Walking in a Winter Wonderland

On February 8th and 9th of 2013, Winter Storm Nemo hit the northeastern United States and dropped record levels of snow in many areas. I was living in Boston at the time, and given how I hadn’t seen snow until just a few months before that, a blizzard was quite exciting to me. I was fortunate enough to be living in a sturdy brick building with underground power lines, and there were grounds people working throughout the day and night to shovel snow. I was eager to document the storm with my camera from my room, which I did, and posted on Xanga. Now I will repost the photos and post from February 9th, since they were the most beautiful. (If someone wants me to repost the ones from the previous day showing all snow piling up, I can do that too.)

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At 1PM, someone from the second floor wanted to go out for a walk. I decided to go with her and another person from my floor. I probably wouldn’t have thought of going far from the building, but she wanted to go to the Boston Common. Of course, I wanted to go out to take tons of photos, but when I’m with other people I can’t take as many as I would like, since I would fall behind or they would wait for me and I didn’t want to hold them back.

We were walking in the streets because many sidewalks still hadn’t been cleared of snow. There were very few vehicles out on the roads. It was strange seeing the streets so quiet and empty. I had read news reports describing downtown Boston as a ghost town, because all the businesses were closed and no one was out. It was hard to believe, even when I saw it with my own eyes.

It was bitterly cold, something like 18 °F, but it didn’t feel as bad as it did earlier during the day, since we weren’t getting pelted by snow. If I removed my glove just for a moment, my hand would hurt from the cold. I wrapped my face in a scarf, but even then, my cheeks still stung. One person I was with decided to go indoors to an open business. Not many places were open, but the ones that were were crowded. It was funny how one had ten or more signs in their window saying they were open.

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I took this through the bars of a fence, so the trees aren’t as centered as I would like them to be.

I thought the contrast of the red and white looked quite beautiful. Plus, you can see the icicles.

Trees at the Boston Common. The trunks look shorter thanks to the two feet of snow.

Statue at the Boston Public Garden. I thought the snow looked like a shawl.

Bridge in the Boston Public Garden. The lake was covered with a layer of snow, but the water underneath had not frozen.

Bigger icicles!

Seeing all that snow was so surreal. That’s why I had to take pictures of it. Even my floormates who had lived in Massachusetts for years, said they had never seen a storm leave that much snow at once. I knew that I had to make the most of this experience because it’s not often that these opportunities come around. That meant, sitting in snow even when it meant I’d sink into it, and snow would get into my pockets. I got a scare when the snow in my pocket got on my camera, but it seemed okay. (The next day I made sure to put my camera in a plastic bag before heading out.)

I took this picture in a hurry as we were leaving, and the sun was setting, so it’s not that great, but I’m including it here because it gives a sense of the quantity of snow that day.

This picture was taken the following afternoon, after the sun came out, but I thought it was pretty enough to include here, even though the snow had already been plowed and walked on.
I took it just to show how thick the layer of snow was.

I hope you enjoyed these!

A Californian in Boston

A California girl is transferred from the west coast to the opposite side of the country.

Until the end of August of last year, I had spent my entire life in California, except for two short interview trips. When I say California, I’m specifically referring to a part of northern California. California is quite large so there is a lot of climate and topographical variation within the state.

I began writing this list of the differences I observed, after my first three months in Massachusetts. However, since I kept having more things to add to it, I decided I wouldn’t post it until it was time for me to leave. Not all the differences I describe are regional; many are how my lifestyle has changed now that I am no longer living with my parents.

Weather

  • In late August, temperatures were still in the 80s after sunset. That is so surreal to me, because back at home, it cooled down when the sun set.
  • It’s quite common for winds to reach 30 mph. (It’s also quite common to see broken umbrellas discarded at the side of the road.)
  • Autumn here feels like winter in California. The highs here are the lows there!
  • It’s much drier here in the winter–I mean autumn (and winter). My lips and skin are always dry.
  • Another consequence of the dryness is that static electricity is an actual problem. I’ve gotten shocked on my doorknob many times now. It’s worse when I’m wearing a sweater. I used to think this was just some obscure example mentioned in physics classes.
  • In the winter months, the sun sets at 4 PM. It’s pitch black by 5 PM
  • Snow! Falling snow is so beautiful. I had fun playing it.
  • The warmest time of day is not necessarily 4 PM. It can actually be warmer at night than it was during the day.
  • After enduring several days of below freezing temperatures, I now think 39 °F is warm, because my cheeks aren’t stinging!
  • Spring is quite lovely, but it doesn’t happen until mid April. Where I’m from, spring usually comes some time in March, so this was a long winter for me.
  • When it’s warm, it’s humid!
  • Thunderstorms are quite common during the warmer months. Where I’m from, it seldom rains during the summer.

Surroundings

  • There are so many ornate wrought iron fences here. Back where I come from, fences are primarily wood or chain-link, and occasionally brick. Only rich, posh people living in gated communities had wrought iron fences, but they weren’t so ornate.

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  • Lots of old cemeteries right by busy streets
  • Plenty of historic sites with beautiful architecture in Boston! I’m talking about castles, too.
  • It’s quite common to see plush lobsters, of various sizes, in store windows.
  • I’ve been walking through shady alleys on a regular basis. Well, they’re not that shady, just kind of stinky, and it has more to do with the fact that I am downtown than the east coast.
  • Away from the city, the roads are tree-lined. This is common in the east coast, since it also looked that way in Maryland, and pictures of Connecticut.
  • There are TONS of tulips and daffodils in the spring, and they last for two weeks. Where I’m from, you’re lucky if you can get five, and they may last for just a week because it’s too warm for them.

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Transportation

  • Public transportation in Boston is very convenient. There is no need to check a time table before heading out to the subway station, because trains come about every five to eight minutes. In fact, there is no time table. All there is is the time of the first train and the last train and the frequency, which changes according to peak and off times.
  • Traffic is quite scary, but it might have more to do with the part of town that I’m in. Cars don’t stay in the same lane for more than 10 seconds at a time. I’ve seen many cars run red lights. Pedestrians don’t cross according to the signals, which stalls traffic.
  • There are many intersections in which the crossing signal changes to allow pedestrians to cross both streets at the same time. All cars are stopped and people can walk diagonally across the intersection. It is nice that you only have to wait once to cross two streets.
  • On the bus, there’s a ribbon that you press to indicate the driver to stop. I was confused the first time I saw that, because in every bus I’ve taken up til then, including the ones in New Orleans, there was a cable to pull. My cousin was with me and said that the buses he took in Florida were like the ones here.

Changes in my diet

  • Fruit tends to be more expensive here than it is in CA because much of it is transported here. However, whenever I see CA Grown on boxes and stickers, I think “like me!” It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. 🙂
  • The bottled water brands are primarily Poland Spring and Nestle. It was strange, since I’m used to seeing Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead.
  • The major grocery stores here are Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, and Market Basket. I don’t think any Bostonians have heard of Safeway, Nob Hill, or Lucky.

Language

  • I got to hear the Boston accent. I don’t have much of an opinion about it, though my classmates have laughed at how they pronounce certain words.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the phrase “it’s a doozy” until coming here. There was one professor who use it a lot, so I thought it was unique to him, but later another student posted something with it, so that’s when I wondered if it’s a regional thing.
  • Same goes for having never heard the term de novo before, but that just might have to do with the subject matter that I’m studying. Almost all the professors have said it.

Recycling
People here don’t seem to care as much about recycling as people in California do. It may just be that the medical students don’t want to “waste” precious time by walking 7 steps over to the recycle bin, or sorting out their recyclables from their trash. (I have often transferred recyclables from the trash to the proper recycling bin.) However,

  • There is no bottle deposit
  • Very few people use reusable bags when shopping. Back in the early 90s, only hippie types brought cloth bags to the store, even though children’s educational television shows in the 80s already encouraged such behavior. Now, using cloth bags is the norm where I’m from. In fact, my hometown banned plastic bags last year (and they’re not alone). If I really believed strongly enough in caring for the environment by using a reusable bag, then I wouldn’t care about seeming like a strange hippie type; unfortunately, my self-consciousness wins.

Edit: On April 24th I decided that I am no longer concerned about looking like a weird hippie type. I’m a proud Californian who cares about the environment. By using my reusable cloth bag during my last month in Boston, I effectively reduced the use of 11 plastic bags.

Holidays
Massachusetts observes Patriots’ Day, so I got April 15th off! I had never heard of it until after I arrived here and was checking the academic calendar. If you’re also wondering what the heck is Patriots’ Day? There’s an explanation here. The Boston Marathon is held on Patriots’ Day. Given the events at this year’s marathon, I guess more people are aware of it now.

Other

  • no sales tax on clothes less than $175. How awesome is that?

Someone posted this list awhile back, and while I thought it was amusing, I have not experienced and don’t agree with everything on it.

In the words of the Bee Gees, “Massachusetts is one place I have seen… I will remember Massachusetts”


Original Post 5/26/2013