Reasons to Survive a Boston Winter

I hate winter with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. (This is symbolic of the complete lack of the sun we all know and love, and its replacement with a pale, watery impostor.) Winter is dry. It is cold. All the good stuff dies or hibernates, the latter being a skill I’m attempting to attain through the consumption of approximately one million Reese’s Peanut Butter Trees and a long nap. Now, moving to Boston means not only will the winter itself probably be worse, but so many of the things I love about living here will be brutally taken out by bare minimum four months of bitter, bitter cold.

In an attempt to curb my intense dread, I’ve compiled here a list of the summer-to-winter transformations of some of my favorite Boston places. Maybe this winter won’t be bad. I guess. Especially if this whole hibernation thing goes to plan.

 

  1.  Boston Common Frog Pond

I walk past this shallow, manmade, frog-less body of water every day of my life. Children may or may not be allowed to play in it; it’s difficult to tell because I have seen both a) don’t go in the water signs and b) children in the water. But good news! Instead of just being a sad, empty cement pool, IT WILL TURN INTO AN ICE SKATING RINK.

This is very exciting news, not because I enjoy ice skating, because I do not enjoy anything that makes me fall painfully and publicly only to land on a cold, hard surface, but I do appreciate watching people ice skate significantly more than I appreciate gazing at a cement landscape. Can’t wait until they start freezing water come mid-November.

The Boston Common Frog Pond Ice Skating Rink (rolls off the tongue) also has College Nights! Bring your college ID any Tuesday night (while school is in session) for a reduced ticket price.

 

  1. Boston Common

This isn’t an all-winter-long transformation, but at some point in February 2018, the Boston Common will become a winter wonderland. Albeit one teeming with screaming kids. It’s called the Children’s Winter Festival, and there are slides and refreshments and general wintery glory. Yes, it does say “children’s” in the name, and yes, that does mean it is intended entirely for children, but in past years there have been concurrent events for ALL people, like free skating camps (for all ages!).

Also, if you tell them you’re a child at heart, are they really going to prevent you from entering?

 

  1. The Esplanade

The Esplanade is a beautiful park that runs along the Charles River, and I quite frankly failed to see what its appeal could be in the winter months. Thankfully, the Esplanade website has a list of wintery suggestions, and one of them is snowshoeing. Apparently, snowshoeing is something I have wanted to do for my entire life without being aware of it, because I am VERY EXCITED about this idea. Granted, this, along with other activity suggestions like cross-country skiing, rides on the concept of a lot of snow. That’s already a plus side of winter. But it’s still cool!

Plus, the Esplanade is beautiful and snow is only going to make that fact truer.

 

  1. Sledding

The best transformation of all, I believe, is the transformation of the hellish hills I have to ascend every day into perfect sledding terrain. (This falls apart if I think about what it will be like to still ascend those small mountains when they are covered in snow and ice, but I’m trying to block that out.)

Sledding is one of my favorite parts of winter and the biggest positive I’ve seen thus far of living at the apex of a hilly nightmare is that I can sled with incredible convenience and ease.

 

  1. HOT CHOCOLATE

You may be thinking, “How is this a transformation?” I’ll tell you. It’s a transformation from me ingesting a variety of beverages, such as water, into me just drinking hot chocolate all the time because it is the best liquid in the world. According to the Internet, there are many, many, many prestigious and delicious hot chocolates in the municipality of Boston, like Taza Chocolate Bar’s create your own (they also sell churros!!) and Tatte’s white Belgian hot cocoa.

I would like all of them, please and thank you.

To update: I still hate winter. However, the intensity with which I am dreading it has decreased to some extent. Because now I have snowshoeing and hot chocolate and sledding and watching people fall while skating on my way to class on the brain.

 

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Being The Change

The events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last week are nothing short of appalling. Watching the news has made me feel so incredibly sick. I’m upset, angry, and looking to make a change. As a young adult in the world today I am in an important place of power. I have the power to control the future of our nation by speaking up about important issues. I encourage you to do the same because every voice is valuable!

Take an inside look into what happened in Charlottesville by checking out this documentary created by VICE. The footage gives great insight into the minds of some of the individuals involved with the rally and how their actions affected those around them.

I hope this film made you just as upset as it made me. Getting enraged is what will spark the fire to make a change. I wish I could show this film to every single person my age to create a reaction. It is one thing to read a tweet about what happened in Charlottesville, but taking the time to put yourself in the shoes of those who were there when it happened creates a whole differe

This past Saturday there was a free speech rally in the Boston common, and I have never been more proud of my city. Hate was met by an outpouring of love. The counter protest consisted of at least 30,000 individuals marching to fight bigotry and hate. The rally was for the most part peaceful and no extreme acts of violence were reported by the Boston police. There is just as much room for love in this world as there is for hate.

Boston “Free Speech” Counter Protest – Aug. 19, 2017

I was feeling down and upset last week but after Saturday I felt my body fill up with hope. Boston proved that love can overcome hate.

As far as what you can do, reach out to Republican state reps and speak up about the change you wish to see in our government. Every voice is important and speaking up is the best thing you can do at this time. We must bring these issues to the attention of local officials who have the power to invoke greater change. Every individual can impact a bigger change.

Check out this link for more information: https://hastebin.com/tosetacemo.coffeescript

Resist, resist, resist. Combat hate with love. Persevere. There are things going on everyday that inspire me to take action and I hope that more young people will educate themselves and get involved because we are the change.

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 3: Santorini

I think I can safely say I saved the most beautiful place on the planet as the ending for my trip to Greece. Santorini is another island in the Aegean Sea and is primarily known for its sunsets. Many people say it’s the most beautiful place to watch the sunset, and I can’t say I disagree. Even looking back at my pictures I realize that no camera can capture Santorini. It defies technology.

Santorini was very easygoing. We spent most of it lounging around the pool in our hotel or out on the ocean. The ocean cruise was actually the best part of the entire trip. We were on a small ship with about twelve other people for six hours cruising around the shores of Santorini. We got to see the black, red and white sand beaches. There were cliffs made of lumpy volcanic rock due to the fault line right underneath the island. I got to sail right by an active volcano, so that was a little terrifying. The volcano was actually right off the coast of our hotel, so I got used to being near it after a while.

Back to the cruise. For me the best parts of it all were the few stops we made so we could jump into the sea and swim around for some time. It was like swimming in Mykonos only better. The water was crystal clear to the point where I could see fish swimming underneath my feet. One of the stops was at a hot springs by an inactive volcano, because there are actually two volcanos next to Santorini.

Santorini also has a cute town just like Mykonos. This one was called Oia (it sounds like EE-aa), and it’s the most famous in Santorini. It has the same white walls as Chora, but these are rounded with blue domes at the top. Despite the shops and all the great gifts they had to offer, Oia is most known for being the best place to watch the sunset.

Honestly, you could watch the sunset from anywhere and it would be just as beautiful. The view from my hotel was stunning. The first night we were there, I couldn’t stop looking out at the skyline during dinner. The sky looked like a pastel rainbow. That’s the best way I can describe it. The mountains and rocks looked lavender during the sunset too. Then there was the moon coming up opposite the sun, which is something I literally couldn’t capture it on my phone. I could watch it change right before my eyes. When the moon was lowest, it was bright red. The higher it got, I could see it change from red to light orange, when finally to yellow once the sun was totally gone. I really wish I could get a better description for you guys, because it was absolutely surreal.

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Surreal is the word that keeps coming up when I think about Greece. It was the best place I’ve ever been to in my life, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who hasn’t been there before. You won’t be disappointed.

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 2: Mykonos

From Athens, Mykonos is just a thirty minute plane right away. From the moment I got off the plane, it was clear that the island was significantly different from the mainland. The roads are narrow and some aren’t even paved. The landscape is hilly with dry brown grass and bushes.

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Oh, and it’s windy.

I don’t just mean Chicago-style-windy either. When we went to the beach, the sand and water was blowing in our faces. We had to weigh down our books, towels and anything that weighed less than a cinderblock. I almost lost a 400 page book to the wind multiple times.

Despite the wind, it was still the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever visited. It was amazing really. While the island was dry and arid, the coastlines were absolutely stunning. I took so many pictures of the water that I had to delete a good number of them just to make room for other photos. Even with the pictures, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there was absolutely no way I’d be able to recapture what it was like to stand there at my hotel and see the view. Swimming in it was even more surreal. I could see right to the bottom it was so clear. The cold water was so refreshing and so salty I could float without a problem. It was really interesting to be able to notice that the water had that much salt in it. It was a lot better than the New York and Florida beaches; I came out of the Aegean Sea feeling almost exfoliated.

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On the opposite side of the island from our hotel is a completely different kind of attraction. It’s the little cobblestone town of Chora. It’s filled with cute shops selling beautiful jewelry, soap, and all the Greek souvenirs you can imagine. The buildings were this nice bright white and they had bold blue shutters that caught my eye. They were small and simple but it was still awesome to see the interesting architecture I’ve never encountered before.

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They have beautiful bougainvilleas all over Greece, but this one in Chora took my breath away.

We did get lost in the town though. Multiple times. It was actually designed that way to confuse invaders, we were told by a local. The streets are all intersecting and you can’t really retrace your steps. Trust me I’ve tried. In a few cases I went in a complete circle. I was happy about getting lost though. Each street was a little different and I managed to find a cool magnet of Socrates while I was there.

Staying in Mykonos was an incredible three days. On the last day, we took a ferry to another Greek island, Santorini. Stay tuned next week for the third and final part of my Greek trip!

How to be an Ethical Shopper on a Budget

Of course, we all want to save the world. We want to end world hunger, war, and animal abuse. But, honestly, being one individual in the middle of over 7 billion people can make you feel really small and helpless. Yeah, there’s the phrase, “It starts with one person,” but can one person really start a worldwide movement and create change?

These are the things I think about when I’m shopping. I think about people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. If they could create such positive change in this world through their confidence, leadership, and determination, why can’t I? However, I understand that I, like many others in this world, want change, but don’t have the time or resources to commit my life to the change. Alas, this brings me to the topic of ethical shopping. As a fairly broke college student living in an expensive city, it’s not so easy for me to exercise ethical shopping. I want to shop at the brands that I know have the same morals I do, but my wallet doesn’t necessarily agree with that. This is what leads many people in my demographic to the world of fast fashion; stores like Forever 21 and Primark who produce clothes rapidly and sell them for cheap prices. It seems like a great deal for people who want style on a low budget, but fast fashion companies are able to sell their clothes for so little due to the unethical working conditions of employees and wasteful disposal of clothes, among other issues.

However, it is possible to shop ethically on a budget, and here’s how:

Thrifting

One of the worst parts about fast fashion brands is that, when trends come and go, so do the clothes. Piles and piles of clothes are thrown out, and this trash is extremely harmful to our environment. A way to avoid this problem, without emptying your bank account on expensive brand clothing, is to thrift! Shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops has become much more popular recently. There’s something very cool to us millennials about purchasing “vintage” apparel and items. It’s a stylish look, but it also helps us prevent tons of waste! Rather than throwing out those old clothes, people donated or sold them to these stores who are helping pass these clothes along. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And the best part about shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops is that items are often sold for much cheaper than their original selling prices, due to the fact that they’ve been previously worn or used. All the better! You can save tons of money and still get some awesome new clothes, all while contributing to saving the environment.

Research

An important part of understanding ethical shopping is research. It’s difficult to know which of your beloved brands are ethical and which aren’t without doing some good old-fashioned research. You can find out a lot about a brand, including employee wages, where the items are produced, working conditions, and environmental impact. Again, it’s hard to find a perfect brand who gets an A+ in all these categories, while still being affordable. However, it’s all about baby steps. While you may not be able to afford a brand like that, you could look into brands who are pledging to improve. For example, H&M used to be considered a fast fashion brand (and still technically might be). However, last year, H&M worked hard to research ways to become more sustainable. They put out a new line called H&M Conscious, and all the clothes were produced with sustainably-sourced cotton. While this cotton only represents 43 percent of their total cotton use, their goal is to have 100 percent of their cotton come from sustainable sources by 2020. Companies like this, who are still affordable, but who are making strides towards more ethical production, can be good choices for people who want to shop ethically on a budget.

DIY

One of the cheapest ways to be an ethical shopper is to make your own clothes! If you’re someone who is creative and would be willing to put in the effort and time into making their own clothes, than this is perfect for you! Just as with cooking, making your own clothes ensures that all the materials and production were done as ethically as possible. Plenty of arts and crafts stores sell materials like cloth, yarn, thread, sewing machines, and buttons, and it could make for a fun home project. However, if you’re not necessarily the artsy type, you could always buy homemade clothes from other sources. Websites like Etsy specialize in handmade products sold by normal people. You can often personalize the product to be exactly what you want. It’s a less expensive way to ensure that your product is being created by an ethical source. In addition, you know that your money is going to a good cause: a hard-working individual like yourself, rather than a multimillion-dollar, greedy corporation.

All in all, it’s not impossible to be an ethical shopper on a low budget. You have plenty of options, and it’s all about starting small and making strides. It may feel like your one action makes no difference in the big scheme of things, but it’s all about conversation. Talking to your family and friends about the changes you’re making to your shopping habits can inspire them to do the same! While you may not feel as prominent in this movement as, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement, you can feel confident that a chain reaction has begun.

My Big Greek Vacation- Pt 1: Athens

My family is Greek. We’ve always wanted to visit Greece and experience the culture of our family and so we finally booked a two week vacation and headed over. I’ve just returned from said trip to Greece and I can safely say it’s the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my life. This is a country everyone needs to see before they die. From their islands to the mainland, Greece is stunning.

It’s the third most mountainous country in Europe, something I didn’t know until I got there. The capitol city Athens is actually in a valley surrounded by mountains on three sides with the sea on the fourth. It was also very dry and hot. It didn’t rain once while we were there but there was always a nice breeze even when the temperature in Athens reached above 100 degrees.

In all honesty, Athens itself isn’t pretty. It’s home to about five million of Greece’s eleven million people, and the buildings are crowded and littered in graffiti. In other words, Athens is like a regular city. However, it does have one major twist. The ancient Acropolis sits a few hundred feet above the city right in the middle of them all. Seriously, I could see the Parthenon from my hotel room.

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The Acropolis from my hotel window.

It was a real hike to get up to the Acropolis. My family and I had to stop and rest before finally coming face to face with the ruins that are thousands of years older than the USA. There are two main ruins up on top of the Acropolis. The big draw is the surreal Parthenon. This is the temple for the goddess Athena, who gifted the ancient Athenians and thus won the right to have the city named after her (according to mythology, that is). The other is a smaller but still gorgeous temple dedicated to Poseidon, another favorite of the Ancient Athenians.

Now I’m a writer, but overall I can say that everything in Greece I saw challenged me to even attempt to describe how out of this world the entire experience was. This feeling started at the Parthenon. It’s exactly like the pictures, but it’s so huge when standing next to it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone built this. Ancient Greeks used perfect mathematics to form a giant temple that still stands today. Of course significant portions are missing and reconstruction efforts are taking place, it still felt amazing to stare up at these wide columns and symmetrical design.

The view from the Acropolis is also amazing. As the center of the city both today and in ancient times, you can see out over the whole city on all sides. I could see the Theatre of Dionysus, a theatre I was excited to see after learning all about Greek theatre at Emerson. I love Ancient Greek literature, so seeing the giant amphitheater where they would put on some of the most famous tragedies was, sorry to use the word again, surreal.

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The view from the top of the Acropolis
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Theatre of Dionysus! The ancient Greeks obviously didn’t have that screen or those modern chairs down there, haha.

Athens was such a new cultural experience that I won’t forget until the day I die. From the delicious gyros and fresh food to the after-dinner shots that comes customary after every meal, I think I discovered a whole new kind of eating experience to take back to America.

But, this was only the beginning. My family and I also visited popular Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini after Athens. Each had their own amazing and unique qualities, and I’ll tell you all about them soon!

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Just hanging out by the Parthenon

Little Ways to Help Save Our Planet

Whether you’re interested in saving the bees, the rainforests, the oceans or even your local park, you should be reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible in the process. Although this is obviously not as influential to the grand scheme of a cause as making a donation, little lifestyle changes can still help you make an important difference in the world. I know how easy it is to fall into thinking that your changes are small and insignificant, but you could be the person that inspires someone else to make a change as well. And then the process continues. That’s how change is made. So here’s a list of a few ways you can start contributing to saving our beautiful planet before it’s too late:

Shorten your showers.

Did anyone else used to see those commercials on the Disney Channel, where Brenda Song explained how much water would be saved if we all just shortened our showers by 2 minutes? Well, she wasn’t wrong. An average shower uses 5 gallons of water per minute, so cutting off 2 minutes would automatically save 10 gallons of water (enough to fill a large home aquarium!) I love a long shower just as much as the next person, but those should be saved as a luxury and not as a part of a daily routine.

Unplug electronics and chargers while you’re not using them.

One of my worst habits is leaving my phone and laptop chargers plugged into the outlet behind my bed at all times. Believe it or not, this actually uses power, even if nothing is plugged into them. The effects of leaving a charger plugged in may be minimal when it comes to your electric bill (maybe 10 to 15 extra cents a month,) but if you think about the amount of people on Earth who use outlets, that number surely adds up. Unplugging a charger may be one of the easiest fixes on this list, so try to be conscious and take a few seconds to form this good habit.

Wash your clothes in cold water.

While most fabrics fare better in cold water anyway, many people ignore these instructions and hit the hot water button anyway (often due to the myth that this somehow gets clothes cleaner). In addition to shrinking clothing, washing laundry in hot water also wastes a lot more energy. Other laundry-related ways to save power and water include only washing full loads (you should be doing at most one load a week) and refraining from drying things that you have time to air-dry.

Turn the water off while you brush your teeth.

While dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two full minutes every morning and night, no one ever said anything about leaving the water on for that whole time period. Most sinks use around 3 gallons of water per minute when left on, so that would about to 12 gallons of water a day wasted. Going back to an earlier point, that’s even more water than those two extra minutes in the shower.

Make the most of the daylight while you can.

Who else instinctively turns the lights on as soon as they enter their room, regardless of what time of day it is? I know I’m definitely guilty of that, and it’s a habit I am definitely trying to curb. I like to sleep with my blinds closed, and I always forget to pull them back up in the morning, meaning my room is usually dark. Instead of doing that and relying on the lights, I know it’s important to make the switch to opening the window during the daylight hours. Besides saving energy, this can also help improve your mood and make you feel way less claustrophobic in your room.

Being a Second Generation WOC in America

“Where are you from?” 

“Born and raised in Shrewsbury, Mass.” 

“No, where are you really from?”

It is difficult being of Indian descent having grown up in the United States. It’s like being caught between two different worlds, forever being pulled and shoved back and forth between two nations. I’ve always felt like I was having an identity crisis: am I Indian or am I American? Can I be both when it feels like people always need me to just make a decision? It’s like the whole nature vs. nurture conversation we’ve all had at least once in a high school science class. Are we defined more by our genes and roots or by our environment and upbringing?

My parents grew up in India, raised in the colorful, vibrant culture of our homeland. They had an arranged marriage when my mother was 21 and my father was 28 and moved to America a few years later to start a new life. I always wonder what that must feel like: leaving behind everything and everyone you know, packing up your entire life, and moving to a foreign country with a person you just met. Terrifying, confusing, and… thrilling.

Both my sister and I were born in Framingham, Massachusetts. I have always felt like we were raised in different ways. When my sister was born, my parents were still very attached to their Indian culture. She grew up only speaking our native language Tamil and didn’t hear English until she started going to school. I think my parents felt that they hadn’t assimilated her into America properly. That was what it was always about for people moving from India to America; it was about assimilating into the new culture and fitting in, not bringing in a taste of an old culture to a new world. So, when I was born, things were different. I was raised on an eclectic mix of Tamil phrases and English sentences. I could’ve grown up to be fluently bilingual but my parents stressed English with me much more than they did Tamil. I’ve grown up understanding Tamil almost fluently, and being able to speak it pretty well, but viewing Tamil texts as meaningless, confusing symbols.

As I got older, into middle school, that’s when I started realizing I was inevitably “different.” I had skin as tan as roasted almonds, eyes darker than twilight and a head of black waves. I didn’t look like most of my friends, who were pale-skinned and blue-eyed. This is when I started recognizing the pressures of society to “choose” a side. And as most tweens and teens, I chose the side of fitting in with my friends. From late middle school to high school, I found myself doing as much as I could to dig out my Indian roots and conform to my American culture. I stopped watching Tamil movies and listening to Tamil music with my parents. I ate Indian food at home, but would never have done so in front of friends. I wore scandalous clothing, fought with my parents and spent as much time as I could with friends. I donned the reputation as “the whitest Indian girl” at school, and it filled me with immense pride. Finally, finally, I was cool and wasn’t known as just another Indian girl. I was special because I fit in with my white friends. I had chosen my side and that side was America.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how wrong I was. Emerson has taught me so much about embracing your culture, your roots and who you truly are. I had never been in such a welcoming, diverse environment that celebrated each other’s differences. I had never been appreciated for being Indian by non-Indian friends. This is where I have finally embraced my title of a woman of color. And ever since coming to school here, I have made efforts to speak in Tamil more often with my parents, talk about my culture with friends and enjoy the rich traits and lifestyles of my homeland.

Being a woman of color in America is hard because your family is constantly reminding you to stay true to your roots, while your friends are reminding you that you are in a different world. As if being a woman isn’t already difficult in this world, being a woman of color means less opportunities, less rights, and being taken less seriously. It means picking and choosing which aspects of your life you want to remain true to which culture, and making sense of how your heritage and environment coincide and have worked together to create the individual you are. I know I would be a completely different person if I wasn’t raised embracing two different cultures, and for that, I am thankful. But, most of all, I am thankful to come from parents who have never once pushed me to do one thing or another, but have let me make mistakes, forget and remember what is important and finally understand who I am all by myself.

Beauty of European Dining

Three hour meals are rare in the United States, but a European staple.

I spent this past semester in the Netherlands and every day was filled with magic and adventure. I can honestly say that I learned more about myself in 90 days than I have in my entire life. One of the biggest cultural differences that I miss about Europe is the dining routine. Eating a quick meal is considered rude in many cities and leisurely dining is more widely accepted.

Continue reading “Beauty of European Dining”

The Pros and Cons of Staying in Hostels

As someone who has stayed in plenty of hostels within the U.S and abroad, I can say there are plenty of wonderful features, and um, not so pleasant things. Hostels can be a great way to see the world and meet new people but have the potential to be a disastrous experience if you don’t know what you’re getting into. I hope this list will help you weigh your options and figure out if the hostel life is right for you.

Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of Staying in Hostels”