Posts tagged neighbourhood

Boston Autumn: A Photo Album

Hi,

welcome to today’s photo post that is going to be a mix of things I’ve seen and done over the last couple weeks. Enjoy and have a great day!

Time For The Arts

Cambridge and Harvard aka our old neighborhood (still missing it)

Beacon Hill aka our new neighborhood (still getting used to it)

The Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event

Why I Love Volunteering

Quickly after arriving here one of the first things I did was sign up with Boston Cares (see here for more info). They are the largest volunteer agency in New England and they find non-profit organizations in the Boston area that can use the help of volunteers. They put all the opportunities together on their platform where you can sign up for them. Ever since I have been volunteering every week, on average 3-4 times.

I’ve prepared and served meals at the Boston Living Center, the Women’s Lunch Place, I’ve assembled food donations at the American Red Cross, I’ve helped out in food pantries, where food is handed out twice a week to folks in the neighborhood of the East End House in Cambridge,  I’ve planted bulbs on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Those are just a few examples of volunteering jobs I have been doing and this month I’ll be doing a couple of new ones (select books for prisoners, work at different food pantries and serve at a veteran’s center).

Why I love volunteering

Volunteering is something I have always wanted to do. Back in Switzerland, I had inquired a few times with the Red Cross and Caritas on how I could get involved, yet I never followed through with it. That was mainly due to my work schedule that didn’t allow for leaving early during the week or taking time off to do it. Coming here was the best opportunity to really get the volunteering thing going. And I couldn’t be happier. There are a number of reasons why:

#1 Getting involved

I become involved with the community, the city and its people, which gives me a sense of belonging and being connected with the place I now live in.

#2 Gaining new experiences

I have learned so much during those last months. Seeing how a kitchen that produces food for larger groups of people really works was a new experience for me. Learning how to properly cut up vegetables, too (I mean, I know how to handle a knife now. Thanks to Raffael at the Boston Living Center).

I’ve learned a lot about plants and how a city park is maintained when working on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. I’ve learned how to properly plant bulbs (never done that before, now I know) and not to freak out too much every time I see a big ol’ worm when digging up the holes for the bulbs.

#3 Creating connections 

I also get to know a ton of new people every time I volunteer. Be it on the volunteer side or on the side of people we serve. I’ve experienced heart-warming encounters with people that I will never forget.

Once, I got to meet an elderly woman from Haiti with a beautifully friendly face. In the short interaction I had with her when serving her food, I noticed her French accent and talked to her in French. Her face instantly lit up and she had a lot of questions. Why do you speak French? Ah, Switzerland, I have relatives there. I am so happy to talk French to someone. No one does speak it around here. She asked if I had children, a husband. And even though she never had seen Philipp before she told me to tell him she said hello. It seemed very important to her that I’d do that. She also told me to come back next week on the same day so we could chat again. This very simple interaction made my day. I was happy to talk to her. She was happy to talk to me. 

There really have been countless other experiences like a man that I got to know at the Living Center that is  just such a talented piano player. One day I asked him while he came to get the food in the line if he would play again today (there’s a piano in the canteen). He nodded yes, smiling happily. I noticed how proud he was and it made me even more happy.

#4 Learning about people and about myself 

I’ve learned about the homelessness system in Boston, about how families struggle in the area, about what is important in your diet when you are affected by HIV/Aids.

Those are issues I never was confronted with in Switzerland. I am aware that there are also people in need in Switzerland, still it hits me even more here. I see people every week that are struggling to get through the week.

And this is when I realize how privileged I am. I don’t have to think about what I buy in the supermarket, how long it is going to last me. I don’t have an illness that I have to cope with. I have a home. I have a family and friends that care for me.

I happen to be lucky.

The interaction with the people I meet every week reminds me of how grateful I have to be and how I want to help them even more. Even if it’s just a very little help I can offer.

#5 Giving back and helping others 

This one is closely related to the last point: We are pretty lucky, right? That is why I feel obliged to give back. I want to help if I can. As simple as that.

I hope this wasn’t too long of a post, I hope it might inspire you to look into ways how you could contribute to your community in a positive way! Have a good day!

On Living In Halloween Central

Hi friends,

it’s going to be Halloween next week and let me tell you one thing:

People here LOVE Halloween.

Tell me something new Sandra you’re thinking. I know. Still, we have to talk about it, since it’s my first time experiencing the whole thing in the US. You can book graveyard ghost tours, pirate harbor cruises or go to Halloween pub crawls. Everyone loves to decorate their houses with weird decorations (I saw tombstones people and dog skeletons wearing sports tricots?!) and spiders and I don’t know…is it just the skeptical European in me that doesn’t really get all the hype around the witches, vampires, pumpkins and weird candy stuff related to Halloween?

Still, I volunteered at the Pumpkin Float at the Boston Common last week and went to a Halloween party (one of the many many this weekend). I’ll admit it, I love seeing all the pumpkins on display out in the streets and I get the fun part about it. Which other holiday allows you to dress up as Princess Leia, Eleven from Stranger Things (whoa, seen the new season?), your favorite M&M, as a mermaid or even your favorite action hero or animal?  I see it, I appreciate the creativity in it. But other than that, Halloween doesn’t really appeal to me (other than maybe the fancy limited candy editions in stores, ha).

Anyhow, as I live in a neighborhood that is famous for its decorations I thought I’d take you along for a little stroll. Apparently, it gets super crowded on October 31st, as everyone comes to see the decorations.

What do you think about Halloween? Do you love it? Let me know in the comments below. If you are celebrating, have a happy Halloween everyone!

Moving In Boston: 5 Things That Are Different Than in Switzerland

Friends,

moving house in the US is an adventure. We will move house by the end of the month and the apartment hunt was definitely quite different from what I’ve experienced so far in Europe. Let’s dig a little deeper.

#1 More people are involved in the apartment hunt

While you usually have an interested renter and a landlord in the mix in Switzerland, you’ll most likely have a a broker, a landlord, an owner and an interested renter talking to each other when apartment hunting around here. Many people use a real estate agent to find a place, which usually comes with a 1-month fee, which you will pay in addition to first, last, and security.

#2 Most apartment leases begin on September 1st

With such a large student population, it makes sense for the Boston rental market to operate on a September 1st schedule. Still, moving day is organized chaos it seems (I’ll see it in a week and will report back). The streets become parking lots for trucks and vans, the sidewalks become homes for unwanted furniture. In one part of the city called Allston there’s so much chaos going on that people lovingly call it Allston Christmas. It basically means that everything that renters don’t take with them ends up on the streets. Yum. It looks a little bit like that. Still, people from other parts of town know about Allston Christmas and will show up to get the things for free.

#3 You might have to sleep with your furniture for one night

What sounds like a weird exaggeration might actually be true for some people. As EVERYONE’s old lease ends on August 31st and EVERYONE’s new lease starts September 1 you basically have a problem. If possible, contact the current tenant of your new apartment to schedule moving times. Sometimes you’re lucky and you’ll be able to move in earlier. If not you’ll have to find a storage or pod for storing your furniture for a night. YES. Weird, right? 

#4 You don’t have time to “think about it”

If you’re buying something like a couch, you get to shop around, take a while to think about which one you like, go see a few more and then make the best choice for you. If you’re looking for apartments, you do NOT get that luxury. You should assume 4 or 5 other people are trying to rent any apartment you see. You have to pretty much decide on the spot if you want a place or not. That was definitely a new experience for me. Apparently, most apartments in Cambridge are usually only on the market for less than a week.

We were basically standing in the kitchen of an apartment we liked and after 10 minutes of looking around were already talking to the broker about the deposit and application process. We went home (it was 5pm in the afternoon) and filled out all the forms that night and also had to wire them the deposit. It went pretty fast to say the least. NO comparison to the slow process in Switzerland.

#5 Don’t touch anything you find on the street in Allston

Going back to #2, Allston Christmas might sound like fun, but it’s not. In fact, Allston Christmas is the least sanitary time of the year.

Ups And Downs at Harvard Stadium (aka Getting Very Sweaty)

Hi friends,

how are you doing today? Is there an iconic workout or workout place where you live? I’m thinking something along the lines of the 72 steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that Rocky runs up and down?

If I had to name such an iconic workout for Cambridge it would clearly be running up and down the steps at Harvard Stadium. Let me elaborate a little bit.

The country’s oldest stadium

People have been running the steps ever since Harvard Stadium was built, in 1903. The stadium consists of 31 levels of concrete seats across 37 sections.

The workout

Typically runners ascend along the larger seats and come down the smaller steps. You’ll repeat that 37 times and after having done 1147 steps you’ll be happy you’ve survived. OH YES.

Obviously, Harvard athletes train in the stadium, however, it is also open to the public. It’s really been a cool experience and I think I will definitely go back and try to run the steps as fast as I can (now that I know how it all works).

My main take away was that it’s not speed that matters, but the mere act of getting out and pushing your limits. And finishing something you started. Thanks to my great fitness squad! WE MADE IT! 

Have a fantastic last week of August!

Saying Goodbye To Cambridge

Hello everyone,

how are you today? In case you missed my post “Why I’m going to buy a Harvard Sweater (even though I said I never would)” elaborating (not really) on why I have to have a sweater of said university because I need a physical souvenir as we are leaving Cambridge by the end of the month.

I went through my photo archive and thought it be nice to put my favorite ones together in a post for you, hope you’ll enjoy this virtual walk around the neighborhood throughout winter and summer time with me. Also, let’s appreciate those beautiful flowers and plants, they grow like crazy here in summer as it is so hot and humid and almost tropical feeling.

Why not have a little wander around your neighborhood today, I’m sure you’ll explore and find new little things around every corner.

Have a great day!

Winter

Winter (soft version, see that clear blue sky?)

Winter (not so soft version)

Spring

Summer

That Spring Feeling

Hi everybody!

I hope you’ve had a fabulous weekend. As I am currently writing this the sun is shining and temperatures have risen to 22 degrees celsius. It’s been feeling a lot like spring here in Boston. They even reported in the news that the warmest day ever measured in February was recorded on Thursday (#climatechangeisreal).

People were out and about in their summer clothes (flip flops, shorts, you name it) and enjoying the weather strolling the streets, jogging in the sunshine or relaxing in the parks.

I think it’s fair to say that I like the springlike Boston A LOT LOT LOT more than its winter edition.

Everyone just instantly seems happier and spends more time outside. I thought I’d take you along and share a few of the photos I’ve been taking the last couple of sunny days to hold on to that spring feeling a little longer as it will cool down considerably next week. Hopefully you’ll get it right away (because we all need it, right?).

Have a fantastic start to the new week! Byeee!!

A walk around Castle Island

Visiting the Winter Farmer’s Market in Somerville (aka our Saturday ritual) and getting the BEST apples from Apex Orchards

Sneaking in a tasty chocolate milkshake in the park while enjoying the sun

Boston Downtown being cool, sunny and beautiful

Being adventurous and trying a matcha latte for the first time (not bad actually!)

Spring is here

Little cute things discovered in Somerville

The Harvard Series Chapter #1

Girls and Boys

It was time I dedicated a post to Harvard University. As we live in Cambridge this is just a must as it is omnipresent in my daily life. Everywhere I go. If you want to be dramatic you could go on saying that Cambridge IS Harvard. That’s why I’ve decided to make a little series. Three chapters hopefully covering everything (you didn’t know) you ever wanted to know about Harvard.

  1. Facts And Figures (boring start to the series but let’s get the facts out of the way, before getting to the interesting part, ok?)
  2. How Do People Get Into Harvard 
  3. What Is It Like To Be A Harvard Student (VERY weird traditions is the only hint I’ll give you here)

So, before I throw lots of facts at you, let’s get into that Harvard Mood (btw Harvard has an impressive YouTube channel, like really impressive):

#1 The name

It comes from the college’s first benefactor, which was named John Harvard. He left his library and half his estate to the university upon his death in 1638.

#2 It’s old

Harvard was founded in 1636 and is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

#3 The numbers

There are about 6,700 undergrad students and about 15,000 graduate and professional students making up for a total number of 22,000. Now add  2,400 faculty members and more than 10,400 academic appointments in affiliated teaching hospitals and if my maths are right, you’ll end up with a total of 36,800 people.

For reference: The population in Cambridge is currently at around 107,200. Long story short: Every third person you’ll meet on the streets here will have some sort of connection to Harvard. Crazy, no?

#4 The motto

Harvard’s motto is “Veritas” (Latin for “truth”)

#5 The Harvard Color

Harvard’s official corporate design color is crimson (fun fact for all you creative people out there)

#6 Harvard will very probably make a president out of you or winner of any important prize

48 of Harvard Alumni have been awarded with the Nobel Prize (!), 48 with the Pulitzer Prize (!!) and 32 have become head of states (!!!, 8 presidents of the United States, the rest pretty much cover Canada, all of South America and some Asian countries).

#7 The Finances

Harvard University’s endowment (valued at $37.6 BILLION as of last year)  is the largest academic endowment in the world.

In other words: Harvard is rich AF.

#8 The price tag of being a student at Harvard

The total 2016-2017 cost of attending Harvard College is $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined. That’s a lot of money per year compared to Switzerland where public universities charge as little as around $700 per semester.

Students from families with incomes below $65,000 won’t have to pay to get to Harvard College. Families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 however, will have to contribute from 0 to 10 percent of income, depending on individual circumstances.

The good news is that more than 55 percent of Harvard College students receive financial aid. The average grant is $50,000, meaning that from the $63,000 a year you only will have to pay $13,000 yourself. But again, multiply this yearly cost with four years of studying to get your undergrad diploma (aka Bachelor’s degree) and you’ll end up with a sum of $52,000.

If you still want to send your (future) kids to Harvard (because after all it’s a great school), check out this net price calculator, which you can use to enter your financial data to find out how much your family will have to pay.

If your (future) kids get accepted to Harvard, congratulations are in order! Only about 5,4% of applicants got in this year. Oh, but wait, this covers already part of series #2.

See you tomorrow for the next chapter, ok? Cool! 

The One Where I Went Crazy In A Swiss Bakery

Yesss.

I found bread. Real bread.

I went to swissbäkers. And I went a little crazy. I literally brought home a huge bag full of…bread. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be eating bread for the next month.

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Let me just say that our faces instantly LIT up when we were munching on all the Zopf, Weggli, whole weat bread, Wähe, Schinkengipfeli last night..awww…too good. It’s SO true, it’s the simple things in life that make you happy.

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Got a bit confused about this one as they call Zopf Challah here. 

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The very long rhubarb tart series (can you tell I was very excited about this one?)img_0147

Whole wheat bread

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Weggli 

To all the Swiss people reading this: Don’t forget to be grateful for the great bread you have available. Think of me and Philipp when you’ll be devouring it this weekend at brunches.

I’m happy for you. Really.  

To all the American readers: Go try the bread for yourself, you’ll never want to eat your bread again. Check out the swissbäkers website or follow them on Facebook (again this is not a sponsored post. I SO WISH it was though…maybe someone from swissbäkers is reading this?!)

What is it that you miss the most when you’re abroad? That would be interesting to hear.

Have a fantastic weekend! Greetings from New York.

Disclaimer: The Schinkengipfeli didn’t make it for the shooting, but it was good.

Let’s Go For A Walk Around The Block

Hi Friends

Hope you’ve had a great weekend! I thought it would be nice to get this new week started by sharing a little photo series of a walk with you that we took this weekend. If you’re up for a virtual tour around our neighborhood, scroll down and enjoy! (Still figuring out the new camera, so bear with me. Thanksss) 

Also, I really want to learn all about the architecture styles in Cambridge and in Boston. There seem to be so many, I love it.

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Playmobil USPS car.

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img_0018Giraffe is looking at you.img_0093

Cambridge Common

Entrance to Harvard Campus, would be nice if that was true.

Entrance to Harvard Campus. Would be nice if that was true.img_0023

Feeling festive with all the wreaths around! This seems to be a very popular Christmas decoration.