My daughter and I are on the east coast, college shopping. We flew non-stop from Honolulu to New York’s JFK airport – way too many hours sitting on my butt. I got some strange looks until I collected my suitcase and changed from sandals to boots. My daughter was surprised to see women in full work uniform (chic suits, pantyhose, pumps) typing away furiously on laptops in the airport. “Well, Honey, it’s New York,” I explained.
From there we flew on to Boston with its population of a quarter million students. From Logan Airport we had to take a bus-subway-taxi trip to reach our first university.
Our first AirBnB was cozy and warm. We fell right into bed but woke up in the middle of the night to a wondrous and dazzling sight of moonlight bouncing off of the snow. It looked nearly like daylight. Unfortunately, I was awake for the rest of the night.
The next day we called a taxi to take us to campus only to be driven three blocks. At least it was cheap. Maybe I don’t have this trip mapped out as well as I thought.
My daughter loved this first college, even though it was on a hill and required much up and down walking. She loved the vibe, the location, the people she met, the programs, pretty much everything. The dining room had really good choices – Thai soup, Indian curry, Vegan, gluten-free – you name it, and all very tasty.
We dragged ourselves around campus for a bit longer and at the last minute discovered the Asian American Center. Since my daughter is Chinese, we thought we really should stop in. Turns out the Director, who we met, is a woman from the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island! What are the chances?
The next day we were up early to retrace our path back into the heart of Boston, only to take a three hour bus trip out to the second college. It’s a Pain in the Patoot not to have a car, but I wanted my daughter to see how it would be to get around like a student. Of course in the Boston area, it would be a Pain in the Patoot with a rental car too. Many parking spots had territorial markings of old chairs holding the space of someone who had obviously worked hard to shovel it out. Fair, but a hazard to navigation.
The second college was also on a hill (puff-puff). This college had banned Greek life some decades past. “It went underground but it was finally eradicated a couple of years ago,” stated the tour guide. Eradicated? I was never in a sorority back in college. Somehow, women’s lib, protests against the Vietnam War, and exploring alternate lifestyles and government systems didn’t mesh in my mind with Greek life. But even I thought the guide’s words were chosen unwisely. She wasn’t the only one; at least one other person representing the school referred to it as elitist – with no shame! And the dining hall closes between meals. This school did not make the list.
On the other hand, I did learn to low-five after a high-five with one of the town drunks who also happened to be a writer. And I got him to pick up his litter before I would talk with him while we waited for our taxi. I had to keep asking him to translate what he was saying. It was English, but phrases I’d never come across before. I told him about CreateSpace where he could get his stuff published and he took out a dollar to tip me. (I declined it, so he asked me for money. I declined that too.) Entertaining encounter.
At our third college back in the Boston area, we found accommodations in a university graduate apartment. Poor kid was subsidizing his rent by leaving for two days, not that we knew that before we got there. We were on the third floor (no elevator) above a Chinese restaurant. This location on a busy street provided lots of opportunity for night noise – cheers and yells from passing students, car horns (someone must have been sleeping at the green light), people going through the bottle trash next door, a garbage truck picking up same in middle of the night, ambulances (several) . . . It reminded me of my undergraduate days (nights) in Madison.
After tromping all over this third campus, we hit the information session. The student presenter was Miss Non-stop-talking Valley Girl – “I love my competitive dance troupe and we compete in Florida every year and we go to Disneyworld while we are there and the General Courses here are the best even though I wouldn’t develop my career in those areas but they’re my favorite professors ever” blahblahblah. The admissions person was just as bad. He continually referred to the prospective students as “kids.” I can’t say we were impressed. But it scares me to think that my daughter may be eliminating schools based on bad vibes from school representatives.
On the good side we’ve eaten some fabulous food: Italian, lobster, Japanese and Chinese (hot and sour soup!!!). I’ve had the chance to smell real pine trees again. I’ve been whisked back to some awesome memories of walking in winter woods that cast long gray shadows on untouched snow, filtering bright sunlight. We saw squirrels (don’t have them in Hawai‘i) and crocus leaves poking up. And my daughter has found at least one college that she absolutely loves with more possibilities to come.
On the worrying side, Aloha seems a bit thin here. People bark orders, honk car horns unnecessarily, and shove to get onto subway cars already packed full. We witnessed an intra-city bus driver make a young gal cry because she had bought a ticket but didn’t know she had to print it. She thought she could just show him the electronic version on her phone. He yelled at her and would not let her on the bus. Only after she cried all the way down the street did he go after her and bring her back (still scolding).
It is also bone-chillingly cold when the wind blows. On the one day that it thawed, the snow melted in a river of mushy slop. And my daughter and I have already put on the Freshman Fifteen in our first week of eating well.
I’m trying to keep my sense of humor. But I’m also trying to figure out how to tell this story without offending readers from the northeast. Wait, I don’t have any followers from the northeast! At least as far as I know. Sigh.
Woke up this morning to sleet. On the good side, it may wash away the snow. I’m choosing my attitude.
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