Posts tagged newlife

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!

Tips for Getting Into Running

Hello dear friend,

I’m going to be honest.  When I first started running, I hated it. Like I really didn’t enjoy it at all. Obviously Philipp would also not really choose beginner friendly routes, always going uphill (UPHILL PEOPLE, what is wrong with that man), which kind of not motivated me.

A few years in, I have changed my opinion on running and have to say that I really enjoy running now. It really is a liberating and elevating feeling just leaving the house and start running. Wherever you want go. As far as you want to. As simple as that. And the truth is, the more you do it, the better you’ll get (as annoying that sounds especially at the beginning of your runner’s journey). Believe me. Other than that I’ve compiled some tips if you’d like to get into running. Also, it’s the fall soon so perfect time to get those running shoes on and start running.

#1 Choose a route

As trivial as this sounds it makes a huge difference, especially in the beginning. I feel like knowing where your end destination is makes a huge difference on your mental state of mind (aka your motivation). The better you get at running, however, the more you’ll want to switch up your running routes in order to not get bored or have your body get too used to one route over and over again.

#2 Stick to a Plan

I would go for a run here and there in the beginning, really not having a routine or consistent rhythm.

You don’t want to do that, ok. I repeat. You don’t want to do that. 

It will make you have to start over and over again and your body will not get into a routine. Even though you can find a number of elaborate training plans online, keep it simple. Here is the basic formula for a great training plan.

  • Train three days a week
  • Run or run/walk 20 to 30 minutes, two days a week
  • Take a longer run or run/walk (40 minutes to an hour) on the weekend
  • Rest or cross-train on your off days
  • Run at a conversational pace
  • Consider taking regular walk-breaks

#3 Make Running Fun

In order to stick to your new routine of running regularly you’ll have to just make it fun. If you hate it, well, I don’t think it’s going to work you know? Make it fun by going with a friend once a week, by discovering a new part of town or a new cute forest route, take your favorite music with you, go in the early morning to feel energized and fresh for a new day.

#4 Pick a Race

Ok, so you’ve managed to have a plan and enjoy running so far. The absolute best way to keep yourself running in my opinion is to find a race, sign up for it, pay for it and put it on your calendar. A fixed race date will help you stay focused, and keep you on a regular running schedule. Also, it’s really fun (see #3). You might not think that in the beginning but after having finished that 5K, 10K or more (you beast you) you’ll just feel amazing.

#5 Invest in great running gear

Obviously you really only need running shoes to get running. You can run in your pajamas if you like, if that works for you, go ahead. Still, I feel like investing in good workout clothes not only makes you feel good while running you’ll also enjoy running more. Does that make sense? Now that I’ve seen Adriene in her adidas gear, I need those tight pants in my life. ASAP.

30 Thoughts on Being 30

Dear all,

The year you become 30, when you enter a new decade of your life….what happens then? Well. You turn 30. I’ve never been one to attach a great deal of attention to that age, still I think that by then you’ll (hopefully) have acquired some life experience and so I thought it might be interesting to share 30 thoughts/lessons (if you want to call them that) on turning/being 30. I’d love to know what your thoughts are. Let us know in the comments below.

  1. One that I like because I hear it pretty often around here: YOU DO YOU. Especially at 30, you’ve got this:You (hopefully) will have understood by now that you simply CANNOT please everyone.
  2. Your parents are cool and can also be your best friends.
  3. I would have never guessed that I would be celebrating my 30th birthday in a new country, let alone be living in another country at 30. So you see, life is an adventure, be open for all its opportunities.
  4. But, I’m perfectly okay with where I’m at. It’s funny to see how life unfolds.
  5. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life is meant to be lived and fully experienced. Live, laugh, love.
  6. Trust your gut! Forreals. It usually knows what it’s doing. Especially at 30 you’re gut has been trained and tested maaaaany times, it knows what’s going on, ok? Trust you feelings.
  7. You believe that you deserve everything you set your heart and mind to.
  8. Sending hand-written thank you notes is just beautiful and it makes me really happy receiving them.
  9. All physical change begins internally.
  10. Set goals, reach them, and enjoy the success. Also, enjoy the ride along the way. 
  11. As a woman your girlfriends are very important. They will be your support system through thick and thin. When you find them, hold on to them. Be nice to them (see #12).
  12. Being kind never goes out of style, be a good friend, a good daughter a good work colleague. It will make you and everyone else around you just feel better.
  13. Happiness is not an achievement. It is a state-of-being and an active choice. You’re not always going to feel it and that’s okay too.
  14. A healthy lifestyle really brings you enjoyment.
  15. Also, it’s all about that balance y’all. It works when you couple healthy choices with the things that might not be so healthy but that do bring you joy.
  16. That said cookies, brownies and other chocolatey stuff is equally as amazing at 30 as at 3. 
  17. Living a simple life with clear focus based on meaningful values is where it’s at girls and boys. Slow down, be present, and be good to yourself.
  18. Sometimes all it takes is literally a change of perspective or talking to someone about it.
  19. Surround yourself with people that make you feel alive, curious, positive and allow you to be you.
  20. Life doesn’t work as a linear cycle; it’s a series of highs and lows that are intertwined, irregular, and often unpredictable.
  21. Sometimes you’ll have bad days or will feel down. That’s ok. It’s part of the deal.
  22. Be grateful for everything in your life.
  23. Giving can provide the same great euphoria as receiving.
  24. Money can buy a lot of things but it cannot buy you class.
  25. That drinking enough water thing, really IS IMPORTANT (had to find out at 30, took me some time).
  26. Nothing beats a home made dinner.
  27. Love Yourself (Justin Bieber says it, too, so you better believe it). 
  28. A title should never determine your self-worth.
  29. Sometimes you need to have a boring day? You don’t always have to have an overflowing schedule.
  30. Patience is a virtue (that I still need to learn).

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.

Everthing To Go Please And Thank You

Hi friends,

For here or to go? This will be a question you’ll get asked in any café where you order a coffee. Let’s talk about that in today’s post. Fix yourself a cup of coffee (!) and get reading.

The “To-go” concept – grabbing a coffee to go

Americans seem to like things on-the-go. They eat breakfast in their cars on their way to work. They eat lunch at their desks and catch up on emails. And of course, they drink coffee on the run. Most Americans seem to always be on the go, running from one appointment to the next, going to and from work, picking up kids, running errands, and going to business meetings and social outings. Every morning I walk into town I’ll see literally EVERYONE (not exaggerating here) walking around with a coffee  in one hand and a phone in the other one.

While there are obviously Swiss people who down their cappuccino on the go, too, I still think that it is less common to consume everything on the go. I would also say that in Switzerland, people slow down when they drink coffee. They sit down. They sip leisurely. They chat. They relax.

What I found interesting (to actually bring you some sort of relevant information today) was that even though it seems that everybody is drinking coffee at all times everywhere the United States isn’t even in the top ten when you rank actual coffee consumption per person. According to this article by the Telegraph it’s the Finns that come out on top. They grind their way through an impressive 12kg per person per year, according to stats from the International Coffee Organization. Switzerland makes the Top 10, while the US is on the 26th rank. (If you wondered where Italy is, it made it on rank 13 with 5.8kg of consumed coffee per person).

  1. Finland – 12kg per capita per year
  2. Norway – 9.9
  3. Iceland – 9
  4. Denmark – 8.7
  5. Netherlands – 8.4
  6. Sweden – 8.2
  7. Switzerland – 7.9
  8. Belgium – 6.8
  9. Luxembourg – 6.5
  10. Canada – 6.2

Why I’m Going to Buy a Harvard Sweater (Even Though I Said I Never Would)

Kids! We’re leaving town. We’re leaving Cambridge.

 

So very sad. I’m surprised at how nostalgic I’m feeling when writing down those words. Leaving this special place after having lived here for one year seems so difficult all of a sudden. It’s just SUCH a nice place to live in, especially in summer. I have to say, Boston and Cambridge are total beauties in the summer time (makes you almost forget how TERRIBLE winter is here). Maybe that’s a trick this city plays on you. Half of the year it’s the most beautiful place ever and you’re like, ‘cool place’, other half of the year….NOT SO MUCH.

Anyways. Why do I like it here so much you ask?

Cambridge has the feeling and vibe of a small town to it (a little more than 100’000 inhabitants, remember? Not that much after all), the houses are BEAUTIFUL, there’s tree-lined little cute streets everywhere. Still there are tons of things to do everyday (events, concerts, theatre plays, the list goes on), there are plenty of cool (is it still ok to use ‘cool’?) bars, cafés, amazing restaurants and little local shops all around the corner.

The mix of people is diverse and fascinating, there are obviously lots of proud Harvard students around, wearing all of the branded gear and clothes making it clear to everyone on the streets passing them WHO is going to Harvard. They are. You are NOT. Unless you’re a cute tourist buying all the Harvard shirts and sweaters from the Harvard store to pass as a student. I’m sorry to break it to you. People will notice YOU’RE NOT AN ORIGINAL. Still, I will buy a Harvard sweater as an emotional souvenir. And still, it’s nice to have so many young people around. There are also lots of families and people that have been living here for a long time. Aw, I’m going to miss you Cambridge, you beautiful town.

I sound very dramatic I realize now that I’ve read through that last paragraph. Because…let’s all not forget that we’re moving to the city…that is 10 minutes away by subway.

Anyways, I’m in a dramatic mood today.

Still, I’m going to miss the first place I ever called a home in the United States, I’ll never forget. And this eclectic and international mix of people. Ok, going to leave you now. It’s getting worse and worse.

Have a great day!

August 1st as an Expat

Friends!

Long time no see. How are you? How has your summer been so far?

I’ve had a great time. Isn’t summer just simply the best time of year? Anyways, we’re back in the US and settling in again.

And then there was August 1st.

A day that I normally don’t care much about. Surprisingly this time around I thought about it a lot. And as it seems, if you’re a Swiss living abroad you think about August 1st more than you would if you were back home (at least I think so).

So what do you do? You attend all sorts of August 1st related events. Yes. AND they all mainly revolve around food as they usually do (which is totally fine with me) so we went to an August 1st brunch at the Swiss bakery here in town (see my post about finding that bakery here).

And it was glorious. Birchermüesli, Weggli, Croissants, Wähen, Röschti, cheeses…the list goes on.

We were talking with some fellow Swiss friends at the brunch about what the holiday meant to them and they said that August 1st was mainly a holiday they spent with family and that they associated it with time spent outside (as the weather is usually really good round this time of year). What does it mean to you? I’d love to know! I felt still connected to Switzerland even though I wasn’t there.

Have a great week and see you back tomorrow with another say Swiss themed post!

A Weekend in Vermont

Hello dear friends,

time for a flashback to a weekend in April that we spent in lovely Burlington, Vermont. Anyone ever thought of visiting this state up north? If you haven’t yet, do it, it’s a beautiful beautiful place! Hope you’ll enjoy the photos and little tips for a weekend’s visit.

A few facts about Vermont: The state in the northeastern part of the country is the second least populous. Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup and is generally known for their farming products such as cheese and milk. It was also ranked as the safest state in the country in 2016. And it has been/still is Bernie Sanders territory. A good place, isn’t it?  

The nature

There are so many places to visit in Vermont be it summer or winter time. Whether you’re into hiking or skiing there is something for everyone. It’s truly a nice change to the city life seeing all those picturesque small villages, farmland and mountain. One of our personal highlights was biking along Lake Champlain, it’s the best thing you can do on a sunny day I think. There are bike rentals everywhere, we were lucky enough that our hotel gave bikes away for free rental.

The food and drinks

After all that biking we were STARVING. But fear not, Burlington has got you covered. There are a multitude of restaurants and craft breweries awaiting you. We opted for American Flatbread, which was recommended to us as a local’s favorite and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Probably being super hungry/hangry might have influenced me in that judgement. As for beers just try what they will suggest to you, they actually have a brewery (Zero Gravity) that’s part of the American Flatbread restaurant and it was really really good as well. Overall a place I’d highly recommend you go.

For coffee and breakfast breaks I’d suggest you go visit Monarch and the Milkweed. It’s a beautiful little café (right next to American Flatbread actually) where they have a small but nice menu on offer with a beautiful pastries collection as well.

And no culinary Vermont experience would be complete without having tried Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They have a big shop on the main street of the city and it’s just dreamy. Really tasty ice cream. If you’re a hardcore ice cream aficionado you can take a guided tour in their factory close by (more info here).

The hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Vermont, which is located right next to the lakeside and the city centre. It was a truly nice experience sleeping there for a night, as they try and work with local brands when it comes to decorating their rooms (can you spot that cute flannel sheet?) and products by local producers. The brunch at their Juniper Café, which is open to the public as well, is an absolute gem. Had great pancakes and egg benedicts there. And tried an Earl Grey Latte for the first time, was delicious!

Have you ever visited Vermont? Have a great Tuesday! 

Meet Fernanda, Ly and Mattias (Part 2)

Hi people,

how are you? I guess you must be doing well, as it is F-R-I-D-A-Y! Yay! Happy weekend!

Join me today for the second and final part of the interview I did with the phenomenal trio Ly (Vietnam), Fernanda (Brazil) and Mattias (Sweden). We’re going to talk about adjusting to a life in a new country and looking back on their experience in the US. As applied for part 1 if you’d rather like us hear speaking, click on the corresponding audio files below.

Settling in

Sandra: What was the easiest or the hardest part in adjusting to your new life here in the US?

Fernanda: I’m going to say that the best part of living here is that it is very convenient. Especially living in Cambridge. It has a bit of a small town, suburban feeling to it, still you have Boston close by. You don’t need a car. Also, I really like being able to head down to CVS at 2am in the morning for ice cream. In Rio, shops close very early. On the other hand, things here are very expensive compared to Rio.

Sandra: What do you find to be most expensive, the food, the cost of living?

Fernanda: I wanna say health insurance. It’s painful how much it costs…

Sandra: Yeah, that’s true, I think that both Switzerland and the US are two of the countries within the OECD that pay most for health insurance.

Fernanda: The hardest part was maybe speaking to people. I wasn’t too confident in my English when I first arrived. I’m very shy and have some trouble speaking to people anyway, so talking in another language I don’t feel so comfortable in, was even more challenging for me.

Sandra: What do you miss the most?

Fernanda: Besides my family and friends it has to be the food. I miss being able to go to a café and have something savoury and not always sweet stuff with my coffee for example. I have to do it myself that’s frustrating (laughs). Also, people in Rio are very warm and open and you can basically start a conversation with everyone if you’d like to. It’s not that I particularly like that but now that I’m gone I miss it. Same goes for music. I never used to be into Samba music but for some reason, now that I live abroad, I love it! I listen to it every day to wake up.

Sandra: Does Mattias also listen to Swedish music to wake up?

Mattias: No, not really. Every now and then I will listen to a Swedish jazz orchestra. I don’t do lots of Swedish things I guess. I came here for the American music of course (everyone laughs).

Sandra: Of course. What was the easiest or hardest part for you in settling in here in the US?

Mattias: It was mostly easy to adjust ourselves to the new life here. Having moved a lot and having lived in a lot of countries has influenced us in the sense that there’s only a few basic things we need to buy to make us feel at home.

Sandra: What are those?

Mattias: Something like a good kitchen knife for example, kitchen stuff basically. Back in China and a few other countries it used to be a window scraper. Those are multi tools for getting water away from showers in the bathroom, the kitchen and stuff.

Sandra: Do you have one now?

Mattias: No. In general it’s cooking in a place and then everything will feel at home. That’s how it has been the last couple of times we moved anyway. And in Cambridge everything feels very nice. I really like that it feels like a small place that is connected to a bigger place like Boston. I’d even say that out of all the places I’ve lived I feel most at home here.

Sandra: Why is that? Besides the home cooking.

Mattias: Cambridge kind of feels like the village I am from in the north of Sweden, just bigger. It’s more spread out. The lushness of the trees, the smell of the bushes, how it looks. It kind of reminds me of my hometown that makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

Sandra: What about you, Ly?

Ly: I love to explore new cultures and Boston happens to be such a melting pot of different cultures. So I’ll have Korean food on Monday, Vietnamese on Tuesday, American Food on Wednesday, maybe Swedish next…

Mattias: Swedish fish maybe! (everyone laughs)

Sandra: That’s as Swedish as it can get here (red. Swedish fish is a gummy candy in fish shape, probably not Swedish at all).

Ly: We’ll also have cheese fondue often, even in summer time. We prepare it in our rice cooker.

Sandra: So you like the variety of cultures coming together in one place?

Ly: Yes, that’s right. What I also really like is the wide offer of events and activities in the city. I have pottery and salsa classes, everything is quite close and it’s just so exciting.

Sandra: So you really like the that you find a lot of things to do here.

Ly: What I miss is the Vietnamese language. Maybe because I don’t really hang out with other Vietnamese people. I still text my friends. I also try to listen to more Vietnamese songs. Before coming here, I didn’t like Vietnamese songs too much, they seemed too cheesy and romantic to me. But now I love to listen to them as they make me feel good.

Looking back on the US experience

Sandra: Picture yourself as an old person. If someone were to ask you about your experience in the US, what would you tell them, what would your main take aways be? Let’s start with you Mattias, what would you say as old wise men?

Mattias: How inspiring this is as a place. And how many great people are here and how open they are. They are passionate about what they’re doing and will share that with you. I’ve been also been going to seminars here and people are always so nice. I’d say this is the main take away that is different from other places.

Sandra: What about you, Fernanda?

Fernanda: I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that everybody everywhere in the world is very similar. You don’t have to be afraid to interact with others and start a conversation. It’s fascinating to me how people from different cultures can communicate and talk to each other. They’re just people. And I used to be afraid of that. I have friends from all over the world now and that is something Boston gave to me.

Mattias: That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard so far.

Sandra: That’s so nice. The pressure is on now for you Ly.

Ly: Boston really is kind of a global village. There are people from all over the world here. The diversity is great and it’s just such an exciting and innovative place to be. I also appreciate how open people are and how they will be open to new opportunities as well. They want to make things happen. That’s so different from Vietnam or even the UK. That’s one of the things I like the most, besides living with my husband of course.

Happy weekend everyone!

Meet Fernanda, Ly and Mattias (Part 1)

Hi friends,

I’m keeping the interview mode on until the end of the week and am really happy to share part 1 of an interview I did with three great humans about their own experiences of arriving and living in the United States with you today. Meet Fernanda (Brazil), Mattias (Sweden) and Ly (Vietnam).

Also, if you’re a lazy bum and prefer to listen to the interview instead of reading it (I totally understand, no judgement here), just click on the corresponding audio files below (bonus material included, please excuse the wind in the audio).

The Arrival 

Sandra: Do you remember the day you first arrived to Boston?

Ly: My husband picked me up at the airport and I was just so happy to see him. On our drive back home, I was just amazed by how big it all seemed, especially the buildings and how pretty the light was during that time of day. It was in the evening during the golden hour and the sky had that beautiful purple color, it was so romantic. The next day was a different story though. Without the romantic lighting the buildings just looked like concrete.

Sandra: That’s a nice first impression, what about you, Mattias, as seen from a Swedish perspective?

Mattias: I actually had the opposite experience. It started out really bad and turned out to be a really nice experience.

Sandra: How come?

Mattias: When we decided that we were going to come to Harvard, I had actually no idea where Boston was. I didn’t know it was that far up north. And I read that it rains and snows a lot, which I didn’t know. But I thought, ok, it’s going to be fine. The day we arrived, however, it was raining like crazy.

Sandra: What time of the year was it?

Mattias: The 28th of December.

Sandra: Wow, that’s a hardcore time to arrive here.

Mattias: Everything went well, we came to the apartment that we rented and then we needed to go to the supermarket. So we figured out that the closest shop was something called like Trader Joes. So we started walking there, and there were no sidewalks. Even though now we know that there are sidewalks everywhere, just on that particular patch there was no sidewalk. Then there was this sleet coming down, this mix of rain and snow, it was really cold and we came into Trader Joes and everything was super expensive. We were used to Chinese prices (red. before coming to the US, Mattias and his wife were based in China). But if we’ll go back to Sweden we might think s***, everything is so expensive. So on our first evening here, we didn’t really want to buy anything to eat because it was expensive, we came home totally drenched and cold…

Sandra: Did things get a little better the following day?

Mattias: Yes, the next day everything was a lot better. Blue skies, pretty nice.

Sandra: What about you, Fernanda?

Fernanda: When we got here, about two years ago, it was summer. It was my first time in America during the summer. And I seriously didn’t know it could get this hot. I had this idea in my head of Boston being so far up north that it couldn’t possibly be as hot as in Brazil. So I was a little disappointed in a way.

Sandra: Would you have preferred a crazy winter scenario like Mattias had when arriving here?

Fernanda: Yes, I was a bit disappointed but now I enjoy it especially after having spent two winters here. I’ve really learned to appreciate the seasons, which is pretty cool because we don’t really have changing seasons in Brazil, at least in Rio it’s always very hot. It’s been a while since I first got here and so I don’t really remember every detail anymore. I think we were very excited to be here. We had just gotten married, were living in our first home together and were doing everything together as a married couple for the first time. So it was a really special. And I think I associate this newlywed feeling with Boston. It was a good first impression.

Sandra: And if you think back, when meeting new people, what were people’s reactions when you told them that you were from Brazil?

Fernanda: I remember some people finding it strange that I was so pale. Because they have this idea about Brazilian people, especially from Rio, that they are tanned and enjoy the sun. Speaking of Americans, I can hardly say that I’ve met one. Like everyone that I know isn’t from here. I guess the most American friends that I have are Canadians (everyone laughs).

Sandra: Well I don’t know if they’d like you to say that about them…

Fernanda: It’s just very hard to meet locals.

Sandra: What about you Mattias and Ly? Would they know that it is Sweden and not Switzerland for example?

Mattias: Yeah, exactly that’s what I was going to say.

Sandra: No actually, you always win. It’s Switzerland that people here mostly confuse with Sweden and not the other way round I think.

Mattias: Maybe because you’re a woman. I think Americans associate Sweden somehow with women. But like Fernanda, I have only met very few Americans. When I went to buy fabric recently, they asked me where I was from. And then they said, ‘Ah Sweden’, that’s that tiny country with the nice chocolate.

Sandra: That’s so funny, it’s actually the opposite from what always happens to me. They will always end up meaning Sweden and NOT Switzerland.

Sandra: What about you Ly?

Ly: It’s a bit of a similar experience to Mattias and Fernanda. As Boston is such an international place, I haven’t met that many real Bostonians up until now. Most of the Americans I meet are actually my Uber drivers.

Sandra: Interesting, what about them?

Ly: First off they think I’m from China. But when I say ‘No, I’m from Vietnam’, they’ll say ‘Oh, you’re from Vietnam, I love phở’. I think phở seems to be very popular, so everyone seems to know and like it.

Sandra: That’s so interesting, so the first association people have is with phở.

American Food

Sandra: From the top of your head, what’s your favorite American food or drink item?

Fernanda: (very fast response) Mac and Cheese.

Sandra: That was very fast. Any other foods?

Fernanda: That’s the only American food I’ve discovered. All the other foods I’ve gotten to know here are not American, like Vietnamese food, which I really like.

Sandra: In terms of drinks any favorites?

Fernanda: Well, something I like is that craft beers are a huge thing here. My husband and I are really into it and it’s very easy to find specialty beers.

Sandra: Nobody says doughnuts, I’m so surprised. You don’t like doughnuts?

Ly: No, not really. It’s quite difficult to tell if a food is American because their cuisine has so many influences from different places. I actually really like Avocado toast.

Sandra: That’s very healthy.

Ly: I’m not quite sure if it’s a special dish but I really like it.

Fernanda: I think it started off as an Australian thing.

Ly: I think they put Avocado on everything here.

Sandra: Yeah, it’s trendy.

Ly: And it’s quite surprising for me. Even though we have a lot of avocados in Vietnam too, I never eat in a savoury dish, like on bread or in a salad, we eat it as a sweet. Normally we prepare it with milk and sugar or in a smoothie.

Mattias: I pretty much always eat at home, so I couldn’t say. The most American I do, is that I drink a lot of Diet Coke, which I don’t do otherwise.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview where we’ll cover American daily life. It’s a good one.

Have a fantastic Thursday everyone!

#ChallengeMeJune Week 1: Getting Up Early Every Day

Hi everyone,

how are you doing? It’s getting summery over here, I’m loving it. Hope you’ve had the opportunity to catch some sun where you live!

So, it’s Monday. I know, I know. When brainstorming for new blog posts a couple of weeks ago I thought I’d like to challenge myself in June with a special challenge every week (#ChallengeMeJune if you will, genius hashtag I know). Anyways, the first week’s challenge was to set my alarm to 6 o’clock every day (for some that might be not early at all or totally normal already, in which case I salute you. Others will look at me like, whaaat?).  Some context here: I never used to be an early riser, really I wasn’t. I would stay up rather late, watch series, read, scroll through the internets. In the morning I’d have a hard time waking up and would keep hitting that snooze button many (many) times.

But you know what? Getting up early was amazing.

Yes. And I’d even go as far as saying that it changed my life. I’m getting a bit dramatic here, it’s true though.

Why should I do that, you ask? (or in other words, “you crazy, I ain’t gonna give up my precious sleep time“). I’m going to try and give you some good arguments here, ok?

Let’s be honest here for a minute. You can’t convince yourself to wake up early just because. If you’d like to try that challenge,  ask yourself, “What would I get if I wake up early?” Whatever you answer, make sure you really want it because that’s what will be your motivation to ACTUALLY get up in the morning. A few answers why you’d like to consider getting up early.

You’ll Get More Time (D’oh)

I read somewhere that if you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning, you’d gain 15 days in a year. How crazy is it to think about it like that. So you better want to use this time than sleep, right?

Get Active, Quiet or Creative (Whichever You Prefer) 

I found that the morning is a great time to exercise. You’re body is well rested and it will set you up for the day with energy and motivation. Overall I felt more productive getting up early this week, it made me feel calmer and happier. If you’re not into sports in the early morning hours but rather into meditation, do it! I’m going to give it a try this week. Also, if you have some tips in that department, do let me know. Others like to use this time to read the newspapers in silence, to be creative, paint or write.

You’ll feel One Step Ahead

Having that one to two extra hours in the morning will undoubtedly make you feel calm, prepared for the day and chill, when everyone else around you is rushing around. When you wake up early, you’ll have more time for planning and getting organized. Getting to the office early means no distractions and getting things done (and then hopefully leaving early in the evening).

I’d really like you to try getting up early, I think you will like it. NO, SERIOUSLY. Don’t laugh at me.

Go to bed an hour earlier so that you won’t be too tired the next morning. It may take a couple of days to adjust your body and mind to it but once you’re in it you’ll most likely not want to go back. Obviously a lie in every once in a while is GREAT (not gonna lie) but overall it’s a great new habit. Start tomorrow and let me know how it went!

Happy week!