Summers Put to Good Use

graphic: Elizabeth Teng

graphic: Elizabeth Teng

Whatever floats your boat

After spending a third of my summer attending a math class in preparation for the school year, I was ready to ditch the books and set sail … literally. Compared to sitting in a classroom for hours on end, chartering a sailboat in Rhode Island for a week seemed like a different world.

The temporary lifestyle of living off a 48-foot sailboat may sound either exceptionally appealing or terrifying depending on who you’re talking to, and it is in fact both as my siblings and I can attest.

At times the experience can be exhausting, filled with hours of laborious sailing to reach our various destinations. If it weren’t for our early-childhood exposure to sailing (and the motion sickness), the long and draining time on sea would turn into an absolute nightmare. After a long day, it can also be a struggle to sail into port and attempt to catch a mooring … which, if we’re lucky, takes fewer than five attempts. Then comes the difficulty of getting used to our cramped sleeping and living arrangements below deck, usually including one miniscule bathroom, one main cabin, and two smaller sleeping cabins for my family of five to squeeze into.

But instead of just focusing on the negative, my family and I have learned to embrace the benefits that come out of the experience. These vacations bring us closer as a family and take us to unique destinations. Sailing creates memories from small tasks such as cooking breakfasts onboard or even taking those three-minute showers to conserve water. But my favorite part of these trips is the beautiful views from the boat. There is nothing more stunning than the miles of ocean stretched over the horizon during a sailtime and nothing more relaxing than watching the sun set back into the inky black water at port. While life on a boat may appear to be uncomfortable and demanding, it is a great opportunity to let loose in beautiful surroundings. –By Marysia Kaminska

Taking it to the max

graphic: Elizabeth Teng

graphic: Elizabeth Teng

Many students look forward to the summer as a time to relax after a stressful year. When making fun summer plans, most people don’t think of sweat dripping into their eyes, swimming miles with a horde of people behind them, or three soccer practices a day. However, that is exactly what I thought of, and those plans became a reality for me this summer.

I was coming off a series of injuries that prevented me from playing soccer, swimming, or doing any other physical activity for almost six months in the latter half of 2013. According to runnersconnect.net, after only three months of not running, athletes will experience 25 percent or more decrease in their maximal oxygen consumption and a significant decrease in muscle power.

My summer was planned for the sole purpose of recovering the considerable amount of VO2 max (maximal oxygen intake) that I had lost in 2013. Whether it was getting up at 8 a.m. to swim laps at DeNunzio, the Princeton University pool, waking up at 7 a.m. for the first practice out of three per day at a college soccer camp, or waking up at 4:45 a.m. for a triathlon, my summer was anything but relaxing by normal standards.

Motivation for extended hours of training and waking up early in the morning was not difficult to come by. In the face of extremely competitive matches, the most elementary way for me to contribute to my teams is to be in great physical shape. The historical success of PHS sports is not only due to the great coaches and facilities, but also to the individual effort that students give off the field. I felt obligated to be as prepared as possible for the upcoming soccer and swimming seasons. This sense of responsibility pushed me to wake up at ungodly hours and to continue my vigorous training every day.

Despite the discomfort of having my heart beating at over 150 beats per minute for hours and the occasional excruciating dehydration, I think that I have surpassed my VO2 max from before my extended respite. The boys soccer team is always under pressure to do well. The boys swimming team will have to rebound after a tough loss in the state final last year and the loss of many key swimmers. But after this summer, I can say that I am ready for these challenges. –By Mark Petrovic

Discovering Dreams

Summer break … That period of relief when we realize that we can sleep in a little bit longer, or maybe watch TV for a little more time. For me, it is a time when I can finally take my foot off the accelerator. Every summer, my family and I visit relatives and friends in India. This year, I was looking forward to relaxing—spending time in the pool, at the beach, or with cousins. My family had planned for my brother and me to spend time with our extended family while my mom volunteered at the art department of a special needs school. I wasn’t planning on joining her, but I soon looked at the website and thought I would tag along. The school, called the Spastic Society of Karnataka, provides kids who have mental or physical disabilities—anything from cerebral palsy to autism—with an education. The fear of not being able to communicate with the students left me apprehensive, but it didn’t take long for the kids to open up, and very soon after, they showed me so much warmth and affection that I felt like more of a friend than a teacher.

For most of the school children, things that come easily to me, like the alphabet and naming animals, were a challenge; however, they truly enjoyed learning, and even with so much difficulty, they showed genuine dedication. I remember how some kids were struggling to remember what came after five when the class was asked to write down the numbers one through 14, but they persevered, asked us for help, and tried again. Some of the kids I worked with used wheelchairs, and were unable to play sports or walk like some of their other peers could. Instead of being upset about not being able to participate, they would enthusiastically cheer on their friends during their cricket or basketball games. I was very impressed at how they never decided to give up. If the kids who were playing fell, they would brush it off and get back up again.

Just as the kids were learning, I felt like I was learning along with them because working with the kids gave me more of an insight into the disorder of cerebral palsy. Biology has always been something I’ve been interested in studying. I didn’t know much about the disability at all before, but after seeing the physical trainers and talking to the teachers, I understood more about the way the disorder works, learned how it is diagnosed and treated, and saw firsthand how it affected people in different ways. By the end of my time there, I unexpectedly learned so much more about the muscular system and the nervous system. My experience there has helped me shape what I want to study in the future.

I often take for granted the things I was born with—a great school, the ability to learn without much disruption, being able to afford an education, the ability to walk … but these kids didn’t always have that, and to see how positively they dealt with it all was inspiring.

There is so much I can learn from them, from their perseverant attitude to their ability to accept people for who they are. I didn’t expect my time volunteering to lead to anything bigger, or shape my thinking in any way. Summer for me has always been about doing work or relaxing, getting a head start on school or doing something I love. This summer, through working with the kids and learning more about disorders, I found that it was possible to have a great balance of both. –By Lopa Krishnan

 

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