I’ve been in Boston for a month and a half now (I still can’t believe it’s been that long), and I’ve already learned so much. Before moving here, everything I knew about Boston came from Matt Damon/Ben Afflec and Kevin Smith movies. I know I’m nowhere near close to an expert on New England, but I would like to share some of the interesting things I’ve learned about Boston and myself through my experiences so far.
1. The stereotypical Bah-ston accent does exist! There’s a reason it’s in all the movies, because some people actually speak that way. It’s still fun to hear someone with that accent, it seems like they’re a character is a movie. (“Pah-k the cah in Hah-vad yah-d.”)
2. The first “you’re not in Americus anymore” moment I had was when I was walking across the street and the cop who was directing traffic didn’t even notice us, much less smile and say hi. I thought to myself, “how rude…” but now I realize it’s just normal. Being a big city, people don’t say hi on the street or on the T (public transportation.) This is not shocking, but very different from small-town south Georgia. The longest conversation I had with a stranger while on the train was with a woman from Atlanta.
3. To everyone who told me not to drive in Boston because traffic is crazy- You. Were. Right. These are some of the most aggressive, crazy drivers I’ve ever seen (and I learned how to drive in Atlanta traffic.) Drivers have to be so aggressive because the streets here make no sense. At all. There are no normal intersections with 2 streets crossing– there has to be at least 5 and they all curve at weird angles, and then they call it a “Square” just to be funny. And don’t even think about having street signs to know what road you’re on, they don’t believe in that here.
4. Even though traffic is sometimes extremely scary, drivers really do look out for bikers, which is good because there are a ton! Boston is an extremely eco-friendly and exercise-conscious city.
5. New Englanders have a different kind of bowling, called candlepin bowling. In this game the pins and the bowling ball are tiny and you get 3 tries instead of 2. If there are any other differences we couldn’t tell because we were distracted by the tiny pins.
6. There are a gazillion schools in such a small area. Everyone has heard of Harvard, MIT, Boston U, etc. but there are many, many more colleges within walking distance of each other. The other YAVs and I have planned to take a picture in front of all of them before we leave. So far we’ve done 3. Being such a big “college town” means the city is very young and the population dramatically increases September through May. This also creates a very secular environment. Most of the churches, especially Presbyterian ones that I’ve been to, are very small.
7. Boston is very diverse. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many languages being spoken at Target. We live in Watertown, in a area heavily populated with Armenian and Greek people.
8. Light switches are on the outside of the bathroom. This is just weird.
9. Outside of downtown Boston there is a maze of smaller suburb/urban towns (for example I live in Watertown and work in Cambridge.) Each town has its own distinct culture and history, but it’s really hard to tell them all apart and remember where everything is. It doesn’t help that the same road gets renamed in each town. However, all of these places fall under the umbrella term “Boston.”
I’ve also learned more about cooking, farming, and sustainable agriculture than I ever thought possible. I’m hyper-aware of where things are from and if they are organic and fair trade, and why that makes things cost so much. We’ve made granola, noodles, bread, and soup stock (just to name a few) all from scratch. I am becoming slightly obsessed with apples– I’ve canned applesauce, frozen them in a sugar syrup for pie, and am currently dehydrating them to make apple chips. As someone who was known in college for not cooking or being “domestic,” this has been a huge change.
Speaking of change, I’ve never been a fan, and I’m learning about how difficult it is for me. It’s been really hard. Through this experience I’ve had my life turned upside-down and have learned a lot about myself and where I have room to grow. Sometimes I still think I’m crazy for moving to a new city with people I’ve never met to do a job I’ve never done with people from a different culture, not to mention all of the new food. It’s been a rough transition, and I still miss the friends from college that became family after 4 years– I miss the comfort and the familiarity. My job is all about meeting people and creating relationships, which is challenging when you don’t know anybody in said new city, so sometimes it can be a little isolating.
But then I remember how blessed I am– I am working in Cambridge, which I now think is one of the most beautiful and fun cities, living in a big house with really kind and passionate people, doing God’s work taking care of God’s creation.
I intend to learn a lot about myself this year (I already have!), but most importantly I hope to learn how to live more deliberately in God’s kingdom.