What are we doing?

Currently, I (Joost), am doing my internship at the IBM Watson Research Center in New York. Katie came along for the first two months of my stay in the small town of Briarcliff Manor. As an applied mathematician in the energy analytics department, I am working on a multigrid gradient-based optimization method for parameter estimation in inverse problems. Or, in normal English, attempting to reconstruct the properties of an underground reservoir with limited information. Regardless, I enjoy working in the challenging environment that IBM has to offer! Katie spent many hours changing diapers, baking chicken nuggets and driving a minivan while nannying for the family who owns our house.

On our weekly trips into Manhattan together, we experienced the many sights and adventures that New York has to offer. We found our way to the top of the Empire State Building, fell silent in the overwhelming sight of Times Square on a Saturday night (at least I did–Katie is never silent) and explored Central Park in our running-outfits. We learned our way around in the West Village, The Meat Packing District and Chelsea, and eventually mastered the art of driving in New York City. An honorable mention goes out to the Museum of Natural History, where I came back several times to gasp at the meteorites and chill with the dinosaurs. In light of our joined passion to hike and run, we spent many hours in upstate New York, hiking Bear Mountain and the Appalachian trail. We also roadtripped out to the Hamptons to run my first half marathon together.

Katie recently returned home to Minnesota to work the holiday retail season and save money–New York living ain’t cheap!

When my internship ends at the end of November, I will travel back to Minnesota to prepare for our next adventure in Tanzania. While fundraising, stocking up on bug spray and anti-diarrhea medicine and brainstorming some of our plans for our volunteer work, we also get to celebrate Christmas together. With a short stop in The Netherlands to meet some friends and family, the journey to the Mailisita school in Tanzania will take place in January 2013. For me it will be a whole new experience, whereas Katie has had the chance to visit the country before. Many hours were spent talking about Africa’s future, poverty in general and ‘making a difference.’ We are both very excited to put our ideas into practice, and, for me personally, experience first-hand what making a difference means.

In Tanzania, we will be doing a variety of projects. A lot of what we will be doing is based on what the needs are when we arrive. Katie says there is a common phrase, ‘TIA. This Is Africa.’ It means that Africa is unpredictable; time does not move in the same sense; anything can, and probably will, happen. However, we’ve got a couple of ideas so far: I will be conducting research into the feasibility of microfinancing for things like small farmers or women in the village. I will also be teaching courses involving finances and tutoring math. Katie hopes to do some public health education, start extracurriculars for the students (art, choir and a running club) and tutor the local women in the village in English. Our overall hope is that we will be able to integrate the school into the surrounding area by helping to provide jobs to the villagers and creating sustainable relationships.

When the time comes to leave Tanzania, we will make our way back to The Netherlands to move on to our next itinerary stop: Delft, The Netherlands. Here, I will make the necessary preparations for the last part of my Masters degree: writing a thesis. I will be working at the software development center of Schlumberger (or Slumburger, as Katie likes to call it): an international oilfield service provider. From April to October we will be together in the United Kingdom, just outside of Oxford. Katie is in the process of researching internships and short term job opportunities outside of London with nonprofit organizations and human rights activists. In our effort to run a race in every country we visit, a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, has been added to our travel plans. By the end of 2013, after a short period back in The Netherlands, I hope to have earned my Eng. title so that we can move on to our next adventure, wherever and whatever that may be!


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