maybe this summer will let me enjoy the journey through life a bit more? (...some narcotics on a my 17 hour flight might help...) But seriously, sometimes we take for granted where we are in life at the moment. It sounds so cheesy but I am thinking about living each day as it was our last, and cherishing every moment for what it is. ..Time to board.


Currently I am in Pittsburgh, I saw that my flight from Guam to Palau has a stop in the Caroline Islands, so make that another stop on my journey!! woot! I am waiting till 4am to check in all my baggage to Continental Airlines and then leave for Palau! Hopefully if I don't sleep tonight I will PASS OUT more easily on my plane ride. Right now I am just too tired to even comprehend everything thats about to happen.

so, maybe I will have internet in Houston or Honolulu... If not, see you all in Palau!

It begins...

It begins now!

Updates to come whenever I have internet. I am leaving my house now!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Lots of sunscreen

Bought a lot of sunscreen today....

3 days....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting ready

Hello everyone!

Still in the states just getting ready for my trip. Today I went to the bookstore to try to get a book on Palau. Sadly, the most information I could find was a paragraph in a world atlas. Hopefully this summer will teach me about this island's history and people. Most all people know is that a series of survivor was "filmed" there.

Anyway, I am beyond excited for this voyage I will take, to show everyone the planned path. Here are the paths of the 4 flights. Which are: 1, 3, 17, 3 hours respectivly (THATS 24 HOURS OF TRAVELING!)

NYC -> Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh -> Houston
Houston -> Honolulu (Stop) -> Guam
Guam -> Palau

4 more days!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

First Post!

So for those of you out there who have no clue what I'm doing this summer, other than spending 10 weeks on some random island in the south pacific, here is some background on the program and how I ended up getting ready to spend my summer in Palau.

For those of you who do not know, last summer I spent my summer in Seattle, participating in an internship program at The most important lesson I think I learned from this experience is that Computer Science is the right tract for me. I knew this because every morning I did not dread the upcoming day. Instead I was excited for the challenges that each day of work would throw at me. However, I left that summer with an empty feeling in my stomach. What good can I do optimizing business strategies for Am I only helping some kid from Long Island get his Wii sooner by purchasing it off of Or am I only increasing the paycheck of the big wig Vice presidents at Amazon? Long story short, I felt like my participation in technology this past summer was very selfish and beneficial toward the global society.

For those out there who disagree, to each his own? Some can live there whole life doing the sort of work I did at Amazon, but I want to see a more beneficial way of using my skill as a Computer Scientist.

In Carnegie Mellon there is a new program called TechBridgeWorld. And within tech bridge world there is a summer program called: Technology Consulting in the Global Community. Please explore the following links for more information:

I saw the poster for this program I knew that it was exactally what I was looking for. A way for me to apply my Computer Science skills in way to benefit a society somewhere in the world. I applyed and luckily got in!

I was selected to be sent to work with the Ministry of Education in Palau. I still do not know the details of the the scope of my project. I will be working with Yixin Liu, a fellow student at Carnegie Mellon. More details to be shared about this project when I know more about it.

I am still currently in Long Island New York, getting ready for my adventure across the pacific to Palau.

I can not wait to find out what challenages await me there, places to be seen and other things that I just can not expect waiting here in New York.

Please feel free to leave comments! When I am in Palau I do not know how easy it will be to communicate so it will be nice to hear back!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hello friends and family!

Tom here, this will be my blog for my summer in Palau 2009!

Keep checking back for updates. Current leave date: May 21 2009

-Tom Lewkowitz