Aoife’s trip to the US: Week one

Week one: Settling in.

A dream of mine has always been to visit the states and my PhD fieldwork presented the opportunity for me to do just that.  I arrived in Boston on April 2nd and stay here until the 30th.  When I was in Dublin airport, I shocked with how unexcited I was about going but in reality it was the mix of another long haul flight, extreme tiredness (I was still very jet lagged from China) and nervousness that prevented me from being excited about a life-long dream coming to fruition. However, as soon as we landed and got our suitcases (which took forever), we hopped in a taxi and drove through the streets of Boston and Cambridge.  At this point, it hit, I am actually in the states-finally!  Ever, since that moment, I have felt very much at home here, like nowhere before.  It’s a lovely city to navigate around, transport is good and the people are lovely, always helpful and kind.

During  the first week, I met up with and interviewed some amazing people from the City of Boston, who all really helped me get to grips with how emergency response works in Boston and how much of a risk Boston is to flood events.  In between getting my bearings, going to interviews, trying all the American food I had heard about on TV and writing a presentation I found myself absolutely exhausted, which left very little time to explore and shop.   However, on the Saturday myself and 3 other members of my team went to the Skywalk in Prudential Tower.  It gave us a full view of Boston and its surrounding areas and it really illuminated how small Boston is in terms of America’s other cities.

So, what have I learned so far about Boston:

  1. It feels almost like home. It is very European and certainly doesn’t feel like a major American city. This in itself is a triumph for a city to be able to keep that homely and welcoming feel even with so many iconic universities and it being  a major tourist destination.
  2. Harvard and MIT are amazing. As a PhD student, I was in awe of these institutions and I was quite lucky to attend a seminar in MIT, where ironically the PowerPoint momentarily failed. If it can happen in MIT, it is ok that it all too regularly happens in Maynooth.
  3. The food is pretty good, although fresh food is really expensive which is a contributing factor to the growing obesity levels in the states today.
  4. Boston City is tiny and is surrounded by a number of other cities. For instance, Cambridge and Boston are separated by the River Charles and yet are autonomous cities.  In the context of Dublin, this would be like making South and North Dublin separate cities with the Liffey acting as the border.
  5. Anyone who knows me knows that I (un)fortunately like to shop and that Penneys/Primark is an absolute go to for me. So, I was super excited to go to America’s first Primark in Boston. It was like Santa’s grotto for me. Four huge floors full to brim of clothes, shoes and make-up.  I easily could have spent all day in there and spent all my money but I restricted myself to about 30 minutes and $70. However, I will be going back.  The stock is the same as at home but there is just so much more of it.
  6. My final thought is how tolerant of joggers they are here. A number of times, cars have stopped when I have had the red light to let me cross so that my run wasn’t interrupted.  I have also had people move out of my way on the sidewalk and encourage me.  This rarely, if ever, happens in Ireland and it is nice to feel welcome as a jogger rather than a nuisance.  I wonder though if it is because of the strong connection they have to running and jogging due to the Boston marathon, which by the way is a massive event here.  It is so much bigger than I ever expected but more on that in a couple of weeks.

So, I am going to leave it there as my bus to New York is pulling up but my next post will be on week 2 and will include my ride along with Boston’s Ambulance Service and my trip to New York.

Aoife.

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