Jul 23, 2011

Boston Weekend Part 1

Boston was where the American independence and identity was built. The Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party which subsequently led the American Revolution and reading of the Declaration of Independence 250 years ago. This is the place to learn your share American history, that is, if you didn't back in high school (we wasted 10 chapters on Islamic history instead).
To save time, Jun Cheng and I booked a Saturday morning JetBlue flight from JFK to Boston. It was a daring move back then as we didn't even know where we will be staying or how long the commune to JFK would be. However, since the flight cut down traveling time by a considerable 3 hours, giving us a comfortable morning at Boston, and it was only marginally more expensive than a bus ticket, we went for it.
Saturday morning, we woke up at 5am for the 7.30 flight. Thinking we had ample time and persistently naive to the fact that JFK is the busiest North American gateway, we were shocked to discover the E subway was 30 minutes late. Then a huge, spiraling queue greeted us on our mad dash into Terminal 5. Needless to say we missed the 7.30. However, with JetBlue being a big player in both JFK and Boston, we were rebooked (with grimace) on the 9am flight. I only realize how lucky we were on that unlucky morning - we were given a decent seat on the next available flight, which was already very full, with no extra costs. This being United States of America, airline passengers have no rights whatsoever. So we boarded the plane hailing Mary and chanting Allah. We landed at Boston Logan Int'l Airport after a free drink, some cashew nuts, watching CNN and laughing ourselves silly with the crew's tongue-in-cheek announcement.

JetBlue is quickly becoming my favorite airline.

We went straight to Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT across the Charles River. We narrowly missed the 11.15 Harvard tour organized by their student union, so we had brunch and did all the touristy stuff while waiting for the 2pm tour.

Harvard territory. This is the Graduate School of Arts.

The Harvard Co-op is where you get your Harvard sweatshirts and T-shirts for show-off. They also sell a large collection of literati publications and bestselling titles. 

Our Harvard tour guide is a senior-year anthropology student from Canada. By the time she toured us she is pink and hoarse from all the talking and baking under a cloudless sky. So you see, a Harvard education doesn't guarantee easy employment at all.

When this library was built, the donor specified not a single brick could be moved after completion of construction. This was back in the era of Titanic and steamship companies. Since then the book collection expanded beyond these walls and where do they go? 6 floors below and 1 acre across. So we are essentially trampling on the library collection up here. The library is so hard to navigate you can get a free map inside. I wonder if those brainy Harvard students actually get lost in there and starve to death in the labyrinth of books?

Hall of Science, an oddball architecture among the brick reds of Harvard property.

Harvard Hall, once a library housing John Harvard's precious collection of books. Finally burned down with 1 remaining stolen copy when a student forgot to extinguish the candles. So you see, Harvard students aren't that smart after all...

This is not a church but a common prayer area and dining hall for freshmen. Stained glass windows designed and made by Tiffany & Co.

Statue of John Harvard, or statue of three errors. I'll let you guys wikipedia to find out yourself. Anyway, despite the shameful errors, he is the third most photographed statue after Lady Liberty and Mr. Lincoln.

The one-hour tour is essentially a brief tour of Harvard Yard, or the main residential area. Harvard has still many campuses around Boston and cross country. I really admire the huge naturally-shaded green public spaces they have at American universities. Why can't we have something similar instead of having to stay at the indoor library? Even more woeful, ours are closed Sunday mornings even though we have nothing to do with Jesus Christ or Mother Mary.

Coming up: Boston Part 2 - freedom trail, road to independence.