Have you Ever Tried Tree Watching?

There is not a lot of difference between the culture in Boston and in Chicago, but New England does have a few unique traditions.  Because of the beautiful fall foliage all over the region, going on trips to look at trees is quite popular these days.  Tree Watching might not sound very exciting (though it is sometimes called Tree Peeping, which sounds a bit illicit), but it actually seems to be pretty popular.  I’ve already heard quite a few conversations that go something like this:

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“I’m going up to New Hampshire.  I’m going to look at trees!”

“Wow, have fun!  I heard they’re especially beautiful this year!”

At first, I was a bit skeptical of this tradition, but I did go on a hike last weekend up to an outlook where we saw a beautiful array of colorful trees.

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You can see a tiny little Boston in the background!

I also started taking pictures of the trees near the lake by my apartment to keep track of the change.  What’s more, I have started buying different kinds of squash each week, and put pumpkin spice in my coffee each morning.  I am glad to be enjoying fall again, even if I don’t think I’ll go all the way to New Hampshire to watch trees any time soon.

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The lake in October.  Luckily I walk by here and check almost every day, so I don’t have to just sit and watch the trees change.

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It has been only two months since I arrived in Boston, but my classes are in full swing, with midterms due in the next two weeks.  Starting school in social work has been exciting, fun, stressful, busy, and sometimes confusing.  Since I’m taking all the intro classes, there are a lot of new things to learn.  Here are some things that have surprised me so far.

  • Social work is a much broader field than I thought.  Social workers can work in non-profits and social service agencies, but they can also open private practices as therapists, work in emergency rooms or elsewhere in hospitals, work in pastoral care, or get a PhD and do research.
  • Social workers are really nice.  This makes sense in a profession whose aim is to empower people, but I’ve still been surprised by how helpful everyone has been.
  • The program I am at is extremely liberal.  Social work as a profession is of course very inclusive and sensitive to diversity, but some of my professors have shocked me with what they assign.  In one class, we watched this video that explains why gender is a social construct: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRcPXtqdKjE      After watching this, I was expecting a debate, but everyone agreed.  I have just spent the last several years trying to wrap my head about why so many cultures have such clearly defined gender stereotypes, and now I’m told to forget that because it’s wrong.  Are there any other MSWs out there who have an opinion on this?
  • Boston has a big Caribbean population.  I knew there were a lot of immigrants in this city, but I did not realize how many were from the Dominican Republic or Haiti until starting my internship.  My husband and I are appreciative of this, because in one neighborhood we can get plantains 4 for $1.

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    We’re hoping to get through the winter on plantains and peanut butter.

 

He Made It!

My husband finally got his visa and made it to Boston.  I think you will be able to tell how happy we are about this from our photos.

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We definitely will never lose each other in a crowd.

matching2We have a big challenge ahead of us because we have so many stylish matchy outfits, but they are all for warm climates.  Hopefully our love will keep us warm, because we’ve got a lot of Matching in Boston photos left to take!

If I go running again, I’ll get hungry!

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Good job, Boston!

I just arrived in Boston a few days ago, and am still getting adjusted.  I have been walking a lot, and everywhere I go I am surprised by how many joggers there are at all times of day.  On Saturday I was walking home at noon in bright sun and 90 degree weather, and it started raining…and there were still people out jogging!  A woman running by herself on the street wearing shorts is already something you would never see in Morocco, but to add being in the rain and heat makes it all the more impossible.  I felt like one of those men who sit in cafés and watch people all day because I could not stop staring at all those joggers.

 

 

 

I’m actually pretty happy that running at all times is acceptable, because that was something I really missed in Morocco.  I’ve been running on a beautiful tree-lined path each morning, and have been breathing in as much fresh air as possible to counter all of the polluted air I took in during the past few years.

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I guess this is sort of pretty

However, the one thing I still have not figured out is where people are getting their food.  Of course, there are plenty of restaurants all over the city, and some major supermarkets along with convenience stores.  But compared to Casablanca, Boston feels like a food desert.  Where are the vegetable stands with all of the fresh produce I could want?  How will I know where I can buy fresh meat if the sheep heads aren’t hanging up in front of the shop?  Where is my neighborhood fig man who yells out what he is selling so I can always find him?

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How it’s supposed to be

My family has suggested using Peapod to deliver groceries, and I was told that there is a good produce store not too far from where I live.  I also found that the man who works at the nearest convenience store is Moroccan, so maybe he has some tips about where to get pomegranates and sheep heads.  But I better figure something out soon, because if I keep going out to run, I’ll only get hungrier!

A Wonderful Tip for Traveling

As I mentioned in a previous post, my trip to Boston will last 28 hours, not including getting to and from the airport.  There are many things I have to do in preparation, like pack a good book, make sure I know where I’m going when I arrive, and find a way to fit all my most important items in my carry-on.  Another thing I have been working on in preparation is training my hair to not look terribly oily after two days.  I consider this to be a very important element of my trip.

Although it is perhaps unlikely that journalists will be waiting to snap my photo when I step foot in the USA for the first time in two years, I still do not want to show up looking like I need a shower.  I expect those first moments to be exciting but more than a little bit confusing, and I know it will really make me feel better if my hair looks okay.  So, I have been washing my hair only every other day, hoping that in a month and a half, my hair will be able to stay fresh without been washed during that long trip.

The traveling tip I want to share with you is dry shampoo.  Dry shampoo absorbs the oils in your hair without drying it out, so it is perfect for giving your hair a quick pick-me-up.  I have been using it on my no-wash days to get my hair to look a little fresher when I go to work, but it also is the perfect fix for oily hair during a long flight because it can be applied in an airport bathroom.  I intend to pass the time during my eight-hour layover by giving myself a dry shampoo.

There are many different recipes for dry shampoo.  The most common has a base of baking soda, but I chose to make mine out of ground oatmeal since I usually have that on hand.  You can also buy dry shampoos, but it is probably easier and cheaper to just mix it yourself, and there are tons of recipes you can find online.  I add a little cinnamon and cocoa powder to make it closer to my hair color, and grind it all up in my blender.  I just sprinkle it into my roots and rub it in all over my scalp with my fingers.  If I leave it in for too long, it starts to feel like dandruff, but if it’s just during the day it keeps my hair looking fluffy for a little longer.  Boston is going to find me sporting an excellent hairdo.

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This picture of my hair looking excellent probably would have been a little bit nicer if I had gotten a lamp to cover that naked light bulb.

Have you tried dry shampoo?  Do you have any other tips for super long plane trips?

What Will Boston Be Like?

I have not been out of Morocco for almost two years now.  I think it is safe to assume that I will have some surprises come August, when I will arrive in Boston for the first time, alone, and after a 28 hour trip.  Last time I was in the US, I almost cried when I realized how much less flavorful the carrots, eggs, and olive oil are in America.  I was shocked to see men walking around shirtless or with saggy pants, and I was very confused about the “no gun” signs that popped up around Chicago after concealed weapons had been made legal.  It was not easy to readjust, even after only one year away.

I am trying to predict what will shock me and my husband in Boston, both to prepare myself and because I’m sure it will be funny to look back later and see how far off I was.  Here is what I expect to experience when I move to Boston:

  • I will be invisible.  I get a lot of stares and comments as I walk down the street in Casablanca, but I expect to blend in when I am in Boston.  The challenge will be to stand out, not to fit in.
  • It will be surprising how much people drink.  I’ve gotten used to alcohol being mostly out of the picture.
  • The season changes will be amazing.  There was a drought this year in Morocco, so it barely got any colder.  I cannot wait to see the leaves change color and to play in the first snow!
  • My husband will learn new holiday traditions.  I discovered last Christmas that he is not familiar with Christmas music, other than church songs.  He has also never done an Easter egg hunt.  He has a lot to learn.
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Christmas in Morocco

  • Not everyone will know where Morocco is.  If they do, they will ask me if I was afraid of terrorists, if I had to cover my hair, or if I was able to access the internet.  And absolutely no one will understand how I met my husband in Morocco, who is not even Moroccan. (Actually, during our visa application process, the National Visa Center in the US asked my husband to send police records available only to Moroccan citizens.  We suspect that the application was read by a machine, because not many humans could confuse “Central African Republic” with “Morocco.”)
  • It is going to be nothing like what we expect.  I would not be so surprised if what shocks me turns out to be completely different from what I’ve written here!

Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock?  What surprised you about your country?