Thursday, 18 May 2017

Last Day of our Trip - A Visit to Spectacle Island

It is strange that the final day of our trip turned out to be the hottest. The final tally on temperature was 33°C. In the center of town where everything is either tarmac or stone slabs, it must have been at least 40°C come midday as the stones have heated up so much, they radiated heat from the bottom, as well. It was not pleasant.

What better plan than to leave the city and flee to one of the small islands in the bay. The one island that was reachable by ferry before the official start of summer is called Spectacle Island, which is a bit more than 6 km away from the shore.


This island used to be a landfill site until 1992 when the city of Boston started a megaproject known as the Big Dig. During that project, the interstate 93 highway, which ran through the city was re-routed through a newly-built tunnel and overall the traffic in the center was attempted to be de-congested.

One offshoot of this project was the change of Spectacle island from a landfill site, to a park area with a marina, green areas and walking trails. After 3 weeks in some of the biggest cities in the United States, we felt that a little time in the green was warranted, and let me tell you, it felt gooooood.

Not many people were there. I assume during the summer seasons, you have quite a few families coming over. When we went there were less than 30 people. The island is not big, so there is not that much space for people, but 30 is nothing.
We went on a small hike around the circumference which took us ca. 45 minutes, so yea, the island is small, but this is what we were after, after 3 weeks of skyscrapers, tallest this, biggest that, fastest here, widest there. It was quite hot, but the breeze on the island was very welcome. So we spent the morning and early afternoon there with either walking or relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet.

3 weeks of America's finest junk food has left its marks on my belly








For the second part of the day, we took the train once more to Salem where we met up with Al, Hilary, Angus and Cuilin to have another little chat and say our goodbyes before we made our way back to our basement cave to ready ourselves for our trip back to the old country.

Tomorrow will be tough, we will leave here at 17:00, fly 7 hours, arrive at 6:00 CET, which will be for us midnight, and then we will have to drive another 5 hours home to Belgium. Let's see how that pans out ;)

It was a good trip and as usual, writing this little journal helped me structure my thoughts around all the things that we experienced during our time here in the US. With this, I shall end my entries to this blog until most likely our next trip to a foreign land.

Take care, guys, and thanks for reading :)

Johannes

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Mapparium and a warm day in sunny Boston

To start off the day, we went to the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston to finally see the Mapparium. I honestly thought it would be a bit of a tour, but it only took 15 minutes. Nonetheless, they were very cool 15 minutes. I was not allowed to take pictures, so I have to show below an image from the interweb.


The mapparium is a representation of the earth that is to scale (damn Africa is big!) and it shows the borders in 1935. Very cool to see. The acoustics in this place were quite spectacular. The glass panes reflected almost everything unlike for example curtains that absorb sound. As a consequence, a whisper on one side of the room can be heard clear as day on the other side. In the center of the globe, you can hear your own voice like it is Dolby Surround Sound. Very creepy :) I asked if I can use a torch to check if light follows a similar reflection pattern... unfortunately the woman who opened the room to the Mapparium for us did not allow it :-(

Afterwards, we went hunting for souvenirs. As you may or may not know, Isi and I always buy something from the city. Usually a thing that represents the city like a building, such as a miniature Eiffel Tower for Paris. Boston does not really have anything, so we went to every souvenir shop, we could find... No luck.

At lunch, we met up with my friend Al again near his work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a place called Friendly Toast to chat and maybe also get some more ideas. For that we walked from Boston over the bay to Cambridge (the town of MIT and Harvard).
The place we ate at did something so American, I had to try it, although it was a heart attack on a platter. Get this: Fried Chicken with Waffels on mashed sweet potatoes doused in maple syrup and sour creme. It was delicous  yet at the same time I felt my arteries seize in cholesterol shock.

Chicken & Waffles
After this tiny, major lunch we needed to get back into Boston to hunt for more souvenirs, but our stomachs were so full, we could hardly move... oh and the fact that it was 30°C did not help. Yep, you heard right, the weather went from 14°C two days ago to 30°C!?!?!?! Half way into town we rested in Boston Commons again just to digest, the food was that heavy.

30°C on the bridge between Boston and Cambridge
We eventually found a small tiny boat in a bottle signifying one of the ships from which the tea was thrown into the harbour during the Boston Tea Party. It seemed the most Bostony thing next to a T-Shirt of Harvard or MIT or sports apparel showing the Celtics, Bruins or Red Sox was that bottled ship.

To round off the day, we went for a quick drink in a place called the Sunset Grill in Brookline (not Boston center). I made sure this time that I had my passport with me, just so that they would not check it, which they did not, of course.
We went to the Sunset Grill, because they were known to have about 400 beers many of which are American. Nicely enough, they also had something called a Flight, which is 4 half-beers essentially. The last time I had this was in California when I was there for work, but we just chose 4. Here they gave me a piece of paper where I also had to note the "Flight Destination".

I duly obeyed and while I was at it, I also wanted to give it a flight number. It was four beers, so I rated them out of 10 and the numbers together will give the flight number. Thus we had Destination: "European Stomach - Flight #: ES 9454" :-)

Flight Number ES 9454
With the beer drinking completed and having watched the Celtics getting pummeled at home by the Cavs in their play-off game, we were satisfied to go home and get ready for our last full day in the US, where we will take a ferry out to Spectacle Island to go and walk the circumeference of 2.5 miles. My knees have been giving me quite a bit of grief lately, so I hope they will hold up for this.

With this, good night to y'all - Vogel out.

Flight of beer - Flight Destination European Stomach, Flight Number ES9454

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Whale watching without the whales

The sun finally showed its ugly hide today :-) Sunny 25°C and whatever that is in °F here. Good timing considering that we were doing some whale watching today.

Boston has a rather large conservatory for whales directly off shore. In an area called the "Stellwagen" several different whales stay during their feeding season as it is an area rich in zooplankton and phytoplankton and it is relatively unpolluted.

So we set off in a comparatively large boat, but boy it was fast. We went about 20-30 miles off the coast into this area to find the whales. The weather was very good, clear blue skies, but the previous 3-4 days, there was no ship going out to sea because of bad weather, so it was unclear where exactly the whales will have gone to.

The boat on the right is the one we set off in
As is usual with these tours, the crew was extremely professional and knowledgeable. The staff caring for the passengers are employees and researchers at the New England Aquarium in Boston, so they knew their stuff. So as we took about 90 minutes to get out there, they regularly gave us information on fauna and flora of the sea, while also giving us updates on what they are looking for, etc.

The sea was calm (in my opinion), but Isi was nearly sick, so she stayed at the back where the wind and the waves were minimal. According to her, several people were violently sick during the trip, but she told me in a type of strange pride that she was not sick, throughout the entire journey.

I love the waves, I do enjoy the up and down of the boat when speeding over open sea. Watching the waves while moving has a certain hypnotic effect on me and I can switch my brain off. There are not too many things that can do that...

Isi in her calm spot at the quarterdeck. She did not vomit during this trip. Can you see the smug pride, she displays, because of this fact?
Unfortunately, though, during the entire trip, there were only single sightings of a whale in the distance, but nothing more. There was only one whale that was really sighted from afar, a North Atlantic Right Whale. Sadly for us... and the leviathan of a creature, I guess, we were not allowed to approach it, as it is an endangered species (less than 500 of its kind survive), so there are strict rules about the conduct.

I missed every single sighting as there was either always someone in my line of sight or I was on the wrong side of the boat. I probably moved around, too much. Isi saw one, I did not :-(. Ah well, you win some and you lose some.
In the eyes of the crew, these few sightings are considered "no sighting", so they awarded each passenger a rain check ticket, which means that they can come back free of charge and the ticket is valid as long as the tours exist. Not sure, when we will be back, but I would like to see me some whales some day. This was the second try, after New Zealand. In NZ, we did not even go off shore as the weather was bad, at least this time we managed to go out on the water ;-) Third time is the charm, I guess. I do not mind, though. I like being out on the water...

This incompetent fool did not catch a single glimpse of a whale. Maybe he should look where the camera is pointing...
After we came back in the afternoon, we made our way to the Boston Commons, a big park area in the center of Boston, where we relaxed in the sun for a bit. I say relax, what I meant was, we fell asleep on the lawn in the shade of a tree near a pond. As usual, I was apparently snoring, but luckily my wallet was not stolen as a form of punishment to this acoustic crime.

Refreshed after an enjoyable snore in the park
By the way, one thing, that I observed quite a lot in American City Parks is the huge abundance of grey squirrels. Judging by the sheer numbers, I could actually imagine them to be a plague here.
They are everywhere and not afraid "at all". When I stopped in front of one to make pictures, it actually waited for me and came closer, because I knelt down. It obviously expected that I gave food or something like that. The only danger they really accept and see is dogs, but that's what trees are for.

This little fella looked as expectantly at me as I was at him. I got want I wanted, he did not. hehe...
Anyhow, a very cool day, despite the lack of whales. This leaves two more days before we leave for home. We have one more journey to the islands planned and meeting our friends one more time, however, I must say, I am ready to go back home. I have already gathered a lot of impressions of a place that is similar to home, but very different in many ways. There is a lot for me to reflect about.



Wedding anniversary

15th May is Isi and my wedding anniversary. This year marked our 7th year as a married couple and I can tell you that it seems to get better with each year :)

Luckily, the sun has finally decided to come out now and again and it was dry. We started slow as usual and went into the centre of Boston to see the Mapparium... to be honest, I have no idea what it is, and on that day we did not find out, as we chose the one day of the week, where it was closed. We will come back though :)

Thinking on our feet, we decided to go and see the Harvard Campus instead. I was not sure what to expect from Harvard. The name has been built up to be so big, it can only disappoint.

Sometimes, when you go somewhere the strangest things can be seen as omens. The two endstations on the red metro line that leads to Harvard campus are Braintree and Alewife. If you consider this straight line with various stops a spectrum, would you think Harvard is closer to Braintree or Alewife?

Judging by the long list of Nobel Prize Laureates from Harvard, you would think it is closer to Braintree, but, of course, it is a university, so it is only 3 stops away from Alewife. If this can be considered a sign, it would tell me that university and the consumption of alcoholic beverages go hand in hand ;-)

So we arrive at Harvard campus and the first thing we see is a building site, not a good start in my books. Shortly after we found the office from which the free tours of the campus starts and lo and behold within a couple of minutes, we were away from the building sites and onto greenery and old houses.

The green campus of Harvard University

Before I tell you of the tour, a couple of things to bear in mind. The person giving the tour was a student who was about to graduate from Harvard and the tour was targeted at parents and their soon to be students who consider going to Harvard.

With this in mind, a couple of surprises for me. Harvard is not a big university, in fact, it is distinctly medium in size and apparently they want it this way to keep the personal touch. It was emphasised several times that the Professors want to get to know each and every one of their students during classes and in the evenings when they have dinners and so on. From the viewpoint of a professional, this sounds like quite an obligation that leaves little time for the family.

The library of Harvard University

Next surprise, Harvard assesses the income of the parents for each student and checks how much the parents can support the student. If Harvard has decided to take you on as a student, but your parents cannot support you, they will support you financially 100%.
I do not know how this works out in reality, but the sceptic in me finds this a nice touch for the parents who are looking for a caring home for their child. During the tour, Harvard was portrayed a bit like the caring father-figure (or mother figure) during your studies away from home.

Bottom line from what I heard, Harvard creates an excellent springboard for your future career by exposing you to different disciplines not just the chosen one (it is mandatory to choose one subject each from 7 different pillars like science, languages, etc.), forces you to create an extensive network by making you share dorms with people based on a preference questionnaire that you fill out to make sure you match well personality wise and if you have a special need study wise, they go out of their to fulfill it. All of this in a familiar atmosphere. I guess, they tried and tested this approach over several centuries.

During the tour, there was one anecdote that I found rather funny. In the middle of their campus, their is a statue of John Harvard, the founder, in 1638 (as it states on the plaque). The students call this statue the "Statue of 3 Lies", because

  1. John Harvard did not found Harvard university,
  2. The University was not founded in 1638, but in 1636 and
  3. probably most importantly, the statue does not depict John Harvard :-D

All in all, it was a nice trip to see Harvard, but all in all, both Isi and I were happy that we finished our studies. We both enjoyed our time at our respective Alma Maters, and therefore it was nice to see Harvard, but I did not feel that I missed out in any way.

The Statue of Three Lies


To round off the evening, we went to have a very nice in Brookline and then went into town for another drink or so, which is when we encountered a strange peculiarity of Boston center. We wanted to see a Comedy Night in a pub, but we were not allowed in because we could not produce our ID cards. They wanted to check if we are, in fact, over 21. They were not fazed when I told them, that I am 34 years old. I showed them my German ID, my driver's licence and my Belgian resident card, but because I did not have my passport with me, they would not allow me into the room.

The Nutella Banana Chimichanga - The dessert for our wedding anniversary


Very amused by this turn of events, I asked them what their concern was and their answer was "it is standard procedure", and they assured me that they check everyone below 50 years old. This little episode showed me again that giving small minded people power is a dangerous thing. Funnily enough, in the restaurant, I had a lovely Allagash white beer and a Kentucky Bourbon beer (fermented in a Bourbon barrel) which did not even require me to produce an ID.

Instead we went to a café to have a final ice tea before we went home, where my passport was lying on the bedside stand.

Our Last Ice Teas of the evening after our young appearances prevented us from getting served in the bars of Boston


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Boston Tea Party Museum and the Boston Public Library

For the first time since our arrival, we went into the center of Boston. As is customary for our arrival to a new US city, it was raining. Thankfully, the most rainfall happened during the night. This type of heavy rainfall even has a name in New England. It is called a 'Noreaster', which are strong short-lived rainfalls that fly in from the Atlantic on to the coastline.

Yup, it rained again
 
Thankfully, with some rearrangements of our bed, if I may dare to call it that, we slept fine and until late in the morning. I cannot remember the last time, I slept until 10:00am, but there we made it :-D

It left us with the last remnants in the morning in the form of heavy drizzle that kept on during the entire day. Therefore, we did not stay outside for too long. From what I could see, the center of Boston is kinda samey to New York and Chicago. Smaller, but still tall buildings, cleaner, though, and the Irish descendant population is less afraid to show their colours in form of Irish pubs and the like ;-)

Our first stop was the Boston Tea Party & Ships Museum. I was really interested in this part of US history as the term is being flung around quite heavily in current politics. The Republican Party has apparently a very strong wing that feels quite strong to this movement.

In the back, you can see the Boston Tea Party Museum

My first surprise (that Isi actually knew about) was that the museum tour was in fact a re-enactment that led to the events and they asked the audience to take part no less. It was very well done, with two actors who wore the garments of the time and animated the "mob" (audience) to feign outrage in form of shouts like "Fie!" and "Boo" with the appropriate hand gesture, as well as, shouts of agreements.

They also asked the audience to have some speaking roles. So I "donned the coat" of one Thomas Porter (a speaking role no less), who was outraged at the taxation of the British king for ink, paper and now even dice and playing cards. Given my gambling problem, I was very outraged. My friend Josiah Wheeler (Isi), a housewright, agreed with me strongly.

Here are the words of Thomas Porter that I had to shout into the crowd as an outraged and taxed gambler with withdrawal symptoms

The two actors were very adept at reconstructing the feeling that led to the events that transpired on the 10th December 1773. There was a lot of rage and anger in America towards the British King as they were heavily taxed for everything, but had no voice in the British parliament. Also the supposed protection of the colonies by the British was not there and they felt exposed. If anything the presence of the "red coats" felt more like they were being guarded and watched, not protected.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a decision by the British king to help the East India Trading Company to sell a large shipment of Tea free of taxation in America, which meant they would be able to undercut all competitors and sell at a huge profit at the same time.

This was discussed in a heated town debate (that we re-enacted) and it was then decided that they would storm the three ships that lay in harbour and break open the tea crates and drop the tea into the harbour. They had to do this anonymously as there were still loyalists among the population and so they stormed under the cover of night the ships, overwhelmed the 8 man strong crew (mostly adolescent boys) and dumped more than 400 crates of 500 pounds each into the water, sending the ships back empty handed.

One of the leaders of the "outraged rabble of patriots" showed us underdeck to see what a typical ship from the 18th century looked like
"This" was the event that would later be described as the "Boston Tea Party". As is often the case, it had nothing to with liberating the Americans from the English, they just felt unjustly treated and wanted a voice. England's response, however, caused one tiny step at a time, the start of the war of independence.

Still in character, I, Thomas Porter, dumped "tea" into the port in Boston

My dramatic partner in crime, Josiah Wheeler, was no less eager to drop some tea into the bay.


The oppressive behaviour of the English, who, let's be honest, until then was quite successful in entering a new land, butchering the people and taking it for themselves, was not exactly a behaviour that suited de-escalation. So, the British alienated even their loyalists and made the thus far separate states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, etc. join forces and for the first time call themselves Americans and fight for a common cause. Interestingly, the people leading the strike against the ships already called themselves patriots.

In the process of this tour, we then went onto a ship and looked at the interior, while angrily throwing tea crates into the water and then watching well made films on the developments that led up to the War of Independence.

Overall, this museum was fantastically done. Entertaining and informative at the same time. Now that I have seen how the US sees its own history, I understand a fair bit more about their behaviour. I always found it odd, that they threw around the words 'liberty' and 'freedom' so much, but I assume this story of liberation was told many times over in school and at uni and at every July 4th, I would imagine

After this first stop, we made our way to the Boston Public Library. Why would we do that? It is actually quite a nice and old building and it is one of the few buildings that are free to enter.

The lovely garden in the old part of the library. This makes a lovely spot to read during a sunny day.

Again, I was quite surprised, the BPL is actually a very modern and new building with a lot of actions that I strongly approve of. The modern part is actually annexed to the old part, so you have a building with glass facades that seamlessly goes over into a marble stone-floor staircase with frescos followed by a beautiful open sky garden in the center.

The staircase of the old part of the Boston Public Library.

The library is well equipped with modern PCs and from what I could see, there were regular adult learning programs of all kind in there, even python programming 101 course, as well as a vast library of books, CDs and DVDs. I was very impressed. If I had such a library at my fingertips, I might actually visit there now and again, as well.

Once we finished looking at the library, we made our way to Chinatown for some delicious dumplings and horrible service as we are used to from Asian restaurants on this side of the pond. Completely filled up and another meal worth of food in a box in our fridge, I shall now conclude this blog entry.

Good night :)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Salem - Beware of the Witches!!!

Isi and I woke up early, like very early with one wish and one wish only. A softer bed. We slept on what felt like a wooden plank covered in cloth. I usually judge how well I slept these days by checking how much I need to stretch. Nowadays, I can typically touch my toes fairly easily when standing up with my legs straight. The more stiff I am, the less I can lean forward. Today, I could hardly touch my knees, it was that bad.

We quickly decided to explore the possibility of buying cheap, inflatable mattresses to soften our beds. With this in mind and microwaved apple-cinnamon porridge in my stomach, we made our way to Boston's north station to go to Salem and meet Al and Hilary.

I was looking forward to meeting them again so much, as it has been more than 6 years since they have moved to Boston to find better jobs. Hilary grew up in these parts of the world and Al did not mind leaving Scotland behind on account of there being no jobs. Some of you may know that it is the exact same reason that I left bonny Scotland.

As it is habit between Al and myself, we readied ourselves for the occasion by consistently insult each other via WhatsApp. Just to give you a taste, here is the most recent exchange of pleasantries. I have so little chance to talk semi-offensive nonsense at work that I always look forward to this banter ;-)

WhatsApp Exchange
Me: We arrived in Massachussetts :)
Al: I thought I could sense and ungodly unrest
Me. Sorry. I had to fart around New Haven.
Me: We'll try to be in Salem with the train that'll arrive at 10:51
Al: Great. I shall gather the minions and meet you from said vessel
Me: Have you taught your minions to be mischievous yet?
Al: My minions need no such teachings.
Al: It is but second nature
Me: In this splendid case, I shall rest in the knowledge that your life is miserable and await the morrow
             
Al and Hilary are now parents to two wonderful sons, Cuilin (3 yrs) and Angus (1 yr), which is also the reason why it was fine to meet them early in the morning. For all of you non-parents out there (like myself actually). Bringing a child into the world seems to also mean that you bring an unreliable biological alarm clock into the world that tends to wake you somewhere between 5:00am and 7:00am on any given day of the week. You never know when but it will be earlier than you expect.

Al, Cuilin and myself (from right to left) pretending to be pirates
So they picked us up from the train station and we had a look at lovely Salem. Not sure, if you are familiar with the town, but it has made a name for itself in the year 1692 when it held several witch trials where they accused young women of being witches and subsequently hung them all except one woman that they buried under rocks and kept on piling more rocks on top of her until the weight crushed her body. There are still memorial stones in memory of these deaths in the small town.

This same Salem that was such a staunch defender of God's word and that consisted of faitful, god-fearing men has now turned into a bit of a Mecca for witchcraft, potions, curses and fortune-tellers. In the city center there are more shops about witchcraft than I have seen in all my life before that. Quite frankly, if I had an extra suitcase and a couple of grand to spare, I could have easily spent it on stuff in there. It was quite very awesome :)

Isabel fighting a lost cause in trying to tear open the shackles that hold this long deceased prisoner captive

Isi getting comfortable as a witch :-D
Apart from that it is one of those lovely and idyllic New England towns on the Atlantic coast that you know from many, many Hollywood movies. We strolled through the town and had a general browse while catching up about what has happened since the last time we saw each other. It is always difficult to pack the highlights of a six year period into a couple of hours ;)

One thing that came up, of course, is the effect that Donald Trump's presidency has on life in the US. I mean, I knew it was bad... but I did not know that it was 'that' bad. The change in the healthcare plan that the Trump administration is planning alone has the potential to either bankrupt people or leave them without any healthcare from one day to the next.
In Europe, you can definitely feel a gradual decline in offered healthcare services, but for the critical things, there is still a good support... in the US, it may change from basic care to nothing with one amendment from one day to the next.
It is a crazy and uncertain time to live in the USA at the moment, that is for sure.
Cuilin pretending to be Frankenstein. It was funny to see him combine a lot of Al's gesturing with Hilary's personality.

The toy vikings hats and drink horn/whistle combo was well-received. I wonder if Hilary will still secretly hate me soon, because I gave Cuilin these things.

Delirium elephant hats are always the way to go if not sure
After a meal together, we took a little trip with a bus like vehicle that gave us a tour of Salem with a bus guide telling us a bunch of anecdotes. Seeing the town itself was nice, but the tour guide was a little strange in my opinion.
He had a very strong New England accent and apparently he was a very typical person from this part of the world. Essentially, what I could make out, the tend not to say the 'r's too heavily, but instead extend the vowel, e.g. car is 'caaah'and he would randomly start shouting when he thought what he said was very important. So he gave us a bunch of stories, how Salem and their own were involved in fighting the English for independence and how there were so many kind, social acts that various citizens of Salem did for others, like creating a swimming pool for the workers adn letting them and their families use it for free and give them ice cream for free. While all these feats were very generous, they struck me as odd, because of for one thing, the stark contrast to today's political landscape in the US and also because they did not sound so laudable to me that you should still speak about them about 150 years later.
I was getting quite sleepy by that point so maybe I missed a couple of points. I just woke up everytime he raised his voice again ;)

In the end, the kids were getting tired, so we parted ways with them and decided to try and meet up again before we leave for home. Once back in Boston, we first went to a shop to look at the inflatable mattresses, realise that they are all a bit too expensive for our liking and decided to give it another try to night. Maybe tomorrow's back pain will give us more incentive to buy them ;-)

As a last thing, I wanted to watch a UFC event that is on pay-per-view, so we went to a pub to watch it there. Sadly, they did not show it :-(. The only pub that we could find that "may" show it, was half across town, so we left it and went back home to find out that we bought 3 tins of ready made food but had no can opener :-/ First off, well done, Johannes :-D and secondly, thank you USA for having 24/7 supermarkets where you can buy can openers for $6.99 :-)

The Trip to Boston

I would have really liked it for this post to be just about 3 sentences long, along the lines of "We set off early from Brooklyn to 42 Street and Port Authority. We arrived with the Greyhound in Boston in the afternoon and made our way to the appartment in Boston. We chilled the remaining day." - The End.

Unfortunately, our day was a little more exciting than we cared for. We had our bus leave NY at 10:00am, so to be safe, we left Bed-Stuy at 7:45am. To get to the Subway, it takes 15 minutes and then another 25-30 minutes with the A train and voilĂ , we are at the bus station...

Well, what we did not know was that in the train directly before the one we wanted to take, an event happened that triggered the below headline.

Dead man found in subway car

That's right! Please everyone raise their hand who saw that one coming. We did not! So at first all we heard was that the line is blocked off and no trains will go for awhile. So we said, well we have time, it'll be alright.
Then one message was sent through that is a bit confusing. It went a bit like this: "We are currently experiencing delays in our train service due to a sick man at Jay St - Metrotech station."

This confused us, because we really wondered how long it took to clear a sick man from a train car and carry on with the service. Please bear in mind that we were under way with our big luggages in the middle of rush hour, so we really did not fancy moving too quickly, but at some point we were told to circumvent the station. This was at 8:45am. So we had approx. 75 minutes to get to our bus station.
Now for those of you who are interested, I inserted a map of the relevant stations below. We were on the blue line at Utica Avenue (on the right hand side) and Jay St Metro Tech was locked off. Can you find the alternate route to 42 St Port Authority?
That's right instead of a direct link, we need to go 3 stops in the opposite direction to Broadway Junction, switch the grey line L train, go all the way to the end, all 16 stops, to 14 Str, switch back to the blue line and go 3 further stops on the blue line up to our destination... and we had 75 minutes.

Did I mention that everyone took that route. Everyone is every New Yorker from Brooklyn who had to take the Subway to work in Manhattan between 7:45 and 8:45. The subway stations typically do not have escalators, just stairs and we had our 21kg+ suit cases with us.

I knew this trip to the bus station would not be good, but wow this was the opposite of comfortable. At some point at Broadway Junction, we were stuck halfway up the stairs in precarious balance, because a young woman fell in the mob and was trampled. The police stepped in and warded her off from the rest of the crowd. Rough crowd, man.

In the end, after our brief life as sardines in a moving can, we made it to Port Authority with exactly 10 minutes to spare. Just to remind you, we left at 7:45am and arrived at 9:50am... we expected to be there by 8:20 or so! If someone "ever" complains that I am super early at the airport or what not, I will just send a link to this entry by phone.

An interesting tangent to this story is the fact that the corpse found in the subway was, in fact, the 4th body in as many days that was found in a public place in New York.

Dead man found on subway is fourth public corpse in four days

Now, I can promise you that I had nothing to do with this, although these occurrences may coincide with Isi and my stay in New York... :-/



The bus journey with the Greyhound to Boston was thankfully quite event-free and we arrived in Boston on time at 14:20 and made our way to Brookline, a part of the city that is close to both Harvard and MIT.
The area, we stayed in looks lovely, but admittedly, the appartment we stayed in is quite bad. Boston is so expensive that we could not afford anything better than a small, musty smelling basement. Unfortunately, the "kitchenette" that was advertised, consists of a fridge and a microwave. The host tries her best to accomodate, but after a flat like we had it in New York this is a rough step down... maybe it is good in some way, as it will make it easier to leave for Europe again ;)

We finished the day by getting some groceries and doing some laundry for the last 7 days of our trip. Isi will practice in the coming days how to make pasta in a microwave. First test, mac and cheese ;)

Tomorrow, we will visit my old friends Al and Hilary in Salem. Yes, the Salem from the witch hunts.