Hi all! I have been super busy getting to know the city, setting myself up at the MIT, and I even saw the first snow already. But today I managed to wind down a little and try to get this post ready before Tuesday ends here in the East Coast. The first weekend was amazing and it left me so happy to be here, let’s see how it went for me?
After the hard goodbyes, that I tried to make as light as possible, I was ready to embark on this lifechanging adventure. Fortunately I had other 5 colleagues with me from the PhD program flying on the same flight, so we shared our hopes and worries before boarding. I soon learned I was wearing way too many clothes, I was steaming! This resulted in lots of clothes by my waist, which is not so practical. Spoiler alert: a post about what to pack for a year in the US will be coming soon!
As I sat down, I met a very lovely American lady from Los Angeles, let’s call her G. She told me I’d love Boston and gave me some tips about L.A. Whilst I was aprehensive with the move, everyone had been telling me great things about Boston, so I was a bit more relaxed. The flight was long, 8h in the plane is a bit nervewracking! I managed to write three blogposts about my Intra Rail in Beira Baixa railway (coming live this week still hopefully) before battery ended, and then I watched a ridiculous comedy called The Campaign, which is a total satire about politics and some of the things that show up in the movie are not that far from real life, which is pretty intelligent. I also started watching again Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because I had plans to watch the Quidditch practice of the MIT team on Sunday. Later more details on that.
As I landed in Boston at about 6PM local time, I felt so much excitement, but still some worry. Will my bag be here or is it gone? Will it take too long on the passport controls? Will I be able to get roaming? Luckily everything went fine, except for the roaming, but there’s free WiFi everywhere and I managed to communicate with my flatmate on Whatsapp. I was so happy when I finally met my flatmate, N., at Central Square, Cambridge. I live in the area and this neighborhood is the best. I’m super in love! Plus, it’s only 20 minutes by foot away from my office at the MIT, so even with light snow I can do it without worries.
After chatting with N. for a while, I went to bed and I woke up crazy early, at 5:30 AM on a Saturday. The sun was already starting to rise, I looked at the phone and the outside temperature was -7ºC/19ºF! Oh my, I was so grateful for my warm house then! I managed to run some errands at home and rest a bit more before I finally left to explore the neighborhood and buy some food. The morning was crazy sunny, it was not that cold anymore (about -2ºC/28ºF) and the wooden houses reminded me so much of Norway. I also was finding every plate so lovely, every little detail, and piece of history. This neighborhood is connected to some facts of the Civil War of 1812 and I can’t wait to know more about it! But now, time for pictures.
One of the closest supermarkets to my house is Trader Joes. I really like the style of this supermarket and had already heard about it during my Blogilates workouts. The design and effort put into beautiful packaging for the products is awesome! However, the fruit could be cheaper. I bought just some basic stuff, only vegetarian, and ended up spending $26 for things that in Portugal would cost half the price. No wonder when an apple costs $0.70!
After I ate some breakfast, I just kept on exploring and went to Central Square. I took a different street and found out that the neighborhood is full of churches. Presbiterian, Baptist, Korean, Greek Orthodox, such a diversity in Christian traditions is something I wouldn’t see at all in Portugal. And in all these beautiful houses and blue skies, I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
Lunchtime was approaching and a student from my group who is already here volunteered herself to make us a guided tour of MIT. Since it was on the way, before the meeting hour, I went to the MIT Sports Centre to know if I could use the gym already, and to watch like half an hour of the Quidditch practice that I found out had been moved to Saturday afternoon. The gym equipments are free of charge for students and you know how much I need exercise to keep my balance. However, I was told only after I made my registration would I be able to use it. I was also told the Quidditch would be on Sunday, which was wrong. But nothing prepared me for what I saw.
There’s a figure skating competition going on! FREE OF CHARGE!
AAAAHHH! I couldn’t believe it, my dream would come true sooner that I thought. The East Coast Collegiate Championships were going on Saturday and Sunday. Since I had to leave to the MIT tour, I vowed myself to attend on Sunday. But now let’s get to know the sports area of MIT.
In our tour of the MIT, we also had a former BSc colleague who was a student here and was there to visit join us. Our guides were really helpful and taught us some interesting facts about the life in MIT: the corridors and tunnels that connect all the buildings, which is very useful when it snows; the Muddy Charles Pub, which has free chicken wings at dinner time every Wednesday; the sailing club, where you can learn how to ride a boat for free in three lessons so that we can rent our boats in the Summer; the free campus tours provided by students, and many other. As we walked by River Charles, I was amazed with the stunning view to the skyscrapers in the south margin of the river. We were told that one of the towers, Prudential Tower, is possible to go up to both during day and night to get the best views from the city. Maybe I’ll go there, let’s see.
Before I came to the MIT, a colleague told me I should join the Free Food mailing list. Yes, you can eat absolutely for free if you’re an MIT student. The food is often not healthy but once in a while it won’t hurt and your wallet will love it. I had seen there was a talk about recycling in one of the dorms (fortunately it was the dorm of one of my colleagues) that had free food at dinner time. It had some sandwiches, brownies and cookies. It was pretty satisfying and left me fed enough to go to bed and try to beat the jet lag. I had to rest, since next day we already a guided tour by one of the MIT tour hosts of Downtown Boston.
Sunday morning showed up a bit cloudy but still amazing. Before going to the tour I went to a drugstore in the neighborhood, so there were more chances to photograph the beautiful houses! Look at how cute they are!
Americans are known to make a lot of small talk. However, I did not expect a lady stopping by, after looking at my Trader Joes bag, to ask me about the super market and if I liked the food there. It was quite cute and these details make our days better. 🙂
Our meeting point was in Kendall Square metro and it was only one station away from me, so I walked down Massachusetts Avenue and loved it! Here you can totally see the free spirited Cambridge and I can’t wait to go into the narrow streets and photograph the street art that I only saw by the side of Mass Av. I also got to see cute restaurants, a car repair like I imagined from the movies, and also other churches.
We got out in Downtown Crossing and we got to know an area that harbored many important historical events for the city, like the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the beginning of the Midnight Ride in 1775 that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. We visited streets close to the famous Freedom Trail, which has to be done on another occasion. This area is a mix of historical buildings and modern ones with some luxurious traits as well. We walked till the Aquarium and hang out by the dock, which was full of seagulls, anouncing a coming change of weather.
Most of my colleagues stayed in the area, but remember I said I was going to go to the Figure Skating competition at the MIT? So I kept my vow. I was quite emotional for finally witnessing my favorite sport live. I watched the Free Skating event of the ladies almost in its entirety and, while this was a collegiate competition without skaters competing internationally, the level was quite good. I was touching by seeing quite good spinners that could challenge the international skaters on this level, girls challenging the body stereotypes and princessy looks that used to be the norm for female skaters, and a girl that was able to make a three-jump combination. However, what impressed me most was a girl that fell three times during the warmup and appeared injured. She was crying on the ice and her thigh had a quite large burn from the ice. When it was her turn to go, she held her own and did a quite good routine to The Nutcracker (one of the figure skating warhorses, but one of my favorite classical music pieces), only falling at the end. I got into my fearless mode and went on to congratulate her on her massive effort, great fight! For your amusement, here are some pictures.
This was a quite long session during lunchtime and I ate so little. However, there was no time to rest from sport! February 5th was the Super Bowl LI finale and the local team, the New England Patriots, was running for the title against the Atlanta Falcons. And there was an event with free pizza and ice cream at another MIT dorm. We stayed there until half time, thinking that the game was completely lost for the Patriots (they were losing 21-3) but little did we know that the Patriots would make a massive come back and win 34-28 after an over time! I live in a very calm area so I didn’t hear any partying but a colleague who lives closer to the downtown said that it was crazy with fireworks and everyone on the streets celebrating the massive feat. Actually, as I write this on February 7th, today there was a parade to welcome the champions in Downtown Boston. However, work meetings and lots of snow prevented me from going. Such a pity!
As you can see, these times have been busy, but I hope you got as enchanted about Cambridge and Boston as I. There is still a ton to see and do and I already have some plans for the next weekend. But first, start working on my project here and releasing a new post about it. Keep on following for updates and tips about Boston from a foreigner point of view!