I was never one to travel until quite recently. Throughout my life and college, I never had the time nor money to travel. I hated taking off from work, I had too many responsibilities, and I just couldn’t part from my precious meticulously detailed schedule of daily appointments. I sort of had it with that lifestyle so I went abroad for two months. During my depressing flights home, all I could think about was where am I going next? I decided on Europe as a future ‘big trip’ but I’ll try and take several smaller trips to see my own country with whom I have a love/hate relationship.
The most recent destination was Boston, or should I say Bawstun. I heard nothing but great things about the city and several people told me that I would “totally love it!!” I had been peeking at schools in the area for potential grad programs (after all, there are about 70 higher education institutions in the area).
I took 10 flights this summer and I realized that every flight and airport experience was foreshadowing my future experiences in that city. For example, our flight to Ukraine was disorderly with horrible food options was a reflection on our horrible experiences with airport in the city of Kiev. Meanwhile, our flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand was pleasant. Not only did we have some of the best veggie fried rice on the planet, but the service was outstanding and the flight attendants were picture perfect and were so sweet. That was a reflection of our many delicious food escapades to be had and excruciatingly kind Thai people we were about to encounter. During my flight to China, I noticed that everyone was loud and small and congregated in a disorganized line. They pushed and shoved and didn’t have any rules against ‘cutting’ in line. During my flight to Korea, the flight attendant handed me papers in Korean and she asked me what I would like to drink in Korean. I got a curious look from here when I asked for immigration forms in English and said ‘water’ (I now know it’s 물 or mul), but that experience was foreshadowing the many confusing looks I will get during my stay in Korea. Last but not least, my flights within America were depressing. I expressed this in past entries, but I will reiterate many passengers were fat and complaining, the food was awful, and the flight attendants were angry and had no patience. However, my flight from Korea to Hawaii was pleasant because it was with Korean Air.
Now my flight to Boston went well. I was excited with my small carry-on packed with nothing but winter clothes. Many people we wearing hoodies representing one of the many universities such as Boston University or Harvard. I saw students reading/cramming, a professor-looking person editing a research paper about H1N1 on his laptop, and several people speaking with a Bawstun accent. I sat right next to the flight attendant in the exit row. We had a great conversation about his profession of over 20 years. He specializes in international flights. He told me about all of the cities he has been to dozens of times. He recommends Munich and Barcelona. He said nothing but great things about Boston, but he thinks I’ll like San Francisco the most. His lifestyle is challenging but he loves his job. In the perfect world, I’d like to be a flight attendant for a few years. They put you up in a hotel and you get to explore new places, expenses paid! My sleep schedule is nonexistent anyway. However, I think I’ll do better in another career but that can always be a Plan C.
I got there at 1:00am. I decided to “sleep” in the airport until the first T (subway) was available. I couldn’t sleep much but I did notice a creepy guy walking around me and then standing behind me with gloves so I decided to tail out of that situation like the independent female traveler I am. That experience did creep me out and I started to worry about traveling alone, but it just reinforced the fact that I need to be extra cautious.
I didn’t end up needing to be very cautious because I found Boston to be a very safe city. I supposed it is because I didn’t go to the ‘bad’ areas, but that comes with every big city. I suppose Jacksonville certainly got that memo.
I stayed with a friend from East Brunswick. Watching her and her roommate cram for the GREs served as a reminder that I need to intensely study, not do the nonchalant version of studying like I have been doing for the past few months. She showed me a good time around Allston throughout the nights.
I set out with my 7-day Charlie pass (for the T) and explored Boston by foot. I actually randomly jumped on a bus that took me to Harvard Square where I explored Harvard and MIT. While some students appeared to be a bit snoody at Harvard, the MIT students were downright nerds and I couldn’t have loved it more. I totally walked around and into buildings pretending I was a student. I fit in because there were 50% white people and 50% Asian people there. Cambridge was really lovely. I walked around other universities like Northeastern which I liked a lot. I did not enjoy the commuter campus of UMass-Boston at all. I went to a commuter university and I am positive that I am over it.
While it was unusually hot the first day I arrived, the days got colder and colder. I was dying one particular night in the 40s knowing that it’ll only get worse. I persevered through the cold because I knew the locals didn’t think it was bad; my view on traveling is to pretend you’re a local. It’s also hard to say because a good proportion of Boston residents are transplants from other parts of the country – to escape the shitty state of Florida to move to further your education, for example. I enjoyed the brisk weather at the Boston Commons, the Esplanade, and the Public Gardens. These Boston Commons was full of relaxing students having picnics, young families taking photos of their children, and business men taking naps on their lunch breaks. I frequented that park via the Park Street T stop every day. The Esplanade is a long strip along the Charles River. You see people bicycling and jogging down the lanes, enjoying the scenic views and refreshing breeze. I love outdoor activities so these places were highlights.
I went to the Boston Vegetarian Festival. Twice. I got hundreds of delicious free samples and filled my brain with some good information. The place was jam packed with people so I headed out after filling up with delicious vegan food.
One of the highlights was the Boston Korean Adoptees film festival. I met up with a Korean adoptee in Somerville and we ventured together to UMass for the first film, First Person Plural. It was a great film and I highly recommend it. The director, Deann Borshay Liem, was in attendance and she did a Q&A afterward. I think she is beautiful, articulate, and inspiring! The following day I watched Resilience again (brilliant!) and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (incredible!).
Like the Gathering, there were social events afterward. There was no shortage of Korean food, soju, and singing at a noraebang (karaoke).
It was nice to be around adoptees again.
I won’t go into details about my explorations but I had a great time as a solo traveler in a new city. I got off at random subway stops and explored the area. I got lost in the quaint neighborhoods in the Italian district and met some interesting people.