The United Space School – The First Two Days

I am presently writing from Houston, Texas; I am thoroughly exhausted.  Both of these facts suggest that I’m currently attending the 2011 session of the United Space School, an international program for professional development in astronomy, aeronautical engineering, communications, and an assortment of other things.  I am extremely pleased to be here – given that the process was rather competitive, and that my peers are of a calibre that surpasses mine by far, I am thrilled.  By dint of my excitement and for the sake of updating you as to my whereabouts, I will attempt to formulate something of a log, reminiscent of Cyril’s I.O.I. posts; mine, of course, will be less interesting.

I will begin, in the spirit of Lewis Carroll, at the beginning.  Feel free to review only the interesting tidbits – they’ve been placed in bold text.  I will be quite descriptive and quite opinionated in the paragraphs that follow.

I arrived at Pearson Aeroport in Toronto at approximately six in the morning on the twenty-fourth of July; stepping through the doors, I noted that there were enormous numbers of people in line.  Whilst this wasn’t initially disturbing, it became so when, approximately ten minutes prior to my flight, I was still lined up at Customs.  To pass the time, I spoke, for an extended period of time, with a businesswoman who had been complaining loudly about the wait; wide-eyed and prim, she donned a light gray blazer and bright pink nail polish.  “Someone told me that they don’t have enough people to manage the booths,” she said, leaning closer to me and sealing us into confidentiality with a wink.  We then launched into a conversation about the Space School, particle physics, and a variety of languages.  A kindly, dark-haired couple stood behind me for the entirety of the time that we waited.  “I think your mom’s still looking,” the woman noted when the line moved forwards, and I just caught sight of my mother waving vigorously as I rounded the cornerThe Customs officer, upon hearing of Space School, asked questions slowly through her thick wad of gum, scanning me heavily with her eyes.  Life became increasingly frightening as my flight was a mere three minutes away.  The man helping me past security was a jolly fellow, however; he told me to relax.  “They’ve got your money,” he laughed.  “The flight won’t leave.”  I ran to the plane, called my mother, and boarded; everyone was thereafter very kind.

I met my friend Mayuran, who is attending U.S.S. with me, immediately after boarding.  We flew for approximately three hours; albeit that there was a slight delay, all went pleasantly, and we landed at approximately 11:34 E.S.T.  We then met Marc-Antoine, a fellow Canadian, and two of the Chilean participants at the aeroport; we immediately delved into examining Spanish poetry.  We then located the Indian delegation, after which time we piled into a van and drove to one of the host families’ residences.  There, all the students met, exchanged bouts of conversation, and relaxed until their respective hosts came to collect them.  It was there that I first met my French roommate, Yasmine, whom I was delighted to find interested in medicine and an abundance of other good things.  Journeying to our temporary home, we met the Livingstons: Ro and Ed, their two children, and an amusing little Pomeranian called Cinnamon.  We concluded with a visit to the hospital at which Ro works, and our witnessing the mixing of KCl.  Ro was told to manufacture a solution within which the potassium was, we both thought, far too concentrated; whilst it was a simple mixture, it was quite wonderful, as morbid as this may sound, to attempt to determine whether or not a patient’s veins would succumb to a burning sensation given a certain lack of dilution.  A Doctor of Pharmacy, Ro also provided me with a fascinating text entitled, I think, Handbook of Drugs.  It featured information on most every drug in common use: compatibilities, concentrations, applications, and nearly anything else.  My reading it prompted a conversation on the usefulness of delavirdine.  The day, excluding this little pharmaceutical tidbit, was academically uneventful.  It remained, however, highly fulfilling.

Monday brought with it Tyler’s batting practice, lunch at a quaint Italian restaurant called Villa Capri; immediately after that came the interviews.  Space School students were given varied questions to aid the panel in deciding how teams should be formed.  I am hoping most sincerely to be placed in either the biology-related team, or the engineering group; I would prefer the former, given that the latter will demand an abundance of precisely that type of sample calculation which I find irritating, and that the former will almost certainly be more theoretical.  I engaged in captivating conversation with several other students – I, actually, would desire that this visit also cater to my study of foreign languages.  Thus far, I’ve located speakers of Italian, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Afrikaans – I am sincerely excited, and hope to converse with them in their native languages when I succeed in combatting my nerves.  I have also discovered that two other Olympiad-goers are present here: a member of the Indian I.M.O. team, and a member of the Bolivian I.O.A.A. team.  We spoke of our respective Olympiad placements for some time; that was a calming point of connection.  I showed several individuals the Mongol problem; I met Marco, a fellow student of genetic engineering.  He provided me with specimens of the stingless bees that he regularly breeds; we briefly spoke of raising carnivorous plants, cacti, and aquarism.  This prompts me to recall that there are so many intriguing species of flora and fauna present here; I saw, for example, during one car ride, Pelecanus occidentalis,  Leucophaeus atricilla, Bubulcus ibis, Pica hudsonia, Nyctanassa violacea, Fulica americana, Cathartes aura, Ardea alba, and a host of others.  Interesting members of Salticidae also abound here.

Upon completion of the interviews, we returned home for some time; at seven, however, we engaged in a game of soccer with the U.S.S. administrators and faculty.  I did not play, but watched both the competitors and the resident Dryocopus pileatus flying to and fro.  For the first time in several years, these, the All-Stars, lost to the U.S.S. Class of 2011.  We basked in our small triumph, and headed home to swim for approximately an hour.

At present, I am considerably tired; tomorrow (well, later today) is another day.  Good night!

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