THE ONLY THING I KNOW ABOUT BOSTON is its infamous tea party, which is (in case you do not know) not merry at all. Although only 5 hours away from New York, I would not put this historic city into my schedule if not for my god-brother, Sheng Jie. I knew his dad, my god-father, Daddy Kao, six years ago, since I stepped foot on Taiwan. Daddy Kao has been a great teacher, friend and sincere companion to me, and serves as my greatest source of help whenever the need arises. He is partly the reason I got to New York anyway. So, his eldest son, who is only a year younger than me, had been my friend for quite some time now. Sheng Jie is now studying in an English school in Boston, and has invited me over to his place for a visit.
BEING A BUDGET-WISE TRAVELER, I know that the Chinatown buses are the cheapest way to go. These buses typically travel from Manhattan’s Chinatown to another city’s Chinatown, with tickets that cost less than half of what you would pay for a standard Greyhound bus. There are different companies that go to different destinations, and a good place to look for them is the GotoBus website, where you can also purchase the tickets online. There are two main companies for the New York – Boston trip, Fung Wah and Lucky Star, and I took the latter. Locals told me that Lucky Star’s bus are newer, their service is more efficient and the trip safer (which I gladly found out that all is true). If you are thinking of a non-airconditioned bus, packed with Chinese immigrants with their livestocks (just like those in rural China), then you are wrong, this bus is almost the same as a standard one, the seats are sufficiently spacious, and I am the one of the two Chinese on board, while the others are just budget savvy travelers that would not mind a bargain. Try to come early to the designated hop on location though, as the seats are filled up quite fast.
I arrived at Boston’s South Station one hour before expected, which is great because I have more time, but also bad because Sheng Jie is not there to meet me yet. I ended up following his instructions, walked through Chinatown, and met him at a junction of some random street. Chinatown here is really small and quiet compared to New York’s. I realized that the feel of the city (even at downtown), is dramatically different from Manhattan. People walk a slower pace here, and I had a tough time adjusting my feet as I am used to the rushing through the streets back at New York. The weather is cooler here, and the air is noticeably cleaner.
Before meeting with Sheng Jie’s Taiwanese friends, we killed time by browsing through a Chinese supermarket where I found many Taiwanese produce that I missed so much. Sheng Jie is studying in EF, a school for non-native speakers to learn English. There are quite a few Taiwanese students here and some of them were kind enough to take me on a Boston tour. From this picture you can see, from left to right there is Shu Juan, a pretty girl who left her work to learn English (and have fun at the same time); Min Mama, an elegant lady whose daughter is our age; Miss Tie, a fresh graduate preparing for an MBA; Shu Ting, who is Shu Juan’s bestest friend of all; and Bruce, an accountant preparing for TOEFL for a Master’s degree.
I came to know them quite well during the weekend and we eventually became great friends. As soon as we met, they warned me that Boston is not as exciting as New York and asked me to just go with the Bostonian feel. For starters, we visited the public library, which has a beautiful garden inside, and walked the malls of Prudential Tower, which is the tallest building in Boston (I hope I am not wrong). Here, Sheng Jie bought me a Goldiva chocolate strawberry, saying that this is the best chocolate you can get in the world. I do agree that the chocolate is really good, but is it the best? Probably not. The different boxes of exclusive chocolate they have on the shelves does seem expensive though. We then went to the famous Cheese Cake Factory for ‘window shopping’, mostly because our stomachs are full from a heavy lunch.
ANOTHER REASON I VISITED BOSTON is to come meet with my classmate, Chuan Hung, who is also in the same scholarship program as me. Our school allowed to students to participate in an elective in either Harvard or Cornell, and she is the Harvard (that means she is the brighter) one. Prior to this, she met with a lot of trouble on her applications and acceptance into Harvard. She spent the past month going through the stuff and was really lucky to get help from local Tzu Chi members. Long story cut short, she is now officially starting her clerkship in Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and which according to her, is really a great educational experience.
After strolling through a lot of old buildings that I do not know because I did not bring a guidebook, I was told that we would have a dinner gathering together at Dong’s homestay. Dong is another Taiwanese ALSO studying English here, and his homestays are really open about visitors coming in and making a mess in their kitchen, so his place was chosen as our venue for the night. One Chinese guy, Lee, was also a part of their gang, and he volunteered to cook his signature dishes for everyone to taste. I also offered to help out by making a Malaysian dish, Gado gado.
The kitchen was quite spacious as all four cooks can fit in really well. There were laughter and jokes while we cooked and this is when I knew more about their lives here at Boston. Dong’s room is at the basement, and he shares it with two other students. I personally feel that the room is humid and smells weird, but he seems alright with that. After 2 hours of cooking, we finally finished preparing our six course dinner, which includes, cabbage with pork, braised fish, pork in fermented tofu sauce, tomato and eggs, spicy egg soup, gado gado and peanut sauce and rice of course. Everyone ate happily with alcohol served (I had a round of cocktail) along with club music playing heavily on the stereo.
All is fun and exciting (very Un-Boston I would say) but we had to bid good night, and parted our ways. Following the Taiwanese around Boston is truly different because I get to see Boston from another visitors’ point of view. The one thing still on my mind is that I have to try change my pace to fit theirs tomorrow because we have a whole day of sightseeing coming up (and they really walk slow).