The Freedom Trail: Boston, Massachusetts

 

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Acorn Street

On our trip up to New England, we also got to go to Boston for one day. We drove from New Hampshire, took the Commuter Rail in, and then the subway. We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail to see the main historic attractions of Boston.

Once we had a map and got on the trail, it was super easy to follow and really did hit all the interesting spots. The trail starts in Boston Commons, the oldest public park in the U.S., designated in 1634.

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Memorial to the Irish Potato Famine

Along the trail are other highlights such as the location of the first public school in the U.S. It’s alumni include Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. It operates today in another location where four years of Latin are still required for graduation. Another point for classical schools! I’m proud to be in the company of the great founding fathers. We also passed through Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

I especially enjoyed the stops at Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church. My great grandfather was a welder on the restoration of the Old North Church in 1955, so it was exciting to go inside the church (donation based) and hear some of its history.

Another highlight was the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) which saw service in the War of 1812 and is still manned by the U.S. Navy. It is free to enter the ship where it is dry-docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

It was interesting to observe the differences between northern and southern culture. It proved again that I am thoroughly southern. When we were trying to find the Commuter Rail, we asked a police officer for directions. A car behind us honked. The officer looked at them in disbelief then yelled, “Hey, hold on a second!” He proceeded to slowly give us directions. On the outbound train, I apparently didn’t offer my ticket fast enough because the attendant told me, “I don’t bite.” They weren’t rude, just very quick to say what they were thinking, with very quick sarcasm. I can see how southerners might take issue with their abruptness at times. There were also internationals at every turn. The diversity was exciting!

When you are in New England, you believe the slogan, America Runs on Dunkin’. Boston has more donut shops than any city in America. Everywhere we went in New England, there were much higher chances of seeing a Dunkin’ Donuts than a Starbucks. Everyone seemed to be carrying a Dunkin’ cup in their hand. Keep on makin’ your way south, my friend! There was also an abundance of Patriots and Red Sox paraphernalia!

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The next day, we stayed in New Hampshire, climbing Mount Kearsarge. The hike was rocky and steep, but the alpine region up top was beautiful, characterized by shorter trees and lots of lichen and moss. It was a fun day with our uncle, hearing about the history and characteristics of the area. I also learned that up north, cairns (those cool rock sculptures) actually have a functional purpose. For those dedicated enough to try hiking in the winter, the rock sculptures stand out over the snow on the bald knobs to mark the trail, while a blaze mark marked on the rock or one of the shorter trees of the alpine region would be covered up. Building your own cairn or removing from an existing cairn is serious because it could cause someone to lose their way.

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P.S. We all decided to watch National Treasure again after this trip.

Photos are my own.

Traveling Under the Weather: Rockport, MA

School is out and it is time to travel! The day after graduation (I was congratulated twice by strangers and had to explain that the teachers wear academic regalia for graduation too), I headed up to New England with my mom and sister. We chose to take the urban route to enjoy all the city skylines. It was kind of fun, since we don’t normally head north for vacation. The down side was about $45 worth of tolls. You’ve been warned!

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Our first stop was Rockport, Massachusetts. Wonder where the name comes from? The coast was mainly rocky, a great place to find sea glass and beautiful, rounded stones. Sand is overrated anyway. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by one-of-a-kind homes and B&Bs instead of sky-rise hotels. Many yards and gardens went straight to the edge of the rocky outcropping. We stayed at The Seafarer Inn and had a beautiful view of the cove from our window. The innkeepers also served wonderful breakfasts each day!

We explored the shops along Bearskin Neck and in Gloucester. Of course, we admired the famous Motif #1, known as the most often painted building in America. One of the days, we splurged at the Roy Moore Lobster Co. It was literally a shack on the pier with some picnic tables behind it. We enjoyed trying fresh caught lobster, oysters, stuffed clams, and good old-fashioned clam chowder.

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The downside of the trip was that one can never predict the weather. It was cold and rainy most of our stay. On the bright side, we didn’t have to pay for parking at the public beaches. There was no one else crazy enough to make it worthwhile for the city to charge. However, we were rather damp at the end of each day and had to dry out our shoes by the fireplace. We were very excited when we had sunny weather the day we checked out. Also unpredictable, I caught a cold our second day traveling. It was disappointing to have to stay inside during several outings and be so tired at the end of the day that I couldn’t even enjoy a book. It was a good reminder to rest, even while traveling when it seems so important not to miss out on anything.

I’ll share more about Boston and our time in New Hampshire in the next post.

Photos are my own.

I Can’t Stay Away

Spring Break is a beautiful thing. It is so good to have a break from teaching to relax! I was able to return to Guadalajara for the week. Many people here and there have asked me how hard it was to adjust back to American culture or if I have experienced reverse culture shock. The transition has been easier for me than I had expected. I think this is for a few reasons. First, I was quite busy as soon as I arrived home in the U.S. and had a lot going to keep my mind engaged. I was very focused on the task of figuring out my role in my new school and organizing and setting up my classroom. Another thing that made the transition easy was that I kept a tie to Mexican culture by joining a Spanish speaking small group. This helped me make friends with people who know something of the experience of living in Mexico (or another Spanish speaking country). I can keep speaking Spanish, talk about Latino culture, make bilingual jokes, etc. I even have discovered a place to salsa dance in my home town. It is not quite the same as dancing in the streets of Guadalajara, but it was one of the activities I was sad to give up so I am thankful that I still get to do it sometimes. Salsa also provides another opportunity for speaking Spanish! Finally, I have been looking forward to this trip since the summer, knowing I would not be saying goodbye to friends forever.

I prayed for my trip that I would get quality time with as many people as possible. He was so faithful to answer! A fun surprise started out the trip as I had the same flight to Atlanta as a high school group from my school going to Belize. I enjoyed chatting with them in the airport and on the plane. Sunday, I spent the full day with my church on a retreat. It was so encouraging to see how the church has grown in depth and number and many of the individuals I have prayed for are thriving. Monday was dedicated to the school. I wandered around the campus catching up with American and Mexican teachers, staff, students, etc. I loved having lunch with my former students and then playing games with them at recess. I went back nearly every day for this sweet time with my not-so-little ones.

 

Throughout the week, I caught up individually with many people, often while eating (another thing I have been looking forward to on this trip). I have missed avocados, frijoles, lonches, Mexican popsicles, and, most of all, tacos! It was great to be able to enjoy authentic food and it was so refreshing to go deeper with friends and hear about their ministries, goals, struggles, and joys. I shared tears more than once and lots of laughs as well. God is taking such good care of them, even when I am away. I knew I could trust him with them when I last said, “Adios” (blog post: Good in Good-bye).

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My last day, some of the Lincoln teachers joined me in going to Tlaquepaque. We had fun looking around in artisan shops, taking pictures, and even caught a free show which included traditional Mayan dancing, dancers from Veracruz and Jalisco, and live Mariachi music.  I bought a piece of art made by the Huichol people. I recently have been doing some research about this people group. They are one of the least reached in Mexico and are located not far from Guadalajara. I bought the art to remind me to pray for them more often. As a closing gift, I coincidentally ran into the only friend I had not been able to contact during the week. I loved my break and I hope I can visit again soon.

 

Photos are my own.

James Monroe’s Highland

President’s Day means a day off from school! In typical teacher fashion, I decided to take an educational day trip. My mom and grandparents took the trip with me to Charlottesville, VA. We started out with a delicious colonial buffet at Michie’s Tavern. They have a very simple menu, but the food is excellent and the atmosphere of the building and even the clothing of the servers sets the stage well for the meal. I had already been to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (and loved it!) so we decided to visit James Monroe’s Highland. He purchased the property to be neighbors with Jefferson. Even though the original home burned down more than a century ago, we were able to tour the guest house furnished mostly using his original furniture.

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The original guest house

Of course, I learned some new things. Monroe is the president who has served in the most public offices. He was the only president other than George Washington to see active military duty during the Revolutionary War and he is pictured right behind Washington in the famous Crossing of the Delaware. He was also the only president other than Washington to run without opposition. He was the U.S. delegate to France at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and was very influential in this transaction.

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Statue originally commissioned by the country of Venezuela

Aside from the historical information I learned, I also enjoyed the grounds very much. The winding road in is flanked with tall ash trees on either side. It creates a lovely old plantation feel. The gardens included some trees that were in existence during Monroe’s residence there. Monroe had raised sheep for their wool and there is a small flock there currently. The sheep (including a lamb in the picture below) were panting in their thick wool coats on this unusually warm February day. On the other side of the property, there were cattle including a bull, several cows, and a few calves.

Later in the afternoon, we took some time to enjoy downtown Charlottesville. I found a charming used book shop called Blue Whale Books that also sold old prints, maps, and music in addition to a good variety of books. I was also thrilled to find Low – Vintage Clothing, Vinyl, and Antiques. I was impressed by the wide variety of vintage clothes (some truly antique as well as a huge selection from the 50 though 80s).

On our way out, I noticed the statue of Robert E. Lee. I have heard it is going to be taken down soon (article here). It makes me sad, though I can understand why Confederate symbols may cause deep hurt to some. Lee was a great man, a true Virginia gentleman. I like this picture with the setting sun behind him.

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Photos are my own.

Barn Dance

Yes, I am very cold right now. Yes, I wish I could be enjoying the perpetually mild climate of Guadalajara. Yes, a Virginia barn dance is worth it all.

This weekend, a couple friends asked if I wanted to go to a barn dance out in Amelia. I had never heard of Amelia and an hour and a half was a long drive, but I am so glad that I decided to go for this outing. The three of us bundled into the car on the very crisp, windy Saturday before Thanksgiving and enjoyed the drive. We passed fields full of hay bales, quite a bit of picket fencing, and dozens of little country churches, rustic barns, and white farm houses.

The wind was chilling, but we walked in and around the silos and barn as the sun was setting. The smells told you this was a working farm, not just for the tourists. Their cows were out in the next pasture over (probably wishing their owner would put them in the barn already). After the sun set and we could not longer enjoy the views of the farm, we went up into the barn loft for dancing. The loft was wide open, with hay bales pushed against the edges for seating, two quilts hanging from the far wall, and a string of white lights going around the ceiling. That was all the decor it needed.

I knew many of the dances already including the Virginia Reel, Trenchmore, Harper Ferry Quick Step, Posties Jig, and the Snowball Reel. Though I only knew the two girls I came with, we had no problem fitting into the warm, inviting crowd of plaid, denim, and cowboy boots. It was nearly impossible to lose the beat as 100 people or more clapped and stomped in rhythm on the wooden planks.This is the kind of event that is so suited to the environment, it would be hard to recreate anywhere else. I’m glad that I was there at the right moment.

Photo by Leanna Branner

Lynchburg: My Own Little Magic Town

I loved living in the big city of Guadalajara, but I also loved the opportunity of using it as a launch pad to go visit other places in Mexico. There is currently a tourism promotion in Mexico called Pueblos Magicos. These “magic towns” are quaint little places with historic interest or natural beauty. I was able to visit a few of them and have linked my posts Mazamitla: Colder Weather Calls for CabinsMarkets and Churches in San Cristobal, and Contradictory Ecotourism in Palenque.

Coming back to Lynchburg has reminded me that I am a small-town Virginia girl. Though it is small and a lot of it seems “ordinary” compared to exotic Guadalajara, I think my time away has helped me love it even more.

This weekend, I went to an annual event that promotes our downtown area. Because my family now lives in the historic district, I just walked a couple blocks to Get Downtown. Walking around, enjoying the architecture, listening to music by local musicians, and looking at photography and artwork by local artisans made me feel like a tourist. My own little city  has immeasurable charm. I am so proud to be from Lynchburg and to call it home. Don’t miss the “magic” in the small, old, or ordinary. If you ever want a tour guide around Lynchburg, I would be thrilled to show you places of interest, share the stories I have learned about it, and introduce you to the people who make it so special. Come visit us!

Photos are mine and Laura Barnwell’s.

Good in Good-bye

I have one month left in Mexico, lindo y querido (beautiful and loved). Many people have asked me how I am feeling about the transition back to the U.S. At this point, I would say I am about 60% excited to go home, 40% sad about leaving. However, it fluctuates depending on the day and what is going on around me. As I have mentioned, it is a struggle for me to say “good-byes”. Today I have been thinking about the positives of leaving a place that has become home.

The Material Cleanse

It is so therapeutic for me to go through my stuff and consolidate, get rid of trash, re-gift things I do not really need but are in good shape, etc. Not everyone likes downsizing, but personally I find it really nice to declutter everything and limit my life to 100lbs in two suitcases. It is like pruning back excessive growth so that the plant can focus its energy.

Saved Treats

I now get to use up all the things I had saved for a special occasion. No need to skimp on the canned pumpkin or chocolate chips from the U.S., or the craft supplies that have been stashed. I am prone to saving things just in case there could be a better or more enjoyable time to use them. But now, the less I travel with the better and I can go ahead and enjoy the things that are treats for me.

Quality Time with Friends

In a strange way, it is actually nice having a deadline to make sure you get time in with friends. Sometimes in the monotony of living in the same place, people do not make the extra effort to cultivate a friendship. When someone leaves, it is a reminder of how the friendship is important and it gets some extra love and care. People often take the time to express themselves more clearly and this is extra special for me as a word person. I am thankful for the affirmation and time I have gotten from friends who want to spend extra time with me before I go.

Good-bye parties!

I love any excuse for a party and having all my friends together. I love playing games with friends, chatting together, dancing, and getting to enjoy something special. I also really like hosting and making people feel at home. Though there will probably be tears, I am looking forward to being able to see most of my friends in the same place one more time.

Travel Plans

Though it is hard to leave Guadalajara as my home, I know I have a place to stay when I get the chance to visit again. It is fun thinking about what I could do with friends if I came back for a fun trip. Good-byes are hard, but I hope that I will be able to come back soon.

Photo is my own.